Chronix Bay, Circa December 24, 2014 A.D.
The sour face of a lonely young woman seeks out something as she faces the starlit night sky brightly shining over the city skyline. Melanie Winters stands bundled up and hunched over the gated ledge on the rooftop of Caesar Houses, a neighborhood housing project managed by the city of Chronix Bay. Her chestnut blonde shoulder length hair curls across her tanning face and brown eyes glisten in the pale moonlight as she opens her mind to the possibility of other places beyond the proverbial prison that has become her daily routine amongst the poorest people in the city. Having just celebrated her thirty-fifth birthday on this day of Christmas Eve, she looks across the bay waters shining under the moonlight with a sparkle that catches her eye like a diamond. Throughout her life she always had desired adventures beyond compare yet she was rewarded with a minimum wage job and two adopted children that were born to her sister, Milagros Winters, who passed away exactly one year ago in a tragic crime on the streets in front of their building.
Now, Melanie remembers the day as if it were yesterday. A masked mugger took Milagros away from her and the two kids when the mugger stuck a large knife in front of Milagros as she was coming home from the supermarket and killed her instantly without mercy for a wallet containing only three dollars in it. That masked mugger left the two children without their mother on Christmas Eve. What was even more tragic was that Milagros was three months pregnant with her third illegitimate child when she died.
Melanie felt bad as she witnessed the encounter but by the time she got to Milagros, it was too late, she was gone. Melanie saw the man vanish, his masked face and dark clothes almost all that was conspicuous about him but Melanie remembered seeing one thing before he vanished, the white of his eyes shinier than the average human eye brightly illuminating like the stars at night.
Melanie felt she did the right thing afterwards, dropping out of junior college to work full time to take care of the kids. Melanie was the kids’ only living relative and if she didn’t step up to the responsibility, the kids would wind up in foster care… in the system and that was the last place she wanted them to end up because she knew what it was like as she and Milagros were raised in the system having lost their parents at a very young age.
Melanie kept tabs with the detective investigating the homicide of Milagros but till this day they have never apprehended the masked mugger.
Melanie knew that the police would never find the masked mugger no matter how hard they searched because of something very weird that Melanie remembers clearly seeing on that fateful night and she remembers reporting to the police. On the night of the murder of Milagros, a mysterious yellow light fluttered in the air above without explanation and vanished within seconds of it appearing. The masked mugger vanished into the light without explanation. The police brushed off Melanie’s frantic explanation as having been probably the produce of hallucinations. The police even threatened to lock Melanie up for falsifying information or being under the influence of drugs so she dropped the issue but she never forgot what she saw.
Melanie often wondered what powers there must exist beyond this world to make something like that happen and also what kind of God would let a young woman be torn away from her kids on Christmas Eve.
It was kind of portended or an omen as she and Milagros had once visited a woman who was known for having psychic visions of the future. The woman had told them that one of them would meet with a cataclysmic fate that would send her to the farthest reaches of existence. At the time they brushed it off as craziness and thought nothing of it. Melanie sometimes wondered if it were true as evident by the events of the day Milagros was killed.
Melanie questioned her catholic faith and upbringing ever since that day where she held Milagros’ bloody corpse in her arms. Melanie stopped believing in God, in miracles, in angels and demons, in Santa Claus, and in the holy spirit of Christmas. Melanie especially didn’t believe in psychics or what she believed was the mumbo jumbo of that woman they visited. Melanie became numb inside and went through the motions day by day to put food on the table and pay the rent but she sometimes came to the roof to wonder as some small part of her never gave up searching for something beyond the bay, for an answer to where she was headed in life and what might exist that was still worth believing in. She was called the searcher by her friends in the neighborhood.
“Everybody needs a hero and something or someone to believe in” she thought to herself as she often recounted to her friends and then that night to herself as a tear fell down her cheek in silent mourning under the stars.
Chronix Bay, Circa December 24, 2114 A.D.
In a small farmhouse in the city of Chronix Bay, the evening orange skies glistened under the setting sun as the first stars became slightly visible and the brightness of the descending morning star flourished over an open field surrounding the mighty bay of water that had sat there for countless generations. There were no signs of tall buildings or structures that once adorned the night skyline but only open air and grassy fields with a few small homes littered throughout the landscape. That is all that was left of the city of Chronix Bay.
Rachel Walters exits the small farmhouse and walks over to a metal box resting on top of a radiator-like unit. She rolls up the sleeves of her denim shirt and fluffs back her red hair as she squints, her delicate brown eyes with freckles on her cheeks glaring at the box as she holds a metal wand device over it. The box lights up a pale orange and sends a ray of energy into the heavens above that spreads around the perimeter of the house where she stood and folds around it forming a force field of energy around the entire perimeter of the house. She smiled and put the wand down. She took a deep breath with a heavy sigh of relief as she saw the other houses within eye reach of her home also emit similar fields surrounding their perimeters expecting an ominous approach from the distance. She saw what all had feared in their quaint community, a black cloud approaching but as it got closer she saw individual locusts, a hording swarm of black locusts approaching, each the enlarged to the size of a tennis ball, and with ferociously sharp fangs as they approached hungry and eager. The collective noise they made sounded like thunder roaring in the most violent, turbulent storm. The cloud of insects was soon upon her approaching her home until it was suddenly deflected by the fizzling orange force field. As each locust approached the field, it was dispersed; the field sending the locusts scattering about in different directions, above, over, and outward around the house and into the distance away from it.
“Another seasonally annoying locust swarm bites the dust” she thought to herself known to her friends as the doer. She waited until the last of the annoying sound “I wish I knew how things got this bad.” The young thirty-five year old woman thought to herself never having learned much beyond her simple life on the farm where she was born and raised and currently lived alone. She had always wondered what lied in the past of this old community and what life was like back then before the swarm was a daily part of her community’s routine existence. She loved the community that she was reared in but also wanted to know about its past and what lay in its future.
Orpheus Estates, Uptown Chronix Bay, Circa 2014 A.D.
The upscale mansions, penthouse apartment buildings, and palatial gated communities of the upper-side of Chronix Bay differed tremendously from the poor side of town. The bay was an oasis of wonder surrounding the luxurious buildings shining like beacons of prosperity and financial success and wealth as if promising they will always do so. At the top of the hillside past the numerous homes in the gated villas, a large estate rests with colonial style architecture and valiant gilded monuments of lions and elephants amongst other beasts of the wild littered throughout the massive lawn. Maxwell Regis Orpheus, known to his contemporaries as the ultimate socialite, walked out of the large house carrying a filled martini glass in his hand and wearing his designer robe made of velvet with his initials M.R.O. stitched on the front that he often enjoyed remarking to his friends that it stood for more than his name but his motto, “Money Remakes Order.” He smirked to himself remembering that remark as he sipped his drink. His freshly manicured and clean cut appearance complimented his smooth jet black hair and baby face smile as he relished in the vastness of his virtual empire before. The bright stadium-quality lights shone throughout the estate providing the illusion of daylight and the sprinklers activate around the gigantic lawn surrounding an immense marble fountain with a statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite in the center wielding a staff and spreading the water around.
Chronix Bay, Circa 2114 A.D.
On the outskirts of the small shanty town where the round homes existed, there was a small castle rested in a field surrounded by a long vineyard that stretched out for miles. The home of Doctor Regina Miles, who many in the small village nearby revered as a threat while others saw her as a mystery woman who kept herself locked away in her fortress working and scheming on plans to seek vengeance for an unknown scourge that predated her anonymity. She wore a white lab coat with a faded coat of arms on the front and black gloves clothed her hands.
She sat in a darkened bedroom staring out, of a pane less window, at the pale moonlight over the starry night sky above. She had dark hair with a whiff of white showing age, a freakishly pale and wrinkle free complexion, bright red eyes from a rare medical condition revealed when she lifted her dark goggles, and she was middle aged, in her mid fifties and borne with wisdom of twenty lifetimes, having spent her entire career studying and philosophizing, earning countless degrees and doctorates that littered her walls. Also, numerous beakers, test tubes, and Bunsen burners littered the tables in her bedroom along with materials, open books showing scientific formulas and other showing spells of the dark magic arts, and equipment from countless experiments that went unfinished or unhindered by her own fantastic mental wanderings. She rocked back and forth in her wooden chair staring at the moon.
Chronix Bay, Circa December 24, 2014 A.D.
Melanie ran into her apartment nearly stumbling over the mess of toys and personal items cluttering up the floor. Melanie screamed at a young boy and girl on the floor playing with a set of action figures. Melanie yelled at them to get to bed. “It’s getting late guys. We need to get some sleep. Tomorrow’s a school night.” She barked orders as she removed her coat and tossed it on the couch. The two children ran into their bedroom. Melanie rolled up the sleeves of her plaid shirt and ran into the kitchen hovering over the sink at the mess of dishes that has piled up over the week. “Good grief” she uttered as she turned on the water and reached for the soap when suddenly something caught her attention. She turned with a sudden jolt, her hair wildly slapped across her face in momentum, and she saw a strange white light maintaining an eerie unearthly presence as it was accompanied by a vibrant humming sound. The sound intensified with the light almost blinding her. She shut her eyes and let out a blood curdling scream that was suddenly silenced as the light overcame her physical form.
Chronix Bay, Circa December 24, 2114 A.D.
