Right Place Wrong Time

by Howard Faxon

Tags: Science Fiction, Historical, sci-fi adult story,sci-fi story

Desc: Science Fiction Story: A very smart chemist is shifted to post-civil war Oregon. I think that it reads a little like an E. E. Doc Smith short story.

I'm a pretty easy-going guy, and manage to keep it together no matter what gets thrown at me.


Somebody way above my pay grade decided to test that little claim.

I was born on the last day of August, 1957. The year Sputnik went up and touched off the space race, stepping all over Kennedy's dick. Nothing big about that, you say? Well wrap your little pea pickin' brain around this. The newspapers the kids are hawking downtown say it's October 1, 1919. Another zinger is I look like I'm about thirty, and a young thirty at that.

I've always been a big guy. Six-six, two forty. I run about every morning. I'm one of those guys that everyone hated in school--the guy that glanced through the book and aced the tests. I'm a flash reader and never forget a word I read or heard. I can hear a song and after a couple times through can play a pretty decent version of it on a guitar.

I CLEPed out of all sorts of English classes as well as Spanish, French, German, biology, calculus and chemistry. I'd have taken more but they limited out on me. I specialized in industrial chemistry and synthesis simplification. That was my Ph.D subject. I pulled together and taught an advanced track chemistry course on the history of a selection of 'significant' compounds. The kicker was, you had to synthesize at least one gram of the substance being studied for an 'A' in that course segment. We covered ephedrine, penicillin, chloroform, atropine, coedine, asprin, sodium hypochlorite (bleach), chloramphenicol and, over a separate summer school course, we synthesized Erythromycin, Azithromycin and Doxycycline. Now those are some rough reaction chains! I couldn't touch atropine, diphenoxylate or chloral hydrate as they were restricted substances. Atropine was pushing it as well, but I had a pass from the ATF and the DEA.

Those three 'cin's would 'cure' the black plague, cholera, syphillis, yellow fever and other nasties.

When everything went to hell in the sandbox I signed up as a combat medic. Yep, sixty-eight whiskey. Got a couple combat medic badges, too. I had to apologize to more than one soldier for using them as a rifle rest. Most laughed like hell. I got dinged for it, but hell--both of us got out without any more holes. That's a "Real Good Thing" as they say. When I learned from a paratroop medic that a Junior Miss Tampon fits a 7.62 bullet hole I was in hog heaven. Did you know that Tampax pads are sterile bandages right out of the box? Good stuff!

We weren't supposed to do anything invasive, but I talked a surgeon into guiding me through cutting down and stitching a bleeder, and doing a simple bowel reduction. I asked him how different that was from doing a resection. He showed me the three mesentary layers that had to line up.

After I took a leg off because the guy was trapped under a burning APC I shook for two days. Amputation is a hard, hard school.

From then on I carried an extra field bag with quart bottles of betadiene, I.V. kits, field drapes, masks, gloves, an irrigation syringe, a little surgical kit with a fistful of #18 sterile scalpel blades and a pot-load of different gauge pre-threaded sterile suture packs. I practiced my stitching on pig guts, pig skin and tomatoes. My Dr. mentor told me that I wasn't far behind what a flight surgeon could do. I figured that I could catch a baby, but I didn't want to go into a chest or cut a hole in anyone's head and expect them to live. But then, I'd never been stuck as the only guy around with a hope of pulling it off, either. How's that go? Necessity is a mother? Something like that.

I'd retired at forty, having figured out and patented a synthesis reduction that gave over thirty percent higher yield to a flow synthesis making a popular heart medication. I sold the rights to Abbott Labs for seven million. I bought a nice place with limited access in Oregon and took up a new hobby--I joined a pathfinder group. It's kind of like being in a civilian knock off of Army recon snake eaters.

