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The Time Stone: Another Christmas Legend!

When there is fear and nothing seems to be left in mind, remember this… there is strength in pursuing the unknown and stepping out of your comfort zone to fulfill a destiny that borders on the fantastic; Merry Christmas!

The Time Stone: Another Christmas Legend!

In the North Pole, Time: Unknown

The snow-covered hills beyond the vast mountain range of the aortic circle cover glisten in the faint sun beaconing far overhead. Under the expanse of cold white frost, a colorful and well-lit sign of cheer welcomes those within who are privy to the well-guarded magical secret but hidden to those unwelcomed, the mystical and legendary Santa’s Workshop of the North Pole. From a distance, the rows of small huts and cottages circle around perpendicular from the larger central hut, covered in colorful arrays of lighting and decoration covering all colors of the rainbow. The series of homes line up and from an aerial view form a star-like formation that extends for miles with bright crystalline connection points making it seem more like a giant snowflake in the vast winter wonderland. The crystalline connections are in fact tubes that light up every few seconds when matter passes through it, whether it be toys and presents being passed along or jolly elfin workers merrily sliding across from one home to another spreading cheer in their daily work routine as they prepare for the big day, the biggest day of the year, Christmas day. Narrowing downward along the fluffy chimneys and rooftops of the small homes that are partially decorated with enlarged white marshmallow and jellybean like items spreading throughout the floor and walls of the exterior walls, the central home extends miles up like a skyscraper and is more elaborately decorated with candy confection appearances stretching up spiraling towards the heavens, a whiff of white smoke surrounds the apex as it spreads sparkles in a bluish hue downward to the homes below as if emitting joy and wisdom in their incandescent wake. Inside the central hut, several miniature men and women run around scattering, their hats pointed and colorful above their pointed ears, their shoes pointed upward, and their clothes of old nineteenth century lore, a giant machine in the center spins around inside a giant clear tube stretching upward through a spiral wooden vortex and conveyer belts bearing toys, presents, and items of any imaginable shape and size and a series of bins lined up at the end of each belt ready to hold the items until they can be further sorted and packaged for delivery. Each elf stands at his or her desk or duty station ready to perform their tasks with utmost efficiency. “Stuffed teddy bears… check. Barbie dream house… check…” one of the elves holds a clipboard and marks off each item as it rolls down the conveyer belt into its respective bin. A jolly old elf wearing small bifocals and bearing a long white curly beard and sandy white hair who is slightly larger than the others and proportioned to the stature of a human stands over a stair well with candy-cane colored railings and nods in satisfaction as he puffs a pipe emitting rainbow-colored smoke that smells like cotton candy. “Ho, Ho, Ho… this is going to be the best Christmas yet” he smiles. “You say that every year, honey” an elderly lady wearing a red and white apron with her white hair in a bun and small rimmed glasses on her face chuckles as she walks behind him holding a cup of tea in the shape of a silver bell and hands it to the old man. “Thanks my dear… I think this time Christmas is destined to take a most unprecedented turn of events… we are going to be on the rim of almost post-apocalyptic proportions in the amount of presents we are cranking out… the spirit of Christmas will flourish for centuries to come in the hearts, spirits, and minds of every young boy and girl out there… and not to mention those who are not so young.” He smirks sipping his tea carefully as he closely nudges his wife and they share a carefree tender moment looking into one another’s eyes and the many eons they have lived together each knowing deep down what the other was feeling and they knew he was right, it would be best. “Who am I to argue with Santa Claus?” she replied grimacing wholesomely. “We have to thank the treasure of our most ancient courses, the mighty Crystal Link” he turns to the spot behind him where Mrs. Claus knew and had seen countless times before and they stared into the clear cutaway in the fabric of the wooden interior and beheld a glowing blue sparkling twilight gem, vibrating from within with its own pure energy source and spinning in perfect synchronization as if moving and controlling everything in the toyshop. He smiled as he reached out to touch it as if mesmerized by his beauty and then catching himself from his wife’s glare on her face and he looked back dumbfounded remembering the field surrounding the object was impenetrable. “We are safe as long as we have this to protect us here.” “Indeed we do my dear husband…indeed we do.”

Then suddenly the ground shook beneath them and the cup of tea fell to the ground and shattered. “Oh dear” says Santa. “What is going on?” says Mrs. Claus. They saw the elves below freeze in fear as the ground shook again, and again after that. The presents toppled to the ground over the conveyer belts and the bins began to topple over as the shocking vibrations continued to spread fear and havoc throughout the toy shop. The central cylinder began to slow down and move as the entire central home appeared to tilt on its axis. The entire complex of homes from the outside shook and the world of the fun-loving elves were disrupted, the crystal connection tubes lit up at a more rapid pace and then ceased with some lights frozen inside them, leaving the poor elves trapped inside. The central citadel shook and shook until it almost toppled over, the glowing sparkles from the white foam up above failed to send down the joy and wisdom it once imparted and now froze in a stillness that echoed inside as the elves looked about frightfully and clueless about what to do. Santa yelled to them to run to the escape tubes, not knowing they were frozen. The elves followed by Santa and Mrs. Claus ran out to the outer tubes where the elves jumped in one by one and Santa waited eagerly to see when it was safe after his crew was safely within them. “Come on, one at a time… single file everybody… this is not a drill.” He gathered waving them into the tubes. “Honey, you go now” Mrs. Claus yelled over the roar of the topping factory as the wooden ceilings began to tear apart and the infrastructure began to crackle as if centuries of age and wear were catching up with it. “You go my dear, get everyone to safety… I must secure the Crystal Link … Bodger and Rodger… you come with me” Santa ordered as he kissed his wife goodbye and pointed to two of his top elves to join him on the top deck again and as the three ran up the stairs, Santa turned back and saw Mrs. Claus jump into the tube after the last remaining elf. He nodded at her and with courageous spirit ran up the stairs followed by his small team. He ran to the small cutaway and was shocked to see what he saw. “The Crystal Link… dear heavens and silver bells… it’s gone.” Santa bore a shocked expression on his face. “What do we do Santa?” Rodger asks with a furrow on his brow. Santa turned with determination to his crew and before he could speak he pointed upward to his elves who also turned and saw the entire roof on the far west corner opposite from them collapse revealing the open sky and snow-capped hills beyond the town, a yellow whirl of light flashes in the horizon curving outward spreading with infinite dimensions whirling forward, a vortex unfamiliar to them, a temporal wormhole… as it vanished, they saw a figure hovering in the air and floating down next to another one just like him who had already been there causing havoc, two identical warriors dressed in metal armor of silver and black shining in the fading lights, their helmets curved and balding silver with blackened indentations forming a letter “I” with horizontal lines where their eyes and mouths would be and a vertical one connecting them. They appear to move with robotic head jerks and body movements. They wore backpack/jetpacks on their backs emitting bluish flames behind them and their legs dangled in front as their hands bore rifle-like assault weapons with glowing blue lights at the barrel. They hovered downward, one of them holding the Crystal Link with one arm and then put it in his backpack/jetpack. “There it is” says Santa yelling as he pointed upward. “What do you want with us?” Santa yells at the two warriors with vigilance. The two warriors remain silent and aim their weapons at Santa and the two elves and the barrel’s blue light increases with intensity. Santa closes his eyes with fear as he holds his two elves tightly who each frightfully cling to his arms. “This is not the end my friends… time will find a way” says Santa as the warriors press their triggers and two streams of blue flaming light fire towards the trio below burning and vaporizing their entire bodies in seconds as agonizing screams propel into the cold air above. Shortly after they hovered up, a large wind and snow storm appears as if out of nowhere coming from the north winds and like a white flurry of a blizzard consumes the entire central complex and small surrounding homes covering them in a white blanket of cold and dry ice leaving the tip of the citadel on top with a faded bulb dim and lifeless. The warriors look at one another with emotionless and mechanical satisfaction from their aerial viewpoint and fly away into the coming night leaving the fledging toyshop in shambles and the magic of Christmas that once permeated the air now an empty abyss of broken promises.

Chronix Bay, Time: December 24^th^, 2015

The snowless city was not short of frigid temperatures as people hurried about in their winter coats, hats, and scarves. Outside of the newly-inducted but secret building and one of the bases of operations for the Temporal Affairs Coordination Unitary Momentum or (TACUM) the pedestrians passing by and wandering oblivious to the meetings going on inside, specifically as Milton Drax and Mercedes Gonzales address a room of political dignitaries and military commanders from across the globe, billionaire tycoons, representatives from various agencies and many joint militaristic organizations and ventures, on what they believe is new technology being devised by the United States military, “The world’s first temporal wormhole hyperspace connection tunnel” says Drax as he introduces the group and warms the crowd with his witty banter and melodramatic compatriotism as a former member of the service. He then introduces his friend and team member Mercedes wearing a white lab coat and who talks about the technical aspects involving the wormhole or “Einstein-Rosen Bridge,” she begins, “is a hypothetical topological feature that would fundamentally be a shortcut connecting two separate points in space-time that could connect extremely far distances such as a billion light years or more, short distances, such as a few feet, different universes or other dimensions, and in theory two vast or shortly-joined points in time itself.” The speech continued for hours and then ended with a long applause by the satisfied spectators completely enthralled by the verbal demonstration and PowerPoint slideshow and now eager to see a live-action field test that was promised back at the base one thousand feet underground from where they stood.

Mercedes and Drax walked out of the lecture hall carrying a stack of folders as they headed to the elevator at the center of the building’s lower level. “Giving up the UNION for this new agency is one thing but it seems weird having to talk about something as if it were brand new when it is based on technology developed millennia ago by a long-extinct extraterrestrial race” says Mercedes whispering gently to her colleague. “It is not as weird as having to tap dance in front of these suits” says Drax undoing his tie “this is why I gave up my lawyer status, it’s too much hassle having to put on the show. I will tell you …” he shakes his head “and we didn’t give up the UNION, TACUM is just a new subsidiary designed specifically to explore the operations of everything Time Stone, while the other branches focus on other things.” “Like what” Mercedes asks curiously. “Like we shouldn’t be asking unless we have orders to.” Drax adds. “Anyway, I hope we can get this physical demonstration over with quicker than later.” He utters. “Why is that, you got a hot date or something?” Mercedes smirks inquisitively heading down a stairwell to the lower level followed by Drax. They walk down the final steps of the spiral staircase and into the central elevator waiting with a black suit and tie security serviceman waiting for them to enter before attempting to seal the door. “Close… it’s an old friend I am getting reacquainted with. She is in town for the holidays so….” Drax started as the doors to the elevator began to close. “Enough said” Mercedes nudged him smiling as the doors closed before them and then they began their descent down into the secretive depths of the TACUM building.

In the lowest level, a small sixteen feet by eighteen feet room sits with a crystal glass display window into an open metal floor and a connected row of seats in view of the window. Tina Prescott paces back and forth in boredom holding a new smart phone 160. “This is getting crazy. Where are they?” She waves her hands in the air, the sleeves of her denim shirt rolled up to her elbows, and moves her head around, her pony tail wagging fiercely like an angry dog. “Calm down, my dear” says General Stormy sitting in one of the seats. “Try to relax for a moment. I am sure that they will be here soon.” “Not soon enough…” then she turns and sees her two old friends arrive with their escort. “Finally, we have been waiting here for ages, bored to tears as always” screams Tina. “Getting ants in your pants already, Tina” joked Mercedes. “Not very amusing” smirked Tina crossing her arms. “Let’s get this show on the road. I got Christmas shopping to do.”

“I got some plans as well” utters Drax.

“Let’s indeed” says General Stormy as the team sits beside him with their escort silently standing behind them with his arms crossed.

