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Tangled in Time (Project Enterprise 3)

A Science Fiction/Steampunk Novella

Author(s): Pauline Baird Jones

A steampunk/science fiction romance novella.

Colonel Carey (from The Key and Girl Gone Nova) takes a test “flight” through the Garradian time-space portal, but an unexpected impact lands him somewhere and some when. As he attempts to get to Area 51, he crosses paths with Miss Olivia Carstairs, who could be Mary Poppins’ twin sister. Or maybe her cousin. Olivia’s got a transmogrification machine powered by steam and a mouth he'd like to kiss like it was his job. Can he convince her to join forces before she shoots him with her derringer?

Praise for Tangled in Time:

“Tangled in Time is a sweet read in so many respects. Ms. Jones is a wonderful writer whose well-written plots and likable characters always make for absorbing, exciting reads – the great news about that being that she has so many more characters from these first three books awaiting their own stories. I just hope we don't have to wait too long for the next one.” Two Lips Reviews, 4 and 1/2 lips!

“This story moves quickly with warm characters, sweet interaction and quirky dialogue between a 1894 bluestocking girl and a 2010 soldier guy. There is a bit of suspense and mystery that kept me wondering. Again, this story could be read alone but has more meaning and connection with the past characters and situations when read in order in the series. I was sorry this one was so short and looked forward to the next book!” Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf

“Tangled in Time is a unique story in its self but also gives an added glimpse of favorite characters from Ms. Jones’ The Key and Girl Gone Nova. The resulting humor when two people from different centuries meet and their use of their own technical vocabulary is delightfully portrayed. Well written plot, likable characters and a little twist at the end enhance the entertainment factor and leaves the reader wanting to know what will happen next. Please, don’t leave us dangling too long Ms. Jones!”

“I love original plots, quirky characters and surprises and I enjoyed every minute of Tangled in Time. Do read.” Long and Short Romance Reviews, Five Books


