The Journeyman Project
The Earth is finally at peace after a long, bloody war against a few dictators who sought total world domination. Having learned the hard way the evils of imperialism, the boarders began to come down one by one. Finally, in the year 2117, the unified world was realized.
Now, all that we've accomplished is being threatened by the power of time travel. Realizing its potential for destruction, the very same democrats who initiated the building of the time machine immediately discontinued the project once they saw a working prototype. Temporal travel now being a reality, they brought the time machine to a secret location and formed an agency to protect the flow of history. The project's code name: Journeyman.
Place: Caldoria Heights Apartments; sector 3, Caldoria
The moment the digital clock clicked to 6:40 a.m., the alarm went off signaling the start of another day. Gage Blackwood, 23 years old, moaned as he pressed a button on the wall, opening the window. Sunlight shone through like it was the light at the end of the tunnel.
The radio clicked on. "Good morning. Once again, it's a beautiful day here in the sky-born metropolis known as Caldoria. And unless you've been trapped in some sort of time warp, you know that today marks the coronation of ten years of debate as all of Earth awaits the arrival of the alien delegate from the Symbiotry of Peaceful Beings. Their goal: to welcome the entire human race into their interplanetary alliance of sentient beings. Our Megan Love is at the Capitol right now with a live update. Megan, can you hear me?"
"I'm right here, thanks, Johnny. Ten years ago today, Earth was visited by a race of aliens calling themselves the Cyrollans. They told us that they were here to invite us into an alliance, which they called "The Symbiotry of Peaceful Beings." 'The purpose of this alliance,' they said, 'is simply to share knowledge and culture with other alien races.' They then left after saying they will give us exactly ten years to deliberate their proposal. Today is the day of their return. All along the streets of Caldoria and here at the Capitol Building, it's amazing, Johnny, there are thousands of people here hoping to catch a glimpse of the Cyrollan delegate as the procession heads this way. We've heard various rumors that a fleet of ships have already been detected on long-range radar and should soon be arriving, and with each new rumor, the excitement seems to grow ten fold. Back to you in the studio, Johnny."
"Thank you, Megan Love. This morning's broadcast has been brought to you by Future Cola, the choice of a peaceful generation. I'm John Ego and you're listening to the mellow sounds of…"
Gage slammed the off button bringing John's broadcast to a halt. He reached over and picked up a small lens attached to some sort of ear device. It was his Biotech Interface.
"Morning, Bio," Gage called to the Interface.
"Good morning, Gage," the AI built into the Interface answered. "Did you sleep well."
"Sure did. What's on the schedule for today?"
"You have a review session at the Temporal Security Annex. Also, today is the day of the Cyrollan's arrival."
Gage moaned. "Great, everybody's probably down on the streets and I have to be at the TSA today. Oh well, better get started." Gage put the Interface down and went into the bathroom. He used the toilet and splashed some water on his face. There was no time for breakfast so he would just have to pick something up on the way home.
Gage got dressed in his TSA uniform and donned his Biotech Interface. He picked up his Interface Biochip, a small chip that when inserted into the Interface, allowed him to access almost any computer system. As a last addition, he picked up his Global Transport Card.
Gage walked into his living room, his apartment. While rather Spartan by some standards, Gage's apartment was actually rather common: two chairs, coffee table, 4-D Environ System, wall lamps, etc…
"Gage, you're suppose to be at the Temporal Security Annex," Bio reminded him.
"I know, Bio."
"This will be your…"
"My fourth late arrival, I know. Well since I'm already going to be late, there's no point in trying to be on time." Gage left his apartment and went around to the other apartments on his floor. Steve, Rachel, and Joanna, the other residents, were actually good friends of his and were one of the few who knew of his secret job. Gage guessed that they were all down at the procession.
Gage went over to the elevator and pressed the call button. The computer began calling out floors.
"First floor, second floor, third floor, fourth floor, roof accessed."
"That's funny, I thought the rooftop observatory was closed for today," Gage said.
"It is as far as I known," Bio replied. Gage dismissed it for the time being.
Gage rode to the first floor. He emerged in the lobby. On a bay window overlooked the Capital Building with tons of people on the sidewalk near it. Yesterday there was a news report that said that the Cyrollan ship would land right outside the Capital Building.
Gage's hand accidentally brushed against a control panel and an advertisement for the apartment came on.
"Welcome to Caldoria Heights Apartments, the best view in Caldoria. While here, please feel free to visit our rooftop Observatory. Located directly across from the Capitol Building in Sector 3, Caldoria Heights housed luxurious accommodations. Our fifteen units offer ample living space with the very best views of the city; alluminide steel plumbing and titanium bath fixtures are standard. And topping it off is a high res. 4-D Environ System built into each and every living room. Designed for Metro Properties by Marco Giochetti. Caldoria Heights Apartments offers comfortable accommodations in an attractive environment."
Gage was distracted by the advertisement but he now turned his attention to the Global Transporter System, the only way to travel. It was directly across from the advertisement display grid. Gage turned it on.
"Global Transporter Caldoria Heights Apartments, Sector 3. Searching for open transport route now. Route accessed, upon entering, transporter card will be required. Thank you for using Global Transport." The hatch to the coffin-shaped device slid opened and a chair slid out. Gage sat down and the chair slid back into the transporter. The control panel was on the other side of the hatch. After disintegrating a fly that accidentally came in with Gage, the computer asked for the global transport card, which Gage inserted. The computer used the card to access a list of locations. Gage pressed the button next to 'Temporal Security Annex.' Gage's molecules disintegrated.
Place: Temporal Security Annex, classified location
Gage's molecules were restructured in a different transporter. When he walked out, he was in a dimly lit cavern surrounded by red scanners. A door with a symbol of three interlocking circles was on the other side. When Gage stood in front of the door, Bio reminded him, "You have to enter the access code number. Do you know what it is?"
"Yes I do," Gage replied as he installed his Interface Biochip. He recited, "Six-eight-nine-four-eight-nine-five." The center of the door became a scanning grid. At the bottom, the words "verification of cranial cortex scan." The scanner went over the grueling process of cranial cortex scan followed by a central cortex scan and a Biotech Implant scan. All checked out green.
