Can history be changed? Can the South still win the War Between the States? Colonel McCulloch thinks so...and his gold, his gun, and some very special blueprints stand behind him to help him prove it. Sargeant Harmon is a black man who hopes not...and only his readiness, ingenuity, and wit stand behind him to help him stop it. In the corridors of contemporary Washington and on the fields where Civil War battles have yet to be fought, these two men take each other on--and the winner will determine the course of history... At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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February 15, 1983
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Excerpt from A Rebel in Time by Harry Harrison
The Capital Beltway wraps Washington, D.C. in a concrete noose. Its six lanes of traffic swing wide through the forest land of Virginia, brush the outskirts of the dormitory town of Alexandria, then cross the Potomac into Maryland. Land is cheaper than in the District so that office buildings and pollution free factories have been located here, appearing suddenly in forest clearings. Exit 42 branches off in this area and leads to a divided highway. But just before the stop sign there is an unmarked country lane that disappears away among the trees.
The old Pontiac rumbled out of this beltway exit and turned down the lane. Just around the first bend there was a large, white and windowless building. The driver took no notice of this nor of the sign above the entrance that welcomed him toWeeks Electronics Laboratory 2. He drove past it and continued along the lane until he was out of sight of the building. Only then did he pull off into a roadside clearing and kill the engine.
After emerging from the car he carefully pushed the door shut behind him, instead of slamming it, so that it made no sound. Then he stood with his back to the fender, looking at his wristwatch, oblivious to the first glorious russets and golds of the autumn foliage around him. He was single-minded and intense, with all of his attention concentrated on the watch. A casual observer would have seen a man who was a bit over six feet tall with a not unhandsome face, although his nose was perhaps a little too sharp for his features. However his smoothly tanned skin, his brown hair just touched with gray at the temples, gave him a most distinguished air. His forehead puckered as he stared intently at the watch; a familiar expression that had left a permanent cleft between his eyes. He was dressed in a nondescript trenchcoat, dark blue trousers and black shoes.
He nodded with sudden satisfaction, pressed a button on the watch, then turned and walked off among the trees. He moved quietly, but swiftly, until he reached an oak tree that had been blown down by a storm; quite recently because the leaves were just beginning to drop. Then he eased himself down onto the ground and crawled for at least fifteen feet in the shelter of the tree before climbing to his feet again and hurrying forward.
Less than twenty yards further on, the grove ended in a grassy ditch that ran along the base of a chain-link fence. Beyond the fence was green parkland interspersed with occasional clumps of trees; a corner of the Weeks Electronics building wasjust visible through the foliage. The man started down into the ditch--then drew back quickly to the cover of the trees. A moment later a uniformed guard holding a German Shepherd on a short leash walked by on the other side of the fence. As soon as they were out of sight the man hurried forward again, down into the ditch, pulling on a pair of leather gloves as he went. Without stopping he swarmed up the fence until he stood, balancing on the top, just below the double strand of barbed wire. He flexed his knees, extended his arms to keep his balance, then jumped smoothly over the wire to land on the other side.
Then he ran, head down, fast, aiming for the nearest clump of trees. But before he could reach it a jeep raced into sight, cutting sharply across the grass, braking to a skidding stop before him. The guard seated beside the driver had his carbine raised and aimed at the intruder who stopped, then turned slowly to face him. The guard looked on in silence as the tall man lifted his arm slowly, glanced at his watch, then pressed the button in its side.
"Exactly six minutes, nine and three-tenths seconds, Lopez," he said. The guard nodded expressionlessly and lowered the gun.
"Yes, colonel," the guard said.
"That's not good, not very goddamned good at all." He climbed into the back of the jeep. "Let's get to the guardhouse."
They drove around the laboratory to a low building that was concealed from the road by the larger building. A group of uniformed men stood beside it, watching in silence as the jeep arrived. A gray-haired guard with sergeant's stripes on his sleeves stepped forward when the vehicle groundto a stop. The colonel stepped down then pointed to his watch. "What do you think of six minutes, nine and three-tenths from the time I went into the woods from the road until the time I was intercepted?"
"I don't think very much of that at all, Colonel McCulloch," the sergeant said.
"Neither do I, Greenbaum, neither do I. I was halfway to the lab before the guard turned up. If I had been an intruder I could have done a lot of interesting things in that time. Do you have anything to say?"
"Do you have any questions?"
"None? Aren't you interested in how I got as far as the fence without being detected?"
"I am, sir."
"Good." Colonel McCulloch nodded as he would at an idiot child. "But your interest is a little late, sergeant. Exactly one week too late. That's how long ago I noticed that a newly fallen tree had blocked part of the field of vision of one of the remote TV cameras. I waited one week for you or one of your men to notice it. None of you did. I therefore arranged this demonstration to show just how lax security is around here."
"I'll see that it's tightened up, colonel ..."
"No you won't, Greenbaum. Someone else will. You are losing those stripes, taking a salary cut to match, and a reprimand goes into your record ..."
"No it doesn't, McCulloch. Because I'm quitting this job. I'm through."
