Another duty day another chapter. This is the last one in my backlog of chapters, might be a another week or so till another one is done and then I have to edit it and yadda yadda yadda. Won't be that long though so keep checking back every so often.
I've decided to take this opening intro to each chapter to explain a few things about the Observers' universe that may not be clear, or be said at all, in the story. The first topic will be,"Why don't they carry modern weapons likes guns and stuff?"
The reason being is that if they are constantly in the past and say, random observer 5 drops his gun and forgets it. Then some random yocale or village genius, ex Lucca, finds it and figures out how it works. Then BAAM history is all screwed up because someone got ahold of advanced technology. That and ya never know what situation you'll be in, it is better to fight with martial weapons that will be around in much higher number, in any age, than firearms. It is also, in my opinion, easier to subdue someone without dealing horrible history affecting injuries without a gun and with something like a sword or a staff. That and I can't imagine Janus with a gun :) Guns are around in the Observers universe, guards on the station carry plasma rifles, and later you might actually see some guns in use but for the most part they are just something in the background. Hopefully this was somewhat informative as I'd like to make this customary. Give you guys a deeper understanding of why things happen and how they happen. Anyway, enjoy the story!
Chapter 8: Time's Puppet
Lana awoke to the sun streaming through the bushes that still covered their small alcove. Birds chirped happily in the background and the gentle clapping of a small trickling stream sounded somewhere close by. The smell of pine wafted through the air on a small breeze that also managed to sneak its’ way into the cave, rustling the few leaves and playing with Lana’s still short hair.
This would have been a pleasant scene, remarked Lana to herself,after all this is the first time I’ve been off the Chronopolis in ten years. It’s been so long that I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like. I’ve been breathing purified air for the past ten years and ironically this air feels so much cleaner. Lana allowed herself several minutes of laziness, taking in the sounds and smells of the forest, before she rolled over onto her back and the painful wounds quickly snapped her to full alert.
Gingerly touching the wounds hurt too and her hand came away bloodless which was good because it meant the wound had stopped bleeding. What worried her though was the thought of infection to the area of her body she couldn’t reach herself, hopefully she’d find someone else, local or Observer, and they’d be able to at least wash it off. She’d live for now, infection or no, and there were more important things in the short-term to worry about.
Her thoughts appeared her own for now, no sign of the controlling feeling stirred in her emotions, and Lana again made a vow to make her actions her own once more. While she could celebrate a temporary independence at the moment, the force was sure to come back and again use her for whatever goal it hoped to achieve. Lana wished she could talk to Fnorm right now and ask the questions she hadn’t known to ask earlier. The goblin had left no way of contacting her again besides saying that it would eventually happen and Lana hated the thought of waiting.
She had to tear her thoughts from her own well being though and to that of her charge. Glenn seamed in no worse condition that he’d looked the previous night, nor much better either, but he seemed to be sleeping now instead of in a delirious fog. The spray skin had held through the night and nicely bonded with his own green hide, though the patches were a unique light grey color, and it seemed they would hold until his own skin naturally grew back to replace it.
Medicine and patches could only do so much for someone; they’d also need food to give the body energy enough to mend itself. Lana took the small water-skin she been carrying like a bandolier and splashed a little on the knight’s face in an attempt to wake him. Eyes twitched and small slits opened up in his large and bulbous eyelids and a soft croak also managed to come with it, though soft and subdued.
“Hath death perchance found me at last”, softly whispered Frog, “For surely doth angel has descended to carry mine tired form for rest.” The praise made Lana smile for she doubted that after this past week she looked anything but horrible. The thought that she looked descent, much less like an angel, almost made her blush and laugh aloud.
“No one told me the great Knight Glenn was a flirt, but I am no angel. Merely tired,” replied Lana as she held the water-skin up for him to see. “Before yon knight has any more cause to compliment me I must insist he drink to regain some strength”, Lana found herself slipping into some of the archaic tongue and speech pattern because of Glenn’s way of speaking.
