"STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT"
Captain N: The Game Master
"STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT"
"We knew the world would not be the same. Few people laughed. Few people cried. Most people were silent. I recalled the line from Hindu Scripture, the Bahgavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. I suppose we all felt that, one way or another."
- J. Robert Oppenheimer
Monday, July 16, 1945, 5:29:45 AM (New Mexico time)
In the pre-dawn darkness, the assembled physicists watched what they had unleashed from bunkers and trenches nearly six miles away.
The flash released four times the heat of the interior of the sun, created a pressure of 100-billion atmospheres and was seen 250 miles away.
The flash lit the surrounding mountains brighter than the noon sun. The roar broke windows at a distance of 120 miles. In a single instant, scientists had released energy equal to all the bombs dropped on London by Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe during the Blitz.
The heat was so intense that it vaporized the tower holding the bomb and melted the sand underneath into a green glass dubbed Trinitite. A mile away, exposed surfaces were heated to 750 degrees. At 10 miles, the heat still felt like the open mouth of a fireplace.
Scientist Isidor Rabi, who won a betting pool on how big the bang would be by guessing the equivalent of 18,000 tons of TNT (it was measured at 18,600), opened a bottle of whiskey and passed it among the assembled scientists. Each took a swig.
"Now we are all sons of bitches." said Trinity director Kenneth Bainbridge as he watched the column of fire and dust climb seven miles in the sky.
Friday, October 6, 1995, 6:23 PM (California time)
Rick Walker and Mike Vincent sat in Dr. Right's laboratory in the Alliance Headquarters. Rick was busy typing on a laptop.
The door to the lab slid open, and in walked President Lana Deschain, followed by Ken Shallowayne, his daughters Kristen and Heather, Kevin Keene, and Stacey Anderson.
"How are you coming along, guys?" Lana asked.
"I think we've almost got it," Rick said, "but I can't - "
"Here, let me try." Mike typed for a bit on the laptop. "Bingo."
"You decrypted it?" Rick asked in surprise.
"Hey, I'm a hacker." Mike said.
"Okay, what's on it?" Lana asked, leaning over Rick's right shoulder.
"Let's see." Rick skimmed the contents of the disk. "According to the disk, the Star Bright Project was started on Saturday, October 26, 1985. Its purpose was to advance the US space program by developing...wormholes. Theoretically, a tunnel could be opened that could connect two different points in space, allowing almost instantaneous travel between the two locations. Oh, shit. This is not good."
"Earth is developing warping technology." Lana said.
"You don't seem surprised." Rick observed.
"Well, Anubis Runes, the Warp Zone Shifter. It's all starting to fit together." Lana said. "What else, Rick?"
Rick scanned the text. "The first successful 'jump' was accomplished on Friday, July 7, 1989, by pushing a cart through a warp in one room and having it come out of a warp in another room. Inspired by this success, the scientists began making plans to warp objects into space."
"I guess that's where I come in." Ken said.
Rick nodded. "You were hired to test parts for deep space probes. These probes were sent into outer space, where they collected data, and then they were brought back to Earth."
"So, if the project accomplished this, why does it still exist?" Kristen asked.
Rick scrolled down. "Ah. According to a report to the National Security Agency at the Pentagon, their one functioning 'gatemaker' was stolen on Monday, June 29, 1992. In reality, it was taken to a warehouse in Indianapolis to be used by Osiris Runes."
"Osiris?" Kevin asked. "How does he fit into all this?"
"I'm getting there." Rick said. "Osiris was hired on the 29th as an assassin for the project. His first assignment was to kill his older brother, Dorian, as a test of his loyalty. He did that in the early morning on the 30th. Unfortunately, his younger brother, Anubis, got involved, as well as Bob, the designer of the Warp Zone Shifter. The police raided the warehouse, but Osiris and Anubis warped to Videoland. Anubis came back, but Osiris didn't. Bob took Anubis to the Director. Anubis told him that Osiris had ended up in the Florida Everglades and had been eaten by alligators."
"Yummy, yummy, yummy, I've got somethin' in my tummy..." Mike sang.
