1603 EST(+5) - Thursday
Exercising. The ribs are pretty well re-knit, even if this facility’s tech for such things is a generation behind the last stuff Father was using (on the other hand, they probably lost a lot fewer test subjects to bone cancer while developing it).
Need to get / keep muscles in tone. Being fit is one of the key talents I have to offer in the field, even if I’m no physical match for half the team.
I’m really tired of being here, esp. after my discussion with Parker about getting out. But “planning” takes “time” and apparently there are individuals who must sign off on things before the Dread Alycia Chin can be on a longer leash. (Yes, I got to go to the library again, be still my heart, to apologize profusely to Daph and offer to make the final draft of the report she’s already largely crafted, which is as close to hell as I want to get.)
“Miss Chin,” comes Parker’s voice over the intercom. “Your friends have come stopped by to visit one of our other guests. Would you care to join them?”
Is the Pope the head of a vast global conspiracy? “I’ll be right there,” I reply, and start swapping out shirts.
1619 EST(+5) - Thursday
We’re in a monitoring room, on another level of the secure area. My keepers let me be inside without their presence (gracious of them).
Charlotte and Harry – excuse me, I try to use code names when they’re in uniform (which only applies to one of them) or we’re on official business (both), so Ghost Girl and Mercury – are there, watching the monitors.
Harry’s nibbling on a pink-frosted cupcake. “Nibbling” involves taking micro-bites at high speed, so that the cupcake seems to slowly erode, as if he were using a power grinder. He starts when I come in.
“Um – these are yours.”
I raise an eyebrow.
“From Adam. He … brought cupcakes. For people.”
“‘I was in prison, and ye came unto me … with cupcakes.’”
Charlotte stifles a giggle. She catches the reference.
“Never mind.” I glance down. They look homemade “Do you know how much refined sugar and bleached flour those things have?”
“Uh … not enough?”
“You should eat some,” Charlotte says, in her soft, hollow lilt. “Help you put on some weight again. You got banged up pretty good.”
I shrug, and it only twinges a bit. “I’m fine. I – shush, they’re going in.”
The room we are in is small, lit primarily by the large screen in front of us. On the main portion of the screen is the image of a cell, admittedly less comfortable than my own. The strangely-decorated feline cybersuit of the time-traveling Vector is there. The room and the restraints on him are all designed to drain his power. That he’s still in his outfit tells me that it is, in fact, cybernetics, actually a part of him in some life-supporting fashion. AEGIS would be reluctant to screw with that, especially if it were from the future.
In the hall (on another fraction of the screen), two AEGIS agents are opening up the door for Link and Concord. I know they have talked with Vector before, since the guy showed up at Jason’s place (and my “welcome” into the group) and tried to steal the Heart Factory (I shudder slightly) and blow us all up. I am just as happy to let that pair question Vector. They’ll both be, more or less, Good Cops.
Am I willing to tag in as Bad Cop? The man tried to blow me up. I am willing to break a few rules. Or fingers.
Regardless, it’s useful for me to watch Leo, to watch Adam (outside a stressful situation) and to watch the time traveler.
I am also just as glad to not be in the room with Leo. Sooner or later Summer will tell him of our conversation. Knowing him to the extent I do, I suspect he will not take it with aplomb. Better to watch and listen to him, too.
1625 EST(+5) - Thursday
Adam hands him some cupcakes and cookies on a paper plate. Vector wolfs them down. Maybe they have more of a tolerance for refined sugar in the future.
They exchange pleasantries.
1629 EST(+5) - Thursday
The TL;DR of the conversation: Link proposes going to the future with Vector (and as many of us as want to go) to meet with Vector’s boss, the mysterious “Bot,” and be convinced his cause before turning over a copy of the Heart Factory.
This is all very fraught with opportunity and risk to my eye.
1. There is no “the” future. Quantum physics makes it clear that the future is a blur of possibilities, as is the present – it’s just that our individual perspectives collapse that blur down into a more-or-less consensual reality. Space and time are tied together like that – thus the parallel “Sepiaverse” with its own (late) Alycia Chin, over whose her father helped destroy the world.
The future is much the same, probability clouds collapsing as decision trees branch off, ad infinitum, though not an infinite myriad as realities too similar blur back into each other (so-called Butterfly Effect notwithstanding), but enough that the best we can hope for (and most probable) is to shoot up the causality chain to the particular future Vector came back along.
2. It’s also possible that this trip is across parallel worlds, not directly up the chain from ours. Since we are traveling point to point, does that make significant difference?
Yes, if I want to cheat and find out about what’s yet to come.
I know, I know, time travelers should never learn about their future. Not only does introducing knowledge of the future to the past usually lead to the future never happening, but (per innumerable bad “science fiction”), emotionally it’s dangerous to know what’s going to happen to you.
