Fractime Eternity (Part 7)
All characters in this book are fictitious.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Copyright 2016 Steve Hertig
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Part 7 Eternity
“Each person who tries to see beyond his own time must face questions to which there cannot yet be absolute answers.”
RefPlane+2, 5 August 2086
Mac stared at the monitor showing four, stationary reptilian outlines. They were Deinonychus Navisis, an almost 100-kilogram velociraptor variety the machines had created and let loose on Earth.
He tried to repress a shudder glancing at his sister next to him.
“It’s hard to believe they’re so much smarter than timber wolves,” Zuni said while rereading Carl Watkins’ Journal of Paleontology paper detailing terrifying differences from similar Cretaceous species.
“Nervous?” she asked.
“Not much,” he lied staring at rain cascading off the roof of their tent in the Rocky Mountains.
“Uhuh,” she said casually.
“You?” he asked studying her face for any hints of an answer. The older they became, the more difficult it was to relate to his twin. As children, he could easily read her feelings from the slightest tell. Now, it was obvious to him they had diverged at some deep level. It often made him feel inadequate and he had struggled for years to understand why.
“I am,” she added while gently caressing a bright green feather dropped one of their subjects that she had tied to a strand of her auburn hair. “I can’t believe how fast they are. Wonderful creatures” she added closing the journal article.
Mac nodded and then shivered.
Flint had dropped them off over a week ago not far from the ruins of Aspen. The twin’s first away mission was to be a nice walk in the mountains but the killers down the valley had failed cooperate.
Locals, just realizing small herds remained after ten years following the whole-scale invasion, were terrified. Flint saw the situation as an opportunity for the eighteen-year olds to get some real-world field experience.
Ten years ago, the raptors had evolved quickly to be incredibly elusive. Now the reptiles were behaving strangely, as if they knew Zuni and he were observing them. It had been a cat and mouse game for weeks.
“At least it’s warm,” Mac said while trying to catch a glimpse of the Elk Mountains in the distance through the rain and low cloud from their small recon tent.
“At least we know where they all are now,” Zuni said. “But the relocators won’t be in the area for another six hours,” she added turning off her pad with a quick brush of her finger.
“They are on the move again,” Mac said. “I told you not to use the pad when they are this close,” he added tersely.
“Still think they can sense a quantum flux?” his sister asked peering over his shoulder at the various displays on the monitor.
“Maybe,” he replied watching four reptilian outlines creep back up the Roaring Fork Valley towards them. “Or maybe they’ve developed a sensitivity to EM in the couple of weeks,” he added while considering turning off the monitor.
“If so, it’s the distance that’s hard to believe,” she said. “They are over three kilometers down the valley.”
“Two point eight,” Mac corrected her. “But they’ve stopped again,” he added with a sigh.
“Flint could have left us a TD,” Zuni said.
“Uncle Sam is lucky to have a non-linear. For us third gen, forget it. You’re dreaming,” Mac told her sternly while wishing Flint had not pulled Ces from the mission at the last moment. Her natural ability to translate fractime would have eased both their nerves.
“Even a mission add could have helped,” he said.
“Adds? Not for me,” Zuni said. “Auntie Tye hasn’t spoken a contraction in over a hundred years.”
“Still,” Mac added smiling at the wisdom of his older-by-minutes sister.
“More question time?” she asked playfully. “I’ve been thinking of some good topics.”
They knew there would be long periods of watching the bio-monitor and had decided earlier to continue one of their unique twin activities on mission. They had all ready been through several subjects.
“What’s the new topic?” Mac said grumpily.
His sister scowled at him. “Family history. You know we’ve been saving that one for a special occasion.”
“Who’s first?” Mac asked knowing the answer.
“It’s your turn,” Zuni said shaking her head. “You know the rules.”
Mac nodded. One twin would provide a general topic then the other would ask a question. Both would debate any possible answers until they had worn out the question. The debate could drag out for days or weeks depending on the subject. Mac had already formulated his first question.
He looked at his sister; she was obviously trying to take his mind off their stressful situation.
He winced at the flash of a distant lightening strike. “Why did Uncle Mick ban missions that could impact Earth’s religions?” he asked with a smirk as a lone thunderclap rolled up the valley.
“Shit. I bet you’ve been saving that one awhile,” Zuni said through a big grin. “We’re not to talk about that subject,” she added too dramatically.
“Go on. You have first conjecture,” Mac said ignoring her contrived warning.
“Everyone suspects it’s Family related,” Zuni said tying her hair in a loose bun atop her head.
“Everyone?” Mac asked rhetorically then chuckled knowing no one would even mention the ban, except Ces.
“It’s got to be,” Zuni said. “What exactly is the ban? Have you heard or seen the actual restrictions?” she asked.
“I agree it is most probably Laith related. I don’t know and no,” Mac replied respectful of his sister’s keen intuition.
“Don’t call them that!” Zuni said tersely. “You know I hate it. They’re family. We all need to love them.”
Mac knew he had gone too far with what had become a racist label to her. His sister had become a lone proponent of desegregation of the Laiths back into mainstream the family activities. Most, except their uncle Draconous, did not take her seriously.
“Ces told me before departure the ban only really needs to go back to start of the Exiguus’s reckoning and not before the Family’s arrival,” Zuni said after taking a deep breath. “She wouldn’t say more.”
He had been too busy to join Zuni and try to coax Ces to rejoin the mission. Obviously, he had missed out.
“You play too much Battlefield Galactic,” she told him.
“Ouch,” he mumbled, “and what’s an Exiguus?”
“Look it up,” she replied with satisfaction.
Mac could see her pleasure in stumping him. “Holy shit,” he said finding the term in their pad’s search engine. “And you didn’t tell me?”
“I figured the ban would be your question and I was saving it.”
“That narrows it down to a few years or at most decades,” Mac said, pondering possibilities the new information might represent.
“Obviously corresponding to the birth of Jesus in Plus One,” Zuni said raising her eyebrows.
“That makes sense given it’s a ban on meddling with religion,” Mac said stoically.
“The ban is not just Plus One’s Christianity, though. It extends across the local anomaly to all religions,” Zuni said.
“A large enough sack of kittens can hide a lion,” Mac quoted a rough Sol translation of an ancient Klingon proverb.
“Just like Uncle Mick,” Zuni said thoughtfully. “I agree it’s probably a Plus One issue.”
“So, you think we have an Uncle Jesus afflicted with the change?” Mac asked flatly.
“Then Mick’s ban on meddling with another Family member’s timeline fits, too,” Zuni said confidently. “We should have seen all this before,” she added with a glance out the tent’s small window as the rain grew heavier.
“Except it’s Plus One, not the RP,” Mac said.
“Still if the consequences were serious enough,” Zuni said not finishing her thought.
“Serious?” Mac asked looking at his sister. “The Plus One history built around Christianity is immense. There are followers in surrounding fractimes even though most are doing the same shit as everywhen else. Uncle Drac says few actually have listened.”
“If Jesus had the change, then at least some of the miracles attributed to him make sense,” she added ignoring her bothers cynicism.
“Miracles reported by whom? People. And people—
“Can’t be trusted,” Zuni said finishing her twin’s sentence. “Skeptic,” she added tersely.
“It’s obvious his teachings have been and will be critical in a lot of Earth’s future fractimes for a long time,” Mac said. “His precepts are in the Confederation’s constitution. I guess that’s reason enough not to meddle,” he added.
“Perhaps,” Zuni said deep in thought. “What about Carl’s TIA?”
“Meddling striking at the heart of Fractime’s religions has had severe consequences,” Mac said in a deep voice mimicking his father’s words.
A case study of the impacts of the TIA was one of their first assignments given to Zuni and him by Flint dealing with volumes of back-change reports.
“We know some with the change can translate autonomously,” he said while tweaking a threshold on the monitor.
“Like uncle Drac and Ces,” Zuni said thoughtfully.
“There’s probably more,” Mac said. “I can understand why they’d keep it secret. Ces did for a while.”
“But why would someone with the change leave the RP to take on such a…a holy mission?” Zuni asked.
Mac said, “We can only speculate. We’d need to access restricted gen one mission files for more clues.”
“Do you think there’s a link to the Watchers Miri mentioned?” she asked.
“You mean before uncle Drac elbowed him in the ribs,” Mac said thoughtfully remembering the exchange in the Hourglass. “Maybe you have something with all this but I’m not convinced,” he added sincerely.
“Perhaps the ban was some kind of Plus One early war strategy,” Zuni said as torrential rain continued to swell the nearby river. “But that would mean a high-level breach of Family canon.”
“Maybe. Again we’d need restricted access,” Mac muttered. “You know there were breaches going on back then and later,” he added with a smirk.
Zuni glared at him. “How can you believe Queen Guinan would do such a thing?”
“Star Trek for one thing,” he said deadpan just as the monitor beeped. “They are on the move again,” he reported turning to look at the monitor.
“Makes sense. It’s getting dark,” Zuni said.
“Adjourn question time?” Mac asked.
“Looks like they are heading towards the river,” he said adjusting one of the monitor’s displays.
“Maybe it’s just time for a drink,” Zuni said.
“Fuck,” Mac said as each of the four blips disappeared one by one at the river’s bank.
The monitor began to beep continuously until he shut off the warning.
“Can they swim?” Zuni asked reaching for Carl’s paper.
“Better prep to evac to the safe site,” Mac said beginning to stuff their extra clothing and other personal effects into a duffle.
“They’re still almost three clicks away,” she said.
“You know protocol for lost signals,” Mac said just as the monitor beeped again signaling re-acquisition of the reptiles. He watched several raptor outlines sporadically flickering within the river.
“There,” Zuni said. “No problem.”
Mac adjusted the monitor’s thermal display to chart the position of the sporadic signals. They were moving up stream towards them.
“Big problem,” he said. “They’re covering the distance too fast.”
“How it that possible,” Zuni said staring at the display.