"Scan completed," a deep computerized voice called out. "Welcome, Agent 5. Your fourth late arrival has been verified and logged. Please report at once to the Command Center."
"One of these days, I'm going to have to ask the guys down in tech to lessen the time it takes to scan a person's brain."
"Perhaps that's one of the advantages the Cyrollans will give us," Bio suggested.
Gage walked through the opened doorway and came to a T-Intersection. All along the far wall were windows that looked out into a huge room with a giant machine inside it. To Gage's right and left were two doors. Gage turned left and went to the door with the words 'Command Center' on them. The door slid open like a vault door. The lights came on revealing a control station along one wall with three monitors, two CD-ROM drives, and a chair.
Gage sat down in the chair and typed in the activation code for the computer: zero-five-two-four-one-three-three. The left monitor moved out in front of him and a woman appeared on it. Gage thought she looked kind of cute for an artificially programmed being. The woman began reciting a report like she was reading from cue cards.
"The Particle Accelerating Space/Time Transporter Version One, otherwise known as Pegasus, was the brainchild of part-time historian, full-time physicist Elliot Sinclair. In 2311, after seeing Sinclair's first time-bending experiment, the government contracted him to build a full-scale operational time machine. The purpose of this device was to explore our past as well as discover the truth behind many disputed historical events. Just four years after the project began; the world's first time machine under went its first test run. The test would be the first and last time the machine would be used for research purposes. The project was discontinued and Sinclair was forbidden to ever work on time-distortion projects again. Time travel now being a reality, the government secretly set up the Temporal Security Annex as a means to safeguard history from sabotage. You, the members of the Temporal Protectorate are among the very few whom know of its existence.
"The simplest analogy for the theory of time travel is that of a tunnel in time. When someone travels through time, a tunnel is created which originates when travel has begun and ends when the traveler lands. If some event in the past is altered, theory states a rip occurs in the fabric of time which gives rise to a temporal chain reaction. This chain reaction takes the form of a reality distortion wave. It could take anywhere from a few seconds to several hours to reach the present. Of those who aren't uncreated when the distortion wave hits, many will suddenly have a new life and the past, as we know it will cease to exist. Traveling back in time to before the distortion wave hits, though, allows an agent to jump over the distortion wave and escape its effects. So as a member of the Temporal Protectorate, you alone will have the ability to jump back in time and prevent the corruption for even happening. And to ensure that it never happens again, you have to discover the source of the disruption and put a halt to it.
"In the event that it becomes necessary to restore the proper course of history, the proper course of history, the procedure is as follows: as quickly as possible, get to the Ready Room and use the Biosupport Suit Generator. The Biosupport Suit is an indispensable element to the time travel process and is necessary for your protection. Next, get your assigned Mapping and Pegasus Biochips and the Journeyman Key from the cabinet next to the Biosupport Suit Generator. The Pegasus Biochip is your link to Pegasus. When installed into your Biotech Interface, it will allow you to be pulled back to the present almost immediately. A warning: the Pegasus maintains a virtual energy link with the time traveler and that energy deteriorates the longer a person spends in the past. Eventually, the Pegasus won't have enough energy to recall the time traveler and the traveler will be stuck at wherever the end point of the time tunnel is.
"After you're outfitted for travel, but before the reality distortion wave reaches the present, you must jump back to the year two-hundred-million b.c. Upon arriving there, use the Journeyman key to open the storage vault and obtain the Journeyman Historical Log. Since it exists at a point in time prior to any likely temporal changes, the disk serves as a source of unaltered historical information. To discover how history has been changed, head back to the Temporal Security Annex and insert the Journeyman Disk into the computer. It will be cross-referenced with the historical log that was left behind to be altered by the reality distortion wave. Knowing how, when, and where the past was changed should give you the information you need to restore the proper flow of history. A word of caution though, time is very sensitive to change. In order to keep from altering history worse than it already has been, try to solve the problems you encounter without changing anything. As a rule, a Temporal Protectorate Agent should never interfere with any events of the past, never leave anything behind that came from a different time zone, never remove any important historical objects from a time zone, and above all else, never interact with beings from another time zone."
Gage sighed and turned off the monitor. He went through the review session, now what? Maybe he would get to go home early and get some breakfast.
Suddenly an alarm rang out through the room. Gage was so startled that he fell back in his chair.
"Warning, warning," the deep computer voice cried out. "Temporal rip detected. Alert status: alpha. Agent Five, report to Ready Room."
"So much for going home early," Gage muttered as he dashed from the Command Center. The Ready Room was mirror to the Command Center except it was on the right side of the entranceway instead of the left.
Gage went inside the Ready Room and over to a tube-like chamber. The computer warned him to prepare for "Bioencapsulation." A beam flowed over Gage and a skin-tight jumpsuit formed over his uniform. The jumpsuit had multiple pockets around it and insulating tubes. There was even a special compartment reserved for Biochips on his belt.
And speaking of Biochips, Gage went over to a compartment on a shelf to the right of the Biosuit Generator. He opened it and took out two Biochips, which he placed in his compartment. Gage then reached to a cabinet above the Biochip housing shelf and took out a strange key with the same tri-interlocking circles that the symbol on the door had.
Gage left the Ready Room and turned left down a hallway off to the side. He came to an elevator door unlike the one at Caldoria Heights Apartments except these doors parted vertically instead of horizontally. Gage held up the Pegasus Biochip to a scanner and the doors parted. The elevator slid down into the room that the big machine was in.
The machine was the Pegasus, Elliot Sinclair's first temporal transporter. Its general shape was circular with a hatch on the side. Gage placed the Pegasus Biochip into a slot on a side panel. The hatch immediately lowered. A door swirled around to reveal a human-size indentation. After replacing the Pegasus Biochip inside his compartment, Gage backed himself into the indentation. The hatch closed and Gage felt himself rotate to the control panel. A light came on to reveal a main monitor and three smaller monitors. The computer asked Gage to select a destination from the listing on the left monitor. Of course there was only one choice so Gage picked it. He then pressed the activation button.
