UNSETIC Files special preview/extra – Brigid, Tim, and AJ after the end of Bering Songs and Silence

UNSETIC Bering Songs and Silence tiny imageIf you haven’t read Bering Songs and Silence, you might want to stop reading right here and now and go do that before moving on.  Of course, folks who are currently reading The Man Who Made Monsters over at LP Loudon’s site will already know that something must have happened in the aftermath of Bering Songs and Silence, which is the story of the first mission for UNSETIC that Brigid O’Connell and Tim McConaway embarked on together.

Spoilers (and a preview of an upcoming piece, Lost and Found) below the cut.

The people who have also read The Measure of Dreams will know that despite the fact that Tim believes otherwise, his family is sure he’s alive and they’ve been looking for him for nearly two years at the beginning of Bering Songs and Silence.  The phone call that Brigid O’Connell makes to AJ McConaway at the end of Bering Songs and Silence is the call that AJ, Kate Berkshire, and Christopher McConaway have been waiting for ever since AJ and Kate’s recruitment into UNSETIC.

A few of you have probably cursed me as a terrible human being for ending Bering Songs and Silence where I did–with Brigid telling AJ over the phone that she has information about Tim.  No one’s really asked as of this writing (though I’m not sure why) about how the conversation that followed went, but it was something that I’d thought about on and off since finishing Bering Songs and Silence.  About eighteen months ago, I started tooling around with a project I ended up calling Lost and Found, which is told from AJ’s point of view.  Once it’s finished, I’ll be releasing it as an ebook and then probably bundling it with Bering Songs and Silence as a print release.

Instead of making everyone wait until Lost and Found is ready for publication, though, here’s how that phone conversation that begins at the end of Bering Songs and Silence goes.  The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the UNSETIC Files:  Lost and Found.  Enjoy!

I grinned as I started to dig around for my cell, which had started vibrating in my back pocket.

“Popular today, aren’t you?” Kate waved me away with her good hand as she saw me pull it out. “Go take it. I’m not going anywhere until the good doctor’s done with me.”

Don’t recognize that area code. “It’s probably a wrong number anyway. I’ll be right back. Try not to piss off Josh while I’m gone, huh?” I ducked out of the infirmary and into the hall. We’d been back in the Portal Corps headquarters in downtown Chicago for maybe fifteen minutes, returned from yet another off-world foray that had probably resulted in more trouble than it was worth. I glanced down at my phone’s screen again and shook my head as I tapped the screen and lifted the phone to my ear. This had better be quick. I don’t have time to break away from refereeing right now. “This is McConaway.”

“Hello, Dr. McConaway? My name is Brigid O’Connell, and I have some news about your brother.”

My heart stopped. Brigid O’Connell had been the name of the woman who’d led the search after Tim and Mat had disappeared over the deserts of Iraq. They’d found Mat’s plane but no trace of him in it.

That was because something from beyond the boundaries of Earth had kidnapped them both, whisked them away to somewhere far away. Only a few people knew that, though, and almost all of them worked here, worked for the Corps.

What could she possibly know? She’s not with the Corps. I’d know if she was.

“Doctor? Are you there?”

“Of course. Of course. I—I’m sorry.” I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, trying to will my heart to slow down, to force my guts to cooperate. “I’m here. I—what do you have to tell me, Miss O’Connell?”

“It’s Lieutenant O’Connell, actually, and…he’s here.”

“It’s nice to—wait, what?” This has to be a dream, some kind of hallucination. I got shot instead of Kate. That’s it. I’m hallucinating because I’ve lost way too much blood and I’m dreaming this.

“Here, you talk to her.”

“What? Wait a second here—”

It was his voice, unmistakably my brother. My heart thudded against my breastbone and every breath was a battle.

How did he get back? How is he—where is he? There was a tremor in my voice as I dared to speak his name. “Tim?”

He sighed into the phone. “Hey AJ. Are you okay?”

“No. No, not okay. Where are you?”

“Virginia,” he said. “Alexandria. Where are you?”

“Chicago. Where else would I be?” I squeezed my eyes shut. How had he gotten to Virginia without us knowing? Was there another Portal somewhere near there that we didn’t know about?

Goddammit, there’s too much we don’t know.

There were a thousand questions I wanted to ask him—chief among them was how the hell he’d ended up in Virginia without our knowing he was back on Earth. I couldn’t ask that question over the phone, though, especially not with O’Connell there with him. I squeezed my eyes shut, sagging against the wall.

“Sis? You there?”

“I’m here,” I said, voice coming choked from a throat so tight I could barely breathe. “Are you safe?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

I caught a hitch in his voice and shivered. We both know why—but do you remember that I know, that Kate knows?

            He said that he wouldn’t. He was going to make himself forget so he could protect us. Damn it all.

“Just making sure,” I whispered. “I…I need to see you. I need an address.” Kate would want to come with me. Scott and Sierra would be expecting a report from us on the last run. There wouldn’t be time to write one before I—before we—left.

A thought struck me. Had they known he was back? Had he somehow shown up while Kate and I were on a run and they just hadn’t told us?

No. No, they wouldn’t keep a secret like that from us. If they tried, it would be a cover up of epic proportions. Bryn would say something. There’d be no hesitation. If she knew, we’d know. End of story.

Scott and Sierra couldn’t have known—no one connected to the Corps knew. That was for certain.

Tim rattled off an address. I wrote it on my hand, struggling not to drop my phone as I did. My heart was going three times its normal speed.

“You’ll be there?” I asked, my voice still shaking.

“I don’t know where else I’d go,” he said quietly. “If I’m not there, I’ll be here. Call this number if you need to.”

“Absolutely,” O’Connell’s voice said in the background. “I’ll help her find you if you’re not already here.”

“Not like I’ve got anywhere to go,” he said, his voice a little muffled.

My eyes stung. You could come here. You could come home. I glanced toward the door to the infirmary, biting down hard on my lower lip. Why hadn’t he come here? Why hadn’t he come home?

There must be a good reason. I’ll find out what it is.

“I’m coming there,” I said. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’ll be there tomorrow, as early as I can. I promise. Don’t go anywhere.”

“I won’t,” he said quietly. “I’ll see you.”



“I missed you,” I said in a bare whisper. “We all missed you. I…I’m glad you’re back.”

There was a long silence on the other end of the line before he said, “Yeah. So am I, AJ. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Love you.”

“I love you, too. Be careful.”

He hung up and I stood there in the hall, staring at the wall without actually seeing it in front of me. My brother was back on Earth. He was home.

Why hadn’t anyone told us before now?

Lost and Found should be out sometime in the near future.  Until then, keep your eyes peeled and catch up with the goings-on in UNSETIC about fifteen years later in the serial The Man Who Made Monsters by LP Loudon and Erin M. Klitzke.

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