Out of Time
By Chris Van Deelen
Unlike the first time Maverick experienced the quantum influx of Matter Transmission, he found his mind fully aware of what was happening to him. Or at least that is how he perceived the jump.
This time his entire body felt like someone had dipped it in molten lead. Agony unlike anything he ever experienced in his long years of travelling the Deathlands seemed to drag white-hot pokers across every nerve in his body.
He tried to scream, but no sound escaped. He was aware of his companions all around him, even if he couldn't see them. Despite the intensity of the pain, he wondered if they were sharing the same hellish experience or not.
Then suddenly, as if a giant hand had engulfed his transient form, he felt himself being pulled away from his companions. He desperately tried to reach out to them, but his ghost like form had no means of manipulation.
The pain, if at all possible, increased ten fold. Just as his mind was about to crack from the weight of the inhuman agony, it ended as suddenly as it began. He felt whole once more.
Tentatively he reached up and touched his face with his right hand. Fingers caressed the three days growth of stubble on his chin. "Fireblast! That was one experience that I could have done without." He said out loud. His hands went to check that his weapons were still at his side. Then he adjusted the baseball cap with the embroidered image of a three headed dog on its front. "Everyone ok?"
Maverick opened his eyes.
"Oh Christ." Was all he could think of saying. The Mat trans chamber was empty. His mind noted that unlike the redoubt they just vacated, the walls of this Matter Transmitter chamber are brown tinted.
He stood up quickly and nearly swooned. A wave of Nausea swept over him and forced him to lean against the wall. "Shit, somethin' went triple wrong. Where the fuck are the others?"
"What others are you referring to my time travelling friend?" A voice called out, penetrating the nausea.
Maverick reacted with the speed of a man who spent most of his life living in the hellzones of the Deathlands. His IMI Desert eagle was out and aimed in the same direction the voice came from. The scarred survivalist opened his gray eyes.
An ancient East Indian man sat casually in a wheelchair before the entrance of the gateway. His deep blue eyes shone with wonderment but didn't betray any hostile intentions. The old man didn't seem at all concerned that the bore of Maverick's blaster was trained on his face. He wanted to squeeze the trigger of the big bored blaster but was unable to. The old man seated in the wheelchair looked like a squad of sec men had worked him over rather well.
"Where the fuck am I?" Maverick growled. The icy hand of fear gripped his heart and squeezed, but he refused to let the emotion register on his face. The blaster never wavered from his target.
The old man smiled at him. "Why, you are in Cerberus my friend. I couldn't sleep so I figured I might as well do something constructive. With Kane, Brigid and Salvo back in the past, I just had to continue with the experiments."
Maverick lowered his blaster so that the barrel was aimed at the floor. "Experiments? What the fireblasted hell are you talking about old man?"
"Please, call me Lakesh." The wizened figure of a man said, his blue eyes twinkling mischievously. "And would you be so kind as to tell me your name my warrior friend?"
For a split second the scarred survivalist considered lying and giving the man a fake name. But it didn't help him in the past, and for some reason he just didn't want to with the frail figure of humanity. "Name's Brett Maverick."
Lakesh chuckled. "I am very pleased to meet you friend Maverick." He offered his hand to the big man. "Forgive me if I don't rise to the occasion, but I have been ordered by my personal physician to take it easy for the next few days."
He stared at the offered hand. The old man seemed far too friendly for his liking. But something in the back of his mind told him that the feeble man before him was not a threat. Once again, he figured that he would trust his instincts once again. They had yet to fail him.
Maverick's huge hand engulfed Lakesh's. He squeezed gently, fearful that his strength would snap the bird thin bones like twigs. He was a little surprised at the grip the old man returned.
"Friend Maverick, would you put away your weapon? You have nothing to fear from me."
Reluctantly he slid the blaster back into the holster, but didn't bother to secure the flap. Better to be safe than sorry. "Where are my friends?"
The old man wheeled himself over to a computer council. The speed that he typed at showed a vigor of someone half his age. But then again in the Deathlands, nothing is ever what it seems. "Let me check for you." He typed a few more commands and looked over his shoulder. "Your friends are arrived at Redoubt Whisky safe and sound nearly one hundred years ago."
"What?" Maverick shouted in surprise.
"Yes, in fact, once we are finished with our little discussion I shall send you back as well. You will arrive unharmed at exactly the same time that they are."
"I'm in the future?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes friend Maverick. The year is 2198 by the old predark calendar." The old man pulled away from the council and leaned back.
The scarred warrior leaned against the armaglass wall of the mat trans. "This is un-fucking believable. First god damned time that I tried to use the mat trans my friends and I arrived back in the past, about a week before the skydark. We were on our way home. Now I find myself one hundred years in the future." He pressed the palms of his hands against his eyes.
