This story is totally fictional and is not meant to imply anything about the personalities of the Backstreet Boys. Hey! It's just a story. Enjoy!
Note from James:
A Step Out of Time
Emerging from the hazy realm of sleep, a faint tick, tick, tick, could be heard over the hum of the ventilation system. Taking several deep breaths the fog in his head quickly cleared. Slowly opening his eyes, and taking in the surroundings of the dimly lit room, he began searching for the origin of the ticking sound. Slowly sitting up, flexing his arms and legs feeling the tightness of the joints as he slowly moved each one. He was intrigued with the sensations flooding his mind. His body had a dull ache, not really painful but noticeable just the same. Looking up at the ceiling, and speaking to the thin air he said, "Computer, increase light level to eighty percent."
"Light level to eighty percent," came the mechanical female voice. "Good morning, Dave. How was your rest period?"
"It could have been better," Dave said as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed feeling the cold tile floor below his feet. "Hally, what is our current status?"
"It is 05:30 local time. January 8th, 2001"
"What is the weather status on the mountain?"
"Light snow fell last night. We currently have a total of fourteen inches of packed snow at the lower levels."
"Higher up the mountain?"
"Six to ten feet deep," Hally replied.
"Weather forecast for today?"
"There is a storm front moving in late this afternoon. We can see an added accumulation of another twelve inches on the lower levels and twice that on the upper levels of the mountain."
Standing, Dave arched his back and twisted as he felt his vertebra come back into alignment. Walking over to a large antique wall clock Dave reached up and pulled the counter weight, winding the clock for the next thirty-six hours.
"What is the status of the complex?" Dave asked.
"Status is normal. Communication links are minimal, expect to lose communication with the incoming storm front. Satellite uplink will be the first to go. Ground systems will follow."
"How is our power and supplies?"
"We have been on internal power for the last twelve days. At the current rate, I can sustain the complex for another seven hundred and twelve days. Food supplies are fully stocked. You have a one year supply of stored foods."
"Thank you, Hally," Dave said as he pulled on his blue jumpsuit and stepped into a pair of loafers. The door to his quarters slid open with a soft swoosh as he approached it. Stepping out into the brightly lit hall, Dave headed off to begin preparing for the arrival of his guests.
Entering the heart of the complex Dave went over to the food dispenser. "Hally, can I have a large mug of hot chocolate please."
The food dispenser hummed then with a flash of light a mug of hot chocolate appeared.
Picking up the steamy mug, Dave took a sip. "Hally, this hot chocolate is really good. Have you done something to the recipe?"
"I have fortified the hot chocolate to give you all your daily nutritional needs."
"Hally, I think it would be a good idea to take the food dispensers off line while our guests are here." Dave said as he looked over the bank of displays lining the control center.
"Dave, do you not intend to feed your guests?"
"Yes I do. Will you see to it that the kitchen is stocked?"
"It has already been done."
"Hally, are you anticipating my needs?"
"Is that not my job?"
Laughing softly, "Yes it is, Hally. Thank you," Dave said.
"You are welcome, Dave."
"Have you had any luck making contact with our guests?"
"They are not using their real names. Running their aliases through the credit card companies computers I was able to establish at what hotel they are staying."
"Have you been able to confirm their identity?"
"Yes, I was able to tap into the hotels security system and I have been able to confirm Tommy Lester, also known as Nick Carter and Jacob Johnson also known as Kevin Richardson."
"Is that all?"
"I have not been able to get a clear picture of the others, the security system is not very good."
"Hally, keep checking," Dave said as he checked the monitors giving him a view of the mountain and valley below.
Several minutes later, "Dave, I have detected the use of a charge card by Jacob Johnson. He just made a purchase at a refueling station," Hally reported.
Frowning at Hally's terminology, Dave corrected, "I think the correct term is gas station, not refueling station."
"I stand corrected. But the fact is your guests are on their way."
Kevin Richardson climbed back into the van after filling the tank with gas.
"Hey, Kev, did you find out anything?" asked AJ McLean.
"Yeah, the attendant told me where to find the best skiing."
"Where, man?" asked Nick Carter.
"Well, Nick, see that mountain in front of us?"
"Yeah, I see it."
"Well the mountain next to it on the right and clear on the other side is where we want to go. They got six inches of new snow last night, and the guy said the ski runs there are awesome," Kevin said as he started the engine.
"How long of a drive is it?" Brian Littrell asked.
"About three hours."
"Well let's get going," said Howie Dorough, eager to get in some skiing .
"Brian, what were Kristin and Leighanne going to do today?" asked Nick.
Brian and Kevin looked at each other and said in unison, "Shopping."
"Oh, man. . . . You let them go shopping alone! . . . You both are going to be so broke," Nick giggled.