Frankly, I’ve never bought that. Intel is intel. Knowing what’s to come arms you for it, lets you divert it, or mitigate it, or prepare for it in some fashion. What, ignorance is better?
Similarly, if I can pick up the secret for free and safe energy from the future, why would I not bring that back and benefit the present? Free the world from 83.7% of its conflict? How would it be wrong to do that? (And, potentially, be set for life financially, but that’s purely secondary; money is a necessary evil to fight the corruption of this world.)
3. I might be able to access the Heart Factory, and perhaps learn more about Leo’s plans, Summer’s programming, etc. That, alone would be worth the danger of whatever we face. No concrete plans here – in fact, depending on whether Leo was bringing it along, or plans for one, or whatever, it might or might not be practical. But it’s definitely something to keep an eye open for.
1643 EST(+5) - Thursday
At some point I realize I’m eating one of the cupcakes.
It’s dismayingly good. I’ll have to thank Adam.
(I’d have to thank him anyway, per social conventions, and to address not the product but the gesture. That the cupcakes are so tasty and yet so overprocessed means that thanking him will be in spite of myself.)
1703 EST(+5) - Thursday
Vector is a bit surprised that Leo (let alone Leo’s team mates) are going along. Actually, he seems surprised that AEGIS is going to free him … and imminently, as the next window for the time jump occurs in just a few hours.
Leo and Adam exit and join us a few minute later. We figure we’ve a limited amount of time before our AEGIS handlers join us – and, given the shout of incredulity I heard through the wall when Leo announced his plans, I don’t expect it will be to congratulate us and wish us a bon voyage.
Harry is not at all in favor of this plan. “I’m a speedster,” he explains. “I’ve gotten the talk from Dad about not screwing around with time travel a dozen times. This is a really bad idea.”
In the end he comes around. Of course. It’s Harry.
Adam notes that, since we’re traveling to the future, not the past, his father’s warnings about not changing anything don’t apply. He’s all in favor.
Charlotte looks thoughtful. “I’m sure,” she says, “it will be terribly interesting. Who knows who we might meet?”
Me? “As long as I have a chance to get kitted up, I am definitely in.”
1722 EST(+5) - Thursday
As expected, Parker and Waters come in a few minutes later. Parker looks dyspeptic. Waters just looks pained. “So what’s your plan here?” he asks.
Leo replies, “We’re going to contact the future, effect some change, and come back to the present.” He says it as matter-of-factly as announcing he’s going down to the grocery store for a jumbo bag of crisps. Chips.
Parker notes, “Which requires letting out a known breaker of the peace.”
“Well” I tell her, “since we’re the ones he was going to kill, I think we have something to say about that.”
Link backs me up. “We’re also the ones who handed him over to you guys. And now we’re going to remove him from the board by returning him home.”
“I’m all into removing a bad guy from the board,” Waters says, “But why go into the future to do it?”
“The opportunity,” I say. “The chance to obtain priceless infomration, technology, opportunities to forestall or plan for disasters --”
“I am very opposed to bringing htat sort of information back,” Mercury retorts. I wonder if that’s why he’s agreed to go, to make sure that I – that we don’t.
“Even if that’s not your real reason,” Waters continues, “this sort of activity might draw the attention of Dr. Infinity.”
That gives everyone a half-moment of pause. Dr. Infinity is a wild card, a creature of massive power – with a clear passion to preserve the timeline. Many people would consider that the sign of a hero, save that Infinity considers all other factors – including avoiding massive collateral damage in human life – to be of distant secondary importance to that goal.
I’m pretty sure I don’t want to go toe-to-toe with Dr. Infinity. I can’t even handle –
I shake my head. We also can’t afford to let the possibility of Infinity control our actions. We’ll deal with her when it comes to that.
Everyone else on the team looks at least a bit daunted at the prospect – save Ghost Girl, who’s looking … thoughtful.
“I believe this is the right course,” Link says, with remarkable conviction. “And I think it’s in the best interests of both my family, my team … and AEGIS.”
Parker and Waters look like they’re considering it, and I move to close the deal. “These people are going to keep sending attacks from the future,” I say. “The next time, people might be actually hurt. And our best odds of dealing with it is pursuing Leo’s plan – as a team.”
The latter part feels lame, but I suspect making hopeful puppy-dog eyes at Parker will not have the desired effect.
Waters lets out a deep sigh. “Well, we’d be more comfortable if this were the HHL, and this kind of thing needs approval from a higher authority, but – we’ll sell it.”
Parker looks as though someone has told her she’ll have to swallow a frog, but she doesn’t say anything, which I take as a positive sigh. I smile at her.