“They’ve already crossed the threshold,” Mac said nervously looking at his sister. “Make our evac request,” he said trying to stay calm.
“How can they be heading straight for us?” Zuni said fumbling with the pad.
“Just over two clicks,” Mac reported. “We’ve got to get to Wildwood,” he added pulling his duffle over his shoulder.
“Request sent,” Zuni said stuffing the pad in a pocket then picking up the monitor.
He knew with the bad weather and only a few satellites back in operation the local Rocky Mountain authority might not acknowledge the request quickly.
“We’re on our own,” he said emerging into the deluge outside their tent. “I’ve fed the monitor’s composite display to the pad, so leave it,” he added over his shoulder to his drenched sister.
They began to run up the valley to the school they had selected before as a potential hard refuge.
“One point five kilometers and still closing,” Zuni reported. “That water is so cold, how are they so fast?” she asked.
“The school’s not far,” Mac said encouragingly while struggling for footing on long, wet grass as they struggled up a steep hill leading to the sanctuary.
“Three clear blips are out of the river,” Zuni reported. “Less than one kilometer,” she added looking over her shoulder as if she could see them through the downpour.
Mac knew they might not make it to the school in time. “Through here,” he said dropping the duffle then pulling her down into a storm drain in an attempt to hide their scent.
“Five hundred meters,” she reported trying to catch her breath while holding the pad in front of her. “And this is freezing,” Zuni added as they slogged through the knee-deep muddy water.
Nearly out of breath, he looked back to his sister. “The forth?” he asked.
She shook her head, bent over taking deep breaths before they climbed out of the drain to resume their up-hill run.
A single, low hiss echoed out the mist and rain behind them.
Mac recognized the sound as the reptile’s predatory response and gulped. “Fuck, hurry,” he pleaded.
Finally scrambling over the crest of the hill, they could just glimpse the school through the downpour.
“Come on, not far,” he coaxed taking his sister’s hand.
“Look!” she shouted pointing towards the school before them.
Mac turned and saw a vague shape of a raptor come into view less than fifty meters in front of them. The continuing deluge began to reveal the bright greens and blues of its skin and ornate feathers as mud dripped from the alpha female’s body.
“Smart,” Mac muttered dropping the duffle then turning to see the other three creatures, heads down, slowly advancing uphill behind them.
Zuni grabbed him tightly as the four reptiles; now only meters away, vigorously shook water from their feathers in unison while staring at their prey.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered in his ear just before the raptors simultaneously sprang into a run towards them.
He gave her a final squeeze then closed his eyes.
RefPlane, Late Pleistocene Epoch
The rain stopped. In fact, except for Mac’s heavy breathing, the world became unusually quiet. He cautiously opened one eye then the other.
“I mean you no harm,” a chubby man dressed in colorful robes said from a corner of a small room lacking both windows and door.
“It’s okay,” Zuni said releasing Mac, while staring at the multitude of long stick figures depicted on the room’s walls.
“I would have been there sooner but I assumed the third was with you,” the man said. “She wasn’t was she?”
“Just us,” Mac replied cautiously.
“It’s regretful I had to wait so long,” the white-haired stranger said nervously.
“Thank you for saving us,” Zuni said as she rushed to give the man a hug.
“Your probability function collapsed most improbably,” the stranger muttered patting Zuni uneasily on the back.
“Yeah. Thanks,” Mac said and just realizing Zuni and he were now dry.
“I’m Zuni and this is my brother, Mac,” Zuni said releasing the old man.
“I’ve carried lots of names with me throughout time but Parneb most often,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Meddling, most unpredictable,” he added shaking his head while looking at the two teenagers.
“He sounds like Prophet,” Zuni whispered to Mac.
“Any comparison to such a distinguished Calma is most generous,” Parneb said. “The Eight Prophet of Probability is multiversally recognized for his predictions. One of my many hobbies,” Parneb added.
“Cool,” Zuni said.
“You thought there was someone else?” Mac asked while shaking his head at Zuni who had adopted most of Ces’ 1980’s slang.
“The first of the three,” Parneb replied.
“Ces?” Zuni asked.
“Perhaps,” Parneb said. “There are so many BSP designations and they’re so repetitive. Very difficult to keep up.”
“BSP?” Mac asked.
“Bio-sentient programs, metaphorically speaking of course,” Parneb replied. “But we are getting ahead of ourselves,” he said with a smile. “We are a vault constructed by an old friend of mine. It’s a safe translation site in your fractime of origin,” he added.
“Thanks,” Zuni said respectfully. “We better get back before anyone gets worried.
“I will take you to anytime and anywhere you wish,” Parneb said. “Even back to where and when I rescued you.”
“Wonderful,” Zuni said. “I don’t want Mom to think we were eaten.”
“And Dad?” Mac asked incredulously.
“He’s into dinosaurs; he’d cope, eventually,” Zuni replied flatly.
“The creatures are no longer a problem,” Parneb injected.
“Good,” Zuni muttered as Mac nodded. “So they are safe?” she asked.
“Relocated to where they are no longer a problem. They’re probably basking in an early Cretaceous morning sun as we speak,” Parneb replied tenderly.
“Why did you save us?” Mac asked.
Parneb smiled broadly. “Now that my boy is a very good question!” he said pulling a long, white crystal from beneath his robes. “But I’ll have to get back to you with that as many more distributions now must be constructed,” he added with a sigh. “I apologize for the intrusion into your time—
“Are you kidding?” Zuni asked. “We’re alive,” she added grasping Mac’s hand.
“Nevertheless,” Parneb said, “I’m afraid I will have to inject myself into your lines again. You may experience significant duration before I can answer more of your questions. It is obvious chaos is intensifying by the unlikely absence of the third. “
“Ces,” Mac reminded him.
Parneb nodded, “Of course.”
Mac saw great age in the man’s eyes that betrayed even his thinning, pure white hair.
Zuni looked around the small room at the numerous mono-color glyphs then asked, “Who are you?”
“I was once Mór,” Parneb said just as his crystal radiated a deep green glow before translating Mac and Zuni back to the ruins of Aspen.
Flint sighed as he looked at the twins sitting quietly in a citadel chamber normally reserved for meetings with dignitaries.
“You first away mission has produced some unexpected results as well as consequences,” he said turning his gaze out a window to the largest of Trua’s moons.
“The Navisis were dealt to,” Zuni said somewhat defensively.
Mac winced. Their near death distressed their parents enormously and he knew Flint felt responsible.
The augmented reptiles had been incredibly elusive after the invasion. The machines designed them to hunt in large packs of hundreds for maximum cleansing effect. However, the famous battle of the Rocky Mountains decimated most large packs, thanks to extra-universal help following the Synth extinction. But the recent aggressive actions of the four reptiles were surprising to everyone.
“Nevertheless,” Flint responded turning to look at Zuni, “you both are on a short leash for the foreseeable future. Therefore, you can start on your theses. I have topics for you.”
Mac knew they had hoped to select their own thesis subjects and wondered if the council was punishing them.
“As you know,” Flint said, “oral defense will occur at my discretion. I trust you will progress at your normal rapid pace and I have set a preliminary date in two Sol weeks.”
Mac saw Zuni cast her eyes down to the ancient granite floor. Even for them the timeframe was extreme.
“The topic?” Mac asked. He knew from Ces’ and Tye’s accounts that such topics could be incredibly broad, detailed or anywhere in between.
“Zuni will present on Mór,” Flint replied looking to her.
Tough one, Mac thought. A topic no one knows much about. He wondered if Flint had chosen the topic because of their rescue by Parneb who claimed to have been Mór.
Flint turned to Mac. “You also will present on Mór,” he said.
Mac shoulders slumped. “Shit,” he mumbled to himself.
“Specific subtopics are at your discretion. One each will do in the time frame provided,” he added with a subtle smirk. “Also Ces just arrived. She will be an important resource as your advisor and be with you until your defenses.”
Great, a minder, Mac thought. However, he was happy it was his cousin. He would probably need her programming skills; he already had an idea for a subtopic.
Flint sighed at the silent twins. “Dismissed,” he said sternly, “and stay out of trouble.”
It had been a week and a classroom in the citadel was stacked with Mac’s equipment. He was convinced Mór and the multiverse’s dark matter field where related. It was not a new idea, but he had been tinkering with ways to refine a test for such a hypothesis.
A mix of apparatus derived after famous experiments by Bell, Clouser, Aspect, Yin Chin and others entangled with his own devices produced a low hum that filled the room. However, conclusive results had so far been elusive.
Mac sighed as he looked up from adjusting a photon emitter to Ces then Zuni. His sister had taken a spiritual track to the understanding the Mór focusing on the famous Timestone and its direct link to omnipotent realm.
“I need magnitudes more precision with these measurements,” he said dejectedly. As time was short, they both had one chance to select a viable subtopic. He was beginning to doubt that he could do what modern physicists had struggled to accomplish for centuries and was sure Flint had designed the timetable for failure.
“And I need more than just summary reports and secondhand information on the Timestone,” Zuni said. “You’d think applicable first gen reports would be available,” she added with a subtle moan.
“What?” Zuni asked.
Mac knew Zuni detected something in Ces’ reaction to their despair that had eluded him.
“Nothing,” Ces replied cautiously.
“Uhuh,” Zuni said.
“Yeah, spill it,” Mac added hopefully.
“Well,” Ces said in a whisper, “back on TarTarus I hacked the AI.”
“So?” Zuni asked.
“It appeared to be very similar to Luca,” Ces said.
“Holy shit,” Mac said, “You think you can access Luca’s database and first gen reports?”
“Maybe,” Ces replied cautiously. “It took years to do with the AI on TarTarus, but it did turn out to be fairly simple. It was just a verbal password.”
“Let’s give it a go,” Mac said enthusiastically.
“Uncle Flint did say you were a resource,” Zuni reminded her.
Ces shook her head. “I don’t think that was permission to access top secret Family files.”
“How about just a look at the Timestone?” Zuni asked.