Since Observers had to fit in with the populace wherever they traveled, they were taught various time lines speech patterns and inflictions. With a little more effort she could do a fine imitation of the delivery but it was such a long winded way of saying anything. She preferred a cross between the modern day speech pattern and the archaic form, more for the fun of adding flavor to her sentences than trying to fit in with the populace. Between this time period and the present day, very little had changed language wise anyhow, Frog just used this style for some reason that baffled historians and language experts alike.
“Nay, I am no knight,” was all Glenn could say in retaliation before Lana hushed him with a gentle hand over his large mouth. The frog knight finished off half of the water skin before Lana pulled it away and capped it back off, again wearing it as a bandolier once more. “Now sir knight, we have an ample breakfeast of jerked meet and jarred berries”, smiled Lana, “It’s not exactly a banquet at the castle, but the berries are sweet and the meat filling.”
“First I doth wonder what hath become of ye snake woman,” asked Glenn, ignoring Lana’s offer of food. “By chance hath thee defeated it?”
“Nay, I was able only to wound her and run with thine unconscious form. I think I dealt a mortal wound to the fiend and I hope that it shall bother us no more,” explained Lana “And before thee ask who I am, know only that I am a messenger sent by the queen to ask your well-being and inquire when you seek to return to your position.”
“Queen Leene?” Frog asked in disbelief “I am honored to retain her trust, but tiss a position I have not the honor left to fill.”
“The queen said you’d say such things and I was instructed to leave it as is,” sighed Lana “Until the time you are fit again though, you’ll be under my care. I have a feeling more things lurk about after your life than just the one.”
“I am all the more honored then,” croaked Glenn “For thee company is most reassuring and yon sword seems fine steel.”
“Now you seek to flirt through my sword do thee,” laughed Lana “It is just like many others so no use trying to compliment its’ average craftsman ship.”
“Nay, tiss not the build of the sword I compliment but that fact that once it hath saved mine life. I owe as much to your skill as well, maiden, and hope that neither need be brought to bear in my stead again.”
“Now you assume things yon knight,” slyly said Lana, “What makes thee think I am a maiden.” Glenn blushed slightly, not enough blood to make it the bright red that would have normally shown on his green skin, and coughed in embarrassment. “Well fought mi lady,” he compliment as Lana chuckled aloud.
“No need for titles, Lana will do fine,” corrected Lana. “Now sir knight, lets see what we can do about breakfeast. Or is the meager feast not up to your knightly standards?” A raised eyebrow from Lana accompanied her statement and Glenn softly chuckled despite himself.
Lana served Glenn some of the preserved berries, one at a time, and small chunks of the jerked meat. He seemed to have no problem handling the small loads of food and Lana was glad that he was well enough to eat anything at all. Next she uncorked her water-skin and slowly emptied some of its’ cool contents into Glenn’s mouth. The cool water seemed to help more than the food had. Lana decided it was probably time to give him a small rest before she feed or watered the injured knight anymore.
“May I compliment sir knight in his foresight to store rations and bed elsewhere than your house. Handy that I happened upon one.” complimented Lana, trying to take the frog knight’s mind off of the fact that at the moment he was quite dependant on her.
“I wish to be the one to have such foresight but nay, I have no such campsites prepared,” explained Glenn as he moved his bulbous eyes as much as possible to get a good look at the small alcove. “Homely cave” he commented.
“Thanks.” responded a voice from the behind the bushes outside, surprising both Lana and Glenn.
“I regret this already,” groaned Janus. He was back at the “Bar at the End of Time”, and after a long night of explaining, from both him and the Watching Eyes, they’d finally decided on a plan. Really they’d just nodded as Janus had talked, adding a few thoughts, but that was as good as agreeing to it as far as he was concerned.Besides, he sneered to himself,they probably don’t have any better ideas. If they did, they wouldn’t have revealed themselves to me.
