Paul Grimshaw Media
 

"Travelers of the Gray Dawn"
Synopsis, Sample Chapters, and an Author's Note

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Travelers of the Gray Dawn
(c) 2013 Paul Grimshaw

Synopsis

 (Spoiler alert! - this is a complete synopsis)

        A unique combination of genres, “Travelers of the Gray Dawn” mixes thriller, alternate history and science fact & fiction with a healthy dose of cautionary tale and love story. Written to appeal to a mass-market general readership, the sci-fi / alternate history niche, and reflecting the spirit of storytellers such as Rod Serling and Michael Crichton, the fast-paced novel is filled with likable characters and intriguing ‘what-ifs’ about a modern world without the benefit of a United States of America. The themes and storyline come together to entertain and urge readers to consider their own understanding of how events of the past shaped our present-day (for better or worse) and why we are who we are and of America’s place in the evolution of the world we know.

         
        The story covers just five consecutive days set within a 150-year swing in time. We first meet a young Civil War re-enactor who, in self-defense, shoots a black teenager using his Civil War era musket and while dressed in a Confederate uniform. In shock, he flees the scene and continues on to the scheduled re-enactment of The Battle of Gettysburg, set to begin an hour later. On July 2, 1863, two brothers in the beleaguered Confederate Army, consider their hopeless plight in the face of a winning enemy – the  U.S. Army. They devise a bold plot in hopes to win what would later be called the Battle of Gettysburg, a battle whose first major volleys would be less than 12 hours away. In Part I, the story time-jumps between July 1863 and July 2013, highlighting the preparations of both the re-enactors and the Confederate Army. 

        While the set-up, introduction and first quarter of the book follow the two Confederate brothers and simultaneously introduce the modern reenactors, the bulk of the story is concerned with the plight of the four contemporary central characters after the battle; they are TOMMY FULLER, a 23-year-old, sometimes sullen auto mechanic who has endured hardships in a crime-ridden part of his hometown, Gettysburg, Pa., two attorneys: 35-year-old GREG JACKSON, an African American former big-city D.A. turned small-town litigator; and Jackson’s boss, the 40-year old, easy-going trial lawyer, MIKE PHILLIPS - a senior partner with natural leadership skills who tends to be a fast talker and a big-picture thinker. 

        These three men are unlikely acquaintances through their love of history and subsequent involvement together as Civil War reenactors. Despite their very different backgrounds and socio-economic status, early in the story they must learn to trust and rely
on one another for their lives. They move inexplicably, at first, from 2013 to 1863 in the blink of an eye. While running in an attempt to escape the bedlam, our heroes alter the course of history by interfering with the real-time, real-life action on the battlefield, changing the outcome of the battle from a victory for the North to a victory for the South - and creating an alternate unviverse in the process where back in 2013 the Third Reich has ruled Europe for 70 years and Hitler, not Truman, dropped the Bomb more than once. In this world the former state of Texas now belongs to Mexico and the entire West coast of the former United States is now the sovereign territory of New Spain.  In this new world most of the royalty and ruling classes of Europe have become refugees because of a weakened America’s non-interference policies. Millions of European’s emigrate to Canada, making it the de facto New Europe. The United States is no longer, having been divided into two weaker halves and the men are thrust into a strange new world, which is only slightly reminiscent of the one they've left behind. 

        “Time After Time; Travelers of the Gray Dawn” considers some of the associated consequences of a divided land and how the lives of our protagonists and the fate of the world have changed - possibly forever. The heros strive to find a way to fix the damage and return home - but can they outrun seperatists, who think the men and their female accomplice are spies? Unification insurgents may get them killed and two government agents are hot on their tail, making the task of figuring out what has happened all the more challenging.

        
While our central characters land in a modern world of sorts - television, computers and cell-phones don’t exist and radio is the only form of electronic media. The airwaves are filled with strange music punctuated by news of suicide bombers who terrorize local and national governments and of Freedom Fighters on both sides of the border who work under the radar to re-unite North and South.  Our characters find themselves in the middle of the fight, dodging bullets and accidentally involving innocents, including the fourth protagonist, SUZANNE MICHAELS. The young woman is a duplicate in nearly every way of Tommy Fuller's wife, Susan.  A low-level volunteer for the reunification movement’s Southern Insurgency, the young woman and her companions take the three confused and battered men under their wing as they stumble from the countryside into town – a town in which some things look familiar but much does not.  As the story progresses Fuller and the woman fail to fight off a mutual attraction that subtly implies soul mates do sometimes find one another – even when a universe apart. Fuller struggles with his feelings for his rescuer and for his wife, the woman’s double, who is home in a universe without him. The peculiar but poignant love-triangle of sorts is literally between star-crossed lovers.