“Are we the only ones here getting treated to this light show?” Mercedes says smiling as she squints at the window as she puts her folders down on the floor.

“There is a barrage of spectators sitting in the atrium on the other side of the viewing glass… they are in enclosed in a bigger area than us” says Drax pointing to the window indicating they are on the other side. “The same size group we saw upstairs will not witness firsthand what we described or what you so eloquently put.”

“Oh, that will be splendid” she replies. “That means we are getting the box seats.”

“Indeed.”

“Let’s chat, more looking” comments Tina rambunctiously.

“Look” says General Stormy as an agent in a blue jumpsuit holding a metal rectangular control device in the palm of his hand walks over to another in the middle of the empty metal flooring and removes a blanket from another device the size of a copy machine and activates it by pressing a series of commands on it. He steps away as the larger device becomes alive with red, yellow, and green lights and putters slightly. He holds the smaller device almost aiming it at the larger one while standing at a careful distance of approximately fifteen feet. With an emotionless glare in his eyes, he presses a red button on the smaller device and in a split second, the larger device emits a yellow glow of energy that focuses like a laser with pinpoint precision. Upon impact with the air at the far end of the room, the light erupts into a glowing whirling yellow vortex of energy.

“Wow, it’s the temporal wormhole” Mercedes’ eyes light up.

“Cool, been there and done that” says Tina crossing her arms and rolling her eyes.

“This is only the beginning. Up until now, we barely understood Pregiver technology to understand how to activate it co-dependently but now we are making strides” utters Drax.

“I want to examine the field prototype for the co-dependent modulator more closely now that I have the dissertated on the spectral components” says Mercedes.

“Blah, Blah” says Tina.

“He is keeping it steady… does this mean the program is a success?” asks General Stormy looking happily but curiously towards Mercedes.

“Yes Sir,” Mercedes begins taking out a pocket-sized metal object with a screen and dials she holds up with a label on the back reading Temporal Tronic Recorder Reader or TTRR, “the quantum fluctuations are appearing very stable and the internal flux dynamics are off the charts…at this rate stability of the ongoing temporal wormhole could be maintained indefinitely. The CDM post-demodulates using the Time Stone’s natural regeneration abilities. We could even control our destination with greater precision and accuracy. This is mega huge.”

“Hold on…” Tina utters “you mean The Time Stone is in that contraption?”

“Yes, Tina” says Drax “how did you think it worked?”

“Sounds like you guys are just ripping off old school tech… the Pregivers wouldn’t be flattered” she chuckled.

“We are working on making it so we don’t have to use it like we have in the past. We could finally understand its internal dynamics this way and make it work even from a distance by remote starters linking to the CDM, and also maybe someday replicate it” Drax says happily.

“We are far from that … but anything is possible” Mercedes chagrins.

The group of spectators in the other room awes at the amazing feat of energy being displayed before them but then the glow of the temporal wormhole fizzles and appears to shut. But a split second later, the temporal wormhole reopens and a light emits out and reveals a person coming out, a young woman of about twenty-five years of age with a dark knotted hairdo under a net and ragged dark clothes. Her face is covered in ash and soot and there is a fresh bloody cut on her cheek. She drops to all fours on the floor tired and restless as if she was running from someone. When she fell something fell from her hand and rolled over to the CDM, The Time Stone, which vanished in an instant display of white light upon close contact with its twin in the large device. The portal closed behind her.

“What the hell?” asks Mercedes rhetorically.

“Who is that?” asks Tina. “She looks familiar.”

“Security Alert… Omega Six” yells General Stormy rising to his feet. “We have a perimeter breach.”

“Let’s go” says Drax beckoning to his friends who head towards the elevator followed by their security expert.

Tina turns before the elevator closes and sees the young woman being taken into custody by several security patrollers in full riot gear. “This is gonna ruin our holiday spirit” she utters.

A Caribbean Island, Time: December 24, 1915

The still waves surrounding the small island bring comfort to the mind of self-proclaimed dictator and banana republic leader, Mehekial Winters, as he stands behind his desk in the dull light being brought inside the window by the pale moonlight and orange skies this night. His face hidden in the dark shadows with a sinister perplexing grin that strikes fear into everyone before him even without saying a word from his mouth. He stands up tall dressed in an expensive three piece suit, his hair graying with calmness of age, his mustache giving away a hint of professionalism complemented by his deep voice and callous local accent. He holds one hand towards his waist and the other up with two fingers posed in a half salute. “The hour of midnight approaches” he emits a laugh resembling that of a diabolical villainous mastermind.

Before him are several individuals, two local very muscular bodyguards dressed in floral shirts and shorts, two warriors dressed in the garb of the Culto de la Piedra Tiempo, black ninja-wear and masks, red sashes on their waists and the armor glistening in the darkness uncannily, one of them with blue skin underneath his mask, and two men dressed in dark suits while wearing dark hats and sunglasses indoors at night. The group each saluted their benefactor as he did them and then stood at attention.

“We are the secret society of the ages… since the dawn of time, our reign has been supreme individually but together we will bring forth an unprecedented horror upon the world… Machination, Culto de las Piedra Tiempo, and Andronians together there is nothing we cannot do. We have invented the ultimate killer, an assassin that feels no remorse for its prey, a hunter who targets and executes orders without question… the new age of fear has begun” he speaks as a warrior steps out of the shadows behind him and reveals himself as a mechanical man, a warrior dressed in metal armor of silver and black shining in the dim lights, his helmet curved and balding silver with blackened indentations forming a letter “I” with horizontal lines where his eyes and mouth would be and a vertical one connecting them. He wore a backpack/jetpack on his backs and his right hand at his side bore a rifle-like assault weapon with glowing blue light at the barrel. He stands completely still behind his master to the awe and shock of the entire room. “With the Retrospector at our side, we will find the power of the ultimate scourge of our existence and use it to bring forth an era of darkness, pure darkness, nothing can stop us now.” He laughs continuously with his loud diabolical manner as the mechanical warrior moves his arms robotically and mimics the salute they all continued to bear once again in the pale darkness about.

T.A.C.U.M. Underground Base, Chronix Bay, Time: December 24, 2015

“Who are you?” asks Tina loudly as she, Drax, Mercedes, General Stormy, and three other military dignitaries occupied the conference room with their escorts in dark suits standing behind them with their arms crossed. The young woman they captured was sitting across from them wearing handcuffs behind her back tightly.

“Uh, I think that’s our line” says Drax looking at her perplexingly.

“We want to know where you came from” Mercedes asks patiently sensing the military suits were getting restless at the restrained person before them. She has a patch bandage over the cut on her cheek.

“I could gladly tell you more if you didn’t insist on treating me like a prisoner. I don’t think you are aware of who I really am.” She sighs.

“Maggie …” screams Tina rising from her feet with jubilant enthusiasm. “Maggie Wilcox… oh my goodness, guys it’s her” says Tina running over as two of the escorts follow her for safety concerns. Tina hugs Maggie who feels the warmth of a friend. “It’s OK, she’s our friend… can we remove the cuffs, please.”

“Maggie?” Mercedes asks perplexed, “but she is only a child.”

“Not anymore” says Maggie. “I am from the future, a bad future indeed.”

“Get her out of those” says General Stormy ordering and the escorts comply removing the restraints from Maggie’s wrists. “What do you mean bad future?”

“A lot has happened … you can run my blood test to be sure… but I am Maggie Wilcox … I came here originally from one hundred years from now, things are bleak … nothing is right… because I think someone has done something to the past but I cannot find out where or when. I had searched many times and places. Since my Time Stone was running low on juice, I knew the only way I stood a chance at stopping the disaster was to come here to find you… you three were like the only family I have ever truly known and you are resourceful as hell” she looks at Drax, Mercedes, and Tina. “I couldn’t have survived as a child without you and even in my later years, you showed me kindness. I need your help again to find what went wrong and stop it before it’s too late.”

“Wait a minute” says Tina, “you can’t be older than twenty-five, right?”

Maggie nods repeatedly.

“So how could you be from a hundred years from now?”

“I mastered a lot of skills since we last met. Trust me when I say what I say is the truth.”

“Also you weren’t supposed to recall anything that happened to the later you” says Drax.

“I know a lot more than you think” her eyes flutter to his.

“What do you think is the bad thing that happens? So far you just gave us glimpses of rhetoric.” Mercedes says.

“I know that it’s a lot to swallow. There is this…” she pulls out a small tablet from her breast pocket inside her shirt and pushes a button in the center causing it to light up and emit a holographic projection upward above the table. A glowing blue sparkling twilight gem hovered in the hologram above them, vibrating from within with its own pure energy source and spinning in perfect synchronization as if moving on its own will and volition.

“What’s that?” asks Tina.

“A holographic projection, an image of photonic matter and light beyond anything we have in this time period” says Mercedes. “But the object it displays is… unknown to me.”

“Me too” says Drax. “I haven’t seen anything to… mesmerizing.” He uttered as if in a trance, his eyes like those of his comrades glued to the item at hand and the urge to reach out and touch it was compelling though they knew it wasn’t real.

“What is it and where can we find this, Maggie?” asks General Stormy as he and the other soldiers look on with intrigue.

“It is called the Crystal Link and it is the source of power of an entire civilization. I don’t know much else but it’s also got to have Pregiver origins given that it runs on a bio-kinetic frequency similar to the Time Stone.”

“Bio-Kinetic?” asks Mercedes curiously. “That is interesting.”

“Yes but the Crystal Link is far more powerful than any Pregiver relic we ever encountered. And there is another thing, before I left the last time I was in and came here. I was attacked by a robotic-looking creature that flies with a jet pack. He was shooting blue flames and he almost got me if I didn’t activate the Time Stone in time to jump out. I was going anywhere you guys were, the fact that you looked like you were doing your own experiments with an open Temporal Wormhole made me attracted to your time period a lot sooner, Thank God for that.”

“OK, let’s do our homework and find out what we need to before we take further action.” Drax says looking at General Stormy and the others.

“Then we got to find out what we must. Do it, Corporal Drax” says General Stormy rising with the others and everyone rises with him. “Report back when you are ready.”

A few hours later in the laboratory nearby, Mercedes, Drax, and Tina talk. “This is weird that Maggie is back, right?” asks Tina. “Yeah, too bad the young one we have with us is in Taiwan on mandatory TACUM training. We could use that one” says Drax. “I did confirm that the blood work I took from adult Maggie matches the records in the system, DNA-wise, she is who she says she is” says Mercedes. “Great, so how do we confirm her story” says Drax. “This is Maggie we’re talking about. We know her from when we saved Christmas last year, we stopped a monster black hole from wiping out existence and the first Christmas… does anyone remember Bethlehem circa 0000?” Tina looks at them with goodly eyes. “I remember” says Drax, “but there are unexplained holes in her story, time travel can make people crazy and time itself can make people change views… maybe she isn’t the same Maggie we know.” “Well one thing is for sure, we got to find out more about this Crystal Link and the robotic menace she says was threatening her time period” Mercedes commented. “I did do some research” she continued, “there is no reference in the historical database to any such creature or the ‘Crystal Link’ but analysis of the clothing she wore that she discarded to me when she went to the wardrobe department, shows that there is a strange chemical substance on her that I have never seen or heard of before, an entirely new element with composition unlike anything on the periodic table.” “Wait, that darn thing I had to memorize in chemistry class was false” screams Tina. “It was not false but complete based on what we have discovered so far. Who knows what other elements or chemical properties are out there in the universe or even on this Earth or other Earths like it?” Mercedes asks responsively. “It’s true” says Drax “there are stories of stranger things in legend and myth appearing to ordinary folks.” “Well, I analyzed the alien chemical composition…” “Alien as in extraterrestrial” Tina utters. “Alien is just used to describe anything foreign or unknown to us…. We don’t know what it is” Mercedes replied “but anyway, it is a rare compound indigenous to only one region on the planet… the arctic north.” “You don’t say” says Drax. “So we got to go to the North Pole … what are we chasing, Santa Claus” Tina laughs. “I don’t know what we’re chasing this time but it seems we might be facing a truly unprecedented event” says Mercedes. “Then let’s go” says Drax. “I will brief the general and we suit up and will be ready to move out before midnight.” Maggie hides behind a wall having been listening in on their every word with a frowning face.