Rachel Walters walked into the kitchen of the large round home she had occupied since she was a child. Rachel approached a key panel on a large silver mechanism that stretched out the entire perimeter of the yard long kitchen. She inputted a series of commands and then placed her hand on a biometric display panel that lit up bright green when she touched it. A spiral doorway revealed itself in the center of the large mechanism opening like a lotus pedal on a flower. A tray of food materialized inside and a robotic arm platform stretched forward revealing a triangular tray and plate with similar utensils to her. She reached for the tray and took it to a long bench where she sat alone and ate the meat, potatoes, and other vegetables presented on her plate. As she ate, she looked about the long empty seats surrounding her table. She missed her husband Roland who had passed away about a year ago, gunned down by some killer with an antiquated weapon and deviant mentality. She shivered thinking about it so she tried to avoid it. Nevertheless, she felt the sense of solitude in the home that was once crowded and flourishing with life. There was once the noise of little children playing and the sounds of gossip and chatter all year round. Now even Christmas seemed like just another day on the calendar to her as she longed for the feeling once more of community, togetherness, and family love that had long since perished from these hallowed halls. She suddenly rose to her feet and with a saddened frown on her face, she grimaced trying to fight the feelings of remorse and the memory of Roland. She left her partially consumed food at the table and walked over to a drawer in the next room where a large metallic dresser occupied the entire wall of the yard-long room near a king sized bed. She opened the bottom draw, bending over slightly, and pulled out a metallic cylindrical rod with a hole at one end and a light electronic display mechanism and series of small miniaturized buttons and a large central red button on the other end of the smooth silvery device. She held the device to her head, shut her eyes as tears fell down her face, and pushed the central red button.
In the small castle a few yards away on the outskirts of town, Dr. Miles rested in her study rocking back and forth sipping a cup of tea repeatedly as she stared at the blank wall before her, her goggles on darkly enhancing her eerie presence and maniac state of mind. She nodded as she took sips from her cup slowly and she continued rocking as the movement occurred on a bed nearby where a gagged and bound prisoner lay struggling against her metal chains and restraints. The young woman wore a plaid shirt and jeans and her long chestnut blonde curls hung down the side of her face as she struggled for sweet freedom.
“Calm yourself, my dear” said Dr. Miles pragmatically. “You wouldn’t want to over exert yourself… Melanie is it? Melanie Winters. You will be surprised what I have lived through.” She sipped her cup staring at her wall while projecting her voice behind her to the bound Melanie lying on the bed. “I know this must all come as a shock to you but you needn’t worry. It will be all over soon. You can say we have a date with destiny. Your death will be my fate as it always has been in time.”
Melanie continued to struggle in a fearful and horrified manner.
Chronix Bay, Circa December 24, 2014 A.D.
“It’s an old military covert agency thing called a ‘black site’ or a location at which an unacknowledged black project is carried out like secret confinement or torture” said Maxwell Regis Orpheus in the study of his vast estate.
“That we are too well acquainted with old friend, M.R. O… old M.R.O” laughed a jolly man with a pair of bifocals and a pot belly underneath a three piece custom made suit as he held a glass of chardonnay in one hand and a lit cigar in the other amidst the countless volumes on the shelves of Orpheus’ study.
“Indeed Nicholas Patrick, old friend but we must not lose control.”
“Indeed. We received some information recently that is quite shocking. My friends in the intelligence community tell me something that is world changing.”
“What could that possibly be?” asked Orpheus.
“Aside from the rendition of cataclysmic endeavors brought on by the spread of Tachyon-based technology, what our partners at Centurion Technologies are working on is a biomechanical suit of armor that can accelerate matter at incredible speeds… with the use of Tachyon-based technology to allow one to travel faster than light.” Nicholas spoke reverently sipping his drink and puffing his cigar.
“The ability to harness such frequencies has been proven improbable in a laboratory environment.” Orpheus added.
“A way has been found based on a recent discovery in the mountains of Tibet.” Nicholas mentioned.
“Great Caesar’s Ghost” said Orpheus. “Could it be the legendary device? I always thought it was only a myth.”
“Indeed, I have seen it with my own bifocals.” Nicholas laughed. “The eye of the gods is very real indeed, my friend.”
“And the consequences of… what is being done?”
“It seems it was used before so our scientific advisory unit, RANCME, has been instructing us to tread carefully as what we have here is a temporal modification negation theory paradox or something of the sorts.”
“Speak English, man” said Orpheus pouring himself a drink of scotch from his wet bar under a globe in the corner of the room.
“I don’t understand it completely but I was briefed that where any action taken that itself negates the time travel event cannot occur or the consequences of such an event would in some way negate that event, by either voiding the memory of what one is doing before doing it, by preventing the action in some way, or even by destroying the universe among other possible consequences. Basically, someone used the device and there are ripples still present in the space time continuum that our super confounded mega super computers have detected and that reflect the changes made by these travelers but no way of knowing how they impacted the past and the future because things may have and most likely did change. This is why they advised us to tread carefully and why using the device again has been put on hold until the new technology suit to harness its power has been more appropriately mastered.”
“I see” said Orpheus sipping his drink carefully while thinking. “We must be careful this technology or the device is used cautiously lest they fall into the wrong hands and create more paradoxes beyond control.” He looked out at his friend with a sense of indignation and valiance amongst him in the moment.
Chronix Bay, Circa December 24, 2114 A.D.
Dr. Miles walks across her laboratory with a black winter coat and large backpack with mountain gear, ropes, and hooks sticking out from it. She smiles at the bound form of Melanie Winters lying tiresome on the bed. Dr. Miles looks up at the full moon outside her open window and lifts up a small staff in her right hand with a small metal emblem at the end shaped like a hawk in mid flight with its beak opened widely. “Destiny calls… it is time.”
Chronix Bay, Circa December 24, 2014 A.D.
Inside a hangar near the industrial part of town, several scientists with lab coats bearing a double winged yellow-gold crest on their fronts and goggles walk around conducting experiments and routine tests on various pieces of equipment from a jet propulsion booster to several tables with formulas, beakers filled with liquids glowing bright green and orange, and various other vehicles and devices scattered throughout the floor. Orpheus and Nicholas walk passed the groups of scientists and approach a slender young blonde woman in her mid-twenties wearing a lab coat with the same crest, hovering over a brown metal chassis and a computer console next to it connected to the chassis by wires and cables, several metallic items lay on the floor besides her.
“I almost got it. Just a few more calculations” she punched her finger into her keypad on the computer console before her.
“Dr. Miles…Dr. Miles… REGINA!!!” yelled Nicholas causing her to pop up and hit her head on a metal cabinet above her.
“Ouch… oh hi sir, sorry about that.” She said rubbing her head.
“What do you got regarding the Centurion records?” asked Nicholas barking like a wild dog.
“Well, Sir” started Regina in her mild-mannered tone. “We have been developing the enhancements for the bio-tech mechanical armor and instrumentalities as ordered and they are coming along nicely but we are still having problems with the molecular cohesion ontological confinement altitude associated with the temporal displacement field manipulation.”
“What?” Nicholas asked loudly.
“We are basically stuck on the software while the hardware is pretty much done” she summed up in laymen’s terms while clasping her hands gently before her in a diabolical manner.
“I want smooth results quickly… the brass upstairs needs an answer right away…”
“Yes Sir” she nodded in response.
“And show Mr. Orpheus here the relic we found and how it can help us” Nicholas barked.
“Yes Sir, absolutely” she looked at Orpheus and directed his attention to a small table where she removed a box unveiling a green five sided emerald with five spots at the center shining brightly.
“Wow” Orpheus’ mind raced with a million fantasies as he stared into the object before him. Memories of past adventures and knighthood fantasies as a boy raced into his mind as he gazed upon the treasure of ages before him with widened eyes and bewilderment. “The Time Stone of legend does exist” he thought to himself as melancholy tunes played in his mind as he approached wanting to reach for it but knew better as he was suddenly stopped by Regina covering it up again with the metallic box. “Truly remarkable” he turns to Nicholas who nods in retrospect.
“Great. Let’s break for lunch before the big show is on…” he dropped his cigar from his mouth as he turned and suddenly a white-yellow flash of light filled the laboratory and a masked man appeared from the light materializing with his arm extended aiming a loaded nine millimeter gun and began firing it at the crowd of scientists. Orpheus pushed Regina out of the way and instructed her to stay down as he rose and ran around towards another table to take cover to plan his attack on the masked man. The group of scientists scattered as they each tried to take cover but the masked man continued firing, striking each scientist and Nicholas until they fell dead to the ground and were all gunned down one by one without mercy by the unidentifiable assailant.
Orpheus saw the masked man; having eliminated what he thought was all the occupants of the room, approached the location where the metal box that housed the time stone was and as the masked man reached for it Orpheus lunged from behind, wrapped his arms around the man, and grabbed the man’s waist pushing him to the ground forcing the gun out of his hand to slide across the floor to the other end of the room. Regina peeked up and saw Orpheus punch the man as he turned around and the two men grappled until Orpheus struck the man again in the face and again repeatedly but having no effect on him. The man smirked and struck Orpheus back and then kicking him, pushing him off. The man tried to rise to his feet and reach for the metal box when he felt a sting in his neck and grabbed his neck feeling a small dart and then saw his hand all blurry and he fell forward seeing Regina standing on the other end of the table with a blow dart in her hands. The man fell forward and struck the box knocking it over and revealing the time stone about to fall over with it. Orpheus gets up from his daze and grabs it before it hits the ground and falls on top of the masked man as he holds the time stone turning it in his hand. The time stone emits a yellow flash of light that swirls around and consumes Orpheus and the masked man before vanishing suddenly. Regina walked around staring in shock at the empty spot where the two men once rested. “Curious” she said as she hummed to herself and smiled.
