And my NaNoWriMo novel is back with chapter 5! This was, yes, the chapter that I got stuck on during NaNoWriMo, but I’ve finally completed it. Really acting as more of a build-up chapter, we do end up with several interesting developments. I am also going to start hyperlinking it properly because I was lazy before. If you don’t remember what’s been happening, which you probably don’t, last chapter we had Rose, Hercules, and Ethena infiltrate Samuel’s home to mind-wipe him. Enjoy. 🙂
“Impossible,” Hercules declared, pacing back and forth. “Our scientists have tried for years to repair the QMB Field. No matter how smart you are, there is no way you can succeed where our scientists failed. We are millennia ahead of you. If we cannot find a solution, then you can’t either.”
Samuel steepled his fingers and watched the muscular man move from side to side. Ethena had by this time, after a polite request from Samuel, taken her weapon away from his cranium. After all, as he pointed out, there was only so much physical damage a wheelchair-ridden individual could do. The calculating man gave Hercules’ implied question a minute to hang in the air before speaking.
“You want to know my solution then, or not?”
Hercules paused midstep. Slowly he put his foot on the ground, then turned to look at Rose and Ethena. Rose’s features clearly said, “Don’t trust him”, while Ethena’s expression told him simply and succinctly, “Hear him out”. Hercules decided on a compromise. He adjusted the rifle cradled in his arms, glanced at his watch and said:
“You have three minutes.”
Samuel eased himself back in his chair. “Let me tell you a story, and you correct me if I am wrong.
“Back in the medieval age, when everyone was still ignorant and barbaric, there was an advanced group of alchemists who called themselves the Seeing, an ideological analogy for their hope of knowing all. Their symbol? A crudely drawn human silhouetted by a closed eye. Devoted to trying to find a formula for turning common metals into gold, they slaved away in their laboratories day and night.
“On one of these nights, the founder of the group, Vortigern Irvine Dareios–”
“Irving,” Hercules muttered automatically, completely transfixed by Samuel. “He was a Scot of Celtic descent.”
Samuel nodded dismissively. “Irving, just one letter off. I am not surprised. Error in oral tradition happens. As I was saying, Vortigern was staying up late into the night. He had discovered something that he felt might possibly be the key to their goal. Hours passed as he toiled over his new chemical formula. Finally, he arrived at the stage which simply required him to mix two last solutions.
“He did so, and lo, the beaker became aflame with light so bright that Vortigern was blinded. The container fell from his hands and shattered on the floor. As the solution grew hotter and hotter, his house caught on fire. He heard a noise like rushing wind, and just as he thought he would be burnt to death, someone picked him up and brought him elsewhere.
“He was blind, so he had no idea who had saved him, or where they now were. But a few seconds elapsed, and he found himself outside his house at the front gate. People gathered around Vortigern, asking him if he was alright, but all he could say was that he had seen. This did not make any sense to his companions, who told him that he had been blind for eighteen years, and that his house was in the town, not in the outskirts of the village.
“Vortigern asked them what had happened to the Seeing, for he heard none of their voices in the group. No one knew of what he spoke, and told him as much. He collapsed with confusion, worry, and fatigue. Someone brought him water, then another asked him what he was doing out so far from home without someone accompanying him as a guide.
“They did not understand when he tried to explain what had happened to him and declared him crazy, having decided among themselves that he had lost his mind completely. They sent him back to his house and left him there. Two years later, Vortigern was visited by his only child, son of a woman he had married twenty years in the past.
“To his heir, Vortigern told this story, and unlike everyone else, his son believed each word. Generations later, we arrive in the modern age, but the story that had been passed on from father to eldest son on the former’s deathbed faithfully every generation before did not get told. Fortunately, however, one in the line of Vortigern kept a written record of the story here.”
Samuel wheeled over to the blackboard and picked up a small, aged volume. “I am the direct descendant of Vortigern Dareios, Samuel Dalus. You can trace the changes in the surname through the genealogy yourself, or you can just look at the board where I have marked out the family tree for you.”