"The Director hired Anubis as an observer for the project." Rick continued. "However, he never told the Director about Videoland."
"Rick, does it say who the Director is?" Ken asked.
"Nope. That's the one thing that's not on here."
"With power like that, those people could rule the world." Heather said. "They must be stopped."
"But their Warp Zone Shifter was destroyed when Anubis' house was blown up." Lana said.
"That's true," Rick said, "but according to this, they're working on a new Shifter."
"Rick, that disk is nearly three months old." Ken said. "What if they've already completed the Shifter."
"We have only one option." Lana said. "We have to go to New Mexico and see for ourselves."
"Are you crazy?!" Ken asked. "If we so much as show up with proper ID, they'll kill us!"
"Not if we kill them first." Lana said. "We're gonna storm the complex."
Mike grinned. "I like how you think."
"There's one more thing." Rick said. "According to this, a new feature is being added to this Warp Zone Shifter - temportation."
"Time-travel." Lana breathed in horror. "We gotta go - now!"
Five minutes later, the group drove Mike and Stacey's convertibles down the corridor ten meters below the Alliance Headquarters.
They stopped in front of the double titanium doors. Lana ran her keycard through the slot.
The doors slid open. Mike and Stacey drove the cars through, deeper underground.
They came to the next double doors. Lana placed her right hand on the scanner.
"Identity: Lana Sarah Deschain, President of the Republic of Videoland, N Team member." the computer voice said. "Please state your password."
"Open the pod bay doors please, Hal." Lana said.
The others all looked strangely at her.
The doors slid open. Mike and Stacey drove the cars into the room.
Rick, Lana, and Kristen exited the vehicles. Rick fired up the Warp Zone Shifter.
"Okay, where to?" Rick asked.
"Good question." Lana said. "Where's the project complex located?"
"The disk doesn't specify." Rick said.
"Well, it was near where they set off the first atomic bomb." Kristen said. "Send us to Los Alamos."
"You got it." Rick entered in the coordinates.
"I'll call you once we've located the complex." Lana told him.
Lana and Kristen got back in the cars. Rick opened up a warp. Mike and Stacey drove the cars through it.
It was dusk by the time they arrived. Mike and Stacey drove up steep curving roads and came to a pine forest.
"Kristen, are you sure you know where we are?" Mike asked.
"Positive." Kristen replied.
At an over-7000-foot elevation, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, was the first of many turnoffs to various buildings and research sections of the National Laboratory.
"Welcome to Los Alamos." Kristen said.
They checked into a motel and rented two rooms for the night - one for the guys and one for the girls.
Currently, they all gathered in the guys' room.
"Okay," Lana said, "we know what Star Bright is, but we don't know where it is. We need a map."
"I'll go to the gas station and get one." Kristen offered. "Mike, can I borrow your car?"
Mike thought about it, remembering what happened the last time he had let someone drive his car.
"Okay." Mike took the keys out of his pocket. "Here you go, but be very careful."
Kristen caught the keys. "I will. I'll be back in ten minutes."
She turned and left the room.
It was dark by the time Kristen reached the gas station. She parked Mike's car by a pump, got out, selected unleaded, and began pumping.
A man standing by another pump noticed her. It was the hitman that had tried to kill her and her family nearly three months earlier. He was shocked when he saw that she was still alive.
After she had filled the tank, Kristen went into the convenience store to pay.
Kristen walked over to the counter. "Ten bucks in gas, and I'd like a New Mexico state road map, please."
The cashier handed the map to her. Kristen paid for it and the gas.
"Have a good night." the cashier said. "Drive safe."
"I will. Good night."
Kristen walked outside and over to the convertible. She got inside, fastened her seatbelt, and started the engine.
Kristen drove out of the gas station and onto the road.
Suddenly, the hitman sat up in the back seat. He pointed his gun at Kristen's temple. "Keep driving. I'm going to give you directions. Do exactly as I tell you."
"What do you want?" Kristen asked, frightened.
"You know, you speak quite well for a dead person." the hitman said. "I thought that bomb had killed you. Now imagine my surprise when I stop for gas and see you walking and breathing."
