CHAPTER FOUR

Jamie's detector beeped methodically as the three of them made their way through the dark mine. "Aili," Jamie said, "If you don't mind my asking, are you from this time or from another time?"

"I'm from another time." Aili answered, "I was exploring an undiscovered planet for treasure when I was caught in this strange aurora of some kind. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground in the middle of the desert, Once I found out what time period I was in, I figured that there was probably no way back. So I waited for some kind of rescue party so I could go back to my own time." She chuckled, "You can imagine how lucky I felt to see you guys show up."

Jamie nodded, "Yeah, I can imagine." He detector suddenly began beeping faster, "Steven! I think it's down this corridor."

They walked down the seemingly endless corridor, only to come to a dead end. "Great." Jamie muttered, "I hate dead ends."

Steven strode up to the wall ahead of them and tapped on it with the handle of his combat knife, "It's hollow." He informed, "The miners probably walled it up after they found the Crystal."

Jamie looked around the floor and picked up a two-by-four, "Do you think this'll work?" she asked.

"It's better than our fists, I guess." Steven replied. He took one side of the log and Jamie took the other side. With one giant heave, they swung the log like a battering ram towards the fake wall and it crumbled, forming a hole big enough to crawl through. Steven grinned, "After you, Jamie."

Grinning excitedly, Jamie crawled through the hole, followed a short time later by Aili. Steven crawled in after them and was instantly bathed in an eerie green glow. There, in the center of the room, hovered the Time Crystal. The faint light from the corridor glinted off of its smooth, green surface as it floated over a five-foot tall, octagonal pedestal. Jamie whistled in awe, "Whoa! That's some rock."

"It's beautiful." Aili agreed.

Steven shook his head as he removed a containment case from his pack, "As much as I would love to stay here and drool over it, we need to get moving."

Jamie nodded and snatched the Crystal form the pedestal, "Why do I get the feeling that this was too easy?" she asked as she handed Steven the Crystal.

"I know. I've got that feeling too." Steven answered as he carefully placed the Crystal into the black styrofoam that would prevent the Crystal from being knocked about. Not long after he locked the case shut, an icy-blue bolt came through the fake wall and impacted behind them, scattering rocks and dust in every direction. Aili quickly drew her revolvers, "What was that?" she exclaimed.

Steven slowly peeked out and what he saw filled him with dread. Several slate-gray, six-foot tall aliens with hooked arms were advancing on their position, their mandibles opening and closing, longing for the taste of human flesh. Steven ducked back into the room, "We've got four TimeSplitters headed our way." He said in disgust, "Lock and load."

Jamie drew her pistol and her sword while Steven caulked his rifle, and prepared to fight for their lives.

"Okay, here's the plan," Steven said as another bolt flew by, "We throw a couple of grenades at them, then make a beeline for the ship while trying not to get shot. Got it?"

Jamie and Aili nodded. Then both Steven and Jamie took a grenade from their belts, pulled the pins, and chucked them down the hall. A flash of light and unearthly screams were seen and heard seconds later. "Their friends might have heard that." Steven remarked, "Let's move." With that, he sprang up and sprinted out of the room.

Jamie and Aili ran after him and later found themselves emerging from the mine and out into the evening sun. "On our six!" Jamie exclaimed. Steven spun around and saw more TimeSplitters making their way down the steep cliff face.

"Jamie! Cover the rear until we get to the ship!" Steven yelled as he peppered another TimeSplitter with the rest of his clip.

Jamie gave a thumbs up sign and continued pouring countless shots into the horde of aliens. If one got too close, she used her sword and hacked them to pieces. Steven sprinted into the T.P.T., set his rifle to full auto, and gave Jamie a hand as she ran at top speed towards the ship. Jamie dove into the cargo hold just as the hatch started closing, breathing heavily. One TimeSplitter attempted to squeeze in after Jamie, but was shot in the head by Aili's revolver.

Jumping into the pilot's seat, Steven gunned up the engines and took off, leaving the remaining TimeSplitters in the dust. "Well," Jamie panted, "That went pretty good, don't you think?"

"Don't get your hopes up yet." Steven warned as he checked the rearview camera, "Great. We've got flying ones on our six."

`"Ugh!" Jamie groaned, "Every pilot's worse nightmare."

The skyline rocked back and forth as Steven struggled to avoid the blasts from the TimeSplitter. "Doesn't this thing have any weapons on it?" Aili asked.

Steven shook his head, "If it did, someone would have told me."

Aili looked over the controls in front of Steven. After a few moments, she picked a button and pushed it. A mechanical whirr was heard and the computer stated, "Defense turret activated."

Steven gave Aili an amazed look, "Nice."

"Thanks."

"Jamie," Steven said, "Get up in that turret and keep that TimeSplitter off of our back.

Jamie saluted jokingly, "Aye, Aye, captain." She said and climbed up that ladder into the turret.

Steven reached out to the center console and activated a few controls. Immediately, the Time Portal's vortex appeared several yards away. "Control, this is Viper One." Steven yelled over the rat-a-tat of the defense turret, "We've got the package, I repeat, we've got the package."

"We read you, Viper One." Came the response, "We are deactivating our turbolasers."

"Negative, Control, negative." Steven said, "We are under attack by an airborne Splitter. Target it as soon as we exit the Portal, over."

"Copy that, Viper One."

"Brace yourselves!" Steven called. He then accelerated into the vortex and in moments, they were back in their own time. Steven maneuvered out of the way just as the base's turbolasers blasted the following TimeSplitter into dust. Steven breathed a sigh of relief as they entered the hangar bay and floated gently to the floor. Jamie bounded down the ladder, "That was fun!" she exclaimed.

Steven chuckled, "Yeah. It was a good way to pass the time."

Aili, however, was not so perky, "What's gonna happen to me now?" she asked.

"Well," Steven said to her, "I have been begging the B.A.T. to assign another person onto my team." Jamie cleared her throat, "I mean our team." Steven said sheepishly, "Anyway, if you want, I think I can convince them to let you stay on and possibly join the team."

Aili's face brightened, "Really?"

"Yep."

She smiled, "When do I start?"

Steven and Jamie laughed as they walked with Aili out of the ship. "You know what?" Jamie said cheerfully, "I think we're gonna be a great team."