The timer on Hercules’ watch beeped in the emptiness that followed. He didn’t bother silencing it. Finally, Ethena, arms crossed, stepped in between Hercules and Samuel.
“Alright Mister, I’ll give it to you that you are extremely familiar with Unseen history, but proving that you’re the descendant of Vortigern does not tell us how you will repair the QMB Field.”
Samuel shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Ethena gave an exasperated sigh and spun on her heel. “You’re just wasting our time. Can we just get on with it now Hercules?”
The six foot six giant lumbered at a deceptively fast pace towards Samuel. He stopped when four feet separated them.
“Tell me,” Hercules said. “Why? Why tell us your whole story simply to delay the inevitable?”
“Is it not obvious?” Samuel asked, raising an eyebrow. “Do you mean to tell me that you don’t see what I do?”
“Enlighten us then,” Ethena said skeptically.
Samuel looked at the three of them. “Rose, tell them.”
“Yes, you,” Samuel said, annoyance lacing his voice. “Tell them why it is key that I am Vortigern’s descendant.”
The two soldiers turned to face Rose, who stared down at her Converses self-consciously. She straightened her shirt, then looked back up and started speaking.
“What Samuel’s story shows is that one of the Unseen obviously warped time. There was an alchemistic group known as the Seeing, but in an alternate reality. One of you, an Unseen from the future, must have seen the destruction the dissolution of the QMB Field would cause and so went back in time to change it.
“In the alternate reality, Vortigern died, being burnt to death in his house, but our mysterious benefactor, knowing that Vortigern created a fairly large release of energy in this world, reciprocated in the ninth dimension, opening one of the largest faults to exist, large enough to encompass the whole village.
“He saved Vortigern by pulling the man into the ninth dimension, and there reversed time, placing Vortigern back in a situation where he chose to get married instead of become an alchemist. Then this person accelerated time back forward to where Vortigern was currently in existence and put him back into the real world.
“This is proof that Samuel holds the key because he or she must have known when changing Vortigern’s reality that Samuel would be a descendant of Vortigern, meaning that he had decided Samuel is the person who is needed to stop the QMB Field from collapsing.”
“There is just one problem with that,” Hercules said, when Rose concluded. “Vortigern’s memories should have been wiped when he was sent back in time, and memories should have been created when he was sent back forward. That’s just how time-spheres work. Yet he still remembered the alternate reality.”
Rose was stumped, and she shrugged. Hercules turned to Samuel. “I assume you have some explanation for this nonconformity?”
Samuel laced his thin fingers together and rested his chin on them. “Dual consciousnesses. This mysterious person duplicated Vortigern. He did not put Vortigern in a time-sphere, he put the whole village and an instance of Vortigern in a time-sphere, did his whole time magic, and then removed the instance of Vortigern and replaced it with Vortigern himself. This is the only explanation for how Vortigern’s decision could have changed. Choices are not random, when they are made, they stay made, unless someone changes something. The person who did all this must have controlled Vortigern’s alternate consciousness to choose differently.”
“And he did this how?” Ethena asked scoffingly. “Not even our scientists have ever even proposed the idea of a dual consciousness, let alone given theoretical evidence as to how it might be possible.”
Samuel shrugged eloquently. “It must have been done. It is the only explanation.”
“Or else you’ve just made this pretty story up in that head of yours as an escape from having your memory wiped.”
“You know it’s not made up,” Samuel told her quietly. “I’m sure in your schools, or whatever you have in the ninth dimension, this story is one of the most important history lessons. And you can’t exactly turn me down. I did some calculations. The QMB Field is weakening at an exponential rate. By my equations and their results, the longest you can hope for it to hold out is three months, no more, and very likely less.”
“So what are you proposing?” Hercules asked.
Samuel did not answer for the longest time. Instead, he sat straight, and carefully laid his manicured hands down on the rests of his wheelchair. He remained in that manner, with his head bowed, for a few minutes, then looked Hercules right in the eye.
“I want to see this ninth dimension.”
“We can’t just take him to the ninth dimension!” Ethena hissed.
