“Get off me!” Ty kicked at the dean’s shins, but those strong
meaty hands held him easily at arm’s length. Kristi now sat facing
him, tears running into the blue bandana tied around her head. No
defiance was left in her eyes, only terror.
Arnold swooped through the lab, humming, typing on each computer with
great flourishes, as if playing an overture. Instead of the staple lab
coat, he wore a blue vest with silver buttons over a loose white shirt,
sleeves rolled to the elbows. Also a thick leather belt, soft moccasins,
and brown, rough-looking suede pants tucked into long socks just below
“What’s the plan, Xavier?” Marks asked.
“Our money’s no good back there. Since we’ve no gold bars lying
around—” He patted Kristi’s head. “—she’ll be my cash
Marks nodded. “And the boy?”
“You brought him. He’s your problem.”
“He knows too much. You have to take him along.”
Arnold pursed his lips, studied Ty for a moment. “I may be able to get
a few pence for him at the harbor. Always a need for cabin boys.”
“W-where’re you taking us?” Ty croaked.
“Not where, m’boy. When.”
A lump formed in Ty’s throat. “You mean—back in time?”
“Bravo. Not as dumb as you look. To 1780, to be exact.” He picked up
a long, silver rod covered with tiny lights and stroked it as if it were
a kitten. “You’re looking at the greatest invention in the history
of mankind. Imagine having the means to influence the drafting of the
Declaration, to kill Hitler when he’s a teenager, to—”
“To invest in Apple and Microsoft when the founders were just geeks
hanging out in garages,” Marks broke in.
“Indeed.” Arnold’s eyes gleamed. “The possibilities are endless.
We can rewrite history, remake an America where the ignorant
peasants,” he pointed at Kristi, “don’t interfere with the
educated, the elite, with some false, overinflated sense of power.”
Ty snorted. “Just because she’s black doesn’t mean—”
“Oh, don’t be overdramatic,” Arnold said, rolling his eyes.
“It’s not about skin color. It’s about breeding. The witless the
Founding Fathers lied to generations of Americans, gave uncultured
nobodies land, voting rights.” He folded his hands, cocked his head
to the side and said in a high-pitched, sing-song voice, “You’re all
created equal—Bleh!” He stuck out his tongue. “Well, m’boy,
we’re not all created equal. We need a ruling class to make decisions,
enforce order, to ensure America remains a superpower for the next
Ty snorted again. “Let me guess. You’re the ruling class and we’re
just the peasants.”
Arnold smirked. “Who better?”
Ty groaned and dragged his hands down his face. “You’re a couple of
real nutters, aren’t you?”
Arnold patted his own chest in mock indignation. “I prefer
“But why 1780?”
“You traced my family history. Figure it out.”
Ty remembered his essay and goose bumps ran up his arms. “Benedict
“Bingo. Bad luck foiled my grandfather’s noble plans, tainting my
family name for more than two hundred years. But that’s all going to
change, very soon.”
“Enough talk.” Marks pushed Ty over next to Kristi. “Get on with
Arnold hit a few more keys on the closest laptop. Red and blue lights
flashed along the length of the rod. Marks stepped back.
Ty glanced at the door. He could dash around the dean and run for help.
But who would believe him? Besides, he couldn’t leave Kristi alone
with these nutbirds. He took one of Kristi’s bound hands and squeezed.
Dr. Arnold bent the rod into a circle. A deafening wind engulfed them,
like the thrust behind a jet engine, wobbling Ty’s cheeks and forcing
his eyelids closed. He clenched Kristi’s hand tighter. A second later
he felt his body launch, as if from a slingshot, and zoom through
ribbons of light that streaked like neon streamers. Then the motion
turned circular and he spun inside a giant cone of white light,
screaming his throat raw. But he heard nothing above the roar.
The world twirled like a flushing toilet until he hit the dark center of
the universe and everything went black.
