Tension was high as we approached the palace. There wasn’t much faith in our trojan horse strategy. The Greeks hadn’t had to worry about heat signatures or life sign registers or having the horse they were riding in have to communicate with security systems. As every second passed, we couldn’t help but worry about what was going to happen. Would we be shot down? Would we be attacked by a pack of Valkyries or maybe by another Jotun? Or would ALAN’s new body just be switched off and we all plummet to our deaths? It was hard to have to sit there with no control over what happened.
But no attack came. As we approached, the gates opened and we flew in. Just like that, we were inside. Could it be possible that this plan might work after all? Could it be possible that Freyja really didn’t know that we were coming? That she didn’t know that we were here? That seemed impossible, to catch the Queen of Time unaware. I knew it happened, I’d seen it, but it was rare. But even if it were true, even if we had managed to sneak in without anyone knowing, being sneaky would only last so long. Sooner or later, we would have to abandon stealth. And with the Retched Refuse assault team with us, itching for a fight, there was no chance it would be later.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t really argue with them. There were just too many of us to continue sneaking around. I wasn’t sure if it was possible for a single person no matter how skilled to successfully make their way through the palace unseen, but I was fairly sure a couple of dozen untrained hooligans couldn’t. As strategies went, we really only had one. In this instance the assault team was in luck, it was the exact strategy they were hoping for.
As soon as as we landed, ALAN opened his doors and the assault team streamed out, shooting at anything that moved. It was long before things started shooting back. We slowly made our way out, grateful that at least for the moment the RR had taken any attention away from us. “How are we going to get to Freyja?” Doc asked as Jamal was busy frantically searching for some clue as to how to reach his daughter.
Without giving us any warning, ALAN began to transform from a transport into a gigantic monster. Instead of joining the fight, as I feared he might do, he simply marched forward right through the wall, deeper into the palace. Seeing as he had cleared us a path, we followed behind him. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before we were met by resistance, Freyja’s robotic guardsmen. And just like that our progress came to a standstill. Guards were coming from everywhere. They would overrun us in minutes! We had to do something and fast or we’d be dead! But what could we do? I searched desperately for an answer and then I saw it! “Come on! This way!”
Recalling the floor plans from a previous trip to the palace, and slightly surprised that the place was still even vaguely the same, I led Doc and Jamal down a hallway. “Matter transporter,” I said gesturing at a rounded out nook. “The future’s version of an elevator. It should take us to the throne room.”
“What are we waiting for?” Jamal demanded, pushing us in. He pressed the control button and instantly we were on the top floor.
We were in a large white room. It felt cold and sterile, as if it had been cut out of ice by robotic specifications. There were no windows to see out. There were no banners or adornments of the walls, no pictures or paintings. There was nothing to indicate anything living had ever been in here. It was the Queen’s throne room and it was exactly as she wanted it. “I’ve been waiting for you.” We turned to see Freyja lounging on her throne. It looked like it was made of pure ivory. It wasn’t.
“Where is she?” Jamal demanded, showing his teeth. “Where’s my daughter?”
Freyja gave us an icy grin. “She’s mine now. You’ll never see her again.”
“Nooooooooooooo!” Jamal roared as he lunged at her. In that moment, it would have been easy to confuse him for some enraged animal, a murderous orangutan on the loose. His roar was more beast than man. I feared him in that moment. But Freyja didn’t even bat an eyelash.
Arms rose from the floor, as if the floor itself was reaching out to grab him. I fired the pistol the RR had given me. My aim was true, but the shot slowed down a foot from her face. The energy blast now looked like a yellowish blob moving as quickly as a snail with about as much threat. Freyja flicked her wrist, dismissively, and the blob was deflected away once again a thing of energy. “Please,” she yawned. “There’s nothing you can do to me here. Not in my realm. Here, I am truly master of all.”
Then the ground began to shake and I could hear the sound of something pushing up against the floor, grinding, tearing, smashing. I glanced at Freyja, wondering what terror she had awaiting us next, but even she looked worried. Suddenly, ALAN burst from the ground. His lower body and his left side were missing, but he still had one hand to reach at Freyja with. The Queen was no longer amused.
Jamal had been knocked free of the hands when ALAN emerged and had rolled toward us. We all looked up as Freyja raised a hand a reached out toward us. “Begone!” A time portal appeared before us and began to grow. It washed over us and then we were gone!
to be continued…