Hercules glanced over his shoulder at Samuel who sat at the opposite end of the room staring at them around slender fingers.
“You heard what he said.”
“Yes, and so did you. Can’t you see he is simply trying to take advantage of our situation?”
Hercules sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. “I can see that. But his points are valid. We can’t just, on moral grounds, dismiss a possible solution that may save the QMB Field from completely disintegrating. It’s not right or fair to those living in this dimension and our brethren back in the ninth dimension.”
“But we need clearance to take someone back with us anyway, we can’t just up and decide that we’re going to bring someone to the ninth dimension. This is something for the Board to determine.”
Hercules held his head in his hands. Decisions… Choices… Responsibility… It was all so difficult. He did not wish to deal with any of it, but that’s what he accepted when he had agreed to his promotion. He stood in silence for a few minutes, thinking. Eventually he came to a conclusion and turned to tell Samuel when his jaw fell open.
Everyone looked at where Hercules was staring. Ethena saw nothing, but Rose, Samuel, and Hercules all saw. The female apparition was standing before the chalkboard, flickering in and out of existence. She stared past all of them straight at Hercules. Almost pleadingly she extended both hands to the burly man, then she bent over in pain and disappeared.
All the color left Hercules’ face. Ethena knew better than to ask her superior what had just happened. He would tell her in due time. Rose seemed extremely disturbed, while Samuel remained impassive. Hercules stared at the ground, trying desperately not to wobble. The world seemed to be spinning around him. It was her.
Suddenly the Board and clearance did not seem as big of an issue to him. He shook his head, then moved towards Samuel.
“You can save her? If I take you to the ninth dimension you can stop her from phasing like that?”
“Her problem is one completely unrelated to the matter at hand,” Samuel said coldly. “She is being held in this dimension by someone, but because of her unique construct, she phases around between Faults, albeit painfully. Fixing the QMB Field will not rescue her. To help her, you’ll need to find the person behind her binding and stop him.”
Hercules turned sharply away. A minute passed, then he spoke without facing the calculating person behind him.
“Can you save her?”
Samuel laced his fingers together. “For a fee, of course.”
“Hercules, this is madness!” Ethena snapped. “He’s got you wound around his little finger!”
“She’s right, you know,” Rose said. “Samuel is controlling you.”
Hercules’ reply was that of a man trying desperately not to give into emotion. His face twisted as he replied, “I– am very well aware of that– thank you very much.”
“Who is she?” Rose asked softly.
Ethena gave a warning gesture but Hercules waved it aside. “Rose deserves to know. After all, she’s the one playing the major part in all of this.”
“Wait– what?” said Rose, eyes growing wide. “I’m playing a major part? I thought that I’m just one of the informants, on the outskirt. You know, unimportant and minor… I don’t think I can handle any sort of responsibility greater than what I’m already carrying.”
Hercules put a giant hand on her shoulder. “I need your help Rose. I must know if I can count on you. You can go if you want, but if you stay I require one hundred percent conviction.”
“A–alright then,” Rose gulped.
“Good,” Hercules released Rose. “Her name is Chrysalis, or Silvestra Palmer, when she is living in this dimension. We worked together on the force for a long time, before I moved to military. We lost contact. Most recent thing I’d heard before this was that she was having phasing trouble.”
Rose gasped slightly at this. If one of the Unseen was having phasing problems, it meant that he or she had somehow bound him or herself to the fourth dimension, and thus could not properly stay in the ninth dimension. By the Unseen code, this was illegal and could have serious consequences. When Rose looked askance of Hercules, he nodded solemnly.
“But, what we see here is not evidence of phasing trouble. This is someone deliberately trying to bind her to this dimension.”
“Why would anyone want to bind her out of all the Unseen?” Rose asked. “It can’t just be by random chance right? Someone who has deduced enough to realize how to bind Unseen would not just target a random one. He would have some reason for it wouldn’t he?”
Hercules turned away and clasped his hands behind his back. “Yes, she is special. You know that Ethena and I are both obrix, meaning we are guardians. Chrysalis is an inixmius. She is set apart from everyone else because she has the ability to see through time within our nine-dimensional world. What does not make sense is that she is just like any other human when in this dimension, so capturing her here would serve no advantage.”
