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September 26, 2022

Anachronocity v4p4

By Josh Brown

History for Dummies - Part Four

Katlyn needed fresh air. Too bad, she was stuck inside a ship and stepping out for a tad bit of air would lead to certain death. She needed to think, needed to find her way through the maze of mixed emotions, thoughts, and information that seemed determined to throw her into a loop from which she couldn't escape. Fresh air always provided her with the ability to sort out everything going on in her mind.

Instead, she opted for the gym.

There, she peeled off her sweatshirt, exposing the gray tank top underneath. Her tense muscles ached relentlessly, screaming for release from the pressure of all the stress that built up in such a short time. After a few simple stretches, controlled breathing exercises, and allowing her mind to just blank out, Katlyn was ready to get to it.

She ran through a quick series of moves designed for maximum overall muscle usage, working out the kinks and warming up the tendons for the more strenuous exercises she had planned. When fresh air wasn't an option or cutting it, a good workout broke through the walls of disorder in such a way that Katlyn could usually sort through her problems and figure out solutions. Her body, so fine-tuned to the routine, almost at once took to the occasion and carried her through the Tai Chi movements with a well-practiced ease.

As her mind drifted, her thoughts and emotions easing with the tension of her muscles, Katlyn zeroed in on the problems at hand.

Before all this mess started, causes were huge in Katlyn's life. Her first encounter with Alex came because of one of those very causes, after all. Pledges for the marathon were small on the list of charitable work Katlyn had submerged herself in, but thinking like that never crossed her mind. No small causes, only small people, her mother used to always say. Big on charity, her mother tried very hard to instill the same power of desire to help those that needed the help, to right things that were wrong.

Now that Anthony summed up the history of the world in a neat little story, Katlyn couldn't help but wonder if perhaps her arrival here was, in fact, not some random accident. Could it be that the fates decided it was her duty to travel with Alex to the future in order to help right a terrible wrong that was soon to overtake her future descendants.

That gave Katlyn pause. In all the time she'd been here, she hadn't once even considered the possibility of looking up the future of the Maruimatsu family. Would it even be possible, is the question. Five hundred years is a long time to try to trace back along a family tree. Technology was better now, though--even if you couldn't tell by looking--so maybe it would be easier. She'd have to check that out later.

To make matters more provocative, Katlyn had not only been sucked into the future where there was a cause worth fighting, she'd been given a front row seat right next to the one of the biggest players in the game. Sela's offer to Katlyn to work right next to her further cemented her growing belief that none of this was coincidence. Often Katlyn believed she'd been born about twenty years too late to get in on any of the groundbreaking causes. So, perhaps, just maybe she was given this opportunity to move forward in time in order to get involved in one of the greatest causes of all. Humanity needed her, and she was willing to serve.

As Katlyn finished her routine, her body in a much greater state of relaxation--mind, body, and soul--she headed for her quarters and a shower, feeling more alive and ready to take on the universe than she'd ever felt before.

***

"Stick it in," Bethany said. "You act like you never done this before."

Teeth gritted, Alex shot a look of frustration at the teenage girl with all the answers to everything. Forcing his hands to remain steady--a goal not easily achieved at this particularly junction--proved nearly futile as Alex slid the hunk of deadly explosive into the container set out in front of him. Once secure through some miraculous outside force that prevented the inevitable mishap from blowing a hole in the side of the ship, Alex staggered away and released the lungful of air he'd been holding since his hands touched the shit.

Bethany swooned overdramatically. "So brave. By the way, those explosives require an extremely powerful surge of power in order to explode. There's zero danger in handling it."

"You little bitch!"

Blinking innocently, Bethany held her hands to her face in a mock horror that shook Alex to the core; it took everything he had to refrain from slapping her silly. Maybe his face, burning red, caused her to take it down a notch, or she just got bored with the game. Alex was inclined to believe the latter. "Relax, old timer," she said. "Just a little fun to keep the monotony away."

Fun was the furthest word from his mind. They were retrofitting missiles for some mysterious mission he wasn't allowed to know about. As he filled the next shell with explosives--still careful, but without all the agitation--the absurdity of letting him work on the missiles while not knowing what they were for ticked him off. All he wanted right now was to get working on trying to find a way back to his own time so he could be rid of this godforsaken future and these people.

Machinery in general came to him naturally. At a young age he'd made a habit out of tearing things apart and then putting them back together just for the hell of it. More than a few times it had gotten him in trouble, but that didn't deter him any. His lack of a formal education hindered his progress quite a bit, until his brother went and killed himself. Alex's need to find out what drove Daniel to such desperation gave him a purpose, a desire that pushed him through the obstacles and helped to unlock that deep inherit gift he'd had since a child.