“Can’t be much harm in that,” Mac added wondering what in the secret Family archives he could benefit from.
“Okay,” Ces said reluctantly. “Luca,” she called out.
“Can I assist you, Ces?” Luca said after appearing next to Zuni.
“Chanadh,” Ces sang quickly and with perfect pitch.
Luca stiffened as her hologram wavered slightly before stabilizing.
“Cool,” Zuni said.
“Think it worked?” Mac asked.
“We need a test question,” Ces said, “one not too critical to Family business but where its answer won’t affect the Family’s timeline if we know it.”
“How about an inventory of Uncle Mick’s museum?” Mac asked. “Maybe you can see a detailed image of the Timestone,” he added.
“Hmmm,” Ces pondered. “That might be okay. Luca, display the inventory of Mick’s museum. Sort by date of acquisition. Most recent first.”
A semi-transparent two-dimensional display appeared in front of the three and began scrolling through the items one by one.
“Well this should help,” Zuni said with a sly smile. “Stop!” she added quickly as the Timestone appeared near the top of the listing.
“Duplicate display,” Mac commanded and then began scrolling past the more recent objects on his own listing.
“Zoom,” Zuni ordered her display. “The sutures are the same at any magnification,” she added in awe.
“Fractal,” Mac commented, still scrolling his display.
“What are the figures composing the stand?” Zuni asked. “There’re just like the ones in Parneb’s safe vault.
“Mimi spirits,” Luca replied, “part of the Australian aboriginal’s early verbal history.”
“More,” Zuni said quickly with a hint of rare frustration.
“According to several indigenous Australian tribes,” Luca continued, “Mimi spirits imparted critical knowledge to the oldest humanity still inhabiting Earth. This knowledge includes painting and dancing as well as more practical endeavors such as fire starting and hunting. As you can observe, they are delicate, stick-like beings and thus they live in rocks for protection from the elements.”
“They live in rocks?” Mac repeated looking up from his display. “Dad’s going to love this,” he said.
“Yes,” Luca replied and nodded. “Mimi spirits are also said to have imparted moral teachings. There is much more info—
“Thank you Luca,” Ces injected.
“Sounds like Mimi’s were critical to the aboriginal’s early history,” Zuni said. “But what’s the connection to the Timestone?”
“Unknown,” Luca replied. “However, at least one northern Australian tribe still claims theses spirits inhabit their domain.”
“Sounds like a field trip,” Mac said still focused on his display while rubbing his hands together.
“Can we?” Zuni asked Ces. “It’d be the bomb!”
“Our two weeks’ timeframe is Family clocked,” Mac said shaking his head at more of Zuni’s use of Ces’ 80’s slang. “It shouldn’t be a problem to withdrawal a few days of personal duration to check it out.”
Ces subtly shook her head.
“Please Ces,” Zuni pleaded, “I need something, even something mythical. I’m at a dead—
“Wow!” Mac injected. “Look at this,” he added pointing to his display.
“What is it,” Zuni said taking a close look at the small, colorful device.
“It’s a fuckin’ Heisenberg diode!” he said. “It’s not actually a diode of course, but it’s exactly what I need to get the precision necessary out of my dark stuff ratios.”
Ces shook her head again looking from one anxious twin to the other.
“It’s just in a drawer with lots of other components,” Mac said. “Probably just spare parts for something dangerous.”
“I’ve never been to the outback,” Zuni added.
“Maybe we all need a break,” Ces said with a sigh and closing both displays with a quick wave of her hand. “It is pun night at the Breeze,” she added with a giggle.
The twins moaned in unison.
RefPlane+1, 2 May 2018
After Mac finished re-filling popcorn and peanut dishes on bar, he sighed as he scratched the neck of the bar’s mascot, a Red-winged Amazon named Barney, sitting on his left shoulder.
Ces’ parents had run the Gulf Breeze on Padre Island since the early 80s. Thankfully, this summer’s season was just beginning and it was a quiet Wednesday night. Pun night was like that; non-punsters avoided the evening like the plague and walk-ins looking for a quiet drink usually left quickly in disgust. Only a few regulars gathered around the bar.
He and Zuni spent most of their early childhood at the bar. To them the regulars were family.
“Next theme, master Berkowitz,” Sam Greenstone, Ces’ father, said passing a tweed cap filed with small slips of paper to an old man beside him.
“Animals,” the man, reading the slip while adjusting his kippah, said keenly and then received obligatory groans from the others around the bar.
“Let’s hope they don’t have the rabbis,” Benny Powell, the bar’s longtime piano player, said before downing his Irish whiskey and getting the first popcorn shower of the new topic.
“It’s started again,” Zuni muttered to Mac.
“Too bad Mom’s not here. She’s good with animals,” Ces told Mac and Zuni while placing her pad on the bar. “She’s not due back for a few hours,” she added with a glance at the clock behind the bar.
“I guess that means she’s got koalafications,” Marco Dongle said nudging his wheelchair between them to grasp a handful of peanuts.
He, unlike Benny and the others, was from nearby Mission, Texas. A marine biologist, he had survived the BP rig disaster 2010 but had never gone back to the Gulf’s oil and gas fields.
“As she’s not here,” Rabbi Berkowitz explained, “her kaolafications are totally irrelephant.”
“Don’t listen to Rabbi Berkowitz,” Ces said straight-faced, “he’s lion.”
“Hey, don’t talk to the rabbi like that,” Marco said. “I’m sure Hebrews all his puns for a long time.”
“Pay up. Any derivation from topic is unbearable,” Sam told Marco, who then began searching his wallet.
“Don’t worry, owl wait,” Sam said before Marco dejectedly placed a ten dollar note in the honestly box.
Mac knew drinks were free on pun night as long as you stuck to the rules.
“I didn’t do it on porpoise,” Marco replied receiving a face saving barrage of peanuts.
“Hey Marco,” Benny said, “You didn’t park in a non-handicapped parking spot again did you? I’d hate to see your pickup get toad.”
“Maybe I otter go check,” Marco said swiveling his chair to clear the surrounding bar stools before heading for the gents. “Don’t wana do somethin ill-eagle.”
“Marco would never park there. That’s just plain sealy,” Ces added getting a thumb up from Mac.
“That one would make a pig squeal so much it’d need more oinkment,” Marco added dryly.
“Impawsible,” Zuni added.
“If these get any worse,” Benny said, “Alpaca my bags and hoof it out of here.”
“Hippocrites are not allowed,” Sam warned him.
“Such an array of puns,” a voice, poolside said. “Oh the hue-manatee.”
“Parneb!” Zuni exclaimed rushing to give the old man a hug,
“I hope my arrival is not too hawkward?” he added.
“Everyone,” Mac said, “meet Parneb.”
“Enough of the pandamonium. Coffees all around,” Sam told the group signaling a hopeful early end to punning for the evening.
“I was getting melon collie anyways,” Benny muttered.
“And it appears I owe you thanks for saving my niece and nephew,” Sam told the new arrival.
“It was nothing, just a simple case of reptile dysfunction,” he replied taking a final volley of peanuts in stride. “And a strong, black coffee would be wonderful,” he added with a big smile while studying The Machine.
As Sam began dispensing an Indonesian double espresso, Mac pulled Zuni close.
“Can you believe Parneb found us?” he asked her.
“You worry too much,” she replied smiling. “He’s a good person.”
Mac knew Zuni had an uncanny sense of knowing a person’s true nature. He relaxed slightly looking at the rest of the Breeze’s regulars that apparently shared her viewpoint as they warmly greeted the traveler.
A broad smile filled Parneb’s face as he took the first sip of espresso.
“The time has come,” Parneb said looking at Sam then glancing around at the others at the bar. “There are matters beyond humanities comprehension that will make this difficult to convey,” he said.
Mac figured Sam would want the council involved with anything Mór but his uncle took a seat quietly at the bar next to The Machine.
“Whatever we can do to help,” Rabbi Berkowitz offered.
“Yeah,” Marco agreed, wheeling into the group again.
“Been in tight ones before,” Benny added.
Mac studied Parneb’s brown, wrinkled face wrapped in white scruffy hair hoping to find the comfort Zuni had in her assessment of the stranger.
“It began long ago when I was Mór,” Parneb said.
“Mór? Like as in the omnipotent?” Benny asked
“Omnipotence is not all it’s cracked up to be,” Parneb replied then took another sip of coffee.
“It began long ago,” Zuni repeated giving Benny a not so subtle scowl.
“Yes,” Parneb said. “Being within the Continuity is a complex existence at the best of times,” he added with a chuckle, “but was made worse by my condition.”
“Condition?” Zuni asked.
“Somehow I developed discrete thoughts,” Parneb said sadly.
Benny said, “Maybe if we had a bit more background…”
“Of course,” Parneb agreed. “But I am afraid analogy and metaphor are the best tools I have to explain.” He took a deep breath then continued, “The Continuity is a song that is sung by all merged BSPs.”
“BSPs?” Marco asked.
“Bio-sentient programs,” Mac clarified. “Metaphorically speaking, of course,” he added deadpan.
“Souls, I think,” Zuni clarified.
“Wonderful!” Rabbi Berkowitz said sliding off his barstool in excitement.
“Go on, Mister Parneb,” Zuni said.
“The song,” Parneb continued, “it as beautiful as it is hideous, as comedic as it is tragic, as boring as it is exciting. The paired autonym list goes on forever. But it is a composition of all that was and will ever be.”
“Because the past and future are already written?” Marco asked hopefully.
The old man nodded reluctantly.
“We are seeds already cast,” the rabbi added thoughtfully.
“Yes,” Parneb said, “and no. Your life determines the nature of the song that will be sung.” He took along look at the rabbi. “You will sing most beautifully,” he added. “Other’s in the world, I’m afraid will not be so fortunate but there is always hope in retribution. It is the way of humanity.”
“You suggest individuality within the Continuity,” Mac said.
