Ch. 9 — Opportunity Knocks But Once

James was nearest the front door when the bell rang.

“Mr. Thomas! … Dad, come quick! … It’s Ethan Thomas from NNN!”

“You must be Russell.”

“Where did you get my name?”

“Actually, it wasn’t as difficult as you might think. “People were telling us a week or ten days ago that they had been rescued from a fire on top of the Massachusetts Tower in Boston after two F-16s hit the building the week before last.

“Some told us there was a Florida connection; others that it was a place in St. Petersburg, one group even insisted it was Dusty Miller Drive.

“You’re the only Richardson on Dusty Miller Drive in St. Pete’s, Florida, so here I am.”

“Where did you get my family name?”

“One of the miners in Paw Paw, WV, said you asked that ‘Mrs. Richardson’ be given directions to the other miners trapped down that mine shaft.

“Two plus two equals Russell Richardson at 14 Dusty Miller Drive, as shown in the local phone directory, n’est ce-pas?” he said, flexing his high school French.

 “I guess you’d better come in.” Russell ushers the honored guest down to the rec room.

“You have a lovely home here, folks … Good grief! What happened to your sofa?

“It looks as if somebody took a machine-gun to it! I hope they only hit the sofa, and not someone from your family!”

“I guess you’re here about the System?”

“I beg your pardon! The what?”

“We have been calling it the System, because no name we come up with seems to fit what it does.”

“Coffee?” Lyndsey inquires.

“Yes, please; black, no sugar; thanks.”

“Dad?”

“Yes, please, Lynz.”

“Is this the stuff you have been telling people is some sort of equipment that is specially designed for carrying out rescues from mines and skyscrapers?”

“That’s right! I told them that my wife and I were part of a special, new, high-rise fire-rescue unit formed to handle situations exactly like theirs. I told the miners that we were a special new mine-rescue unit.”

“Do you mean they actually swallowed that? Wow!”

As Dianne was the only one in the upper areas of the house, she was elected to get the front door the second time the bell rang that day.

“Di, that’ll be my Mom and Dad,” Russell calls up the stairs. “Could you let them in please?”

“It would be very helpful if you could give me a rough idea of what this is all about, so that I can formulate some strategy as to how we can go about handling the situation.”

“My son, James, was the one who stumbled over this … DJ, would you please tell Mr. Thomas what happened to you a couple of weeks ago?”

“Ethan, please.”

“Ethan, excuse me, please. Dad, Mom, this is Ethan Thomas of NNN.

“Ethan, may I introduce my dad, Buckminster Richardson, and my mom, Ladybird. They have been in on this phenomenon just about right from the start.

“If you’d like to take a seat, we’ll get DJ to tell you how all this got under way, including how the sofa got itself all shot up.”

James begins, “This sofa was where it all started. I was sitting right here on February 21, watching TV, and surfing the channels to find something to watch.

“Don’t ask me how or why,” the boy says, “but, without any warning, a World War II U.S. marine suddenly stuck his rifle out of the TV, and started blasting away at me. It was the marine who did the damage to the seat.”

“You’re kidding, of course,” the news anchor reasoned.

“That’s what I said when Dianne and I got home from a trip, and saw this mess.”

Once more, a clarion call from the doorbell upstairs.

“Good grief! Who could that be?” Russell moans.

“I’ll get it,” Buck volunteers. The late-model baby boomer walks up the stairs to the main entrance.

Ladybird watches as her husband climbs, admiring his still-agile step, realizing that he has not lost his military bearing.

Russell asks, “Wait till my dad gets back. He’s been in on this almost from the start, and I always appreciate his input.”

From upstairs, “Chuck! Jackie! It’s months since we saw you last! How are you guys? It’s good to see you. Come on in, everybody!

“The family’s down in the rec room. Something unbelievable has happened! You’ll never guess who’s downstairs visiting with them.”

“Holy cow, guys. Who’s not here?” Charles Grover, better known to all as Chuck, or Pop, is the first one down. “Dianne, what on earth is going on here? It’s almost two weeks since we heard from you last.”

Jackie, better known as Jay or J.G., follows Chuck down the stairs and takes her turn at rollicking her daughter, Dianne.

