Down we fell, zooming toward the ground. I could see it get closer and closer. The plane was heading straight for a crash. “Tilly!” I yelled.
“Now! Pull up! Pull up now!”
I pulled back on the stick with all my might. The ground continued to get closer. We were seconds away from slamming into the earth when suddenly we started to pull up. It was with a great deal of amazement and relief that I saw the horizon appear in front of me. I leveled off the plane and let out a long breath. “I do not like this plan,” I told her.
“You didn’t have anything better,” Tilly replied, not holding back her annoyance. “Hacking the missiles and blowing them up before they hit us, then pretending we were hit was the best I could do on such short notice.”
I sighed. “And it was a great job, Tilly. Thank you.” She smiled proudly. “Now, how low do we have to stay for them not to notice us?”
We had to ditch the plane in Portugal and we bluffed our way onto a transatlantic flight. The chance to get a few winks was very welcomed. After we landed, we had to ‘borrow’ another small plane. It wasn’t easy to get to the Quantum Cave by car, or really recommended. Flying was the only real choice.
As we neared the Cave, we couldn’t reach anyone on the radio. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to get the hangar doors opened. With no one there to open them, there was no way to get in. I understood if Jamal and Doc were out. We had given them no heads up that we were coming, but ALAN should’ve been there to hear us. I was starting to wonder if Tilly could hack the system and let us in when we noticed there were no doors! What was going on here? Had someone modified the Cave opening so it looked like a regular cave? Or were there really no doors? If there weren’t, what had happened to them?
I was worried so I didn’t try to enter the cave. Something was clearly wrong. Instead, I took us to a nearby clearing that I knew I could make safe landing. From there we hiked to the peak and then climbed down to the cave. When we reached the cave’s mouth, I stopped to examine it. I didn’t see any sign of damage or modification of any kind. Not any changes I had made to it or changes anyone had made to hide it. There wasn’t even any sign of my accident. How could that be? It made no sense.
Things got even weirder when we went inside. There was no hangar. No lighting. No nothing. It was as if all the work David and I had done to it had, and later Jamal, never existed, as if it had never happened. “What the hell happened to the Quantum Cave?”
“I’m not picking up any signs of alteration or manipulation,” Tilly said looking at the projection coming from her arm. “This isn’t an illusion. It’s not a trick. This is how it actually looks. And I’m not picking up any sign that the Cave has been hidden. I’m seeing no sign that the Cave was ever here. There’s no energy source, no wiring, no plumbing. There’s no evidence of any kind of renovation here, Frank. It’s just…a cave.”
“Are you trying to tell me,” I said, knowing that my anger at her was misplaced, “that the Quantum Cave never existed?”
“That’s what everything that I’m seeing is telling me.”
I couldn’t believe this. This was completely unbelievable! How could the Cave be gone? Just completely gone like this? It was impossible! I quickly realized there was really only way that this could have happened, only way that this could make any sense at all. “Do you know what that means? It means that the General has well and truly altered reality! He hasn’t just affected his little area of it. He’s changed history! The past never happened! Not the way we remember it, it hasn’t.”
“So what does that mean?”
“It means everything we know is wrong. It means we’re at an even greater disadvantage. It means are plans, as piecemeal as they were, are gone. And most importantly, it means that General Zlodeyskiy is even more powerful than we had originally thought!” I took a deep breath. “…Which just means that it’s even more important that we stop him and stop him fast.”
Tilly nodded. She was taking this better than I was. “Then we’re going to need help.”
“Right. If we could somehow signal the Xian or maybe the Time Cops…”
“I was thinking more along the lines of my father.”
“That’s a good idea. Let’s get the team back together. First, we’ll get your father, then Doc, then maybe we can figure out where ALAN is.”
I thought it would be easy to find Jamal but he wasn’t at his old place. I thought about calling his mother, but I didn’t want to bother her. In the end, we searched online and found him in the last place I would’ve expected: The Suburbs.
to be continued…