Magnificent white buildings towered over us, but down where we were all there was was trash and muck. It seemed we were at the bottom level of Freyja’s city. We had never been down here before. “What are we doing down here?” I asked, cringing from the smell. “Why aren’t we up higher? Why aren’t we in Freyja’s throne room?”
“Because this is where you have to be,” Mathilda said to my dissatisfaction. “Besides, it’s not very safe up there at the moment.”
“Why? what’s going on up there?”
“Oh, nothing much. Just the Martian Invasion.”
Mathilda pointed up to the sky. I strained my eyes, miles up, above the towering buildings, I could only see flashing lights. Fortunately, ALAN was more versatile. A screen appeared on his chest showing us what he could see. It looked like a scene from some summer blockbuster, flying saucers fighting giant robots. If I hadn’t just been teleported from the age of dinosaurs to the distant future by my a futuristic version of my best friend’s daughter I might not have believed it were real.
“Oh my god,” Doc gasped.
“You have to move.” Mathilda pushed us onwards. “Now. There’s no time ot waste. The Independent Martian Federation will not survive much longer.” A doorway appeared in the side of the building. “Go!” Mathilda commanded pushing us forward. “Hurry!”
Jamal stopped. “Aren’t you coming with us?”
Mathilda shook her head. “No. Sorry. I can’t. Temporal parodoxies. I can’t let younger me see older me, but you need to see her. You need to save her. Now, while the Martians have Freyja distracted, go!”
“Dad,” she interrupted. “It was nice seeing you again. I’ve missed you.” I thought she was going to hug him, Jamal must’ve thought the same, but instead she just vanished into the time stream.
“Jamal!” I called. “We should go. If she’s right, we don’t have much time. If she’s not…”
Jamal snarled at me. “Of course, she’s right. She’s my daughter.”
He ran past me through the door. I followed him down the hall with Doc behind me and ALAN in the rear. We raced through the bowels of Freyja’s palace, but our running didn’t last long before we came upon a lone palace guardsman patrolling the tunnels. Surprisingly, this one was human. We didn’t see many non-mechanoid guards in Freyja’s palace. The man was as startled to see us as we were to see him. He turned his weapon on us, but Jamal attacked first. Faced with an attacking dinosaur, the man screamed and fired wildly. Jamal ripped the man’s gun away with his teeth.
“No!” the guardsman screamed. “You will not take me alive! Freyja’s mutant scum! I will not yeild to your tyranny!”
“Wait!” Doc yelled. “Wait! He’s not with Freyja! Jamal!”
Jamal hesitated, then backed away. “Are you sure?”
“We’re not with Freyja either,” she told the man dressed as a palace guard. “We’re not mutants. We’re here to rescue Jamal’s daughter. Freyja has taken her.”
“And I am to simply believe you?” the man asked. “You who walk with a Jotun?”
I stepped forward. “Yes, you are. My name is Frank Clay.”
The man gasped. “The legendary Unstable Man?”
“Um…that’s not really…no one calls me that,” I stammered.
“Maybe we should start,” Doc joked.
“We don’t have time for this,” Jamal roared impatiently. “We have to find my daughter! We have to save her from Freyja!”
“Freyja really has taken you daughter?” The man seemed ready to believe us, but wisely he remained cautious. “I am with the IMF. I am going to the throne room to kill Freyja. You can come with me.”
“My name is Hodge. I know a secret way to the throne room. Follow me.” Hodge led us down the hall for another five minutes, then stopped suddenly. There was nothing I could see to indicate this foot of wall was anything different from any other part of it. He put on a glove and it molded around his hand. He placed the glove against the wall and the wall began to become opaque.
“It is a secret passage. We lost thirty men finding out about it. Their lives will not be in vain, Freyja will die tonight! Let’s go!” Hodge led us to a matter transporter. “A direct path to the throne room. Be prepared. She will be not be caught unawares.”
We appeared in Freyja’s throne room and were ready for an attack, but there was none coming. The room was empty, completely empty. Besides the absence of the Queen, it looked exactly the same as we had last seen it. Well, not exactly. They had taken the time to fix the floor ALAN broken through. But how long could that have taken? Not long I imagine, maybe only a few minutes. So, that told us nothing about how long we had been gone. For us, it had been months, but how long had it been here? Had it been hours, days, months, years? Or was this earlier than our last visit? It was possible that this was an earlier time than our previous attempt to save Tilly. All I knew was that this was not the exact same time as when we had first been here. There had been no Martian invasion going on then… I think.
“She’s not here,” Hodge said, panicking. “Where is she?”
Jamal was also acting manic. “Where’s my daughter? I need to find her!”
“Shaz!” Hodge yelled. “Freyja must be at the tower fighting the assault by hand!”
He started to run, but Jamal grabbed him with his teeth. Jamal threw Hodge to the ground. “You’re not going anywhere until you tell me where my daughter is!”
“I don’t know where she is. How would I know?” Jamal bared his teeth and then Hodge added, “But I could probably make a guess. If she wasn’t with Freyja in the tower, I’d imagine she was in one of the jail cells.”
“Jail cells?” That sounded strange to me. “Where are they?”
Hodge gave a startled laugh. “The jail cells? They’re everywhere. No one knows how many she has.”
Jamal didn’t like the sound of that. “Why would she have her own daughter in a jail cell? I know she’s cruel…”
“Her own daughter?” Hodge was taken aback. “You’re the…” He snorted. “You’re the princess’ father?”
“Yes,” Doc said, “He’s Mathilda’s father.”
Hodge looked Jamal over. “No one ever knew who the father was, but this…I don’t think anyone expected…”
“I don’t care what they expected!” Jamal roared. “I want my daughter!”
The man was so frightened he fell over himself backing away. “If she’s not with her mother, then…well…then she’s probably…probably in her room, I’d think.”
“Yes.” Hodge scrambled back to his feet, trying to keep his distance from Jamal. “The Princess suite is probably down that way.”
“Checking palace floorplans,” ALAN buzzed. “Affirmative. To the Princess suite.”
“What at you waiting for?” Jamal growled. “Lead the way tin can!”
ALAN took off with Jamal close behind, Jen and I following, but I stopped as I entered the corridor and turned around. “You coming?”
Hodge looked at me then toward the tower then back at me then the tower. “I…” Then sighed. “Let’s find his daughter. Hurry!”
We raced down the hall surprisingly unabated, the whole palace seemed deserted, until we reached the Princess suite. Jamal pushed past ALAN into the room. I could hear the girl scream and rushed inside. “Tilly, it’s just your father! We had to…Oh my god!”
to be continued…