Outside, another alarm sounded off. Suddenly the red flashing lights turned to blue. The chamber of the Pegasus started spinning rapidly. Gage's whole view of reality became distorted. He closed his eyes as he felt himself falling. He could hear sounds coming from all around him. Gage suddenly realized that what he was hearing was what he heard early this morning. The radio broadcast, the Caldoria Heights advertisement, the transporter computer asking for his Global Transport Card, the computer at the Temporal Security Annex.
There was also an extra voice, a male voice that Gage couldn't recognize or what he was saying, only about doing something himself.
Year: 200,000,000 b.c.
Place: Future site of the Temporal Security Annex
Gage finally felt himself touch solid ground. It felt like he was touching sand. He opened his eyes. He was in some sort of chasm. Cliff walls about thirty feet high stood on either side of him. It was a sunny day. Gage was overlooking a cliff, which gazed at a volcano.
"Bio, where am I?"
"You are between the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods of the Precambrian Eon. This is where the Temporal Security Annex is going to be. In fact, you are standing on the exact spot where the Global Transporter is going to be."
Gage turned around to face the inside of the chasm and began walking into it.
"Gage, there's a carnivorous life form coming this way at an unimaginable speed," Bio warned as a Pteranadon flew directly over Gage's location. Gage crouched down and held his head in his hands. When he was sure the giant beast was gone, he looked up.
"Phew, thanks for warning me, Bio."
Gage continued his trek through the chasm until he saw a dead end. Bio warned that there was another carnivorous life form detected. Gage looked around and saw the shadow of a Tyrannosaurus against the chasm wall. He turned around frantically expecting to see the dinosaur but nothing was there.
"I'm getting too old for this," Gage complained.
"Gage, you've only been a member of the Temporal Protectorate for three years. You have at least forty more before you retire."
"Bio, I was only making a joke."
Eventually, Gage saw the Journeyman logo, the three interlocking circles. He placed his hand against the symbol and it slid open to reveal a hole perfect for the Journeyman key. Gage placed the key against the hole. It turned three times before opening to reveal a CD-ROM disk. Gage took the disk and placed it in his back pocket. He installed the Pegasus Biochip and it recalled him back to the Temporal Security Annex.
Place: Temporal Security Annex, classified location
Gage found himself back in Pegasus. He pressed the exit button that was on the control panel and the hatch opened. He went up to the Command Center and placed the unaltered history log in the right CD-ROM drive. The left one contained the disk that was altered by the distortion wave.
As he programmed the activation code (zero-two-nine-one-three-eight-four), two faces began flashing across the left monitor. One face was the same as the one who gave him his mission briefing when he first arrived. The other he couldn't tell if it was the same face or someone entirely different. Her hair was slicked back in a ponytail but that seemed to be the only difference.
The computer found four events that did not match between the two Historical Log disks. One was at NORAD VI in the Southeast Pacific in the year 2112, another was at the Morimoto Mars Colony in 2185 and the third was at the World Science Center in Australia in the year 2310. The fourth ripple actually seemed to be a result of the other three. It was the year the Cyrollans first made contact with Earth, 2308. Gage read each of the comparisons in more detail.
NORAD VI in 2112 was where the Worldwide Unification Treaty was going to be signed. The government of Ghorbistan was ready to accept the terms of the Worldwide Unification Treaty set forth by the United Nations despite a terrorist faction which disagreed with the terms and expressed this disagreement by taking hostages, many of which were American. That was what was suppose to happen, but instead, a nuclear missile was launched from NORAD VI to Ghorbistan by the United States causing foreign governments to withdraw in signing the Worldwide Unification Treaty.
The Morimoto Mars Colony in 2185 was the time zone where the first official sighting of an alien spacecraft took place. A shuttle heading to the colony spotted it. But instead of that, the Mars Colony went offline. Many people believed it was the work of a "malevolent alien race" because rubble from an unknown ship was found near Mars.
At the World Science Center in Australia in the year 2310, a rally was held to discuss whether or not Earth was ready for contact with an alien race. Doctor Enrique Castillo delivered the most convincing debate of everyone there. But instead, he was killed on stage. The killer was never found and the debate was quickly dropped.
The computer deduced that these three events would have a profound impact on whether or not the Cyrollans were willing to extend an invitation for Earth to join the Symbiotry of Peaceful Beings. They were suppose to announce that intention over all of Earth's frequencies but instead, only one sentence was heard: "we will return when you are ready."
Okay, Gage thought to himself. Somebody was trying to discredit Earth in the eyes of the Cyrollans, but why? Gage remembered reading about Doctor Castillo's speech in school. He argued that the aliens would have technology that would benefit humanity and that the Cyrollans would be a good ally to Earth in case of attack by more hostile forces. Gage couldn't remember the points the opposition pointed out or who even the speaker was.
Gage knew what he had to do now. He had to use Sinclair's Pegasus machine to time travel back to the dates of the altered events and stop whoever was altering the past. Earth's future could depend on it. He quickly downloaded the coordinates into the Pegasus Biochip and fed the necessary information to Bio. He then returned to the Pegasus room and programmed the machine to take him to the year 2185 and the Morimoto Colony on Mars. As he hit the activation button, Gage though he heard that same male voice again. This time it was a little clearer. He could make out the syllable 'ass' in it.
Place: Morimoto Mars Colony, Mars
Gage found himself in a gantry. He was staring at an emergency exit door. He turned around and started walking down the gantry. He passed three doors each with the words 'Shuttle Dock' on them.
"Gage," Bio called as they approached an intersection. "I am detecting a temporal anachronism."
"A temporal anachronism is a person and/or object that doesn't belong in this time zone… other than us." Gage quickly braced himself against the wall. Moments later, a robot came walking down from the right side. He looked down the gantry as if he was trying to decide whether or not he should go down in that direction. Apparently, the robot decided not to because instead he continued down the left passageway.
"Phew, that was a close one," Gage said. He looked around at the three passages. The right one led to a door with the words 'Ore Processing Room' on it. The middle way led to a door with the words 'Mars Colony Entrance.' The one on the left seemed to lead to a dead end except there was a door on the right side. Gage decided to follow the robot and took the left passageway. The door he arrived to in the left passageway said 'Maintenance Entrance' on it.
When Gage opened the door, he saw a track off to the left. It seemed like the track led deep into the planet. But there was no car.