"Brian, let me see the map," AJ said holding his hand over the front seat.
Scanning the map, he found what he was looking for. "Hey, Kev, there's a road up ahead on the left. It will cut an hour off the trip."
"How do you know?" Kevin asked.
"I spent a week here last summer scope'n out the area. It's a good road," AJ said.
"I don't know, AJ. Will it be safe?" Brian asked.
" Hey, if the road has not been plowed we just keep going as we are."
As they approached the turnoff a snowplow could be seen turning off the side road.
"See the road is clear," AJ said with enthusiasm.
"Ok, I'll take the road," Kevin said as he made the turn behind the stopped snowplow.
"Plow fifteen to central," the snowplow driver said over his radio, not aware of the van turning onto the side road, behind his truck.
"Central to plow fifteen, go ahead."
"I just completed plowing Bagger Pass."
"What is the status?"
"It's drifting closed as fast as we plow it. I think it's time to close the road. With another storm coming the possibility of avalanches will increase," the driver said.
"Ok, go ahead and close your end. I'll have Pete shut down the other end." the dispatcher said.
"Dave, the road through the pass has been closed," Hally reported.
"Do you detect any vehicles on the road?"
"Yes there are two. One will exit the north end in five minutes. The other has just entered the south end and is headed north."
"Have you identified the vehicle?"
"Yes, your guests are on the way."
"How is the weather?"
"It has started to snow on the upper part of the mountain."
With a heavy sigh Dave said, "Thank you Hally."
"Damn!" Nick softly said in awe as he looked out the window at the ten foot high drifts along the side of the road.
Kevin had slowed the van as he made his way through drifting snow. Rounding a curve, Kevin could feel the rear end of the van start to fishtail. "Hold on," he shouted.
Fighting to regain control, Kevin's heart was pounding as he saw each side of the road spin past. On one side was a drop-off into a small river and on the other side was a stand of trees. On the second 360-degree turn, the van slammed into the trees.
The impact of the van sent everyone to the left side of the van. Brian's seatbelt kept him in his seat. Kevin's head hit the side window with a thud. The three in the back seat didn't have their seatbelts on and they went flying upon impact. Howie who was sitting behind Kevin found himself thrown against the window with AJ crashing into and on top of him. Nick bounced off the back of Brian's seat and ended up on the floor at the feet of Howie and AJ.
"Is everyone ok?" Brian asked.
"I'm all right," Kevin said rubbing the side of his head.
"If AJ would get off me, I think I'll live," Howie said giving AJ a push.
"Yeah, man, I'm ok," AJ said getting off Howie. Looking at his feet, AJ said, "Hey, Nick, man. You all right?"
Nick did not answer.
"Nick!" AJ said louder.
A soft moan came from Nick as he slowly rolled over.
"Are we alive?" Nick softly said as he blinked, trying to see only one AJ.
Offering Nick a hand up, AJ was shocked to see the large bruise forming on Nick's forehead.
Dave sat watching the monitor. As the van rounded the curve, he saw it hit the icy patch and spin out of control. As the van spun near the drop off Dave held his breath and did not let it out until the van slammed into the trees.
"Hally, what is their condition?"
"They seemed to have survived the crash. I detect movement in the vehicle."
"And the condition of the vehicle?" Dave asked.
"The rear axel is broken."
Dave frowned, "Hally, what is happening to the picture?"
"The storm front has moved in. Conditions are deteriorating quickly. Switching to thermal scan."
The picture cleared up considerably. "Can you zoom in?" Dave asked.
Dave now could see the five occupants sitting up and engaged in a very animated conversation.
Turning away from the monitor Dave asked, "How long do they have?"
"I calculate you must be back in the complex with in the next two hours."
"Hally, secure the command center," Dave said as he exited the center.
Brian climbed back into his seat after checking under the van.
"Well?" AJ asked.
"We have a broken axel," Brian said.
"Shit!" Kevin said as he hit the steering wheel with his fist.
Pulling a cell phone out of his jacket pocket, Nick tried to make a call. "I have no dial tone."
"The mountains block the signal," Howie said.
"What are we going to do now?" a nervous Nick asked.
"We stay where we are. We have fuel to keep us warm. Someone will be along," Kevin said with some authority.
"It's snowing really hard," Nick pointed out.
"Don't worry, Nick, when the snow plow comes back through he will see us and call a tow truck. All we have to do is just wait for him," Kevin said trying to calm Nick, but realizing they had not passed a single car on this road and they may be in trouble.
Dave pulled the straps to his snowshoes tight then pulled the thermal imaging visor down. "Ok, Hally, you will need to direct me," Dave said as he entered the zero visibility storm.
"Head due west about a quarter mile till you reach the road."