Chronix Bay, Circa December 24, 2114 A.D.
The roar of the vortex of white and yellow light illuminates the evening air as the sun was setting over the horizon surrounding the small village of homes littered throughout the empty landscape and barren fields. Orpheus appears materializing with the unconscious masked man. The lights suddenly vanish and an amber precursor to the darkness of night remained surrounding the pale sky and the pair deposited on the unknown terrain.
“Where are we now buddy?” Orpheus uttered rhetorically to the unconscious man. “The time stone works. We actually travelled through time and space.” He looked about awestruck. “We could be anywhere.” He looked around at a series of round homes and he saw a young woman exit one home, the closest one near them. She had fiery red hair and freckles, a denim shirt and she casually rolled up her sleeves as she approached a metal box on the far end of the property line.
“She is beautiful” Orpheus uttered not seeing that the masked man was awakening. He was mesmerized by her presence from a distance as if in a trance. The masked man rose to his feet and swung at Orpheus from behind who in turn moved at the last minute and turned kicking the masked man back and fell on top of him. The two men wrestled on the ground rolling around in the dirty field.
The woman saw the two men in the distance and wondered what was going on. She yelled out to them, “Hey… stop this” but no one responded.
Orpheus heard her and looked up rising to his feet as he ducked the blows being brought upon him by the masked man. Orpheus reached for the time stone lying on the floor and pushed the masked man back with both hands forcefully delaying his approach. Orpheus then ran towards the woman, with the masked man having regained his composure and laid pursuit behind him, as the woman was waving a metallic wand over the metal box before her. Orpheus was shocked as he saw an orange beam fly up from the metal box and spread outward over the perimeter of the property so he ran as fast as he could and slid like an infielder into the area near the woman as the field came down surrounding an enclosure of the entire property line. The masked man followed and struck the orange field brightly glowing and pushing him back with a jolting shock to his nervous system. The masked man lay on the floor on his back slightly dazed but conscious as Orpheus rose and stood near the woman shocked over the recent turn of events. “Hi, I’m Maxwell R. Orpheus” he uttered extending his hand.
“Rachel Walters” she shook his hand. “Your buddy out there is going to get toasted.” She gestured as they both saw a cloud of giant black locusts approach rapidly and strike the glowing orange force field bouncing off it and the masked man let out a bellowing yell as he was eaten alive, the locusts consuming the living masked man clothing, flesh, and bone ripped apart until nothing remained and they continued around the force field and up into the distance behind them.
“Wow” said Orpheus, “what was that?”
“The swarm” said Rachel with her eyes widened, “they come every day at this hour. It has always been since as long as I can remember. All we can do is use the barrier to protect us and pray for another day of safety.”
“Where am I?” asked Orpheus.
“Chronix Bay, of course…” Rachel responded with a curious grin.
Orpheus’ eyes grew as he looked at her with a blank stare. “Excuse me… um what is the date?”
“Who the hell are you?” Rachel responded inquisitively.
“I know this sounds weird but I am from another time.” Orpheus uttered.
“Another nutcase” she lifted her arms up in disgust as she snorted and walked away.
“It’s true. This green emerald device is my time machine. Right now it seems to be powered down but it can transport people through time and space.” He looked at the time stone dull and faded without its usual light and vibrancy.
“Why do I always end up with the nuts? “ Rachel added rhetorically. “I want you out once the barrier automatically comes down in twenty minutes.”
“Look” said Orpheus wildly, “I am not crazy. It’s the truth.”
“You honestly expect people to believe that?” Rachel asked turning back to him.
“I will prove it to you” he responded pointing authoritatively.
“How?” Rachel asked putting her hands on her hips.
“Well… I can’t right this second” he uttered.
“Great” she turned around and retreated inside.
“Wait…” Orpheus looked around at the gloom of night starting to fall on him and he was not thrilled about being lost and alone in an unfriendly and unknown terrain so he followed her inside and was stunned at the basic design of the interior but amazed at the long metallic structures occupying each yard-long room.
“I really need to know what year this is.” Orpheus uttered.
Rachel turned to face him again with her arms on her hips. She slowly crossed them in front of her and then touched her index finger to her lip. “You’re serious” she said thinking aloud.
“That’s what I have been trying to tell you” he pleaded with his palms open, “please, tell me what year this is.”
“It’s 2114… Christmas Eve…” said Rachel emphatically.
“Oh my God… it’s one hundred years in the future exactly!”
“What?” Rachel asked excitedly and shocked.
“That’s why things look so different here. No tall buildings, no luxury towers, or nothing…” he uttered to himself.
“Tell me more about that. I always imagined there had to be something here before” she shook her head, “before the madness of this daily swarm outbreak.”
“Everything was grand in my day. Yeah, people had their economic problems but in my community, things were luxurious and extravagant all the way. My estate alone occupied over five hundred acres in the city limits.”
“Wow” she sits on a bench in the kitchen and smiles like a schoolgirl hungry for more knowledge on the subject, “what else?”
“Well,” said Orpheus sitting across from her. “There are many retail shops and places to go and see beyond compare and…” His eyes spaced outward.
“What?!” she replied inquisitively.
“I was just getting the crazy feeling of déjà vu or as if we were together before. I cannot explain it.”
“It’s funny. I kind of have the same feeling” she moved back slightly staring sat him with an inquisitive glare resembling a schoolgirl crush. “Can I get you something to eat or drink?” she asked awestruck.
“That would be nice.” He responded.
She rose to her feet with a smile and turned to the large metal appliance when suddenly the ground shook with a tremendous roar heard in the background. “What the hell?” asked Rachel rhetorically.
Orpheus rose to his feet. He ran out of the room and then out of the house followed by Rachel as the pair looked up in awe and wonder at an exceedingly large mechanical giant coming forward under the night star-lit and moon-lit skies. “It’s some kind of robot” said Orpheus “but it looks like one of those beasts from Greek mythology… the one with the head of an eagle and body of a lion. What was it called?”
“A Griffin” said Rachel adamantly.
The giant mechanical griffin roared loudly as it sat up on its hind legs and then dropped on all fours shaking the ground. It was yards away but clearly visible and glistening bright silver with clearly marked mechanical parts turning and churning like gears in a clock and turrets and pistons pumping upward and downward rapidly near its front and rear quarters. A large metal cord-like tail whipped around the creature as it moved forward walking and pronouncing fear to all who bestow it. A pair of giant wings curved on its backside, each wing on either side folded in rest, a series of talons curved on the giant metallic feet below and on the feathered head that glistened in the sunlight as each talon mechanically moved as if a natural instinct of the artificial creation. A series of lights surrounded the exterior from the head to the tail and a set of rockets and missiles were littered throughout the body and two boosters jammed on the rear end of the creature. The metallic alloy surrounding the griffin glistened underneath the light of the stars and moon.
“Where did that thing come from?” Rachel screamed.
“I don’t know. This is the future to me. Isn’t that normal technology for this era?” asked Orpheus in response.
“No, not really, I’ve never seen anything like it” Rachel said.
They walked up to the perimeter of the property line before the metal barrier-creating box and looked up at the creature as it made a screeching roar that spread for miles around. Many others exited their homes nearby and shook in fear as they ran back inside horrified over the current torment from this insidious beast.
The griffin walked over to the hut where Rachel and Orpheus stood. As it approached they felt fear but stood their ground. The griffin stopped before their house. Rachel grabbed the wand and tried to activate the barrier but the griffin’s tail swung forward before itself quickly and grabbed the wand from Rachel’s hand and tossed it into the distance. Rachel turned to run back but Orpheus held her and gave her a reassuring look. They held one another as they stared up and saw a person pop her head out of the backside of the griffin, an above-than-middle-aged-woman with dark hair and a whiff of white hair, dark goggles, and a lab coat.
Dr. Miles looked at the pair and smiled. “How cute?” she uttered to herself thinking that she waited so long to kill her nemesis, Maxwell Orpheus, who cowardly left her.
Orpheus looked up at the woman and smirked. “She looks familiar” he thought to himself but couldn’t place her.
Dr. Miles went back into the griffin’s backside and sealed the hatch. Seconds later, the griffin’s eyes lit up a fiery bright orange and sparkled with intensity as they fired simultaneously bright highly-concentrated laser beams in the direction of Orpheus and Rachel who held one another tightly as they shut their eyes expecting the end. Then suddenly, a flash of white and yellow light quickly materialized in front of them and blocked the twin laser beams from hitting them and the light moved slightly deflecting them back to the griffin that moved rearing up on its hind legs with an insidious roar narrowly avoiding being struck by the beams.
The white and yellow light materialized into the form of a man with a bio-mechanical brown bulky metal suit of armor, his hands gloved and face masked with metal talons resembling that of a hawk as a pair of giant wings stretched across his back like a folded glider and a red maroon cape of a shimmering unearthly fabric shone behind him wrapping itself around him wildly. He stood before the couple who opened their eyes and saw the mystery figure move around strutting himself before the griffin and leaping upward with a swing of his huge metal fist that struck the griffin in the bottom jaw and ripped a hole right through the metal head of the griffin that the hawk man ripped right through over the head of griffin and over the body of the artificial beast.
