The project leads asked for volunteers, and every single scientist, engineer, and assistant associated with the project responded. The lead, with a certain amount of dark yet geeky gallows humor, called the maneuver “Operation Broomstick.”

Each volunteer was dressed in similar conservative clothes and given a briefcase with papers and a laptop. All text was encoded; the true piece of information in either one stack of papers or on one laptop (not even the volunteers knew for sure) and the rest meaningless lorem ipsum gibberish. The only means of communication was an encoded signal, routed through military-grade encryption, that could be sent from any computer terminal.

All it communicated was that the volunteer in question was still active and had not been captured.

On the appointed day, the volunteers began slipping away from the Institute one or two at a time. All they knew was that a friendly contact had been ordered to seek them out, and that they were to lay low and avoid contact with anyone, from the other side or not. Moments after the last volunteer slipped away, Dr. Vollmer–the project lead–locked himself in his office and overdosed on the sleeping pills that had been issued to everyone.

Things couldn’t have gone well. Every time Hays sent his signal, he could see that more and more of the 108 volunteers had not reported in. By the time he arrived at the run-down Canadian border crossing in The Angle, he was the only one left. He was a wreck, mentally and physically.

And the worst part? He had no idea if the briefcase he carried had the fruits of the time travel research or simply meaningless gibberish for which he was to give his life.

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