“What are you all doing jammed up at one end of the sofa? Good grief! What happened to your chesterfield?

“Ladybird. How are you? It’s so good to see you!

“Ethan Thomas, NNN! … What are you doing here? …

“What’s going on? … Russell?”

The NNN anchor is already on his feet and approaches with his usual friendly manner.

Dianne does the honors, “Ethan, these folks already know who you are, so I’d better introduce my father, Chuck Grover, and my mother, Jackie.”

“Dad, Mom, I’m sorry we didn’t get in touch with you lately. We’re all OK, just so that you don’t get alarmed, but something incredible happened with Russell’s new HDTV! Ethan is here to check it out.”

Dianne went on to enlarge briefly, “Something we can’t explain happened to the big-screen TV. We don’t have any clue as to why, but it’s turned into some sort of time machine.

“As a result of that, we’re able to travel anywhere in the world, even climb in and out of the house, right through the set.

“What is even more incredible is that the TV also has the capability of being able to travel through time.

“Ethan stumbled over a couple of things we had done, while we were using the TV to help some people through some difficulties.

“He was able to track us down, and is here to get further information for a program he is planning to do.

“DJ was just about to explain to Ethan exactly how the whole thing got started, and what caused the daybed to get blasted, because that’s how it all happened.

“DJ, can you start over with your explanation so that Granddad and Nanny can get in on the bottom rung of the ladder.”

James, just once more, “This sofa is where it all started. I was sitting right here on February 21, surfing the TV channels to find something to watch.

“There was no warning at all, and then a World War II U.S. marine suddenly stuck his rifle out of the screen, and started blasting away at me. It was the marine who actually did the damage to the seat.”

“DJ, could you let Ethan see what you showed us to prove what had happened to the television?”

James picks up the remote control touch-pad and adjusts the date display so that the old analog clock at the edifice shows February 21, 1945, then directs the System to go from the newspaper office in St. Pete’s to Iwo Jima.

After a trip lasting some ninety seconds, he shows Ethan Thomas and his own maternal grandparents the massive buildup of ships offshore of Iwo Jima.

The youngster time-shifts to 5:00 p.m., and shows everyone, in live action, USS Saratogabeing targeted by Japanese kamikazeaircraft.

He backs up and shows the same action again and again. Then transfers the System to the other side of the fleet and shows the same scene from another angle.

Lyndsey does her best to glide down the stairs with a tray of coffee cups, custom-made for each drinker, and skillfully hands them out to the customers of the ‘Richardson restaurant.’

Ethan Thomas is puzzled. “I just have to say that this cannot be! TVs just don’t act like that all by themselves!”

“I must agree with that, Russell,” Chuck Grover opines. “TVs can only show what the TV station puts out; they can’t just run off and show whatever they like.”

James returns to the System’s original location and keeps the HDTV displaying the action off the Pacific island’s coast.

“I’m sorry, Ethan!” Russell continues to explain. “That’s the way it is.

“Look! We kept a pouch of notes we picked up on an island called Ie Shima. It’s just about a half-mile northwest of Okinawa which was the site of a huge military campaign during April of 1945.”

“What do you mean when you say you ‘picked up’ a pouch of notes?” ET asks.

“Put your hand on the screen of the TV,” Russell challenges.

Ethan reaches out and, balancing his coffee in one hand, places his other hand where the solid surface of a TV screen would normally be, but his hand finds nothing! He is able to put his hand right into the TV without harm.

“Heavens!” he exclaims.

Chuck Grover frowns in puzzlement; he rises from his seat, and walks over to the TV and does the same thing as ET did before him.

He too reaches out with his hand to touch the screen of the TV, and, similarly, finds nothing to stop his hand from penetrating the seemingly lighted surface.

“That’s right, Ethan, Chuck. If we were over dry land, instead of the Pacific Ocean, you would be able to step right through that HDTV, even into the year 1945.

“That is exactly what Buck, my dad, did, on that same day DJ spoke about, a couple of weeks ago, and came up with a souvenir of the fighting on Okinawa, as well as the leather case.”

“Souvenir?”

“Yes. I went for a quick walk during the time the fighting was taking place and found a .45-caliber automatic that one of the soldiers had dropped,” Buckminster clarifies.