"How did you find out about the matter transmitters in the first place?" He pointed his age spotted finger at the cap Maverick wore. "I know that you must have gotten that cap from one of the redoubts. Only personnel connected to Cerberus were given them.
Maverick fingered the rim of the cap. "Why the fireblasted hell should I tell you? Besides, the man who I got the cap off wouldn't need it. He was fucking dead!" He snaps, not caring if he angered the old man or not.
Lakesh frowned slightly as he pushed himself away from the terminal. He figured that It was pointless to push the point with the cap. "Why is it that all you warriors are so rude? I have to put up with this sort of thing with Friend Kane all the time." He sighed as he shook his head. He looked up at the big man with his blue eyes. "Why not tell me Friend Maverick? After all, the fact that I intercepted your quantum stream means that I could easily control what happened to you. I have not intention of harming you in any way. I would just like to get to know you a little before I send you home, that is all."
Maverick then did something that he has rarely done in the past. "Look. I'm triple sorry about being such a Outlander asshole to you." He leaned heavily against the armaglass wall and closed his eyes. "I'm just so tired. I've never been through such hell as I have been over the past couple of weeks.
The door to the control room opened a mere three inches. Lakesh looked at it and waved his wrinkled brown skinned hand. He silently mouthed the words 'I'm safe dearest, go back and get your sleep'. He watched as the albino girl, Domi, holstered the big blaster, a Detonic's combat master. She didn't budge an inch. Lakesh knew that it would be pointless to argue with her so he turned his attention back to the newcomer.
Lakesh sat perfectly still, allowing the man to speak uninterrupted. When it became obvious that he wasn't going to continue, he clears his throat. "Please continue friend Maverick. What has happened to you?"
He reluctantly began to tell the other man what had happened over the past few weeks. The loss of his leader and then the Traders' two war chiefs, How he stumbled upon the hidden redoubt and the discovery of the mutant girl in Cryonic suspension.
A light the intensity of the sun appeared in the old mans eyes. "Ah, the girl Gedoena!" Lakesh clapped delightedly. "I remember her well! The fools thought that they were breaking the dimensional barrier, but how wrong they were. With all the data that I have recently acquired thanks to Dearest Brigid, Domi, Friend Kane and Grant, I believe that I could "He noticed the scarred warrior staring at him without a hint of comprehension.
"I am sorry Friend Maverick, I sometimes allow my enthusiasm to get the better of me. Would you be interested to learn what happened to your friends? Ryan Cawdor and J.B. Dix?"
He blinked and shook his head. "You mean that they didn't die after all? How the hell do you know about that old man?"
Once again, Lakesh frowned slightly but decided to ignore the slight insult. "They, as well as several others used the mat trans unit here, and we have discovered that they have been in dozens of others around the country as well."
"Just where the hell this redoubt located anyhow?" Maverick Demanded.
" We are in the Darks of Montana."
"The Darks? But that is where we lost Trader, and the others. Hell, my home is only a couple of hundred miles away from here."
Lakesh nodded. "Ah, yes, the Darks. That is what this mountain range became known as after the skydark. We have determined that this was the first redoubt that your friends had used when they discovered the mat trans system. That was one hundred and two years ago."
The man shook his head as he smiled. "I can't believe that they survived after all. It's no fireblasted wonder they never came back after the hundred hours passed. They were somewhere else at the time.
"Would you like to know where?" Lakesh asked gently.
Maverick eyed the old man. "Yeah, what the hell. I would."
"They arrived in redoubt Zulu, near Anchorage Alaska. It was all recorded in the memory of the mat trans memory banks."
"I hope that I can eventually find them again. Be good to get back with the old group once again. Mebbe we can pick up where Trader left off. Especially now that " He shut his mouth, realizing that he had said too much.
Lakesh ignored Maverick's slipup. "Please friend Maverick, continue with your story."
Maverick picked up from where he left off, telling the old man how they found the redoubt and attempted to use it to jump to California, but were instead propelled back in time, and their recent battles with the scientist Spint.
He culminates the narration with their witnessing the skydark on the orbiting weapons platform before they finally returned to the redoubt, then made the jump back to their own time.
Lakesh nods in understanding. "I see your point. You must be tired. Would you like a meal and a place to rest for a couple of days before I send you home?"
Maverick waved his hand. "No thanks. The meal would be nice, but I don't feel all that hot when I make the jumps. I dont want to end up hurling all over the place."
"You'll have plenty of time to digest your meal before you return back to your own time." Lakesh beamed. "I want you to stay with us for at least twelve hours and get some rest."
"No!" Maverick snapped. I want to go back to my own time. The others will be wondering what the fireblasted hell happened to me." He turned and opened the gateway door.
Lakesh actually started to laugh. "That is not going to be a problem friend Maverick. You will arrive at the same time as your friends! That is the beauty of time travel. You could stay here with us for years and I could send you back to the past so that you arrive at exactly the same time!