Kristen looked in the rear-view mirror. "You!"
"Yeah, me. Now, I want you to drive into the forest."
Kristen sighed. "One time I forget to check the back seat, and look what happens."
"Shut up." the hitman said.
They were silent for a moment as Kristen drove.
"Tell me something." Kristen said. "Are you gonna rape me then kill me or kill me then rape me?"
"How'd you escape the bomb blast?" the hitman asked instead of answering her.
"Magic." Kristen replied.
"What about your family? What about Lana Deschain? Are they alive?"
"Like I'd tell you."
"Okay." the hitman said. "Oh, and to answer your question, I think I'll rape you then kill you, but we can do it in whichever order you like."
"You're a sick fuck." Kristen told him.
"Nice pun. Your mom would be proud. Oh, I forgot. You don't have a mom."
"Fuck you!" Kristen yelled.
"Just drive." the hitman said.
Kristen gritted her teeth. "Whatever you say." She hit the gas.
The car sped up with a jolt.
"What are you doing?!" the hitman yelled.
The car went up to 60 miles per hour, then 70, then 80.
The hitman hopped into the passenger seat. He pointed his gun at Kristen. "Slow down!"
Kristen didn't slow down. She sped up. The car was going 90 mph by now.
"Look, no hands!" Kristen said, taking her hands off the steering wheel.
The car went into the left lane.
"Put your hands back on the wheel!"
Kristen did and steered the car back into the right lane.
"Slow down, or I'll shoot you!" the hitman threatened.
"You can't kill me." Kristen said. "If you kill me, we'll both die. Hey, there's an idea! You wanna die together?! Let's die together!"
"A car is going a hundred miles per hour, and your hostage, who's at the wheel, refuses to slow down. What do you do?" Kristen asked. "Huh?! What do you do, motherfucker?!"
"You gotta bail!" Kristen yelled. "If you don't, you'll die!"
"Suit yourself." Kristen drove the car across the road and towards a tree.
Kristen held up her arms in front of her to shield herself. The car hit the tree.
Kristen had suffered a few bumps, but was otherwise fine. She looked to her right. A tree branch had decapitated the hitman. His head lay in the back seat.
Kristen faced forward for a moment and calmed down a bit, then turned and dug in the man's pockets.
Kristen walked back into the motel room.
"Kristen, what took you so long?" Lana asked.
"I...had some trouble." Kristen replied.
Heather could tell that something was troubling her sister. She walked over to her and put her hands on Kristen's shoulders. "Krissy, what happened?"
"While I was at the gas station, a man had snuck into the car. It was the hitman that had blown up our house." Kristen said. "The son of a bitch tried to kill me!"
The others gasped.
"Are you all right?" Heather asked.
Kristen nodded. "Yeah, I'm okay."
Heather let go of her, and they walked back over to the others.
"And the hitman?" Lana asked.
Kristen faced her. "We're tied."
Everyone was silent for a moment.
"Man, if the Director finds out - " Ken began.
"I don't think he will, dad." Kristen said. "I burned the body."
"But your father's right, Kristen." Lana said. "We should take extra precautions."
"Oh, Mike, I had to be creative in dealing with the bastard," Kristen told him, "so your car's a liiiiiiiiitle damaged."
"What?!" Mike blurted.
"I'll pay for the damage." Kristen offered. "Minus ten bucks. You owe me for gas."
Mike bolted for the door and ran out into the parking lot.
Everybody expected the scream that followed.
Once Mike had calmed down sufficiently, they all gathered in the room again.
Heather locked the door and closed the blinds. She then turned off the lights.
Everyone gathered around a table. Kristen turned on the lamp, the only source of light in the room. She unfolded the map and laid it down on the table.
"Okay, we gotta figure out where the project is right now." Lana said.
"Well, dad says it's located at about the place where they set off the first atomic bomb." Kristen said. "The bomb was set off on Monday, July 16, 1945 at this location." She pointed it out on the map. "Robert Oppenheimer had dubbed it 'Trinity'."