McCulloch nodded agreement. "Yes, you are through. And you have just described yourself as well. A quitter. You quit after serving twentyyears in the Army too. Now you're quitting--"
"Bullshit, colonel, if you will excuse the expression." Greenbaum glowered in anger, fists clenched. "I got out of the service to get away from chickenshits like you. But I just didn't get far enough away. You're in charge of security at this lab. Which means you got responsibilities too. If you gave a shit you would have reported that tree. We're supposed to be in this together, you're supposed to help us. Not pull this boyscout and indian crap. Well I'm getting just as far away from that kind of stuff as I can. Beginning right now."
He turned and stamped away. McCulloch watched him go in silence. Only when Greenbaum was out of sight did he turn to the silent guards.
"I want a written report on this exercise from each one of you. On my desk in the morning." He waved Lopez out of the jeep and took his place. "Get me back to my car," he told the driver, then turned to the other guards as the engine started up. "Every one of you is expendable. Screw up like Greenbaum and you go just the way he did."
McCulloch did not look back as they drove away.
At the car he unlocked the trunk while the jeep turned and vanished back down the lane. He took off his coat and threw it into the trunk. He was wearing his uniform underneath. It was empty of all decorations and identifying insignia, other than the silver eagles on his shoulders. He reached into the trunk again and took out his uniform cap, settled it firmly on his head, then took out a black attache case as well before slamming the lid shut. A few minutes later he was on MacArthur Boulevard driving south towards the District.
It was a short ride. A few miles down the road heturned into a large shopping center, where he parked close to a branch of the D. C. National Bank. He locked the car and went into the bank, taking the attache case with him. It was a brief visit. He emerged less than ten minutes later, got into his car and drove away.
He was watched most carefully by the man in the black Impala that was parked two rows away. The man raised a microphone and spoke into it.
"Able One to Able Two. George is now leaving the lot and turning south on MacArthur. He's yours now. Over."
"Will do. Out."
The man replaced the microphone on the dash and got out of the car. He was lean and blond and unremarkably dressed in a gray suit, white shirt and dark tie. He entered the bank and crossed to the receptionist.
"My name is Ripley," he said. "I would like to see the manager. About some investments."
"Of course, Mr. Ripley." She picked up the phone. "I'll see if Mr. Bryce is free."
The manager stood up from behind the desk and shook his hand when he entered the office. "Mr. Ripley. Now just what can I do to help you?"
"This is a government matter, sir. Would you please look at my identification."
He took a leather wallet from his breast pocket, opened it and passed it across the desk. Bryce looked at the gold badge and the accompanying card behind the plastic window and nodded. "Well, Mr. Ripley," he said. "How can I be of aid to the Federal Bureau of Investigation?" He started to hand back the ID but the agent stopped him.
"I would like you to authenticate the identification,sir. I believe that you were given an unlisted number for use if the occasion should arise?"
Bryce nodded and opened the top drawer of his desk. "Yes, I've used it once before. Here it is. If you will excuse me."
The bank manager dialed the number, then identified himself to the party at the other end. He read off the ID number from the wallet, then placed his hand over the receiver.
"They want to know the case reference."
"Tell them Investigation George."
The bank manager repeated the words, then nodded and hung up. He passed the ID back to the FBI agent. "I was instructed to cooperate with you and to give you any information that you might need about one of our clients. But I must say that this is not a normal practice ..."
"I realize that, Mr. Bryce. But you are now involved in a security investigation with a top priority. If you refuse to cooperate I must go to your superiors and--"
"No, please! That's not what I am suggesting. Please don't misunderstand me. You have my cooperation, of course. I was just saying that information about our clients is always confidential--in the normal course of events. But in a matter of national security, very different, naturally. How can I be of aid?"
Bryce was talking rapidly, unaware when he took the handkerchief from his breast pocket to pat his suddenly moist forehead. The agent nodded, unsmiling.
"I appreciate that, Mr. Bryce. I hope you understand that your voluntary cooperation makes you liable to prosecution for violation of national security should you mention this to anyone else?"
"Does it? I didn't know--but of course, I'll speak to no one."
"Very good. A few minutes ago a man left this bank after transacting some business. His name is Wesley McCulloch and he is a colonel in the United States Army. No, don't write that down. You won't have any difficulty in memorizing this information. You will find the bank employee he dealt with and bring back the record of any transaction or transactions the colonel may have made. You will tell no one the reason for your interest."
"Of course not!"
"We appreciate that, Mr. Bryce. If you don't mind I will wait here until you return."
"Yes, please, make yourself comfortable. This should not take a very long time."
The manager returned in less than five minutes with a file folder in his hand. He carefully closed and locked the door, then opened the folder before him on the desk.
"Colonel McCulloch made a purchase ..."
"Did he pay by check or with cash?"
"Cash. Large denomination bills. He purchased gold and paid for it in cash. Eight-thousand, five hundred and thirty-two dollars. He took the gold away with him. Is that the information you wanted, Mr. Ripley?"
The agent nodded and smiled, ever so slightly.
"Yes, Mr. Bryce. That is exactly what I wanted to find out."