Well, it's Wednesday, and I'm not quite finished with the promised initial chapter of this version. But it's not for want of thought. I had to get some help from my sci-fi/fantasy reading friends, because as a writer/reader of serious HF I'm not used to coming up with plot devices that allow for timeslipping into as many places and times that would free the premise up for different interests in time and place to contribute in a meaningful way.
And I couldn't write a first chapter until I had that worked out, or the whole thing turns into gibberish and isn't worth anybody's time, let alone experienced writers like EC, who has so graciously agreed to play.
So I took a page from EC's Akashic research and came up with the following. Sorry if this seems presumptuous, but anybody can start anything else if they like it better.
My first chapter will be based on this premise of why the characters are timeslipping:
Ella does not know it, but because in her lifetime she has personally visited enough places where people have worshipped through the ages, (I am purposely leaving this religion-unspecific; the power comes from the worship that people have imbued the places with) she has acquired a critical level of ‘magnetic resonance’ from exposure to them. These places include Macchu Picchu, Stonehenge, the temple foundations in Jerusalem, Mecca, the Buddhas at Bamiyan, Varanasi (Benares) on the Ganges, Karnak in Egypt, Rome, the Taoist holy mountain of Tai Shan in China, anywhere enough people have worshipped long enough to accumulate 'vibes'.
This background is because she is the daughter of a Marine Officer assigned to the state department (Marines guard the US embassies worldwide) with a passion for history and culture, who always took his family to visit great historic places nearby. (leaves room for siblings with the same background to enter the story as needed)
Jon has done the same, being raised as the kid of an international oil-company worker. He is from a secular Jewish background with a Lithuanian mother and a Moroccan Jewish father, has an engineering degree and is ostensibly freelancing for small oil companies himself, but has really been an undercover agent for the Mossad (Israeli secret service, reputed to be the most efficient in the world) with whom he is now in trouble. He has just figured out that the stone and his background combined are why he is getting randomly timeslipped in his pursuit of the bad guy, and that the chunk of rock the bad guy wants has something to do with it.
The stone: this is a piece of rock with cuneiform scratches that has been broken. Originally the size of a deck of cards, the larger part is with Dimitri, a sociopath dealer in antiquities who inherited it from --- ? Dimitri’s business is messed up because until he reunites the pieces of the stone, he can only move himself, which means he cannot bring money-making antiquities back with him.
However, at some point in the past it was broken. Even though it is broken, when one part of the stone timeslips, the rest goes with it to the same time and place.
Dimitri still has the larger piece, which allows him to timeslip physically with a limited degree of control but some wild cards. One of the wild cards is a high-pressure weather system, which is matched in the time and place where he lands. But he can, with limitations, come back to the present.
Jon has acquired a smaller piece, (how?) which is enough to cause somebody with sufficient soul-resonance to timeslip only mentally, so their soul has to ‘share’ the body of somebody else from the time. He discovered this inadvertently while chasing Dimitri down for one of his many crimes. Jon has figured that it has to do with the stone only because Dimitri is so eager to get it from him. Now Jon’s goal is to track down Dimitri and get his piece too.
Alex, somebody’s pet grey parrot who happened to be around at the time the stone was broken, gobbled up the last bit for a gizzard-stone (seed-eating birds keep stones in their stomachs to help them break up and digest food.) Because his body has so little mass (320 grams, under a pound) and his soul is so uncluttered, Alex also physically timelips. Alex has become attached to Jon.
Jon just realizes that Ella is one of the few individuals who has been to enough places of human worship to have also gained sufficient magnetic resonance. The combination of Jon, Ella, the parrot and the stone almost equals Dimitri’s power.
Dimitri is a smallish individual of no great physical strength with little clout in the present. In the past he is more likely to be able to retrieve both Jon’s piece and Alex’s bit (death for poor parrot, the only way to get the stone out of his gizzard) and meld the stone back together. When he timeslips, Jon and Alex go too.
At the start of the book, Jon wants to keep Dimitri in the present, where he has the best hope of getting him. Jon's only use for the stone is as a means to stay linked with Dimitri until he can bring him to justice for his many and heinous crimes, one of which killed some member of Jon’s family. After that is accomplished, he hopes to bust it into so many smithereens that it can no longer be used to timeslip.
Dimitri can’t timeslip unless the other pieces of the stone are in the same high-pressure weather system. This can be about ten miles.
When Dimitri timeslips, the other bits of the stone go to the same place, same time. Any people with sufficient magnetic resonance who are close enough to the stone (read Jon and, to the dismay of all, now Ella) get yanked along mentally, to land in some handy body of the time and place. Alex goes too, and he can sense the ‘moderns’ no matter whose body they inhabit.
When they arrive in a new time and place, everybody is disoriented and does not know where the others are. Alex is always the most mobile and the most able to make connections. He does not like Dimitri, for very obvious reasons: Dimitri last got his hands on the parrot and tried to wring his neck to get at the stone. Only by great struggle did Alex get free.
The separate pieces of the stone somehow enable those connected to identify each other, not without difficulty. Dimitri always looks like himself, which enable Jon / Ella to identify him pretty quickly.
Ella has to persuade whatever woman whose body she wakes up sharing (“Am I going crazy? Why do I feel like somebody else is in my head!”
to do whatever is necessary to get them out of the current crisis. Ditto Jon, who always lands in a male persona. Neither modern can control the borrowed body without the hosts consent. They have the option of keeping silent and remaining unknown to their host. Except for trying to explain a random bit of stone and a strangely attentive small grey parrot.
Their own bodies remain in the present and they come back to them at the same time/place where they left (at least, that's what happened to Jon the last time, and he hopes that is what will occur for Ella), but if their soul is in a body that gets killed when they are sharing, their own body in the present becomes brain-dead. (how do they know this?)
Okay, now I am working on the short (!) introductory chapter. Since I prefer to 'show not tell' I'm not going to get all that into the chapter. I know I suggested our protags meet while hiking in New Zealand, but since I haven't been to New Zealand and haven't time to the research, they're going to be hiking in Yosemite. I believe in the adage, 'write what you know'. Look for the new thread, A Time to Gather Stones
. (I had to edit this. My daughter looked in, saw my fun alliterative thread title, declared it sounded like a children's book, and suggested the latter, a line from Ecclesiastes. She's better at titles than I am.
Volgadon said he would do Dimitri.
Ella is going to wake up somewhere else. Where and who is up to the next person who picks up from there. Are there any volunteers?