Note: This story is a sequel to Matrix.
“It didn’t work!” Alex cried, unlatching the visor of his powered battle armor. Vigil was standing in the abandoned warehouse where he had left her. Only now, the windows were yellowed and broken and one wall was split. It was a side-effect of Alex displacing time as he traveled. Whenever he returned to her, the surroundings were slightly different, a few months or years ahead or behind. He wondered if she even noticed.
“What do you mean?” she shouted back. “What are you forgetting?”
“I don’t know!” he said.
“I put everyone back where they were when all of this started,” Alex said, recounting their plan. “Vark and Tazz in the 1980s, Breaker in the 1970s, Vulcan in the 1950s, and you here in the 2080s.”
“You’re doing it again,” Vigil said.
Alex looked down. The clawed amorphous alloy boots were dangling about a foot off the ground, a result of the anti-gravity energy field that powered Alex’s Wyvern suit. When he was lost in thought, he tended to float.
“So the polyharmonic quantum node should have opened to Chris in the 1930s,” he said, forcing himself back to the ground. “But it’s not there!”
“Why can’t you just call it a time portal like a normal person?” Vigil groaned.
“Because it’s dumb.”
“So what are we going to do now?” Vigil asked.
“I don’t know,” Alex said. Out of the corner of his eye, a shadow flickered past the crack in the wall.
“Did you see that?” he asked.
“I noticed it earlier,” Vigil said. “I couldn’t pick up any psychic field, though. Maybe a new mutation in the future?” As a powerful telepath, there weren’t many minds Vigil couldn’t read much less sense.
“Vulcan’s running calculations,” Alex said. “I’m going to see what he’s got.”
“Fine, I might change locations, though,” she said, gazing towards the hole in the wall. “Just in case.”
“Just make sure your beacon is active so I can find you,” he said. Vigil raised her hand showing a chunky black metallic band wrapped around her wrist.
Alex secured the helmet on his suit and powered up the reactor. He had to cannibalize most of the major systems and weapons to power the complicated device that allowed him to skip through predetermined points in time. So far he hadn’t run into any danger, but he didn’t like being defenseless in case he did.
He waved goodbye to the telepath, triggered the device switch, and folded himself through space and time.
Alex found Vulcan lying on his bed in the same decrepit hotel room. A radio across the room belted out a sad jazz tune.
“Coltrane?” Alex asked, removing his helmet.
“Miles Davis,” Vulcan said. “Man, that cat could swing.”
“You’re getting your eras mixed up.”
“Am I?” the android cocked his head, sifting through his memory banks. “Only by ten years,” he shrugged. “It still works. So did you find Chris?”
“No,” Alex answered, hanging his head.
“It might be because of the calculations you had me run,” Vulcan said.
“What do you mean?”
“My calculations show that Chris’ polyharmonic quantum node should be stronger than any of the ones you created,” the android explained. “So if it’s not manifesting, it must be destabilized.”
“I don’t know,” Vulcan said. “But I’ve noticed someone lurking outside the hotel.”
“Who?” Alex asked.
“More like what,” Vulcan said. “It was a bit familiar. Like something we fought long ago. Anyway, whenever it’s around, the tachyon readings get all wonky.”
“It’s disrupting your node?”
Alex pondered this new information. Vigil had noticed something that she couldn’t read with her psychic powers and Vulcan was seeing something similar that was messing with his temporal readings. But what was it? An artifact of creating the quantum nodes? Alex hadn’t remembered anything like that the first time he made this happen, by accident, thirteen years ago.
It was then that the team fought a strange transdimensional being known only as the Brood. Vigil and Alex combined their powers to seal a tear in the fabric of reality caused by the death of the creature. The resulting unleashing of quantum energy scattered the team across time. By reverse-engineering the Brood’s technology and tearing apart most of the Wyvern suit, Alex and Vigil were able to retrieve all of the team members. All but their friend, the government liaison, Chris Hopkins.
For twelve years Alex had tortured himself over the loss of Chris. Then, Chris’ lover, Vigil, using her real name of Annalynne again, came to find him. A year later, he had crawled out of his guilt, summoned up his genius, and recreated the conditions that had resulted in Chris’s disappearance. Only it hadn’t worked.
“You’re floating again,” Vulcan said.
“You look tired,” Vulcan said. “You can have the bed.”
“That’s okay,” Alex smiled looking at the peeling metal bedframe and stained mattress. “I’m going to tell Vark and Tazz.”
“Catch you later, daddio,” Vulcan said as a new tune blared on the radio.
“Thelonious Monk?” Alex asked hopefully.
Alex folded to Vark and Tazz’s location in the 1980s. He recognized the enormous bulk of Vark and the slender, feline shape of Tazz leaning against the back of a poorly-lit convenience store.
“You’re hanging out behind a 7-11?” Alex said. “Really?”