The hawk man landed on the ground behind the griffin emitting a loud screech like a hawk cawing proudly through the air. The griffin drops to its knees on its front legs and the mechanical movements and lights surrounding it cease all at once as the lifeless griffin rests fallen on the dirty open field. The hawk man jumps on top of the back of the griffin and then the hatch flies open with a sudden blast sending the hawk man backwards slightly. As he shields his eyes, Dr. Miles flies out of the open hatch wearing a jetpack on her back and emitting a trail of smoke that covers the hawk man and the couple below him. Dr. Miles’ maniacal laughter can be heard for miles as she flies off into the distance.
The hawk man regains his composure and to the bewilderment of Rachel and Orpheus below watching him, the hawk man jumps into the hatch and then moments later jumps out with a young woman in his arms. She was bound and gagged. He removed the metal restraints with a single flick from his mighty glove and drops down onto the ground before Rachel and Orpheus. He places the woman on the ground helping her to her feet and removes her gag.
He asks gently with a whisper, his lips visible under the metallic talons of his mask, “what is your name?”
“Melanie Winters” she said awestruck “and what is your name?”
“They call me ‘the Temporal Hawk’.” He then moves back with a smirk and nod to the people before him and in an instant vanishes in a bright white and yellow light the same as when he appeared, leaving before anyone could utter a word to the strange savior.
Inside the house, while seated at the kitchen table, Orpheus, Rachel, and Melanie try to figure out what just happened.
“”That was too weird” said Rachel.
“Indeed” replied Orpheus. “They call me ‘the Temporal Hawk’. The name does suit the old chap, that’s for sure.”
“I am totally clueless. What the hell is going on?” Melanie asked.
“What is the last thing you remember?” asked Orpheus curiously.
“I don’t …” Melanie tried to think back, “I was in my kitchen when suddenly a white and yellow light engulfed me and then I blacked out and awoke tied up in some dark place. A woman’s voice was in the background, talking something about destiny or something coming. I don’t know… she was off her rocker. Anyway, that … ‘Temporal Hawk’ pulled me out and set me free before he vanished in the same white and yellow light. I hadn’t seen anything that uncanny or weird since the night my sister was killed by some masked nut in a black outfit with a gun.”
“Wow” said Rachel. “I had a similar experience the night my husband, Roland, was killed. It was a masked man in black similar to the one you fought out there” she looked at Orpheus with a curious smirk.
“I too had such an experience with my friend Nicholas… not to mention a bunch of innocent men and women….It was the same masked man in black I fought with who accompanied to this time.”
“Wait … time, what do you mean, time?” Melanie asked perplexed.
“You ought to know” Orpheus uttered “we’re time travelers. This is Chronix Bay exactly one hundred years in the future from where we are familiar with.”
“Unreal” said Melanie. “That would certainly explain the “Temporal Hawk” and its’ funny you should mention the masked man in black as I had the chance to observe some things while I was chained up in that crazy lady’s dark room and while I was in there, I saw some pictures of the same masked man in black. I will never forget those sinister eyes. It was him and there were spell words or some kind of witchcraft voodoo symbols all over his picture. There was also a small frame with the picture of a young boy. I didn’t know what to make of it until now.”
“Regina Miles, Dr. Regina Miles…” said Orpheus suddenly having an epiphany. “I know her from my own time. She was the one who stuck her head out of the griffin before it tried to kill us.”
“Who is that?” Rachel asked.
“A scientist for a top secret agency in my time working on tachyon-based technology using this…” he held up the time stone he never put down.
“What is it?” asked Melanie.
“The ancient people of South America, Egypt, Sumerian, and other cultures throughout the globe called it ‘the eye of the gods’ but modern scientists and global enthusiasts refer to it as ‘the time stone.’” Orpheus uttered. “It is what brought us here. No one really knows how but it opens a doorway through time and space.”
“So this Dr. Miles has the time stone too” said Melanie with conviction.
“It appears so otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to suck you out of your own time continuum. She knows a lot about this technology and the agency I worked with. Now, the woman we saw is a lot older than the one I remember. If now she has access to the time stone, she can be very dangerous indeed.”
“Well, she’s gone now” said Rachel “and so is the masked man in black, we watched him get devoured by the swarm.”
“She could be back and so could he… time is a relative thing and death doesn’t mean the end but only the beginning as when you deal with going backwards and forward in time, you open up a world of infinite possibilities of paradoxes of time and quantum duplicates.” Orpheus uttered. “Dr. Miles is evil and apparently from what Melanie told us, she wants revenge against the masked man in black for killing what appears to be her son. We all have something in common and therefore are linked by destiny. The four of us lost loved ones to the masked man in black and revenge can drive anyone to the brink of psychotic behavior. It is essential we remember that.”
“No… true” said Melanie nodding. Rachel nodded also.
“If Dr. Miles is bent on revenge, she won’t care that the masked man in black is dead or might return in another time, she will only want to be driven by that vengeful desire for the rest of her life and devoted to punishing the guilty and the innocent as well. She won’t stop and will utilize any means necessary to accomplish her objective.”
“So… some psychotic and unidentified madman is travelling through time leaving a trail of dead bodies in his path… sounds like a modern day Jack the Ripper.” Rachel joked laughingly.
“Interesting colloquy” said Orpheus. “What makes you say that?”
“Just came to mind.” She smiled and he smiled in return. She reached out his hand to his and he held hers firmly. They approached one another across the table and almost kissed.
Melanie rolled her eyes in an apathetic depiction. “So is there a way back to our own time. I got two kids and work to do.”
“Yes” said Orpheus. “The time stone appears to be glowing again” he held it up brightly shining with five points at its heart illuminating the room. “It is hard to predict the temporal displacement with exact proficiency but we should be able to get back to 2014 A.D.”
“Take me with you” Rachel said looking passionately into his eyes. “There is nothing left for me here. I want to be with you.”
“Let’s go” said Orpheus rising to his feet with his new friends. “Let’s see how this works again” he held the time stone from the bottom and turned it and a beam of hot white and yellow light emerged ending into open space in the room leaving a roaring vortex of light.
“What is that?” Rachel asked. “I never thought this was possible.”
“The doorway” said Melanie with wide eyes. “Awesome.”
“It is a temporal wormhole…” said Orpheus “it is the result of strong tachyon emissions, particles that travel faster than the speed of light, echoing through the space time continuum and somehow creating a traversable conduit based on light and energy-matter conversion principles. Let’s go.” He held out his hand and Rachel grabbed it as she smiled at him. He then reached out for Melanie and the trio headed into the vortex, their bodies dissolving and changing to electrical balls of light being sucked into the vortex one by one before it collapsed leaving the room empty and silent.
London, Circa July 17, 1888 A.D.
The roar of the temporal wormhole sounds loudly as the yellow-white light illuminates the night sky over the city skyline and the lights of the famous London Bridge. Orpheus, Rachel, and Melanie appear on a street in London filled with fog and a horse-drawn carriage passed by a young woman with a belly bump under her gown. She walks along the street and the masked man in black runs behind her and holds his gun to her head and shoots her dead. Blood spatters everywhere as the masked man in black gets up and runs away from the scene of the crime. Orpheus, Rachel, and Melanie stand in shock at the horror they just witnessed and before it could sink in their minds exactly what just happened, the roar of the temporal wormhole sounds again as it opens and swallows the trio completely once again.
London, Circa July 15, 1888 A.D.
The roar of the temporal wormhole sounds loudly as the yellow-white light illuminates the night sky over the city skyline and the lights of the famous London Bridge. The mighty lit-up towers rival the glistening momentum of the vortex that disappears into the night after depositing three human beings who fall into the cold murky waters below. Orpheus, Melanie, and Rachel fall several feet into the waters below screaming in agony before splashing into the river one by one.
“Oh my goodness” said Rachel popping her head up followed by Melanie and Orpheus.
“Is everyone alright?” Orpheus asked gasping for air as he waded around.
“I don’t think that we’re in Kansas anymore”, joked Melanie floating about.
“Let’s get to dry dock, over there” Orpheus beckoned to a set of wooden planks laid out near the shore.
London, England, Circa July 15, 1988 A.D.
Miles away on the outskirts of town, in an office building carefully bestowing tapestries on the wall and elegant candlestick displays of gold and iron. The gloomy darkness of night looms into the room as the utter flames of the candles displayed eloquently on wooden table burns somewhat dismally. A pompous and large man walks in dressed in an eloquent suit, maroon-colored dress coat, and a powdered wig. Accompanying him is another man similarly dressed by far more slender. The two take their seats at the wooden table and each unfolds a scroll in his hand. The larger man removes an item from his pocket and places it on the table. The slender man looks at it, an object made of pure gold and resembling the shape of a snake with a coiled appearance and venomous tongue emitting from its mouth.
“Is that your family heirloom, Hoxton?”
“A gift for you for your service… the legendary relic of the pre-givers, it’s pre-Colombian, supposedly of ancient Mayan origin, found in a cave in these parts one hundred years ago by my great grandfather” said Hoxton.”It will be the item we need to complete the transfiguration that is to come.”
“Elegant” the slender man named Rupert picked up the item and studied it in his hand. “I cannot accept it.”
“Take it, Rupert… trust me, it is alright! Now, are we prepared for tomorrow.”
“We set a trap for the Ripper” Rupert remarked unquestionably.
“Very good, remember we have to place the electrical diodes at the right spot or we lose our window of opportunity. He will be lost to history, again.”
“I know the plan. I have studied it inside and out. It cannot fail.”
“Good then, let us retire and speak no more of it until the hour of nine in the London Terminal Market Square tomorrow.” The two men rose to their feet and left the room with their scrolls and the snake medallion Rupert held.
Chronix Bay, December 25, 2014 A.D.
