The dull roar of the engines filled the cabin.  They were all waiting, in silence as always.  Walter twiddled his thumbs, hesitantly.  Everyone was nervous for every flight, but lately the tension was building higher and higher as the missions over Europe began to pile up.  They said 25 was all they could ever ask, but nobody made it that far.  At least not yet.  After 12 flights or so, nobody talked to each other leaving England. The night before the first flight Walter had a few too many with the rest of the crew and a fight ensued, over a girl of course.  The next day nobody said anything.  The war in the skies made everyone very superstitious–or paranoid.  Since then, they didn’t say a thing before they made it past the channel. 

“Alright, get to your stations.”  Ben, the navigator’s voice was heard over the radio.  

The waist gunners, Timmy and Thom jumped up first and manned their guns.  James, the flight engineer got up lazily and walked towards Walter. 

“Ready Walt?”  He asked.  He operated the controls to the ball turret.  Maneuvering the hatch on the aluminum coffin for Walter.  

“Ready as I’ll ever be I suppose.”  Walter replied.  He adjusted the electric heated gloves and his oxygen mask before popping the hatch open. 

James held out the small parachute for Walter with an inquisitive look. 

“I’m not wearing that, just no room in there.”  Walter said.  “We go through this every time Jimmy.” 

“No room for a chute, but room for your pistol?”  James asked.  He pointed to the M1911A-1 in Walter’s leather shoulder harness.  This one made by Ithaca.  Walter felt lucky by this, as most of the others in the squadron got one made by a company that made typewriters. 

“This is stupid, Jimmy.  For the last time, quit doing this.”  Walter answered, going through the motions for the 13th time. 

“Exactly, just humor me.”  James replied.

Irritated, Walter decided to take the parachute.  James looked at him wide eyed.  Recreating this for every flight had to be the strangest superstition, yet Walter decided not to play along.  He slipped the straps over his shoulders and positioned the small pack above his chest.  

“Thanks Jimmy, you’re a real peach.”  Walter said.  He stepped into the stirrups at the front of the ball turret and crouched in.  With his knees positioned high around his tucked head, he closed the hatch and maneuvered the joystick to test the turret’s range of motion.  The parachute got in the way of everything.  Including his line of sight.  Maybe breaking Jimmy’s habit wasn’t the best idea.

“Lock and load.”  The pilot, Capt. Pierce, said over the radio.  He took too much to the Army way of doing things so he was never called by his first name.  Walter reached up awkwardly for the cable that worked the action for his Browning .50cal machine guns.  He tried once to cock the guns by the charging handles but gave himself an awful cramp for the rest of that flight.  Since then he just used the cables.  

-tollocsch-clack-  -tollocsch-clack- 

“Test fire.”  Capt. Pierce said over the radio. 

Walter placed his finger gingerly over the trigger. His hands held high above his head, he fired the machine guns towards the earth below.

-thum-    -thut-thut-thut-thut-   -thut-thut-thut-thut- 

“Port waist checks.”

“Starboard waist checks.”

“Tail checks.”

“Ball turret checks.”  Walter radioed.  He focused on his sight, and ignored the rest of the crew checking in.  The guns ran like, well… typewriters.  Functioned every time. 

Hours passed uneventfully.  The escorts turned back to England.  Cologne was due to arrive at some point.  A bridge needed to be destroyed near the cathedral so accuracy was of the utmost importance.  They never go down without a fight.  

Walter felt a concussion shock the turret.  He turned towards the left side of the turret and saw the black cloud.  More shock waves shook the bomber.  Walter wasn’t worried because the turret was pretty tough.  Most of the time when a B-17 landed with the wheels up, the ball turret would either compress as a unit into the fuselage or would put enough strain on the plane that it broke its back– so to speak.  The flak would have to hit Walter directly for him to notice beyond the jarring.  

The high pitched roar of the ME-109 speeding by.  Voices on the radio shouted furiously.  The thunder of guns resonated over the humming engines.  Flak popped around the aluminum and armored glass, encapsulating Walter.  Almost cutthroat for them to fill the sky with lead when their own birds were in the air.  He found an ME-109 in his sites and squeezed the trigger. 