"Most encyclopedias say it was set off near Alamogordo." Kevin put in, confused.
Kristen laughed. "That's a gross oversimplification of New Mexico geography. Trinity Site is 85 miles northwest of Alamogordo."
"So, the project's there?" Mike asked.
Kristen shook her head. "No. Despite bulldozing away the fused sand, the radiation levels today, half a century later, are still ten times that of the background radiation levels found in nature from radioactive rocks and cosmic rays."
"Yeah, what she said." Stacey agreed.
"The project's not at Trinity, but it's close. The northern approach to Trinity Site is called Stallion Gate." Kristen traced it with her index finger on the map. "It's 17 miles north of Trinity, not too far from Socorro, near the northern edge of White Sands Missile Range."
"So, how do we get there from here?" Lana asked.
Kristen pointed at Los Alamos on the map. "We're here." She traced her directions with her index finger. "We have to go down route 501, route 4, and state route 44." Kristen smiled. "The area has Pueblo reservations marked by spectacular red rock mesas."
"Skip the personal commentary, Kris." Kevin said.
"Right. Sorry." Kristen apologized. "We turn onto New Mexico 525, which leads to an area called Stallion Range Center. Then we turn onto route 380, near the San Mateo and Gallinas mountains. State route 380 runs from east to west along the northern boundary of White Sands. It's a straight, lonely, two lane road. That brings us to Stallion Gate, 53 miles west of Carrizozo, 12 miles east of San Antonio."
"Good work." Ken said.
"Now that we know where the project is, there's still the question of how we get in." Lana said.
"Simple," Mike said, "we'll kick everybody's ass."
"They'll kill us before we set foot in the complex, dork." Heather said.
"We need identification." Lana said.
"Maybe this'll help." Kristen took a wallet out of her front right shorts pocket. "I found it on the hitman."
Kevin took the wallet and opened it. "Let's see. His name was James Reed. His address is listed as a PO Box in Stallion Springs, New Mexico."
"Where's that?" Stacey asked.
"As far as I can tell, it doesn't exist, so Stallion Springs probably refers to a mail drop at or near Stallions Gate." Kristen had a thoughtful look on her face. "Hmm, possibly even those postal boxes I saw."
"What?" Mike asked.
"When we visited last year." Kristen explained.
"The zip code is 87-" Kevin squinted his eyes. "-something." He flipped through the wallet. "Oh, shit, he's from the US government!"
"That's nice." Lana took the wallet from him. "Bingo." She pulled out an identification card with a bar code on it. "Here's our ticket in."
"Don't forget this." Kristen took a neon blue star pin out of her pocket and handed it to Lana.
"Thanks." Lana said.
"Access to Trinity Site via the Stallion Gate is open to the public two days a year - on the first Saturdays in April and October." Kristen said. "Whatever we have to do, we better do it before the crowds show up."
"All right, we'll leave early tomorrow morning." Lana said. "Everybody get some sleep. I don't want us fighting guards while we're fighting our own fatigue."
Lana, Stacey, Heather, and Kristen went into their own motel room. Lana closed the door and locked it.
"Damn, we forgot to bring pajamas." Heather noted.
"We'll sleep in our clothes." Lana took off her sneakers and laid down on the bed on the right.
"Cool." Kristen took off her sneakers and walked over to Lana.
"Other bed." Lana told her.
"Damn." Kristen went over and laid down on the bed on the left.
Heather took off her sneakers and joined her sister.
Stacey, however, took off not only her sneakers, but her socks, shirt, shorts, and underwear as well.
Lana swallowed as she took in the valley girl's gorgeous figure. "Stacey,...what are you doing?"
"I thought I'd sleep naked tonight." Stacey replied.
At that, Heather and Kristen immediately sat up and looked at Stacey.
Heather licked her lips. "Mmmm,...yummy."
"It's comfy, and my clothes won't get all sweaty." Stacey laid down to Lana's right, facing her.
Lana looked away, feeling uneasy, and faced the ceiling.
Lana walked outside and smelled the New Mexico night air.