Hammers banged the inside of Kristi’s skull. Waves of nausea rolled
through her as if she’d just staggered off the world’s fastest
Tilt-a-Whirl. She opened her eyes and bright light stabbed in. The
hammers sharpened to pickaxes. She turned her head and threw up. The
headache slowly dulled. She tried to wipe her mouth with one hand, but
her wrists were bound. Ankles too. She smelled earth, manure. She rolled
onto elbows and knees, blinking until her vision cleared and found
herself kneeling in reddish-brown dirt, surrounded by tall green stalks
of…corn? The sky was deep blue, the sun baking her like a cookie.
“Hello?” The vibration of her voice brought the pickaxes back, plus
a fresh wave of barfing. Someone nearby groaned, sounding just as
miserable. “Who’s there?” She fought her bindings. The rope around
her legs loosened a bit and she wriggled out. But the one on her wrists
was too tight. She stumbled through the corn, the rope end dragging like
A lump lay in a furrow ten feet away.
He groaned again, holding his head with both hands. His eyes fluttered
open. “What happened? Where are we?”
“I don’t know.”
“I feel like a train wreck.” He tried to sit up, winced, and fell
back again. “No. Make that two train wrecks on the bloody London
“Same here. You remember anything?”
He shook his head. “Don’t know. The last thing I remember was the
Realization dropped on her like a bag of bricks. “The time machine,”
she croaked, her throat suddenly dust-dry. “Oh my God! It can’t have
actually worked? Can it?”
Ty jumped up, staggered, and nearly fell. “We have to get out of
“Out of where? You mean—” She hesitated. “Are we really back in
“I don’t know. Maybe. Come on.” He grabbed the rope between her
bound wrists and pulled her through the rustling stalks.
“Where are we goin—” The rope pulled taut and she fell back.
Dr. Arnold stood a few feet away, gripping the tail end. His face looked
pale, almost greenish—but he was grinning. “Welcome to my history,
Ty lunged at him. Arnold stepped aside and shoved him down into the
dirt. Kristi pulled at the rope. “Run, Ty. Get help!”
Ty pushed himself up, looking back and forth between them.
Arnold hauled Kristi closer by the rope and wrapped an arm around her
neck. “Stay where you are, boy.”
When Ty’s shoulders slumped, she knew then he wasn’t going to leave
her. A twinge of relief fluttered in her chest. She wouldn’t be left
alone, with him.
Ty’s knuckles clenched white. “You’d best not hurt her, you
Arnold loosened his grip. “No, of course not. Not…directly.”
Kristi jerked away and ran to Ty. Arnold kept hold of the rope. “But
if you cause any trouble, I’ll turn your little friend in to the first
slave-catcher I come across. Know what they do to runaway slaves?”
Kristi’s jaw jutted. “I’m NOT a slave!”
“Wake up, girl. You’re black, in colonial America. Got any papers to
prove you’re free?”
“But—but—” Her head spun like she’d returned to the
Tilt-a-Whirl. She staggered against Ty, who steadied her.
Arnold laughed. “So, what’ll it be, m’lad?”
Ty gritted his teeth. “Fine. We’ll do it your bloody way. For
Kristi’s red polo clung to her as stumbled along the dirt road,
drenched with sweat, wrists on fire from the rough hemp rope. Arnold
yanked each time she slowed, digging it further into her skin. Ty walked
beside her with one arm around her waist. They’d been marching for
hours. Once, Arnold had allowed them a moment’s rest at an almost-dry
creek bed. Its water had been brown and tasted like dirt, but it was
wet. Once upon a time, she’d refused to drink anything but bottled
water. Now she was too thirsty to care.
A house appeared in the hazy distance. As they got closer, she saw faded
gray clapboard walls and thatched roof. A large, bearded man was
dragging a hoe through the dirt in a field in front of the house.
They turned up the drive and a small woman in a gray shift appeared at
the door of the house. The farmer dropped his hoe and met them at the
porch. He was a big as a tool shed. He took off his straw hat, revealing
matted jet-black hair. His face was tanned, leathery, beard speckled
with dust. His dirt stained white shirt had a gray ring of sweat that
started around its collar and went all the way to his stomach.
“Good day, sir,” Arnold said, bowing. “Would you be gracious
enough to offer us a bit of water to wash down the road dust?”