The Watching Eyes, a secret group that monitored all the activity in the Chronopolis to make sure it stayed true to its’ original goal. Janus wasn’t surprised that there was a secret group that spied on the main controlling force, their always was after all, but he was unsure if either group really knew what was best for the time line.It’s all about whose perspective you view it from, he reminded himself,there really is no ‘best’ path for it to take. That didn’t mean he would sit here and do nothing, Lana was in trouble and if she died so did any chance at finding a way to cheat the system and save his sister.
Eva, Jenkins, and Vose had left shortly after midnight to arrange for the events to fall into place. The end result of Janus scheming was to get him to the same time period where he assumed Lana had gone. If he was wrong, and he highly doubted he was, then it wouldn’t matter because he didn’t plan on getting caught. In fact they could use this plan as many times as necessary until they found Lana.
The back doors opened and Spekkio bounced happily through the bar and hopped to sit on the stool next to the almost-always brooding warlock. Spekkio, once again in his white fur-ball form, had a mischievous grin that stretch from ear to ear. “Ahh come on Janus, it’ll be fun.” Spekkio said as he grinned further. “I highly doubt that.” countered the grumpy warlock.
Gaspar walked out from the back room seconds later, wiping dirt off his hands and onto his apron, and sighed as he caught Janus’ glare battling Spekkio’s grin. It could last all day, thought Gaspar to himself. Instead of further incurring Janus’ ire he slapped Spekkio across the backside of his head, ruining the contest and turning the grin into a frown.
“What was that for?” Spekkio asked in a hurt voice, not hurtful enough to fool Gaspar.
“Some of us have to work for a living, and the bar opens in less than an hour so you two need to hurry up.” ordered Gaspar as he went to arranging glasses and bottles. Janus groaned, “Just get on with it fur-ball.”
“My pleasure.” slyly said Spekkio as he began to change his shape and size in accordance with Janus’ plan. His form grew in height, shrank in width, and a clearly female outline soon formed. Seconds later a perfect replica of Lana was sitting in the fur-balls place and Janus had to admit that Spekkio was good at what he did. The long purple hair, a very curvy figure that most would call sexy, and the slight smirk that seemed to always play along her lips. Since Spekkio hadn’t know Lana’s measurements it was mostly guess work combined with memory, but Janus’ judging look-over proved that the shape-shifter had done a good enough job to satisfy the warlock.
“Just one thing,” commented Janus it all seriousness “Clothes.” Lana’s resemblance blushed and her form quickly changed again, this time with Lana’s last battle outfit that she’d been wearing, long and lose black shorts and form hugging tank top. Obviously Spekkio also remember the hair because the previously flowing purple hair now ended just above the ears. Janus once again circled Spekkio, using his examining eyes, and nodded in affirmation. “Can you duplicate the voice?” he asked.
“Can I duplicate the voice?” Spekkio responded in a perfect imitation of Janus’ brooding voice. “Of course I can.” this time it was Lana’s sweet voice that answered back, just a bit higher than Janus’ had ever heard. “It’s a little high pitched”, the warlock commented. “Eh, sometimes it takes a few minutes to do a new voice,” shrugged Spekkio, this time it sounded more like real thing.
Janus shook his head to dispel the shudders he was suppressing, Spekkio was too good at this, and the warlock waited till he was composed to speak again. “It will suffice,” he agreed “Remember the cover story; I am taking you to the time period 500 A.D. to train you in the use of cover identities in case you need them. No matter what the gate operators’ do, when we step through the gate Jenkins has arranged for it to take us to the exact day of Frog’s attack,” Janus explained and Spekkio nodded in bored understanding. “Don’t say anything more than you have to, don’t do anything stupid, just follow me and act like a student.” commanded Janus with a harsh glare and measured words.
“No problem,” said Spekkio, giving Janus a thumbs-up “I see students everyday, can’t be that hard to imitate one.” The warlock only groaned into his hands, muffling what would have been a loud roar compared to most groans, and looked once more to Spekkio wearing Lana’s form and clothes. “I imagine you think along the same lines.” he commented while watching Spekkio creating other “rad” hand symbols.
