Down into the Island

I laid there catching my breath. What could I do? I had to go after them. I really had no choice. Crag and Domoban were in danger and I had to save them. Without them, I had no way off the island. Which meant, I had no way to get back to my home dimension. I had no way to find the rest of my friends.

But that wasn’t all. Aside from my selfish needs, they were also living, breathing people. They might be trolls, but that didn’t make them any less of a person. I couldn’t just let them be captured. Who knew what was going to happen to them down there. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. I had to save them. I had to.

I finally reached the spot where they had disappeared. There was a crack in the ground, but somehow the hole was resealing itself. How could rock do that? I didn’t know. I got down on the ground and quickly slid inside, carefully lowered myself down into the hole. But as I lowered myself down, I couldn’t find a place to put my feet. There were no footholds, no ledges, no nothing! I thought I was going to fall and fall far. I started to pull myself up, but I was still tired from all the running and swimming. Trying to keep up with the larger trolls had worn me out. I didn’t think I was going to have the energy to pull myself back up. But I kept trying and just when it looked like I just might have been able to get myself up, my hands slipped and I was falling.

Fortunately, I didn’t fall far. I fell hard, but not far. I had hit a rock ledge and the impact knocked for a loop. I laid there to catch my breath. As I sat up, I took in my new surroundings. I had fallen down into a hole, but it wasn’t what I had been expecting. There were rock outcroppings, but the walls seemed to be made of something else. They were smooth and warm to the touch. The hole above me had sealed itself, but the place wasn’t dark. There was a light and it was coming up from below me.

I rolled over, so I could look down. I could see various outcroppings below me. There was a dim reddish glow to everything. I could see that the glow got brighter further down, but I couldn’t see where the light was coming from. There was only one way to find out.

I got to my feet and backed myself up against the wall, feeling its warmth against my back. I swear I felt some kind of pulse go through it. But that was a worry for another time. I took three quick steps forwards and leapt across the chasm, reaching for the ledge across the way. I slammed hard into the ledge knocking the wind out of me. I immediately began to slide off. Fear of falling overcome my inability to breath and I immediately began to search for something to grab a hold of as my body continued to slip downwards off the ledge. I desperately tried to slow my downward progression by holding onto the cliff, pressing my nails into the rock, but it was no use. I was going to fall.

I continued to slide back off of the cliff. Desperately, I scrambled to find something to hold onto. But just when it seemed that all was lost, I found a bump in the ledge. I held to it as tightly as I could and stopped my slide, but I was now trapped, barely hanging onto a ledge who knew how far up with barely the strength to hang on for more than a few minutes. I glanced around and saw there was a ledge below me, a little off to the side. I began to rock back and forth side to side. When I got a little momentum going, I let go and fell down onto the other ledge, rolling as I landed. Unfortunately, I almost rolled too far and nearly went right off the ledge. I just managed to save myself at the last second.

I took a deep breath as I lay there, thinking about my latest near death experience which had been preceded very closely by at least two others. This life was getting a bit too dangerous, I thought, and then instantly burst out laughing. When hasn’t it been dangerous? Not for many, many years.

I sat up, crawled over to the ledge, and looked down. There was still way too far to go. It was slow going. I didn’t want to kill myself. But I eventually made my way to the bottom of the hole. At the bottom, the cave was lit up brightly. Light streamed in from a tunnel off to the side. It was the only path. Obviously, I had to go down it. If I was going to find the others, if I was going to save them that was the only way to go.

to be continued…

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Escape from the Time Police!

“They’re not dead,” Kink explained to me. “…or at least they’re not in any state that the Time Cops can’t revive them from.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I demanded.

“Hey,” Tilly said from the chair she was strapped down to. “Maybe you can help us first, then you can worry about them?”

“Right,” I said before trying to undo the straps, but they didn’t seem to want to come undone.

“Ugh,” Kink groaned. “Move aside, primitive.” She touched something on her arm and the straps around Tilly dissolved. “Now can we get out of here?”

Tilly rubbed her arms. “She might have a point.”

I helped Tilly up to her feet. “What were they doing to you?”

“They were getting ready to erase me. Erase both of us. That’s what they were doing.”

I glanced over at Kink. She smiled smugly. “See?”

“But that’s not what the Time Police do,” I said. This was making no sense to me. The Time Police were good guys. They kept order to the time stream. They made sure that nothing went wrong, that no one overstepped their bounds, that time didn’t collapse on itself. Why would they be trying to erase anyone? Why would they be trying to erase us?

“Yeah, well, either we were misinformed or something has changed,” Tilly said. “But for the moment, maybe we should worry about getting out of here.”

“And go where? Where will be safe? They’re the Time Police. They patrol space and time. All of it. Where would we be able to go to be safe from them?”

“Don’t worry, Frankie,” Kink said. “I came prepared. I have us an escape route.”

“To where? Where can you take us?”

“Somewhere safe. Somewhen safe. That’s all you need to know.”