Down a few levels, in the hangar base, Drax leads his entourage dressed in black military covert gear and each carrying backpacks with standard issue weapons and mission-critical equipment necessary for every life-preserving venture. They head into the far end of the base and past several vehicles and components being worked on by technicians and scientists assigned to their respective roles. Tina passes by and squints at a silver oval-shaped craft with a curved front and no wings but an empty slot of black mechanical workings on either side. She wonders what it could be but then also wonders after observing that there are an increasingly large number of troops and guards around, armed fully, including their now several escorts. “What’s with the new security?” Tina asks. “We can’t take any chances since the base was attacked last year by the Culto. We made the new base almost impenetrable.” Drax replies. “That Culto sure is a menace” says Mercedes.”Yeah impenetrable except from a time travelling misfit” says Tina as she follows her group proudly and they stop soon before a giant semi-tractor trailer truck with a white trailer and green engine base, the words TACUM written across it. “This is it” Tina echoes, “it is just a truck.” “To the average eye, it is just a truck” says General Stormy introducing it with a group of geared-up soldiers behind him “but it is really a lot more, a fully condensed battle wagon with armored plating, energy conduit beacons, an array of armaments, and transformative capability compartments with its own surprises. It is our latest improvement from the old vehicle you guys referred to as ‘the Scorp Car’ and it is a powerful tool.” “It is the real deal with hidden compartments to transfigure the light barrier as well… it is our new ultimate weapon controllable remotely with the TTR. It is way badder and more invincible than the Scorp Car ever was” says Drax. “We call it the ‘Scrooge’” says General Stormy. “Scrooge, like Ebenezer?” asks Tina with a furrowed brow, “that isn’t the best name.” “It is a popular Charles Dickens’ character” commented Mercedes. “Yeah but did you see what happened to him?” Tina asks rhetorically. Mercedes nods. “It is a pet name on its true operations designation” says General Stormy, “the Mission Implementer Strategic Sustainability Electromagnetic Return Disruptor or ‘Miser’, hence Scrooge, get it?” General Stormy smiles. “Oh I get it” says Tina rolling her eyes not amused. “Well, it is meant to take as much punishment as is necessary to protect you and bring you and your team home safely.” “Team?” asks Mercedes. “I know you guys are used to working alone but the TACUM leadership council feels it necessary for you to have backup, we are assigning Rogue Team Squadron to be your backup and eyes and ears” he acknowledges the men behind him standing at attention. “Great, we need a babysitter” says Tina. “No need to be concerned ma’am” says the leader of the group of four men who identifies himself as Major Maxwell Bright. “We will be in the background should you need us. After all, this should just be a simple reconnaissance probe and nothing to worry about, right?” he smirks. “Right” she responds. “Hey wait for me” screams Maggie running over with a heavy backpack nearly tripping over her feet. “Miss Wilcox, you weren’t cleared for this mission” General Stormy remarks. “I have to go… I need to be in on this. It is my mission.” “Your mission?” Questions Drax as he helps her with her back and to regain her composure. “My Time Stone was co-synchronized with yours so I am stuck here and I need to get back. We got to do this together and we must do something, you know, act fast” she beckons. “I don’t see the harm” says Drax. “She was never cleared Corporal.” General Stormy warns. “That will take too much time. I will vouch for her. This shouldn’t be long before we return so I will keep her under my personal supervision, Sir.” “Understood, Corporal, God Bless and Stay Focused.” The two men salute and General Stormy leads a small group of scientists and military commanders away from the truck. “Let’s go, team” says Drax as he leads his group on board the side door that suddenly opens from a verbal command from Drax, “open.” “So anybody can open our ride huh, not very secure” says Tina climbing in. “its voice specific, only my or Stormy’s voice can activate it.” “Cool.” “Thanks for the help” says Maggie walking past Drax and smiling. “I really appreciate this.” “No problem, just don’t make me regret it, OK?” “Hey who you talking to” she smiles. “We have been through hell and back remember?” “Oh, I remember” he smirks looking at Mercedes and Tina who eye him back with a look of utter consternation. The group takes their seats on either side of the long trailer interior, a plain white metal plate with cushion benches and racks for backpacks and weapons to be stored. The front seats are taken by Drax and Major Bright who begin to activate the controls above and below them in preparation for departure as Mercedes, Tina, Maggie, and the others employ their seat belts by bringing a large cushioned metal restraining harness over their bodies and down on them. “Feels like riding a roller coaster” says Tina. “Take off will begin in T-minus – 100 seconds.” Major Bright yelled. “Take off” says Mercedes looking forward. “Yes, don’t worry, it will feel like it did in the Scorp Car. Nothing new to get used to” says Drax. “Except two thousand tons of shrapnel under your butt” she replied. “Let me guess” says Tina, “the Time Stone is in this thing like the CDM, right?” “You got it” says Drax, “never leave home without it. We are gonna field test the new implementation and co-dependency protocols in action.” “I should be up there in case something goes wrong” says Mercedes. “Don’t worry, we got it and we will let you know otherwise” says Drax. Mercedes and Tina look at one another with slight fear in their eyes. “We’re sitting in a megaton time bomb slash time machine here” screams Tina. Major Bright counts down to himself and slowly gets to the final ten seconds. “10-9-8-7….” He yells as the roar of the truck’s engines begin to fill the interior with darkness and lit-up floor boards of white light and the exterior hull lights up multiple colors of the rainbow and the trucks wheels slowly lift off the ground and fold inward on themselves. “6-5-4-3-2-1” finishes Bright. “Here we go” says Drax piloting the truck upward as the ceiling doors to the hangar bay’s roof open and the truck slowly rises into the dark empty shaft. Then at the press of a lever by Drax, the Scrooge is propelled upward into the dark shaft at blinding speeds. Mercedes and Tina felt the pressure of the ride making them feel weird. “I feel like a bug being squished” screams Tina. “It’s called centripetal force” says Mercedes and it should pass soon. “Hold on” says Drax as the truck slows down and bumps the edge of the shaft slowly ascending to the brightness of light above. The Scrooge propels up and accelerates again zooming out of the shaft and like a blinding ray of light up into the heavens above into the light of day, the skies beginning to darken. The Scrooge’s headlights come on and light the way as it soars through the sky like a beacon of hope above the clouds.

“Did anyone from the city see us?” Tina wonders.

“No, it’s meant to be top secret. It moves so fast, it appeared like a ray of light explainable as extra ultraviolet from the sun.” One of Major Bright’s men explained to Tina. “Plus we have a stealth invisibility cloak onboard. No one will see us.”

“Cool” Tina responded, “just wondering.”

The Scrooge drives forth above the clouds heading north. “Next stops, the North Pole … get all your letters to Santa ready” jokes Drax.

“Very funny” says Tina nervously.

“We will be going to acceleration mode now?” asks Mercedes.

“We will be taking the scenic route; sub light… should take a few hours.”

Hours later, the Scrooge hovers above snow-capped hills over the vast mountain ranges. There is snow everywhere. Drax puts the cockpit on automatic mode and comes back to join his friends. “I think we are over the arctic region now. Nothing but snow for miles around so I do not know what we intend to find here.” “I think I better run scans for the chemical signature on Maggie’s clothes.” “The Scrooge’s TTR system is scanning as we speak.” “I don’t know what chemical you could be talking about… I was never exposed to anything out of the ordinary” Maggie replies. “Except that Crystal Link you had a holographic picture of” says Tina. “

“I know… I did see it once but not for long. It was taken from me by that robotic warrior” she shakes her head.

“You got to be upfront with us on everything Maggie” Drax scolds.

“I am being upfront let’s see what’s out there?”

“OK” Mercedes removes her harness restraint and walks to the front with Drax who lets her take his seat and review the scans as they are coming in. She looks down at the monitor on the display panel above the steering wheel as the Scrooge maneuvers above the snowy field below visible through the open windows before them. “So far nothing out of the ordinary, just mineral deposits and… whoa” she barks as the Scrooge tilts and begins to move slightly to the right.

“What is that?” Tina screams.

“Some kind of electromagnetic interference” says Mercedes.

“I got it” says Drax reaching over to the panel and managing the controls again. The Scrooge turns back to its normal position.

“That was close” says Bright. “We better keep it off auto navigation for a while.”

“Good idea” says Drax as Mercedes got up and went back to her seat and Drax resumed his. “Let’s go low and try to avoid any more problems… oh crap” he snarls as they look out the window and see before them a pair robotic warriors with a jet pack zooming up and appearing hovering in the air emitting blue flames and each holding rifles aiming at them.

“That’s the one” says Maggie releasing her restraints and running towards the window. “That’s who attacked me in my future time period.”

“Except now there’s double trouble” says Tina also getting up with Mercedes by her side.

“We’re under attack or soon to be” says Bright, “armor plating enhancements active and weapons online.” He activated his controls and then looks back and his men get into position near the back, each seated at a console with a display monitor activating it with one hand and holding a pistol with the other. The Scrooge’s hull was soon covered in a retractable awning of metal that spread through it like a sheath over a sword. Two large gun turrets emitted from the side and the front separated into two separate cockpits. Mercedes, Tina, and Maggie sat down in shock at the movements. A large projectile protruded from the center of the two cockpits and spread out in a circular pattern of retractable metal forming a satellite dish in front of the craft. The sudden action caught the two floating warriors off guard who were struck and began to fall as their jet packs suddenly stopped functioning. “Yes” says Tina punching the air. “It’s not done yet” says Bright. The trailer opened up from the top and out came another projectile that spread up like a giant talon and spread out small parts of it like multiple wings forming outward and clicking into place as the top folded downward and curved around the bottom leaving a wide gap between the two. The rotary mechanisms can be heard until the final clicking set it into place. The glass panels changed into a bright red infrared visual display. “What did we just form?” asks Mercedes as her and Tina looked at the entire exterior of the craft appear on a display near their seats. “It looks like a stingray” says Tina. “Welcome to the Scrooge AKA the Stingray Truck” says Mercedes.

The two robotic warriors saw the transformation and stood in shock looking at one another with emotionless inflexion. They then flew up and hovered once again in front of their newly-transfigured vessel. “This is awesome” says Maggie “but there they are again and they are getting ready to fire. I know that movement.” She points as she looks at the two warriors holding their rifles at them and the blue light at their tips beginning to intensify greatly.

“Fire at will, Major” says Drax.

“Got it, Corporal” replies Bright. At Bright’s command, the central weapon charges an electromagnetic field of hot yellow-colored energy. The two warriors fire their rifles emitting blue flames at the Stingray Truck and consume it entirely with flames that after a few minutes fade when the warriors cease firing. The Stingray Truck remains without a scratch.

“That was incredible” says Mercedes.

“Firing” Bright says as the primary front weapon projects the charged ball of energy forward and strikes the two warriors simultaneously and short circuits their entire systems causing them to shake wildly as their jetpacks go out and before they can fall and plummet to their demise, they self-destruct in mid air from the influx of energy they just absorbed. “That is how you do it” says Bright.

