Reset: Chapter 28: Saturday, September 8, 2001 (1)

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What Joe and Nick had come up with, what they had to report to their team, was that their best bet was to board the planes themselves.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and Joe, as the de facto leader, didn’t feel good about asking a bunch of young men to risk their lives combating dangerous terrorists. But with so much at stake he had to swallow his misgivings and do what needed to be done. He wasn’t forcing anybody to do this, after all.

“Not like you haven’t faced awful situations before,” Nick had said as they prepared to turn in for the night.

“Like what?”

Through a huge yawn, Nick said: “Your divorce.”

Dealing with an angry woman who had the law on her side wasn’t pleasant, but it didn’t quite approach the level of murderous religious fanatics. And no matter what he thought about Sandra, she was still the mother of his child. Or she will be. He hoped.

Women were on Joe’s mind as his head hit his pillow. He had a few emails from Gwendolyn wondering where he was and whether he was alright, as well as one terse voice message: “Hi Joe. It’s Gwen. Just wondering where you were. I thought we were going to have lunch today. Please call me when you get this. Okay, bye.”

He didn’t know why the message had bothered him; it wasn’t like they were dating, and he owed her nothing. Sure, it was a little clingy, but she seemed more concerned than anything. He probably shouldn’t leave her hanging, but missing opportunities was his thing, after all.

But their predicament was also a huge opportunity. If they could change external events, it stood to reason that Joe could change himself.

Sleep came as he thought about the impossibility of their task. Nick had found over a dozen flight training schools in Florida, but wasn’t able to find out who the students were. Even if he could have, the plan would require that they flag everybody with an Arabic name, something which would narrow down the field but would likely leave them with too many leads and not enough time.

“We’d have no way of knowing which ones were Saudis either,” Joe had said.

“They weren’t all Saudis though, were they?” said Nick, his hands over his face. “The Saudis funded them, right? Isn’t that what they said?”

“Who the hell knows,” said Joe.

“They were from Egypt or Syria or something . . . Lebanon?”

“What’s the difference,” Joe groaned. At least they had figured out where three of the planes had left from, two from Boston and one from Newark, the one that eventually hits the Pentagon eluding them. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but as Zack said, it seemed to be the least-bad. And if successful, they would be heroes, as long as they weren’t “disappeared” for somehow having insider knowledge of the attacks.

Joe stretched his arms over his head, feeling his breastbone pop with satisfaction. Insane. They were flush with the insanity of youth. Perhaps Joe had fallen on the stoop outside of his old house that morning and was lying on the sidewalk with his brains leaking onto the pavement, and this last week and a half was nothing more than the fever dreams of a dying man. Sometimes that made more sense than being thrown back in time with the rest of the silent, unknowing universe.

Chapter 27                                               Table of Contents                                             Chapter 29

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Reset: Chapter 26: Friday, September 7, 2001 (1)

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“You’ve had a day. Has anything about this started ringing any bells? Anything at all?”

To Joe’s dismay, everyone shook their heads. Deflated, he slumped further back, resting his head against the wall behind him.

“To be fair, I can’t even remember last night,” said Jonesy, who had run straight back to his room once the fracas with Steve Carter and his friends had begun. He sat on the couch next to Quinn, slouched down with his chin resting on his chest.

“You don’t count,” said Nick as he paced in a small circle. Zack and Game, sitting in their desk chairs, followed his nervous motion with their eyes. “Maybe only things that are about to happen resonate.” He pointed at Carlos, sitting next to Joe on one bed. “Like, maybe Joe resonated with you because you were about to meet him anyway.”

Carlos shrugged. “Could be.”

“I still think this is really cool,” said Jonesy. He was holding a can of Mountain Dew which he sipped from periodically with a loud slurp.

“Kind of,” said Quinn. “But it’s also pretty weird.”

“So I’ve thought of some plans,” said Zack. “I don’t know about you guys, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything else at all today.”

“I hear you,” said Joe. His day was a blur. He returned to Delino’s class with Nick, but they sat in the back with their heads down, no jokes and no participation. His English class was much the same. Afterwards, he skipped his appointment with his advisor to change classes without giving her notice; he felt bad about it, but not so bad that he lost focus of the three-thousand people soon to die.

“I still don’t see why we don’t just call the government,” said Jonesy. “I mean, we might get arrested or whatever, but we’d save everybody.”

“We’ve gone over that,” said Joe, “I think we need to stop them in the act.”

“So they can’t regroup,” said Zack, nodding. “Which brings me to my two best ideas. Number one, we get on the planes and fight the hijackers. If they do it like you say, with box cutters and the element of surprise, enough of us will be able to stop them from even getting in the cockpit.”

“And there’s the rub,” said Joe. “‘Enough of us.’”