Dave started down the mountain, with the visor he could dimly make out the trees. It was slow going, the wind had picked up, and the snow was drifting.
Twenty minutes later, he found the road. "Which way?"
"To your left, ninety yards ahead."
Dave looked into the storm and smiled to himself as his visor picked up the much warmer van and its occupants. His smile quickly faded as he noticed the heat buildup under the van. Snow had drifted around the van and sealed the underside. Exhaust gas was building up in the trapped space.
Nick kept wiping the window next to him trying to see out into the snowstorm. "Kev, it's getting real bad. I can't see the other side of the road," Nick said as he once more cleaned off the fogging window. "Shit!! What the hell is that?" Nick shouted as he moved away from the window climbing onto AJ's lap.
Everyone looked out the window to see a dark figure approaching. It looked as though it may have been a bear on its hind legs. But what shook everybody up was where the face should have been there was only a green glow. The van doors were quickly locked as everyone watched this monster approach.
"Wha, wha, what the hell is it?" Nick cried pointing out the window.
The monster had stopped two feet from the van and was looking in.
Dave came upon the van to find its occupants huddled against the far side of the van looking at him in horror.
"Hally, can you disable the engine?"
"Yes, Dave." Hally said into his earpiece. The van's engine sputtered and died.
Dave reached for the door and found it locked.
"Dave. I believe you are scaring them."
"What do you mean? There is nothing scary about me."
"Dave, I believe if you raise your visor and show them that you are human, that their fright would be eliminated."
Realizing what Hally meant, Dave started to chuckle as he raised the visor.
What ever the thing was it had stopped outside Brian's door, reached over, and tried to open it. When the creature touched the door the engine died.
"Shit! Shit! Shit!" AJ kept saying.
The monster reached up and lifted his green glowing face, revealing the face of a smiling old man with a white beard.
"He's human!" shouted Kevin.
Everyone let out a sigh of relief. Brian quickly rolled down the window.
"Is everyone all right?" Dave shouted over the wail of the storm.
"Shit, man, you about scared us to death," Nick said as he moved closer to the window.
"We are all ok. But our van isn't," Brian replied.
"Sorry about the scare," Dave said. Raising his visor more. "This lets me see where I'm going in snowstorms."
"Where did you come from?" Kevin asked.
"I have a place not too far from here," Dave said indicating up the mountain. "You can't stay here. The storm is getting too bad. Come with me, my place is warm."
Not trusting this stranger Kevin said, "There should be a plow coming through soon, we'll wait."
Shaking his head, "The road has been closed by the highway department. We won't see a plow again for at least a week. And if you wait for them all they will find is five Popsicles," Dave pointed out.
Looking at each other, they decided with a nod to go with the stranger. Pulling on their ski masks and gloves, they all climbed out of the van.
Taking a long rope that he had over his shoulder Dave tied it around the waist of each young man, securing one to the other. Tying the end around his own waist, Dave replaced his visor and headed off up the mountain.
The climb was made more difficult by the snowdrifts they had to wade through. And every time one of them would loose his footing Hally would let Dave know so he could stop and wait for them to regain their footing.
Almost an hour later, they came upon a old shack that was protected from the snow by a large rock overhang. Knocking the snow off their feet, they entered the dark shack.
"I thought you said your place was warm," Kevin said as he removed his ski mask. "It's as cold in here as it is outside."
Smiling at Kevin's bitching, Dave walked over to a old bookcase and pushed it aside revealing a brightly lit passage. "This way gentlemen." Leading his charges down a long passage, they came to a wide room. In front of them stood a massive steel door.
"What is this place?" Nick asked.
"My home," Dave said. "Way before you boys were born, the US government built this place. It was to be a control center in case of war."
"Yeah, we've heard of the place. Cheyenne Mountain," Howie said.
"Well this was the first one built. It took them two years to cut this out of solid rock. But they overlooked something during construction."
"What was that?" Kevin asked.
"When winter hits, there is no way to get people and supplies in or out of here. When they built this, it was during the two mildest winters we ever had. After the first real winter here the government started construction on Cheyenne Mountain," Dave said as he untied everyone. Going to the door's control pad, Dave entered the code and with a hiss the door started to open. There was a steady beeping of the klaxon as the door slowly opened.
Dave looked over at the five young men all standing there with their mouths hanging open watching the massive door open. Chuckling, Dave said, "Gentlemen, this way."
Dave led them through the still opening
door and into a side chamber. Dave went over to a bench and sat down
to remove his boots. Looking up at the ceiling Dave spoke,
"Hally, will you close the blast door?"
"Who is he talking to?" Nick whispered to Brian.
"I don't know,"
Everyone jumped at the voice that came from out of nowhere.
"Who was that?" Howie asked.