She saw Kristen sitting on the back of Stacey's convertible. Lana walked over to her and sat to her left.
Kristen looked at her. "Hi, Lana."
"Hi, Krissy." Lana said. "It's 11 PM. What are you doing up?"
Kristen looked up at the sky. "Just...looking at the stars. I couldn't sleep."
Lana looked up as well. "Me neither. I'm too frightened."
"Not really. The project."
"But you said we should get some rest before the raid."
"It's not the raid that's keeping me up."
Kristen was silent for a moment, then faced her. "I know what you're thinking, Lana."
Lana faced Kristen. "You understand, then."
"We've...we've been lucky, haven't we?" Kristen asked.
"Extremely lucky." Lana answered. "But for how much longer?"
"It could happen at any time." Kristen said. "Shit, now I'm worried."
"We'll stop them," Lana said, "...I hope."
Suddenly, Kristen pointed at the sky. "Look, Lana, a shooting star!" She closed her eyes. "Make a wish!"
"Kristen, that is so - "
Lana sighed and closed her eyes. "Star light, star bright, yadda, yadda, yadda..."
After a moment, they opened their eyes.
"What did you wish for?" Kristen asked.
"To survive." Lana replied.
The two girls laughed.
Then Lana grew serious, and her smile faded. "We may not survive."
Kristen's smile faded as well. "Yeah. Tomorrow, we might all be dead."
"Or worse." Lana said.
Kristen nodded. "Or worse. We should enjoy the calm before the storm."
Lana leaned in close to her and kissed Kristen on the lips. They hugged each other and kissed beneath the pale moonlight.
Saturday, October 7, 1995, 2:00 AM (New Mexico time)
"Stacey, wake up!" Lana yelled.
Stacey woke and sat up. "What?! Huh?!"
Lana was standing next to her. "Time to get up, Stace."
Stacey groaned and stood up. "I, like, hate getting up early!"
"Go shower, then get dressed." Lana told her.
Stacey headed for the bathroom.
Lana walked over to the other bed and clapped her hands. "Heather, Kristen, yo!"
The two sisters got up and out of bed.
Heather groaned. "What time is it?"
"2 AM." Lana replied. "We're all gonna shower, then we'll head out."
Kristen grinned. "Are we all gonna shower together?"
"Be serious. The universe is at stake." Lana turned and walked away. "I'm gonna go wake up the guys."
Heather faced Kristen. "What does she mean 'the universe is at stake'?"
Lana went out the door and walked next door to the guys' motel room. She pounded on the door with her fist. "Wake up, guys!"
After a bit more pounding, the door opened. Ken was standing there.
"What is it, Lana?" he asked, yawning.
"Shower and get dressed." Lana told him. "We'll be leaving soon."
Ken groaned. "I need some coffee."
"Don't wake yourself up with caffeine." Lana said. "You'll only be awake, not alert. Always go to bed early if you have to wake up early. Don't drink coffee to wake yourself up. Besides, the artificial high you feel isn't worth the down you feel afterwards. Take a cold shower and get dressed."
Ken nodded. "Right."
Lana walked back into the girls' room.
Stacey was just getting out of the shower. She walked out of the bathroom, toweling herself off.
"Stacey, would you be a dear and go get us some breakfast?" Lana asked. "I don't want to die on an empty stomach."
"Sure!" Stacey said cheerfully.
"Get us hash browns and orange juices." Lana said. She took off her clothes. "I'll be in the shower."
Stacey tossed her the towel. "Here."
Lana caught it. "Thanks."
Stacey got dressed and went out the door.
Kristen walked over to Lana, grinning. "You know, Lana, with the universe at stake, we should speed things up. Now, if we were to - "
Lana walked into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.
The door opened, and a man with long silver hair walked into the dimly-lit office.
Behind the desk in the office, a man sat in the shadows. "Progress report, Bob."
"We're almost ready, sir." the man with silver hair said. "We're doing the final systems checks now. Maybe another half-hour."
"Excellent." the man said.
"Director," Bob asked, "why are we adding time-travel capabilities to the gatemaker?"