“Yeah” everyone screams as they smile in celebration.

“That can’t be the end” says Tina. The entire vehicle moves as if shaken by some unseen force.

“Not necessarily… that was just turbulence I think” says Drax “look” he points as the Stingray Truck moves forward unchanged.

“Not more bad guys” wonders Mercedes.

“I don’t think so” says Drax as they all gather around the main window screen and see outside beyond the mounds of snow and ice, a large brown and partially-multi-colored citadel rising out of the stacks of snow, some signs of light emitting from underneath but otherwise lifeless on the surface but not below.

“I am picking up signs of intelligent life … underground … under all that snow and stuff. It’s some kind of infrastructure but it suffered a lapse.” Drax read his controls.

Mercedes took out her portable TTR and held it out, “I am conforming humanoid life and electric particles or something like electricity… it is buried under the snow. It looks like an entire village of sorts was buried under here.”

“Something bad happened here” says Tina.

The Stingray Truck zoomed overhead above the snow-covered town, coming around the citadel and beginning to descend. “I am gonna set us down” says Drax. “This is worth exploring.”

“I’ll say” says Maggie “who lives out in the North Pole?”

“Santa Claus” jokes Tina.

“Don’t think you’re far off with that assumption” says Bright. “Look” he points as the Stingray Truck lands on the snow, its tires extending outward and touching the icy ground near the town. They see the citadel before them in the window and on the spiraling apex of the presently-buried massive monument rests a sign with candy-cane colors and multiple colored dots reading in bright colorful letters “Santa’s Workshop, Est. 00018 A.D.”

“What the hell are we doing here? When are we?” Tina utters shocked.

“Another thing, guys” says Bright “the Stingray Truck’s temporal speedometer is out of wake, like we’re in the Bermuda triangle or something” he points to the mechanism’s dial spinning rapidly like a compass with no direction.

The elite covert unit see what is going on and come and join the small crew and they all begin to crowd around the window carefully looking outside at the sign on the citadel and wondering if it is some cruel hoax, some illusion or magic trick, perhaps a practical joke… or they had indeed found Santa’s Workshop, a miracle in and of itself.

“Maybe the North Pole section we’re in exists outside the laws of the known universe, of time and space… like the Bermuda triangle…” says Mercedes.

“That turbulence we cross might have been the threshold point to this land where time doesn’t exist” says Drax.

“And it is a land where Santa Claus does exist” Mercedes replies.

“Maggie… Do you remember last year from our point of view and what crazy adventure we all experienced in time back then?” Tina asks curiously.

“I do, however almost endless ago it was from my perspective” she replies.

“Well here we are again” Tina beckons. “It’s Another Christmas Legend!”

TO BE CONTINUED

In The North Pole, Time: Unknown

The snow fell over the Stingray Truck as it rests gently on the firm snow and ice near the worn citadel bearing the name of a famous childhood hero, Santa Claus. Four figures, Drax, Mercedes, Tina, and Maggie, in full winter gear and oxygen face masks and tanks wander outside of the truck and begin to use their handheld TTR’s to scan the sources of life up close. They walk over the snow near the citadel and begin to branch outward at Drax’s directions. Bright communicates to their earpieces from the Stingray Truck and reminds them of how long their oxygen supplies will last before they can suffer asphyxiation from the extreme cold temperatures up north and this high up. Tina senses something on her TTR but doesn’t know what it is so she runs over to the nearest person and tugs at the person’s sleeve to see what it could be. Tina holds out her TTR to the person who is Mercedes and syncs her TTR to Tina’s and nods in satisfaction. Mercedes beckons to Drax and Maggie who come closer. They all share in the excitement of syncing their TTRs and finding life below them right there. They see a blinking light deep beneath the snow. Tina drops and tries to remove the snow with her hands but after finding it futile sees that her friends have another idea. They head back to the Stingray Truck and enter it. After removing their gear, they explain what happened to one another and Major Bright. “We should be able to remove the snow and ice on top of the subterranean dwellings by using the Stingray Truck’s EM pulse disruptors set to the highest possible settings in reverse” Drax says. “What do you mean reverse?” asks Maggie. “The disruptors emit molecular wave patterns in a concentrated blast but in reverse they emit…” Drax started. “Gas” Mercedes finished. “The charged ions from the main weapon in reverse formation will be reconfigured into ionized gas. If we can heat up the area in concentrated doses, it will deteriorate the snow and ice without harming the life forms.” She smiles. “OK so we are gonna shoots at it with a giant hair dryer” says Tina. “Evidently” says Mercedes. “Do it” says Bright as he orders his men who prepare the main weapon for such synchronization. At their commands the Stingray Truck slowly charges its primary weapon, the central dish forming a large electrical ball of energy in a hot yellow formation. “This time, reverse the disruptors at seven, six, niner, and 5000 degrees Celsius” Bright orders and the men do their work putting in their basic commands into their consoles and the dish closes and then reopens in reverse with the panels the opposite way quickly converting the charged electric ionic particles to a gaseous form and then upon Bright’s next command, “fire”, the men input their commands and the gas is projected forward towards the ice and snow in a rapid sea of steam quickly melting the ice and snow in front of them causing the hot steam to rise to the top and envelop the entire citadel from the bottom up. In a matter of minutes the ice and snow liquefied and then vaporized into the air above, revealing a small town made of strange wood and metal alloys and decorated with fancy lights and candy-like items consisting of every color of the rainbow, the citadel stretching from the bottom to the heavens, and the glowing lights in the crystal tubes connecting each structure remaining lit and then upon heating further release and the lights slide through each tube to the other structure intact leaving the tubes clear once again.

“We did it” says Tina.

“Yeah” says Drax. “Good work. Let’s go back down there and see who was stuck in those tubes.”

“It was obviously people” says Mercedes, “they appeared frozen in there and our little trick just freed them. The tubes seem to be transport conduits, remarkable technology for what some might term a primitive arctic culture.”

“Who would term that?” Tina snorted.

“Let’s see what’s down there” says Drax.

“I am curious myself” says Maggie.

“Permission to come on the mission, Sir” Bright rose to his feet with a salute.

“Negative, Major… I need you here so you can extract us using the beam spot mechanisms we built into the Scrooge.”

“I am chief of security and the head of the military contingent on this mission. I should be there for security purposes.”

“If something happens you will be our only hope.”

“Yes Sir” Bright sits back down with his men.

Drax and the others suit up and exit the craft again.

Inside the workshop Mrs. Claus and the elves that made it to the smaller hut nearby stand disgruntled over the attack. “Where is the big one, Ma?” says one of the elves. “I don’t know. I am sure he is well but I feel something is dreadfully wrong.” “We should go back to the central apex. I think it is safe” says another little elf with bifocals. “We need to check how bad we have been hit.” “This was definitely an unprecedented event” says another elf. “What?” Mrs. Claus uttered. “Unprecedented… that’s what he said, unprecedented.” She began to cry. “You wait here and we will form a contingent to go check it out.” “No, Barry. I must remain strong and lead like he would have wanted. We will go together and muster through this. If this truly did bring about his end, this will be my end as well, but then there will be another just as there always was. As long as the Crystal Link remains lodged in place, the spirit and magic of Christmas will live on forever.”

The crystalline tubes light up with the passage of several travelers back to the main central structure. Upon their arrival, Mrs. Claus is shocked to see a gaping hole in the central apex and looks in shock with her mouth wide open. Then she and the elves are shocked to see strangers in the apex and assume it is those who attacked them initially so they hide in the corner.

Drax and company see movement in the corner of the central structure and walk forward with TTR’s in hand intending to investigate the matter further. As they creep slowly, Drax whispering “shh” he puts his finger to his mouth, “let’s take it one step at a time”; “yeah, these floors look like they have had enough wear and tear from all the creaking and cracking” Tina whispers. The four travelers approach the far end beyond a central cylinder that has been lifeless for a while and as they pass by a series of turned over containers and bins, they are surprised by a group of small people who jump out and yell at the top of their tiny little lungs. “Get them boys” they try to attack as one kick Drax in the shins and he hops up and down in agony. “Ouch.” “They rest run over to the others but they try to move out of the way. “Oh my God, they are little elves” says Tina, “how cute.” “They are not exactly human but close enough in structure and intelligence.” Mercedes holds her TTR examining their interior anatomy. The seven little men wander around confused for a minute then regain their composure when Drax yells “we are not your enemy” and Mrs. Claus comes out and approaches them causing the little men to scurry about behind her.

“Who are you?” she asks with her hands clasped before her.

“I am Milton Drax, a Corporal in the Military. These are my team members, Mercedes Gonzales, Tina Prescott, and Maggie Wilcox.”

“We have never seen outsiders here” says Mrs. Claus, “but it is nevertheless good to meet you. I am Sandrine Claus and these are the elves. We were attacked by someone and thought you were them.”

“Were they big robots with jetpacks….” Tina uttered “cause their dead now.”

“I don’t know what you mean… my husband went to see them and… oh dear” she begins to cry.

“Don’t cry ma’am…” says Drax. “Where is your husband?”

“I don’t know… he said he was going to secure the Crystal Link and never came back. I fear the worst.”

“The Crystal Link!” the team exclaims almost simultaneously.

“The Crystal Link is the source of our power, a relic of our ancient heritage and what brings joy and wisdom to millions of little children and adults every year on Christmas Day! We cannot live or function here for long without it.”

“We have been looking for it” Drax says.

“I will bet you have. The Crystal Link is gone” she cries as she looks up the stairs in the crevice where it stood and finds it empty.

“We have been looking for that too… we think it will help stop a disaster in our future” Maggie utters. Drax looks at her with a scolding glare and she gulps.

“The future…how interestingly odd that is. The Crystal Link must never leave the North Pole or we will all surely inevitably perish and the world will be without Christmas, without joy, without wisdom, and then bad things will happen to mankind… wars, violence, epidemics… we must get it back no matter what the cost.”

“You’re husband is ‘Santa Claus’?” Questioned Drax perplexed.

“Yes and now he is gone… it seems he was killed by your robotic men with jet packs” she utters.

“We didn’t send them” says Mercedes. “We did stop them but I guess we got here too late before they got your husband.”

“Oh my” Mrs. Claus cries.

“Wait a minute, there is no such thing as Santa Claus” Maggie utters. “I know I learned that a long time ago,”

“But you didn’t always learn that” Mrs. Claus began looking at her with a suddenly sincere and tearless look. “You once believed Magdalene Germany Wilcox. You once did believe and asked for a doll for your 2nd Christmas but never got it because your father, an abusive alcoholic murdered your mother, and then he vanished with the Culto de las Piedra Tiempo.”

“How did you know all that?” asks Drax.

“I know because we know….” Mrs. Claus added.

“Wow that’s cryptic” says Mercedes.

“Wow indeed” Maggie begins to cry a little.

“Wow… “Says Tina. “So the legend of Santa Claus is true, he is real and now he’s dead.”

“No…” Mrs. Claus begins to cry again.

“OK… this is getting out of control” says Drax. “Sandrine, sorry for your loss but how did this place get covered in snow.”

“I don’t know… I imagine when the Crystal Link was taken … stolen, then the spirit of Christmas ceased to protect us.”

“This magic stuff is mumbo jumbo, it isn’t real” says Mercedes.

“It is real” says the elf with bifocals. “We will find it and restore order. We must find it and restore order to the North Pole… elves” they get excited with his words.