"Hally, would you like to introduce yourself?"
Giggling, Hally answered, "I am not a who. I am a what."
"Hally!" Dave said.
"Yes, Dave. . . Sorry. . . . Gentlemen I am Hally. I am a computer, and it is my job to run this complex."
"Gentlemen, you will find dry jumpsuits in the lockers behind you. You do need to get out of those wet clothes," Dave said as he removed his cold weather gear.
Each guy chose a locker and opened it to find a blue jumpsuit and slippers.
Howie looked over at Nick and was amused at the goofy expression on his face. Whispering, Howie asked, "Nick, what's up?"
Giggling Nick said, "Don't you get it? Dave, a computer named Hally. Dave, Hal 9000, 2001 a space odyssey."
Howie looked over to Dave who was pulling up a red jumpsuit. Stifling a laugh, Howie added, "I don't know Nick, Dave looks more like Santa."
Dave smiled at the comments being made across the room. Hally was feeding the conversations to Dave's earpiece.
"Hally, can I have a report of the weather conditions?" Dave asked.
"The wind is gusting to 45 mph. The temperature has dropped twenty degrees in the last hour. Wind chill is at minus twenty-five degrees. Visibility is at zero."
"Thank you, Hally."
"Dave, I'd like to thank you for saving our butts out there," Kevin said.
" You're welcome, Kevin."
"Do you know who we are?" Brian asked.
"Of course, Brian. I may live in a hole in the side of a mountain, but I'm not cut off from the outside world," Dave said.
Hally, started to giggle.
Rolling his eyes, Dave muttered, "I do need to replace that circuit board. Computers are not supposed to giggle."
"There is nothing wrong with my circuit boards. It must be an error in my programming," Hally said a little indignant.
"And who would have made that kind of error?" Dave inquired.
"Why you, Dave. You built me and programmed me. If there is any problems with my programs it must have been human error."
Everyone had to laugh at the banter between Dave and Hally.
"Dave, do you have a last name?" AJ asked.
"Yes, AJ, I do," Dave said as walked to Howie.
Chuckling, Dave put a finger to the side of his nose and gave Howie a wink.
Howie's face registered astonishment. `How could Dave have known what I had said to Nick.' Howie thought.
Dave chuckled at Howie's reaction and turned his attention to Nick. Looking Nick straight in the eye, Dave said, "The last name is Bowman." Smiling and giving Nick a wink Dave went into the main hallway. "Would you young fellows like to see my little home?"
Walking down a long hallway, everyone boarded a large elevator. "Hally, residential level please,"
The floor of the elevator seemed to fall away as the elevator made a rapid decent, causing everyone but Dave to grab the walls for support.
"Woo Hoo!" Nick exclaimed, a little surprised at the sudden drop.
"Ah, Dave. How far down are we going?" asked a very pale Brian.
"Hally! Slow decent by fifty percent," Dave quickly said after seeing Brian's reaction.
The floor seemed to return to the elevator as the decent slowed.
"I'm sorry, Brian, I'm so use to this elevator that I didn't even think about warning you about the ride. This elevator will take us down about a quarter mile under the mountain," Dave said.
Grinning Nick said, "That was awesome. How long did we free fall?"
"Only about ten seconds," Dave said as the elevator reached its destination.
The doors opened onto a well-lit hall. As they walked down the hall, Dave started to tell them about the complex. "This is one of three residential levels. I have room for two hundred guests. And in an emergency I can house another two hundred on the lowest levels."
Sniffing the air, Nick asked. "Is that chili I'm smelling?"
"Why yes it is," Dave chuckled. "How did you know?"
Laughing, Brian said putting an arm around Nick's shoulder, "Nicky boy here, has the nose of a bloodhound when it comes to food. "
"I haven't had anything since breakfast, so my nose is super sensitive to food," Nick said in his defense.
Dave walked up to the door that said Officers Mess. The door slid open on its own allowing the group to enter.
"Gentlemen welcome to my home," Dave said as they entered a large room. Off to the left was a large kitchen, a dinning area came next then the remainder of the room was set up with several couches and large overstuffed chairs all facing a large TV monitor.
Walking into the kitchen a very large pot of chili was simmering on the stove
"It looks like you were expecting us," Kevin said.
"Oh this?" Dave said indicating the pot. "I don't like to cook everyday. I usually cook in big batches and freeze several meals."
"There is more than several meals here," AJ said as he spotted a stack of bowls. " May we?"
"Of course, help yourselves," Dave said. "I actually didn't start that pot until Hally reported your van on the road after it had been shut down by the highway department ."
"You knew we were coming?" Howie asked.
"Ah, actually, no. Hally had reported that the highway department had just ordered the closing of the road. And that she had detected two vehicles on the road at the time of the closing," Dave said not too sure how much information he should divulge.