Parneb sighed. “Beautiful harmonies are present between most singers. Some, not so much, but all are joined in song. However, the beautiful teach the rest, even the most appalling. These are dualities common in most things sentient.”
“So the Mór are the singers and the Continuity is the song,” Mac said with satisfaction.
“Makes good sense, I suppose,” Benny added.
“I’ll explain further.” Parneb continued. “Sentience is a gift from the creators.”
“Creators are not the omnipotent Mór?” Benny asked receiving a scowl from Zuni.
“Correct. However, the matter of the creators, the Mór refer to as the Omegans,” Parneb clarified, “is directly related to my dilemma and the Mór.”
“So the Mór are not the creators,” the rabbi said reflectively.
“Correct,” Parneb repeated then sighed. “So difficult,” he added shaking his head.
“Go on,” Zuni told him. “Tell us why you’re here.”
“I suggested to the other elders that sentience is a continuum and the threshold to be a singer was, put plainly, quite arbitrary,” he said. “They cast me out, back into humanity. To them I am a mutation, a heretic, because I believe all life is sentient,” he added.
“Back?” Sam asked.
“The Mór Continuity has evolved from the very limited sentience threshold they adhere to,” he explained.
“You mean the Mór evolved from us?” Ces asked.
Parneb nodded. “Mostly. A difficult concept as the arrow of time doesn’t apply to the Mór. In fact, they ride the arrow of time and when the Mór came into existence it had always been so.”
Benny whistled. “Talk about a paradox,” he muttered.
“Well anyways, it used to be so,” Parneb added. “That’s where the so-called creators come in to the picture,” he added with a chuckle only to receive a quizzical look from Zuni.
“To call them creators is quite correct,” Parneb continued, “but they also happen to be, for reasons they only know, now seem bent on the multiverse’s destruction.”
“Like Brahma and Shiva,” Rabbi Berkowitz said.
“Then that would make the Mór like Vishnu,” Zuni whispered leaning over to him.
“What are they like? These destroyers of their own creation.” the rabbi asked moving to be closer to Parneb as if proximity to the outcast could clarify the conversation.
“They have on occasion revealed themselves to the Continuity as simple beings consisting of multiple thought tendrils branching from a central conscious,” Parneb replied.
“They sound like some kind of Actiniaria,” Marco said.
Parneb nodded as Mac watched Zuni quickly searched for the term on her pad.
“I believe their physical manifestations are just sensors of something beyond even Mór comprehension to allow access to the Continuity and sometimes even to your reality,” Parneb explained. “The Mór tried to include them in the song but to no avail.”
“Trying to keep your friends close but your anemones closer, eh,” Marco said then receiving a small volley of popcorn from Zuni.
“My research suggests they are masters of entropy,” Parneb continued.
“How many levels of different realities are there?” Zuni asked Parneb.
“A very good question. In addition to space-time and the Continuity, one could certainly add the realm of the destroyers. But the answer could very well be infinite,” he replied.
“Probably fractal,” Mac muttered.
“So what’s changed to turn the creators into destroyers?” Sam asked.
Parneb shrugged his shoulders. “They may inherently be the ultimate yen and yang of the multiverse with your family caught in the middle as a kind of virus to entropy.
“I will attempt to explain,” he said before taking another sip of his coffee. “Other Mór shared my views of the Continuity’s limited view of sentience. Some did not wait to be cast out by the elders but left the Continuity. One had a plan.”
“Let me guess,” Sam said with a sigh. “Her name was Tim.”
Parneb nodded. “She carries that name among others,” he said. “I know her as Tiwi Illy Menwu. She took the opportunity a terrible disaster afforded and created your family. She went to extreme lengths to keep you all safe. She knew she had to keep ahead of the Mór elders to complete her plan. To do this, the universe’s probability function had to keep changing and to do that she provided you the means to translate the multiverse.”
“The temporal entities,” Sam said.
“And destiny changes with every translation or meddle,” Zuni said reverently.
“And that’s why your future may not be written yet,” Parneb said looking at Marco.
Parneb turned and smiled at Zuni. “Your family is unique in the multiverse having free will and thus, some control of their own destiny.”
“What about the Time Corps?” Mac asked.
“Yes, of course,” Parneb replied, “but even their origins are linked to your family, but we digress.”
Mac looked quickly at Zuni who subtly raised her eyebrows in unison with his, and then they both looked to Ces who ignored them.
“As the Mór began to lose control of fate,” Parneb continued, “they also began to evolve as history began to change. Tiwi hoped this change would provide the Continuity the power to halt the multiverse’s destruction but, she has since been re-amalgamated and her plans remain unfinished. Very sad.”
“It’s obvious she was trying to change the Mór,” Mac said. “To make them better by altering their evolution into something that could eventually deal with these so called creators. She tried to make a positive, temporal feedback loop to super evolve the Mór in order to defeat the destroyers.”
“Very astute, my dear boy,” Parneb said. “But the Mór detest any unexpected change. They would never do so on their own volition.”
“She could have just made things worse,” Sam said worriedly.
“Definitely a possibility,” Parneb said. “But she felt there was no other option. I tend to agree.”
“What of Queen Zuinall?” Zuni asked after a deep breath causing
Mac to recall the statue of Zuni’s namesake’s in the Pruchlais.
Parneb shrugged his shoulders. “I’m sorry. I don’t have a clue.”
“Why us?” Rabbi Berkowitz asked. “Why this fractime?”
“I believe lower level sentience is important to the Continuity’s song, but advanced sentience is essential and unfortunately a rare thing,” Parneb replied. “And advanced sentience is necessary in the evolution of humanity to become the Mór. Fractime has countless failures; whole sectors are devoid of life thanks to any number of reasons from magnetars to different laws of physics that you take as inviolate. Even in this fractime advance sentience is rare.”
“That fits the fact we know of only a few dozens of planets hosting humanity in the Milky Way,” Benny said.
“Few will advance as far as Earth humanity,” Parneb added.
“How far can sentience advance?” Sam muttered.
Parneb shrugged his already stooped shoulders.
“How many civilizations could develop lacking a huge moon, out of their star’s habitable zone, without the necessary planetary axial tilt or large gas giants in the outer system as comet deflectors? And that’s just the short list,” Mac said.
“Not to mention,” Zuni added, “the more down-to-Earth issues like nuclear weapons, climate change, mutated infectious diseases or just plain crazy people. And that’s just the short list.”
Parneb nodded solemnly then looked at the rabbi. “I can’t answer your question except to say this fractime and sector were just plain lucky or unlucky, depending on your perspective.”
“So much meddling has put the Mór out of touch with reality,” Parneb added dejectedly looking around the Gulf Breeze, stopping to stare at the large brass sauna by the pool. “The Continuity does not know the real danger they are in. If probabilities are the Mór’s eyes then they are now blinded by the current chaos.”
“What exactly is this danger?” Sam asked.
Parneb sighed. “The creators appear to be directly involved in the physical destruction of all fractime for reasons they only know. However, they have also evolved and have changed strategies and tactics several times. They now appear to be using Tiwi’s plans against us.”
“I hope Mac’s current experiment will be enlightening,” Parneb added. “Future probability analyses hints at that possibility.”
“How can you know about my experiment?” Mac injected.
“At least in one future of this fractime, it appears so,” Parneb replied.
“So what’s the hypothesis?” Mac asked.
“Confirmation of the Higgs anti-boson,” Parneb said. “Very good work,” he added with a smile.
“Uh oh,” Zuni mumbled.
“It may be worse than we thought,” Mac told the group. “My apparatus is attempting to resolve our fractime’s dark-matter content to a high precision,” he added to blank stares from the punsters. “Omnipotence has been theorized to be related to dark matter in fractime,” he explained sheepishly.
He knew it was not scientific but with the short timeframe until his thesis defense, he had to come up with a reason to use his existing apparatus with only minor modifications.
“But I need a Heisenberg diode,” he continued, “I assume my experiment has little to do with the Higgs anti-boson, which by the way, I’ve never even heard of.”
Parneb set his empty espresso cup down on the bar. “Very troubling news,” he said. “Nevertheless, it may be critical for you to complete your work. There are other factors needing consideration.”
“I might be able to help,” Sam, studying Ces’ pad, whispered to Mac.
“Over a billion years ago the destroyers infected your home fractime,” Parneb continued, “with an evil intended to increase chaos and at the same time decrease the possibility of Mór intervention. It was all part of their pursuit of the destruction of the multiverse starting here.”
“And this evil?” Ces asked cautiously.
“A name he often carries is Abaddon,” Parneb replied. “He has disappeared without a trace and that in itself is very troubling.”
“Shit,” Sam muttered.
“You know of him?” Parneb asked softly.
Sam cleared his throat not so subtly.
“Dad captured him,” Ces blurted out.
“I had lots of help and really didn’t play a pivotal role in his capture,” Sam explained to Parneb after a stern glance at his daughter. “It was Ces’ idea,” he added.
Parneb sat down heavily on a nearby barstool. “But there is no time for more detailed analyses,” he said dejectedly. “Are you confident he’s confined?” he asked.
“He is locked in an infinite translation loop,” Sam replied.
“One that should last thousands of years,” Ces corrected her father.
“And the entity?” Parneb asked.
“The dark cloak?” Ces asked with a shiver.
Parneb nodded. “It carries the designation, Lyric.”
“Abaddon still wears it,” Sam replied.
“So there is a chance,” Parneb said softly. “The entity can be used to appraise the Continuity of the current chaos the creators have manufactured. But we need to know exactly how they plan to destroy fractime,” he added with a glance a Mac.
“Could you use a Timestone?” Ces asked. “The Watchers communicated directly with the Mór with it by way of the tree portals. It’s a key of sorts,” she added.
Mac looked at his cousin wondering what else she had kept from Zuni and him.
“A deep green sphere, crazy scale-less sutures, about this big,” Ces said touching her thumbs and index fingers together.