"Damn," Gage cursed. "There's no way…" A mining cart came through the tunnel and landed directly in front of Gage. He walked inside. Upon turning to the back, Gage saw two objects. One looked like the Journeyman Key except it was in the shape of an 'X'. Another was a tool of some sort.
"Bio, what are these objects?"
"The object that looks like the Journeyman Key is a Maintenance Key and the other is a pair of wire clippers." Gage took both of them thinking they could be handy later on.
When Gage turned to the front, he only saw a lever. When he pulled it, the cart immediately started up and went down the track again. When it stopped, Gage was deep within the planet. He got out of the cart and went through the doors. He was in some sort of anteroom. To his right was an airlock that led into the actual mines. In front of him was an oxygen generator. There was no oxygen in the mines so they needed to fill an oxygen mask before walking into the mines. Gage did that. To the left was a door with the name 'Shield Generator.' The Shield Generator kept the atmosphere around the colony the way it was.
Gage was about to walk into the air lock that led to the mines when a noise came from the Shield Generator room. Gage saw the robot exit the Shield Generator and approached him. For a brief moment, the two stared each other down. Eyes versus eye. Finally the robot said, "Out of my way, human, or die!"
Not ready to die just yet, Gage replied, "of course." He moved into the alcove the Oxygen Generator was in. The robot went passed Gage and into the airlock. Gage was about to follow when Bio stopped him.
"Gage, wait, that robot was doing something in the Shield Generator room and I don't think it was maintenance. You should check it out to make sure everything is all right."
"You're right, Bio, I should." Gage turned and went to the Shield Generator door. He pressed it open and walked onto a diagnostic platform. He programmed the platform to return to the last position it was before it landed at the door.
"Excessive radiation detected," Bio announced. "Biosupport Suit attempting to compensate." Gage muttered a curse. When it came to extreme radiation, like the type produced by the Shield Generator, the Biosupport Suit could barely keep up. Gage figured he would have to investigate quickly.
The platform hovered down to an access panel. Gage lowered the diagnostics screen and looked at the lock. He removed the Maintenance Key and used it to unlock the panel. The diagnostics screen asked Gage for an access card.
Uh-oh, Gage thought. I don't have an access card. But before Gage could think of what to do, the diagnostic computer announced that there was a foreign object in the card slot. Gage looked up to see a cylindrical object attached to the input slot. Gage ran a diagnostic on the object.
"Explosive device detected in card slot," the Morimoto computer announced.
Gage immediately knew what that meant. "A bomb!"
"Forceful removal of the bomb is unadvisable, Gage. I suggest you attempt a circuit-link to the detonator. After you turn off the detonator, you can remove it manually.
"Good idea, Bio, could you instruct me on how to do that."
"Yes. To successfully link the detonator controls to the platform, you must put together the wires by filling them in with the appropriate color node."
Gage began choosing colors at random. At first, they were easy because there were only three colors to choose and three nodes. But they became a lot harder, adding colors to each level. Gage knew his Biosupport Suit couldn't take this much radiation for more than five minutes so he had to hurry. On the third level, Gage was given seven chances to match the correct color nodes. The first six he failed but just when his Biosupport Suit was about to give out, he got the correct order. The Morimoto computer announced that it was safe to remove it manually. Slowly and carefully, Gage removed the insert card that was attached to the bomb. The bomb was too big to fit into one of his pockets so he cradled it under his arm as he returned to the anteroom where the oxygen filler was.
"Well that explains how the colony was destroyed," Gage said as he exited the Shield Generator.
Bio echoed Gage's thoughts. "The robot used a bomb to detonate the Shield Generator and that destroyed it."
"Right, now lets find that robot and see if we can stop him from committing any more atrocities."
Gage went into the air lock. There were two buttons: pressurize and spin. The pressurize button was to remove or add pressure to the air lock determining on where you were going. The spin button rotated the air lock one hundred-eighty degrees. Gage pressed both buttons and came out into the mines, which were nothing but a metal catwalk and random spotlights.
The oxygen mask had enough air for three minutes before it needed to be supplied again just by taking it off and it took Gage two minutes and thirty seconds to work his way through the mines and found the conveyors.
When he found them, he grabbed a bucket and rode up to where he found another airlock. With almost no time remaining, Gage made a mad dash for the airlock. He was practically holding his breath as he pressed the spin button. After he removed the oxygen mask and allowed the pressurization system of the airlock to refill the mask, he emerged into the same hallway intersection he was in when he arrived.
Suddenly the robot came out from the colony entrance and proceeded down the gantry where Gage arrived. Gage quickly followed but when he got to the intersection, he heard a 'fwoosh' sound like something being shot out of a tube followed by an announcement made by the Morimoto computer. "Shuttle Two has just departed East Gantry."
Was the robot trying to escape? Gage asked himself. He then realized what the robot was doing. He remembered from the mission briefing that the reason this place and time was so important was that it was the first sighting of an alien ship plus ruins from an alien ship was found near Mars. The robot was trying to destroy the alien ship! Gage had to stop him!
Gage ran down the gantry until he got to the door with 'Shuttle Dock 3' written on it. He rammed the open button a couple a couple of times then slammed his fist into it.
"Emergency Shuttle Lock override," the computer called. The doors parted revealing a chair. Gage sat back in the chair as a view panel lowered in front of him and the two sets of doors closed. He picked up a transceiver headset and put it on so he could hear the communications between the colony.
"We have an unauthorized launch in Shuttle Two, over."
"I copy, launch of Shuttle Two confirmed. Where is Shuttle Two, over?"
"Shuttle Two appears to be heading for the launch tubes… hang on a second, we've got an unauthorized breech in Shuttle Three, over."
"Shuttle Three is still at the bay in the East Gantry, over."
"Roger, sending security force to East Gantry. Requesting manual override on launch sequence for Shuttle Three, over."
"That's a negative, the whole security grid seems to be down."
"Thank God for small miracles," Gage said.
"Actually, Gage, I think it was the robot who disabled the security grid, perhaps when he discovered that you removed the bomb."
"All right, then, thank the robot for small miracles."
The shuttle cockpit launched and flew through the Martian canyon. The cockpit finally came to a tube of some sort where it was attached to the main body of a shuttle.