Jessica and Jeremy Winters sat in the living room of the messy apartment in silence waiting for their adopted mother, Melanie, to come home.
“Where do you think she went?” said the elder child, nine-year-old Jeremy. “I am worried. She has never been gone this long.”
“It’s Christmas” said the younger child, three-year-old Jessica looking sadly at the scrappy tree in the corner with a single light on from the strand of lights and two little ornaments on the tree. There were no presents underneath the tree. Then suddenly the two children were nearly blinded by a bright white-yellow light appearing in the corner of the room near the tree and glowing brightly with a roar accompanying it. The two young children were shocked to see, as the light faded, a young woman standing in their living room. She stood tall, over six feet in height, very slender, and having long golden hair past her shoulders. She wears a cowboy hat on top of her head along with a tight fitting pink tank top and brown work pants and boots and a long wristwatch on her right wrist with a small computerized display monitor. She approached the two young children with a curious grin.
“Hey y’all” she uttered in her southern dialect. “Where’s your mama?”
“She isn’t here now. Are you an angel?” asked Jeremy without hesitation.
“No kiddo” the woman laughed shaking her head as she bent down on her knees before the children, “I’m Vanessa Rinehart. I’m kind on a mission to help your mama? What’s your name?”
“Jeremy and this is my sister Jessica.”
“Well Jeremy, I got something for you to give to mama when she comes home.” Vanessa pulled out a medallion from her pocket made of pure gold and resembling a snake coiled with a venomous tongue sticking out. She handed it to the boy and patted him on the head.
“Wow, what is it?” Jeremy looked at the object with wide eyes as he held it.
“It’s very old and delicate. It’s worth a lot of money. You sure you won’t lose this now before your mama gets home?”
“No ma’am” said Jeremy.
“Good” said Vanessa rising to her feet and walking back to the tree. “Remember” she said as she waved goodbye to the children “keep reaching for the stars.” And then she pressed a button on her wristwatch computer. Within seconds a white-yellow light appeared again absorbing Vanessa’s body and disappearing in an instant leaving the two children alone in the living room again.
London, Circa July 15, 1888 A.D.
Orpheus, Rachel, and Melanie wait in a crowded hold of a cargo ship letting themselves dry off from the plunge in the river they recently took.
“Good thing this ship was passing by or we’d be frozen popsicles by now” said Melanie.
“It’s so cold, it’s freezing” said Rachel shivering.
“I got you” said Orpheus rubbing his hands up and down her arms to warm her. “How does that feel?”
“Better… you got the magic touch” she smiled. “Where are we or when … I thought we would wind up in your time period?”
“So did I but apparently we did not. This appears to be London judging by the scenery when we first arrived and the look of the people and their attire in here tells me nineteenth century.” Orpheus spoke eloquently but quietly to his fellow time travelers.
“How could this happen?” Melanie barked.
“And how did we wind up vanishing again from where we were on some street? That poor woman being killed before us, she looked like she was pregnant” said Rachel.
“You’re guessing is as good as mine. I made no guarantees.” Orpheus uttered turning to her.
“Maybe our thoughts in the vortex have something to do with it” whispered Rachel. “Remember when I mentioned Jack the Ripper referring to our non-friend masked man in black. It could have triggered our arrival in this era.”
“Very good synopsis my dear” said Orpheus proudly towards his beau.
“So this is your fault” said Melanie.
“I didn’t say… I’m sorry …” said Rachel.
“I’m never going to see my kids again” said Melanie; a tear fell on her cheek.
“You will too.” Orpheus uttered. “We have to be smart about this. I promise I will get you home, just have a little patience and faith, after all we have all the time in the world.”
“Where is the time stone?” asked Rachel.
“Oh dear…” said Orpheus looking around. “I appear to have lost it.”
“We’re stuck here” Melanie whispered.
“We will find the time stone” said Rachel confidently, “don’t worry about that.”
“What is it I’m supposed to do here anyway?” Melanie asked shrugging her shoulders.
“That is something you have to figure out my dear” said Orpheus.
“When will I know or how will I know?” Melanie replied.
“It is said that some lives are inexplicably linked or connected across the vastness of time and space by an ancient calling called destiny.” Orpheus uttered.
“Rhetorical crap… I am so screwed.” Melanie turned with her arms crossed.
Then the door opened to the cabin and entered a well-dressed man in a suit with a red bowtie and he smirked as he approached Orpheus, Rachel, and Melanie. Melanie turned to look at his sinister smirk, jet black spiked hair, and his eyes were uncanny white, brightly shining like the stars at night. Melanie knew she saw this man somewhere before.
“Good evening folks… you look like you have seen better days.” The man uttered.
“We were thrown overboard from a freighter coming out of Port of Manchester.” Orpheus lied to the man. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Maxwell R. Orpheus and these fine ladies are my colleagues Rachel Walters and Melanie Winters.”
“It is good to see a proper gentleman amongst these drunken scalawags. I was beginning to feel like I was in a zoo on this craft. I am Nigel Pennyweather.”
“Charmed… We could use some change of clothes and a meal…” Orpheus started.
“Not here. Best wait until she pulls into the port of Harberry near London. There you can get yourselves shimmied up for a proper fitting. I am a merchant’s man heading there now on an assignment and expect a huge investment.”
“Much obliged” said Orpheus.
“I was going to keep an entry in my journal” said Rachel trying to mimic Orpheus’ British accent, “by chance what is the date?”
“Why certainly malady, it is the 15th of July 1888 Anno Domini year of our lord.”
Rachel looked at Orpheus making eye contact and then nodded to Nigel, “Thank you kindly, Sir.”
Melanie suddenly leaned over to nudge Orpheus in the hip when she tripped and stumbled on the ground as the boat rocked over a set of high waves. “Oh my goodness” she yelled grabbing hold of Rachel who helped her regain her composure.
“Pardon” said Nigel “sounds like the lady is not from around here.”
“American” said Orpheus with a whimper.
“Ah” said Nigel suddenly lifted his arm and slightly pushed back his sleeve looking at his wristwatch with a square computerized miniature monitor on it.
Orpheus looked away trying to not to notice as Nigel nodded excusing himself. “Pardon me I must depart for the moment. Duty calls” said Nigel joking.
“Certainly” said Orpheus watching as Nigel walked away amidst the unsuspecting crowd of pirate-looking crewmen and somewhat frightened civilian passengers.
“Did you see that?” asked Rachel whispering to her friends.
“I did” said Orpheus. “He is definitely not from around here.”
“I know who he is” said Melanie. “I was going to tell you guys before I fell. He is the masked man in black.”
“How do you know?” asked Rachel.
“The eyes… white hot like the fires of hell. I will never forget those eyes as long as I live.” Melanie uttered.
“I believe you…So he is here alive” said Rachel.
“He could have originated here. We do not know much about him or his identity… until now” said Orpheus.
“We know how dangerous he is. He is a killer. He will likely be going to port Harberry as he called it to kill someone else” said Rachel.
“It is surely a coincidence that this is the era involving one of the most sinister serial killers in all of history whose very name strikes fear and dread in many and whose mystery remains infamously legendary, you mentioned him yourself Rachel” said Orpheus.
“Jack the Ripper” said Rachel. “You don’t think the masked man in black was responsible for those killings in this era?”
“No one ever solved the mystery. It could very well be the masked man in black we all dread and that destiny has brought us together to somehow contravene is indeed quite possibly the White chapel Murderer himself, Jack the Ripper!” said Orpheus.
“That’s the name popularly attributed to the unknown killer that terrorized the London area in 1888 in uncertain cases involving the deaths of five hookers” said Melanie laughingly. “I read about him in high school, long time ago.”
“The women victimized by Jack the Ripper were definite, all strangled and then their throats cut among other body mutilations and missing organs suggesting a medical professional of sorts” said Orpheus.
“A doctor… well he was called Jack the Ripper” said Melanie.
“The name came from the signature on a letter sent to a news agency. The weird thing is that the killings stopped abruptly as they began. The London police were never able to solve the case and was finally closed officially in 1892” said Rachel.
“He certainly remains a mystery in popular culture in our time.” Melanie said.
“Mine too” said Rachel.
“This could be our fates… we can find out who he really is now” said Orpheus.
“Seriously…” said Rachel, “we could be after this infamous master criminal himself and he has technology that is obviously from the future, which means he must have access to the time stone too.”
“Shut up” said Melanie frantically, “we need to find out where he has it if we ever want to get home.”
“But there are bigger things at stake here” said Orpheus.
“Right, like stopping the murder of his next victim, you know, as he’s here for a reason.”
“I think so. That computer watch he had must be part of why he is here.” Orpheus uttered.
“You guys are losing me with this hero crap. We’re not heroes, we’re not … OK… it may be noble to stick our neck out on the line to save some stranger but I can’t… I got kids back home…” yelled Melanie. “We should get the time stone by any means necessary and go home. We just have to think of the right time period, right?” Melanie beckoned to Rachel.
“It was just a hypothesis, Melanie. I don’t know how to control where we end up but maybe someone like that Nigel does with that watch computer of his and if we can access it, we can figure out how to use it.”
“It’s worth a shot. He must have figured out how to control his destination if he is here for a purpose with a particular target or objective in mind.”
“Of course we could be assuming a whole lot… we have nothing to go on.” Melanie whispered back.
“We should find out. Come one and all my fellow adventuring detectives, we can solve one of history’s greatest mysteries at first hand … who was Jack the Ripper? Doesn’t that excite you?” said Orpheus.
