“You…!” I froze as I saw Tilly for the first time. She looked…well, different. She also looked frightened. “Don’t panic, Tilly! It’s just us. It’s me. And that…that’s your father.”
But the girl wasn’t buying it. I didn’t look much like the last time she had seen me either. Doc stepped forward. At least, she still looked like herself. “Tilly, that is your father. Freyja sent us back in time. Your father…was attacked. We had no choice. We had to replace his body.”
Mathilda didn’t seem to hear her words, but she definitely saw Doc. Tilly was staring at her. Looked like the girl was about to cry. “Jennifer?”
The girl caught her breath and slowly turned to Jamal “Daddy?”
“It’s me, baby.” And then she hugged him.
Then suddenly Mathilda pulled away. “What the hell took you so long? I’ve been stuck here for four years! Four years!”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t get here earlier,” Jamal began. “I’m so sorry. I wish we could have, but you wouldn’t…”
I stopped him before he said any more. Tilly wasn’t supposed to know about her older self even if she was herself an older version than we had expected her to be. “We should get out of here,” I said. “It’s only a matter of time before Freyja knows we’re here.”
“But,” Jen asked “how can we leave?”
“I…I know a way,” Hodge said. “It’s my backup plan. In case, I fail in my mission. I turn on a beacon that will signal the ships.”
“What are you waiting for?” Jamal demanded. “Do it!”
Hodge frowned, then slowly nodded. “All right, everyone get in close.” Hodge pressed a button on his wrist and then…nothing happened.
“Well…?” Mathilda asked.
Hodge looked embarrassed. “Uh…”
Mathilda shook her head. “The palace is probably blocking the transmission. It blocks pretty much anything. I’m surprised you were able to sneak in here at all, to be honest.”
“Right,” Hodge agreed. “We need to get to a…uh…”
Mathilda sighed loudly. Well, at least her four years with her mother hadn’t ruined her ability to be overly dramatic. She ran out of the room. “Follow me!” She looked over her shoulder. “Great rescue, guys. Seriously.”
“Warning!” ALAN’s alarm went off. “Incoming hostile targets.”
I glanced back and saw a half dozen robot guards coming toward us. “ALAN! Take them down!”
ALAN stopped immediately and transformed. Guns sprouted from his body and he began firing at the incoming robots. The closest exploded in a fiery mass. The second had its left side blown off. But that didn’t stop them, they just continued getting closer. ALAN kept firing and the guards kept coming until ALAN forced to retreat. As he did, he made sure to keep himself between us and the guards.
“Anything?” I asked, huffing and puffing. I was in much better shape than last time we were here, but that didn’t mean I was in great shape. Also, we were doing a lot of running.
“Nothing,” Hodge replied.
I glanced back and in time to see ALAN destroy another robot. Unfortunately, he was getting as good as he was giving. But there were still three more robots left and I didn’t know how much longer ALAN could last. “We’re running out of time!”
“In here!” Mathilda led us into a room that appeared to be in a glass dome. We could see the last of the saucers being destroyed. We were clearly much higher up than we had started at.
Doc searched the skies. “Is there anybody left?”
“We have no choice,” I said. “Hodge, do it!” ALAN ejected a small body from his form, using the scrapped bits to block up the hall, and joined us.
Hodge looked at us and took a deep breath. “Ready?”
The remaining trio of robot guards busted in past ALAN’s makeshift barricade. “Now!” Jamal yelled.
Hodge pressed the button.