Radio Free Earth part three

     A while ago
     It was night, Jinx's first night in Centrum. She had no intention of turing in early. There was a piece of business she had to attend to first.
     The Black Tower was, long ago, the business center of Magrige; when the blockades cut off contact with the Sedgewick Corporation, it was left nearly abandonded. Centrum had never truly sufferend from a lack of office space, and the Magrige Organization owned a small urban area that had become the preferred place to do business.
     Jeeves was a clone; he had been decanted here, in this building, and had never left. He was one of twenty-five, the last holdouts from the maintenance crew. He, personally, brought Jinx a drink in the nearly deserted hotel.
     I was here when the Hunters came. They bombed the city - burned it flat.
     Jinx looked up. I thought you said you've never left the building?
     There are shelters and a deep rail terminal down below. This was all rebuilt.
     The clone stepped away and looked out the window, out to the rings of shorter buildings surrounding the Tower. His head hng a moment. When is the attack?
     I can't tell you, but soon. Jinx looked away.
     The clone turned abruptly. Ms. Bubastis? I have a favor to ask - I do not wish to be evacuated, and I cannot bear going through another bombing. Could you -?
     There are quiet packs in the hospital. If you want, you can start arranging distribution to the household staff.
     You don't feel a thing with quiet packs, do you?
     It's clean and quick.
     The clone muttered thankfully Small favors as he slowly walked out, bearing a tray.

     Camillo Skrag lived in the Catskills; on a swath of particualarly hilly land by a mountain road, a middle-sized two-story house stood in the middle of a clearing. In the woods behind the house was a garage, and deeper in the woods, a small cabin or huge woodshed that Camillo had long ago equipped with a generator, still, computer, and workbench. He had locked himself in two weeks ago; his supply of coffee was diminishing. Soon he would have to leave again. He turned to his workbench.
     Papers covered in scrawls formed a drift on the surface. On one piece of brown paper, a crude marker sketch of a complex vacuum tube below the words "COSMIC TUBE" was covered in a spiderweb of pencilled-in annotations. Camillo went over to the vacuum pump he had sent Penny out for, and flipped the switch. Camillo watched the pressure gague carefully. The tube was large, intricate and delicate; a magnetic inturbulator fed a standing wave of electrons which resonated inside the inputs and outputs of the device. This standing wave balanced its electron pressure by forming a hyperspatial bubble centered at the current moment of space-time; its electromagnetic profile could be tuned to pick up EM signals at particular gravitational gradients, over a path length considerably shorter than the path traveled by a beam of light.
    It was a crude interrocitor, a doorway in time. He had seen this before, on the saucer built by the cat-like aliens. It was a part also used, in a different form, in the remarkable reacionless engines that enabled the saucer to fly. This system seemed to also need a flow of neutrinos; it could provide thrust in any direction. It soon stopped working in the lab...
    Camillo consulted a paper about type 1a supernovae, checked a pressure gague, and turned on the power to the tube. The interior of the cabin lit up with a dim blue glow. He watched a meter needle raise; when it stopped, he walked over to an ancient 386 and started a program. He sat down and waited.
    The results flashed on the computer screen; Camillo looked, and smiled. You can even see it from here! he thought. I must show this to Penny.

    Centrum, not so long ago
    Jinx sat in the boardroom. Her mind reached out, searching for the one who was to come. She made contact, and watched through his eyes as he came in for a landing on the roof of the Black Tower. She prepared herself, pulling up the contract papers on her computer.
    Have a seat, Champion.
    My name is Bobby Prown. I'm not sure I want to hold on to my id as "Champion" -
    It's a stipulation in the contract that you hold on to it. From a marketing standpoint, it would be idiotic and unbelievable to abandon the "Champion" brand name.
    Jinx felt sickened by the words she had uttered. She had a job to do. Somehow she could not continue.
    What's going to happen tomorrow?
    She was grateful the he broke the silence. I can't tell you, even after you sign the contract. You know that.
    But if I don't know, how can I make the transition seem believable?
    First things first. Read this contract.
    Champion took the computer in one hand and read the terms. OK, the pay is fine. Will I be able to switch sides?
    No, you'll be a bad guy for the rest of your career unless you do something exceptional.
    That's fine. I'm just worried about losing residuals - the Magrige Org gave me two vids, and the royalties almost made up for the crappy pay. I was hoping -
    You won't get a vid of your own, but EntDiv is good about assuring a minimum number of appearances in big-name series. You'll find that the renumeration for an "Honor Guard" episode will be about as much as the royalties you got off your two series.
    Champion sat, examined the contract, and signed. OK, what do I have to do?

