Too far, Glen thought. Alice, how did you make things work at the beginning? How did you survive? he asked himself, and felt surprised that Alice was not there in his subconscious to answer. He had to think, and quick. He expended his air at last with the words “Air bubble.” A bubble of air instantly formed around him. He quickly said, “Big air bubble to encompass everyone, and normal light.” The air bubble grew until everyone was inside of it. They were still floating weightless, but a quick scan around him told Glen that everyone would survive despite the hacking, gagging, and gasping for breath.
Think, Glen told himself. Way back at the beginning of time he remembered Alice appeared in a place on a rock. The old god, Cronos appeared, along with Angel—that is what he called him anyway, if Angel could be called a him. With that thought, he said, rock and stared down beneath his feet, though everyone’s feet were certainly not pointed in that direction. Still, the rock began to grow and it continued until the air bubble became a dome. Then he said, “Solid and heavy with gravity like a mountaintop on Earth.” Everyone fell.
Glen felt lucky. He was the one who fell the farthest, then Roland, but the elf proved to be nimble enough to avoid being hurt, and Boston, though she was young enough to also go without injury. Some of the military equipment in the backpacks bumped rather hard, but Glen did not worry about that. He felt he twisted his ankle. He tried the word, “Heal,” but it had a minimal effect. Meanwhile, Lockhart held up the bleeding hand he used to catch himself. Everyone watched in amazement as the bleeding stopped. In only a few seconds, the wound healed itself.
“Because we are at the beginning of things?” Boston wondered out loud.
“The grace of our god.” Roland had another suggestion, and looked at Glen.
“Some magical cure?” Lieutenant Harper asked.
Glen shook his head. “He is still filled with those Gaian healing chits that healed his back and legs. They may help you, Lockhart, but you best not depend on them. I’ll say it again, leaning on them is a good way to get killed.”
“Understood.” Lockhart responded shortly, since he already stood and reached out from the edge of the rock to touch the stuff of Primordial Chaos.
“Big dome of air. Plenty of air.” Glen said and waved his hands. The swirling mass complied and soon they had no fear of running out of air.
“Doctor Procter?” Roland knelt beside the old man. Doctor Procter wore the amulet, but held it in his hands and shook it, like he could not see what he needed to see.
“Lincoln?” Meanwhile, Boston knelt beside Lincoln because the man looked ready to cry.
“I’ll get our bearings in a minute,” Doctor Procter responded, as Roland looked over at Boston and Lincoln.
“No way she survived this, even with her magic. I don’t see how.” Lincoln let his tears flow.
“Confession.” Glen spoke loud enough to get everyone’s attention. “I was afraid something like this might happen. We went back further than I planned. It all happened so fast. I could not control it. Alice is out of touch. It may take a long time to get home, as I feared.”
“What?” Lockhart pulled away from the edge, and even Lincoln looked up.
Boston thought it through and lifted her voice in protest. “But I can’t live 6500 years to get back to where I belong,”
Glen waved off her complaint. “The time gates should still be there where I am at the center. Doctor Procter’s amulet should work as well. How I get home may be a bit more problematic.” He mumbled most of that.
“Man!” Boston started again but stopped when she got interrupted by a great light at her back and a voice in her mind that said, simply, “Do not be afraid.”
Boston turned to see Lockhart, Glen and both soldiers on their knees, and she felt the need to join them, especially after Glen named their visitor. “Angel.”
“Come. Kairos. Stand. You are required to resolve this.”
Glen got slowly to his feet while Angel did something to lessen his own light so the others felt less afraid and could look up. Even so, none dared to look into Angel’s face.
“How can I resolve this?” Glen asked.
The answer came without hesitation. “You must offer yourself in place of the woman.”
Glen stepped over to touch the sticky ooze. “Will I die?”
“I cannot say.”
“Will Mingus return with the woman?”
“I cannot say.”
“Will I still be able to help my friends get home?”