"We know what happened to us," Nick said with a mouthful of chili. "What about the other car?"
Brian shot Nick a dirty look, for talking with his mouth full. Nick saw the look and swallowed his chili with a gulp. Turning red in the face, he softly said, "Sorry,"
"They made it through the pass without any problem," Dave said with a chuckle.
"You must have been surprised to see us in the van," AJ pointed out.
"No, actually I knew who you were before I went to get you. After your little accident, I had Hally scan the license plate on the van. She was able to track it to the rental agency. She found out who had rented the van and ran a search on your identity. Kevin's ID didn't hold up under scrutiny. Hally did a search for other uses of the charge card then backtracked the paper trail to your management company. Once we knew your management company, it did not take long to enter their bookkeeping system and find out your true identity."
"How long did that take?" Nick asked.
"It took two minutes and forty-three seconds. I had to bypass your management company's security system. They never knew I was there," Hally said.
"Awesome!" Nick softly said.
Frowning, Kevin asked, "You were able to see my personal file?"
"Yes, I was able to access all of your files."
"Why?" Kevin asked.
"To ascertain the identity of the others. By learning the identities of the others I was able to confirm, by their purchases, that they were traveling with you. . . . Brian you do need to fill out a new W-4 form. Your records still show you as single. You can now claim your spouse."
"Didn't I tell you to do that weeks ago?" an exacerbated Kevin said.
"I forgot," Brian meekly said.
"You also forgot to change your insurance too. Didn't you?" Kevin asked.
"Well I, I," Brian stammered.
"Your records shows that your wife has been added to your insurance. But you must stop by personnel soon. They still need your wife's social security number and birth date."
"Thanks, Hally, I'll stop by as soon as I get back in town," Brian said with a confused look on his face.
"You didn't change your insurance, did you?" Kevin softly asked.
"No, I don't remember changing it," Brian replied.
"Hally. Did you change Brian's insurance records?" Dave asked.
There was no reply.
"Don't yes dear me! Did you change Brian's records?"
"I wish to plead the fifth, dear."
Nick and AJ got the giggles hearing Hally's reply's.
"Computers have no protection under the Constitution," Dave informed Hally.
"But Davie, I'm not just a computer. I thought we meant more to each other."
Dave shook his head in exasperation. Looking at the ceiling Dave pleaded, "Hally. Did you or did you not change Brian's records?"
"Yes Davie, I did. Sorry. Shall I change them back?"
Looking over to Brian, Dave asked, "Is there any way that the records could be questioned?"
"No, I inserted the records on a day that personnel was busy."
"Thank you, Hally. I will stop by personnel when I get back home and sign the papers," Brian said with a laugh.
As everyone was eating, a low rumble could be heard and felt. All eyes turned to Dave.
"Hally, what just happened?"
"I picked up a seismic event on the north face of the mountain."
"Seismic event?" AJ quizzed.
"Avalanche," Dave said as he went over and sat down in a chair. "Hally, can you give me a outside view?"
"I only have the camera's in the entrance cabin."
The large TV monitor came to life giving a dimly lit view of the inside of the cabin. Everyone joined Dave sitting on the couches.
"Can I have an outside view?" Dave asked.
The view changed, to a dark snowy picture.
"Give me thermal view please."
The view became clearer as trees and boulders could be identified.
Suddenly the lights in the room turned red, and the monitor went blank. The room began to shake as a steady increasing rumble could be heard.
Dave jumped to his feet and with quick strides walked to the wall next to the monitor, which opened with a hiss. Entering the command center followed by the others, Dave snapped, "Hally, what have you got?"
"A large snow mass is on its way down the mountain."
"Were you able to shield the communication up links?" Dave asked with concern.
"They have been retracted since the storm got bad."
"Good. Seal the complex, Hally."
"Working on it, Dave," Hally said as the sounds of breakers and switches engaging could be heard around the large room. The rumble increased to almost a roar. It sounded like a freight train approaching, and the vibration in the room was increasing.
"Hally, activate motion dampers," Dave said and the vibration stopped.
"Dave, what's going on!" Nick shouted.
Looking up, Dave saw a very pale and frightened young man. "It's an avalanche, Nick. It `s going right over us now. It will stop soon."
The noise faded quickly. "Hally, how much damage did we incur?"
"None to the complex. We have lost all ground communications. I have lost contact with all sensors on the mountain."
"Satellite?" Dave queried.
"I am not able to deploy the system. "
"Is it still there?"
"Yes. The covers won't open. They must be covered with debris."
"Ok, Hally, we can't do anything about that until the storm passes." Dave said with a sigh. "Run diagnostics on all systems. Let's make sure nothing got shaken loose."
