Glenn Vanstrum


Sixty-five million years. That’s the minimum to get the shot. If you want to play it safe, make it sixty-six, even sixty-seven. What’s a million years, anyhow, in the grand scheme of things? What you don’t want, of course, is to get tied up in the Chicxulub meteorite thing. Forget visiting the K-T boundary. It’s like dropping in on a nuclear war, maybe worse.

My curiosity got the better of me once, I admit, and I dialed myself into the iridium zone. I didn’t hit the moment of impact, the reverse temporal loculator is not precise enough for that. But I caught the cold, the ashes, the stripped vegetation, the rotting carnage... makes me shudder just thinking about it. Mass extinctions suck.

The return loculator is pretty accurate, damned accurate, in fact. Otherwise you’d end up with duplications, energy-mass warbles, and other stuff too scary to consider. The temporal homing system from Mitsubishi shaves your return down to a millionth of a second—and it has jump-proof shielding. Don’t think for a minute you can scrimp on this baby and buy some Bangladeshi knock-off. Shell out the dough and get the best homing system on the market. It’s your ass.

I recommend you set your gauge to 67,000,000. That’s how I snagged the photo. And don’t think you’ll run into one right away. Mostly you’ll find chicken-size things, beetles, Archeopteryx-type reptilian birds. And plant eaters. The herbivores run in herds, hundreds of them together. A good photo, a valley-full of triceratops, but you take a huge risk to get it. Trampling is not the best thing for a transporting device. At ten tons apiece, those horned critters leave behind nothing but scorched earth. They eat every botanical item they can reach and bulldoze what’s left into dust.

Remember to put on your chest harness and helmet before you activate. I’m serious. Once I launched into 108 mill and ended up on a frickin’ cliff. The pod tumbled into a ravine. I had to repair umpteen things before I could get back: the tri-lithium vent, the epoch alternator, the density flux protector. It took me three days. Rained the entire time. You never know when you might need to fix a few items. Be prepared. I always pack a soldering iron, welding equipment with acetylene and oxygen, copper wire, aluminum, and plenty of tungsten. Also peanut butter sandwiches and a six-pack. Gob on the no-scent deodorant, too.

You don’t want to get trapped. Let me repeat: do not get stuck.

A pal of mine, Zoltan F., had a problem like that. Least I think he did. He told me he planned a quick trip, gave me an approximate of his destination (just in case), confided he had to get back by 6 p.m. for a certain rendezvous (it was a Saturday). A year’s gone by now, and nobody’s seen him. They repossessed his Porsche and rented out his loft. I tried to find him, peppered 120 mill a dozen times, but found no trace of him. I had to comfort his girlfriend, Alvira. Not a bad looker. Hell, I’ll confess: She was hot. One of those brunettes with blue eyes and a body that wouldn’t quit. Once we got over the grieving bit, the two of us had some serious good times. Until she dumped me. But I digress.

Zoltan. Talk about finding a paperclip in an acre of avocados. A century here, a millennium there, time on that scale runs vast, unthinkable. The guy never was that great a mechanic. I suspect an ankylosaurus crunched his vehicle with its tail club. Or he got snatched by a velociraptor. Be aware: Even back then, shit happens. We don’t call this extreme adventure travel for nothing. And remember: It’s illegal. Don’t pass this letter on. Promise?

I’d recommend you find a good black-market mechanic to give your rig a check-out before you leave. TMFix has pretty good prices, reliable guys. They charge a fortune for anti-matter refill, though, I’ll warn you. Bex, he’s my favorite mechanic at their shop. You can expect absolute discretion from TMFix. They have tight electronic security, keep a false set of records for the TMEA, the whole bit.

A word about the feds: They’re trying, of course, to prevent major shifts in the space-time continuum. Understandable. But most people in the know think you can’t harm a darn thing today, as long as you’re tripping back over ten million years. Theoretically, of course, anything can happen. A bit of your DNA in the wrong place could, in theory, start a bio-warble that would create evolutionary chaos. But let’s get real. Who’s gonna jump to the Pleistocene and have sex with a Neanderthal babe? They’re ugly as sin. Furry. Filthy, too.