“I cannot say.”
“What?” Lincoln found the courage to speak. Perhaps it was the prospect of getting his wife back after all that inspired him. “You do not know, or you are not allowed to say?”
“I cannot say.” Apparently, that was the only answer they were going to get.
Glen looked at the suffocating mass that surrounded them before he turned from the chaos at the edge of the rock to face them all. He took the glowing golden ball out of his pouch and Boston saw that it was indeed an apple. With a sharp knife that Glen also carried in his pouch, he cut three slices. He handed the first to Lincoln. “Take and eat,” he said. Lincoln ate the slice and at least half or more of his age fell away from him. He still seemed older than Boston, but not much older. He ended up around thirty at the most.
“Take and eat.” He handed a slice to Lockhart and with the same effect. “The golden apple of youth,” he explained. “You will age normally from this point, but I could not let a couple of old men face the time zones. You would not live long enough to get home.” He turned toward Boston. “Sometimes you may have to run,” he confessed with a grin. “And to you I give this slice for Alexis. I know you won’t eat it because you won’t want to become a baby. Tell her to take and eat as soon as she arrives. And now the one-minute review.”
“It would be best to stay out of whatever trouble you can and not kill if you can help it. Remember, no matter how impossible it may seem, these are real people in real time and they are capable of fear and pain and they will respond to hate as well as love and kindness. I understand there may be times when you will have to defend yourselves. Do not hesitate. Remember, if you die you will stay dead.” Glen looked at Angel, but there was nothing there for him to hold on to. He needed to do this himself.
One: The only difference between you and the people is they are confined to their place in time whereas you can move from zone to zone through the gates and can jump forward anywhere from a few years to fifty or more years at a time. Not counting the things you have with you, whatever other stuff you take from time zone to time zone, will age a corresponding number of years based on the number of years in your time jump.
Two: Don’t forget that Ashtoreth wanted to control and change time. Some of her creatures are still out there.” He paused before he added, “Most dangers you can escape by simply going through the next time gate. I suppose if they can follow you from time zone to time zone, you will know they are a real danger.” He turned on the marines.
“Decker and Harper. You need to consider Lockhart your General, and in his absence, Lincoln is your Colonel. If I recall, he got designated a light Colonel at one point with the CIA. Anyway, they know more about what is involved than you do, so don’t get cocky or I’ll see you stranded in some place unpleasant. Is that clear?”
“Sir, yes sir.” Lieutenant Harper responded. Decker said nothing, but he nodded his agreement.
“Boston, you have the medical kit?” Boston nodded. “Let us hope you don’t have to use it. Meanwhile, I have filled your packs with elf bread-crackers since you don’t have to carry extra clothes. The fairy weave you wear can be shaped to your needs, and just so you know, Boston has vitamins in the med kit since you won’t always get a square meal. Oh yeah.” He clapped his hands twice. “So now you will understand and be understood whatever the language. It will all just sound like English to you. Now I have to go.” Trouble does come in threes, he thought, and with the word, “Three,” he ran and leapt into the ooze before he changed his mind and chickened out.
Alexis immediately came back, Mingus clinging to her sleeve. And after Boston gave Alexis the apple slice, she became more nearly Boston’s age and flew into Lincoln’s arms. They kissed for a long time.
Boston licked her fingers and became something closer to twenty-three. Mingus fumed to see his daughter in the arms of that human, but with his son holding him back there was little he could do—not to mention the fact that the presence of the angel scared him beyond reason. Lockhart, alone kept his head.
“But where do we go from here?” he asked.
“I can’t get a good reading this deep before history,” Doctor Procter admitted with a whack of his amulet. “Your thoughts Mingus?”
Mingus said nothing, but the angel said one more thing. It pointed opposite the direction Glen had jumped and a bit of the primordial goo cleared off to reveal a tunnel that led a long way to a distant light. Angel spoke.
“This is your way home.”