Dave turned from his work console to find himself alone in the control center.
"Dave, they are in the living room," Hally softly said in Dave's earpiece. "They seem to be very upset. All their heart rates are up. And I am reading a high level of anxiety."
"They are realizing what could have happened to them if I hadn't come to get them," Dave softly said.
As Dave exited the command room the wall hissed shut behind him. Dave was greeted with a somber sight. Nick sat on one of the couches, crying. Howie was holding him tight, trying to calm his friend. Brian, who seemed just as upset, was being consoled by his cousin Kevin. AJ sat alone with his legs drawn up to his chest, his arms wrapped around his knees, rocking back and fourth muttering "Shit, shit, shit, . . ."
Dave went to AJ, kneeling next to him, Dave placed a hand on AJ's shoulder.
Looking into Dave's eyes AJ said, "We would have died if we were still out there."
"But you weren't out there. You are all safe and alive," Dave said giving AJ's shoulder a gentle squeeze.
"You saved our lives, man," AJ said.
"Yeah, you did, Dave," Nick managed to choke out.
`No. You saved your own lives when you decided to come with me. It was your decision that made the difference," Dave pointed out.
Getting up and going into the kitchen Dave softly said, "Hally, I think we could use some of your special relaxing hot chocolate."
Dave stood in front of the food dispenser, blocking the view from the others as five mugs of hot chocolate appeared. Placing the five mugs on a tray, a sixth mug appeared. "That one is for you, Davie," Hally whispered into his earpiece.
"Thanks," Dave said softly.
"Here, try some of this," Dave said as he offered each one a mug of hot chocolate. "Chocolate has a soothing effect on the mind. It will help you all to relax."
Everyone sipped their mug, letting the warmth of the liquid spread through their bodies. The trembling of their bodies seemed to melt away as the dark liquid did its job.
"This stuff is great," Howie said between sips.
"It's an old family recipe," Dave said with a chuckle.
AJ was the first to yawn. And as contagious as yawns are, it quickly spread through the group.
Chuckling, Dave said, "Why don't I show you to your rooms, you look like you could use some rest."
Dave showed them to five adjacent crew quarters. "Each bedroom has its own bath with a small shower. You will find fresh towels in there. You will also find clean jumpsuits in the closet."
Kevin walked up to a door and it slid open. Turning to Dave, he asked " Does Hally control everything?"
Chuckling, Dave said, "Only the doors to your rooms. She can sense you approaching the door and opens it. She doesn't have any eyes in the room, they are completely private."
Turning to AJ, Dave asked, "You going to be alright?"
"Yeah, man. It was just the shock of what might have happened if we would have stayed in the van. Besides, right now a warm bed sounds so inviting," AJ said with heavy eyelids.
"Howie, would you stay with me until if fall asleep?" Nick softly asked.
"Sure, Nick," Howie said as he put an arm around Nick's shoulders, as they entered one of the rooms.
"Bri, are you going to be ok?" Kevin asked with concern.
Nodding, Brian answered with a slight smile, "Yeah, I'll be ok. I just need some rest."
"Well, you all try to get some rest. I'll see you in the morning," Dave said as he turned to go back into the main living quarters.
The next morning found everyone waking about the same time. Hot showers helped bring everyone to full consciousness. One by one, they made their way to the kitchen in search of nourishment.
AJ, the last to arrive, caught the smell of fresh coffee. "Oh, I need a cup of that so bad,"
Looking past the coffee maker, AJ saw an array of breakfast foods spread out on the counter. "What have we got here?" AJ asked.
"A feast," Howie grinned as he shoveled another fork full of eggs into his mouth.
Fixing himself a plate, AJ joined his friends at the large table. Nothing was said until after everyone had his fill.
"How did everyone sleep?" Kevin asked.
"Like a log. I've never felt more rested," Brian said.
"Me too," Howie said. "I thought I'd have nightmares last night, but I didn't. Actually I had a great dream."
Smiling slyly, Brian said, "I dreamed I was on a beach."
Kevin had a surprised look on his face when he said, "I dreamed I was on a beach also with Kristin."
"Leighanne was with me on the beach," Brian added.
Grinning broadly, AJ said, "I was collecting shells on the beach when I found Madonna under a shell."
"That must have been some shell for Madonna to fit under," Howie laughed. "I was horseback riding on the beach with Christina."
Brian turned to Nick and asked, "Ok Nick, what did you dream about?"
Nick sat there with a silly grin on his face as he looked deeply into his empty breakfast plate. "I found myself on the beach naked, with five girls chasing me."
"Did they catch you?" AJ asked.
With the blush rising Nick answered, "You bet they did. Several times."
"What happened?" AJ asked.