-thum-    -thut-thut-thut-thut-   -thut-thut-thut-thut-  -thut-thut-thut-thut- 

The plane in the site began to smoke out the back.  Walter followed it as far as the turret would allow and let it go.  No use in wasting all his ammo on one that got away. 

A shell exploded and shook the bomber more than normal.  Capt. Pierce was shouting in the radio telling everyone to hang on.  His voice muffled by the wailing engines.  Walter tuned it all out as he watched the wing slowly fall back to earth.  

Still a fortress, but will no longer fly.  

“I can’t control her, bail out!”  Capt. Pierce shouted frantically into the radio.

Walter felt the force of the bomber pressing him against the hatch.  He spun the turret around, he would fall head first once he could open it.  A flash of intense, brilliant white light blinded Walter but he made his way out the hatch into the frigid air.  Completely disoriented, he felt himself falling.  Clutching the small pack at his chest, he searched for the ripcord.  It was somewhere, if only he could find it.  Blinded by the light, he clutched the metal handle and pulled.

Walter awoke in a white room.  The walls were brightly lit, enough that Walter could not quite make out the dimensions of the room.  Hanging on them were screens.  Like television or movie screens, and there were dozens of them.  None of them were showing any motion pictures.  Only snow.  A single chair was placed in the middle of the room with all the screens circling.  

“Hello Walter.”  A voice with a thick German accent said from behind.  Two men were walking towards him when Walter turned to look.  Had he been captured?  “You might be wondering what this place is.”

The German man looked to be in his 60s.  He had graying hair and thick horn rimmed glasses. His attire was impeccable.  Shined shoes, a blue tweed coat with a starched white shirt.  He had on a matching fedora with a red, knit tie that was tied in an elaborate knot.  He topped everything off with a scrimshaw pipe.  The aromatics were just beginning to make their way towards Walter. 

“Corporal Walter Jennings, United States Army Air Corps.  Service number 37945–” Walter began.  He must have been captured by the Germans, and there was only one acceptable response.

“You weren’t captured… Not in that sense.”  The German man interrupted.  “Aren’t you wondering where you are?” 

“Corporal Walter Jennings, United States Army Air Corps.  Service number 37945–” Walter began again. 

“The last one went on like that too.”  The other man, interrupted.  Scribbling copiously into his notebook.  His voice was fitting, squeaky.  He was a dwarf.  Though not that Walter was all that big to begin with; at 5’4″ he was almost tall for a ball turret gunner.  This man’s head was a tad too large for his body, and his eyes seemed too large for his bald head.  “No patterns yet but interesting.”  

“The last one?  Who else did you capture?” Walter asked.

“Someone else made it? Who else did you capture?”

“There are others? Who else did you capture?”  

“I’m not telling you s— until you tell me who else you captured.”

Walter looked around and saw that a few of the screens had turned on.  He saw only himself in the white room in the screens. 

“What is this place?” Walter asked.


“Where am I?”

“Where did you take me?”

“You Krauts better start talking.”

They weren’t repeating him, but they all seemed to be in the same situation.  

“Let me explain.”  The German man began.  “You and I aren’t really at war.”

“Come again?” Walter asked.

“Excuse me?”


“You have got to be s—ing me, Kraut.”

“I like how the one from Gamma will stir the pot.”  The dwarf said.  “This is very interesting.”

Walter looked around the room some more.  Only 4 of the screens were on, they all showed himself, confused and enraged. 

“Where you just were you might have been at war with Germany.  It’s not so where I was.”  The German explained.   “I’m not really even German.”  He continued, with his accent thick as ever.

“You could’ve fooled me”. Walter replied.



“Now he tells me.”

“What are we then?  Travelers. Of time and space.  We just don’t know to what extent.”  The German man took a puff of his scrimshaw pipe.  “That’s why we need you, to understand the consequence of our meddling nature.”  

“Basically, we need to see what happened when we removed or replaced an inconsequential person from the fabric of time and space…”  The dwarf began to explain.