"An ever-fractal orb!" Parneb gasped. "I believed them all lost in time. These Watchers and a few others entities were the constructs of Tiwi- all part of her strange plan," he reflected. "Do you have such a device?"
Zuni nodded looking at her father.
“Yes. It’s safe,” Sam said.
“And you have access to one of these trees?” Parneb asked cautiously.
Sam nodded. “Perhaps one,” he replied. “There was another portal but it’s been destroyed thanks to the Calma,” Sam said.
“What?” Ces asked.
“Sorry,” her father replied, “that was need-to-know only. And TarTuras now has a temporal barrier so there’s no going back to get access to its tree.”
Parneb reflectively rubbed his chin. “If the portal has been open for as long as you indicate the orb’s com protocols may need tweaking.”
“And there’s another minor problem,” Sam told the group around the bar. “The Mór communication receiver for the Timestone is located on the wrong side of the loop that Abaddon is trapped within.”
Rodney Higgs studied Mac’s apparatus then looked at his pad’s holo-projection to confirm several elements of the experiment’s design in three dimensions. Rodney had personally overseen the installation of the Heisenberg diode that Sam had procured from Mick’s stash only hours ago.
The council insisted Mac’s experiment be moved to the Citadels main laboratory to take advantage of its various safety systems. Moreover, as Mick insisted Tye be on the mission to contact the Mór, one of Tye’s partners, the youngest of the three Higgs, had offered to assist with Mac’s thesis in her absence.
Mac felt closer to this fractime twin than the other two versions in his Aunt Tye’s unusual partnership. It was likely the closeness in physical age helped, and this Rodney had become very close to his father on a critical mission during the war. Mac owed his love of physics to all of them as well as Tye, but he felt that the Rodney standing next to him understood him almost as much as Zuni.
“The calibrations check,” Rodney said cautiously as he terminated the holo projection. “And I don’t see any danger in its activation but this so-called diode is a huge unknown.”
Mac looked nervously to the brilliant physicist.
Rodney sighed then nodded. “It’s your design. You have the honors,” he added.
Mac scanned the surrounding blank data displays in anticipation of the experiments activation to capture their fractime’s matter to dark matter ratio. As the experiment accessed local-space, primordial entanglement states, the result would represent the current value for the entire fractime.
He took a deep breath as he flipped a simple analog switch in front of him.
The subtle hum of the apparatus’ photon emitters was all that betrayed its activation.
Rodney put his arm around Mac’s shoulders. “Come on,” Rodney said trying to coax the blank displays to life.
“Maybe the central hydrogen emitter’s control module needs adjusting or the Jahn-Teller modulator is out of alignment again,” Mac said dejectedly.
“Just wait,” Rodney said optimistically and then as if on cue the displays began to fill with numerical data.
“Is it working?” Mac asked.
“It appears so,” Rodney said cautiously as he touched his pad to begin the analyses and then synthesis of the data stream.
Mac knew the historical measurements of the value were limited to the inherent error of the observations and provided a rough estimate at best of about 27 percent dark matter composing the Reference Plane. The diode should take the precision of the observation to over thirty decimal places as well as negate any effects of nearby dark energy.
“The first iteration of the data has been completed,” Mac said transferring the fluctuating result to a central display in front of them with a brush of his hand.
“It’s kind of in line with previous calculations,” Rodney observed with satisfaction as the digits to the right of the whole number 28 began to proliferate.
“We should have a constant result by now,” Mac said dejectedly as the continuing synthesis kept changing while adding more digits to the right.
“There,” Rodney said, “the left-most values are holding.”
Mac watched as the percentage calculation began to stabilize with only the right-most decimal places now changing. The three values over 37 decimal places to the right were still incrementing.
Rodney made several quick inputs on a nearby workstation then sighed. “Luca,” he said.
“How may I assist you,” she said appearing next to Mac.
“Please confirm synthesis of the data stream,” Mac requested having assumed Rodney’s intentions.
“Current data stream synthesis is precise to the level displayed,” she reported. “The overall value is increasing exponentially,” she added.
Rodney sat down hard on the workstation’s chair. “You know what this means?” he asked Mac.
Mac stared at the left-most values still incrementing. “Dark matter is increasing.”
“And matter is decreasing faster every millisecond” Rodney added staring at the display.
“Luca,” Mac said, “Project the duration until matter is exhausted in the Reference Plane. Assume reference year 2543 and the current value of the ratio.”
“All matter composing the Reference Plane will be destroyed in approximately 1.3 billion years,” she reported.
“Think this is the work of the destroyers?” Mac asked his mentor.
Rodney’s pale face provided his reply. “Estimate the termination date to the nearest year of sentience due to increased dark matter content in the Reference Plane,” he requested of the AI.
“The end of humanity will occur in approximately sixty thousand years,” she reported.
RefPlane, Early Holocene Epoch
“It’s not far,” Parneb said encouragingly as the team wove through a steep, narrow path in red strata composing Nourlangie Rock.
“Let’s take a break,” Ces said wiping sweat from her forehead with what Zuni recognized as an old bar towel from O’Shanley’s.
Zuni sat down on a nearby boulder next to Tye and Ces and then took a sip of cold water from her pack.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said while overlooking what would become Kadadu National park in Australia’s Northern Territory thousands of years in the future. She pondered the irony that the city of Darwin would exist just over 200 kilometers to the west.
“Definitely,” Tye added, focused on wiping grit off her phased rifle.
“Do we really need weapons?” Zuni asked.
“Better prepared,” Tye said inspecting her rifles trigger assembly.
“I’m afraid I agree,” Parneb said. “Those we seek can be unpredictable.”
“How confident are you that they can help us?” Zuni asked.
Parneb replied, “I’m afraid I have little basis for my prediction. But Tiwi created the entities we seek to help advance humanity’s evolution and at this time this area was to be the birthplace of advanced earth intelligence. You see, they have a limited control of space-time—”
“The dreamtime?” Zuni asked.
Parneb smiled at her but said nothing. “I have had several brief dealings with them and the Continuity knows they assisted in allowing the information exchange,” he said. “I only assume there is a connection to the Timestone from what you have told me.”
“I hope you are correct in your assumption,” Ces said.
Zuni studied her cousin; she had been unusually confident in Parneb’s theory and convinced their skeptical council to agree to this away mission prior to returning to TarTarus to confront Abaddon.
“I thought the Timestone originated in another sector?” Tye asked.
“You are correct,” Parneb replied. “But to make contact with its previous guardians—
“The Preceptors?” Ces asked.
He nodded. “That would be a great effort indeed and we may yet have to travel that path,” he continued with a sigh.
Tye just shook her head while staring at the oxidized dust on her hiking boots.
“It should be just over this rise,” Parneb said, standing to stretch before heading up the rocky hill again.
Tye nodded to Ces and Zuni then slung the rifle over her shoulder before following him.
After scrambling over a low overhang, they stood before a massive rock face cut by several deep, vertical crevices.
Zuni estimated the face to be at least twenty meters high. Peering into the nearest crevice, she felt a cool draft on her cheek but could not see how far it extended into the formation.
“We’ll make camp here,” Parneb said looking up at the face. “Night should fall within the hour, and then we wait.”
“How long?” Tye asked while constructing a small stack of twigs and branches for a fire.
Parneb shrugged his shoulders. “They are ancient beings and extremely delicate. I’m not sure they still belong here.”
“What exactly are these entities?” Zuni asked sitting down on the red earth, her back the rock face.
“Tiwi’s plans were, well, haphazard to say the least,” Parneb replied as he sat down next to her, placing his white crystal in front of him. “Her plans were well meaning of course with no real alternatives and limited implementation resources.
“Sharing at least several of the other seven dimensions, these entities have a bizarre appearance here. Even so, they taught the Aborigines to hunt kangaroo, use fire, and develop art. They even provided the first spiritual teachings to the locals.”
“So wonderful!” Zuni said wistfully crossing her legs next Parneb as their campfire crackled and sent tiny embers skyward.
Parneb nodded. “It’s unfortunate their influence did not spread further than these shores,” he added solemnly. “Tiwi changed her plans after the destruction of Auriane.”
“So how do we contact them?” Ces asked staring into the dancing flames of the fire.
“I hope the crystal will lure them into our dimensions,” he replied. “One must approach them cautiously and as they can get quite physical when startled we should not make any sudden moves or gestures,” he added.
Tye sighed as she took a seat opposite Parneb. As she leaned her rifle against the rock face, the white crystal began to glow.
“Don’t move,” Parneb whispered as a nearby crevice began to spawn light flashes from deep inside Nourlangie Rock.
As the flashes combined into a single dazzling vertical curtain of light, an entity emerged from the brilliance on long spindly legs.
Zuni stared at the strange being. It was much taller than Tye and its body was elongate and almost flat. A small head, with two dark ovals for eyes and long flat nose, swayed on spindly shoulders. Its skinny arms reached over the sitting team as if to touch the now blazing crystal but withdrew its long fingers just before contact.
“Long time fellas,” it said in singsong voice. “I is Mimi,” it added gesturing for the team to make room in their circle for it to sit as well.
Zuni was not sure if that was its name or a reference to its unusual race as she shuffled away from Parneb to make room for the entity. Somehow, she overwhelmingly felt the being was female.
“I am Parneb, brother of Tiwi, descendent of Mór, outcast of the Continuity,” Parneb said softy as Mimi gracefully folded its long legs to sit down.
“I remember white-hair dark fella. You seek helping,” Mimi said while wrapping a long arm around Zuni to hug her tenderly. “So special,” Mimi whispered in her ear.
Zuni glanced at Tye, surprised her aunt seemed so at ease.
“Yes to both observations,” Parneb replied then nodded to Ces.
She slowly pulled a simple, wooden case containing the Timestone from her pack and then set it gently next to the still glowing crystal.
Mimi folded both her long arms before her. “As much danger as beauty resides,” she said pointing a long finger at the box as Parneb slowly opened it.
