I convinced the Xian to take me home. They were eager to get me out of their secret base. It was a quick ride to Earth where I took a transport down to the Quantum Cave. As soon as I landed, I rushed out of the transport, expecting a relieved and joyous greeting. I was sure everyone must have been wondering where I had been. But when I came out there was no one to greet me. I looked around. There had to be someone here. “Doc? Jamal? Tilly? Hello? Is anyone here? ALAN?”
I continued searching the place, but I couldn’t find anyone. I went through the hangar, the workshop, the computer room, the bedrooms, the living space. I searched everywhere, but the place was empty. Even ALAN was gone. Bewildered, I decided to check the computer. Maybe someone left a message to tell me where they were. I was surprised to see that everything had been turned off. All the surveillance equipment within the computer had been shut off. Why would they do that? I checked the last thing recorded. Kink was there, telling us to turn everything off.
It suddenly dawned on me when that was. It was after Freyja had abducted Tilly and taken her back to her time in the future. Doc had activated the signal and Kink had appeared to help us go after her, which she did and then immediately abandoned us. That seemed forever ago.
Apparently, no one had been back since. How could that be? If they weren’t here, then where we they? If The Origin never existed then where would have been? If the Origin never existed, then Jamal and I were never brought to the Neptunian base because the Xian never noticed Tilly had cured us. In fact, we would have never been corrupted. Not only that, but the Xian would have never been infected either. That means they would have had no reason to come for us. The other me, the future corrupted me would have never told them that we were there. That means…that means they never saved us. We were never rescued. Oh, god! The rest of my team was still trapped on Mars!
I jumped back into the transport and flew to the Xian ship. “We have to go to Mars!” I told them on my way up. “My friends…oh my god! They’re trapped there!” As soon as I was onboard, they flew us to Mars. The trip was even quicker than the last one, but it felt like it took forever! Doc, Jamal, Tilly! They could be dying! How much air did ALAN have in supply? I had no idea. He wasn’t even in his own body, so there was no way for me to tell. But no matter how much he had, it couldn’t be enough to keep three people alive for this long! It was just impossible! Wasn’t it? “Are you picking up anything?” I asked the Xian, frantically.
“No lifesigns,” the Xian replied. “But we are picking up a beacon…no, wait, it’s gone…”
“Gone?” I gasped.
“Yes…now it’s back,” The Xian replied. “It’s coming in and out.”
I gulped. “In a pattern?”
“Just on and off.”
On and Off? I wondered. Why would they do that? If they were using a beacon, why not use a message? If an actual message was not possible, why not at least morse code? But, no, it didn’t matter. Whatever the reason, it was unimportant. What mattered was that it had to be them. It just has to! “Can you locate the beacon?”
They found the beacon easy enough. It wasn’t like there were that many other signals coming from Mars. We got a visual of the surface, but I didn’t see anything. There was nothing… wait! “I think I saw…Yes, I think I saw something! Take me down there! We need to get down there immediately! Now! Right now!”
I stepped out onto the surface of Mars and was happy to see that as I suspected I was able to breath even in this thin atmosphere. Score one for this future body. Now, if I could just locate…there! My eyes zoomed on a blip, but it was soon gone. Had it been nothing? Was there a malfunction in this body’s optics? But, no, there it was again! I ran toward it! But once again it disappeared. What was going on?
I ran back over my visual memory, which apparently this body could do, and I froze the quick blip. My eyes cleaned it up, zoomed in, and…yes! It was them! I could see them plain as day! Doc, Jamal, Tilly, they were all there! They were all sitting around ALAN as he supplied them with oxygen. But why did they keep vanishing?
Once again they appeared, but in less than a second they were gone again. Where did they go? I didn’t know. They were real, I was sure of it. Not some kind of hologram. But if they were real, if it was them, how could they be moving in and out reality? What had happened? Was this some cruel trick? Then the answer suddenly flashed before my eyes. Literally. The words actually flashed in my vision. It said, “Temporal Energy Detected”. Temporal energy? Tilly must have put them in some kind of time stasis. That was the only thing that made sense. But how did I get them out?
While I thought, I had the Xian bring out oxygen for them. If I could get them out, they would certainly need it. Then while my attention was elswehere, the stasis turned off! They were no longer blipping! They were here! They were safe! I moved to hug them and that was when Jamal turned and attacked me! I raised my arm to protect myself and Jamal bit down on it. Surprisingly, my skin adapted and turned hard. Then Tilly attacked! She fired energy beams at me and my body sent up a shield that absorbed most of the energy. “Stop! It’s me! It’s Frank!”
Tilly paused and checked her own heads-up display. She looked around, noticed the Xian, noted how ALAN hadn’t attack. She put down her arms. She reached out and gently touched his arm. Jamal let go. The fighting was over. But that was when Jamal began to gasp and collapsed to the ground. “Jamal!” I screamed.
Quickly, ALAN acted for the first time and put the mask back over Jamal’s mouth. The Xian moved to put their own oxygen masks on my friends, replacing ALAN’s nearly empty tanks. Then we brought everyone inside. As soon as we were in the ship, Jennifer asked, “What is going on, Frank? We came back from the future and you were gone? And why do you look like some….some weird king of monster?”
I looked at myself. I had nearly forgotten my biomodded body in all the excitement. “It’s a long story,” I told her. “I’m just glad you’re all right. I was worried you might be dead.”
“We thought we would be,” she said. “ALAN had tried to save us, but he was almost out for air. If Tilly hadn’t acted quickly, I don’t think we would have made it.”
“I didn’t have enough energy left for a jump,” Tilly said, “but I was able to take us out of sync with the timestream for a little bit. I hoped it would buy us enough time.”
“Well, it did that,” I told her. “You gave me the time I needed to get here.”
“But get here from where?” Jennifer asked. “Where were you? Did Freyja pull you out of the jump somehow? And what is up with that body?”
“It’s a long story,” I replied.
“So you said,” Jamal retorted. “But I think we’ve got the time to hear it.”
END OF BOOK 1