Maverick stepped into the chamber, his hand on the handle. "I just want to go home, and now."
Lakesh spread his hands in apology. "I'm sorry friend Maverick, but that is just not possible right now. Your jump overheated the coils of the mat trans unit so I have to allow them to cool down. They will not work until they have returned to their proper temperature. I'm sorry, but you are stuck here for the time being." It was a blatant lie, but he knew Maverick wouldn't push the point. Why would the other man have cause to doubt what he was saying?
The big warrior stepped out of the chamber and walked over to the control panel. He hit the LD button on the panel and returned to the chamber. "We'll see about that Lakesh. Nice to meet ya, but I have a date with my woman that I plan to keep." He closed the door and heard the satisfying click of the solenoids. He took the exact same position that he was sitting in when they had jumped earlier. He waited for the disks to start glowing. And waited.
"Shit!" He roared as he slammed his fist against the wall. He leaped to his feet and threw open the door to the anteroom.
"I'm sorry friend Maverick, but you have no choice but to spend the next twelve hours with me as my guest. If I had a choice, I would personally set the co-ordinates for you and return you to your friends right this instant, but I can't." He silently thanked his forsight to shut down the controls before the man exited the chamber. He pointed at the handles on the back of the wheelchair. "Would you be so kind?"
Scowling Maverick grabbed the handles of the chair and wheeled the old man over to the door. Lakesh opened it and they stepped out into the corridor. Maverick immediately noticed a sign which stated 'Entry Absolutely Forbidden to All but B12 Personnel'. He considered asking the old man what it meant, but kept the question to himself.
Lakesh glanced down the corridor. He knew that Domi wouldn't be far behind but the girl knew enough to stay out of sight. Even with her shoulder still mending from the bullet wound she took, her instincts honed from living in the outlands for most of her short life kicked in. She wouldn't allow the big man to harm Lakesh. If he raised a hostile hand to the old man she would put a hollow point between his eyes.
As they walk through the base, Maverick notices how quiet things are. Even the corridors are dim. He glances at his wrist Chron. It showed him that it was actually a little after two in the afternoon. "Lakesh, you said that it was the middle of the night. What time is it exactly?"
Lakesh looked up, as if his train of thought had been broken. "Hmm? Oh, I am sorry friend Maverick. It's about four AM right now. Everyone in the redoubt, including Balam should be asleep right now."
The big man paused. Balam? Why does just the name itself send shivers of dread down his spine he wondered. Lakesh seemed to notice the pause.
"Is there something wrong friend Maverick?
The big man shook his head then realized that Lakesh wouldn't be able to see it. "Nothing. Just felt like someone walked over my grave that's all."
Lakesh shrugged his thin shoulders and they continued. The pair walked without speaking, except for the occasion direction given by Lakesh. But the walk wasn't in complete silence though. Lakesh hummed a tune right up until they reached the mess hall. Maverick pushed open the door, allowing the old man to wheel himself inside.
"What was that tune you were humming?" He asked, letting his curiosity get the better of him once again.
The old man smiled. "It's a song that predates the Skydark. From the mid nineteen sixties. It's called Natchez to New Orleans/Living on Jacks and Queens."
"Oh." Answered the scarred man, looking more than a little perplexed. "Nice tune."
"I like it." Lakesh pushed away from the other man and wheeled over to the table. "What would you like to eat friend Maverick?"
The big man shrugged. "How about some self heats? I was always partial to that lasagna."
With surprise, the old man looked up at the younger warrior. "You must be joking my friend. Why eat that when we have real food to eat?"
"What's wrong with self heats?" Maverick said, a little more defensively than he had wanted to.
"I wouldn't consider that to be real food. I'd rather eat the packaging that they came in than what they typically contained."
Maverick cocked his head and looked at the old man in surprise. "You would? Shit! I thought that I had some strange eating habits. What the hell does everyone have against them anyhow? I happen to like self heats."
Lakesh waved his hand, dismissing the entire matter. "To each his own." He stepped out of his wheel chair rather unsteadily.
Without realizing what he was doing, Maverick was out of his seat and over next to the ancient man, one hand on his elbow. "Careful, ya don't want to hurt yourself."
"Many thanks friend Maverick. I am still rather weak. It has been a very, shall we say, unpleasant week." The old man straightened up and walked over to the kitchen portion of the mess hall. "Come friend Maverick, allow me to prepare you a home cooked meal for a change. While I am cooking, I can fill you in on all the details of what happened the years following your return to redoubt Whiskey."
Reluctantly Maverick took a seat near the kitchen. For some reason he couldn't fathom, he wanted to help the old man. Just something about him that brought out the protective instinct in him.
"Sure. Fill me in. And while we're at it, tell me the locations of some of the undiscovered redoubts. I want to make a name for myself."