"Prepare for launch matrix," the computer announced. "Generating repulsor waves, stand by for atmospheric breakaway." The shuttle launched. Gage turned on the transceiver again to listen to the colony's communications.
"Attention tower, Shuttles Two and Three have both armed their weapon systems. It seems that the lead shuttle has locked its Graviton Cannon onto an unidentified spacecraft. Estimated time until intercept: five minutes."
"That doesn't give us much time," Gage said as he flipped on his shuttle's energy dampening beam. He programmed the autopilot to track the robot's shuttle so he wouldn't have to do two jobs at once.
His shuttle's radar picked up the robot's shuttle. It was darting in and out of the target window. Gage fired the beam. It struck the shuttle and the scanners showed the robot shuttle's energy go down a little. Gage tried firing the energy-dampening beam again but missed. He tried ten or twelve times and still missed.
"I'm getting nowhere this way," Gage said as he activated the Graviton Cannon.
"Gage, the Graviton Cannon is a highly-destructive combat weapon. We need the robot intact if we have any hope of figuring out who sent it and why."
"I know, Bio, but I have to drain enough energy to use the tractor beam." Gage fired the cannon. The blast knocked the robot shuttle's energy down to fifty-five percent. Gage fired again. This time, the energy shot down to ten percent. Gage switched on the tractor beam.
"Wait for it," Gage said to himself. "Let it get in the center of the screen." The robot's shuttle centered in the screen and Gage had a target. He fired the tractor beam. The blue beam surrounded the robot's shuttle. At first it seemed to have no effect, but then it slowly dragged towards Gage's shuttle.
"Yes," Gage shouted. "I have a lock." After about ten seconds, Gage teleported over to the robot's shuttle.
When Gage got to the cockpit, he saw that the robot was still online.
"The alien ship must be destroyed," the robot said then collapsed. Gage opened its Biochip panel in its head. Five out of the six Biochips were damaged so Gage took the only one that wasn't and placed it in his inventory.
"Bio, has the alien spaceship left the solar system?" Gage asked.
"Yes, and the Morimoto Mars Colony is out of danger."
"Good." Gage installed the Pegasus Biochip. The Pegasus had more than enough energy to jump Gage back to the present.
Place: Temporal Security Annex, classified location
"Well," Gage said as he reappeared inside Pegasus. "Now we know what is causing the rips. But we still need to find out who's sending them, and why."
"Gage, are you going to review the Biochip you got from the robot? Perhaps that harbors some clues."
"Believe me, Bio, I would love to, but if this is what causing the rips, there could be more of these robots. We need to go to the World Science Center and NORAD VI to stop them." Gage got out of Pegasus and placed the bomb on the floor. He then got into Pegasus again.
"Which time zone are we going to now?" Bio asked.
"The World Science Center. I have an assassination to stop."
Place: World Science Center, Sydney, Australia.
By the time Gage fully materialized, it was too late. There standing in a doorway was a robot holding some sort of weapon.
"I've been expecting you," the robot said. He then pulled the trigger.
Something shot out and struck Gage in the neck. Gage felt everything get blurry on him. Al of a sudden, he felt dizzy and tired. Gage took the projectile out and looked at it. It was some sort of dart. His eyes became focused again as he saw the robot morph into a human and the closed the door.
"Gage, there's something contaminating your blood stream," Bio warned.
"Any… idea… what… it is?" Gage staggered as he asked the question.
"Not at this time, but I may be able to analyze it. There's a Molecular Analyzer behind you. Turn around and place the dart in the scanner." Gage turned around and turned on the view screen behind the scanner. A label appeared but Gage didn't have time to look at it now. He turned on the scanner and placed the dart in it. After a while, the computer analyzed it to be a form of tranquilizer. Any more information was sent to the Molecular Generator. Gage took one step back and turned left. He was facing a blue screen. Gage turned it on, then collapsed on his knees.
"Bio… I don't think I'll be able to fully analyze it. You'll have to do it for me."
"Sure, Gage, I understand. Just install your Interface Biochip and let me do the rest. Gage reached into this Biochip Inventory and took out the Interface Biochip. He placed it into the Biotech Interface. The substance that was in Gage's blood stream was a chemical called dehydrazine, an element commonly found in sleep aides. Not particularly harmful by itself, but when combined with other chemicals, it makes a very powerful tranquilizer. These elements could knock out, comatose, or even kill a person. However, there was a way to counteract it. An antidote can be made from three base Thorazine molecules. Bio began forming the molecules from separate pieces of other molecules. Finally, the antidote was formed. "Gage, take the antidote that's in the molecular synthesizer behind you." Gage was so groggy that he could barely hear Bio's instructions. Turning around, he reached for the antidote and drank it. He then collapsed on the ground, panting hard.
After a while, Gage moaned and got to his feet. "Bio, it worked, I don't feel dizzy and tired any more. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Gage."
For the first time since he got here, Gage looked around at his surroundings. He was in a large yellow room. Various monitor equipment and experiment machines were set up. It was some sort of laboratory.
"Time to find out where I am." Gage went over to a holographic display terminal. When Gage turned it on, he saw something he wished he hadn't seen.
After turning the display terminal off, Gage saw a blue monitor behind the Molecular Generator. When he turned it on, a title screen appeared SL Display #2568: Elliot Sinclair Journal.
"Elliot Sinclair? He's the inventor of time travel. What is the robot doing here?"
Gage accessed the first three entries. On all three of them, an elderly man with coke bottle glasses spoke.
"I've had a thought today while working on the contact sensitive smart alloy project. It's given that all the elements behave in a manner that is consistent with their atomic properties. For example, it is consistent for maganese to bond with barium cobalt in a very particular way under certain conditions. In a sense, these universal instruction sets are similar to the DNA, which regulates the behavior of all cells in biologic organisms. This being the case, it's conceivable that any non-organic matter can be programmed to respond at the molecular level to a set of predetermined instructions and instruction codes. So imagine a lamp which upon command can take the form of a chair or a table or even a work of art. The possibilities are infinite. I'm confident that a proposal to do further research in this direction will be met with approval."