1745 EST(+5) - Thursday
I don’t care for action movies. I find most popular mass media entertainment dreadfully boring, unrealistic, and overwrought. (I find most art-house small-scale entertainment to be pretentious and self-indulgent. I do like a limited number of reality TV shows. More on that some other time.)
There is a particular trope in action movies which seems to span cultures – American, Indian, Chinese, whatever. It is the “gear-up,” wherein the hero(es) goes to a gun locker / chest / hidden closet and starts strapping on weapons vests, holsters, grenades, pistols, throwing knives, stabbing knives, nunchaku, machine guns, shotguns, sticks of dynamite, swords, chain guns, rocket launchers, lawn darts, etc.
Sometimes (if it’s a major star) you will see their face. Often, the camera is too focused on loving close-ups of the weaponry, to a swelling / militaristic sound-track.
As I said, I don’t care for action movies. I have moved in circles, though, where they are highly popular, even among actual soldiers who should know much better. I’ve seen a more-than-representative sample
That is all a prelude to finding myself actually doing something dismayingly similar, gearing up there in the AEGIS labs with the various bits of equipment that we’ve crafted over the last few weeks. Light body armor and costume. Guns in their holsters. Clips of different ammo attached just so. Tactical items like flashlight and knife and the like, as well as a couple of gadgets of my own devising. Stun batons, of course. Gloves (another set I put together, not the ones Charlotte took off my hands, so to speak).
No stirring martial music, but I’m fine with that.
Everything’s as light-weight as possible, and after all the retailoring the team and I have done, it moves remarakbly well.
Putting everything on gives me some ideas of rework to speed up the process. Next time.
1803 EST(+5) - Thursday
I run into Parker in the hallway on my way out. She looks me up and down like a (hypothetical) mother eyeing her daughter headed off for a first date. She makes an abortive gesture as though she were going to check one of the straps.
She clucks her tongue, nods, then looks at me with a smile. “When you get back, all should be settled for new housing for you, as well as gainful employment.”
I blink at the non sequitur. “Well. Thanks,” I say, cautiously. She’s being far too pleasant about this.
“Don’t worry – you’ll like the living accommodations. But you’ll hate the job.”
I blink again. She’s so dryly jovial that it takes me a moment to grasp what she’s saying. At last, I retort, “You make me … so enthused to return safely to the present.”
Her smile looks disturbingly familiar. I realize I’ve seen it on my own face, in the mirror and on video. “No problem. It’s my small contribution to this positively insane and asinine plan.” A raised eyebrow. “Good hunting, Miss Chin.”
She turns and clicks her way down the hall.
1815 EST(+5) - Thursday
We load up the Phoenix, Link’s newest robot / personnel carrier. Yes, that is an odd and disturbing combination, and the machine’s apparent non-human nature is even more discomforting.
On the other hand, it has room for my hover-cycle on board, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the one huffing and puffing and running behind everyone else.
The plan, such as it is, is simple. Vector needs to it a certain super-speed at the right place and the right time. Mercury can match him easily. The rest of us will be riding in a giant metal phoenix robot. Again, odd and disturbing, but – well, almost all of Leo’s little robo-clan will be along (Aria and Otto; I guess Summer couldn’t gets away from promoting Type 2 Diabetes with her “Cinnelatte®s”), so I suppose Link is confident that we’ll make it through.
1857 EST(+5) - Thursday
And, in fact, it all works swimmingly. Easy-peasy. We’re at the right place, the right time, the right speed (nap-of-the-earth, but executed beautifully), the landscape turns to stars that streak and blur, and the phoenix cries out triumphantly …
… and we’re there. Then. Wherever there and then are.
Leo and Otto pull the phoenix up away from the twilit ground, which looks to have been marked with temporary landing markers or runway lights, and, as we wheel through the air, it’s clear we’re in basically the same place, about the same distance out of Halcyon, about the same location based on where the coastline is.
But the city looks … different – taller, possibly smaller, but … darker. Foreboding. And the landscape around us is more settled and developed. America’s east coast is largely shaped by humans, but seeing it here I realize how many copses of trees and unprocessed landscape it still holds in our present.
On the ground we can see – and hear, through Mercury’s mic – the present cast of characters. To one side of the runway is a massive robotic figure, a large humanoid but with a variety of powerful limbs and weaponry hitched onto its back. The explosion of parties into the roadway on this side of the time gate causes it to step back in surprise or alarm.
“Whoa!” Vector shouts, skidding to a halt. “It’s okay, it’s okay – they just want to talk with us about it.”
Mercury is turning his speed into a broad circle to check out the surrounding countryside, even as the Phoenix completes its arc and starts coming down for a landing.
“You can’t –” says the figure, presumably the mysterious Bot. “– you brought – wait, what is that thing? Who –”
Bot pauses, then his amplified voice clearly booms out …
… “– Harry?”
author: *** Dave H.