Lakesh Chuckled as he began to put together the ingredients for a meal. "Sure my friend. Anything you wish." Lakesh then began to speak about the history of the Deathlands, how it was formed, as well as the events that lead up to the unification program. He explained that about ten years into Maverick's future the legends tell that Ryan Cawdor returned to rule Front Royal. Here he set up the first meetings to re-unify the baronies over the Deathlands.
The Archons got involved in the talks, and what Cawdor learned caused him to renounce the unification program and raise armies unlike what has been seen in the Deathlands since before the Skydark. He tried to battle the other baronies, but failed.
Maverick listened in stunned silence. The old man was talking about events that were, to him, ancient history. But to Maverick, they were his future. Could it be true? Did Ryan Cawdor actually find that gateway? Was the Gateway nothing but the Mat Trans units? Obviously, something happened and he wasn't killed a couple of months ago.
"Are you talking about the Ryan Cawdor that used to ride with Trader?" Maverick queried. He closed his eyes and tried to mentally digest what had been told to him. Too much information, way too many questions raised because of it.
The old man nodded as he mixed fresh vegetables together. "That is what the legends and stories said. Over the years after he was separated from Trader and the war wags, it was said that he traveled from one end of the Deathlands and beyond using the Mat Trans. JB Dix, Krysty Wroth, Dr. Mildred Wyeth, his Son Dean, the albino Jak Lauren, and the first successful victim of time trawling, Dr. Theopolis Tanner were his constant companions.
"As the stories go, they were nomads, constantly travelling looking for a safe haven to settle down and raise their families. But I guess that he never did find it, so instead he decided to go back to Front Royal and take over as the Baron."
"Why Front Royal?" Maverick asked as he sipped a cup of real coffee.
"Simple friend Maverick. He was the son of the baron! Well, the only surviving son. Long story, and there are too many gaps in it. Only thing we know for certain is that his father was killed by his older brother, and he eventually killed his older brother. We guess that he helped his nephew take control of the ville."
The big survivalist sputtered and began to choke on the coffee. He slammed his fist against his chest several times. "Christ, you mean to tell me that Ryan Cawdor was the son of a Baron?" He leaned back against the counter and shook his head. "Dark night, it's no wonder that he never talked about his past."
Lakesh placed the plate of tossed salad on the table. "Why not enjoy an appetizer before the main meal?" He waited for several seconds until the big man finally took his seat. "Everyone has their secrets that they won't even tell their closest confidants, parents or even lovers. That must have been one of his, I would have to guess."
The old man took a seat across from Maverick and they ate in silence. That suited Maverick just fine. He had a great deal to think about. The thought of the still hidden redoubts and predark tech was still in the back of his mind.
Lakesh lifted his fork and pointed it at Maverick. "It turns out that I nearly died due to Ryan Cawdor's and Mildred Wyeth interference. They got into, shall we say, a little altercation with the provisional government in the Anthill complex, located inside Mount Rushmore."
Maverick blinked twice and then sputtered. "There's a fucking redoubt inside Rushmore? I used to run cattle near there when I was a kid! I'd never have known."
"True enough friend Maverick. At that time the inhabitants were keeping a very low profile. It wasn't until they made the mistake of creating an alliance with a man named Lars Hellstrom that things went bad. Needless to say, I, as well as many of my fellow freezies, nearly perished. But fortunately, the damage that Cawdor and Wyeth caused wasn't as bad as first feared.
"When I get back to my own time, I'll have to pay them a visit." Maverick commented.
"No!" The old man practically shouted, as he half stood out of his seat. Maverick stopped eating and stared at the old man.
"Why the hell not?" He demanded, as he pushed his empty plate away from him. "Christ, you damn well told me where they were."
Lakesh slowly sat back down. He sat still for several seconds. "Because if you paid them a visit, the odds are very good that you and your friends would end up becoming organ donors for the staff of the Anthill complex. You seem to be intelligent, so take my advice. Stay away from it if you value yours and their lives."
The big man stood and walked over to the doorway and considered walking out. But where would he go? He felt a stubborn streak hit him. Why the hell should he believe what the old man is telling him? Why should he even believe that he is actually in the future? For all he knows, he was separated from Gitana, Joe and the others in the jump and that he is simply in another redoubt.
"I'm going Lakesh. That's a pretty damned fine tale you spun, but I am having a triple hard time believing it. You actually expect me to believe what you are saying?"
Lakesh pushed his wheelchair away from the table. "Why would I want to lie to you about this Friend Maverick? What good would it do me?"
"To keep me from chillin your sorry ass?" Maverick snapped out. He turned and was about to open the door when Lakesh stopped him.
"What would it take to convince you that I am telling you the truth?" Lakesh asked quietly.
"Fucked if I know old man. Here you were telling me about aliens and this shit about a unification program, and hybrids? Damned, you would have made a fortune in Jack before the skydark with the way you can spin a tale."
