“What did you…?” I tried to get up and fell to the ground. “What was in that?” I looked at her, but something seemed wrong. She was just staring back, dispassionately. It was almost as if she were waiting for something. “Doc? Jennifer? What’s going on? What did…?”

And then it hit me. A voice. I heard something…in my head…what…what…no…no…”Oh.”

The world swung into focus and things suddenly made sense. I suddenly understood what was happening and more importantly what we needed to do next. I looked up at Jennifer and smiled. It was like I was seeing her for the first time. “Thank you, Jennifer.”

“I’m glad you finally see, Frank,” she replied.

I stood up and brushed myself off. “What about Jamal and Mathilda?”

“They understand now, too,” she said as Jamal and Mathilda were brought in. “As for ALAN, we will have to wait to reactivate him.”

“Yes,” I said. “He won’t be able to see, like we can. His robot brain, his programming, he won’t be able to understand. We’ll have to make changes to his operating system until then he’ll have to stay off. But until then we have a lot of work to get to. A lot of work.”

Jennifer agreed with me. “We have a universe to change, but first things first, it’s time to go back home.”

The Xian seemed to know what we wanted. They already knew what we had planned. They too understood. We flew away from that alien world, which I now saw was just one of many. It was no beginning. It was just another world in a series of countless worlds that had been made to understand. I understood now why the Xian had destroyed his information. Whatever was on it was unimportant. That alien was mad because he did not understand, he did not see. He was blind to the true universe. He didn’t know what was to come.

As we traveled back to Earth, I began to realize I felt different, better, more focused. Everything seemed to make sense now. It was amazing, exhilarating even. “What did you do to me, Jennifer?”

She smiled. “I freed you.”

I agreed, “But how? What did you do?”

Jennifer didn’t like my questions. “Why are you asking?”

“Why? Because I need to know. Because I think we have to make sure that you can do it again.”

“We can free the world, Frank. The Xian are ready to do it. If that’s what you mean.”

“That’s good, but that’s not what I mean.”

“Then what do you mean, Frank?” she asked.

“I mean, can you do it to me again?”

“Why would we have to do it to you again?”

“Because we’re going to have to go back, Jennifer. Not just back to Earth, but we’re going to have to go back in time.”

“Back in time? Why would we have to do that?” Jennifer asked.

“Because we need to be back in our own time, to the time we belong in. When we returned from Frejya’s time, we came back too late. The instability messed with Mathilda’s calculations. We’re in the wrong time. That’s what I told myself and that’s what I’ll have to tell myself again.”

“Then there might be a problem,” Jennifer said. “Your instability causes difficulty to the process. It fights against the Freeing. It was why we had to put you in the Instability Chamber before I injected you, but even then the instability would have been too much. Fortunately, there was already something in your blood. I think it was the only reason we were able to free you.”

“That must have been in what I gave myself,” I said, remembering the pill I had gotten from the other me. “The future me said that it was to allow us to breath in the alien atmosphere. It must have also had some kind of mixture to settle the instability to allow my physiology to be freed. We must recreate it.”

It took us most of the trip back trying to recreate the pills. In the end, I wasn’t fully satisfied, but we had run out of time. We had arrived back home. “To Earth?” The Xian asked.

“No,” I told them. “Not yet. We have to go back first. We have to go back in time so I can meet myself.”

“I can’t do that,” Mathilda said. “I don’t have any energy to send us back in time. Even a small jump would be impossible.”

“What about my quantum energy discharge?” I asked. “It worked last time.”

Mathilda shook her head. “Too much instability. You’re asking for a precise jump, that would be impossible. Last time, using your energy, brought us here, to the near future. We were lucky to be so close. Next time we might not be so lucky.”

“We have energy,” the Xian announced. “We have been accumilating it since you arrived many days ago like you told us.”

“I never told you to do that.”

“You did. And you will. When you travel back, you tell us to do so.”

The Xian brought us to their secret facility beneath the surface of the planet Neptune. They had never told us about having a base in our system. I expected to be mad, but I understood the need for it. I understood why the didn’t hesitate to show it to us now. We were one. We were together in this. There would be no more secrets ever. There was a presence here. It made everything feel stronger, more focused. I wondered what that was. Was it the clarity of being Freed growing in me or was it being around so many others who understood? Or…or was there something else? This lack of understanding bothered me, but I didn’t let it affect me for long.

Inside was the power source. The Xian had it ready for Mathilda. She took it and attached it to her implant. “Back to our own time?” She seemed eager to leave.

I nodded and she opened the temporal portal sending us back in time several days. The room looked the same. I noticed no differences. The only change I could see was the absense of the Xian. We had left them behind in the future. “Are we back?” I asked.

“Yes,” Mathilda replied. “We’re back when we’re supposed to be.”

The doors opened and Xian came streaming in. For some reason, they were all armed and they were pointing their weapons at us. “Infiltrators!” one yelled. “Don’t move or you will be killed!”

to be continued…


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