The next entry was a continuation on the first. "This experiment has been fraught with discoveries about the morphing process. We learned how to morph all of the elements but only after we realized that a certain few of them are immutable, particularly the inert gasses like argon and krypton. Well, because of their unique electrochemical properties, they are simply immutable. Even worse, these elements actually interfere with the bonding of surrounding molecules and bring the whole process to a halt. On the plus side, we have also discovered that if proper care was taken, even organic matter can forcibly be altered to take any form."
"That must be how the robot can change into a human," Bio deduced. "Through Elliot Sinclair's morphing process."
Sinclair's last entry was probably Gage's favorite. It was on time travel. "This journal is, beyond a doubt, the most important part of my career, as today marks my first success in the application of time distortion theory. By creating a localized neutrino acceleration matrix, I was able to bend time for just a fraction of a second. Anything entering into the distortion field will be slipped back in time for just a moment, creating a visual effect similar to light refraction on water in a swimming pool. It may not seem like much, but it was truly more than what any physicist could hope to achieve in a lifetime. And while it may be eons before there's any practical application of the theory, everything great was achieved one small step at a time, and this is definitely the first step."
Gage turned the monitor off. "Incredible," he commented. "How could anyone use Doctor Sinclair's theories to commit such atrocities?"
Gage left Dr. Sinclair's laboratory and turned left. He walked all the way to the end of the hall until he came to a sign showing the way to the auditorium. He opted to turn in that direction but he could hear voices, so he went the other way.
"Gage," Bio called. "I've theorized that if the robot wanted to kill Doctor Castillo, he would have to make it from an obscure location, meaning he would have to have a good view at the same time appear invisible to spectators. I've accessed schematics of this facility while I was connected to Dr. Sinclair's terminal. There's a catwalk just above the stage, but a curtain covers it from the audience. I think that's where the robot is going to strike."
"Excellent, Bio, tell me…"
"Thank you, Doctor Sinclair," a voice called over a PA system. "Our next speaker is Doctor Enrique Castillo."
"Uh-oh! Bio, we don't have much time. Tell me how to get to the catwalk!"
"Take the next hallway on the left. Look for a purple door." Gage followed Bio's instructions. He spotted the purple door on the left side towards the other end of the hallway. He took a deep breath and opened the door.
A man could be seen on the catwalk. But Gage knew that it wasn't a man. It was a robot disguised as a human. He was aiming a blaster downward.
Gage knew that he had to distract it from its goal. "Hey, Robo-Crap! I dare you to try to use that pea-shooter on me again!" Suddenly the robot dropped its disguise and started to approach Gage.
"Gage, if he shoots you with that gun again, I don't think it will be possible to make another antidote in time." Gage looked around for something he could use as a weapon. While he didn't find a weapon, he did spy a fire control box. He pulled out the wire cutters he got from the Mars Colony and used them to cut the lock on the box. The box door swung open. Gage quickly pressed the 'Test' button. At first, nothing happened and Gage got ready to go hand-to-hand with the robot. Then water began pouring out from the sprinklers on the ceiling. The robot began to short-circuit and it fell down onto the catwalk. Gage opened up the robot's head and took out the two working Biochips. He then used the Optical Memory Biochip (the Biochip he got from the robot at the Morimoto Mars Colony) to download the robot's memory bank. Just like the first one, the robot disintegrated leaving the gun he used to shoot Gage and probably Dr. Castillo. Gage told Bio that he bet that the robots were designed to self-destruct if they failed their mission so that whoever caught them didn't trace them back to their maker.
Gage peeked out onto the stage. Doctor Castillo was debating to an obviously awestruck audience. He picked up the gun and transported back to 2318.
Place: Temporal Security Annex, classified location
"Good job, Gage," Bio said as Gage climbed out of Pegasus. "We only have to stop the one at NORAD VI and we'll be all done."
"True, Bio," Gage said solemnly. "But frankly, I'm worried. The robot at the World Science Center was much smarter and cunning than the one at the Morimoto Mars Colony. He knew I was coming. The one at NORAD VI could be too powerful for me to handle."
"Gage, I can see that you're aghast about stopping these robots, but you have to have faith. Humanity didn't come this far to fall back into a state of disarray due to these androids and they're apparently xenophobic creator. We MUST stop them."
Gage was suddenly filled with an inner fire. Bio's words inspired him. He stared at the Pegasus. "You're right, Bio, I must do this! I will stop these robots or… no, I WILL stop them, no ifs. Come on, Bio, let's rumble with the robot!" Gage marched right back into Pegasus.
Place: NORAD VI, in the Southeast Pacific Ocean
Gage materialized in an air lock. There, standing in the doorway, was the robot.
"You are no match for me, human, but I love a challenge." Then the robot shut the airlock door.
"All personnel," the NORAD VI computer called out. "Unknown contamination located in NORAD air ducts and ventilation systems." Gage began gasping.
"Sleep gas is being filtered into the NORAD VI ventilation system," Bio explained. Gage took out the oxygen mask and put it on.
"The gas is sapping power from your Interface. Activate your Shield Biochip." The Shield Biochip was one of the Biochips he got from the World Science Center robot. When it was installed, a yellow energy field enclosed him. Breathing a sigh of relief, Gage opened the airlock and stepped through. On the opposite wall was the 'NORAD VI' logo. A door leading to who knows where was on his right.
Gage turned to go down the hallway but stopped dead in his tracks. The robot was at the other end of the hallway with some sort of mortar. He launched a fireball at Gage. Gage quickly held up his hands and prayed for a miracle. The robot fired four more fireballs at him then disappeared. It took Gage a second to realize that he was still alive and in one piece.
"Why am I not burnt to a crisp?" Gage asked Bio.
"Your Shield Biochip protected you from the robot's attack. Unfortunately, it will need time to recharge before you can use it again.
Gage removed his Shield Biochip and ran down the hallway to the door where he thought he saw the robot disappear through. He pushed open the heavy door and came into some sort of anteroom. Another thick door was on the other side. Gage tried opening it but couldn't.
"Unequal pressure between this room and Subdock," the NORAD computer announced. "Equalize pressure before entering. Avoid maximum pressure, some objects may implode."