I'd just made it through a tough nine-day week in the field and sat down in my jeep, my field pack beside me, my medic kit behind the seat and a heavy canvas Army tank repair bag full of tools and such back in the bed. (When you take the rear seat out of an old jeep, you end up with a mini-pickup truck.) Later I stopped for gas and a leg stretch the hair on my neck stood up for a bit which spooked me, but I passed it off as 'crowd fever'. I made it home near Roseburg from Mt. Hood state park in one piece, only stopping at that gas station and later at a decent restaurant for a big, fat, juicy steak dinner. I pulled up in my driveway and heard a hissing. It got louder and louder. It seemed to come from everywhere. Suddenly I saw a bright flash and passed out. It must have been momentary because when I regained conciousness the jeep was still in the air and coming down to a four-point landing from about eight feet in the air. The windshield in front of me was shattered and somehow remelted into a sagging sheet of sparkly fused glass. When I hit the ground all the air got knocked out of me, leaving me stunned. I had a significant sun burn on top of my tan. I breathed in colder air than what I expected. There was snow on the ground. The last I knew it was late July. Very strange. I got out and looked around. My prefab house and outbuildings were gone. HUGE trees grew where the buildings once stood. Once I got over being fashed by that, I turned back to the jeep.

The engine was missing. So was the hood. Nothing was torn up. It looked like a team of mechanics had unhooked everything and hoisted it out in the few seconds that I was flying through the air. I was pissed.

In the back of the jeep I carried around a big, deep plastic wheelbarrow with the handles detached so that it would fit. I opened the rear door and hardtop window, then slid out the barrow. It hid a plastic chest that pretty well filled the spare space. It held a short-barreled pump shotgun, a handi-rifle in 30.06 and a .357 Smith & Wesson hand cannon, along with an ammo can full of rounds for each firearm, a 20x20 canvas tarp, a big canvas tent, two heavy wool blankets, a bag of quarter inch sisal rope, a box of blacksmith-made tent stakes and a wool capote made from a pair of knock-off union Civil War blankets.

(I had found a place that made very tightly woven blankets, just right for a reenactor in a winter sleet storm.) I'd forgotten all about the poke I'd left in that storage box. It held eight one ounce Kruggerands. I attached the handles to the barrow and filled it with the case, medic kit and tool bag. I put on my capote and strapped on the pistol. Once I had it loaded and a pocket full of ammo I felt much more dialled-in. I took a pee, drank my fill from one of the jugs I kept in the back and cranked down the driver's seat back to have a nap. I had no doubt that I was in deep shit but there wasn't a damned thing I could do about it at the time. I saved my stressing out for something that I could affect, convince or kill.

The next thing I knew the sun had set. I pulled a couple big rat traps out of my kit, tied them to a couple saplings and set them with peanut butter for bait. I busied myself by setting up a hammock and covering tarp, then cleared a spot and started a small fire in a little bitty pit under the foot end of my hammock. I had a squirrel fork in my pathfinder kit and got everything ready. I'd heard a couple loud snaps as the traps triggered while I was bulding my fire. I went off to find them by moonlight. I had a big, fat squirrel in one and a rabbit in the other. I took everything back to camp.

I cleaned the game with my neck knife and set the squirrel on the fire to cook while I hung the rabbit in the branches of a tree overnight. Then I cleaned up and started a Bisquick pancake.

My neck knife is something special. Being an engineer I knew quite a bit about the properties of various materials and machining techniques. I'd had a narrow billet of tungsten zone purified three times until it was damned near atomically pure, then had it ground into a knife with a three inch long fat oval handle and a three inch flat-ground blade with a 1/4 inch spine and one inch faces. The final quarter inch--the edge--had tungsten carbide crystals mixed into the metal before its final cooling, forming and sharpening. I'd tried beating on it with a sledge hammer against an anvil face. It shrugged off everything. If I ever had to sharpen the thing I was in for a bad time, though. Twenty garnet belts on a belt sander might do it. Maybe not.

I ate my squirrel dinner with a hot stiff pancake slathered with a little cherry jam. I had my obligatory cup of tea while watching the fire die. After wiping out my cup withsnow and a rag then putting it away I wrapped up in a wool blanket and small tarp. I abandoned myself into the care of Morpheus.

Come the morning I did my duty and had another cup of tea. Then I inspected the barrow, added my rucksack and blanket roll then covered it over with a heavy canvas tarp and rope. A final check of the jeep netted me a nearly new lighter and a plastic container of double-A batteries from the glove box. I retrieved my two-pound hammer from next to the passenger's seat and discovered a couple of odd things that had slid beneath that seat over the years. I found the little 6" cast iron fry pan that had mysteriously dissppeared, a full roll of contractor's brown garbage bags and a diamond-point shovel with a straight four-foot handle.

[Ed. I actually found all this stuff and more the last time I cleaned my jeep. It's possible. I'd had it for over ten years though, which explained a lot.]

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Story tagged with:
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