Zuni saw the entities delicate frame tremble at as Parneb lifted the lid on the case revealing the Timestone.
“Bottomless the green,” Mimi sang softly, still quivering.
“We must speak to the Continuity,” Parneb said. “The orb needs revitalization.”
“You speak true,” Mimi said bending her long, flat torso forward to stare at the orb. “Tell elders big problem all round,” she added softly entranced with the orb.
“Can you help us,” Zuni said. “The multiverse is dying.”
Mimi just continued staring at the Timestone, seemingly lost in its depth.
“The Rainbow Serpent has turned against us,” Parneb added hopefully.
“My time long been dust,” Mimi added grasping a hand full of red dirt and then letting it slowly fall between her long, delicate fingers.
“Long past green cloak fella gives to hide in rock,” Mimi said pointing to the Timestone, “but evil search. Mimi cause has peril. Hide bit with outsiders Tiwi trust. Other bits walkabout. Now, endless stone return complete. Bring end or continuing? Maybe both?”
Mimi shuddered as she turned blank, black eyes to study the old man beside her. She then put her hand tenderly on Parneb’s shoulder and lightly brushed a stubbly brown cheek with her fingertips.
Zuni stared in wonder as rows of intense, alternating orange and blue dots began to illuminate Mimi’s otherwise flat, black torso then appear and flow down her arms and legs.
“Snake has two heads, but needs only one,” Mimi said solemnly while extending a glowing, long finger towards the Timestone again.
As she touched the surface of the orb, a white flash consumed the team’s senses and the ground trembled.
As Zuni struggled to regain her sight, she heard a faint scream dying into the subtle whisper that was the evening wind. Finally able to see, she realized Mimi was gone and the crevices of the rock face had closed.
“Well that went better than I expected,” Parneb said standing up while replacing his crystal beneath his robes.
“Think it worked?” Tye asked, slinging her rifle on her shoulder.
“Yup,” Zuni added confidently while staring at the now iridescent orb.
Mac shuddered as he took a seat along the wall of the council chamber between his twin and mother. The place always gave Mac goose bumps.
“The chamber can be quite cold,” Zuni said to Parneb, seated on the other side of Mac and next to Ces.
“The depth of time is fairly chilling,” Drac, the Family’s ambassador-at-large, whispered over his shoulder as the last of the council took their seats and the chamber’s door silently closed.
Mac nodded while exchanging a quick glance with his father seated at stone council table next to Flint.
“Sorry about the cramped space,” Luinan said looking around the group. “It’s best we have all involved with recent events here as the council has many questions. Everyone, we will dispense with any formalities so, if you can add to the discussion, please do so.”
“Welcome Parneb,” she added. “It’s rare to have a visitor within these walls.”
“I am honored, your majesty,” he replied receiving a giggle from Zuni.
“I’m surprised we haven’t cross paths before,” Mick said light-heartedly studying the old man.
“I have tried to respect the plans of Tiwi Illy Menwu as well as your first queen,” Parneb replied politely.
Mac saw Luinan startled by Parneb’s admission of family details, especially knowledge of Zuinall.
“Good thing you changed your mind,” Mick said with a chuckle. “Mind if I ask you why your first contact was with our kids?” he asked.
“Even the Mór retain myth,” Parneb said. “The three will save all that is and ever was.”
Mac winced as he saw his parents exchange one of those glances that could mean no translations for weeks.
“It seems Miss Tim was a clever as well as complex heretic,” Clare added.
“Indeed,” Mick said scratching the balding crown of his head.
“It seems,” Luinan said, clearing her throat delicately, “there are forces at play of which we have little comprehension or even much hope of understanding. Nevertheless, we will try to do so.
“Flint has briefed the council on Mac’s experiment as well as the apparent necessity to inform the Mór of the shortcomings of Tiwi’s plan. We have several questions on both topics, but let’s begin with Mac’s thesis project.”
Flint cleared his throat. “Mac’s experimental results have been replicated by the Science Academy at the citadel,” he said with an air of pride. “Furthermore, the academy has confirmed Luca’s evaluation of the exponential conversion rate of matter to dark matter although the accuracy in providing an exact timeframe is inherently problematic.”
“So, is the end still coming in tens of thousands of years?” Jen, Mac and Zuni’s mother, asked.
“Still roughly sixty thousand years, plus or minus about twenty thousand,” Tye added reading a pad’s display in front of her. “Our best guess is that as matter is removed from our fractime the balance of energy also changes which in turn affects the vitality of the Higgs boson. And that seems to be somehow increasing so called dark matter. Obviously a rapid and universal mass shift will have inherent consequences for all biologic systems at a quantum level.”
“You mean this shift is happening everywhere at once?” Drac asked.
“Even here,” Mac added. “It’s the laws of physics that are really changing. Kind of a chicken or egg thing as to which is changing the other.”
“Evolution won’t be able to keep up,” John said looking at his son.
Mac knew his father was right.
“Other fractimes surrounding the RP are also affected,” Tye added.
“Do we know how far the problem extends?” Drac asked.
“Every fractime up and downline surveyed so far,” Flint replied. “We’ve stopped the analyses as recourses became an issue,” he added.
“It’s a mystery as to how the conversion is crossing the boundary between fractimes,” Tye said.
“Very good work Mr. Mackinaw,” Luinan said to Mac. “You probably have given the universe a slim chance at survival.”
“Is there no way to reverse this process?” Mick asked.
Tye shook her head.
“The Mór might be able to stabilize the ratio,” Parneb said ending a brief but ominous silence.
“But haven’t,” Clare injected strongly.
Mac sighed at his aunt’s usual cynicism.
“Thanks largely to us,” Zuni said, “there’s too much unpredictability in the RP’s destiny.”
“The impact of translations has been a concern of the council for centuries,” Clare said shaking her head.
Mac knew the use of the Family’s technology was a long-standing concern of his aunt.
“The Mór,” Parneb said addressing Clare, “currently do not have the capacity to halt these destroyers. But John may be incorrect in thinking evolution can’t assist us.”
“We have no evidence to suggest Tim’s plans to enhance the Mór through some kind of evolutionary feedback loop will work,” Clare said.
“There is an element of logic in the proposition,” Mick said cautiously.
“The enhancement would have already begun with the re-joining of Tiwi to the Continuity,” Parneb said. “However, it is obvious that her plans have been insufficient or corrupted as matter conversion continues,” he added gloomily.
“It was not time,” Zuni said.
Mac turned to stare at his sister while wondering what she meant; she seemed so abstract at times.
“The beast,” Ces said to a nod from his sister.
“But he’s out of the equation,” Mac said.
“We hope,” Ces said.
“I can only guess that the destroyers have influenced our reality by increasing chaos,” Parneb said, “and building on an unfortunate side effect of Tiwi’s plan. This has gone to such an extent the Mór are now blinded to humanities real problem.”
“Why do they even care?” Clare muttered.
“The song,” Zuni replied respectfully.
Mac saw Luinan sigh at the mention of the metaphor of some kind of life after death that Parneb had disclosed.
“We don’t know the Mór are advanced humanity,” Clare said flatly with a fleeting glace at Parneb.
“I guess we’ll just have to have faith,” Mick said with a subtle smirk. “What choice do we have?” he asked the silent group.
“How does the Timestone fit in to Tiwi’s plans?” Drac asked with a sideways glance at Mick.
“I can only speculate that she provided a means of communication between humanity’s realm and the Continuity that would help counter the meager chaos ensuing from her plan,” Parneb said.
“Seems simplistic,” Luinan said, “but makes sense.”
“But it seems my evil twin had other plans,” Mick said.
“Parneb?” Luinan asked as the old man subtly shook his head.
“I have pursued that malevolence across fractime for eons,” he replied, “I am astonished you contained him. Lyric is a formidable weapon to overcome.”
“It was a simple trick,” Ces said. “I got the idea from Tye a long time ago,” she added grasping her aunt’s hand and giving it a tender squeeze.
“I guess there’s only one way to find out,” Mick said. “But the temporal seal to Armaros’ sanctuary complicates things.”
Luinan brushed s subtle bump on the council’ round table.
“How may I assist?” Luca said appearing behind the queen’s left shoulder.
“Calculate duration referenced to Mick’s rescue and the sealing of the Watcher sanctuary on Tartarus,” Luinan requested.
“An adequately stable time cross-reference is available for Michael O’Shanley and Ces Bernstein-Greenstone prior to the temporal seal,” the AI reported.
“Accepted,” Luinan replied.
“As referenced, duration since Mick’s rescue is approximately thirty four years,” Luca reported then receiving a subtle nod from Luinan, she vanished.
Mac knew his Uncle Sam had also experienced significant duration while briefly searching the other sanctuary after rescuing Ces with his mysterious Uncle Lars.
Luinan looked to Tye.
“Seems plausible but that’s a difficult calculation,” Tye said.
Parneb nodded agreement.
“Tactical?” Luinan asked turning to Tye again.
“Another TD could be setup in the small landing in front of the portal. A simultaneous switch could then assume the translation from the other TD within the portal,” Tye said. “Good thing we modified those linear TDs,” she added.
Mac knew very little about the operation of TDs. That subject was a strictly post-graduate topic.
“Then restraint is the main problem,” Mick said.
“A containment sphere could work,” Jen said.
“There’s just not enough room,” Tye said.
“Lyric is his weapon,” Parneb said. “It must be neutralized. There is no other option.”
“Can the eternal entities even be neutralized?” Zuni asked.
“Do we even know this Lyric is a temporal entity similar to our own?” Clare asked.
"Of course not on both regards," Luinan replied. "But we’ll worst- case plan."
“Agreed,” Clare relented.
“The instability or rip created by the null space implosion destroying the Navis severely impacted the Amhrán,” Luinan said thoughtfully. “Such a condition might be replicated in a weapon,” she added.
“Too risky,” Mick said. “Such a field would disrupt the TDs as well. We will have to play this one old school.”
“Fitting,” Parneb added.