        Filled with the intriguing counterfactual postulations historians love to bandy about, “Time After Time; Travelers of the Gray Dawn” explores the possibility of the modern South, under Apartheid, that mandates the licensing of African Americans, where Coca Cola is sold still laced with cocaine-like compounds, drinking fountains are still labeled ‘White’ and ‘Colored’ and where 2013 looks like 1930. Our central characters meet fellow travelers along the way including an Astrophysics Professor, DR. HENRY ROLLINS and his wife MARGARET who help them (and the reader) understand what the Multiverse is and how travel through it is possible. They meet a shock-jock radio DJ, BILLY-THE-KAY from their home universe who’s mastered wormhole travel and, for his own selfish interests, threatens to unravel and foil our heroes’ missions: to set this world right by traveling back to 1863, undoing the damage they created and then to return home to 2013 and the universe they’d left behind five days earlier.  Two over-zealous “shadow government” Agents, reminiscent of misguided pulp fiction law men, smoke too many cigarettes and pull their revolvers too often and are always one step behind the four main characters. More than once they threaten to end our heroes’ quest in a hail of gunfire.

        A roller-coaster ride from start to finish, “Time After Time: Travelrs of the Gray Dawn” is a movie in book form –
Back to the Future meets Cold Mountain and National Treasure. It only slows long enough to briefly investigate and highlight actual emerging science that allows for the multidimensional Multiverse and wormhole travel – concepts that Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein believed theoretically possible. The struggles our characters endure build to an exciting climax that end where they began – on a Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania. After a narrow escape from the Agents and their vigilante posse the men are successful in turning the world back on its feet. With the help of Dr. Rollins, who has been trying to return to his “home” for the past 60 years, and who suspects that the key to traveling the Multiverse lay with one of the men, they’re all able to slip back through the portal and again, this time purposefully, involve themselves in the same infamous battle that now requires their interference and bravery to set right – the way history books had originally recorded it. 

        Though only five days transpire from beginning to end, the reader is taken on a journey from the past into a familiar but unknown and mostly unattractive present-day.  Along the way, Tommy Fuller, steeped in Southern pride, learns about tolerance and his own bigotry from the only black man he’s ever befriended (or who has ever befriended him). He learns about the deep-rooted love he has for two young women, who are the same person, who've become clones of one another through a cruel trick of quantum physics. He must part from one of them in order to be with the other.  The hotheaded Greg Jackson learns about patience and comes to appreciate Civil Rights victories and how precious, if flawed, the American system is. The themes of love, loyalty, fidelity, friendship and political acuity are explored within the context of the familiar and scientific without being technical, preachy or ideological. There are no hidden agendas within the tale.

The story is told in a fun, fast moving and easy to understand style that leaves the reader to decide for him or herself the motivations of the characters and of the author. The brief technical descriptions and usage of the Multiverse and time-travel elements are important only as a vehicle and device for the reader to journey with our heroes and to consider with them the validity of themes presented. The most important concept they'll consider is the place of a modern America on the world’s stage.

The author in 2008 as a Federal reenactor in the 4th New Hampshire unit based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina


Sample Chapters:

 

Author’s note

 

     The conflict had many names in the press and among the citizens of the United States: the War of Northern Aggression, the War Between the States, the War of Southern Independence, the War of the Rebellion – or, as some genteel bluebloods of Charleston, South Carolina, still refer to it; “that minor unpleasantness.” To most Americans, ultimately, it would be known simply as the Civil War.

It was the first modern war incorporating torpedoes, submarines, machine guns, aviation, railroads and the use of massive explosives. It was also a war of brutal hand-to-hand combat where a soldier was twice as likely to die from disease, malnourishment or wounds inflicted by swords and bayonets as bullets. Military tacticians in the 1860s hovered between the ancient and modern. Leaders from both sides were often reluctant to embrace the new technologies, even after they had proven their efficacy. Manned, tethered hydrogen and hot air balloons were employed for reconnaissance by both sides, and spotters high above the battlefield would sometimes electronically telegraph, via 500-foot cables, the positions of their enemy to commanders on the ground. Though successful in several campaigns, the Balloon Corps were dismantled by 1863, two years before the end of the war.