Gaspar ushered them both out of the Bar and then promptly closed the door and re-hung the “Closed” sign. It was just a little before lunch, the walkways still mostly unpopulated since jobs had to be done and people had to be doing them. Most importantly it seemed no one recognized, or paid any attention to, the odd pair as they exited the bar and boarded a walkway.
“By the way, you smell a bit rank,” commented Spekkio for the first time, even though they’d been in the same room for hours on end, and for a brief second Janus almost forgot it was the shape-shifter and not Lana. She’d have commented on it if she were here, probably with more vulgar or exaggerating terms, but it was eerie and Janus wondered if the shape changing did more than just change appearances. Those thoughts were for his private contemplation however and he responded simply with a “Shut up”.
The walkway curved this way and that, running parallel and crossing similarly curving walkways. They also passed people that gave the stinky and dirty warlock a brief glance but paid the patient student next to him no mind. Janus returned their glances with glares and Spekkio smiled to everyone, reveling in his part of the plan and the opportunity to annoy the ex-prince. In mere minutes the walkway passed by their destination and the two quickly stepped off to find themselves standing in front of the Gate doorway.
A single guard stood in front of the normal looking double doors, at attention and alert, and this was where the first step came into play. Originally he’d considered simply blasting the guard away when no one was looking but Vose had offered another solution. Being the head of security meant he could change anyone’s access with a few key presses in a computer and reluctantly he agreed to do the same for Janus. Originally he was required to have two guards escorting them when Janus took Lana back in time for training. Now thanks to Vose they wouldn’t require any. If it worked, the guard would scan his ID and let them both pass.
Janus confidently approached the guard that wore a tactical combat suit made of a material Janus couldn’t recognize.Probably enchanted Kevlar, he thought,and it’s most likely highly magic resistant.The black haired crew cut guard held out the scanner for Janus to pass his hand over, it beeped once it had scanned the small ID chip implanted in his hand. The guard looked at the screen with keen eyes, reading it thoroughly, and nodded to Janus that he was accepted and allowed to enter.
The guard almost stopped Spekkio as he attempted to pass with Janus but the guard recognized a student when he saw one. Even if he scanned her she wouldn’t have access because she was just a student, not a full fledged Observer yet. Spekkio smiled, it came across much more pleasing on Lana’s face, and asked, “Do you need to scan me?”
The guard smiled back and shook his head, “No, he’s authorized one student to travel with him for training. You can go ahead miss.” Spekkio thanked the guard and caught up to Janus, who’d failed to wait, and fell into step behind him as they entered the double doors. Before entering the main chamber they needed to go through a clean room, the process of being scanned took several minutes while pressured air blew at them from all directions. Once cleared the doors opened and allowed them entrance.
Janus paused as he walked into the room and memories of his last visit here replayed themselves in his eyes.
There had been fire everywhere, mostly his doing of course, and though many Observers lay groaning on the floor none were actually dead. They’d tried to stop him, weaklings, and he remembered the self-fulfilling sense of accomplishment he felt when at last he’d walked through the glowing cortex of the Gate.
It had been a fool proof plan, he mused, and there had been no way that it could fail. How things had gone wrong, how his perfect plan had crumbled right before his eyes. It was almost maddening to know he had been so close and yet he had never really gained any distance.
Looking around now, it seemed everything had been fixed over the last 8 years, shinny parts all around, and the gate entrance itself was now guarded by a fully armed team of Observers. The gate itself was the same, simply a large metallic ring; coils of wire lining the innards and a score of computer terminals were arranged around the gate like it was at center of a stadium. Everything looked down on the Gate from seats that gradually became higher and higher. Operators typed hurriedly on keyboards, numbers and figures were called out across the room back and forth and more typing ensued.