“A standard containment field might hold for a few seconds,” Mick added thoughtfully. “Hopefully, it will be long enough to get the initiative.”
“Two of the best O’jits you’ve been training could be helpful,” Luinan added leaning over to Tye.
Mac shuddered; his Aunt Tye’s Jit ninjas were creepy.
“And Abaddon?” Zuni asked the group.
“For some, there should be no salvation,” her queen replied looking at Mick.
RefPlane, Planet Tartarus
Mac gingerly followed Zuni down the spiral, stone stairs. Power and cooling conduits nearly filling the staircase made their decent frustratingly haphazard.
“You nervous?” Zuni asked ducking under a plasma coil’s power feed.
“More scared,” Mac replied bumping his head for the third time still in disbelief that Luinan had added them to the mission.
“Mom and Dad said it was Mick’s idea for us to be here,” she said as if knowing his thoughts.
“Lucky us,” Mac mumbled.
“They were so pissed,” she added with a giggle.
Mac shook his head. He hated the idea of any conflict between Mick and his parents.
Zuni, however, seemed overly absorbed regarding the opportunity to face perhaps the greatest evil in all fractime. He had often considered that her perpetual optimism bordered on naivety. Now, he was convinced.
“I can hear voices,” she said as an O’jit scampered past them, down the stairs. “We’re almost at the bottom,” she added.
“Did you see that temporal tact suit?” Mac asked. “Seems Auntie Tye’s been busy with her pets.”
Zuni stopped abruptly then turned around to glare at him.
He knew the council had exempted the mission form the first Temporal Accord, allowing the O’jits to return from the near future with tactical knowledge. The suits also had systems to defeat several different kinds of temporal attacks but required the fast reflexes of an O’jit to be effective.
“Just kidding,” he added to Zuni’s back after she quickly resumed her downward trek in a sulk.
As they ducked under the last low-hanging conduit, Mac saw the subtle glow of a continuous translation surrounding a deep blackness of the portal to the Watcher’s sanctuary.
“It’s just you described,” Zuni said to Ces, rushing to touch the open portal slab. She delicately ran her fingers over the branches and roots of the tree of life. “It’s beautiful,” she cooed.
“And dangerous,” Tye said pulling her by the shoulder away from the slab.
“You two stand next to me and Ces,” Mick said wrapping his arms around the twin’s shoulders as Zuni received a frown from Clare.
Mick wore the Turas Luath and Clare wore the Amhrán. Both entities glowed bright green.
“That should be it,” an older Higgs said with a nod to Mick. “Rodney and I will monitor the containment field topside,” he added disappearing up the spiral stairs but not before giving Tye a long embrace.
Ces gave Mac’s hand a gentle squeeze.
“We are ready,” Tye said as two O’jits took station either side of the TD set it middle of the cramped space.
“There’s no telling what Abaddon was expecting upon entering the sanctuary,” Clare said. “We have to be ready for anything,” she added clicking off the safety of the hand disrupter she held.
“The containment will activate a millisecond after the translation transfer to the new TD,” Tye added for the twins’ benefit.
“Everyone ready?” Mick asked.
Mac nodded along with Zuni and Ces.
Tye looked to the O’jits as they activated their tact suit’s temporal shields.
Mac took a deep breath. He was thankful that one or both of the O’jits had not yet joined them from the future.
Clare crouched and took aim with her disruptor at the space in front of the TD.
As Mick brushed the TD’s remote control, Mac shut his eyes trying in vain to shut out a brilliant, all-encompassing whiteness. Covering his ears, he slumped to the cave’s dirt floor in an attempt to counter the deafening voices screaming within his head, and then the pain vanished as quickly as it had enveloped him.
Opening his eyes, he saw Zuni floating and slowly spinning head over heels next to him. Total whiteness surrounded around them both. He gulped thankful she was a visual reference to ease his now churning stomach.
“Neat, huh,” she said trying unsuccessfully to swim in the apparent zero-g.
“What’s happened?” Mac asked while reaching out to grasp his sister’s shoulder to synchronize their rotation.
“How do I know?” she replied. “There’s nobody here but us,” she added.
“You don’t think…?” Mac asked.
“I would know if Uncle Mick or any of the others were dead,” she replied curtly. “I don’t think Abaddon has tricked us somehow. We’re somewhere and when else for some reason.”
Mac just shook his head at his sister’s propensity for the obvious but he trusted her to read the situation. Somehow, he and his stomach felt calmer.
“But what about us?” he persisted. “We are surrounded by white light.” He looked around. They could have been in a perfectly smooth sphere with a flawless white interior. He just had no idea as to its diameter. He reached out as if to touch the hypothetical sphere’s interior surface but his fingertips sensed nothing.
“Who knows?” she replied tucking her knees in before executing a perfect somersault before resuming her previous position. “You hungry?” she asked.
“There’s you answer.”
“Did you hear anything?”
“I thought I heard very faint singing.”
“Lucky you. I heard loud screaming,” Mac said. A pinpoint of blackness flashed before Mac’s eyes. “Did you see that?” he asked.
“The little black explosion on the end of your nose?” she said.
Mac turned to look behind him and then watched as several more tiny black bombs went off. The soundless explosions behind him rapidly increased in frequency and persisted to such an extent that the increasing blackness began to cast them into darkness.
Zuni grabbed his wrist. “We need to stay in the light,” she said nervously while futilely trying to pull him away, flaying her other arm and legs in the process.
“You of all people know that won’t work,” he said calmly while knowing she knew the physics demanded in their situation. He knew they had only seconds before the blackness engulfed them.
Zuni looked at her brother as violet tear-blobs floated from her eyes between them.
Mac looked behind his sister at the shrinking whiteness then took a deep breath. He pulled his knees in, pulled her close, and then pressed his hiking boots gently on her stomach.
“See you on the other side, Sis,” he said as he kicked her towards the vanishing whiteness.
“I love you,” she cried out.
“I love you, too,” he whispered while watching her disappear into the distant, vanishing whiteness.
Complete blackness instantly enveloped him save a dull speck of illumination between his feet that drew his attention. The speck slowly grew brighter and closer until Mac recognized the glowing faceplate of a Jit temporal suit.
“Young Mac,” an O’jit announced releasing his grip on Mac’s arm causing him to stumble then fall on the cave’s floor in front of a mound of dull grey dust next to the TD.
“Secure,” Tye shouted from the cave’s floor as the other O’jit helped her to her feet.
Ces groaned weakly next to him. “Shit, that hurt,” she said rubbing her temples while struggling to stand even with Mick’s help.
“Agrona! Amhrán is dying!” Clare cried out, wrapping her arms around the dull, green cloak just before it disappeared from around her in a brief white flash.
“Where’s Zuni?” Ces asked desperately over Clare’s sobs
Tears fill Mac’s eyes scanning the cave’s small chamber. He sprinted to the stairs hoping that his sister had also somehow returned and ran into Rodney descending at a manic pace.
“Did you see Zuni?” Mac asked desperately, afraid of the answer.
“No,” Rodney replied nearly out of breath. “The plasma regulator overloaded! Is everyone all right?” he asked.
“No,” Mick replied while comforting his long-time partner while looking sorrowfully at Mac.
“Zuni’s gone,” Mac tearfully told Rodney. “I thought I could save her,” he added falling in a heap on to the cave’s floor.
“The tree,” Ces cried out while pointing at the rubble on the cave’s floor that once was the portal slab. “We’re fucked,” she added inspecting a small piece before hurling it at the cave’s wall.
It came to rest at Mac’s feet. He looked up to see the portal had vanished. The cave’s reddish rock had replaced the black nothingness.
Putting his arm around Mac, Mick said solemnly, “I’m sorry Mac. I guess we can’t win them all.”
RefPlane+1, 5 May 2018
The night at the Breeze was strangely quiet for the fifth of May, a day usually reserved for celebration in south Texas.
Mac stared at steam rising from an untouched mug of Irish coffee on the poolside table in front of him. He and his parents had been at the Breeze since the mission to TarTarus, finding comfort with his Uncle Sammy and Aunt Sara.
“Even Barney misses her,” Ces remarked at the unusually docile bird perched on the top of The Machine.
Mac nodded as his cousin sat next to him.
“Have you heard the results of the final examination of the dust mound?” Ces asked.
Mac shook his head still staring at the steamy swirls rising from his mug.
“The elemental analyses correspond almost exactly to Uncle Mick’s unique chemistry,” she said.
“And the mass?” Mac asked.
“It corresponds to a person of approximately 90 kilos, obviously too much for Zuni,” she said.
“And too little for Uncle Mick,” Mac said with a forced chuckle. “But fairly consistent with the description of Abaddon captured by Aunt Tye’s pad in the last moments of O’Shanley’s,” he added.
Ces nodded. “It’s good news.”
Mac sighed and brushed his pad’s display. “Statistically there had to be some but there was no body to positively ID,” he reminded her.
The pad, still linked to his experimental apparatus on Trua, showed the rate of dark matter conversion had jumped many orders of magnitude after the TarTarus mission and was still increasing.
“Any revised estimate?” Ces asked cautiously.
“Less than a few months,” Mac replied, “but the rate is changing rapidly.”
“I can’t believe Time Corps won’t help,” Ces said.
“Could they?” Mac asked dejectedly.
“Guess not,” Ces replied as the Red-winged Amazon flew on to Mac’s shoulder.
The parrot bobbed her head until Mac scratched his neck. “Zunis come,” the bird cooed.
Ces looked at Mac with raised eyebrows.
“You sure, Barney?” Mac asked.
The bird turned around on Mac’s shoulder to resume its head bobbing directed at the pool.
“Uncle Mick!” Ces called out to her uncle talking to Rabbi Berkowitz at the bar as Clare dispensed a large espresso for Parneb.
“Yes, young one,” he replied as he sat down next to them.
“Barney just told us Zuni is coming,” Ces said.