Braedon Carey, Col. USAF, was used to waking up in strange places.
He wasn’t used to waking up nose-to-beak with a buzzard.
He stared at the buzzard. The buzzard stared at him.
It dawned on him he had a buzzard on his chest.
He yelled. He may have waved his arms at it as he scrambled to his feet. With an air of offended dignity, it retreated to a chunk of rock. Carey retreated, too, and did an SA—situational awareness—assessment. It didn’t take long.
He knew where he was supposed to be and this wasn’t it.
He’d flown over, driven through, and trained in and around, Area 51. He knew it as well as he knew his Dauntless. This is what he got for playing test pilot without a ship. No surprise it had turned into a Charlie foxtrot right off the launch pad—or in this case, right out of the Garradian portal. At least the pucker factor was low with that buzzard gone from his chest. He’d been fine when he left the Kikk outpost, but now his ribs hurt, a sign he’d bent them on something inside the wormhole. Was that possible? He shifted gingerly. His ribs said it was. His brain was neutral on any subject that involved physics—not that he knew this was a physics problem. His skill set involved pointing, shooting and blowing things up. Until this moment, he’d also have said he was good at getting from point A to point B, but he hadn’t been driving. The doc and her geek team had been on the stick for this trip.
He picked up his cap and slapped it against his leg before settling it on his head. He pulled out his GPS, but it couldn’t get a signal. If the GPS wasn’t working, then the SAT phone probably wouldn’t either, but he tried it anyway. He gave it a shake and tried it again. Something was gooned up. Had he bent his tech the same time he bent his ribs? The tech didn’t look bent. He shook both. Didn’t sound bent. He tried them again, just to be sure. Still no joy.
He extracted his compass next. It found a pole, but it had found a pole on Kikk. Some tech had no loyalty to their home planet. He eased the bill of his cap up some and did a slow circle, taking care not to make eye contact with the buzzard. Could the doc have dropped him on the wrong planet? She’d seemed to know what she was doing, while admitting she might not, he recalled now. Kind of like those drug commercials. This will work great unless something goes wrong, which it might. Could the misfire goon up his retrieval? The doc had been confident while managing to not be confident about that part, too.
He caught the buzzard looking at him like he was a buffet opening soon. It took flight, rising in a series of slow circles that kept him at the center, so Carey wouldn’t get to thinking he’d lost interest. With that red noggin and turkey-like build, it could be a turkey vulture. If he recognized the buzzard, maybe he’d recognize something else. There’d been a few years in there, until Carey got too cool to go tripping with his old man, where they’d visited every national and state park within driving distance. He’d seen a serious chunk of the USA on those road trips. Could this be one of those chunks? He gave the chunk his undivided attention.
Looked like he’d landed in a long valley, a cut between two offset peaks. The incline was brutal going up and down. Toward what could be the west, was a long desert plain, and rising from it, a set of peaks that looked familiar. Was it hopeful thinking? Two peaks. Two ears…mule ears? They looked kinda like mule ears. Mule Ears Peaks. He’d seen them before, but where? He needed to get higher. Couldn’t see crap in this valley. Up always improved SA. His ribs grumbled dissent.
He could make his ribs happy, sit tight until his extraction—if it came. Not the place he’d have picked, but he had water and energy bars for a few days. The buzzard’s shadow passed over him. On the other hand, maybe he ought to keep moving. Ribs didn’t feel broken—he’d know—so they could man up. Bad idea to give a buzzard false hope.
Sun rode low in the east. A bit of a chill in the air. Based on the ground cover, he’d guess it was early spring. He was supposed to have arrived in late fall and in another state—not that he was complaining, because who would he complain to? The buzzard that wanted to eat him?
He started up, using the scrub as handholds to keep from taking an involuntary down turn, while his ribs groused at him. He’d spent too much time in space, he decided. He shouldn’t be puffing this hard. Couldn’t even blame it on the altitude. This mountain wasn’t any higher than Area 51. About one hundred yards shy of the peak, he topped a slight rise and the ground leveled out enough to let him catch his breath. He didn’t sink to his knees. He had his pride—and that buzzard was still stalking him. With his eyes on the ridge line, he almost didn’t notice the bogey.
When he did—he blinked—it couldn’t be for real. He rubbed his eyes—it had to be a mirage—but it didn’t go away. It didn’t waver around the edges either. He looked both directions, half expecting a camera crew to pop out from behind a rock, but that was even crazier than the big ass bogey. He eased in for a closer look. Kind of oblong in shape and metallic in appearance, it sat close to the mountain wall on the only bit of semi-flat real estate around. It looked like a mutation of a car and an upside down train, with a little rocket thrown in just for fun. An inverted fan of dark metal covered the area where a view port or window shield should be. Or eyes. It kind of looked like it should have eyes.
The wheels on the mongrel machine were as whacked as the whole of it. Looked like old stage coach wheels, but metal and black. There was no road for it to drive up, even if the wheels touched the ground, which they didn’t. Whoever built this bad boy had a great sense of humor or his elevator didn’t go all the way to the top.
He approached with caution, half expecting it to dissolve when he touched it, but it didn’t. It felt cooler to the touch than he’d expected, though he wasn’t sure why he expected anything. Up close, the surface was black and appeared to be made from sheets of metal fastened together with rivets. In addition to the wheels it had a series of fins along the side and front. He touched one and it moved, like they retracted and extended. He tugged one until it stopped. They extended pretty far, but fifty of them couldn’t put this hunk of junk in the air. Might improve the aerodynamics, but that was another physics problem. Still didn’t do those. No sign of windows or openings down the left side, though he did find something that could be vents. On the right side of the bogey, an open hatch door had three fancy looking steps hanging off the edge.
It looked like—a cartoon version of a Jules Verne space ship or submarine, which seemed to support the mirage theory. Only it refused to fade like a good, big mirage.
It hadn’t crashed here. There were no impact indicators. Could’ve been built there, he supposed, but how had it been built in a place with no roads or signs of human intrusion? And why? Besides, the metal wasn’t corroded or aged, and there was very little grit on the surface. It didn’t look dug in, more like it had recently arrived. Only thing breaking ground around it was his footprints.
And someone else’s.
It shouldn’t be a shock. He had noted the opening in the side. But it still gave him a jolt to see them. Instinct had him reaching for his sidearm, but the sound of a gun cocking off to his right changed his mind. He raised both arms, taking it non-threatening slow, and turned toward the sound. His jaw dropped.
It was Mary Poppins’ twin sister, holding an umbrella and a gun.

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Genre: Science Fiction
Date Published: 12/06/2013
Publisher: Pauline B Jones

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