“They’ve got Big Gulps,” Vark said, with a belch. Beside him lay half a dozen, empty, giant styrofoam cups.
“And Slurpees,” Tazz said, raising a plastic cup filled with fluorescent colors. Alex wondered for a moment if their alien metabolisms processed caffeine and sugar differently than his.
“No Chris, huh?” Vark said. Alex said nothing.
“I told you that shadow thing is fugging things up,” Tazz said.
“Fucking,” Vark growled. “Fucking things up. Thirty years and you still can’t get it right.”
“What shadow thing?” Alex said.
“Tazz is seeing things,” Vark answered.
“Yeah, seeing things you can’t,” she shot back. “It’s been in that alley the last few nights.”
“I took a potshot at it,” Vark said tapping his laser eye on his right side.
“At the thing you can’t see?” Tazz smirked.
“We need to go,” Alex said, his voice racing with fear.
“Wait a minute,” Tazz said. “You said we have to stay place until—”
“Something’s not right,” Alex insisted. “We have to abort. Now.”
“It’s your plan,” Vark shrugged, standing up to his full eight-foot height.
Alex synced his temporal device with the beacons on their wrists and tripped the switch. All three appeared in an abandoned subway station. A poster for Saturday Night Fever hung on one wall beside a campaign poster for Ed Koch.
“Did you see that?” Breaker said. She was a twin to Tazz in every way from her orange fur and dark combat suit to her twin plasma pistols.
“See what?” Tazz said.
“Something just flew down the subway tunnel,” she said.
“Take a reading!” Alex yelled.
Breaker pulled a flat disk from her hip and swept her palm across it. Her claws tapped out a few glowing symbols on its surface causing the device to chirp urgently.
“Shid,” Breaker said.
“It’s SHIT!” Vark bellowed. “Unbelievable!”
“What is it?” Tazz asked.
“It looks like the Brood,” Breaker said. “But not all of it. It’s like a piece—”
But she never finished her sentence. Alex activated his temporal device the moment he synced their beacons and they vanished.
An instant later, they were in Vulcan’s 1950s hotel room, pressed against the thin plaster walls. Then they were gone. They reappeared, Vulcan included, in an open field littered with broken concrete and twisted steel bars. Vigil lay motionless on the ground.
“Annalynne!” Alex shouted. Drifting over to her body and ran a medical scan. She was alive, but her mind was in shock. He activated his psychic static generator and extended it around her. A moment later Vigil opened her eyes.
“Where is it?” she said, scuttled away from him.
“Where’s what?” Alex asked.
“Wait. It’s going,” she said, visibly shaken.
“Vigil,” Alex yelled. “I need you to teleport.”
“Anywhere. Just wait until I say.”
He called up the suit’s circuitry on his visor display and quickly reconfigured the temporal device.
There was a flash of light, a folding of space and time, and they disappeared.
“Where are we?” Tazz said, straining to see in the darkness, her alien feline eyes failing her.
“The Brood,” Alex said.
“But we destroyed it,” Vigil said.
Alex shook his head. “We only tore it apart,” he said. “It scattered throughout time along with us. When I brought us back to each of those places it followed us back here.”
“It couldn’t have been here this whole time,” Vulcan said. “Its lair was picked clean. We would have known.”
“It never physically left here,” Alex explained. “It just left its time. It’s been trapped. Somewhere between the moments along with Chris.”
Suddenly they were buffeted by a cold wind. Darkness surrounded them. A bright flame shot out as Vulcan activated his flame projectors. Then a ruby beam of laser light as Vark’s eye flared to life. Bolts of plasma energy darted into the darkness from Tazz and Breaker’s pistols.
Alex pulled up his suit’s circuitry again. He pulled power from every system and burned out others. With a few quick calibrations, he had it.
He activated the sonic projector on his helmet. A series of subharmonics slowly forced a shape to appear before them. The shape of the Brood.
All Alex could do was hold the being into place and keep it from escaping. It fought with all of its might defending itself against the onslaught of energy.
Vigil blazed with fury as unseen waves of psychic energy tore into the beast. Vulcan hurled flame after flame against the creature until his internal power nearly failed. Vark burned into it with his eye until the pain in his head brought him to his knees. Tazz and Breaker spent their pistols and began tearing at the creature with their claws. And Vigil continued her psychic storm, tears streaming down her face.
A wave of darkness, then another, broke over them in stomach-churning pulses. The Brood let out a cry that echoed through the gulfs of time. And then it was over. Light streamed into the room, and in the place of the beast lay the body of Chris Hopkins.
“Chris!” Vigil screamed, rushing to his side.
“Annalynne?” he said, opening his eyes. “Alex? Vulcan? What happened?
“It worked!” Vigil said, rocking Chris in her arms. “It worked.”
As the adrenaline ebbed from his body and his suit powered down, Alex sank to his knees. Vigil’s words echoed in his head as he looked at his friend. It worked. It worked.