Kristi lifted her bound hands. “Help us!” she cried. “He kidnapped
Arnold yanked the rope and she fell to her knees. “Shut your mouth,
girl!” He glared at Ty, who unclenched his fists and bent to help her
She looked up pleadingly, hoping the big man would hit Arnold, or grab
him, or something. But he’d just stared, face impassive. Kristi
glared. He could have broken Arnold in half with his bare hands, but he
just stood there, as if Arnold had simply disciplined an unruly dog.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Arnold said, bowing again. “But she’s sun
crazed. I’m afraid we’ve come upon some misfortune and would be
greatly indebted to you for your hospitalities.”
“Aye,” the farmer grunted and disappeared into the shack with the
woman. He returned a moment later with two small loaves of bread and two
bulging brown skins that looked like bloated water balloons.
Kristi clenched her teeth. She’d rather die of thirst than take even a
sip from this heartless man. She glowered as Ty took a long drag. But
her raw throat ached. Almost involuntarily, she grabbed the skin, filled
her mouth, then shoved it back into Ty’s hands.
He studied the skin, then looked up quizzically at the man. “What’s
this made of, sir?”
“Bull’s bladder,” he said plainly.
Her stomach lurched, but didn’t let go of its watery contents.
“We’re much obliged, my good man,” Arnold said, bowing a third
time. The man nodded. They left him there and continued along the long,
Kristi tore a piece off of a loaf of bread and gave the rest to Ty. He
took a couple nibbles and tried to give it back.
“You eat it,” she said.
She shoved it away. “Eat it, Ty!”
He hesitated, then took a bigger bite.
There were miles and miles of nothing, just farmland and forest between
tiny shacks and log cabins. Along the road, two horse-drawn carts had
passed. Both times she’d seen a dust plume ahead her spirits had risen
with the hope that someone would help them. But neither driver even
glanced her way.
Now she saw another plume of dust ahead. A moment later, a cart drawn by
a fat mule came into view. The driver was old with a weathered face,
long gray beard, and tattered shirt and pants. Kristi stared at him
piteously, eyes pleading for him to help them. His brown eyes met her
gaze, but he said nothing. Just glanced away and kept moving, like the
others. She could have screamed!
How can the guy just drive by and watch Arnold drag me? Don’t they
see—? Despite the heat, a chill ran up her spine. Oh no. He does think
I’m a slave! They all do.
After what seemed like a hundred miles, they finally stopped beside a
river. Kristi and Ty collapsed onto a patch of grass under a tree, the
first shade all day. It was then she noticed Ty’s face—blistered,
deep red. Her own was speckled with sweat, hot, but only felt slightly
sore. She’d once asked her dad if black people got sunburned. He’d
laughed. “Yes, baby, we can get sunburned, too. But God gave us
beautiful dark skin to protect us. Her chest ached. She could almost
hear his voice. Would she ever see him again? Then she remembered his
girlfriend, Maria with the ugly gapped-teeth. The ache sharpened.
“You all right?” Ty asked.
“Let’s see, Ty. I’m in God-knows-where. Heck, God-knows-when. Tied
to a lunatic who wants to give me to a slave catcher. I am most
certainly not all right!”
He sighed. “Sorry, stupid question.”
“Never mind.” She rubbed her eyes and let out a long breath.
“It’s not your fault. Where are we?”
Ty pointed across the river. “I think that’s Philadelphia.”
“What?” She stared, mouth open. The riverbank was lined with
thousands of trees. Clearings held small cottages with sharp, triangular
slate roofs. Beyond were larger two and three story houses with arches
and pillars, a few larger churches or meetinghouses. But no
crisscrossing power lines, no skyscrapers. No mammoth bridges or
interstates packed with honking cars. No hazy smog.
The road, the farmhouses, the horses and carts had been strange, yes.
But looking at Philadelphia, her city—now so small, so
primitive—brought needle pricks up the back of her neck. What was in
store for them on the other side of that river?
Excerpted from "Time Traitor (American Epochs) (Volume 1)" by Todd McClimans. Copyright © 2014 by Todd McClimans. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.