Once he was free of "giving back to the ship" and allowed to work on his own project, he had no doubt he'd be well motivated to learn how the technologies had advanced, what he could use, and ultimately be able to figure out exactly how to get home.

Whether or not Katlyn would be returning with him, though, that remained to be seen. Last time he saw her, during their meeting with Anthony, he got the impression she might be swayed into this idiotic battle for the freedom of humanity from their alien oppressors. There was a chance she might want to stay and fight. As depressing as that thought was, his attraction to her would probably prove about as worthwhile as his attraction to most women. In other words, it was useless. Women didn't exactly understand him. Could be his lack of experience with the opposite sex, or maybe his manly brain was just too intimidating.

After filling the last container, Alex wiped his sweaty palms off on his pants and turned to Bethany. "Now what?"

***

A massive triangle made of metal that spun in a slow counterclockwise circle grew larger as the ship approached. On either side of the triangle, two enormous pillars of bright blue hovered like sentries guarding the gates of an expensive mansion.

Sela sat next to Jared on the bridge, working the auxiliary controls while Jared slowed the vessel to a near halt. In a few minutes, they'd enter communications range, and then the stress of trying to sneak an unauthorized vessel through one of the Elders' galgates would pile on. This wasn't a new experience, but one that Sela preferred to keep to the minimum, which, unfortunately, was necessary right now. Calisto, where the secret base was located, would take years to reach if they took the long way.

"How many ships are ahead of us?" Sela asked her pilot.

Jared consulted the data scrolling across his screen. "Four. We might be able to conceal the ship in the energy field of the freighter two ships ahead, but it's going to be a close call."

"Can you do it?"

Normally confidence of his skills, Jared took the time to consider. Sela didn't blame him. The importance of this mission left zero room for error, and masking one's vessel in the energy signature of another was a difficult maneuver. First, he'd have to bring this ship so close to the freighter that they'd practically be touching. If he could manage that, then he'd have to keep the ship that close as the freighter moved. One slip and it was over. Our vessel would be detected; both vessels would be frozen--mid-jump if necessary--and detained for questioning. If that happened, the entire rebellion would collapse. One of the biggest concerns all of Sela's lieutenants repeatedly voiced was her decision to keep most of the power structure of the Pure League on one ship.

"Yes," Jared said. "I can do it."

"Do it."

As Jared's hands darted over the controls, the vessel warped past the small personal ship directly ahead. Sela pressed a button on her console, activating the intercom. Before she could speak, though, Horus stepped on the bridge through the door in the back. He'd had enough sense to change his clothes, at least. She released the intercom button and turned to the large black man whose face strained with defeat.

"He won't talk," Horus said. "Any more and he'll die."

Keeping her face neutral, Sela nodded. "Send Mama down. Once you get her okay, get back to it. We're about to jump, he's secure from detection, correct?"

"Yes."

"All right, thanks." Sela turned back to the controls, eyes narrowed.

Their guest would set off about two dozen alarms as soon as they hit the galgate if he wasn't surrounded by enough power--the output from the engine--to keep him from being detected. If he were detected, their ship would be impounded immediately as this vessel was not a designated vessel for carrying people like him.

Through the window directly ahead, Sela watched as the hull of the giant freighter loomed into view. To the right of the window, she could still see one of the blue towers floating next to the galgate, but the hulking beast Jared attempted to brush up against cut off the rest of the view. The difficulty in this maneuver came with the attention needed to keep the ship as close as possible without actually touching the other vessel. Most freighter workers were trained in detecting hitchers and very few had any qualms reporting them.

"One minute until jump," Jared reported. "All looks good."

Like most time-stretching events where one minute took on the feel of one year, this was no exception. Sela sat ramrod straight in her chair, eyes jumping from window to data screen and back again. They would have exactly five seconds to react before the ship was frozen should the Interpol scans find them. In five seconds, about the only thing possible was sending out a previously prepared message to the rest of the League announcing their capture. The others would try to carry on, but the odds of any kind of success are too ridiculously low to even consider.

"Jumping," Jared said.

Everything in the ship took on a momentary psychedelic blur as the vessel passed through the galgate, hurling across time and space from one galaxy to the next. One of the rare, but necessary, Elder-produced technologies that the Pure League allowed its members to use--without them, they'd effectively be stranded in one galaxy and that would make this battle all but impossible to win.

As everything returned to its normal, unaltered state, Jared pulled the ship away from the freighter and set a course for Calisto.

"Good work," said Sela.

To be continued...
Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-05-15
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