The Confederate Navy scrubbed their submarine program even after the H.L. Hunley, its first practical submarine, successfully sank a Federal blockade ship, the USS Housatanic, just off the South Carolina coast. The Hunley earned a place in history as the vessel behind the world’s first successful submarine seek-and-destroy mission. The Hunley itself became a victim of her own success sinking shortly after the Housatanic with all eight crewmembers aboard. After retrieving her, intact, from the bottom of Charleston Harbor, the Confederate sailors’ remains were interred, accompanied by a full military funeral at Charleston’s Magnolia Cemetery. Eight horse-drawn caissons transported each of the crewmen in a procession through downtown Charleston that lasted most of the day. Fifty thousand spectators attended the memorial service, and for the first time in over a century press from around the globe were once again reporting on the American Civil War. They called the spectacle the ‘Last Confederate Funeral.’  Participating in the interment in an official capacity were 10,000 Civil War reenactors. The year; 2004.

 

            The first Civil War re-enactment I attended was on December 1st, 1989 in Franklin, Tennessee, a then small town 30 miles south of Nashville. The 125th anniversary of the Battle Of Franklin took place on a cold, gray December day, not unlike the first days of the original bloody battle. Along with thousands of spectators, I watched the reenactment unfold across the open farmland of the mostly still undeveloped Williamson County countryside. The spectacle of thousands of men in costume uniforms, dozens of mounted Cavalry, dozens of cannons and a commitment to authentic portrayals in both the civilian encampments and on the battlefield was gripping. I was suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, overcome by an unsettling sensation. I wondered, albeit briefly, if maybe I wasn’t witnessing a reenactment but the actual battle – a spectator on the sidelines of history. For a brief moment, full of both wonder and trepidation, I had no doubt that I was standing on a ridge in 1863 watching history unfold in real-time. The reenactors had accomplished their mission.



Traveler's Of The Gray Dawn
(Sample Chapter)


He slipped off his wedding band, which had become loose fitting after he’d dropped 20 lbs on an already slender frame. He placed it carefully on the end table and leaned in to kiss his wife, Susan, gently on the cheek.

 “See you later, Honey,” he said softly. “You’re coming down, right?”

 

“Hmm...?  Ah, yeah I’ll be there babe.  Have fun,” she answered through a yawn. “Be careful.” She drifted back to sleep but not before calling out softly. “I love you Tommy.”

 

“Me too,” he said and walked from the bedroom.

 

Leaving the house in the cool of pre-dawn he felt an odd chill and passed it off as the weather. His unconciously furrowed brow betrayed his uneasiness at walking to his  pickup truck dressed in a Confederate uniform - but he had no choice.  The others would be at the re-enactment dressed out, ready and waitng for the straggelrs to fall in. Most re-enaactors capmed at the events like an odd combination of Boy Scouts and frat boys, but Tommy's group preferred the the softness of a mattress and warm bedrooms arriving early for role call and Parade in the field. 

Tommy's truck was usually parked in front of his house but because of his late return from McCauley's Pub the night before, found he had to park several blocks from home.  Still dark, only a distant street lamp shed a dim, otherworldly orange glow over the neighborhood.  The city had installed ‘crime lights’ as a deterrent after the spate of violent crime in recent years but Tommy hadn’t noticed them making a difference.   
 

He was looking forward to the day’s activities, and began to relax a little. He smiled at how odd it would look to be seen in his neighborhood dressed like 1860s-era soldier, musket and all, like a long-lost and forgotten ghost roaming near an old battleground. Harper's Ridge was world-famous for its massive Civial War battle and today's was it's 130th anniversary. He though again about his urban setting and his distintly un-modern costume and found himself chuckling under his breath.  “What a sight I must be.”

 

He was utterly alone walking down the dimly lit street. Most of the ‘Crime Lights’ had been shot out so many times that the city refused to keep replacing them, which made his dark street even darker.  An unusual quiet and stillness hung in the air and he liked his neighborhood this way.  Usually the sounds of urban life intruded every part of his waking hours and this morning’s walk to his truck was in stark contrast to the constant noise he had grown wearily accustomed to.