“Inconsequential?”  Walter repeated, feeling more than a little insulted.

“A big word for unimportant.”

“What makes you so d— important?”

“Be very careful what you say next, Kraut.”

“Perhaps the wrong word. You are actually quite remarkable.”  He began circling around Walter.  “In the infinite nature that is the fabric of time and space, you don’t actually amount to anything.  In your realm Capt. Pierce will be elected to the Senate.  Timmy and Thom become prominent business partners.  Even your friend Jimmy will work for an engineering firm that builds highways.”  The German man explained. 

“And what about me?”  Walter asked.

“About me?”

“And me?”


The other screens echoed the question.  Walter looked around at them and saw they looked equally confused.

“You?  Well…”  The German settled back in front of Walter, and trailed off his words…

“You put the parachute on wrong.”  The dwarf explained. “In fact if you look at the screens, only 4 realms exist where you live to to get to that point.  Most of them you were taken by swinging into the shallow end of a lake.”

“Yes.”  The German puffed the pipe once again. “This is why we took you here to the Junction, to measure the consequence of our meddling.”  He puffed again.  Grey smoke filled the air.  “You are remarkable in that you didn’t achieve anything at all throughout the fabric of time and space.” 

“I live only to fail to achieve anything huh?”  Walter asked.

“Now you’ve..”

“…gone done…”

“…pissed me off, Kraut.” 

Walter reached for the shoulder harness where his Ithaca M1911-A1 rested.  He lifted the leather flap and felt the cool steel fill his hand.  In one swift motion he maneuvered the pistol in front of him and smoothly pulled back the slide, loading the first round.  

-click-clack-  Walter began to ease back the featherweight trigger.

“I thought you took all of his survival equipment.”  The German said to the dwarf.

“How am I supposed to know that is a weapon?”  The dwarf asked.

–bang– –bang– –bang–

The shots echoed trough the white room.  The screens on the seamless walls shook but did not fall. The dwarf dropped his notes and covered his ears.  The German man looked down at himself and found his pristine tweed jacket was now bloodied.  He touched gently at the wounds, confused at the damage caused by Walter’s unfamiliar weapon.  His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell to the flawless white floor.  Dropping the beautifully carved scrimshaw pipe across the floor, with the smoldering, sweet scented tobacco trailing behind it. 

Walter grabbed the dwarf by the collar.  He slammed the small man on a snowy screen and placed the muzzle of his pistol on the dwarf’s chest. 

“It’s not what you think!”  The dwarf pleaded.

“No? Do tell.”  Walter replied.


“Sure it is…”  -bang-

“Convince me.”


Both men turned to look at the screen where Walter held dwarf’s limp body.  

“He’s right Walter, it’s not what you think at all.”  Walter stopped at the sound of the thick, familiar accent.  He turned to look and found the German man crouched at his double.  He was still impeccably dressed, only this time he wore a brown tweed coat.  He picked up the scrimshaw pipe and stood back up.  He nodded towards the dwarf.  

“Make note of his reaction.  Walter, we took you to the Junction to give you another chance.  You are the control in our experiment.  You achieved nothing–not yet.  We don’t know how much can be altered by doing this, which is why we chose you.  Someone who had virtually no impact on the fabric of time and space on their own.  Imagine the damage we would do if it was another, less remarkable member of the crew, but you–are a blank slate. 

The dwarf, still held up by his collar against the snowy screen, clicked a brass cuff around Walter’s wrist.


Walter woke up to the droning hum of the B-17s engines.  The crew sat waiting, silent as always. 

“Alright, get to your stations.”  Ben, the navigator’s voice was heard over the radio.  

The waist gunners, Timmy and Thom jumped up first and manned their guns.  James, the flight engineer got up lazily and walked towards Walter.

“Ready Walt?”  He asked.  He operated the controls to the ball turret.  Maneuvering the hatch on the aluminum coffin for Walter.  

“Ready as I’ll ever be I suppose.”  Walter replied.  He adjusted the electric heated gloves and his oxygen mask before popping the hatch open. 

James held out the small parachute for Walter with an inquisitive look.  Walter paused before answering.