“It’s barely been 24 hours since my last change.”
“True,” Doc admits easily before adding, “but we’re millions of years in the past, far, far away from the Box or any other technology that can hold off your instability. It’s going to become a problem sooner rather than later and in a matter of days it’s going to become a very serious problem for all of us.”
“I know that, Doc, and I’m not going to give up. I’m not giving up on going home or saving Tilly and I am damn sure not going to give up on being able to control my condition. After what you just did for Jamal, I don’t see you could doubt that we can find a way. As you’ve already proved, there’s always something we can do. Fortunately, we have ALAN and his new body is full of future tech.” I smiled as I looked at his new form, as I looked at all the equipment he had produced to save Jamal. “At the very least, he can scan me. But to be honest, between my knowledge and ALAN’s easily modifiable body, I don’t see why we can’t recreate the Quantum Stability Chamber. We should be able to have it in working order within a few days, well before my instability gets too high. I don’t see what the problem is.”
As if on cue, the earth began to shake. “Earthquake?” Doc asked.
I looked outside, as I braced myself against the wall. None of the trees appeared to be shaking. “No. The tremors seem to be only coming from this cave.”
“Coming just from this cave? How is that even possible?”
“I don’t know.” I turned back toward her, but instead I saw two two figures emerge from the shadows deeper within the cave. “Doc, get back!” I rushed in front of her to face the two approaching creatures.
The ground shook with every step they took. “Stay back!” I yelled, but they didn’t listen. They didn’t even slow down or hesitate. There would be no talking with them. I had no doubts that I could fight them, so I pulled out my gun and fired at them. The energy blasts had almost no effect, causing the creatures to merely pause for a fraction of a second before pressing forward again.
The monstrous figures came into the light and I could now see what they were. They appeared to be made of the very rock themselves! Living statues of rock and gravel!
The rock creatures came closer and closer. I had to protect Jen. I had to protect Jamal. I had no choice. I charged them! I hit one of the creatures, hard, with all my might, but the rock creature didn’t even seem to notice. I wondered if my ineffectualness was due to these fat body I was in. It was just a second of thought, but it was enough to give the rock creature the time to swat me away. I bounced into the cave wall and slumped to the ground, feeling the pain all over my whole body. Helplessly, I watched as the rock creatures moved onward toward Jennifer. She was left undefended! I tried to get up, but I body wouldn’t comply.
Then just as my fears started to get too much for me, ALAN rushed in front of her. The rock creatures converged on him. ALAN immediately fought back. Rock shards went flying as his fists made contact. As he rained a barrage of punches, I thought maybe ALAN would beat them back. My confidence grew as a I watched him. There was no way they could stand against him. But the rock creatures wouldn’t back off and soon enough they proved to be to much for him. They grabbed and ALAN struggled, but their grip was too tight. He couldn’t get loose. With ALAN immobilized, there was nothing standing between the rock monsters and Jennifer.
But they don’t move toward Jennifer. They ignored her and they ignored me. It appeared ALAN was the prize they were after. Holding ALAN tightly, they turned and walked away. As they vanished into the shadows, Jennifer ran to me. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” I waved her away as I worked my way back to me feet. “Are you ok, Doc?”
Doc continued to hover over me. “They didn’t touch me, Frank. I’m worried about you.”
I brushed her off. There was no time for that. “I’m worried about ALAN and what those creatures are going to do to him. His brain’s in that body. I have to go save it.”
“But, Frank, in your condition what can you do? That gun from the future didn’t even harm them.”
“I’ll do what I have to, Doc. ALAN’s part of the team. They have his brain. I can’t just abandon him and the longer I wait the harder it’ll be to follow them.”
“Fin.” Doc turned her back to me. “Go. But I’m staying here. Jamal needs me. At least he’ll be one person I can keep alive.”
Gun in hand, I went after the rock creatures. Fortunately, the tunnel didn’t branch off in any major way or I never would have found them. It was just one long path from the surface to only god knew where. When I finally caught up, I was already tired. It was a good thing they walked so slowly, or I wouldn’t have been able to keep pace. It was a constant struggle with this body. I was always fighting fatigue, exhaustion, and hunger, but I did my best to ignore them.
Knowing attack wasn’t really option, I chose to follow the rock creatures as we delved deeper and deeper, further and futher below the surface of the Earth. Hopefully, they’ll eventually give me the opening to save him. For now we just continued downward. Every step we took, it got colder and darker. Well, I finally found one good thing about this body. It was doing a pretty good job keeping me warm. Unfortunately, the fat couldn’t help me see any better. I put on my nightvision glasses. There was a red glow emanating from the rock creatures, making it easy to follow them. Unfortunately, the glow was not bright enough to see by, so I switched my glasses to sonar view.
After a couple of hours, it began to get warmer. When it had finally heated up to the edge of endurement, we entered a large cavern. It was massive like the size of a football stadium, bigger even. I could see hundreds of rock creatures moving about in small and large groups. There seemed to some kind of light, so I removed my glasses. That was when I noticed there were rivers of what I could only conclude was liquid hot magma everywhere. It was then I wondered just how far down were we?
I did my best to follow the two rock creatures as they carried ALAN deeper into the cavern without being seen by any of their rocky friends. At the far end of the cavern, they stopped at a lake of lava. I held my breath, fearing that they would drop ALAN into the lake. I didn’t know if he could survive that. His brain couldn’t, but maybe his body could. I had to hold onto the possibility, no matter how unlikely.
But then a creature appeared, floating across the lake, like a futuristic robot or worse some kind of demon. Its skin was a metallic crimson that looked almost more like a liquid than a solid. It looked like it wore a grey harness across its shoulders with tubing and elaborate ornamentation. The rock creatures stood still as the Crimson Figure approached, looking almost reverentally at it, like as if it were their god. It landed in front of the rock creatures, in front of the captive ALAN, and stood there unmoving. All four of them remained still.
Then suddenly a high pitched noise began to echo in my head and it brought me to my knees. Had it seen me? Was I under attack?
to be continued