The old man stood up and carefully placed the dirty dishes on the counter before returning to his wheelchair. He sat down and rolled up to the big scarred man. "You want proof friend Maverick? I'll give you the proof that you want." He gestured with his hands. "If you would be so kind? I'll give you the directions."
Maverick grabbed the chair and pushed it down the deserted hall. "Ok Lakesh, I'll go along with you. Show me this proof."
Lakesh takes Maverick along a twisting, winding course through the redoubt. Deep down inside Maverick has to wonder if the old man isn't trying to disorient him. Finally they come to a closed off section of the redoubt.
He doesnt know what it is, but suddenly Maverick felt very uneasy as he stored at the door before him. "What's this?" He asked, fighting down the waves of dread that threatened to panic him.
"The proof you asked for." He said as he punched a code into the keypad that secured the door. "We will be able to visit Balam without any interruption. After all, Banks has to sleep sometimes, and I know that he is currently on downtime right now."
"Who the fuck is Balam?"
Lakesh moved into the room as the doorway slid open. "Follow me and learn for yourself Friend Maverick." From where Maverick was standing he could see a large, low ceiling room with several desks, of which most were covered by computer terminals . A huge control council ran most of the right hand wall and seemed to consist mainly of plastic encased readouts and gauges. Several tables were heavily loaded down with beakers, Bunsen burners and a complicated network of glass tubing.
With mounting dread, Maverick stepped into the darkened room. "Fireblast, it stinks in here!" His sense of smell wasn't always the best, but to him, the room seemed to be thick in the stench he associated with the annual slaughter to thin the herds out back on the ranch." Smells like a fucking slaughterhouse that was doused in a chem bath!"
"I do apologize friend Maverick. But today was Balam's weekly feeding. Not all that much that can be done about it." He waved him into the room.
The doors slid closed behind the survivalist and they were plunged into near total darkness. The only real light source came from the flashes and flickering from a comp control unit and monitor. Lakesh wheeled himself up to the left wall that was nothing more than one of the biggest panes of glass that Maverick had ever seen. Beads of condensation ran down the opposite side of the thick pane. He noticed that the room behind the glass was dimly lit with a reddish haze, his eyesight was unable to penetrate the murkiness.
Lakesh waited patiently for the big man to come up to him. "Your proof, friend Maverick." With mounting dread Maverick stepped up to the window and stared into the deep gloom. At first he couldn't see anything. Then suddenly something began to take form in the gloom.
It came towards the glass, slowly, as if it's it's body was forming out of the mists. Huge, almost fathomless eyes caught his gaze and held it. The pure black, iris less eyes seemed to see right down into the big man's soul. A fear, unlike anything he had ever felt before locked his limbs in place. Never, not once had he ever felt such a soul freezing horror. He felt as if the very gates of hell had opened up behind those cat like eyes and was about ready to draw his immortal soul, piece by piece into the unimaginable depths.
A cold, remote intelligence filled his mind.
He reeled backwards as his mind was assaulted by the alien thoughts.
We are old. When your race was wild and bloody and young, we were already ancient your tribe has passed, and we are invincible. All of the achievements of man are dust - they are forgotten.
We stand, we know, we are. We stalked above men ere we raised him from the ape. Long was the earth ours and now we have reclaimed it. We shall reign when man is reduced to the ape again.
We stand, we know, we are.
Maverick staggered backwards, his hand clasping at the big blaster strapped to his hip. He didn't realize that he was actually whimpering. Something that he has no recollection of ever doing. The fear that gripped him not only froze his soul, but at the same time totally disoriented him. He stumbled and fell to the floor. The blaster slipped free of it's sheath and slid across the floor, coming to rest at the foot of Lakesh's wheelchair.
The creature called Balam backed away from the armaglass wall separating him from the survivalist. The movements were slow and deliberate, showing no fear at all. Showing no emotion that the big man could recognize.
Reaching down, Lakesh carefully pulled Maverick's blaster off the floor. He pulled the magazine out, and ejected the round that had been chambered. He has seen this reaction before, twice to be sure. One ended up in the man taking his own life. He didn't want that to happen again.
"Friend Maverick?" He called gently.
Maverick's head snapped in his direction. His eyes were wide with fear, not dissimilar to that of a deer caught in the headlights of the truck that was about to crush the life out of it on a lonely highway.
"Friend Maverick, please calm yourself down." Lakesh said, pushing his chair closer to the prone man. He was surprised to see the other man actually back away at his approach. The old man could only shake his head. Why was it that Balam induced such powerful fear in people? Some sort of deep rooted Racial memory? He would have to think more on it.
Deep down inside Maverick was finally winning the battle against his run away emotions. He struck out, slapping himself hard. Once, then twice, and finally a third time. With the final blow he was able to get his fear fully under control.