Mick watched the parrot continue to head bob. “Strange things are happening lately. I wouldn’t put too much into it,” he said as the rabbi, Clare and Parneb joined them.
“Sad days,” the rabbi said. “I wish there was something I could do.”
“It’s okay,” Mac said. “Seems all our options are running out,” he added, shaking his head after a brief glance at his pad.
“How long?” Parneb asked.
Mac looked into the old man’s eyes and shook his head. “Probably just days now or maybe hours.”
Clare shook her head but said nothing.
“Your parents are inside with Sam and Sara,” Rabbi Berkowitz said. “Want me to call them?”
Mac shook his head knowing they were still grieving Zuni’s disappearance.
“Ow!” Mac cried out from Barney digging his talons into his shoulder as the pool’s water began to subtly vibrate then rapidly increase into a raging boil.
“What’s happening?” Mac’s father, John, asked from behind the bar.
Mick just shrugged his shoulders while staring at the pool.
“We still have a little time,” Mac said while showing his dad the display on the pad.
“Jen, Sam, Sara. You better see this,” John added calling into the house.
“Fuck,” Mac mumbled as Barney once again dug his talons into his shoulder before flying to the top of the bar’s roof as the water in the pool began violently swirling clockwise.
“Most interesting,” Parneb said watching the pool’s contents slowly rise as a waterspout while incorporating the nearest poolside umbrellas and chairs into vortex.
Mac watched as the pool’s water flattened into a rotating disk high above the Breeze’s courtyard. Several of the flying umbrellas and chairs fell out of the disk, some clattering around him. Then just as a bizarre, clear-day thunderclap shook the Breeze, the water instantly dispersed and rained down on the onlookers.
“Hey, we’re down here,” a familiar voice said from the bottom of the pool.
Dripping, Mac stared into the pool, as the others looked on dumbfounded. Two Zunis stood in knee-deep water in the deep end. His sister wore Lyric and what could have been their triplet sibling stood next to her wearing what looked like the Amhrán.
“Zuni,” Jen cried out jumping off the ledge with Mac’s father into the pool’s shallow end then slogging through knee-deep water to their daughter.
“Zuinall?” Mick asked staring down at the other young woman.
“Yes my child,” she replied, “I hope our arrival was not too theatrical,” she added while wringing her long, platinum hair.
“An unfortunate side effect of the temporal shielding for Family and a few special friends everywhere and when,” Zuni added as she and the others climbed out of the pool.
Clare dropped to her knees before the now youthful matriarch. “Mother,” she said tearfully, eyes downcast.
“Stand up Lady Clare. There is much to celebrate,” Zuinall told her helping her to her feet.
“Oh yeah, thanks,” she whispered hugging Mac and then kissed his cheek. “Only one of us should have been in that place,” she continued leaning even closer to his ear. “Only one could pass. You made the choice I could not,” she added while backing up to study at her bother in detail.
“I’m okay. Jig Jag found me,” Mac said.
“I know,” Zuni said. “I bet you all have tons of questions,” she added, looking at her family.
“That would be an understatement,” Mick said as Sara switched The Machine into full perk mode.
Mac stared at his sister. She seemed different wrapped in the black fabric of Lyric.
“Armaros’ sanctuary had many safeguards thanks to Tiwi,” Zuni said.
“I know there was some time dilation during my stay there,” Mick said.
“And mine on TarTuras,” Sam added.
“For anyone else the result would have been most severe,” Zuinall said.
“And was,” Zuni added. “Abaddon aged eons in those few years.”
“Hopefully, that explains the pile of dust,” Clare said.
“Without a master, Lyric sent Mac and me to the gates of the Continuity,” Zuni said. “All was nearly lost,” she added looking tenderly at her bother.
“And brought a near lifeless Amhrán back to us,” Zuinall added.
“What of Tiwi?” Parneb asked hopefully.
“The Continuity has evolved my old friend,” Zuinall replied but gave no more detail as Sara placed a tray of filled, steaming coffee mugs on the table.
Mac glanced at his pad after it chirped twice. “The dark matter ratio has reversed!” he announced. “It’s even lower than before.”
“It will gradually diminish until equilibrium,” Zuni said. “Like great grandma said, time for celebration!”
“Interesting timing,” Mick muttered fetching a bottle of his finest Irish whiskey from behind the bar as well as a handful of glasses.
“The Family’s timeline needed to extend to near the end to preserve it virtually unchanged during the temporal shielding,” Zuni explained. “We’re sorry it was so painful,” she added looking to her parents then Mac.
“You were dead?” Mac asked his sister in disbelief while she wiped violet tears from his cheeks.
“Kind of,” Zuni replied sheepishly.
“And now you’re alive,” he added looking her up, then down.
“Yup. I’m back,” she said cheerfully.
“For good?” he asked.
She nodded then gave him another hearty hug. “Things are different now,” she said.
Lyric felt warm on Mac’s cheek before Zuni released him. Looking closely at the garment, the fabric had no color at all. It seemed a black with infinite depth.
“But there’s still much needing change,” Zuinall said. “And there is still much work we all have to do in the multiverse.”
“And here I thought our days of traveling fractime were over,” John said giving a smiling Jen a hug then rubbing Mac’s head full of black hair.
“You can thank these three,” Zuinall said looking kindly to Ces, Zuni and then Mac.
“Ces figured out how to kill Abaddon and Mac discovered the Omegan’s dark matter weapon,” Zuni said.
“And you?” Rabbi asked Zuni.
“Lyric chose her to rejoin the Continuity to reveal the impending disaster,” Zuinall said. “A very special girl,” she added, looking lovingly at Zuni.
“The three will save all that is and ever was,” Mick muttered staring into his whiskey.
“Things will have changed outside the Breeze,” Zuni said looking up into the starry Texas sky. “It may take some adjustment to how much better things are out there,” she added sweeping her arms across the Milky Way.
“The changes are too significant even for a back change report,” Zuinall announced. “I’ll talk to Luinan about a break from the Reference Plane for a while,” she added.
“The Calma have found an irregularity in an adjacent sector that needs our attention for the foreseeable future,” Zuni added.
“We leaving a new branch to the Family’s tree, the Callahans, to focus on remaining local anomaly issues,” Zuinall said.
“What?” Clare asked in disbelief.
“A fresh perspective is needed,” Zuni added matter-of-factly.
“I had the opportunity to tinker with an old, failed experiment,” Zuinall said with a wink to Mick. “The Breeze will be mothballed and with O’Shanley’s still gone; we needed another bar of operations.”
“Keeping the Family tradition alive and well,” Jen said cheerily.
“I thought the Northeast would be a good location,” Zuinall said.
“Long Island to be specific,” Zuni added wistfully looking starward again.
“Astonishing,” Rabbi Berkowitz muttered.
“Humanity has received countless Mór interventions within individual timelines,” Zuinall said. “Most will now experience harmony.”
“Which also happens to be Trua’s new name,” Zuni said pointing skyward towards the constellation Lyra.
“What of the rest?” Rabbi Berkowitz asked cautiously then cast his eyes downward as Zuni shook her head.
“And the Laiths?” Sara asked with a quick glance at Ces.
“Those severally afflicted have joined the Mór. For the rest, there’s now hope,” Zuni replied.
“It’s unprecedented,” Zuinall said.“The Continuity has changed in the process.”
“There’s a new song,” Zuni said wistfully looking at Parneb.
“They have evolved,” Mac added to his father.
“But now we’re on our own,” Zuinall said.
“Except for all of us,” Zuni added with a subtle nod to Mac.
“Only the entities remain of the past Mór,” Zuinall said. “We must do what little we can to support humanity in the local sector group,” she added.
“What about Omegans?” Parneb asked.
“We’re still here,” Zuni said with a shrug as she pulled Lyric off her shoulders then folded it gently before offering it to Mick.
“Damn, Sis,” Mac scoffed at his sister’s nakedness just before Sara quickly wrapped her with a dripping beach towel.
Mick reached out to take the cloak but just before touching the blackness, he quickly withdrew his hand.
“That will do more good with your uncle Sam,” Mick said with what seemed to Mac a forced chuckle.
As Zuni gently handed Lyric to Sam, the cloaks blackness instantly changed into a phosphorescent dark green.
“How did you know?” Clare whispered to her partner.
Mick shrugged his shoulders. “I felt a deep love looking into its depths. I just knew it needed to be with Sam.”
“So what do we do now?” Jen asked.
“Our family has a great deal of love to share and shared love increases all love in fractime,” Zuni said looking around at everyone and then stopping at Parneb, she smiled.
“That’s our new mission,” Zuinall added. “There’s still a lot to fix. The continuity could only do so much. And translations will not affect fractime anymore either.”
“Sounds good for a change,” Clare said adding a deep sigh.
“Simple. I like it,” Mick said with a laugh. “When do we start the new job?” he asked Zuinall.
“Not for a day or so,” she replied with a smirk only to receive a broad smile from Mick.
“Then I better call the regulars and tell them Cinco de Mayo is back on,” Sara said with a cautious look to Zuni who nodded with a subtle smile.
“And I’d better start refilling the pool,” Sam said still holding the glowing Lyric.
“I think we better get another keg of Guinness,” John said to Jen before received a playful poke in the ribs from her.
“Jen and John, you know what this means?” Rabbi Berkowitz called out before they were halfway to the bar.
They turned around as Mac saw Zuinall smile broadly at the clergyman.
The rabbi straightened his kippah then said, “Your daughter’s—”
“The Messiah,” Mac injected feeling a warm, late-night sea breeze on his cheeks as he stared at his beautiful sister.
The bar fell into a rare silence until Barney squawked from atop the Breeze’s roof, “You’ve got to be joking!”
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Fractime’s story tells of key times surrounding the Universal War, a conflict pitting humanity against machine as well as itself throughout time. After the teenage Mackinac twins meet a stranger from the Mór Continuity, they discover the real cause of the Universal War and learn they must confront an old enemy to stop the continuing destruction of all Fractime.