"I don't want to hear Nick's perverted dream," Kevin injected, putting an end to the story.
"Where is Dave this morning?"
"He's in the ark. Dave said to come down when you are finished eating."
"We're done. How do we get there?" Kevin asked.
"Just take the elevator down six levels. . . . But I believe Nick will need a few minutes before he can go."
Frowning, Kevin asked, "Why?"
"I believe the correct term is, Nick has developed a woody."
"Nick!" Brian shouted.
Shaking his head and giggling Nick said, "That was some dream."
As everyone gathered on the elevator Kevin who had been absorbed in thought asked, "Hally, who is Dave?"
"I do not understand your question, Kevin."
"It's a simple question. Who is Dave Bowman? What does he do? Way does he live under a mountain? Where does he come from? Why did he save our lives? Is this all real? Are we dead? What the hell is going on around here?"
"So many questions. . . . I am not allowed to answer all of your questions but I can answer a few of them. The rest only Dave can answer. . . . . This is real and you are not dead. . . . Dave is my creator. Dr. Dave Bowman holds several degrees. One is in the field of artificial intelligence. And another in the field in Documented Historical Anthropology. All other questions I am not allowed to respond to, you must ask Dave."
The elevator door opened onto a short hallway with only one set of doors located at the end of the hall in front of them. "Dave is at the end of the hall. The doors leads into a airlock. The first door you enter must be closed before the next door can be opened."
"What is on the other side of the door?" Brian hesitantly asked.
"The answers to your questions."
As the final door opened the group was astounded at the sight before them. They stepped out into a brightly lit mountain pine forest.
"Dave can be found at the end of the path," Hally informed the group.
Taking the path into the woods they came upon a small meadow that was a washed in wild flowers and grasses. On the far side of the meadow, Dave could be seen sitting on a log beside a stream. As they approached, they could see Dave was not alone, for at his feet was a family of foxes, two adults and four pups. Dave was laughing as he watched the pups play. The play of the pups stopped with approach of new comers.
Dave looked up, smiling. "Good morning, boys."
"Good morning, Dave," they all responded.
As the boys approached, the family of foxes pulled back behind Dave
"Oh wow!" Nick said as he dropped to his knees. "Are they tame?"
"No, they are wild. If you sit real still the pups may come to you," Dave softly said.
The rest of the group slowly took seats on the ground. "Dave, where are we?" Brian asked.
"Your in a part of the complex I call the ark. This was to be a storage depot for the complex, but I turned it into my private little zoo," Dave said as he looked across the stream. Smiling as he silently indicated at something across the stream. A doe and twin fawns was approaching the far edge of the stream. Everyone sat still as the deer drank from the stream, looked around than walked back into the woods.
Everyone's attention was brought back by a tiny growl and then barks. One of the pups had gotten up the courage to approach Nick.
"Don't reach for the pup. Let her come to you. She will check you out first. Let her sniff your hand," Dave said in a whisper.
The pup sniffed all around Nick then sat down in front of Nick and gave out two sharp yelps. With tail wagging, she climbed into Nick's lap. Nick slowly started to pet the pup, scratching behind its ears.
The other three pups came out from behind Dave. Timidly they each made their way to one of the other boys. Repeating the actions of their sister, the pups climbed into AJ's, Brian's and Howie's laps.
Kevin was smiling at the sight of the others with the pups when he felt something touch his leg. Looking down, the mother fox was sitting in front of him with her paw on his leg. "Well, hello!" Kevin said softly.
Smiling down at the fox Kevin looked into her eyes and did not see any fear. The fox looked at her pups, seeing that they were safe, then climbed into Kevin's lap nudging his hand wanting to be petted.
Dave chuckled as red, the father fox jumped into his lap wanting his belly rubbed.
"It seems we have everyone taken care of," Dave said softly.
Looking up, Kevin softly asked. "Dave, who are you? And can you tell us what is going on?"
Dave's cheerful face became very somber. Not sure how to broach the topic, Dave took several deep breaths.
"I am a scientist, and I am here studying Late Twentieth Century Documented Historical Anthropology. Primarily late twentieth century musical groups."
"Don't anthropologists study ancient peoples?" AJ asked.
"Yes, usually over one thousand years."
Thinking deeply, Kevin processed what Dave had said then he asks, "What time do you come from?"
"Earth's future is all I can say."
"Are you here to study us?" Nick asked.
"I'm here to study all the musical groups in this time period, and the effect they had on history."
"What kind of effect could we have on history?" Howie asked.
"More than you will ever know. Right now, at this time, the influence of two groups will have a profound effect of generations to come."
"What two groups?" Nick asked.
Dave didn't answer. He just sat there rubbing red's tummy.
"You mean us?" Nick asked. "And Nsync," Kevin said knowing.