“OK, Richel… please calm yourself and the others” Mrs. Claus explains. “They get excited easily, it’s the one track mind and civil likeness of their kind, but they are right order is needed as this is a desperate moment. If you truly didn’t steal the source of all our Christmas’ joy and wisdom, our Crystal Link, then you must help us find it. We cannot exist long outside of the North Pole and we will not exist long without the Crystal Link in its rightful place. Please help us or we will not be the only ones to die… your world will end as well.”

“What is the Crystal Link, really?” asks Maggie.

“Legend has it that it was a tear from our creator since the birth of Christ. Something supernaturally spiritual and magical occurred on that night that changed the fabric of everything and the Crystal Link, a physical byproduct of that occurrence brings real joy and wisdom to all, a gift from infinity, from God.”

“Sounds like a Pregiver artifact…” Tina utters.

“Sounds like our Pregiver artifact… we were involved in those events remember?” Mercedes whispered.

“As was I” says Maggie.

“We are responsible for creating it” says Drax, “somehow our space ship piloted by old Maggie in the Birth of Christ era in Bethlehem not only created enough power to stop the black hole but it created a byproduct that as initially unforeseen.”

“And that unintended manifested power source was used for countless generations by the inhabitants of this work shop living under a protected sphere within it and using it to bring a mission of joy and wisdom to the world, peace and good will towards all men” Mercedes responds.

“We caused this and we have no choice but to get more involved” says Tina.

“Yes” Maggie nods.

“What does this all mean?” asks Sandrine.

“We travel in time. We have a device that allows us to go forward or backwards in time and travel as far back as anything” Drax adds. “And we did interfere with that night, the Birth of Christ.”

“Incredible” Sandrine replies.

“We are partly responsible so we want to help” Mercedes says.

“We will help” says Drax smiling. “That’s why we’re here. But where can we find the Crystal Link.”

“Uh oh” says Mercedes.

“What ‘uh oh’?” Utters Drax.

“I didn’t pick this up before” Mercedes responds looking at her TTR. “But I think there was the Crystal Link chemical signature on the two robotic warriors we just destroyed.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive, the chemical match on the robotic warriors is identical to the match on Maggie’s clothes. I am sorry I am just seeing the comparison now.”

“I don’t understand” says Sandrine.

“We think we destroyed your Crystal Link defending ourselves from your attackers. We are very sorry.”

“Oh dear, it is not your fault as you had a right to defend yourselves. But then without the Crystal Link, all hope is lost.”

“Wait, there has got to be a way” says Maggie. “If there is so much at stake, we have got to find a way.”

“Why don’t we use the Time Stone to go back and stop ourselves from blowing it up?” Tina asks.

“Reverberating Paradox” says Mercedes.

“Also, we are too close to it! It won’t work without countless paradoxes.”

“We got to find the source and get it from its original point in time” says Drax.

“Just like when James and I first found the Time Stone” says Tina.

“Yeah but we need more information on where to start” says Mercedes.

“Sandrine, I don’t suppose you can help us find some research on your Crystal Link as our world is devoid of any.”

“You folks really are great” she smiled and giggled in a jolly manner. “Come with me to my husband’s laboratory.”

Drax and company followed Sandrine and the elves through the network of tubes, jumping in one by one. “Wow, what a rush” says Tina.

In the laboratory several huts away, they circle around a table in an old and unkempt section of the town, dirt and filth cover all, and there are cobwebs. “Wow, is this Christmas town or more like Halloween village” Tina jokes patting the musty air. Sandrine pulls two books from a shelf and blows dust off of them. She lays them on the table and everyone can see their age being obviously centuries old. Mercedes scans the books with her TTR and finds “these have got to be turn of the seventeenth century.” “Great, the time of pirates and watershed adventures on the high seas” says Tina. “Get real for once” says Maggie. “I am real” she replies. “These are the catacombs and my husband used as a laboratory to conduct his research and diaries as that of his predecessors” Sandrine begins. “Predecessors?” questions Mercedes. “Santa Claus has been many people over the eons, beginning with that night in the year zero and the first workshop in the North Pole were built with the Crystal Link at its heart in the year 18 A.D.” “That’s why we saw the sign” says Maggie. “In the 17th century, the Santa Claus of this time had to bring the Crystal Link out to the surface to save the work shop from a great disaster. Now, since then it has been in the crevice in the central apex. Perhaps we should have never moved it.” “Tell us where it was before the first Santa found it, Sandrine” says Drax. “The cave of time… named for an early group of settlers from the stars,” remarks Sandrine. “Dollars to Donuts that’s the Pregivers” says Tina. “Please continue” says Drax. Sandrine turned the pages of the musty old book and spoke profoundly and vigilantly “to find the Crystal Link, there is a map…” she turns to the pages until they are staring at a map. “One must explore the cave of time … beyond the rain of a thousand rivers, search the inventory of the thirteen colonies … find the treasure of the most ancient civilization … from the eye of an eagle you will find the key, the great decipherer Pirate Danger Wohnee.” Sandrine read the parchment as she turned the pages.

“Who is Pirate Danger Wohnee?” Mercedes asks.

“An old nemesis of Santa before my husband assumed the role. They were fighters on the old frontier of the high seas. They went to war over the Crystal Link and Wohnee wanted it for control, but Santa knew the dangers of the Crystal Link falling into the wrong hands and being used for destructive purposes towards countless millions.”

“Deep” says Mercedes.

“So Santa was a pirate?” Tina utters.

“Not anymore evidently” says Drax. “He is with a belly like a bowl full of jelly.”

“Take this map, Milton Drax and find the Crystal Link before it’s too late.”

“That seems like a long trek” says Tina.

“You who have travelled in time, you have resources beyond anything, you will prevail. I have faith in that” Sandrine utters.

“We will do our best” he accepts the task and looks at the torn and fragile paper and spreads it out. Then he looks at Mercedes who sees what he means and puts her TTR over the map and presses a button, the light from the device scans the old parchment as it buzzes across the page.

“Got it” says Mercedes.

“Remarkable abilities” says Sandrine.

“And that ain’t all” gloats Tina.

“Thank you for your wisdom and joy and guidance, Sandrine” says Drax.

“You’re very welcome! You must go now as time will not last very much longer here for us without the Crystal Link.” She looks at them with frightened eyes matched by the elves quarreling about with nothing to do but express fear.

The group leaves back to the Stingray Truck and explains everything to Major Bright and the troops. They take off and fly off into the air above.

“We know what we must do now” says Drax “the fate of Christmas and the world depends on it!”

“We’re off to save Christmas yet again” says Tina.

As the Stingray Truck maintained its weaponized form and floated through the mountain ranges of the north, trying to avoid any major cities while they figured out where to go first, Tina back in her regular clothes stood in the back thinking to herself, her photographic memory remembering every word read by Sandrine on that parchment verbatim, “One must explore the cave of time … beyond the rain of a thousand rivers, search the inventory of the thirteen colonies … find the treasure of the most ancient civilization … from the eye of an eagle you will find the key, the great decipherer Pirate Danger Wohnee.” “Who wrote this stuff?” she thought to herself so much she didn’t even realize she said that last part aloud. Mercedes approached and smiled, “talking to yourself again, pal.” “No, I was thinking about the poem Sandrine read on that parchment.” “It wasn’t a poem.” “No but it seemed like one… where is the cave of time and the thousand rivers… where do we begin? I mean of all the adventures we’ve had and things we’ve seen you think there were enough caves and rivers to pick from.” “Well, I don’t think it would be that easy. Anyway, I analyzed the data with the map scanned into the TTR and the Stingray Truck’s spatial temporal coordinate database and computer system and so far we have three possible leads… one is in the Amazonians in the Brazilian wilderness.” “That’s where James and I first found the Time Stone… that’s a good source a place as any… home to ancient civilizations and all that.” “Like the Lost City of Z” says Drax. “The what?” says Tina. “A man name Colonial William Fawcett was believed to have found a lost city of gold in the rain forests of Brazil that he called ‘Z’ and he disappeared mysteriously trying to find it.” “Sounds rough” Tina uttered. “How does that help us?” “Well, we could try going there, wasting time, or try narrowing it down further.” Mercedes remarked. “Why don’t we just get the time jumping already?” asks Tina. “Doesn’t help if we don’t know where to jump” says Drax. “The other two leads” Mercedes continued “are Egypt but in the past when it flourished with rivers and streams and lush vegetation….” “And?” asked Tina. “Eastern United States….” “There are no thirteen rivers there” says Tina with a sour face. “Not yet… the temporal scans show it may be in the future, about one hundred years.” The three looked at each other with a sudden chagrin. “We may want to talk to our friend Magdalene.” Drax swallowed his pride and led the group down the trailer to the cockpit where Maggie spoke to Bright.

“What’s up?” Maggie said looking up shyly to her three friends.

“We need to talk” says Tina.

The four sit in the far back corner of the vehicle and Maggie swallows her pride and smirks. “I know what this is about… I knew eventually you would figure things out, you guys are really good like that.” Maggie rubbed her hands and sighed. “I was going to tell you eventually, there is a lot more to my having gone back… I was wanted by some really bad people. They are called the Collective Order. They originated somewhere in the Caribbean a freaking long time ago. They brought together weird things and people from all over, Culto warriors, some blue-skinned freaks, men in black stuff, and the robots we saw and defeated. Their leader is some dictator or something… really rich dude, wanted to live forever and felt he could find the secret to eternal youth and longevity. He was probably after the Crystal Link.”

“Probably” says Drax.

“Ugh, definitely… I had it in my hands, that’s how it got on me for you to trace but I honestly lost it to that robot thing.”

“When were you going to tell us?” Tina uttered with her hands on her hips judgmentally.

“I don’t know. I just … I …” Maggie began. “What’s this all about?”

“Just a super hunch” says Mercedes. “I think we got enough to narrow our choices.”

“Is that all?” inquires Drax.

“Honest… that’s all!” Maggie replied. “I won’t hide anything from you guys again. You are like family to me. I love you.”

“We love you too, kid” says Tina. “But lying is for suckers.”

“We are approaching a body of water” yells Bright and the group heads to the front and looks out the window. They see a large lake and several inlets pouring out of it. “At normal speed, we reached the Alaskan wilderness. We can theoretically keep this up for years before the fuel cells need to recharge but what do you hope to accomplish?”

“I don’t know. We have no choice but to activate the CDM onboard with the Time Stone to jump. It’s the only way” says Drax.

“I agree” we should set our coordinates for approximately a century down the road, keep us on the east coast” Mercedes dictated.

“What’s that about?” asks Bright.

“A super hunch” says Tina crossing her arms. Maggie looked at her quietly with a disconcerting look.

“Men, prepare for time jump acceleration sequence Alpha Gamma” Bright orders and the men assume their stations and begin inputting commands.

Drax turns to his group with his arms crossed and whispers over. “We should prepare to expect the unexpected.”

“As always” says Tina.

“But this time we know where we need to be… as soon as we land on the other side, start searching for this ‘cave of time’.”

“Aye aye, Sir” smiles Mercedes looking at her TTR.

“Let’s set sail” screams Tina.

Bright turns his chair “ready for time jump acceleration.”

“Execute” orders Drax standing over him and Bright turns back to his console and pushes the final command sequence on his computer screen. The entire Stingray Truck lights up in a white then green hue while electrical impulses and small lightning bolts permeate the exterior hull and galvanize the light accompanied by a faint humming sound as the CDM technology activates the Time Stone buried at the heart of the vehicle and extends its power outward as the light being generated grows and grows into a field surrounding the Stingray Truck until it extends several feet above it and the Stingray Truck vanishes in an instant as the field collapses with the vessel in the physical world and emerges with it in another more ethereal surrounding. The Stingray Truck is pushed through hyperspace at incredible speeds, surrounded by rainbow-colored lights and images. Seconds later, the Stingray Truck emerges appearing via the same field of energy in the physical world, hovering over a series of water bodies long and projected outward near a decaying land mass. The Stingray Truck rests and tilts slightly before resuming its normal position as the field collapses and fades again leaving the vehicle floating.