“No” said Melanie.
“I’m with you, Orpheus” said Rachel.
“Oh please… this relations thing you two got going on is clearer than a glass of water in saran wrap.” Melanie joked. “I know I won’t last any bit alone. I think we have to stick together here but for the record, I am completely against this.”
“We will find the time stone and go home but we need to gather concrete evidence on things first. Let’s make it happen.” Orpheus said reassuringly.
The ship made a stopping sound as it docked at its destination.
“Let’s go” said Melanie.
“Looks like we arrived at port Harberry” said Rachel.
“Off with us” said Orpheus.
They walked out of the cabin and off the ship amongst the numerous individuals seeking redemption in this new place of unexpected and ominous tidings.
Ashore, the small group of lonely travelers entered a shop where Orpheus spoke to the master, a tailor who promised to provide them with some food and some simple clothes from his discarded pile in the back in exchange for a couple of day’s worth of chores, which they agreed to not having any money of the time period.
London, Circa July 17, 1888 A.D.
“Those chores sure were hard work. Who would have thought you’d have to churn butter naturally” said Rachel.
“Or milk the cow” said Orpheus.
“I can’t believe I am dressed like a barmaid” said Melanie touching her graying dirty headscarf and looking at the faded gown typically worn by the peasantry.
“Would you rather get pneumonia from the soaking wet clothes we had?” asked Rachel rhetorically as she admired her gown, a bit more elegant and puffed. “This isn’t so bad. I feel like an aristocrat” she joked.
“You look like a queen, my dear” said Orpheus donning his long leggings, dress coat, and suit of nobleman design. “Now that we have finished our day’s chores for the moment and have a full belly, what say you we begin our sleuthing?”
A set of horse-drawn coaches strolled across the partially paved dirt paths.
“Indeed” said Rachel taking Orpheus’ hand and walking forward eloquently.
“Oh brother…. Please stop talking like that” said Melanie following them.
As Orpheus and Rachel walk hand in hand down the street and Melanie watching the partially-paved dirt road as she was keeping her distance a few paces behind them, a young woman comes rushing towards them and bumps into them accidently. “I am sorry” she uttered. She had dark brown hair and wore a simple dress, her face worn with exhaustion and having physical bruises and lacerations on her cheek. A slight bump protruded from her dress revealing a midterm pregnancy. She runs off without saying anything further.
“What was that?” asked Melanie.
“Sounds like someone’s in a hurry” said Orpheus.
“Yeah, surely” said Rachel.
A large man in a chainmail and carrying a large broadsword stopped the young woman with his large hand gloved with a metallic fabric. He yelled at her and pushed her to the ground. She struck the ground and scuffled back against the dirt floor in fear as she tried to back away from the large knight but he reached out for her frail form and grabbed her by the arm and lifted her up high above his head holding her limply like a rag doll. She fainted in shock.
“Hey put her down” yelled Orpheus as he, Rachel, and Melanie ran over and confronted the knight.
“Back away folks… this doesn’t concern you” barked the knight, spitting as he spoke and bearing an unkempt bearded appearance.
“It does concern us if basic human decency is involved… leave her alone” yelled Rachel.
“Yeah” replied Melanie hiding behind her friends sheepishly nudging Rachel “that’s the woman we saw get killed…” she whispered.
“Why don’t we talk about this and see if we can work it out?” asked Orpheus politely holding out his hands.
The knight drew his sword in their direction with his free hand and barked “why don’t I make an example outs the three of you for meddling in the affairs of the Knighted Brotherhood? We have been present in these parts for over 1000 years.”
“We don’t want any trouble” said Orpheus.
“You all got trouble at the moment” said the knight. Six other knights ran over and surrounded the small entourage. The main knight tossed the young woman on the floor before Orpheus, Rachel, and Melanie and kicked dirt in their direction. The woman began to awake from her malaise and stood near them. Rachel helped her up as the knight scoffed at them. “You all want to stick together don’t you so you all die together or you spend the rest of your days in the tower dungeons.” He laughed loudly as he raised his sword beckoning to his comrades as they did the same frightening the foursome.
Then suddenly a white-yellow light appeared and the hero known to them as The Temporal Hawk appeared once more as he did before, materializing from the light that quickly faded behind him. The Temporal Hawk quickly and without hesitation grabbed the pointed edge of the main knight’s broadsword with his heavy gloved hands and lifted the knight off the ground as he held on to the handle of his sword tightly. Orpheus, Rachel, Melanie, and the woman ran as far a few meters away as their feet could take them as the knights began to scatter in fear bewildered by the incredible spectacle before them. The Temporal Hawk then twirled the sword around his head with the large and heavy knight with chainmail on the edge of the sword as if he were a ragdoll. After gathering a certain momentum to the twirls, the Temporal Hawk let go of the sword sending both sword and screaming knight flying off into the distance crashing into a wooden cart of fruit sending several local merchants scattering into the distance in fear.
The Temporal Hawk then approached several of the remaining knights who courageously gallanted forth with their swords drawn. The Temporal Hawk lifted himself up, spread his folded wings into a span of several meters and let loose and amazing caw that filled the air as he kicked both legs up striking two of the approaching knights in the jaw sending them back several feet. He landed on his feet and then twirled around with his wings retracting back in fold and swung at one of the other knights knocking him on the ground and then roundhouse kicked another approaching knight knocking him down as well. The remaining two knights ran away into the distance leaving their barely conscious brethren behind.
Orpheus, Rachel, and Melanie stood in shock at the heroic endeavors of the mysterious man who once again saved their lives. Melanie ran over to him as he turned to her and faced her staring into her eyes for a moment that seemed to her like an eternity. Without a word, he vanished once again in the white yellow light that appeared behind him and faded just as quickly.
“Damn” said Melanie. “I seem to have that ‘way’ with men.”
Orpheus and Rachel walked over, the young woman trailing behind. Several merchants and pedestrians walked about the area curious over what just happened.
“Well, the ‘Temporal Hawk’ sure knows how to make an appearance and disappearance as usual” said Orpheus.
“It’s funny he knew when to appear when we needed him, almost as if it was fated to happen” said Rachel.
“What was this ‘Temporal Hawk’?” asked the woman curiously.
“Yeah… oh what’s your name?” Melanie asked to the young woman.
“Elizabeth Aurelia Childs” the woman said sheepishly.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I am Melanie Winters” said Melanie touching her chest as she spoke slowly. “These are my friends Rachel Walters and Maxwell Orpheus” she gestured to them. “We don’t know who the ‘Temporal Hawk’ is but he saved our lives on two occasions already. He is a real hero… a super hero!”
“I am speechless” said Elizabeth.
“Sometimes that’s the best way to be” said Rachel jokingly.
“Why did the knights want to stop you?” asked Orpheus.
“I was late for a… meeting” Elizabeth replied. “I am a dead woman now.”
“Why?” Rachel asked shocked.
“It is a complicated story but I really must get going.”
“Maybe we can help you” said Melanie. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“I have to go” she continued and ran off into the distance.
“Strange…” said Orpheus.
“We have mysteries piling up on us don’t we fellow gumshoes?” queried Melanie with her arms crossed. “This ‘Temporal Hawk’ appears whenever we are facing imminent danger, the masked man in black is out there somewhere, so is the time stone, and Miss Childs appears to be with child but won’t open up to anyone.”
“It’s her business” said Rachel. “Let’s try to find the time stone to get out of here.”
“Where do we start to do that?” inquired Melanie.
“We could check out that…” Orpheus pointed to a small shelter near a set of food merchants where a man was sweeping outside near a sign that read “Psychic, Librarian, Scientist, and Magician – occult arts and extraordinary miracles of nature. Come one, come all.” Nodding in agreement the three approach the proprietor and enter with him inside the darkness of the small hut of hidden secrets.
Inside the hut, Melanie thought to herself that the darkness was affecting her eyes. She squinted trying to get accustomed to the darkness but felt something burning inside her. “Where is the light switch dude?”
Suddenly a candle flickered on unexpectedly. A man’s voice deeply echoed through the small chambers and spoke aloud, “Welcome to the hall of wonders!” The three looked at one another in the barely-lit room curious as the proprietor appeared before them in the shallow lighting. “Call me Isadore Roltencharles and I can tell you tales of the most fantastic adventures you will ever see or hear of.”
“Incredible” said Orpheus.
“Do you know anything about the time stone?” asked Melanie.
“You mean, ‘the eye of the gods’?” asked Rachel correcting her.
“I know and see all” said Isadore. “The pathways of the heavens above are open to those willing to explore them fully. As the sign says outside I am psychic?”
“Yeah” said Melanie. “We are in need of something very strange and rare.”
“What you seek is of great power and legend but is not out of reach. You must travel past this place to the Glastonbury Tor” said Isadore.
“How do you know…” started Rachel but then looked at Isadore’s eyes burning brightly with an incandescent darkness and opaque sinister application as he gazed toward her “right, you know all.”
“My visions show me a snake of gold, a rock of jaded emerald, and a mighty quest awaits you at your destination. Use these to unleash your destinies in stopping a grave threat to this world. One of you will not make it in this time. That is all I see.” Isadore closed his eyes as he finished and then opened them. They seemed normal now and less dark and sinister like before.
“Thank you” said Orpheus as he rose to his feet followed by his comrades.
“That’s it” said Melanie rising to her feet.
“Take this map” Isadore lifts a rolled up scroll from his shelf in the darkened room and hands it to Orpheus. “It will guide you as will your courage and wisdom.”
