Tom Baker has spent most of his life building his company, E-Squared, into a technology powerhouse. Becoming in the process both a leader and a trendsetter in the high tech industry, not to mention more wealthy than he ever expected. But his success in not the product of a thirst for power nor wealth, he is instead driven by a secret obsession. Tormented by the death of his father, a marine during the Gulf War. Tom has spent more than twenty years trying to learn the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, which had been deemed classified by the government. Enlisting the help of his sister, a reclusive scientist, a retired soldier and a somewhat unwilling physicist, Tom endeavors to not only learn where, how and why his father died, but he wants to go further. Tom wants to go back in time and save his father, as unlikely as it may seem.
Targeted Age Group:: 13 and up.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I had been dabbling with the idea about a man who travels back in time in order to save his father, nothing new, but it was stuck in my head like a bad song. The original plan was to write a short story and send it to one of the science fiction magazines. Still I was missing that spark, the OMG moment, at least for me, so it was there on the back burner. Then one night, well actually an early morning, the insomniac in me started to browse on the Internet, and came across and old photo from the Gulf War. I literally sat up, what I saw in the lit screen gave me my OMG moment, not only that it gave the setting. Now I knew how, why and when Tom lost his father. From that moment on, the book took a life of it’s own. What was supposed to be a short story grew into far more than ended up in the book. The characters took a life of their own, I felt like I was recording their actions rather than coming up with them. I don’t want say more about it, as I would give away the story.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Tom, the main character was the easiest. I already knew who he was, and where his motivations laid. His name was easy too, and is an homage of sorts, to a famous time traveler. (Ops eastern-egg spoiler) Most of the other characters grew around him, as the story needed them. I knew I needed a close family friend with ties to his lost father, that’s where Steve came from. There’s one character that was inspired by one of the old Gulf war photo’s I found. This person, which originally was to be just a passing character, grew even larger, and steered the story in what I thing was a better direction. To this day I’m still so surprised by how must that photo influenced the story and the characters in the book.
Tom’s breath faltered, and apprehension swept over him as sweat dripped from his forehead. He had somehow managed the jarring two-hour drive in his Land Rover Defender, a gift from his stepfather. As usual for these trucks, the air-conditioning worked sparingly, which was fine most of the time at his home, near San Francisco, but these past few days had been unseasonably hot, and he was far from home.
His small handheld flashlight shone a dim light on the ruffled map. Wanting to be sure, Tom then glanced at the written directions taped to his dash. If he took a right at the next fork, his destination should be a few miles away.
Tom placed the truck in gear. The vehicle groaned in protestation, and it finally creeped forward. A few minutes later he drove into a large parking lot filled with motorcycles and the odd pickup truck. Across from the parking lot, he could see a bar, a large broken sign perched precariously on its roof. A single bulb struggled to illuminate the sign between flickers. Peeling white paint on the sign allowed metal and rust to show through. The name in faded red letters was hardly legible, but Tom could still make out the letters: Handlebar.
Despite the bar’s rundown exterior, it was alive with noise and music. Tom parked his truck next to a line of bikes, most so massive that his tall truck looked comical next to them. He discarded the map, throwing it to the back of his truck. Tom glanced one last time at the written directions, reading the place’s name once more, making sure he was in the right place. Below the directions was a note from his uncle. Tom read it aloud one last time.
“My sources say that Farnsworth might be hiding out at the Handlebar, but they also say he is most likely dead. Official government records list him as dead. Good luck, Steve.”
Tom drew a deep breath. His uncle Steve was former military intelligence, and he was most probably right about Dr. Farnsworth, who was most probably dead. However, many in the scientific community insisted that he was not; instead, some believed that he had gone into hiding, and it was this possibility that drove Tom, who believed he needed to find the man.
Knees shaking in anticipation, a tired Tom stepped out of his truck and was about to head into the bar when he remembered his notebook. In haste, he turned back to his Defender, quickly reaching inside for it. The notebook had all his ideas, all the formulas and plans, everything he had come up with, which he hoped was enough to convince Farnsworth to join him, to help him.
Tom looked at the time; it was well past midnight, but that wasn’t a concern. After all, it was probably happy hour at this place. At barely twenty, he was not supposed to go in, but he wasn’t here to drink. Summoning all his courage, he walked inside the bar.
Tom had always read about biker bars being plagued by the smell of cigarette smoke and stale beer, a description he believed to be an overly dramatic literary cliché. Upon his entrance, the pungent stench reassured him it was an accurate, if not benign, description. They left out the penetrating body odor, he thought. Inside Tom met exactly what he’d expected, bikers drinking and playing pool, but the vibe surprised him. It was far less intimidating than he’d anticipated; most everyone ignored him. A few of the patrons glanced at him and soon got back to whatever they were doing. This made Tom relax and allowed him to look around for the man he’d hoped to find. He moved deeper into the bar as he continued scanning for the man, when someone suddenly blocked his way. Surprised, Tom took a step back and examined the man. He towered over Tom, and unlike most of the people there, he had short, well-kept hair and a thick, trimmed beard. The man looked strong, with a menacing stance, which made Tom think the man looked like a hulk, ready to pounce. Taking a deep breath, Tom spoke.