“Fine,” Tilly interjected before I asked another question. “Let’s get going.”

“Of course,” Kink said, “there’s one problem.”

“Yeah?” I asked. “What’s that?”

“One doesn’t just jump out of the Temporal Police Hub.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying to escape we need to get out onto the floor so that I can open up a temporal door.”

“Onto the floor!? You mean where all the Time Cops are?”

Kink nodded. “Yes.”

“Oh, that sounds like a great plan.”

“Well, since the Hub blocks all other kinds of time travel, we really don’t have a choice. No one can jump in and out of here. They made absolutely sure of that.”

“No one? Then how’d you get here?”

Kink held up something that strangely looked exactly like a doorknob. “With this.”

“A temporal knob!” I exclaimed, recognizing the police-issued equipment. “Where did you get a temporal knob?”

“That would be telling. And I wouldn’t want you to get jealous, Frankie, what with me fingering other men’s knobs and all.”

“Are you done flirting?” Tilly asked, trying to help her father up from the ground. “Can we go now? I’d rather not be erased. My continued existence is kind of important to me.”

“Well said.” Kink swung the door open. “All right, troops, get out there and march.”

“March?” I asked.

“You’re my prisoners, remember?”

So the three of us pretended to by Kink’s prisoners, as Kink marched behind us in her stolen Time Cop uniform. However, since Jamal was barely conscious, he was just trying to stay on his feet. Surprisingly, it all seemed to be working. We were able to reach the floor without an incident. No one appeared to be paying us any mind. We were just another case in a sea of chaos. For a second, I thought we might actually manage to do this.

Kink took out the knob and held it out in there, waiting for it to connect to the central temporal nexus. But instead of a door appearing a loud klaxon began to sound.

“Unauthorized Use in Progress!” a voice reverberated across the room. Every cop on the floor turned toward us. It was a very large floor and there was a very large amount of police officers on it.

“Oops,” Kink said.

“Maybe you should get us out of here,” Tilly told her. “And apologize about it later, huh?”

Kink continued to fiddle with the knob. Unexpectedly, the floor actually activated. “Stop her!” one of the cops yelled.

“Kink!” I urged her to hurry up.

“Don’t worry,” she said.

“They’re coming for us.”

“Hurry!” Tilly yelled.

“They’re trying to block me out,” Kink told us. “But don’t worry. I’ve got this.”

“Don’t worry!?” I screamed. “We’re surrounded by Time Cops on the middle of their floor and our only escape route is being blocked. How can I not panic?”

“Because there’s nothing in the universe that can keep me out.” Kink twisted her wrist and a door emerged from the temporal Hub floor. “See?” she said as she turned the knob. “Told you not to worry.”

I pointed at the Time Cops as they started to rush us. “What about them?”

“Stop showing off!” Tilly yelled, “and get us out of here!”

Kink swung the door open. “Fine. Let’s go.”

to be continued…

Looking for Lu

“Here?” I looked around the dungeon. “Where?”

“Down that way,” the Sharkwoman said. I wasn’t really impressed. It was the only way we could have gone. We were in a hallway. The only other choice was back the way we had come. “We have to find him!”

“How can you be so sure he’s here?” Tilly asked. She was even more doubtful than I was.

“I can taste him. His scent is in the air.”

“The air? The smoky, diseased-filled, repugnant air? The horrible air that only moves one way? The air that was so bad that you had to strangle Frank to identify him? That air?”

The Sharkwoman glared at her, showing off her very human-looking teeth. “Are you saying that I am mistaken? I don’t make mistakes. Never. Not when Lu Wu is involved. He’s here and I know this!”

“Sure. He’s here. But how reliable can you be? You just woke up from being experimented on for the past week. You might not be in the right state of mind. Who knows what drugs you’ve still got in your system.”

“You doubt me?” The Sharkwoman snarled as she began to transform. Her hair disappeared. Her skin went gray. Her eyes went black. Her teeth began to grow! She had changed her upper body into that of a shark!

“Relax, Shayu!” I said, fearing the worst. The last thing we needed was for us to start fighting amongst ourselves. “There’s no need to do anything hasty. Tilly didn’t mean anything by what she said. She was just concerned for you.”

The Sharkwoman gave me a look that I feared at first meant that she was getting ready to attack me. It was real easy to misinterpret the look given to you by a shark. They pretty much all looked like she was preparing to snack.

“You think I am going to attack her?” she asked, incredulously. “I didn’t change into this to attack the little human. I don’t care about her. All I care about is finding Lu Wu! But this time, at least, the little human was right. With this rotten human air, it is difficult to catch a scent. And I am still a bit…‘groggy’, as you say. Wu is too important to me to deny that. He is more important than my pride. If I want to find my love then I must be honest. And I’ll need to be in the best shape to find him. Only with my true skin can I find Wu. Only this way can I get a good enough taste of the air and find my love.”

“All right, you changed into your fancy new form,” Tilly replied, “so then where is he?”