Gage went to the control panel next to the door. He pressed a button a couple of times until the status screen read 'pressure equal, door open.' Gage opened the door and came out into a docking bay. He could see mini-subs lined up ready to launch, but no robot. Gage went to the other end of the docking bay and came into the control room for the docking bay. There was a door to Gage's left. When he opened it, he found himself back in the hallway where the robot blasted him. He got ready for another attack but none came.
"Bio, how do I find out what's going on?" Gage asked.
"Go to the Alpha Section." Gage went down the hallway until he came to an intersection. In front of him was the door to the anteroom. To his right was a sign marked 'Epsilon Section,' behind him was a sign marked 'Delta Section' and to his left was a sign marked 'Alpha Section.' Gage turned left and found himself at an extra-thick door. He pressed the open button and a little lens popped out.
"Please hold for Alpha Section retinal ID scan," the NORAD computer said. Uh-oh, Gage thought, if it scanned Gage's eye, it would know that he's not part of the NORAD staff and alert security. Gage then remembered that one of the Biochips he retrieved from the robot at the World Science Center was a Retinal Biochip. A Retinal Biochip was a Biochip capable of scanning a retinal scanner and fools it into thinking that the lens of the Biotech Interface was an acceptable eye. Gage installed the Biochip into his Interface and held the lens up to the lens of the retinal scanner.
The Retinal Biochip must've worked because the next thing Gage knew, he was inside the control room. A station with a hologram of the world was at the far side of the room. Gage sat down in the chair. There were two monitors on each side plus a trackball in the middle. At the current moment, one of the monitors was blank and the other showed the meeting hall of NORAD. All the world leaders were either knocked out or beginning to fall unconscious. The only reason Gage was still standing was because he took the antidote at Doctor Sinclair's laboratory plus he was wearing an oxygen mask.
Gage flipped on the right monitor. The right monitor showed the symbol: 'NORAD VI Defense Command Station Alpha.' Sudden, the left monitor showed an image of the robot.
"I just broke the launch code, human. You'll never stop me." Gage figured the robot was talking to him from another command station.
"Nuclear strike authorized," the NORAD computer announced. "Red alert, red alert, nuclear safeguards disabled. Primary target: Ghorbistan, launch silo selected: Honolulu, Hawaii. Launch to proceed in two minutes."
"Bio, how do I shut down the silo?"
"I won't know, Gage, until I've interfaced with the NORAD computer. Quick, install your Interface Biochip." Gage quickly installed the Biochip. After about several moments, Bio replied, "to deactivate a missile before launch, use the trackball to move the cursor over the active silo and press the override button. Hurry, Gage, you have less than two minutes." Gage quickly moved the trackball so that the holographic cursor in the center of the screen rotated around the globe. After much tension, the cursor rested on Hawaii. Gage pressed the override button.
"Launch Silo deactivated," the NORAD computer said. Then, "New launch silo selected: Dublin, Ireland. Launch to proceed in one minute, fifty seconds."
"What? But Ireland is half-way around the world!"
"The robot deliberately chose that silo because he knows you won't make it there in time."
"That's what he thinks." Gage rolled the trackball. There was about ten seconds left before Gage got the cursor on Ireland and pressed the override button.
"Launch silo deactivated. New launch silo selected: San Antonio, Texas. Launch to proceed in one minute, thirty seconds." The next minute or so was like a daze to Gage. As soon as the San Antonio silo was deactivated, the computer announced that the next silo chosen was Bangkok, Thailand. Then Bonn, Germany; Seoul, Korea; Lake Yavic, Iceland; and Bortosk, Siberia. All along the way, the robot taunted and threatened him.
"You will not succeed. You are running out of time. Give up, human, or I will be forced to eliminate you." The one after Siberia was in Madrid, Spain and Gage had only thirty seconds left. Gage hurried to move the trackball but found himself in Santiago, Chile instead and there were only ten seconds left. Gage rolled the trackball as fast as he could. As the cursor sailed pass Spain, Gage hit the override button and prayed that he didn't miss.
"Silo deactivated," the computer announced. "Minimum amount of silos deactivated for global safety locks to reboot and activate. All silos are deactivated."
"Yes!" Gage cried. He won, he beat the machine.
"The only good human is a dead human," the robot remarked and with those words, his image disappeared from the monitor.
"Oh no," Gage said more to himself than to Bio. "He's coming after me! I have to get out of here before he finds me!" Gage ran out of the command station and back to the Delta Section. From there, it was into the control room for the docking bay. He could see the robot on the other side of the docking bay. He came across the docking bay and tried breaking the door down but Gage raised the pressure slightly so that the door wouldn't open. Gage knew it would be easier to just raise the pressure to maximum and implode the robot but he had to download the robot's memory bank.
Gage sat down at the controls to the grappling claw. The robot came to the window that was in front of Gage and began trying to break it down.
"What do you think this is, human, a game?" The robot's question didn't phase Gage one bit. He activated the grappling claw and ran its automated program feature. The grappling claw slowly grabbed the robot's chest and crushed it. The robot's upper half crashed through the window. Gage quickly opened up its Biochip Compartment and downloaded its optical memory. Just in time too, for the robot disintegrated just like the others.
Realizing his mission was completed, Gage installed the Pegasus Biochip, but he wasn't immediately pulled back.
"Come on, Pegasus, lock on, lock on," Gage urged. He saw the room dissolve to the cockpit of the Pegasus.
Place: Temporal Security Annex, classified location.
"Congratulations, Gage," Bio applauded. "You did it! You stopped all three robots!"
"I sure did, but we still have to find the mastermind behind all of this."
"Right, let's look at the Optical Memory Biochip." Gage found that he thought the best sitting down so he went back up to the Command Center and sat down in the computer chair.
Gage installed the Optical Memory Biochip into his Biotech Interface. The Biochip downloaded three memory tapes. The first tape was from Aries, the robot Gage fought at the Morimoto Mars Colony. An elderly man who looked and sounded familiar appeared on the screen inside the Biotech Interface.
"Aries," he said. "I'm sending you to Earth's colony on Mars in the year 2185. There, you must accomplish two events simultaneously. First, you must plant the delayed action explosive device I've given you in such a way that you'll wipe out the entire colony by blowing up their Atmospheric Shield Generator. But before the bomb detonates, you must hijack an armed escort shuttle and destroy the alien spaceship that was reported in the viscidity at that exact time." The man laughed maliciously. "Earth will think the aliens wiped out their colony, the aliens will think that Earth destroyed their spaceship. What better plan could I have to keep everyone reminded of who the real enemy is and where the real danger lies?"