He couldn’t just stand around forever he reminded himself, and if he did it would look awfully suspicious. Quickly he spotted the receptionist, sitting directly in front of the entrance and approached with utter confidence in his plan. She was a red-head, long and put into a pony-tail, with freckles everywhere and wore the obscenely bright blue robe that was meant to help people spot a receptionist in the most crowded of rooms. Her manner was curt and business-like when handling Janus and Spekkio, “All Time Periods Past 595 A.D. are currently blocked due to timeline instability. Any business before that period?”
“Student training in the time period 500 A.D.” stated Janus just as curtly “Month and day don’t matter, anything will work.”
“Scan Please,” asked the receptionist as a panel opened up in the desk directly in front of Janus, a blue pulsing flat surface signaled where he was to swipe his hand over. Seconds later, after swiping, the receptionist looked at Spekkio then back to the computer screen. “Your student I assume?”
Janus nodded and moved out of the way so Spekkio could approach the scanner as well. This was phase two of the plan: The medical department was in-charge of inserting the ID chips in the palms of all staff and students. Eva had inserted a copy of Lana’s into Spekkio’s hand but modified it so that it responded at a different power level than Spekkio’s original ID chip. This was crucial because portable scanners, like the one guards used, had a lower power output. Lana’s ID chip was designed to respond to the higher output that was produced only by the large panel scanners hooked to stationary units and computers. Thus Spekkio could still use both ID chips and they wouldn’t interfere with eachother.
It seemed to check out because she waved them both ahead, informing them that a Gate would be made ready soon for their travel. Descending the stairs to the Gate, Janus caught the amazed looks some sent him. No one would have ever expected that Janus Zeal, the crazy Observer hell bent on saving his sister, would step foot inside this room again. Apparently they were wrong though, and one by one they grudgingly dragged their eyes from the impossible and went back to focusing on their jobs.
Finally, after a decently long descent, they reached the waiting platform for the Gate. Simply put it was a 5 by 5 square that was a different color than the rest of the floor tiles. It had no sensors, functions or abilities beyond standing out from the rest of the floor and providing a place to corral waiting Observers and keep them out of the staff’s way.
“Began charging sequence!” yelled one voice from directly behind Janus and Spekkio. A slight hum emitted from the Gate, also enveloping it in a light blue field, and the hum increased in volume as the charging continued.
“Located Space Time Coordinates!” yelled another, the gate still hummed increasingly loud.
“Building wormhole!” yelled another “Wormhole complete, stable and waiting.”
“Connecting to wormhole!” yelled another as the metallic ring was filled with a wall of blue energy that receded seconds later to show a long tunnel of energy with walls made of shifting colors and shapes. “Accuracy calculated, 98, passes standards. Ready and waiting for occupants.”
“Well here goes nothing.” said Spekkio, looking to Janus. “No,” corrected the serious warlock “here goes everything”. With that Janus walked into the flowing wormhole, Spekkio following behind, off to save history and his student.
To everyone else it looked like a teacher taking his student for field training. How very wrong they were.
“Shit!” thought Jenkins as he watched Spekkio and Janus vanish into Gate. It had all gone according to plan, all except the last part. Jenkins prided himself on being the best hacker on the Chronopolis, nay the world, but he’d meet something even he’d been unable to correct. Janus was going to be a bit surprise when he got to 595 A.D. and Glenn was already dead.
For some reason the gate couldn’t create a wormhole lock with the first few days before or after the incident. That shouldn’t be possible, thought Jenkins, I’ve never had a wormhole connection refused before; NEVER. Fortunately he was able to cope with reality and had quickly routed them to the closest date that would allow him to establish a lock. Unfortunately it was also after the incident; definitely not good.
He quickly checked his exit route, a walkway that ran along the outer wall until it reached the entrance he’d come through. Who knew how long it would take before they discovered the mix up, hopefully never, but dumb luck did happen. A few screw twists later and the computer panel he had been hacking through was reattached and with that his job was finished. Now it was time to make a clean exit and inform the rest of the group what had happened. No one saw Jenkins walk out of the entrance, only a computer techie there to fix a fried circuit board that had been reported.