    Now, nowhere
    Peter 140306 Cat sat in his studio, working on his final project. They had given him the decanting debriefing, had warned him that he may feel disappointed by life in the "real" world. He was excited, and his excitement distracted him from the work still to be done. He began a series of calculations for the plasma impeller on his computer, when he felt a presence in the room. He turned away, wanted to run, out the door into the computer-generated environment where he was being trained for his new life, away from the black horror...
    The presence spoke to him. The voice was not the confused murmur he had expected. He looked up, and saw a stranger, evidently female, but completely alien - flat-faced and without fur, except for a white mane that seemed to stand up for no reason. As he looked at her, the room filled with light, and the walls and furniture seemed to fade away. Her flat face had an expression that might have been a smile.
    This is not my face, I have borrowed it. You would not understand if I showed myself to you as I am.
    Who are you? You aren't -
    I know him well. This face is the face of a future friend. You will free her from slavery, and teach her how to defend her people. You have much to do.
    I -
    You have forgotten, but I remember. Rember yourself.
    Peter fell away from reality as the software maintaining his environment crashed for the very last time. A new world of sense suddenly reawakened, and he felt a state, his old state, and touched it with his mind, which at that instant ceased to exist.
    Elsewhere, close, a man named Evan Stain sat in shock in the darkened control room. He had just pissed himself. He heard the first explosion, and the sounds of plasma fire. All he could do was stare into the monitor and wish that there was something there to see.

    Magrige, the day after not so long ago
    Peter Cat sat in the briefing room, and completed his studies of the Magrige Org Defense, a/k/a M.O.D. They were a capable superteam; they had successfully repelled Demonslayer and a squad of Hunter battleships without the benefit of a huge fleet; a long time ago, Honor Guard crossed over the Blockade to make a few episodes with them. He had not liked them personally, but this did not make what he had to do any easier. Kelmorran's voice interrupted his reverie.
    Lynnie, Peter, get into position. We're at X minus 2 hours.
    Peter went to an airlock and launched himself at the planet below. He felt nothing.
    The mistake made by most of the M.O.D.'s enemies was underestimating Torpedo. He was smart, tough and strong, and could hide himself where few could follow. Peter entered the great bay near Magrige, and felt for the underwater vortices left by his passing. He followed, invisible. Torpedo never knew what hit him; one moment, he was swimming on patrol - the next, he was in orbit, trying to breathe vacuum. A bolt of coherent light from Kelmorran's destroyer ended his suffering.
    Something invisible came up the underwater entrance to the M.O.D.'s underground HQ. They were in their Hall of Justice, discussing the situation - doubtless their sensors had discovered the warship circling above. Champion was not there. Peter's mind reached out, and welded the doors shut. He then focussed upon the state of the air molecules, of the furnishings, and tried to make the random bouncing stop.
    He passed the time by walking, invisible, through the museum of mementoes the M.O.D. had collected from their foes. He tried to imagine himself there, and couldn't. The oxygen level stopped sinking in the meeting room, and the carbon dioxide level stopped rising. He went upstairs, forced the heavy doors open, and counted the bodies. They were all there, and they were all dead. He proceeded to their computer room, and patched a connection though to the orbiting destroyer.
    There's just no justice in the world.
    Centrum fell. What Champion and Lynnie didn't destroy in their titanic battle was flattened by a week of orbital bombardment. What was once a beautiful city became a lifeless sheet of glass. What was once a prosperous world became a seemingly endless collection of refugee camps.
    Peter and Jinx got medals for that one.

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David white, 1999, all rights reserved