Available on February 12, 2018
( Cover Art Credit : Kate Cowan, Broken Arrow Designs )
Jacob Wesson is a timecop from 2040, sent back to WWII London to stop the assassination of Britain’s war leader. The assignment plays out with apparent ease, but the jump home goes wrong, stranding Jake in war-ravaged 1944. Jake’s team, including his long-time girlfriend, is desperate to trace him before something else goes wrong.
Stuck in the past, Jake must pull from his training and blend in. He clings to the one familiar face he can find, Amy Jenkins, a war widow whose life he saved during the assignment. Drawn to each other by their loneliness and thrown together amid the terror of war, Jake and Amy look to a future together.
But Jake’s future cannot let him go. And when his bosses finally find him in 1944, Jake faces a terrible choice: risk unraveling the modern world, or let Amy die.
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“What is it?” asked Jake.
“There’s more detail in here.” Robinson tapped the file on the table. “Read this in a minute, but it can’t leave the room. I’ve downloaded the orders on your palmers so you can brief yourselves later. But here are the basics.” Robinson opened the folder and glanced at the first page. “The backroom boys picked up unauthorized temporal Jumps into late April and early May 1941.”
“London?” Lew leaned forward.
“Yes. A history scholar like yourself, Agent Brockley, won’t need me to tell you how crucial a time this was in the war with Nazi Germany, with Britain fighting alone and in danger of invasion.”
“So what’re they trying to do?”
“They’ve already done it, of course,” Robinson said. “We’ve checked it out, and the system says it’s at least 90 percent likely they’re behind the assassination of a politician, a guy called Winston Churchill.”
“Should I know him?” Jake didn’t share Lew’s interest in obscure periods of the past, but the thoughtful expression on Brockley’s face said he’d heard of Churchill.
“Well, he was prime minister for a year, as I’m sure Agent Brockley could’ve told you,” Robinson said. “I’ve had it checked out: if Churchill isn’t shot after a year in the job, he turns out to be an inspirational war leader.”
“How can anyone know that?”
“You know I can’t talk about that, Jake. But you can trust me on it. Churchill shouldn’t die, and your job is to save him.”
“Hold on.” Lew frowned. “What’re these guys trying to achieve by killing Churchill?”
“I assume they want Britain to lose the war.”
“But the Allies won without Churchill,” Lew said. “So they failed.”
“Maybe their computers aren’t as good as ours. But we still need to undo the damage,” Robinson said. “Look, the details are on file but a couple of things I need to say now. First, it’s very important you follow the schedule in your orders. I mean precisely—time, place, everything. You need to be where the orders tell you when they tell you. At all times.”
Jake nodded. Lew remained still. Neither spoke, and Robinson peered once more at the cigar in his fingers before putting it away in a desk drawer.
“I’m sending four of you,” Robinson went on. “There’s you two, with Jake as mission leader. You’ll be joined by Hannah Benedict and Nancy Ahmed.”
“Hannah?” Jake asked. “Is that really necessary?”
“Nancy’s a good pick,” Lew said. Jake found that predictable; Lew had a reputation with the female OffTime agents, and he wasn’t the only one in the Office who thought Nancy was a striking recent recruit.
“But Hannah,” Jake said again. “She’s got the experience, but shouldn’t I get a say, as mission leader? And she’s my partner.”
“You are having a say,” Robinson said. “And I’ve listened. But it’s my call, and I’ve made it. We wouldn’t be much of an organization if the boys on a mission got to choose the girls, would we? Now,” he stood up to leave, “get yourselves briefed. I want you ready to go uptime by this time tomorrow.”
Reviews for FIFTY-ONE
“If you want to stay up at night thinking about time travel, Chris Barnham is your man.” —–Joe Stech, Publisher/editor-in-chief of Compelling Science Fiction Magazine
“When it comes to time travel, alternate history and the human heart, I would trust few writers more than Chris Barnham.” —– Nicholas Royle, Author of First Novel
Chris Barnham worked for two decades for the British government, advising Ministers on education and employment policies. In 2013, he decided it was time to make stuff up for himself. He now combines writing with running a small business, and active involvement in community politics in south London, where he has lived since the 1980s. His short fiction has appeared in a range of magazines, including Compelling Science Fiction, Black Static, the UK’s premier horror magazine, and the late-lamented Pan Books of Horror. His first novel, Among the Living, was published in 2012 (revised 2nd edition, 2017).
Chris lives in London, England, with three tall children and a scary wife. Whenever work allows, he spends as much time as possible out of town with mud on his boots. His latest walking challenge is the 630-mile South West Coast Path, around the Devon and Cornwall coasts. You can follow his (slow) progress on his blog
Check out Chris and Connect on Twitter