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A World Lost, A World Gained - Apertures Three [MultiFormat]
eBook by Darrell Bain

eBook Category: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: The final book of the Apertures trilogy! The dream of a different alternity where Americans can begin anew has been a goal of Jan and Jani Jenkins almost since the first of the Apertures Era. Now they are working against time and selfish politicians to see it happen before the whole world goes up in flames. They are urgently ferrying colonists and equipment to a new earth that only they can reach, but often it seems as if the fates are conspiring against them and all they hold dear. But when the going gets tough, real Americans will always buckle down and try even harder. Yet this time, the twins may lose all they have worked for. War, unethical politicians, a mass movement aimed at controlling all aperture formation and the terrible loss of loved ones will test them in ways they never dreamed possible. If they can persevere, though, the reward may be worth it. Barely.

Read all three books of this unusual saga of alternate earths, written in Darrell Bain's own inimitable style that his fans have come to love.

eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, Published: Double Dragon Publishing, 2011
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2011


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CHAPTER ONE

* * * *

It's still hard to believe all the changes that have occurred in my life, and the whole world, for that matter. I'm Jan Jenkins. In a time frame of just a little over three years my twin sister Jani and I went from know-it-all eighteen-year-old teenagers to adult married combat veterans and parents. America, along with its allies in other alternate Earths, fought a war against a brutal, repressive, downright evil world-spanning regime from the alternate Earth known as Panka. And we won, or I probably wouldn't be here today. But it wasn't easy.

Jani and I learned we were Apes--aperture formers--when we accidentally encountered the first explorers from the Pankan alternity. Not only that, we discovered that our newly recognized ability to form apertures to alternate Earths in other universes was at least ten times greater than that of any other Apes ever found, in any alternity. We could sense an aperture or another Ape from up to ten miles away, while only the very best of normal Apes were limited to less than one.

Our age, learning-enhanced upbringing, and environment gave us the potential to become aperture formers. Only one out of eight or ten thousand teenagers who had that kind of potential actually went on to become Apes after being exposed to apertures or other Apes. Our unique ability followed from an unknown experiment on Mom before we were born and while she was still in a remote Romanian institution that had somehow been overlooked after the fall of communism. Like bureaucracies everywhere, inertia kept funds flowing for their horrible human experimentation. The ability we inherited through epigenetic changes in one of Mom's chromosomes allowed us to win the war, barely, and it damn near got us killed or captured numerous times by Pankan soldiers. Their Apes recognized what we were the first time they saw us, and they were determined to take us out of play one way or another. We escaped by the narrowest of margins on several occasions, but then they went after our families, intending to take them captive in order to bend us to their will. Our mom was kidnapped by Pankans and then coldly executed during a rescue attempt.

We had been planning on going into the army anyway, but the war hurried the process along. It also got my wife, Colleen, her father, and my dad all back into the army. They were inducted into the Alternate Special Forces, ASF, operated by a new Special Force Command in charge of Apes and apertures to other worlds. Previously, both had been Delta Force soldiers. Dad took a medical retirement because of a hip wound. Herb Friedman, my father-in-law, retired after twenty years.

Now that the war was effectively over we had all requested and received special discharges from the army, even though most normal Apes and most regular army troops were still doing mop-ups and chasing down rogue Pankan Apes who refused to surrender and had turned to robbery, killing, and rape as pastimes, popping from world to world as they pleased, along with their cutthroat companions. Not that their present activities were much different from what they'd been during the war. Panka was truly an evil empire.

What I was doing now was trying to find a suitable alternate Earth so far "away" from the home alternity that no other Ape, except my sister, would ever be able to go there without our assistance. Once we found an alternity that satisfied a long list of specifications, we intended to help set up a new world, one that would begin under a unified, sensible government. We intended for it to start right off with a Constitution or some other method of rule which would limit the population and provide a stewardship of our new home world's resources. We didn't intend for it to be plundered and raped as our home Earth had been, and where the various nations were still at it. Dad and us, along with Herbert Friedman, Colleen's dad, were still working on how the new alternity would be run, what we'd have to do to get started, what kind of supplies we'd need, and the number of colonists we would allow over what period of time. But first we had to find our world. So far we hadn't; or, I should say, I hadn't. Jani was still nursing her twin daughters, and Colleen was doing the same with our son, who had been born a month or so before Jani's twins. They were both in the process of weaning them, though.