A ragged figure stepped out from the bushes as Lana and Glenn turned to find the source of the surprising comment. He was skinny and lanky fellow, clothes too large and excessively baggy, and his ragged beard and hair said he’d mostly like spent far too much time away from civilization; In other words a harmless hermit. The rusty sword at his hip said otherwise though, as did the wild look in his eyes and iron grip his right hand had over the hilt.
“I was going to just let you use my little campsite and then leave, but I just can’t now,” accusingly said the voice. “I can’t let you go back to the queen and tell her where I’m at; I don’t want to fight in this pointless war anymore. I just wanted to live here in peace but you had to come and try to bring me back.” With his explanation out, steel was drawn and he advanced purposely toward the two.
Lana cautiously rose to stand her full four feet and eleven inches before addressing the ex-soldier. His wild eyes told her that he probably wasn’t going to listen to reason; there was a reason he was a hermit living in the cursed woods and it probably wasn’t because he was sane. His aura told the same story, shades of all colors swirled about and erratic spikes rose and fell.
“Sir we mean no trouble, let us just pack and we’ll be gone before you knew we were even here. No blood needs to be shed.” Lana called out across the remaining twenty feet of clearing between them.
“Sure you would,” agreed the knight “you’d run off and tell them all I’m here. They’d come for me, find me, and make me fight again.”
“Nay, we wouldn’t whisper a word. I swear.” pleaded Frog “Myself and the lass are just passing through.” The man paused and amusement lit his wild face, a scary sort of amusement not seen on any sane man.
“That’s what they all said but I know better. I’ve killed them all because they wanted to take me back.” laughed the man. At that moment Lana knew it was pointless to further talk to him. It was also at that exact moment that she felt the presence again. It flared into existence and whipped away all other thoughts except to defend Glenn. He couldn’t be killed, not now before he’d played his part in history. The hermit had to die to preserve the greater good.
The crazy eyed ex-soldier seemed to sense something as well because the amusement drained from his face and he ran full out. The rusty blade left the scabbard and he hefted it over his head in preparation for a powerful downward swing. This was all distant to Lana, a dream where everything moved in slow motion. Faintly she could hear Glenn yelling warnings to her, saw the blade as it descended in an arc towards her, but it didn’t register in her mind. Everything fell into place and made sense once more.
In one fast motion Lana pulled her katana from the sheath that sat next to their packs and deftly deflected his downward slash off to the left and away from both of them. In another lightning fast motion she slid the rusted blade off of her own and continued on to leave a large gash across the man’s chest. It was a complete surprise to the hermit and he fell back from the blow, amazement and disbelief written across his face. Lana simply stepped forward and slashed again at the back peddling hermit, this time across the throat, and he fell, gasping and convulsing, to the ground.
The presence left again, leaving as quickly as it had come, and Lana at once understood what had happened. She killed a man. Not a man that could have killed her, his fighting had been slow and sloppy, and she could have easily avoided his pointless death. But instead she’d killed a man.No, thought Lana,IT killed him. Still, his blood stained the earth, his life was forever gone, and it wasn’t even necessary.
“Lana?” Inquired Glenn when the swordswoman continued to stand and stare at the man’s dead body. “Tiss a sad fate but his wits were rent long ago,” assured the knight, “T’was nothing else to be done.” Lana realized that Glenn had been through countless battles, battles with other humans trying to kill you, and to him she must seem silly grieving over the loss of a crazy hermit.
“I didn’t have to kill him,” voiced Lana, dropping the archaic tongue. “I didn’t want to kill him.” It seemed a hollow admittance, after all he was still dead, but it solidified Lana’s goal once more. To be free of this controlling force, whatever it was.
“Seems we all have to do things we don’t want to…” sighed Lana reluctantly, remembering Fnorm’s words, and turned back to face Glenn. “He may have tried to kill us, but let’s at least give him a proper burial.” The knight nodded in understanding, or tried to, and waited patiently and silently while Lana went about the task.