ET, “What did you say was in the pouch?”

“Well, here is the briefcase, right here,” says Russell, walking over to the unlighted fireplace, retrieving and opening the leather objet d’art.

“Inside is a portfolio of papers each bearing a signature … take a look at how these documents are signed and dated.

“We’ve put a page protector on each sheet to keep it from getting damaged … this is original stuff we’re convinced is genuine Ernie Pyle.

“We recovered it off that island beside Okinawa, within a few hours of his death on April 18th, 1945.

“Some soldiers threw it away. We saw them do it. I guess they couldn’t see a use for it with him having been killed.

“Someone here suggested donating the whole collection to the Ernie Pyle Museum in Dana, Indiana, to let the folks at the museum verify that it really is his work.”

ET again, “Hey, not a bad idea! Good thinking!

“My goodness, this is serious stuff. Pyle is an icon to people in my industry. I really thought, at first, that you people were joking.

“Russell, could you do me a favor?” ET asks. “Would you mind taking me over to dry land, so that I can try a climb-through onto the island?”

“Sure. Lyndsey can do that for you. Lynz, could you ‘drive’ Ethan over to Iwo and let him try out a little extra vehicular activity?

“Maybe, first, move ahead to September or October, so that the war is over and there’s no more shooting going on.

“Ethan, you might watch how Lyndsey does this; it’s extremely quick and hyper accurate.”

Lynz reaches into the screen and recovers the corporate timepiece, but she finds it is unnecessary to make any adjustments to reflect an April, 1945, date.

Replacing the chronometer on James’ wire rack, she time-shifts forward to September 3, 1945, one day after the Pacific phase of World War II ended.

After ‘driving’ over to the local beach, “There you go, sir,” Lyndsey announces.

“Ethan, are you OK with this alone, or would you prefer a chaperone?” Russell invites.

“Could one of you give me a demonstration first?” he asks.

“Dianne, would you do the honors?” Russ asks apprehensively, since Dianne has never been through the screen.

“I guess so, otherwise you’ll never let me rest,” she responds.

Walking over to the TV, she puts her left leg in, ducks to clear her head and then draws her right leg through the device.

Those movements put her on the black-sand beach on the eastern shore of Iwo Jima.

She looks around to see if there is any sign of life around and finds nothing at all. Far off in the distance she can see Suribachi’s volcano-like shape.

Just seven months earlier, anyone standing on this beach would have attracted sniper, machine-gun, artillery, and even tank fire, which would have assured a quick death.

At this time of year though, there is no risk. It is totally quiet, a very peaceful haven, although it certainly still bears the marks of the heavy fighting of the previous February and March.

“When you’re ready, Ethan,” she calls back into the house.

The news anchor steps over to the TV and copies Dianne’s moves; left foot first, ducking down to avoid damaging his superstructure; then the right leg.

Now Ethan Thomas joins Dianne on Iwo Jima in 1945, all without firing a shot!

“I really did it. I thought you guys were joking,” ET admits.

Next move comes from Chuck Grover. The maternal granddad to the two teens is completely spellbound by the System and simply cannot resist trying it out with a little more than his hand.

He steps over to the set, and firmly plants his feet onto the black beach of Iwo Jima, seventy years ago.

He strides over to where Ethan and Dianne stand facing the exterior surface of the portal, both still in amazement at the phenomenon they are experiencing.

The folks in the house are able to follow the conversation without difficulty as Ethan continues speaking.

“You know, if I managed to find you, many others could do the same, including the FBI, the CIA, the paparazzi, even the mob. You’re going to be swamped here any day now.”

The NNN news specialist responds slowly to the growing mental realization of the situation. He addresses the youngsters’ dad through the screen.

“Russell, since I was the one who found you, would you be agreeable to letting me have an exclusive interview with you for Ethan Thomas 180° on my network?”

“Ethan, you’ve been so empathetic and understanding, that I’m inclined to agree that this would be quite acceptable. What do you think, James, Lyndsey; this is pretty much your action?”

“Wow! What’s to say no to?” James excitedly agrees.

Arriving back at the rec room level, Lyndsey is just as positive.

Dianne, on Iwo Jima with Ethan concurs, “I agree with the children. This really should belong to humanity, not just to us. We don’t have the resources to exploit its capabilities anyway.”