We had many requirements, but the first prerequisite for our new home was that it be uninhabited by humans or any other sapient species. None of us thought it would be fair to intrude on natives who weren't up to our technological base, and we damn sure didn't want to go through all the racial and ethnic issues that our Earth had endured for so long and which had caused, and was still causing, so much misery. So far, me and my team of tough former Delta Force troops had gone to two of five possibilities selected on the basis of preliminary reconnaissance and struck out both times. We found humans, of a sort, on one world, and a species derived from what appeared to be raccoons on the other. Both were late Stone Age cultures. We were working on the third of the five possibilities now and were very hopeful it would work out. It's a lot harder to determine whether or not an alternate world is inhabited than you might think. Sure, for a world with seven or eight billion people there wouldn't be too much of a problem. But how about a world where most humans were wiped out by a plague of some sort? Or where civilization never got started? Or where humans or another intelligent species were present only on one continent? And so on. You have to do a thorough search.

The best way is to use a small drone that along with the operator can pass through an aperture, a vehicle to drive through the aperture, and a flat enough area on the other world to get the drone off the ground. And you have to go through the aperture yourself once you've found a new alternate Earth, or you're likely never to set eyes on it again. An inviolable law of multiple alternities is that an Ape actually has to physically enter any new alternity in order to find it again and to get back home. Think about it. Quantum theory says the number of alternate universes is infinite, and, thus, the number of possible Earths is infinite as well. For every decision point by a living organism, or possibly only by a sentient animal, a new universe is created. Or, it could be that an insect could create a new universe by taking a different route around a rock than originally intended, although the new universe might be so much like the other one no one could tell the difference. We just don't know and probably never will. For my purposes, all I wanted was to find a world where sentient humans or other species hadn't gotten a start and that wasn't so inimical as to preclude colonizing.

"Is everyone ready?" I scanned the ten-man guard force consisting of five men and five women. The reason for using an equal number of male and female guards was simple. If anything happened to me while we were in the new alternity, they would never be able to get back to Earth. Never.

"We're ready, son," Friedman said, nodding his head.

"Okay, Pop. Let's do it." I called Friedman Pop and Colleen did the same with my dad. When we were all together it sometimes became confusing.

So far we'd explored all of North and South America of this alternity as best we could, from the little expendable drones, flying from place to place back on our Earth when the drones' coverage exceeded their fuel supplies at each location. We'd also done Africa and much of Europe. So far, so good.

Now we were in southern Russia, nervous as hell that we'd be discovered before making our exit to the other alternity. Our country and Russia weren't at war, but they weren't on very good speaking terms, either. We'd been dropped off by a civilian stealthed helicopter that Forrest Bullock, our wealthy sponsor, had obtained from the army. We would be picked back up at a predetermined time. It would be the same situation, or worse, in China if Russia proved bare of habitation. We'd probably have to go in as tourists or with some other disguise and travel around, then find isolated areas in many different spots and explore on foot--a hard way to do the job. I wasn't looking forward to it, even though this was our last stop in Russia; China would be next on our itinerary if we came up cold here. In fact, I hadn't been all too pleased with this world. There seemed to be a plethora of voracious carnivores that would make the first colonists very nervous indeed. It would work if I couldn't find anything better, though. Or if the political situation at home got worse and we had to get started immediately--which was looking more and more likely to become the case.

I concentrated and formed an aperture, a blurred oval about eight feet high and ten wide that resembled a rectangle with curved corners. Lately, Jani and I found that we could alter the shape of the standard oval of an aperture with a bit of extra effort. It made getting vehicles and large numbers of troops through an aperture much easier and quicker. The initial blurring faded quickly, leaving only the outline of the aperture and allowing us to see into the other alternity. I said, "Okay, troops, here we go."

Six of the guards entered first, weapons ready. Even though no humans had been found in this alternity, there were plenty of other animals that regarded us as nothing more than a tasty snack. From what we'd observed, the world resembled the Pleistocene shortly after the last ice age ended. In this alternity that meant cave lions, cave bears, and all manner of big cats, not to mention the huge dire wolves. They weren't exactly the same as their counterparts on Earth, and there were other animals that no one except us had ever seen before, that were not only carnivorous but hunted in groups. A pack of those could ruin your whole day in nothing flat. They had no fear of man because humans apparently hadn't evolved here.


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