“You are sure there is nothing else special about her?” Rose asked, her forehead creasing. “Nothing that perhaps a megalomaniac individual would be interested in. Does she perhaps know of any sort of technology or secret that would be of great value here?”
Hercules faced her. “You’re suspecting Samuel aren’t you?”
Rose shifted uncomfortably under Hercules’ inquisitive gaze. “Yeah, well, he seems the prime candidate for all of this. He knows way more about the Unseen than anyone should. He is the perfect person to take advantage of this knowledge to blackmail the Unseen for his own benefits and desires. Of anyone in this side of the QMB Field, he is the most likely to know that Chrysalis is special, though he may not know exactly how she is special, and that would explain why he is binding her.”
“Then why would he offer to help us save her?” Ethena pointed out.
“Well,” Rose said. “I don’t know exactly what he has up his sleeve, but I was thinking that it might be because he doesn’t exactly understand what makes Chrysalis special, and thus hopes to find out through assisting us.”
“That is a very thin bridge to build suspicions on,” said Hercules doubtfully.
Ethena crossed her arms. “So is trusting Samuel, the exact person we came to mind-wipe.”
“Well then what would you suggest?” Hercules asked quietly.
Ethena’s gaze fell at Hercules’ query. Her shoulders moved expressively. Hercules turned to Rose. The girl moved her weight from one leg to the other, thinking all the while, but she could not come up with a viable solution. Instead, Rose looked past the daunting soldier in front of her to the seated individual behind them. Even from the distance she could see her reflection in his glasses. For some reason, she shivered.
Bradley was whistling. That was good. That meant he felt good, which was good. Work had treated him well. He swung open the refrigerator and peered into its artificially lit interior. His beer was missing again. That stifled his spirits somewhat, but what else was he to do with a daughter who was overly and overtly concerned for his health? The operative shook his head and grinned. Rose was a filial child.
In the stead of his alcoholic drink, Bradley grabbed a carton of orange juice. He shoved around in an overhead cupboard for a while and finally removed from it a nondescript glass which he filled. As Bradley sipped on his drink, he scrolled through the messages that had gathered on his phone. Just typical spam messages, the occasional invitation from an old friend to a dinner, and then one from his daughter.
Ignoring all the other messages on his waiting list, Bradley opened the message from Rose. It was short and to the point, just alerting him that she’d gone to the house of her friend, Holly Locke, for an overnight stay. The single father grunted. Some part of him wondered if allowing his daughter to make decisions like this without asking him was a good idea. Then again, she was twenty-one. But in Bradley’s eyes, she was that same little girl that he had brought up with such care.
The phone started vibrating, and the ringtone the late Mrs. Fox had playfully chosen years ago filled the empty house. Bradley closed his eyes for a moment. The melodic cacophony of chirping birds always brought back memories that came with the cost of a pain in his chest that would not leave. She was so beautiful. Even when she lay in the wooden box that was her coffin she had been beautiful. And she loved birds, every single one of them.
A second peal from the phone woke Bradley from his thoughts and he thumbed the answer button, putting it on speaker mode as he washed the glass.
“Mr. Fox?” Bradley instantly recognized the voice as that of Holly’s mother.
“Mrs. Locke,” he said, the curiosity that was inherent in the Fox family tinging his voice. “What is it?”
“Oh.” The woman laughed a little. “It’s nothing really. Just that Holly and I will be going out shopping tomorrow and we were wondering if Rose would like to join us. I wouldn’t bother you of course, but Rose would not answer her phone.”
Neglecting the fact that his phone was on speaker mode, and that his hands were still wet, Bradley seized the phone and put it against his ear. “What was that? Do you mean Rose isn’t there with you?”
“No,” Mrs. Locke said, puzzled. “Rose isn’t here. Why?”
Bradley had already hung up and was scrolling through his contacts for the name of his daughter. He selected it and brought the phone to his ear, tapping his foot impatiently.