“Follow me.” The Sharkwoman began to lead the way, but she stumbled and almost collapsed. It was clear the transformation had taken a lot out of her.

I rushed to catch her before she fell to the floor. I was really worried about her. She as already overtaxed. If we ran into any other surprises, I didn’t know if she’d be able to handle it. “Maybe we should get you out of here.”

“No!” she protested. “I must find Wu! I must save my love!”

She was being stubborn. She wasn’t thinking. I felt there was a good chance that I was going to have to put my foot down. I wasn’t looking forward to that. Even during recovery, the Sharkwoman was not to be thought of lightly. “But, Shayu, you’re too weak…”

“I am not weak! I am strong!”

“Let her just go find him,” Tilly said before I could speak. “It’s not like we’re not going to be able to get her out of here anyway.”

“Fine,” I said because I knew Tilly was right. The Sharkwoman would bite and claw to stay here. If Tilly wasn’t going to be helpful, I didn’t know if I could do it. Maybe with Na Fru’s help, but I didn’t want to be trapped inside our heat shield with an angry sharkwoman. “Go ahead, Shayu. Lead the way.” I helped her back to her feet and supported her as she led us down the hallway, hoping to god that no one saw us. After a few twists and turns, we came to a sudden stop. “What’s wrong, Shayu? Are you all right?

“I am fine,” she replied. “In fact, I am better than fine. I have found it! This is it. This is where he is.”

I looked around. There was no one here. We were in the middle of the hallway. There weren’t even any doors. Was there some kind of secret passageway I wasn’t seeing? “Where?”

Shayu pointed toward an air vent above us. “There! Lu Wu is in there!”

to be continued…

Saving the Sharkwoman

There she was, strapped to a table, trapped in her half-human, half-shark form. She looked so so lifeless “Shayu!” I yelled. I couldn’t stop myself. She seemed to be unconscious, most likely drugged. She had to still be alive. She had to!

There were tubes surrounding her, filling the rest of the lab, with gray embryonic creatures inside them. Were they clones of her? Is that what they were trying to do? Clone her? Or was it something even worse than that?

“Frank!” Tilly yelled, refocusing my attention, first on her, then on the group of Dracs coming toward us. They clearly did not like us being there and I highly doubted they were going to ask us politely to leave. Before I could even react, Tilly was already jumping into the middle of them. They moved to grab her, but she phased right through them. They certainly hadn’t been expecting that. While they were confused, I took advantage and jumped at them. I knocked one out before they knew what was going on. As the turned to me, Tilly took out a second from behind. The three remaining, however, were not going to be so easily bested.

Two of them came at me and knocked me to the ground. But when Na Fru entered the room, the Dracs hesitated, staring at him in wonder. I got back to my feet and stepped aside. The Dracs rushed him, but their punches seemed to hurt them more than it did him. I knocked one of the confused Dracs to the ground. Tilly took out the other one. “Interesting,” Na Fru said.

“That the Dracs couldn’t hurt you?” I asked.

“Huh?” Na Fru suddenly became aware of the unconscious reptile men lying on the ground. He dismissed them quickly. “No. I meant the laboratory. Look at it. It is as if they are trying to modify organics through scientific means. What an interesting idea.”

“What, you mean the thought never occurred to you?” Tilly asked.

I glared at her. We really shouldn’t be helping him get ideas. He had enough bad ideas on his own. “No,” he said. “It hadn’t.”

“How about we focus on the woman being experimented on instead of the experiments and try to save her, ok?” I said walking toward the unconscious Sharkwoman. I detached the tubes and wires from the her as carefully as I could. As I waited for the sedative to work its way out of her system, I watched the stone man carefully.

We all started to get impatient. Tilly more so than I. “Maybe you should slap her,” she suggested. “You know to wake her up.”

“You touch me,” groaned the Sharkwoman, as she slowly opened her eyes “and I will bite off your hand.”

“Shayu!” I exclaimed, rushing to her side. “Are you ok?”

She looked up at me with unfocused eyes. “Who the hell are you?”

“It’s me,” I told her. “Fran. Frank. The human. I realize I look a bit different. It’s complicated.”

The Sharkwoman stared at me with her cold eyes, as she tried to sit up, but the straps wouldn’t let her. She pulled at them angrily. “Get me off of this thing,” she growled. “Get me out of this!”

I reached for the straps before Tilly stopped me. “Frank,” she warned. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

I could see how someone could feel frightened of the Sharkwoman. She could be very frightening, even when she wasn’t a giant shark. But Shayu and I had been through a lot together. We had saved each other’s lives numerous times. We had a bond. “It’s ok,” I assured Tilly. “Trust.” I undid the straps.

I turned back to the Sharkwoman just as she quickly sat up. Before I knew it she was lunging at me, wrapping her hands around my throat.

to be continued…

Escaping the Palace

“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?”

Jennifer nodded.

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.

“Hurry!”

“I’m trying!”

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.