 

At first, the thumping, almost like that of a heartbeat could be felt more than heard. Tommy cocked his ear.  A lone nightbird chirped and a dog barked a block or two away.  Still walking toward his truck he heard it again and then stopped cold.  The thumping was now all too recognizable as that from a kickerbox, an amplified bass speaker that hip hop kids installed in the backs of their cars and played at ear-deafening volumes. The vibrations could travel hundreds of yards and penetrate thick walls. He often wondered how the car’s occupants survived the eardrum-shattering reverberations. He heard the thumping again. It was a good bit off, Tommy thought, but he tensed a little and started walking again, though with a quickned pace.  The thumping got steadily louder but it seemed to come from everywhere – he couldn’t pin-point the direction. Tommy spoke quietly to himself. 

 
“Not now. Not dressed like this.” 

His truck was still a block and a half away.  He walked faster.  The thumping – boom, boom, boom was like the unwanted approach of an evil giant’s footsteps and it was nearly on top of him. He thought about running into the shadows to hide but it was too late. A small Honda Accord zoomed around the corner at top speed.  It was chopped and low to the ground. Shiny from countless coats of wax and polishing, the white car reflected and seemed to amplify all light touching it.  The windows were tinted so dark they were as black as the night – the kids called it ‘Presidential Tint.’  Flashing neon license plate holders and ultraviolet purple-hued black-lights, glowing from underneath, gave the car a psychedelic, evil aura.  Tommy stared straight ahead as it roared by him.  The sounds of  rap music shook the neighborhood. Boom! Boom! Boom! He didn’t dare turn around to look. He was now 100 yards from his truck and he kept up his quickened, steady pace.  Screeching brakes behind him sent a chill down his spine and adrenaline flowing through his body.  He heard two car doors open and behind the constant drone of the music he heard the laughter of young men, drunk on alcohol, the intoxicating irresponsibility of youth and the power they felt over their lone victim.
 

From a distance they mocked and voiced their disbelief, yelling over the thumping bass. 

 
“What the fuck was that?!” one of the teenagers yelled out.  More laughter. 

 
“Damn!” said another. “That is whack. I am not believing what I’m seeing.  Shit.  Yo, yo let’s check this out!”

 

This was not what Tommy wanted to hear.  He fumbled to find his keys to be ready to unlock the door and jump in. He searched his pockets frantically. “Where are my keys?  Where are they?” he yelled aloud, panicked.  He was not used to wearing the strange clothes.  The pockets were in all the wrong places.  Desperately he searched, patting front and back for the familiar lump of metal that would not take shape.  Behind him he heard the car’s doors slam and the turbo-charged Honda burn its tires in a one-hundred-eighty-degree spin.

 

He was in trouble.  He thought he must have left his keys at home on the kitchen counter.  He was sure he had taken them but where were they? He was now fifty yards from a truck he wouldn’t be able to get into and five  blocks from a house he was locked out of at 5:00 in the morning with gang-bangers on his heels looking to have some fun.  He fought off flashbacks of previous unpleasant encounters in that very same neighborhood.  The car sped up to him and screeched to a stop.  The doors opened and the pounding of the bass was almost deafening.  Tommy just kept walking.  He didn’t dare turn around.

 

“Yo! Johnny Reb!” called one of the boys, yelling over the pounding bass. He heard laughter from the car. “The war’s over. Ain’t you heard, dude?”  Tommy ignored them. 

 

“He must be one of those Civil War fools I saw on TV yesterday,” stated another boy.

 

Tommy had gained 15 yards.  He was closer to his truck but still had no way in it.  He was terrified.

 

“Yo! Muthafuka! We’re talkin’ to you!” another voice taunted with an amplified malevolence.  “This bitch ignorin’ us.  I think he need a little history lesson, cuz he sure ain’t no Yankee fan in that outfit.”

 

“Yeah,” added another voice “didn’t the Yankees kick those redneck’s asses?”

 

 “I think it’s payback time for dissin' us.” Their mocking had moved from bullying to threatening.

 

Sweat poured off Tommy’s forehead and he could feel his hands sticky and moist as he desperately, frantically continued looking for his keys.

 

Bang! 