"I'm fine Lakesh. Fine." He climbed to a crouch, then slowly stood to his full six foot two. He took the blaster offered and replaced it in the holster. "What the fireblasted hell was that that thing?"
"That thing, Friend Maverick, is Balam. The Archon." Lakesh stated flatly.
Memories of what the older man had told Maverick about the program of unification as well as the hybrids, and the Archon directive burst the mental barriers his mind erected to save his sanity and flooded to the foreground. He had seen the enemy, the future. What was in store for man kind.
"Why did you show me that?"
Lakesh laughed. "You asked me to friend Maverick! You said that you wanted proof that what I was telling you was the truth." He turned serious and actually stood up from his wheelchair. "I gave you the proof you requested."
Maverick turned away, and looked at the darkened chamber containing the creature out of his worst nightmares. With one swift movement he removed the cap from his short cropped dark brown hair and wiped the fear sweat off his forehead. "What do you want from me old man?"
Lakesh frowned slightly. He was still having a hard time getting used to the way these warrior types always acted around him. Not like his fellow scientists. They tended to be more subtle with their questions, almost elusive at times. But the warrior caste, they were always so direct and abrupt. Interesting difference in psychological methods of dealing with the same situation.
"Ok, I want you to prevent this from happening when I send you home to your own time. You will have years to plan and prepare for it. In fact, you could probably turn the tide that finally swallowed and drowned Mr. Cawdor's war against the unification program."
Maverick put his hand under his chin and studied the old scientist for several long seconds, letting what he had been told, as well the encounter with the Archon. It was almost too much for him to handle. An involuntary shiver ran up his spine as his mind replayed the events of meeting the creature.
That was one encounter he would dearly love to forget, once and for all. He crossed his hands across his chest. He felt an almost painful longing to be with Gitana, to have her hold him and help alleviate the fear that still lingered, just below the surface. "How do you know if this is going to work?"
Lakesh closed his eyes and let his head slip down. "I don't know if it will or not friend Maverick." He answered in a quite, tired voice. Then he opened his blue eyes and met the scarred warriors gaze evenly. "But the point is I owe humanity. I have to take every single opportunity that cones along, no matter how small the odds are that they would make any difference."
Maverick took the arms of Lakesh's wheelchair and exited the room. Lakesh didn't protest, caught up in his own thoughts. He stopped just outside the chamber. "What other means contingency plans have you launched to prevent this unification program?"
"I sent back one of my Magistrates, as well as an Archivist. All the way back to December 31st 2000. I sent along a taped recording of the events that would take place twenty days later and a brief history of the next near two hundred years. I gave them instructions to give it to someone who could make a difference and change the Deathlands, to actually prevent it from happening."
Maverick listened, idyll hooking his thumbs in the belt loops of his pants. "And who would have the insight to prevent the war? Everyone knows that a nuke detonated below the commie embassy in Washington, and within three minutes the birds were flying."
Lakesh took a deep breath, marveling at how well his second set of lungs were holding up. "Why, myself friend Maverick! I may be just a scientist, but I was the first man to ever successfully use the Mat Trans units, and I do have a great deal of pull. I could change the past, prevent the war from occurring."
"If you think that your plan would work, then why am I still here? Why are you still here? The timeline would have changed by now if the events took place nearly two hundred years ago. Wouldn't everything change around us? I hate to empty your mag, but I have a feeling your people failed." The big man grunted.
The other man looked slightly surprised. Such an insight from someone who seemed to only know how to kill and survive in the hostile Outlands. Or in his time, the Deathlands. He nodded. "I am afraid that I can't answer that one. I have theories, one about what we call alternate event horizons, where if you did change something in the past, that a brand new timeline would occur and branch off from exactly where you made the change. I am hoping that if the changes my people made don't effect this timeline, that they would prevent the holocaust in another timeline, preventing the deaths of countless millions and the horrors that were brought on by it."
"How will this affect me then?"
"It might not affect your timeline in the slightest. The again you might jump back to the past to redoubt Whisky and discover that everything has changed, that the war never occurred. The only way you will find out is by returning to your own time. But, with the knowledge that you are now armed with, you might be able to prevent the program of unification from taking place. Civilization will eventually return to the Deathlands, but without the cost of humanities freedom, or eventual extinction at the hands of the vastly expanding hybrid population."
With a gentle shove, Maverick stepped away from the wall. His face was a mask of determination. "Alright Lakesh, I'll do what I can. I am curious to see if your people were able to change things in my own time though."
Lakesh grinned hugely. "I had a feeling that you would agree to my request. For a warrior, you have a lot of potential."
"Gee, thanks old man." Scowled Maverick. "I'll try not to chill anyone on my way out."
Pushing himself in the wheel chair, Lakesh laughed quietly. "Come with me friend Maverick, I am going to give you one of our guest quarters, so you can get some sleep. I am afraid that I will have to lock you in, but that is because I don't need anyone else in this base seeing you. I am afraid that friend Grant might take you for a trespasser and shoot to kill on sight."