Some infectious disease docs worry about us time-shifting personal flora--after all, we humans don’t really own our bodies, we share ‘em with billions of microorganisms. During a jump I always bag my scat (bacteria make up one-half of stool by weight, you know) and bring it home for that reason. You could say I’m a purist. Makes the capsule stink. But hey, you leave modern Enterococcus faecalis back in the Cretaceous, bugs loaded with antibiotic-resistant RNA plasmids, and all hell could break loose. People Alexander Fleming saved with penicillin in the 20th century would all die. Get it? Your grandparents might croak, and by extension, you. When guys climb El Cap or Half Dome in Yosemite, they bag their waste, too. Different reason, of course. Still, it’s the right thing to do. Be ethical.

Enough gross stuff. Let’s get back to photography. Don’t even think of using digital equipment. The transition fries the hell out of unshielded, silicon-based memory. If you bring back any images at all, they’ll be so distorted you’ll never know what you’re looking at.

So dig up an old camera and take along slow-speed film. A time jump takes you through lots of radiation, so wear a lead apron (I swiped mine from the radiology department at Mercy Hospital). Put it on before you clip into your harness, and be sure to tuck your film underneath. Don’t hope to bring back high-speed rolls undamaged. Fuji Velvia 50 works well, or good ol’ Kodachrome 25. I know, I know, you’ll need plenty of light. Not a problem with a decent lens.

I nailed this baby on Velvia with my f2.8, 35-200mm zoom. Apochromatic D glass, of course. I was climbing up over a north-south ridge, heading into an east wind. You don’t want them to smell you. Hence, the deodorant. (Don’t pack ham sandwiches for the same reason. No roast beef, either.) Repeat: do not let a tyrannosaur catch your scent.

Some serious lumberjacking caught my attention, branches snapping, trunks getting uprooted. I crawled through a cycad thicket--those weird plants that are half palm, half fern--and there she was. Even from twenty yards I could smell the stench. They do not floss. Nor do they brush. She had a dead hadrosaur beneath her. I could hear her breathing even at that distance. Not so much breaths as snorts. Just by jumping around the corpse to rip off meter-long mouthfuls with those jaws of hers, she’d cleared herself a meadow. She stood up to look around, flashed those banana-sized teeth, and I grabbed my image.


Damn that shutter click on those old Nikons. She heard it. My heart just about stopped when she looked at me. I froze like a mouse in the kitchen. She either missed me or thought I was too small to bother with. Whatever the case, she stuck her nose back into the carcass.

I’m telling you, bro, I almost died from adrenalin overdose. My blood pressure made my ears bob. She looked up a second time, and belched. OMG. Dead duckbill meat, nicely ripened in the sun, produces halitosis that would gag a maggot.

A moment later, though, she saw me for sure, abandoned her carrion, and started lumbering my way. I beat a hasty retreat, a rabbit high-tailing it from a hungry wolf. I smashed through cycads, scrambled into my buggy, and slammed shut the Plexiglas cover. There was barely enough time to set coordinates and activate before she reached down with those jaws. She could smell me inside, but they don’t like the taste of metal. The last thing I saw, just as I stashed my camera under the lead apron, was a six-inch tyrannosaurus uvula hanging down over my face.

Trouble is, I can’t do much with the photo. I’ve tried to sell it to National Wildlife, Natural History, and National Geographic, but I get the same story each time:

“Either it’s Photoshopped and fake, bud, or it’s real...and illegal. No time-warp sales. Period.”

So realize, anything you get is going to stay pretty much underground.

I’m looking into hitting the future. I know, I know. Nobody’s ever done it and made it back. But hey, I’ve been working with Bex on this. We’re building a drone with a camera. To go first. If TMEA so much as gets wind of this, I’m looking at time in the big house. Just imagine, though. How about those women of tomorrow? I’ll bet they look good. They probably run around wearing diode earrings and not much else. Who the hell knows? Count on me to snare some hot pix from the future, dude. Not to mention stock tips.

Keep in touch. Let me know if you get anything decent.

Got to go now. Tempus fugit


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