“Wow… that felt incredible” says Tina, “totally something new, time travelling in style now.”

“Times are a changing” jokes Drax. “Let’s suit up and get down there, but first Major please identify temporal and spatial coordinates.”

“As set on the coordinate calendar proximity sensor array before we disembarked, we are in the Eastern Coastal United States, Circa December 25, 2115 A.D. “

“Merry Christmas, everyone” says Tina joyously.

“Let’s hope our mission is successful or we won’t be saying that much longer” says Mercedes.

“I hope things are different here from when I first left” says Maggie.

“Suit up, guys and let’s getting going” says Drax, “Major, start scanning for suitable landing sites.”

“Preliminary scans are turning up empty, Corporal. It looks like the East Coast of the USA is a water world… nothing but small lakes and rivers, hundreds of them, maybe thousands….” Major Bright spoke as his fingers moved across his screen before him.

“Or one thousand” says Tina looking about ominously.

“Everything from New York City down to Georgia appears to be drowned in over seven thousand leagues of water, and then there are major lakes and bodies flooding the central Midwest. The sea levels are higher than usual and there is a strange toxicity in the water’s PH that I am picking up making it hostile and lethal to marine wildlife. I doubt anything has survived in there for a long time and I don’t think anything can survive in there.”

“So you don’t recommend going for a swim” joked Mercedes.

“No ma’am and also judging by the high concentration of carcinogens in the atmosphere, I don’t recommend going down without a face respirator.”

“What did we do to our planet?” asks Tina rhetorically.

“A lot can happen in a century given the environmental destruction being produced by multinational corporations and corrupt politicians all in the name of big bucks and business” Drax maintains. “Any life at all Major?”

“Barely but the anemic particles in the atmosphere may be interfering with sensors so I cannot get an accurate bio scan on anything.”

“Enough history… let’s get our hazmat and respirators” says Maggie.

After the four unlikely heroes dressed again in their black military gear and hazmat plastic coverings and miniature air tanks and each with a helmeted respirator above their heads ready to lower into place to protect them from deadly air, they approached Major Bright.

“We will use the beam spot technology to go down to the surface” says Drax.

“Good idea, Corporal… there is now way we can land… our ‘Stingray Truck’ may be state of the art but she’s not waterproof, yet. Remember to activate your GPS homing signals as I won’t be able to lock on to your biology scans.”

“Check… set us down someplace dry” says Tina.

“No problem, Miss… I found a series of inlet vestibules and precipices that appear to be former mountain ranges in the upstate New York area … the area is water up to a series of points in the old Catskills region. There are several interior hollow natural construction outlets, perhaps you ‘cave of time’ is amongst them. I will set you down there. Be careful and good luck!”

Drax and the others stand together and face forward each pressing a button on their helmets that drops the clear sheath protecting their faces. “Execute when ready, Major” says Drax as he stands at attention and Bright triggers a set of commands on his screen causing the group of four to instantly vanish in a whirl of white light within seconds.

Drax and company appear in a whirl of white light on the surface of the planet they once knew, Earth, but what surrounds them is a red-orange sky with bulging clouds and electric impulses of lightning in the distance, thunder sounds with a penetrating roar even from far away. The rock face they stand on overlooks a small precipice with nothing but roaring waves of blue water spreading out for countless miles in either direction. A deep cave going far into the Earth below stands behind them.

“Oh my” Tina swallows with a hint of fear in her tone.

“It’s funny to mention it now” says Mercedes “but I think that one of the Santa’s had access to time travel technology or the Time Stone itself, how else would he know about this to put it in a 400-year-old document?”

“So let’s go in” says Tina.

“OK” says Drax turning about while activating a flashlight from his wrist device and leading the group into the deep purported cave of time. Mercedes and Tina activate their flashlights on their wrist devices and delve into the cavern’s suddenly lit-up darkness. Maggie follows behind them curiously and scared.

They step carefully one at a time as the lights guide their steps and view above at stalagmites of rock frozen in time. They walk past what appears to be a dead end rock wall with a ledge but they see it turns to the left and there is further passage heading down into the mountain. “Someone must have dug this artificially… natural rock formations don’t work this way” says Drax.

“No kidding and look at this” says Tina pointing to an inscription on the wall in a foreign language underneath a set of rocks sticking out in a circle formation with a line drawn connecting them only in two spots.

“It looks like a clock” says Mercedes.

“The cave of time” whispers Maggie. “This is it.”

“This is the ancient language of the Pregivers” says Drax. “I recognize it anywhere.”

“Those feisty devils… we are in the right place” says Tina happily. “We seem to mean to be wandering around in caves though.”

“The Pregivers created these eons ago… things change over time” says Mercedes.

“So now what?” asks Tina.

“What does it say?” asks Maggie.

From the top to the bottom, the journey is long… there are treasures amongst you always, thirteen times you follow the song, whether ancient or future is where you belong.” Drax read the lines on the wall and translated slowly while touching it along with his fingers.

“Very catchy poem” says Tina.

“What could that mean, ‘follow the song’?” Mercedes asks.

“At least it mentioned thirteen just like Mrs. Claus’ verse in the paper” says Maggie.

“Thirteen colonies… thirteen times…” starts Mercedes.

“The thirteen colonies that formed the United States… maybe that’s why we’re here to warn our founding fathers the country they gave their lives for turned to a wasteland” says Tina forcefully.

“There is also a reference to treasure… there were thirteen sacred treasures of the Isle of Britain and Great Britain colonized America… I don’t know maybe there is a connection” inferred Maggie.

“Treasure of an ancient civilization” says Drax.

“Not just any civilization, ‘the most ancient civilization’” reminds Mercedes.

“Thank you” says Drax, “that suggests maybe treasures from the old world… the Mayas, the Incas, the Aztecs….”

“The oldest civilization…” starts Tina “the oldest known civilization in the Americas and one of the six sites where civilization originated independently and indigenously in the ancient world, flourishing between the 30th and 18th centuries BC were the Olmec Civilization pre-dating most other cultures in Mesoamerica by nearly two millennia.”

“Wow, you’re smart” says Tina.

“That’s our little historian” says Drax. “So what could the Olmecs have to do with this inventory of thirteen colonies…?”

“Didn’t we learn before that the Time Stone was created by the Pregivers who were part of a union of thirteen races…? That could be the connection” says Mercedes.

“Many people theorized and still believe the ancient cultures of our past had contact with extraterrestrials, so what if some of the Pregivers were alive when our race was first starting out?” Tina implies and asks.

“The inventory of the thirteen colonies could not be tied to our own immediate history as a nation but our origins as a civilization dating back to prehistory… the thirteen races or Pregivers had many treasures according to that cartouche we found and their treasure was given to our ancient ancestors. We are on the right track and must keep moving.” Drax lectured. “The poem on this wall says to go to the bottom, the journey is long.”

“So the thirteen races or times – ‘follow your song’ line is a continuation to find the treasure.” Mercedes assumes.

“How do we know this treasure will be the Crystal Link?” Tina asks.

“We just have to have faith. It seems that we are being led there by these clues and by the Santa parchment Sandrine read us” Mercedes indicates.

“And the last line…. ‘Whether ancient or future is where you belong’?” Maggie asks.

“Perhaps a reference to needing the Time Stone to get here as there doesn’t seem to be anyone left so anyone who would find it must need to come from the past or future….” Drax shrugs.

The foursome continued walking downward watching their steps as they descend the cavern carefully being drawn inch by inch to either extreme success or sudden death. They felt the darkness crawl on their skin as they moved downward and at a slope and then further downward at an even steeper slope.

“This is getting scary, how deep is this thing?” Tina beckons.

“It’s as deep as it gets” says Drax inching closer, “remember the journey is long.”

They walk forward going down, deeper and deeper and then Drax leading the way slides out of control down the rocky slope and stops as he approaches a deeper hole in the cavern and no other way across. He stops suddenly grabbing the wall to avoid falling and the rest follow suit as they stop abruptly.

“This is the end” Drax says. “It looks like a bottomless pit.”

“How do we get across?” asks Maggie.

“We don’t… it looks like down is the only way” Drax says.

“My readings suggest…” says Mercedes looking at her TTR, “the depth is over fifty feet… not too bad but we don’t know what down there… could be deadly toxic water is.”

“We came too far to be stopped now” says Tina.

Drax pulls out his radio receiver and speaks into it, “Major, we got a little situation… there appears to be a long drop in the cave. We cannot proceed. We may be returning but if you can read down there with the Stingray Truck’s sensors, we may be able to ‘beam spot’ down there.”

Then suddenly in front of the Stingray Truck, Major Bright and his men are facing a squadron of fifteen robot warriors with stronger armor and heavier and larger appearances hovering before them, their jet packs spewing blue flames behind them and they are aiming their blue-tipped lit rifles at the vessel. “Corporal, we have our own little situation over here” says Bright.

“What?” Tina asks overhearing.

“Major, what’s wrong?”

“We are facing those flying robot warriors again…. This time they seem to be larger and with heavier armor and there’s over a dozen and they are preparing to attack. I am activating the exterior ablative plating again over our initial protection plating.” Major Bright touches commands on his screen and the ship gets covered in another retractable metal sheath this time covering the windows and their view of the flying warriors. After another command, a televised visual of the flying robot warriors outside appears on the window screen viewed from the exterior cameras. Bright’s men get into their attack positions at their battle stations and prepare to fire the weapon at his command. “We are gonna fight if we have to” he gives the signal and upon inputting commands, the primary weapon on the Stingray Truck begins to charge up, a ball of electrical energy grows and intensifies as the flying robot warriors spread out and surround the vehicle. As the growing ball of energy prepares to fire, the flying robot warriors open fire and emit blue flames from their rifles on either side of the Stingray Truck which intensifies a hundred times hotter than what they faced before, this time blasting a hole directly through the Stingray Truck on either side, the back and the front in a horrific blast. The explosion triggers an interior alarm and the primary weapon break off before it could charge, falling down into the watery depths below. The Stingray Truck tilts and turns having suffered damage on all sides and breaches of its armor and hull on all sides. “We are hit…” screams Major Bright. “We have hull damage. We are in a tail spin. It’s out of control.” Bright yells, fear and panic strike his soul and his eyes light up with worry as all he sees on what part of the televised screen remains is fire and smoke, his men scatter out of control in a futile effort to repair whatever damage was caused, as the Stingray Truck twirls downward towards the water spiraling at rapid speed with a flaming orange tail of fire and smoke trailing behind it. The flying robot warriors continue firing as they follow the Stingray Truck downward in a “v” shaped attack formation and their simultaneous fire of blue flames and intense heat causes the Stingray Truck to explode in a horrific fireball with smoke and flames spewing for miles up into the already polluted atmosphere, the remaining debris from the Stingray Truck falling into the toxic water below. The flying robot warriors zoom off into the air above in formation.

“Major… Major” screams Drax. “Bright… are you there.”

“We all heard that, Milton… I think their gone” says Mercedes.

“No… those men” Maggie screams.

“This sucks” says Tina.

“Now we know why there aren’t too many people here, if any…” says Mercedes.

“Yeah, toxic environmental conditions and killer flying robot warriors” says Tina.

“Damn” Drax cries as he sheds a tear in solidarity for his fallen fellow soldiers. “This sucks big time, Tina.”