Spend the night inside a locked room. "Sounds like prison cell to me." He shrugged his shoulders and sighed inwardly. "Well, I guess I could use the rest. The past week has been totally hellish for me. Seemed like one constant fight after another. And that bastard Spint "
The wheelchair stopped its forward motion, nearly causing the big man to stumble over it. "Spint you said?"
"Yeah, Dr. Spint. Head whitecoat at the redoubt I was just in. Triple creepy bastard. Glad that Gitana was able to snap the fuckers neck."
"So you and your friends were responsible for his disappearance?"
The big man smiled evilly and cracked his knuckles. "Ace on the line Lakesh. The fucker tried to kidnap my woman, ended up taking her to a space station. That's where I caught up with him. Managed to distract him. Something was triple odd about the man though. Seemed like he was almost feral. And I could have sworn I had seen blood dripping off his chin. Didn't see any wounds though."
Lakesh listened intently. He knew about Spint, and knew that the other scientist was a leading researcher in the Genesis project. Just one of the cogs in the totalitarian concept. He also knew that the other man was very unstable. Despite that, within the first few months of the war, he and others from redoubt Whisky should have been evacuated to the Anthill complex. It occurred to him that he had heard that redoubt Whisky had been contaminated by a biological weapon, and all it's personnel were lost. But rumors of appearance and subsequent disappearance on the space station did pop up from time to time."
Maverick continued. "Gitana grabbed the man's head and twisted savagely. Just like I taught her." He was positively beaming with pride. "We left him lying paralyzed from the neck down on the deck plates of that station, then returned to the redoubt."
"You did the right thing friend Maverick. I may not approve of you not finishing the job, but the man got exactly what he deserved." With a push of his twig thin arms he pushed himself off down the hall, beckoning with one hand for Maverick to follow. "Come friend Maverick, lets get you settled in for some rest."
Maverick followed, not bothering to speak as he mulled over the information that Lakesh bestowed on him.
He is given a small room with a comfortable bed, a private shower, and a desk. He sat down on the bed and removed his combat boots, then leaned back heavily and closed his eyes. The big man figured that sleep would be long in coming, especially after the mind numbing encounter with the Archon. Despite it, he closed his eyes and tried to relax, making sure that his blaster was firmly in his grip.
He was out like a light in less than a minute. Fortunately his dreams were untroubled by the past days events.
* * *
After Maverick entered the room Lakesh made sure that the door was secured. He pushed his chair away and carefully pocketed the key. Domi, as silent as a winter wraith stepped up and gave him a careful hug, not wanting to aggravate her wounded shoulder. "Do you think he'll listen to you?" She asked, pulling away and taking the handles of the chair.
"He seems to be an intelligent, if not brutal man. I believe that he will take what I said into consideration." He twisted and looked over his shoulder at the albino girl. "Take me to my laboratory, if you would please?"
She stifled a yawn. "Come on Lakesh, don't you think we should get some sleep? It's really late."
"Go ahead dearest Domi, you need your rest more than I. After all, your shoulder needs as little exertion as possible as the damaged tissue heals and knits itself. I have to do some more work before I send our time travelling friend back to his own timeline."
Domi ignored the old man and reluctantly pushed him to his office. She helped him out of his wheelchair into the comfortable high backed chair that was situated before his private computer terminal. "You want help?" She asked.
"No, I am fine. Go back to the infirmary dearest. I'll be along shortly, so if Dafoe wakes up and notices my absence, just tell her that I went to use the facilities." He turned his back on the girl and popped a CD rom into the computer system.
With a quick peck on the cheek, Domi left the room and closed the door behind her. Over the next fifteen minutes Lakesh burned the location of many of the still active redoubts, as well as hidden government caches and supplies depots that were left untouched after the war. He hoped that The big survivalist wouldn't be foolish enough to try and get into the Anthill complex. There were still literally tons of predark goods, weapons and equipment stored all over the country side. He considered adding the location of the intact nuclear weapons as well as the key codes to get into the storage lockers that many redoubts had, containing the weapons. But at the last minute he changed his mind and passed over that data.
The earth had been through one nuclear holocaust, and he just wouldn't feel right about giving someone the means to rain even more nuclear hellfire over the surface. Even one nuclear explosion was too much in his view.
Satisfied with his work, he put the CD rom in a special protective case and carefully hid it in the pocket of his chair. He returned to the infirmary, quietly whistling to himself. Maybe, just maybe, the warrior would be able to prevent the unification program in his timeline. The Outlands would be a better place in the long run.
* * *
Maverick woke up with a start. He looked around the small chamber, feeling a sudden flash of panic threaten to overwhelm his senses. It took several seconds for him to remember what had happened to him. He sat up and put on his boots. For the hell of it he checked his watch. It was just after midnight.