“True, Babe! That’s a good point,” Russell affirms.

“Can Lyndsey follow us if we walk along the beach, so that we can continue talking?”

“Give her a try,” Dianne said.

Dianne, along with her father, and the family’s honored guest do an about-face and turn south.

The trio walks in step along the beach in the direction of Suribachi, and Lynz follows; close behind at first, and then, carefully, she circles around her mother, grandfather, and Ethan Thomas.

The young girl rotates the System one hundred and eighty degrees, and successfully positions the set, so that those in the house are leading the way for the beachcombers.

This way the conversation can continue without shouting.

#

Next, it’s the turn of the carport doorbell to ring.

“Would one of you kids get the door?” Russell asks. Since Lyndsey is ‘driving,’ James disappears down the stairs.

“Dad, it’s a shipment of a few boxes. Two are small and the other is  a big box. They’re from the Electronics Superstore!” James calls upstairs to his dad.

“That’s fine, Deej. I’ve been waiting for that delivery. It’s a TV! Just sign for it and ask the driver to put it inside the carport door.”

#

ET, “What would you think if I simply identified you as a family that has discovered a means of transporting people and things not only around the earth, but also into the past?”

“No objections to that.”

“As a matter of interest, how far back have you gone in history?” ET asks.

“Well, the kids were a bit bored one day and decided they wanted to be helpful to someone, so they keyed in the year ‘1492’ and took a trip over to London, England.

“They checked in at the Tower of London with a guard named John Summerfield as to what the actual date was, as folks back in those days weren’t quite as sensitive as we are about the passage of time,” Russell says.

The Grovers are fascinated by the continuing banter between the correspondent and the host family.

ET, “I know I’m going to wind up with egg on my face here, but what exactly made them settle on 1492?”

“I don’t know if you’ll believe this, but they thought they’d like to look up Christopher Columbus on his ‘voyage of discovery,’ and see if he needed any help.

“It turned out that he was glad to see them, because he was sailing north instead of west. They set him straight and told him to follow some shore birds which would lead him toward land.”

“What a relief! The Americas almost went undiscovered. Maybe if he had continued north he would have discovered Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. How that would have changed history is anybody’s guess!

“What have you done about traveling into the future?”

“Not a thing! I think we were simply too busy examining historical things, and solving problems in mines and high-rise office towers, rather than peering into what hasn’t actually happened yet.

“To be truthful, we’re studiously dodging around that issue, because we want to avoid making changes to either history or the future, where there might be a long term consequence.

“On top of that, we’re trying to live our normal lives.”

“What would you think if we just identify the means of teleportation through time as being a television set and leave it at that?

“We could just say that you had come up with a way to maneuver the time and place and the set would carry out your requests.

“There shouldn’t be a need to mention anything about the touchpad remote control or the part it plays in the operation.

“That way, we might be able to protect your secret for a while, at least until you can get a handle on it.

“Perhaps we could say that the System is the subject of a patent application.

“OK, I’m coming back into the house,” the correspondent says. He steps back into the rec room, and says, “I don’t know what to think … that’s more than fascinating.”

Chuck has a private question to ask Dianne. “Sweetheart, why didn’t you let your mom and me know about the System?

“You’ve known about this for weeks, yet you never said a word.”

“Dad, I’m sorry, but we had no idea what it was that we had stumbled over.”

“How did Buck and Bird get involved?”

“Pop, that wasn’t our doing … Buck found out about it before Russell and I did.

“We weren’t even home. He dropped by to say hello just after the marine had shot off his rifle into the sofa.

“Once Buck got wind of what was going on, he called Ladybird to come over right away.

“Honestly, we’re still trying to get our heads around this ourselves.

“You know, Dad, we would have called you in the next day or two, anyway. We’re going to need you both to help us in the future.

“There’s far too much work for even six people to do using the System.

“We can pick you up at the house and you can come over and join us first thing tomorrow morning. Why don’t you join us for breakfast; we’ll pick you up at 8:00 a.m.”

“OK, I’ll let your mom know what you said, and we’ll be ready for you to pick us up tomorrow in the SUV.”

“No, Dad. Not in the SUV. We’ll pick you up with the System; it’s much more energy-efficient.”