The next video was from Mercury, the robot at the World Science Center. "Mercury, I'm sending you to eliminate my adversary, Enrique Castillo, who thought he was doing the world such a favor by convincing everyone that I was insane to fear alien contact, well I'm not the one, I'm not the one who's inviting death into my home! The only place I can be sure of finding him is on the stage at the Alien Contact Rally eight years ago so I'm sending you to the World Science Center in the year 2310. Try to make his death look accidental but whether or not you should succeed at that, do everything you have to do to ensure of his demise."
The final video playback was the most important. It was from the NORAD VI robot, Poseidon, plus there was a group message to all three robots. "Poseidon, I am sending you to the deep sea installation at NORAD VI in the year 2112 where you will disrupt the World Unification Talks by launching a nuclear missile towards Ghorbistan. You will detonate the warhead before it touches down. That should suffice to delay world unification. I can only pray that it will not touch off a nuclear holocaust." The man stuttered. "I wish it had not come to this; but until now it's been entirely out of my control. If the bureaucrats who scrapped the Pegasus Project had instead used it in the way it has meant to be used, they would've realized that aggressors always choose the most unsuspecting victim."
Gage paused the video for a minute. How would this guy know about the Journeyman Project? It's not as if he had a hand in its creation… did he?
He unpaused the movie as the man continued his ranting about the history of aggression.
"The Native Americans, the Africans, the Jews, the Arabs, were all lured into a sense of compliance before they were overpowered by their conquerors. Our… our… our alien friends tell us that they come in the name of peace, a tactic used by all the worst offenders throughout history! And so I have left to do what I can to ensure that humanity itself is not the next victim. I'm sending you all back in history to rewrite our future, to write us a new future, where we will not offer these… creatures an engraved invitation to enslave us all. And if you fail, I will be forced myself to demonstrate personally that we are not all as docile as we might seem. I know the one place in all of Sector 3 with the best view of the Capital Building. And from that place, by the use of a weapon of my own devising, I will…" But Gage already knew what he was going to say next and joined in with the realization. It was what he heard while time traveling to all the time zones. "I will assassinate the Cyrollan delegate myself. And (God forbid) if I should fail, one touch of a button on my remote detonator will be enough to end it all. Eliminating Caldoria, and this foul infestation along with us."
He was going to try to assassinate the Cyrollan Ambassador! But from where? The only clue was the sentence: "the one place in all of Sector 3 with the best view of the Capital Building." But where was…
Suddenly Gage remembered the advertisement for the Caldoria Heights Apartments. It was located ACROSS from the Capitol Building. You don't get a better view than that.
Gage grabbed the card bomb, which he obtained from the Morimoto Mars Colony and the stun gun he got from the World Science Center. He dashed out of the Temporal Security Annex. He got into the Global Transporter and programmed it to take him back to Caldoria Heights.
Place: Caldoria Heights Apartments; Sector 3, Caldoria
As soon as Gage arrived at the apartment building, he quickly looked out the view window of the lobby. He could see a large triangular shaped vessel located in front of the Capital Building.
"I've contacted the police while you were reviewing the Optical Memory Biochip," Bio informed him. "They're on their way."
"I don't think they'll get here in time. I'll have to try and stun him until they do get here. Okay, if I was a deranged madman and I wanted to kill an alien from a place without getting spotted, where would that be?"
"Gage, remember how the elevator stopped at the roof just before coming to your floor?"
"You're right, Bio!" Gage ran for the elevator. Upon entering, he set the elevator for the roof. When he arrived on the roof, he dashed for the door to the Rooftop Observatory. But he couldn't open it.
"Sorry," the apartment computer said. "The Caldoria Heights Rooftop Observatory is closed during the alien procession."
"Damn," Gage cursed as he tried ramming the door a couple of times with his body. "Open up, you no-good piece of junk!"
Gage took out the Access Card Bomb and installed it into the card slot. He then quickly activated his Shield Biochip.
The door along with a piece of the wall exploded and Gage could see the killer.
"I knew it," he said.
There, standing on the Observatory holding some sort of blaster was Doctor Elliot Sinclair.
"Freeze, Sinclair!" Gage called out. "Temporal Protectorate Agent 5, I'm placing you under arrest for historical sabotage!"
Sinclair turned and looked at him. "Get back," he warned. "Don't try to stop me! This will end one way or another so GET BACK!"
"Yes," Gage said quietly. "This will end… now!" And with those words, Gage fired the Stun Gun. The tranquilizer dart hit Sinclair in the back and he fell over. The gun fell out of his hand.
Gage stepped through the hole onto the Observatory. Minutes later the police arrived. Gage took out the Optical Memory Biochip and handed it to one of the detectives.
"Here." He said. "This should give you all the evidence you need."
Place: Hard Rock Café; New York City, New York
"Wow," Steve gasped. "That was amazing, Gage. How did you know it was Sinclair to begin with?" Gage, Steve, Rachel, and Joanne were sitting at a table at the Hard Rock Café. The other three decided to treat Gage to lunch for his heroic achievements. Gage told them in complete detail of what happened.
Gage told them that he first got the idea when he saw the holograph in Sinclair's Laboratory. It was of Aries, the robot at the Morimoto Mars Colony. But of course, that alone wasn't enough to ensue a conviction. Someone could've stolen the schematics for Aires from Sinclair's Laboratory. In fact, it wasn't until Gage viewed the Optical Memory Biochip where he had the necessary evidence to convict Sinclair.
"But how did your Biotech Interface contact the Police without the Interface Biochip?" Rachel asked.
"She didn't need the Interface Biochip, the police computer already had one. She simply sent out a signal which only the police computer could pick up. She then explained to the computer what was going on and it did the rest."
"Well, Gage, you're a hero," Joanne said. "What are you going to do now?"
Gage smiled. "I'm going to eat. I haven't had anything to eat for a long time."
"Yeah," Steve joked. "Over thirty billion years." The four friends chuckled at the remark.