“Hello.” His voice broke, but he continued as he managed to raise his voice, trying to get everyone’s attention. “I’m looking for Dr. Elias Farnsworth.”
A short, drunken laugh emanated from a few of the bar’s patrons, distracting Tom, but it died out quickly as most of the bikers went about their business. Meanwhile, Tom desperately glanced around the bar, trying to find Farnsworth. He turned until he came to the bar, where a man with unkempt, long blond-and-white hair gave him a hard stare. The bearded man was not amused and spoke in a calm, forceful tone. “I need to see some sort of identification.”
“I’m not here to drink. I’m looking for Dr. Farnsworth,” Tom yelled over the bar’s commotion.
“If you are not old enough to be here, you have to leave now,” the hulking man replied.
Tom’s hands shook now uncontrollably, exhaustion and fear getting the better of him. He almost lost his grip on his notebook, but continued.
“I must speak with him. It’s very important,” Tom yelled.
Unfazed, the bearded man looked around and mockingly called out, “Is this Dr. Farnsworth here?” The man made a point of enunciating his name.
A momentary commotion erupted all around him, but almost everyone quickly turned back and ignored Tom as the bearded man reached for Tom, grabbing him by the shoulders. The man violently turned Tom and pushed him toward the door with great force. In desperation Tom struggled, managing, after a fury of movement, to momentarily break free. Running back to the center of the bar, he raised the notebook and started screaming for the doctor. The bar fell silent. Tom saw that everyone ignored him except for the lone man tending bar, whom Tom realized was looking at him with what seemed to be suspicion and anger.
The bearded man again took hold of Tom. This time the grip felt a hundred times stronger. He pushed Tom so hard and fast that he didn’t have time to react as he fell. The bearded man lifted Tom from the floor and lugged him out. Tom struggled, but it was no use.
“Please wait! I need to find Farnsworth; he’s the only one who can help me save my father,” Tom cried.
The bearded man tightened his grip.
Tom suddenly found himself face down in the gravel parking lot. He slowly got up, cleaning the gravel off his clothes and arms. His hands and arms burned from several scrapes. As he examined them, Tom realized he had lost his notebook inside the bar. For a moment, he considered asking for it, but it was no use. The bearded man stood guarding the door, and his posture was clear; Tom was not going back in.
Reluctantly, Tom walked back to his truck. After several failed attempts, Tom finally got the truck to roar to life, and he drove off the parking lot. If the drive there was long, the drive back felt the longest of his short life. He fought the urge to cry, which he managed mostly by sheer will and anger. His mind kept going back to his lost notebook, which wasn’t a problem; he had duplicates of everything back home. On the other hand, he could not forgive himself for talking about his father. Desperation had allowed Tom to give away his ultimate purpose, so right there he promised himself he would never again allow weakness to control him. He had come this far, and if he couldn’t find Farnsworth—if he was truly dead—Tom would continue alone; it would just take longer.
• • •
A few hours later, Tom finally turned left and into his street. The house, still way down, was not visible, but the bright flashing-blue lights told him everything he needed to know.
Tom hit the brakes, taking a deep breath as he rubbed his forehead. His parents had called the cops. He couldn’t fault them; they had to be worried. After all, he hadn’t said anything about being out, and it was almost dawn. Then there was his less-than-stellar behavior a few years back. More than once he had been labeled a juvenile delinquent, which he reluctantly admitted had been an accurate description.
He sighed, but he had planned for this eventuality, having split up with his girlfriend a couple of weeks back, so he had an alibi. Tom hadn’t allowed it to concern him at the time. After all, she broke up with him because of his lack of interest, and she was right; he was obsessed with his work. Nevertheless, this gave him a great alibi for tonight. He would tell everyone he tried to get her back tonight but had gotten his heart broken instead. Tom hated having to deceive them, but it was just a partial lie. His failure tonight had indeed broken his heart. He hoped that since he had been trouble free for several years and an outstanding college student, his story might work. For a long moment, he stared at the distant flashing-blue lights. He was lost in reflection when a notion hit him. He realized that the blue lights were in fact not flashing but spinning. It struck him that his mind called attention to this, and after an instant, it was clear as he spoke the words aloud.
“A spinning array, a damn spinning array!”
Tom slammed his fist into the Defender’s dash, immediately regretting hitting the hard metal surface, but he was delighted. This terrible night might not have been a waste after all. He just figured out how to do something revolutionary, and he quickly came up with several applications. Tom would work on it, but he would keep it under wraps for now. If he came out with it while still in college, the university would get the rights, and he wanted—he needed—it to be his invention. With resolution, he placed the car in gear and drove to his house. There he found his mother, Jane, his stepfather, John, and Lieutenant Sanford waiting for him. Tom saw their worried faces relax somewhat when they saw him. Guilt soon replaced the satisfaction he felt from his chance realization. Tom felt his face harden as he got out of the tall truck. He promised himself that he would make it up to them.
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