Dave's only response was a nod of his head.
After many minutes of silence Kevin softly stated, "You changed history when you came for us, didn't you?"
"Kev, what are you talking about?" Howie asked.
"We should have died in that avalanche last night," Kevin said.
Looking at Dave Nick asked, "Is that true? In your history, did we die in the avalanche?"
"In my history, you all died last night."
"Why did you save us?" Brian asked.
Sensing that it was time to leave, the fox family scampered into the woods. Dave rose to his feet and surveyed the five soulful faces before him. "There is some things you should see. Let's go up to the living quarters."
As the group entered the living quarters Dave said, "Hally, please bring up the historical archive on the BackStreet Boys."
"Starting at the current window of time?"
"Yes bring up the news reports."
As they sat and watched, Hally displayed the local and national news reports about the missing musical group. Then the reports increased as they covered the search for the missing group and then finally the discovery and efforts to recover their bodies.
The coverage of the public funeral was very moving and upsetting for the boys to watch.
"Please no more," Brian pleaded with tears running down his face.
"There is only one more report you should see."
"What more shots of our funerals?" AJ snapped.
"No. This one takes place five years from now," Dave said as he looked up. "We're ready, Hally."
The last piece turned out to be a tribute to the lives of the BackStreet Boys. It was a star studded show paying tribute the musical genius of the group. The show ended with the group NSYNC performing a medley of three songs written by the group but never recorded. As the show ended and the credits ran the families of each boy was shown giving the performers on stage a standing ovation.
The screen went black at the end of the program. Everyone sat for several minutes regaining his composure.
Looking over at Dave, "In the closing shots I saw my mom and Kristin and someone between them I didn't recognize. Who was that?" Kevin asked.
"The little boy?. . . He is Jerald Kevin Richardson, your son," Dave said with a smile.
"My son! . . . How? . . "
Looking to Nick, Dave asked, "Nick, would you like to tell Kevin how babies are made?"
"I know how. But when?" Kevin asked.
"Your son will be born on October 5th, 2001, I think you can do the math."
"I'm going to be a dad," Kevin said softly still in shock.
"Congrats, cuz," Brian said patting Kevin on the back.
" Hey, man, your going to be a daddy," AJ said with a big grin.
"Awesome," was Nicks response.
"Yeah, Kevin, you're going to be a terrific dad," Howie added.
"Dave, what's going to happen now?" Brian asked.
"Very soon your van will be found.
And it will be discovered that none of your are in it.
"How long a life will we have?" AJ asked.
Shaking his head, "I don't know, AJ. That history has yet to be lived," Dave said.
After changing back into their ski clothes, the group returned to the living quarters. Dave met them with large mugs of hot chocolate.
Sitting sipping their hot chocolate, Kevin broke the silence. "Dave, will we remember any of this?"
"Yes, you will remember everything. I can't erase your memory."
"What will happen?" Nick asked.
"You will fall into a deep sleep. You will be awakened by the search team that will find you."
"When?" Howie asked.
Looking at his empty mug, Brian knew. "It's the hot chocolate, isn't it?"
Dave smiled and nodded. With in minutes all five young men were asleep.
Dave stood in the command center watching the monitors, watching the rescue crews recover the van, and then the rescue teams start the search for the boys.
"Dave, there is a rescue team headed for the cabin," Hally announced.
With a deep sigh, Dave said, "My dear, do you realize how irritating that voice is? There is no reason to continue the charade."
The air next to Dave began to shimmer as the form of a woman took shape. "Sorry, Owen. Is this better?"
Dave smiled at his newly arrived companion, as his form changed from an old man to that of a tall, slender, dark haired, young man. With a heavy sigh, "That's much better. It was difficult carrying all that extra weight," Owen said. "Crystal, my love, I'm so glad to see you again."
Holding hands the two watched the monitors as the search crew found the cabin and the sleeping occupants. The boys awoke to find themselves being wrapped in blankets and checked out by paramedics.
"Dear, did you feel that?" Crystal asked.
"The ripple in time? Yes, dear," Owen answered.
"It was so small. I barely felt it."
"That small ripple will expand and grow as it travels forward."
Wrapped in blankets the boys were led to waiting helicopters for their trip back to be reunited with their families. Kevin was the last to leave the cabin. Looking around one last time he saw the faint red glow of a camera hidden in the rafters. Looking into the camera Kevin mouthed `Thank You" and gave a nod.
Owen and Crystal smiled at Kevin's gesture.
"Owen, how was it?"
"How was what?"
"Meeting your ancestor, of course."
"It was all right I guess."
"Owen Richardson! How can you stand there and say meeting your great, great, great grandfather was all right?"
Smiling, "How did Nick put it?
Only time will tell.