“They knew the risk… their sacrifice will not be forgotten” says Mercedes.

“Not to sound selfish or put light on things… but how are we gonna get out of here without that ride?” asks Tina.

“We should keep moving, for them, they would have wanted us to succeed on this mission” Maggie adds.

“I don’t know about you guys, but she’s right. I am gonna finish this. I am going down” Drax says wiping his tears and grabbing the rock below him with a determined grin. He takes out a rope from his belt and ties it strongly around his waist and hands it to Maggie. He starts to climb down carefully holding on to the rocks going inch by inch down the hole. Maggie ties the rope around her waist and joins Drax proceeding down inch by inch. Mercedes grabs the rope and follows suit tying it around her waist and then handing it to Tina who refuses. “I think someone should stay here to keep an eye out.” “We should stick together” says Mercedes. “I will be OK, heights are not really my thing… go and bring me back a cheeseburger if there is any” she jokes, “but I’ll settle for the Crystal Link.” She smiles and pats her friend on the back. “Good luck.” “You too” Mercedes replies smiling and then Mercedes ties the end of the rope to a still stalagmite on the far end of the rock face they occupied and then started to make her way down following the others inch by inch. The three, Drax, Maggie, and Mercedes made their way down the cavern in a human chain, inch by inch.

Meanwhile, Tina looked at the rope and saw it was secure and sat down with her legs crossed before her and began to meditate. She closed her eyes and wondered about those poor men being killed in that explosion. She wondered how bad things have gotten here and how maybe this future only exists because the Crystal Link was taken. “How could humanity’s future be so dependent on one object?” she wondered to herself. And it was something they caused to happen. She thought about the sequence of events involving their accidental intervention in the Birth of Jesus Christ and the first Christmas and now here, this might be their last Christmas unless they can find another way home. She gulps as she lets her mind transport her, take her away from this rocky place and into a peaceful state of being. She thought of James and how he last appeared to them in the castle where they met Maggie who was aged and known as the “Ice Princess”. She remembered how they interfered in the past. She concentrates on James’ visage for a moment and how he looked that day, all dressed in white, top hat and all, he even had a white cane. She ponders on him, a tear falling down her face as she meditates in this trance and suddenly she feels an immediate pull to every fiber of her being, her spiritual senses emerging, she feels tugged by some unknown force and an almost ethereal presence surrounds her full of warmth, joy, happiness, wisdom, and truth. When she opens her eyes, she sees him. “James” she screams joyfully jumping up from her meditative position and running over to him to hug him but walks right through him. “I gotta remember that as that’s the second time this happened” she utters to herself.

“Hello, old friend” says James wearing the bright white suit, top hate, and white can he held before. He smiles, surrounded by a halo of white light illuminating the cavern where they stood. He approaches her.

“When will you come back to us?” Tina cries.

“I told you I will always be with you” James says.

“I know… in spirit… I miss the old you in the flesh.”

“Treasure comes in all forms, and the physical is no different from the spiritual… existence is all that matters and how we use it” James instructed.

“I am not big on the philosophy, you know that but I am glad to have you in any form. We are stuck here, have to find something called the Crystal Link… there are killer flying robots after us and our friends are dead…” Tina utters in a crazed panic.

“I know it all. I am aware of what has been going on. I can tell you that you will find the treasure you seek. Remember the words you were taught. Look for answers in unexpected places.”

“I just feel lost sometimes without you, James. Why is it you only come during this time of year?”

“I know that too. I wish I could do more. I have limits despite the great power at my disposal. I am only free to appear to mortals on this date. It is a very special date as you know. You were there.”

“Yeah, and we seem destined to get mixed up with it again.”

“Know this, our journey together was only the beginning and there are many more adventures awaiting us. Time is no limit and truth is your ultimate salvation…” then suddenly a flash of red smoke and fiery light materializes briefly and fades revealing a devilish creature with a suit, hat, and cane similar to James but all in red and black trimmings. He had red skin and horns, a long tail, and hooves on arched feet. He had a smile of evil, sinister and perplexing. James and Tina turn in shock as the devilish creature looms forward towards them.

“Oh no, it’s Ranclir…” says James.

“Who is that?” Tina asks.

Ranclir licks his lips as he approaches, his tongue curved and split in the middle like a snake. He lunges at the due and James wraps his arms around Tina and vanishes with her in an instant whirl of white light. Ranclir vanishes in his puff of red light and smoke.

Down in the bottom of the cavern hole, Drax, Mercedes, and Maggie arrive and untie themselves. They look about with their flashlights and see more cave writing. Drax walks up to it to attempt to decipher it when suddenly a white light appears and James and Tina emerge from the light.

“Oh my God” says Mercedes. “James….”

“You’re back, buddy” says Drax turning.

“This guys cute, I’m Maggie.”

“We got trouble” screams Tina.

A puff of red smoke and light appears in the cavern and Ranclir emerges and lunges at them. Drax tries to swing at the devilish man but his fist passes right through him and he lands on the rock on the other side. Mercedes pulls out her pistol and fires it at Ranclir but it passes through him and Ranclir strikes it away from her and pushes her to the side. Maggie runs to help them. Tina hides behinds James. “What do we do?” Tina asks. “I got this” says James as he looks forward as Ranclir approaches and a stream of white light emerges from James’ eyes striking Ranclir in the face knocking him backwards and then James continues this assault moving forward and knocking the devilish one back. With one hand, James grabs Ranclir and tosses him over his shoulder with a full body slam and drops him on the side on the cave floor, then stares into him again emitting the same beams of white light from his eyes as Ranclir screams with agony and pain until he vanishes in a puff of red smoke and light and doesn’t return. James turns to his friends and asks “is everyone alright?”

“Yeah, thanks to you” says Tina running up to him.

“That was so close” says Mercedes, “an ethereal bad guy, how odd?”

“What was that?” asks Drax as he rose to his feet.

“It seemed like the devil” says Maggie.

“It is close” says James. They are known as ‘the time masters’ ancient adversaries of the Pregivers, defeated and banished long ago. Think of it like this. If the realm I am in is what you would consider as heaven, then the realm they were banished to would be what you would consider as hell. We sort of exist symbiotically like the balance in nature, good versus evil and all that. My being here summoned Ranclir so it’s not a good thing that I stay very long.”

“That sucks but interesting analogy, buddy” says Tina. “Your powers have definitely evolved since we last knew one another.”

“James, it is good to see you again” says Drax approaching him.

“Yeah” says Mercedes. “We could use your help, actually.”

“I cannot get too involved in this. I already interfered enough. I can tell you that you are closer than ever to accomplishing your mission here. Just look to the moon and stars for answers and everything becomes clear.” He winks his right eye. “Also, be careful who you trust. I will always be with you all.” James says and then vanishes in a white light.

“He’s always leaving us like that” says Tina sadly. “Let’s find the Crystal Link.”

“Let’s get this over with” says Maggie.

Drax walks over to the wall. “There are a lot of drawings and writings this time, all high relief like the others, all in the ancient Pregiver language. I am glad I had time to study the writings we found before. I think I am getting fluent.”

“You could give a lecture on it later. What does it say?” Tina asks.

“Anyway, it says … ahem… ‘you have reached your goal… the item you wish is at hand, the power of the ages, an infinity gift at your whim, remember great power holds eternal responsibility for those clever enough to find the key.”

“What?” Mercedes wonders. “What key?”

“Maybe there is another step to this journey after all” says Maggie.

“There are a lot of passages here Drax… look at this one” says Tina pointing up. “I think it says something about ‘water or flying bird or something.”

“You read Pregiver?” asks Maggie to Tina.

“I studied the writings we found in the caves as well but I don’t think I am as fluent as Drax … yet.”

Drax smiles looking up to where Tina pointed, “well you are right… it’s something about … holy crap… we got to get out of here… go back up to the precipice.”

“Why?” Mercedes inquires.

“I think I solved it” Drax responds.

“Huh?” questions Tina.

“We gotta go way back there” Maggie says tired.

“What about the rest of these deciphering?” Tina asks.

“I got it” says Mercedes scanning the room with her TTR. “It’s saved for later processing and translating. Let’s go. Follow the leader, Drax.” She beckons for him to start the climb. They tie themselves together again this time with one more and climb up to the top.

Inch by inch, they make their way to the top this time feeling the need to move faster having lived through it once. Tina feels like she is being dragged along as they climb with her at the end in tow. “Wait up guys.” Tina yells as she is struggling to maintain her balance on the rocks. After a long and arduous climb, they make it to the top with Drax reaching the top and climbing out and helping them all up. They walk following Drax back through the long slopes and up and up and feeling determined as ever. “Wow, this is not for the out-of-shape” says Tina sweating profusely. “You should hit the gym back at the base more often” comments Mercedes. “Come on and stay with me” says Drax marching up with wide steps proudly and without resistance. After a long and arduous climb, they make it back to the initial entrance and walk past the clock on the wall and out of the cavern to the night sky where they look up and think they see twinkling stars amidst all the pollutants and carbon-monoxide in the atmosphere.

“Well at least the stars are out” says Tina looking up.

“They aren’t stars… the atmosphere is poisoned beyond belief and what you see is cosmic dust trapped there after some kind of debris fell into the atmosphere long ago” Drax lectures looking around.

“It’s true” says Mercedes. “Their tiny presence means they can only be seen at night.”

“Besides it’s not up we should be looking at, there.” Drax looks at the water below the precipice pointing down. “I can’t believe we missed it initially.”

Mercedes, Maggie, and Tina all look down at the water over the precipice with him. They stand in stunned shock.

“I can’t believe the Stingray Truck missed it” says Maggie.

“It must have been concealed by the atmospheric toxins and bad environmental conditions during the day… now it is plain as day or night with the tide rising under the full moon” Mercedes says.

“Wow” says Tina.

They look down at a series of rocks in the water forming a skull and cross bones, as if viewed from an aerial position on a map. “From the eye of an eagle you will find the key…” Drax uttered the lines from Sandrine’s parchment.

“That is so amazing” says Tina.

“The great decipherer Pirate Danger Wohnee …” says Mercedes nodding.

“So now… what do we do? Where is the actual key? We can’t go in the water.” Maggie speaks confused.

“We don’t have to.” Drax smiles as he turns and looks around and bends down to pick up a rock. He tosses it up and catches it in his hand once to test its weight and then with a fireball throw, he tosses it down into the skull hitting it right in the center of the right eye. Seconds pass and everyone looks about confused but then the ground begins to move and shake, rocks rumble. “Everyone holds on” says Drax and everyone grabs hold of the rock away from the precipice. The mountain begins to move and within seconds, they notice the skull and crossbones rock formation is slowly raising itself up and soon they are facing the skull and crossbones rock formation from below that has risen to their level above.

“How did you know that would happen? Tina asks.

Drax looks at her and smiles. “Something James said about the answer being in the stars and his wink of his right eye before he left gave me all the clues I needed. When I saw the cartouche you pointed out, it all clicked. The key is here.”

“Looks like we are clever enough to find it, ha, ha” says Tina.

“Thanks be to God… and James” says Mercedes.

“This is so incredibly amazing” says Maggie.

“Let’s go” says Drax leading his crew onto the skull and crossbones platform and looking inside the right eye of the skull, they see a small pedestal with something shining inside. Drax takes another step towards the eye and the small pedestal instantly rises on its own to the surface of the eye. Drax reaches down and grabs the shining object, a key.

“Looks like one of those old 17th century keys but looks brand new and shiny” says Tina.

“Where do you think it unlocks?” Mercedes asks.

“I hope we don’t have to go back down there” says Maggie.