Meanwhile, back in the house, continuing his earlier thought, Ethan expresses another idea. “You know, we could even do the interview with you ‘off-camera.’

“That way we keep you incognito. It might help to keep the wolves at bay for a while. What do you think?”

Russell, “That might be the best way to go about it.”

“OK, let me get my producer updated on this, and I’ll let you have some idea as to how he feels we can best handle this.”

“While you do that, Ethan, we’re going to set up the new large-screen TV,” Russell states.

“Gramps, could you and Grandma give us a hand to set up the new TV,” DJ asks Buck.

“Sure! Whereabouts do you want it positioned?” Buckminster asks.

“Dad told me this new set is equipped with a base on castors, so if you can rig it up and roll it in ready to use beside the other HDTV, that would be great.”

Buck, “If you kids could give us a hand up with the boxes from the carport, that would be very helpful.”

“OK, right away!”

In no time, the boxes are in the family room and the contents are stripped of all outer wrappings, which are dutifully returned to the lower level of the house.

The base unit upon which the new HDTV is to sit is quickly assembled and equipped with its casters.

Buck decides to test the base by putting his left foot on top of it and propelling himself across the rec room, using it as a skateboard.

His opinion is, “This works just fine! It’s really smooth-running.”

The flat-screen TV is relatively simple to put into operation. It only requires a plug to be inserted into a nearby outlet.

A connection to the System is obtained by merely rolling the new acquisition to a location beside its older brother, and, voila! Iwo Jima hove into sight.

This is overwhelming for everyone, including Ethan Thomas, who, although still deep in conversation on his mobile with his producer in New York, is watching every move.

Ladybuck is the one who breaks the ice. She steps over to the new TV, holds her skirt down and enters, right leg first, into the ‘dream zone’ of Iwo.

She walks by way of the black sand over to the backside of the older, original portal and manages her most ladylike step back into the rec room.

Her first EVA has been successfully accomplished without incident.

This proves that the second, new, large-screen HDTV is definitely hooked up to the family’s amazing discovery.

The family now has four units hooked up to the System: Two 70” flat-screens, and two small-screen TVs that are used for testing and experimentation.

The fifteen-inch units can additionally be used for the teleportation of smaller items of equipment, such as digital cameras, mobile phones, GPS equipment, documents, etc.

Ernie Pyle’s portfolio would easily fit diagonally through the screen should there arise a necessity.

#

Without having to have it surgically removed from his ear, Ethan disconnects himself from his mobile telephone and apologizes for his long conversation with his producer.

He, Ethan says, is so fascinated with what ET has told him, that he has decided he needs to see it for himself.

“May I invite him to come down here first thing tomorrow? He would arrive at the airport at about 8:30.”

“Whatever you think is appropriate, Ethan,” Russell acknowledges.

“Thinking about it, Ethan, why don’t you and your producer come for breakfast at 8:00 a.m., and we’ll all be able to enjoy a meal together before we get started.”

“I have to look after preparing for ET 180º tonight. Could you take me back to New York with the System?”

“Awesome! I’ll be at NNN in time to catch my producer, and I can set him up for the morning.”

“OK. I’ll get my mother to take you to New York now, and, if it’s OK with you, perhaps the two of you, you and your colleague, would join us for breakfast tomorrow.

“We’ll pick both of you up in New York at about 7:55 a.m. so as to have you here for eight o’clock, if that’s OK with you.”

“Alright by me! I’ll make sure he’s ready for pick-up, too.”

“Mom,” Russell queries Ladybird, “could you ‘shuttle’ Ethan to New York and drop him at the NNN building.”

“Only in exchange for breakfast for Buckminster and me tomorrow,” she jokes.

“Done deal!” Russell replies. “We’ll be glad to have you.”

“Would you like me to leave the System parked on NNN’s roof overnight? That way we can pick the two of you up in the morning. No traveling!”

Handshakes and expressions of thanks all around, and Ladybuck ‘steers’ her way to the NNN headquarters, with a navigational assist from Ethan, and ‘lowers’ the System gently onto the roof to let ET disembark.

She ‘parks’ the System about twenty feet above the roof, well away from the helicopter pad.

####

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