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Chapter One

New Arrival

Dr. Alastair Hammond approached the front door. He’d been here before and recognized both the exterior of the house and the surrounding neighbourhood. He cautiously walked past the blue luxury car on the driveway, daring to believe that this time he’d finally achieved his dream. This time, they’d be here and his long painful quest would be over. As he drew closer to the door, he didn’t hear any voices coming from inside the house but wasn’t overly concerned. The members of his family could be out somewhere for the moment. His hand was trembling as he reached for the door handle. He took a deep breath as he gently turned the handle and eased open the door. The room looked the same as it had done the last time he’d been here. The framed photographs displayed on the wall and on top of the oak cabinet also appeared to be identical to the ones he’d seen on his previous visit. Yet to his dismay, the photographs of him and his wife looked to have been taken several years earlier. His children were also shown at the age when they’d been tragically taken from him. No wonder there had been no voices inside the house. They weren’t here. He’d failed again.

“Dr. Hammond,” a voice whispered in his ear.

He felt the familiar sensation of dizziness as the room began to shimmer and shift around him before the usual burst of light appeared and he was back in the laboratory at the clinic. He was lying on the bed, connected to a number of machines that had been closely monitoring his vital signs. His loyal assistant, Dr. Suzanne Bethany, was standing at the side of the bed as she carefully uncoupled some of the tubes and cables.

“How was it this time?” she asked.

Hammond exhaled.

“It was the same as before, well almost. The car on the driveway was different and the house seemed that way at first too, but once I was inside, the photographs were the same as they were the other times.”

He sat up on the bed as Bethany handed him a glass of water. She was in her mid-forties, tall and slim with dark brown hair cut in a bob. She had a habit of wearing her dark-framed glasses perched on the edge of her nose. She’d been with Hammond for many years, and unlike his former colleagues in the medical profession, she shared his vision and his firm belief in the existence of parallel realities.

“Thank you,” he said, accepting the water and downing it in a few gulps.

He ran his fingers through his thick gray hair. He was also only in his mid-forties but the stress of losing his family and his subsequent struggle to find them, while simultaneously rebuilding his professional career, had taken its toll on Hammond’s appearance. His face was deeply lined and he looked almost ten years older than he actually was.

Bethany smiled and gently touched his arm.

“You know, we could take a break for a while. You’ve been at this nonstop for three months now. I know we got such a great lead from Kendall but we can always wait, allow your body some time to fully recover before we try again.”

Hammond shook his head.

“No, not when I feel that we’re this close. I have to find them.”