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Footprints: Epilogue - 2

And here we are, at the end of wonderful and thrilling fictional journey through space and time. This is the final episode of Brian William Neal’s epic sci fi adventure, Footprints.

But is this the end of the story? Will there be more?
We can only hope that this is not the last we hear of Jonathan and the other members of the Hermes crew.

Why not allow yourself a fabulous Christmas treat. Click on Footprints in the menu on this page – and start to read this extraordinary story again from its intriguing beginning.

ABSENT FRIENDS

New York City
April 7th, 2521

“So, there you have it, Sean. The whole story.”

Jonathan sat back in the booth and took a sip from his pint of Guinness, then looked across the table at his friend.

Sean just looked into his glass for a moment, then he looked up.

“Y’know it all sounds like a load of bulldust, don’t ye.” It was not a question.

Jonathan smiled. “Of course. That’s why the public is taking such a long time to believe it.”

Sean nodded absently. “Aye. But here’s what I don’t quite understand. Ye say ye can move through time, like some kind of Doctor Who. Now how does that work?”

Jonathan laughed delightedly at the analogy. “Yes, Doctor Who. All that’s missing is the Tardis.” Then he sobered. “It’s something ’tau and his people told us,” he said. “We can now calibrate the time spent either above or just below lightspeed, to enable us to move up and down the timeline, pretty much at will. But we have to be careful; you know, paradoxes, and all that.”

Sean smiled mischievously over his pint. “Meet yerself comin’ back, like?”

They laughed, then were quiet again. Then Sean said what was on both their minds. “So what’s next for you, Jonny? Where are you off to now?”

Jonathan shrugged. “Nowhere permanent, Sean. At least, not for a while. I’ve been offered the job of a sort of roving ambassador, to help make contact with other realities. The task of mapping them is going to be a huge one, you know. And because we’re talking about infinity, it will never be finished.” He leaned forward across the table. “But there’s something else I have to tell you, Sean.”

The priest rolled his eyes. “Uh oh. When I hear that from you, I feel a ‘confidence of the confessional’ comin’ on.”

Jonathan smiled, and nodded. “It’s not public knowledge yet, and it may never be.” He took a deep breath, and continued. “We’re going to try to save Bill O’Rourke.”

Sean stared at him. “You’re not serious! Ye mean, go back to yer alien mate’s planet, back in time as well? Is that even possible?”

Jonathan shrugged again. “I admit, I’m not absolutely certain that it is. But we’re going to try.” He took a sip of his drink. “We have to.”

It was quiet in the small bar for a time. The two friends sipped their drinks and the pure voice of Patrick O’Hagan issued from hidden speakers, singing of his ‘cottage by the lea’. Then Sean looked at his friend, whom he had known since they were undergraduates at Oxford together.

“When?”

Jonathan looked at him. “Soon.”

“Yer comin’ back?”

“Yes. At least, for a while.”

“Oh oh, I feel another confidence approachin’.”

Jonathan smiled. “There’s something I must do, a debt I owe to God.”

Uncharacteristically, Sean growled angrily. “Oh, bollocks! Haven’t ye done enough for Him? Aren’t ye ever goin’ to get any rest?”

Jonathan smiled sympathetically across the table. “Eventually, Sean, I think I will. But not just yet, it seems.”

“What is it ye have to do?”

Jonathan looked at his friend, his priest, compassion in his eyes. “Well, old friend, it seems that our God hasn’t quite finished with me yet. Eventually, I have to go back.”

Sean took a moment to get it, then his eyebrows rose, “What, to the Holy Land?”

Jonathan nodded.

“But why?” said Sean. “I thought yer job there was done.”

Jonathan nodded. “So did I. But apparently, it isn’t.”

“What do ye have to do that ye haven’t already done?”

Jonathan looked into his beer for a moment, then back up at Sean. “Well, it’s like this…”

And he told him some of it.

* * * *
Earth orbit
November, 2522

“Coming up to escape velocity, Cal,” said Jonathan.

Cal Ferguson nodded. “Okay, Jonathan. How’s the ship looking, ’tau?”

The alien, seated at the engineering station, replied calmly. [Everything is functioning normally, Cal] he sent.

Cal nodded to himself. “Okay. Breaking out of orbit now.”

Beside him, Karen sat at the co-pilot’s position, helping trim and maintain the vessel’s course. Without turning, she said, “All systems are in the green, Cal. Let’s go.”

Cal made the adjustments that would send the Hermes II out of Earth orbit and on its way. When they reached lightspeed, they would be guided by Jonathan and ’tau. Ahead of them lay adventures; just what they would find, if they in fact were even able to reach their goal, none of them knew.

But they did know that they owed it to their friend, the jovial, loyal engineer from Vermont, to try. If Bill O’Rourke was there, waiting somewhere down the timeline, they would find him. Cal applied power to the great ship’s engines, and the Hermes II surged out of orbit and into the depths of space.


THE END

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