“Where does the map lead? Is it to the Tor?” asked Rachel.
Isadore nods with a smile as he folds his hands before him wrapped in the long sleeves of his gown. He then escorts them out.
As they exited the shop, Orpheus opened the map and wondered how to decipher the many lines.
“So what are we supposed to do to get to the Tor?” asked Rachel. “We need a ride or something.”
“I can’t make heads or tails of this map… it’s got some language I don’t understand and I am fluent in twenty. I just don’t get these characters and ….”
“I don’t get those weird lines and how they circle this orb in the center” said Rachel reading over his shoulder and furrowing her brow trying to decipher it as she pointed to the middle.
“We should trust Isadore” said Melanie.
“The mountains and hills of England comprise of many different kinds of terrain ranging thousands of feet in the air. On foot it will take us nearly forever to comb through everything with the hopes of finding the right cave he was referring to” said Orpheus.
“What is this Glastonbury Tor anyway?” asked Rachel.
“Only one of the most dangerous and mysterious hills in the region of England” said Orpheus. “It is a spiritual place where pilgrimages occur despite the odds to venerate it as a possible hiding place for the Holy Grail.”
“Did you say the Holy Grail?” Melanie asked rhetorically, “the cup used by Jesus Christ at the last supper… that Holy Grail?”
“Right” said Orpheus “according to legend it was taken from Jerusalem by Joseph of Arimathea and brought to England where it was guarded in the Tor amongst other possible sources of location by the legendary Knights Templar.”
“That is interesting but still we’re clueless how to find it” said Rachel.
“Far our… we’re grail hunters” said Melanie.
“Not so fast” uttered Rachel and then suddenly they saw the same woman they saw before, Elizabeth Childs, walking slowly and casually down the street. “Look, it is Elizabeth” she said pointing in her direction. “Guys, I am getting the feeling of déjà vu like a premonition or something.”
“We saw her before” said Melanie, “this is where she dies.”
“Huh” Elizabeth looked up at the small group and smiled in recognition when suddenly the masked man in black ran over as if appearing from nowhere and tackled her from behind and pinned her to the ground. He pulled out his gun and held it to her head as she screamed for mercy.
Orpheus, Rachel, and Melanie ran over and each screamed at him to stop. The masked man in black looked up and laughed as he recognized them. He pulled his weapon on them and held his finger firmly on the trigger and fired three shots. The bullets suddenly stopped and hovered in mid air as a white-yellow light appeared between the trio and the masked man in black and out of the light materialized the hero known as “The Temporal Hawk” who stood there proudly displaying his armored chest that deflected the three bullets and sent them back ricocheting up into the air and becoming embedded in a small home nearby. The Temporal Hawk grabbed the masked man in black by the arm and separated him from his gun, crushed the metallic weapon in his right hand, and swung the masked man in black like a doll crashing into the door of one of the homes.
Orpheus yelled suddenly, “help us, we are trapped here and need to get home.”
The Temporal Hawk ignored this plea for the moment and reached for Elizabeth helping her up. He then turned to the trio and nodded reassuringly, “destiny brings hope, faith, and love … maintaining that is the strongest wisdom.” With that he vanished in the usual white-yellow light that he appeared in.
“Great… he left again” said Rachel.
“That’s three times he saved us. And that is some quote he left us with” said Melanie. “Destiny brings hope, faith, and love … maintaining that is the strongest wisdom.” With that he vanished in the usual white-yellow light that he appeared in.”
“Are you alright, Elizabeth?” asked Rachel.
“I am…” she held her belly. “I am pregnant… I fear for my unborn child.”
“Why would anyone want to harm a pregnant woman?” asked Melanie.
“The masked man in black is psychotic remember” said Rachel.
“Or the masked man in black, being from the future, wants to eliminate someone who he considers his enemy by preventing the birth of this enemy” said Orpheus.
“So you think the enemy is Elizabeth’s unborn baby and also connected to all the dead bodies?” Rachel asked.
“Well, he will fail no matter how many lives he claims because he cannot directly alter the future by killing one in the past due to the grandfather paradox” said Orpheus.
“The what?” Melanie asked.
“It has been generally theorized that going back in time to kill your own grandfather would prevent your birth but put you in a position of never having been alive to go back to kill him in the first place. It’s also called the bootstrap paradox” said Orpheus.
“Ahh… headache” Melanie remarked.
“The poor fool, the masked man in black, is under the delusion that he can kill his enemy’s father or grandfather while still in uterus by killing his great grandmother or whatever ancestor, this Elizabeth Childs” said Orpheus.
“She’s so young…” said Rachel.
“Young and pregnant… she’s the next victim unless we stop it” said Melanie.
“But aren’t we forgetting something about the paradox. Doesn’t it mean he already must have succeeded in killing her so he will do it again no matter what we do?” asked Rachel.
“I am confused by your words” said Elizabeth.
“There must be some reason to the notion of good versus evil throughout the universe in a constant state of balance and one can counteract the other and the reason we are here and figured this out means we must be meant to at least try to stop him” said Orpheus.
“Well we saw her in the other timeline before we jumped two days ago now she gets killed by what looks like a random mugging on the streets of a high crime city but it was the masked man in black who travelled back to this time to kill her” said Rachel.
“And we prevented it… with the help from our mysterious friend, ‘The Temporal Hawk’” said Orpheus.
“I am in your debt” nodded Elizabeth.
“We didn’t do anything” said Rachel.
“We could use transportation to get to Glastonbury” said Orpheus.
“I will contact my father who shall arrange it” replied Elizabeth.
Having procured a coach financed by Elizabeth’s father, the duke of the local region, the trio of Orpheus, Rachel, and Melanie rode through the English countryside emblazoned with the joys and thrills of the old roads. The old dirt trails were surrounded by grasses and bushes and trees hinting of the sweet smell of jasmine blessing their quest. The sounds of merry folktale singing from the coach driver complemented the scenery as they passed hillsides of green open field pastures waiting of the ripening of the harvest time. Orpheus turned to his companions on the leather seat and smiled proud of his English heritage. “We are truly in God’s country!”
The trio approached a large grassy hill. They could see a tall stone tower highlighting the backdrop at the apex of the hill. They admired the beautiful landscape and countryside steeped in greenery covered with a rolling fog.
“What is Glastonbury Tor, anyway?” asked Melanie.
“It’s a high rock on a hill located at Glastonbury close to the isle of Avalon in the English county of Somerset. That tall building is the roofless St Michael’s Tower. The whole area has been home to various civilizations dating from the Iron Age” said Orpheus.
“Yes, it was used mainly as a place of worship and is rich with myth and spiritual legend often associated with pagan rituals, goddess worship of the Celtic culture and the King Arthur stories” added Rachel.
“The view is breathtaking” said Melanie she said as the coach stopped before a series of steps of stone laden into the grassy terrain leading up the hill.
“This is where you get off” said the driver. “I go no further due to the horrors I heard of those who approach and I caution you to be extra careful or turn back now if you have some sense.”
“We sort of can’t” said Rachel.
“We will be fine from here” said Orpheus dismounting with his comrades and then watching the coach speed off into the distance away from the hill where they faced their current challenge. They slowly began to climb up the steps carefully intruding one block at a time.
“How high is this place?” wondered Melanie.
“The Tor is in the middle the m\Meadows and can rise up to 158 meters or 518 feet” said Rachel. “I studied ancient European history in school.”
“Interesting” said Orpheus.
“The Tor is actually formed from rocks dating back as far as the Jurassic Period and they are surrounded by iron rich natural spring waters that affected the stone over many millennia” Rachel continued.
“I didn’t ask for a geology lesson” jokes Melanie.
“Funny” smirked Rachel “but seriously, while the formation of these steep terraces remains somewhat of a mystery, there is an incredible optical phenomenon when the tor appears to rise out of the mist because rays of light are bent when they pass through the different thermal air pockets and layers in the atmosphere forming a sort of duct. It was mythically associated with the powerful sorceress from King Arthur legend, Morgan le Fay.”
“I ain’t afraid of no sorceress” jokes Melanie again.
“We are approaching the last few yards of the walk up the Tor” said Orpheus leading the group. “This walkway is probably a tourist thing” he joked.
“It’s very spiritual… revered an ancient spiritual walkway even before the concrete” added Rachel “except during some occupational issues during the dark ages.”
They approached the tall building in the center of the hilltop. “What is that?” asked Melanie. The sun shined through the many portals surrounding the tower from the top to the bottom and it shined through the open portal allowing entry into it creating a flood of natural light within the otherwise darkened interior, shining like a beacon of hope and wonder.
“The three-story tower of St. Michael’s Church formerly a monastery in the 16th century and changed structure over the years but a popular religious icon for many centuries” said Rachel.
“Thanks professor” replied Melanie.
“Did you know the tor was called Yns yr Afalon meaning ‘the Isle of Avalon’?” asked Rachel serendipitously “and it was tied to the Avalon of Arthurian legend, home of the Holy Grail.”
“The Holy Grail… so that could be where the time stone is located now” wondered Melanie.
“Let’s go” said Orpheus leading them inside as he wandered through the portal with an elliptical shape. They entered the dark interior lit by the sun’s rays shining through the open portals throughout the tower revealing a spiral staircase going upward and a set of stone blocks piled on top of one another. There was a mask of a figure with a sinister perplexing look and ominous demeanor.
“Oh, ugly guy” commented Melanie.
“It’s Annwn… King of the Fairies and first Lord of the Underworld” said Rachel.
“Wow” said Melanie.