A loud sound rose above the ceaseless thumping music and Tommy’s heart leapt as he heard the terrible noise.  Instinctively, he turned to face his would be attackers and saw that one of them weilding an aluminum baseball bat had just slammed it into a post-office mailbox, nearly folding it in two like a paper sack.  Just thirty feet away, two black youths, one with the bat and a white boy of about the same age, showing off a gleaming knife blade, stood facing him.

“Not again...,” he thought. 

Desperately he felt for his keys one more time and put his hand on something not entirely familiar. Slung over his shoulder and resting on his right hip was his leather cartridge box.  He opened the flap thinking he may have put his keys inside, instead he found 30 paper-wrapped blackpowder cartridges for use in the re-enactment. He had assembled the cartridges himself without the minie ball ‘bullet’ - re-enactors, after all, fired blanks at one another.  But within one of the paper cartridges he felt something like a steel marble with a dull point – he had missed one.  His unit occasionally had fun on a nearby farm with live-fire target shooting, camping and beer-drinking events - a way to let off steam and double the amount of blackpowder normally used in re-enactment blanks. The youths walked slowly toward him shouting obscenities and vulgarities of all sorts while the blaring urban music continued to drone its thumping bass.

Boom. Boom. Boom. 

Tommy knew what he had to do and moved with practiced efficiency.  He slung the musket from his shoulder, planting the butt of his rifle by his left heel.  He tore open the paper cartridge with his teeth and emptied it down the barrel followed by the led slug. He pulled the ramrod from the underside of the gun and packed the bullet and powder snuggly. Tommy was one of the fastest loaders in his unit, able to load and fire four times per minute.  He backed slowly away from the youths who momentarily stopped their approach and sized up this strange sight.  Still walking backwards, the rifle at his waist, the muzzle pointed directly at the boys, he cocked the firing mechanism one click, to the safety positon, and placed a tiny brass percussion cap on the rifle's nipple. The teens continued their approach, now just 15 feet away.  He attached the cold steel bayonet twisitng it into place with a stisfying snap. The boys howled with nervous laughter, hiding behind one-another while the sized their prey up. One of the boys urged his friends to back off.

“Come on man. This cracker crazy,” he said “Let’s roll.”

The others ignored him and the one with the bat made two quick steps forward swinging the aluminum weapon at Tommy’s head. Tommy thrust the rifle forward and when the bat and his bayonet clashed sparks lit up the dark street.  The other tossed his knife back and forth between his hands. Tommy’s head pounded with adrenaline and he felt dizzy.  He could see the three Yankee soldiers jeering at him and the sounds of war raging around him.  The enemy were within 10 feet and he had just finally reached a horse abandoned by some unseen rider.  One of the Yanks was swinging his gun like a huge stick and another had pulled off his bayonet and was tossing it playfully from hand to hand.  Cannons blasted all round him.

Boom.  Boom.  Boom. 

He checked and tightened the small percussion cap placed on the firing mechanism of his rifle.  Eight feet and closing, the Yanks continued their advance.  The one swinging the big gun charged him.  Tommy dropped to one knee pulling the hammer back one last click, aimed at the Yank’s chest and pulled the trigger.  A blast in his ear, a strong kick to his shoulder and an orange fireball and thick  gray smoke issued forth from the barrel and he knew the round was off.  A millisecond later an audible thud and crack could be heard as a hunk of hot metal shattered the ribcage of the man in front of him.  Blood sprayed the two Yanks near the attacker and they screamed in horror. Their screams were high-pitched, not of men, Tommy thought, but more the sound of  boys.

“Just kids,” Tommy thought in horror. 

They were just kids but they were damn Yankees just the same and in a man’s war. The distant moon cast an orange glow over the battlefield.  Surrounding him, the cannons still blasted in a musical rhythm. 

Boom!  Boom!  Boom! 

One Yank soldier lay dead on the ground while two others stood horrified, sickened, frightened.  The Rebel stood up, his musket barrel still smoking, his bayonet extended.  He heard coins or ammo fall to the ground as he straightened.  The items must have fallen out of his haversack, a small canvas shoulder bag most in the infantry wore.  He looked down to see they were not coins or ammo but odd-looking keys.  Several of them hung together around a shiny circular piece of steel.  On one of the keys was inscribed a word that seemed familiar - "Nissan".

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