“What if we get some other guys?” said Zack. “Big dudes from the team–”

“No,” said Nick. “No, no, no. We can’t tell anybody else. This has already gotten pretty ridiculous.”

“Let the man finish,” said Game.

Zack raised a hand. “There’s, what, nineteen of these guys? Twenty? If we only have one or two of us per plane, our chances are much worse.”

“Element of surprise,” said Quinn. “Joe said one of the planes was brought down in the countryside somewhere.”

“Pennsylvania,” said Joe.

Quinn nodded. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’d like to get out of this alive.”

Zack nodded. “Same here. Which brings me to idea number two: we stop them before they get on the planes.”

Joe snapped his fingers and pointed at Zack. “You took the words out of my mouth. That’s the only viable way to do this, isn’t it? Get all flights grounded.”

“Easier said than done, right?” said Jonesy, slurping more soda. “I love a challenge.” Continue reading Reset: Chapter 26: Friday, September 7, 2001 (1)”

Your Audience Doesn’t Care About Your Feelings

In addition to being a great, fun author, Brian Niemeier offers some of the best analysis of the state of the publishing industry on his blog Kairos.

A recent discussion all started with this tweet of his:

I jokingly told him to stop sub-tweeting me, because (a) he’s editing one of my books, The Rust Man, right now, and (b) The Rust Man clocks in at around 850 pages.

The interesting thing is, I have the book split into two roughly equal parts, and had been wrestling for months while writing with the idea of releasing two separate books, even though they tell one complete story.

And yes, the story continues after The Rust Man.

Generally, I’m not a fan of long, epic series. Three books is a sweet spot for me when it comes to a series . . . three 100K-plus books.

But I’m going to be in the business of trying to sell this thing, I’ve got to change my thinking. And that’s where Brian comes in. Continue reading “Your Audience Doesn’t Care About Your Feelings”

Reset: Chapter 23: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (4)

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There was a message on the whiteboard: “COME TO JONESYS!” And on his desk, a hastily scribbled missive on a sticky note: “at jonesys come find us!!! urgent!!!!!!” It was so urgent that Nick had time to write all of those exclamation points.

Joe picked up his phone, deciding to call Carlos and Jonesy first to see if there really was a problem, or if Nick was being typically hyperbolic.

Nobody answered, nor did Joe have any messages of his own. He hung up, tapping his fingers on his desk. He really wasn’t in the mood for adventures tonight. All he wanted was to grab a bite and go to sleep. But a tugging at his conscience kept him from turning in for the night. Nick, for all his faults, cared about his friends: if he said that someone was in trouble, they probably were.

What did we used to do before texting? he thought, running through the mental checklist: Whiteboard, sticky note, voice message . . .

Email.

Joe darted out his hand, tapping his mouse to unfreeze the screen, and logged in to his email account as fast as his then-cutting-edge desktop would allow. He had a message from Nick, timestamped about ten minutes ago: “We’re leaving Rodger and we’re coming there!”

Joe calculated the distances and times in his head. If they had indeed left ten minutes ago, it would take them less than ten to get here, especially at the pace Nick walked. He could just wait, but he was curious to see what was wrong.

Curious, and a little nervous. That sense of dread that had crept up on him like a frost while walking into Gwendolyn’s room hadn’t left, and while Joe normally didn’t put much faith in hunches, the week’s events had challenged many of his long-held certainties. With a huff, he put his coat back on and went outside.

He knew the path his friends would take to Paxton, and hurrying in the cool night, met them at the halfway point across the street from the student union building where a hill led down to an outdoor basketball court. He waved his hands and shouted for them.

Nick pointed and said something, and he, Jonesy, and Carlos started running towards Joe.

“There you are!” said Nick, grabbing Joe by the shoulders. Joe felt a momentary twinge of guilt when he saw the swelling in Nick’s upper lip. “What the hell, man?!” said Nick.

Joe’s heart quickened. “What the hell what?” He looked each of them in turn, scanning for any sign of injury, of panic, of grief. Instead, he just saw confusion.

“Where’ve you been?” said Nick.

“Where’ve I been?”

“Yes.”

Joe rolled his eyes. Turning to Carlos, the most sensible of them all, he asked, “What’s going on?”

“Jonesy’s been accused of rape.”

“Rape?”

“The girl, remember?” said Nick. “At KPD?”

Joe turned to Jonesy. “But you didn’t touch her.”

“I know!” said Jonesy. “I think.”

“There was no sign of anything,” said Carlos, “but these dudes don’t care, man.”

Dudes?”

“Her boyfriend and his crew,” said Carlos. “They’re out for blood, man. Sending threatening emails, making calls . . .”

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“And I didn’t even do anything!” said Jonesy, spreading his small hands.

Joe patted him on the shoulder. “I know. We were there–we saw the two of you. She had her underwear on, you had your pants on, and that’s that. But why now?”