“No, I don’t think so… what does the rest of the poem say?”
“After the ‘find the key’ line?” asks Mercedes. “The parchment read ‘the great decipherer Pirate Danger Wohnee’… so what does this mean? Huh?”

“He was more than just a decipherer…” says Drax.

“He is the key…” says Tina. “The key fits in the other eye!!!”

“Right” says Drax and they head over to the second eye.

“He is the pirate … see I am good for something” says Tina.

“Yes you are” says Drax. “You’re a great detective!”

“We all have our usefulness” says Mercedes.

“Yeah… uh” says Maggie looking away.

Drax happily bends down to the left eye but then turns and hands the key to Tina. “Why don’t you do the honors, Madam Detective?”

“Thanks” Tina says grabbing the key and bending over inserting it in the dark hole of the left eye. Ahhhh” she mimics electrocution.

“Are you OK?” screams Maggie questioningly.

“Just joking” says Tina.

“Not very funny” says Maggie.

“OK” says Tina injecting the key and feeling something click. “I got it” she says turning the key to the left and then jumping up as a bright white light accompanied by a loud whooshing sound spits out from the darkness of the eye spewing up into the night air.

“Whoa” says Tina as she and the other stare into the light that finishes coming out and then what emerges is a solid crystalline unearthly object the size of a bowling trophy and curved at the center with two larger pedestal handles on each side made of the same strange unearthly material making it seem like a big “I” shape.

“That’s the Crystal Link” screams Maggie. “We did it!”

“Yes” says Mercedes.

“Grab it” says Drax.

“I got it” Tina reaches for it and runs over to the precipice followed by the others. “This is what we went through so much trouble to find? Looks plain.”

“But awesome” says Maggie.

“It is the power of the infinity, of God” says Mercedes.

“We should get out of here, now” orders Drax.

“How?” says Tina.

“Using the Crystal Link to take it home” says Maggie.

“You mean take it back to the North Pole” says Mercedes. “We promised and it is needed there where it belongs.”

“Christmas is saved” says Tina. Then suddenly two large-armored flying robots zoom up the mountain and face the foursome over the precipice, their jetpacks spitting out blue flames and they hold their rifles at the group. “Maybe not yet” says Tina shyly.

Drax and Mercedes draw their pistols and shoot two laser blasts at the two robots but the blasts do not penetrate their armor. The two robots begin to prepare their firing sequence and the blue tip at the end of their rifles intensifies incredibly. “Holy crap… we know what that means” says Drax. “Duck” says Mercedes as she and Drax and Maggie drop to the ground. “Get down, Tina” says Maggie. Tina looks at the Crystal Link mesmerized by its beauty and power and holds it up high above her head with her eyes closed and mind focused on faith while aiming it at the two robots as they fire their blue flames coming towards them, the Crystal Link lights up brightly spreading out like a star in the heavens and blocks and deflects the blue flames sending them back towards the rifles and flying robots followed by a stream of hot white energy flowing from the Crystal Link directly to the flying robots and passing through them out into the skies and beyond the atmosphere into the outer space beyond. The two flying robots mechanically squirm in the light and deteriorate under the immense pressure into nothing. The light fades and Tina lowers her hands and turns to her friends. “And that’s how you kick some butt” she utters looking at the Crystal Link as they all rose to their feet.

“That really is powerful, there is ‘Christmas magic’” says Maggie.

“Truly the work of a higher power, indeed” says Mercedes.

“Well done, Tina” says Drax smiling. “I am proud of you.”

“Thanks” says Tina.

“How did you know what to do?” asks Mercedes.

“Something about faith and believing in yourself… good friends always inspired that in me” she smiles looking at them and thinking of James. “Now let’s go home” utters Tina smiling as she holds up the Crystal Link high above her head and walks towards her friends with her eyes closed and mind set on her faith. The white light emits from the Crystal Link causing the four to instantly vanish in a field bubble of white and green energy leaving the empty precipice where they once stood.

In The North Pole, Time: Unknown

“You have returned” says Sandrine proudly standing in the workshop without any damage and the Crystal Link placed back in the clear cutaway in the fabric of the wooden interior. She stares at it “that is where it once rested and where it shall rest forever more.”

“Well done, the Crystal Link is home at last just in time for Christmas” says Santa laughing with his belly jiggling as he puffs his candy pipe. “You Time Jumpers truly are amazing heroes; you have saved Christmas yet again.”

“Our pleasure, Santa” says Drax with his friends behind him smiling, “Merry Christmas!”

“Order has been restored… Order has been restored. Long Live The Time Jumpers.” The elves chant over and over as they hop up and down with glee.

Chronix Bay, Time: December 25, 2015

Drax, Mercedes, and Tina are back at the base conference room waiting for General Stormy to enter for debriefing.

“We did again… Christmas is safe” says Tina.

“Yeah but at what cost?” asks Drax. “Five good men are dead and a billion dollars worth of technology destroyed and we lost the Time Stone.”

“Is this the end of our travels?” asks Mercedes.

“I don’t think so… we always find the Time Stone somehow and use it when it is most needed … and Major Bright and the others will be missed and remembered for sure… and I am sure they will build another Stingray Truck or something better. Who knows?”

“Yeah, it was sure nice of Santa to drop us off back home during his yearly run” says Mercedes smiling. “I guess we could put that childhood superstition to rest, he does exist. There really is a Santa Claus.”

“And there almost wasn’t” says Drax.

“He is just the source of alien technology from our Pregiver friends who we never really met but know a whole lot about. And he is a byproduct of our meddling in time with the Wind Stone and the Time Stone; I wonder how many of them really are out there?” Tina rants on. “The Crystal Link is home where it belongs, truly ultimate power partly of our making….”

“And God’s” says Mercedes.

“I definitely have faith in that” says Tina. “We helped and contributed to the origin of Santa Claus. But truthfully he is more than a person or the sense of joy and wisdom spread by the Crystal Link, he is the spirit of generosity that touches us this time of year when we can be closer to our fellow man, friends, and family and truly believe we have each other’s backs through anything. In that sense, one can truly say emphatically that there is a Santa Claus.”

“Yeah” says Drax quietly.

“I wonder if we will see those flying robots again or if we will see Santa and his crew again…” says Tina.

General Stormy enters the room and everyone rises to their feet. “Please be seated” he sits as does everyone else. “This will be short in light of the holiday season. I read your report, Corporal. I just wanted to personally congratulate the three of you for your valiant efforts once again. I know it was hard and we as a whole organization suffered a serious loss with the death of Major Bright and his men, the Scrooge, and the Time Stone but these setbacks will not stop us from moving forward and the sacrifices of these men will not be forgotten. As we speak steps are being taken to incorporate them in a new memorial on the steps of city hall. No one can know what really happened but we will know… always and the world will appreciate their efforts and sacrifice. I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, now get out of here!” He smiles.

“Thanks” says Tina smiling as she and her friends rose to leave with a renewed sense of encouragement.

“By the way, where is Miss Wilcox…?” asked General Stormy.

“Taiwan” says Drax.

“I mean the other Miss Wilcox?” asks General Stormy. “What happened to her wasn’t in your report!”

“She is gone, Sir …” says Drax.

Chronix Bay, Time: December 24, 2015, 11:59 pm

“You lied to us again after you said you didn’t” says Drax with his arms crossed as he stood in front of Maggie in a café, Mercedes and Tina next to him.

“I was just trying to do something … I didn’t have a purpose or nothing to fight for… so I had to do something” she looks at them with straight eyes “but I never meant to hurt you guys or lie to you again… and again!”

“Five men are dead, Maggie” Drax whispers to her.

“I am so sorry… I didn’t want any of that to happen.”

“So you knew who took the Crystal Link all along and led us on this… goose chase” says Tina waving her hands up.

“That’s not cool at all, Maggie… not what you were trained or raised for” says Mercedes.

“What do you guys know what I was raised for? To you, I am still an infant. But a lot has happened over the years and I have learned a great deal. You do not want to test me, Time Jumpers!” Maggie speaks fiercely and adamantly. “You forget I was a great witch in another time, I was… no, I am the Ice Princess.”

“Get out of here and never return” Drax says with grit and determination.

“She doesn’t have the Time Stone” says Tina.

“I don’t need it” Maggie utters as she then speaks words in a strange alien language while she pulls out a ring from her pocket, a silver ring with a green jewel embedded into it. “I could not have the Crystal Link this time but time is an oyster and there are always second chances” she jumps back and holds the ring out in front of her and upon another alien chant emits from it a yellow stream of energy that bursts into the roar of the temporal wormhole before them.

“How did she do that?” says Mercedes.

“Beats me” says Tina.

“I curse the ground you walk on and may nothing but death and sorrow be amongst you…” Maggie utters with another alien word on her tongue and then runs towards the temporal wormhole and upon contact forms a ball of light and gets absorbed into it before it collapses on itself.

“I remember the old Maggie from another time with that ring but I didn’t think anything of it” says Mercedes shaking her head.

“I can’t believe she played us after we were good to her all those times” says Drax.

“She is a major … you know what!” Tina utters.

“Without the Time Stone we can’t go after her or go back to the past to put things right” Mercedes says. “And somehow she had that fragment all along.”

“We did put things right but restoring the world with Christmas and preserved mankind’s future because without joy and wisdom that the Crystal Link brings there wasn’t a future worth living” says Drax. “We will get the Time Stone back somehow.”

“We learned a lot” says Tina, “about protecting our environment and the need to recycle and all.”

“Yes” says Mercedes as they walk along the street when they suddenly hear a nose from the back of an alley and see a flash of yellow whirling light for only a split second. “What was that?”

“It looks like the temporal wormhole again” says Tina, “look” she runs over and comes back smiling holding out her hands to her friends proudly displaying the Time Stone in full. “We got it back!”

“How?” Mercedes asks shocked.

“I guess we got ourselves a guardian angel of sorts” says Drax.

“I guess we do” says Mercedes.

“I know we do… his name is James Timewalker” says Tina smiling. “Let’s go and celebrate this good fortune.”

“So, what shall we do for Christmas?” asks Mercedes.

“You girls can find something. I got a hot date, remember” says Drax “but I think time with good friends is more important on Christmas … no not good friends…” he smiles “family.”

“To family” says Mercedes.

“We are family” says Tina as the trio walked away under the crescent quarter moon on this Christmas day.

Ancient China, 1675 B.C.

In a small hut made of bamboo and weeds, the floor is sullen earth and the wind blows inward calming the mood inside. Maggie walks across the room wearing a kimono and her hair knotted up in a traditional Chinese bun. She still wears the ring with the Time Stone fragment. She opens the door and a Culto warrior walks in and as she closes the door behind him, he removes his mask revealing his blue skin and bald head.

“Welcome back Orelius, my sweetheart!” Maggie lunges at him and throws her arms around his neck, lifts her bare leg and they kiss passionately and then look at one another lovingly with sinister glares in their eyes.

“Merry Christmas” Orelius barks as he holds Maggie tightly.

The End!

82

 


The Time Stone: Another Christmas Legend!

The Time Stone Team reunite with their old friend Maggie Wilcox and embark on an adventure to once again save the spirit of Christmas by using the Time Stone and new equipment and friends to find a miraculous and powerful relic that ties to their last Christmas adventure and the future of humanity. In the process discover the truth about ancient joy and wisdom surrounding one of Christmas' powerful symbols and childhood fantasy answering the age old question once and for all, yes there is a Santa Claus.

  • Author: Jeffrey Estrella
  • Published: 2015-10-20 23:50:08
  • Words: 19525
The Time Stone: Another Christmas Legend! The Time Stone: Another Christmas Legend!