“My parents were Irish and we come from a long line from the old country. I was forced to learn all about it when I was young and it inspired me into adulthood” said Rachel. “The tor was actually considered the entrance to Annwn or Avalon.”
“Avalon again… that is a popular reference” Orpheus commented.
“The land of the fairies” finished Rachel “yet as a persistent myth of more recent origin is that of the Glastonbury Zodiac. This astrological symbol is of gargantuan proportions was said to have been carved into the land along ancient track ways so the Tor is part of a formation of the constellation Aquarius.”
“Awesome. Sort of like the Nazca lines in Peru… I learned that from the discovery channel” said Melanie proudly.
“It was believed the land was covered by this zodiac was under several feet of water later turned into roads when the water receded. It could have been part of a greater civilization lost to the ages of time” Rachel uttered as she followed Orpheus and Melanie to the face of Annwn. “It also was the key to infinite treasure and health, the famous alchemic philosopher’s stone.”
“Cool, I like treasure. But shouldn’t we go upstairs?” asked Melanie.
“This is interesting. It is like a high relief statue” said Orpheus as he touched the face and rubbed his hands down the eyes, nose, mouth, and tongue sticking out. As he reached the bottom part of the chin, he felt his fingers slip inward as if pushing a button made of the stone wall and a jarring sound emanated from above as if something else was moving and debris of broken pieces of the stone wall began to rain down upon them.
“What the hell is going on?” asked Rachel rhetorically as she grabbed the stone wall as the ground began to shake underneath their feet and the walls crumbled, the stone walls were rough and began to shake and the tower itself appeared to spin as the ground sunk beneath their feet. “I’m feeling dizzy.”
“Hold on to something” yelled Orpheus over the roar.
“I am trying” said Melanie sarcastically grabbing on to Orpheus and the wall together.
The floor slipped loose beneath their feet and fell like an elevator dropping them at intense speeds. The centripetal force dropped them to the floor on all fours and then face down to the ground pasted to the stone that fell downward approaching an unknown destination rapidly. They shut their eyes in fear that this was their real end. Then suddenly there was a jolt and they opened their eyes to find themselves in a dark environment of pitch black. As they rose to their feet and walked across their moving platform of stone, they saw a set of torches catch fire instantly in the distance as if detecting their movements and one after another lit the way all the way down the narrow corridor that now was present before them.
“Where could we be now?” wondered Rachel.
“And what an intense ride” said Melanie.
“I think our answer lies in this direction” beckoned Orpheus to the flames brightly lighting the way down the hall.
Walking down the hall in the barely-lit darkness, flames danced up and down from the torches illuminating the walkway slightly. The shadows of the three travelers moved slightly on the cold clear limestone rock floor. Then suddenly out of the uninterrupted silence, a voice broke the air loudly like a drunken lunatic and a man popped out before them. “What are you all doing in my cave?” The man was dressed in dirty clothes befitting an old miner or prospector. He had a bushy grey beard crawling with insects and shaggy grey hair exceeding out from underneath his ripped and torn fedora colored yellow with age. The wrinkles on his face showed maturity but the ranting and jumping up and down of the small man, standing just over four feet in height and carrying a slight belly that moved under him along with his tirade made him seem pubescent and almost jovial.
“I said, what you are all doing in my cave” he spoke with broken English in a harsh vernacular as he wielded a pickaxe and shouted at the top of his lungs as he approached the trio of adventurers and then backed away almost in silent fear.
“We didn’t know this cave was taken” said Rachel panicking.
“I don’t know what in tarnation you folks is doing but I am Ragamere Huxton, prospector and adventurer explorer extraordinaire and I claim right to these here parts. You folks best get… go on get.” He finished stamping his feet adamantly.
“We won’t be in your way. We are lost” said Orpheus.
“This guy is worse than Yosemite Sam” commented Melanie jokingly.
“I’ll show you” he reached for his something in his belt when Orpheus grabbed him by the arm and shook him loose knocking him back.
“Look” said Orpheus “we don’t want any trouble but we do need to find a way out of here and a relic we have information is in here. Maybe we can work together to find it and split the rewards.”
“I usually don’t take on a partner but you folks seem alright” Ragamere replied humbly knowing he was just bested and was outnumbered.
Orpheus nods, “It is said that some lives are inexplicably linked or connected across the vastness of time and space by an ancient calling called destiny. We could be meant to unite, common end brother.”
“OK” says Ragamere nodding.
As the group wanders deeper into the cave, Orpheus tells Rachel and Melanie about his life as a tycoon and Melanie shocks back in awe, “I never knew anyone could have so much money.” “It’s a skill that takes many years of practice and intellectual ability to masticate” says Ragamere. Suddenly an explosion obliterates the mine shaft and causes a cave in squishing Ragamere, Rachel, and Orpheus. A flash of lightning quick energy zooms in around Melanie instantly before she is crushed.
Melanie finds herself outside of a warehouse confused and dazed.
Chronix Bay, Circa December 25, 2014 A.D.
Dr. Miles held her gloved right hand over a lever in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the town’s industrial district. Boxes of wares and empty containers littered the scene. Dr. Miles smiled and laughed maniacally as she pretended to move it but stopped.
Melanie entered the warehouse, wearing a brown winter coat and hat that she grabbed off a clothing line nearby, caught her breath in shock as she thought it was over but then breathed a sigh of relief. She tried to run forward towards Dr. Miles but stopped herself when she saw the lever move slightly again. Melanie looked up in horror as she saw her two adopted Children Jeremy and Jessica raised up high above the ground with their hands tied above their heads and mouths gagged as they squirm in a futile manner against the ropes tied to the lever held by Dr. Miles that she awaits to release and drop them into an open floor revealing a shallow pool of dirty water underneath the floor harboring the movement of small tiny sharp-fanged fish waiting for their supper. Dr. Miles kicked over two small crates to Melanie one at a time. “No one not even The Temporal Hawk, that two-bit do goader who swings in on his heroic chandelier to save the day can stop me.”
“Why are you doing this?” Melanie screamed.
“I have before you a derivative deviation of the famous Newcomb’s paradox but instead of money in boxes, I will gamble with the lives of your children. You have two boxes before you, box A being visible containing your children and box B not visible containing some mystery.”
“Huh” Melanie looked at the first crate seeing a televised image, somehow displayed on the plain wooden crate, of Jeremy and Jessica being dropped into the pool of waiting piranha. The other box was an ordinary lifeless box.
“If your pick differs from what I predict they both die. Only if you pick the same as me, you spare their lives” said Dr. Miles smiling maniacally.
“You’re insane” said Melanie.
“Indeed” laughed Dr. Miles. “Choose now before I choose for you and they both die.”
“It’s Christmas.” Melanie whispered weeping tears of remorse and helplessness. “I can’t choose. I don’t know.”
“Fool… this means nothing to me… some paltry holiday. I will command the heavens… you killed these two by your relentless inaction…” Dr. Miles started to speak and begun to push the lever as Melanie gasped. Dr. Miles continues: “It is true that everyone is worth fighting for and the power of friendship can overcome anything, youth and age splitting up and realizing we can reunite friendships for life and love can overcome all obstacles but sometimes when you find yourself alone all your have is your doubts and you want to make the world and everyone in it suffer completely.”
“You just need a friend” says Melanie.
“That ship has sailed for me… you and your children will be the ones to pay now” she utters briskly, the age in her voice defying years of loneliness and solitude.
Then suddenly, a bright white and yellow light appeared in the air above them as constant and bright as the northern star and crashing down materializing from the lit void came a man wrapped in a brown bulky metal armor, his hands gloved and face masked with metal talons resembling that of a hawk as a pair of giant wings stretched across his back like a folded glider.
“The Temporal Hawk!” screamed Melanie happily.
The Temporal Hawk dropped down hovering and landed atop of Dr. Miles who looked up just in time to realize her fate and then become rendered unconscious as she fell to the ground. A loud screech like a hawk cawing in mid air filled the room. The Temporal Hawk caught the lever as the two children nearly hit the water sparing them from the horrible fate that awaited them below. Melanie sighed with great relief as she ran over and untied her children and brought them down to the ground safely. As she hugged them both with tears streaming down her face, she turned to the Temporal Hawk who had saved them all and noticed that he was gone, as was Dr. Miles, both having disappeared into the lit-void where the Temporal Hawk came from. Melanie nodded in retrospect and held the children tightly grateful for his sudden heroic presence.
“Merry Christmas mommy but who was that man?” asked Jessica curiously.
“Someone very brave and we are grateful, pumpkin. They call him ‘The Temporal Hawk’ and he’s my friend. Merry Christmas to your both, now let’s go home.” Melanie replied as she recalled the words of Maxwell Orpheus, “It is said that some lives are inexplicably linked or connected across the vastness of time and space by an ancient calling called destiny.” Melanie thought how right this was to herself as she carried Jessica and held Jeremy by the hand as she walked with them out of the warehouse. She thought of Orpheus and Rachel and their adventures, “maybe there is something to destiny after all and how our choices impact our lives and those around us and what is truly meant to be may be of our own making after all.”
A troubled young woman finding herself stuck raising her neice and nephew after her sister was killed tragically, wishes for a hero and finds herself on a trek across time and space with the mysterious ancient alien relic known as the time stone and two other souls lost in the world facing off against a sinister scientific genius. Together they fight to stop her and get back home with the help of the hero they always wanted but who may be more than they bargained for. They learn a lot in their travels and most importantly that the greatest hero we seek is within ourselves.