“Who knows?” said Nick, throwing his hands up. “Women are crazy. You of all people should know that.”

“You’ve raped somebody?!” said Jonesy.

“No I haven’t raped anybody!” Joe snapped. He glared at Nick. “I’ve never even had a girlfriend. Remember?”

“That is true, actually,” said Nick. “Joe’s a total virgin. Like, never even kissed a girl before. It’s pretty sad, when you stop and think about it.”

“I think they get it,” said Joe.

“Wow,” said Jonesy. “You mean I’m actually cooler than you?”

“Joe’s not cool,” said Nick. He actually sounded offended. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 23: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (4)”

Reset: Chapter 22: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (3)

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“Earth to Joe!” said Madison, the blonde girl. “How’re you going to explain this to us if you’re already off in space?”

“Are you drunk?” said Carissa.

“Joe doesn’t drink,” said Gwendolyn defensively.

Carissa shrugged. “You don’t know that.”

Joe looked around at the study room. They were sitting at a large circular table that took up most of the space, their notes spread before them. A TV/VCR stood on a small table in the corner and a whiteboard hung on one wall. Used to touch screens and other technological marvels, Joe found the whiteboard refreshingly quaint.

He wondered if he were getting used to things in this time. And if so, whether he should just stop worrying so much about everything.

An image of airplanes striking skyscrapers flashed in his mind, like a still from a horror movie spliced into a children’s film. “I’m fine,” he said, giving his head a quick jerk. “I just–I found out my aunt has cancer.” It wasn’t something he particularly wanted to share, and while it wasn’t the truth, it was a truth. Better still, it would redirect the conversation.

“Oh my God!” said Gwendolyn. She put her hand on Joe’s sending an electric thrill up his arm. “I’m so sorry.”

“Is she going to be okay?” said Jessica, genuine concern in her voice.

“Yeah,” said Joe. “They found it early. She should be alright. If you don’t mind, can we talk about something else? Like stars?”

“Of course,” said Gwendolyn. She gave Joe’s hand a brief squeeze before lifting her own.

“So today’s class made, like, no sense,” said Madison, speaking perhaps a bit too fast, her voice perhaps a bit too bright, though Joe appreciated her efforts to lift the mood in the room all the same. “All that stuff about periodic tables and whatever.”

“Elements,” said Joe. “The Professor was talking about where they came from. Supernovae. Like when a star explodes.”

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“I might be blonde, but I know what a supernova is,” said Madison.

“I just meant–”

“I’m kidding,” said Madison, flashing a devilish smile. She rattled a few of her bracelets absentmindedly. “You should, like, totally see your face.”

“I’ll be sure to take a selfie next time,” said Joe, enjoying the cool wave of relief.

“A selfie?” said Gwendolyn. “Like, a self-portrait?”

“More like a bad joke,” said Joe. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 22: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (3)”

Reset: Chapter 21: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (2)

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“YOU TOLD HIM?!

“Don’t yell at me!” said Joe.

Nick waved his long arms like an angry silverback. “You’re such an idiot! What the hell’s the matter with you?!”

“Nothing’s the matter with me.”

“And I’m supposed to be the dumb one,” said Nick. He dragged his hands down his face. “This is a disaster.”

“Can I speak?” said Joe.

“I think you’ve said enough!” said Nick. He slumped onto their couch. “What a catastrophe! What a total catastrophe!”

“You’re one to talk,” said Joe.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, WOULD YOU LET THAT GO?!Continue reading Reset: Chapter 21: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (2)”

Reset: Chapter 18: Wednesday, September 5, 2001 (3)

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“I like her,” said Nick. “She’s fun. I think I’m staying in this class.”

Joe finally exhaled as they walked out of Franklin Hall. “That was too far, Nick. Too far.”

“How could it be? Nobody knows!”

“I don’t think so,” said Joe. “Did you see the way Bessarab was staring at us?”

“Stevie!” said Nick. “Good dude!”

“He can tell something’s not right. Carlos, too. I think that the better people knew us back then, the more it bugs them when they see us now.”

“That makes no sense,” said Nick.

“It makes just as much sense as the rest of this.”

“Then why aren’t people having this feeling about each other?”

“Maybe they do,” said Joe. “Or maybe they only do with us since we’re the ones who set off The Machine. You, actually, but I was there.”

They were walking towards the Burns Center, intending to work out before lunch. “That’s a pretty arrogant worldview,” said Nick.

“It makes sense. Admit it.”

Nick waved a hand. “Maybe nineteen individuals we’re particularly concerned about will change their minds then.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you?”

“It makes just as much sense as the rest of this,” Nick murmured, jamming his hands into his pockets like an angry child, keeping silent for the rest of their walk. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 18: Wednesday, September 5, 2001 (3)”