Forbidden Future Cover

Forbidden Future

Coming in just a few short weeks! My short story, Forbidden Future, is the story it’s named for, and features prominently in the cover art. As soon as it’s available, I’ll let you know. Until then, here’s a teaser…

Shoving his hands deep into the pockets of a white lab coat, O’Brien crossed his arms over a beer gut to try and coax a little more protection from the stinging rain that threatened to freeze his extremities. The early dark of a winter evening froze the joy out of walking from the bus station. When he finally reached the large glass doors of the Institute, he stomped his shoes on the matt to dislodge some of the slush they had been hoarding.
His fingers shivered as he held his key card up to the magnetic reader. As soon as the green light lit, his cell phone buzzed. Stepping into the entry between the two glass doors, he lifted it and said, “Now what? I have to get to work.”

“Work every night. That’s all you care about,” his wife said.

He couldn’t tell if her voice was sad or angry. “Cathy, I can’t deal with this right now.”

“Afraid your precious co-workers will hear?” she asked. “It’s not like they respect you anyway.”

“Well if they don’t respect me, nobody does. But at this point I don’t know another way to pay the bills.”

“This isn’t about money.”

“We’ll talk when I get home,” he said as he hung up and pushed through the door. His expression turned to a forced smile. He nodded his broad chin at the men waiting inside.

“O’Brien,” one of the men called out, “We’re glad you could make it on time, despite the weather. Come on in and warm up.”

He smiled and gravitated toward the group of three men hovering near the unmanned reception desk. They had changed out of their lab coats into heavy winter protection. Their words were kindly intended but thinly veiled. They all called each other by last names. But when addressing him, they didn’t say “doctor” first. Their happiness at his timely arrival was genuine—they couldn’t leave until he showed up. Still he smiled and nodded at each of them. He wanted to savor the brief moment of exchange. For a few minutes each day, they treated him like a professional.

“Anything important I should know about tonight?” O’Brien asked. He pulled his knit cap off and shook slush off onto the tile floor while his other hand used the water that had seeped through to smooth his short brown hair.

“No,” the shortest of the Ph.D.’s said. “We didn’t even run the machine today. We were in budget meetings all day. They cut our grant almost in half. Can you believe that after ten years they suddenly don’t think it’s worth spending money on time travel?”

“Idiots. How can they not see how important this is?”

“It’s too early to say if they will be cutting any jobs,” the one in the middle with graying hair and a moustache said. “But if they don’t pull their heads out we’re going to have to start using this baby to make our own money.”

O’Brien laughed along with the rest of them. They all knew using the machine to generate funds would be a felony. “We better get going,” the short one said.

“Of course. The storm’s pretty bad,” he said. His thoughts were reeling. Was he in danger of losing his job after ten years? Was there even another job this experience would help him get? With his wife so unhappy lately, that would probably be the last straw.

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