Early 21st Century Lawndale

Daria and Jane were sitting at a table at the Zon, halfway through a couple of Ultra-Colas and a bowl of pretzels. "The Flying Scotsmen" had just finished their set and was taking a break.

"The bagpipes were okay, I guess," Daria said, "But did the bassist really have to try juggling that claymore?"

"At least it wasn't the kind that goes boom," Jane replied. "I hope that he can still play with that big bandage wrapped around his hand, though." She took another sip of Ultra and jerked a thumb across the room. "Hey, have you noticed those two over in the corner?"

Daria eyes followed Jane's thumb over to where two men were sitting. Daria had indeed noticed them earlier when she and Jane entered the club, but her mind was too occupied with next week's history assingment to pay them any real attention.

But as she gave them a closer glance, she could see what Jane was talking about. They were both too old to frequent a club like the Zon, one by ten years and the other by at least twenty. Their dress was way out of style, with the younger one wearing blue pants and a green turtleneck shirt that hadn't been popular since the early '70s. The older one was stranger still, wearing a gray tweed suit cut in a style that hadn't been around for almost a hundred years.

The noise level in the Zon kept Daria from overhearing any of their conversation, but every once in a while one or the other would stop and stare in the distance - like they were looking at something way in the distance, or maybe even in another time. Mr. DeMartino would look like that, sometimes, when he thought no one was watching him.

"Tony, I know it's been a long time," the older man said, "But you've got to keep your spirits up. Ann and the General haven't given up on us, and we can't give up either. They'll bring us home."

Tony nursed his beer. "I know, Doug," he replied to the older man, "but we've bounced around so much that sometimes I wish that they'd just stop and leave us in the Gold Rush or somewhere. Some of those eras really weren't so bad when someone wasn't trying to kill us." He put down his drink and dug into his pocket. "Let's go. I've got this one."

Doug grabbed his arm. "Aren't you taking a chance with that?"

"Well, I'm pretty sure that this is one eras where it's legal." Tony pulled it out of his pocket and placed it on the table. "Either way, it's more than enough to cover our drinks." Tony worked up a smile. "Lets go. They're overdue for a transfer, and we want to be out of the public when they do."

Doug laughed "Yeah, if anyone sees us, our disappearances'll probably wind up on that tv show we saw over the bar earlier. A walk'll do me good anyway." They got up and left.

1972 - 800 stories under the Arizona desert:

General Heywood Kirk stepped off the elevator into the main Tunnel chamber. Dr. Ann McGregor could tell by the stricken expression on his face what had happened; she knew that this day was coming ever since Senator Clark had lost re-election. It was ironic that Leroy Clark had gone from Project Tic-Toc's fiercest critics to its staunchest defender - he had done as much to keep Douglas Phillips and Anthony Newman alive as anyone working these past four years in the Time Tunnel project; but their political protection was gone, and the money was being cut off.

"So, General," Dr. McGregor said with a snort, "How much…time…did they give us?"

"We're lucky, if you can call it that," Kirk replied. "The Senate wanted to pull the plug immediately. I managed to talk them into giving us another week."

"So we have seven days to save Doug and Tony, or not at all," Dr. Raymond Swain said, emerging from behind a console with a circuit board in his hands.

General Kirk turned up and gazed at the maw of the Time Tunnel, formidable looking even in standby mode, and watched its concentric rings blink on into infinity. After a moment, he resolutely turned to McGregor, Swain, and the rest of the Tunnel team. "If we only have a week, we'd better get started. Ann, what kind of fix do we have on Doug and Tony right now?"

After a few minutes of frantic work, two curved bus bars slid into the Tunnel opening, and a holographic image floated in midair. The image showed Doug and Tony sitting at a table in some kind of nightclub, and for once, the boys seemed to be enjoying a period of relative peace, thought the General, with no kind of battle or calamity raging around them. But the clock was ticking, and time was suddenly one thing they didn't have a lot of.

"Fix is strong, General," Dr. Swain said. "We can make a transfer at any time."

"Go ahead and start the countdown," replied the General. "We can't worry about what civilians may see."

The Time Tunnel's chronal generators roared into life, drawing their power from the nuclear reactor beneath the complex. "Ten..nine..eight..seven.." the count went smoothly.

Suddenly, with four seconds left, the image broke up. "Damn!" Dr. McGregor said.

"How's the fix?" shouted the General, trying to make himself over the Tunnel's roar.

Swain checked his console. "Still strong! We can make the transfer!"

"Are you sure? Without visual…" Ann yelled.

"Do it! My responsibility!"

As the count hit zero, crashes of thunder, lightning and sparks filled the Tunnel opening, and ozone filled the air.

Early 21st Century Lawndale

As the men left their table, Daria noticed something strange that they left behind. She went over to take a closer look.

"Scavenging tips?" quipped Jane. "I thought you had a bigger allowance than that."

"Look at this Jane," Daria said, motioning her over.

"What? Wha-?" Jane said, standing beside Daria and following her gaze. "Is that real?"

"It appears to be," Daria said, awe in her voice, picking it up and turning it over in her fingers. "A Spanish doubloon. A real gold doubloon."

"Okay, okay," Tony said to Doug as they re-entered the Zon. "I'll get my doubloon back. I just hope they don't take a close look at your 2020 paper money."

Doug grabbed Tony's arm. "I was afraid of that," he said, pointing to the two girls at their former table. "We'd better go. I'm not in the mood to answer any questions."

Before they could turn to discreetly leave, Daria and Jane vanished.

"My God," Tony whispered. "The Tunnel must have thought that was us!"

Two American teenagers are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments on America's greatest and most secret project, the Time Tunnel. Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time.