He blinked in surprise. "Holy fireblasted hell!" He realizes that he must have slept for nearly twenty-four hours. He must have been exhausted. Holstering the blaster he checked the handle on the door to see if it was locked or not. It was.
Maverick ran his hands through his short-cropped hair and made a face at himself in the mirror. Might as well clean up he figured.
Fifteen minutes later he stepped out of the shower and toweled off. Dressing took mere seconds and he sat down to wait.
The wait wasn't long. Around one AM there was a gentle knocking at the door and he heard a key turn in the lock. The door swung open to reveal the same old man he met the night before.
"Are you ready to go home friend Maverick?" He asked, pushing away to give Maverick the room he needed to leave.
"Do Stickies like fire?" Maverick retorted.
Lakesh smiled. "I'll take that as a yes. Come with me if you would?"
Maverick took his place behind the man's wheelchair and pushed him down the hall to the gateway chamber. As with the night before, the base seemed deserted. He was tempted to ask the ancient whitecoat just how many people called the redoubt home. He allowed the question to evaporate.
The entrance to the gateway was wide open revealing the same brown walls he noticed the moment he woke up. A now familiar feeling of apprehension creeped into his thoughts. He didn't like the Mat trans jumps, nor did he trust them. The fact that this particular gateway would be returning him to the past made him even antsier.
"Well friend Maverick, I hope you have a pleasant trip back to your own time. I hope that you would seriously consider what I have told you. At least prevent what happened to me from happening to you and your loved ones. Oh, and you just have to close the door, I already have the correct co-ordinates programmed into the system to send you back at precisely the same instant your friends arrive in redoubt Whisky."
He studied the old man. "Yeah, you gave me some serious food for thought." He sighed heavily, slumping his shoulders. "I can't promise you anything, I can't even promise you that I'll still be alive in twenty or so years time. But I'll keep my eyes open for the signs. And with the knowledge that Cawdor and Dix survived, that'll give me something to hunt for when I finish returning Ged to her home."
Lakesh nodded sagely. He could check the historical archives for data on the man and his family, but he doubted he'd ever find anything about him, unless it turned out that he did play a major part in the war against the unification. "That's all I ask of you friend Maverick."
Just as the big man entered the chamber Lakesh called out. "Before you leave, I would like to give you something." He held out the CD rom case.
Maverick took it and looked it over. "What's this?"
The data you requested. The location of the redoubts and depots. You can become a powerful man back in your own time. I will be honest with you. I hope you use the data for the impending fight. But I have faith that you'll do the right thing.
He slipped the disk into an inside pocket of his jacket. "How do you suggest I read it?"
"It's in simple text. All you need to do is access a computer terminal, enter your password, and viola! You can read all the information."
"Working comp terminals aren't exactly easy to find anymore." He grunted.
"Just access the data when you get back to redoubt Whisky. But don't forget the password. If you enter the wrong code four times, the disk will be erased. And don't try to copy the disk as I have a safeguard built into it. I don't want that disk falling into the wrong hands."
"What's the password?"
"FTF." Lakesh grinned.
"FTF? What the fuck is that supposed to be?"
"Just a little joke friend Maverick. It stands for 'Fight the Future.' Which is precisely what I want you to do." He became serious for a moment. "If it does fall into the wrong hands and someone tortures you for the data, give them this password. It'll open files of misleading information that at first appears to be legitimate, but will lead them no where fast. It'll also destroy the correct data. The code is TFW. The future won.
"Got it. I'll do what I can." He turned and paused. "Thanks for the history lesson old man. Sorry that I was such a prick to you." He closed the door to the chamber and sat down in the same position that he arrived in. He saw Lakesh watching him through the doorway as the humming picked up in pitch and the mist began to form around him. Maverick closed his eyes and prepared for the worst.
* * *
"Is he gone?" Domi asked as she entered the chamber. Already the high pitched whine of the mat trans was winding down and the light was subsiding.
"For what it's worth, yes, he's gone." Lakesh answered quietly. "He's our last chance for success against the Archon directive."
The albino girl placed her ivory white hand on his shoulder. A strange contrast to his deep brown, wrinkled flesh. "I am sorry that your plan to change the past with Kane and Baptist didn't work." She leaned close and smiled. "But not too sorry. If it had, I would never have gotten the chance to know you." She kissed him on the tip of his nose.
The old man couldn't help but smile. It's true about what she said. Kane and Brigid returned from their jump to the past. They reported that they arrived in a similar, but different timeline where a different holocaust took place. A timeline where the Lakesh was murdered in order to prevent it. The alternate event horizon became a reality. He pushed his mournful thoughts out of his head and patted the girl on the cheek. "Ah, how true dearest Domi. How true. I just hope that he can make a difference in his own timeline."
The two friends left the gateway room and quietly closed the door behind them.
End of Out of Time.
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