Wednesday, December 19, 2018

CWATT Chapter Three

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After a self-assessment proved the Commander correct, I showered and shaved, as well as engaged in a third bodily function beginning with an “s” that completed the “three ’S’ tonic” about which Grandfather Templeton (my father’s father) always raved as the “cure for what ails a man.” I put on the comfortable casual clothing (though, I’m afraid without the stylish leather jacket that the Commander wore) and made my way back to the flight deck.
While previously the “wondrous” colours of the time vortex had become downright boring, I now savored their presence as a comfortable, warm reassurance that I was putting my little jaunt into the past behind me.
After all, what had I accomplished by haunting that alleyway with my gaunt, unkempt visage for all those weeks?
Who was I proving a point to? Myself? Younger me? The ghost of a long-dead father, as great of a man as he may have been?
And what had that point been exactly? I suppose my father’s words had quite the profound effect on me at that early age:
That’s a bum Finny… you want to work hard so that you don’t end up like him…
Truth be told, perhaps I was seeking to turn my father’s words into their own self-fulfilling prophecy. Especially since if the entire universe was pre-ordained, it *had* to happen that way.
And yet… somehow it was empty. Hollow. I couldn’t rightly explain it… but deep down, in my gut, it seemed wrong for me to be there, out of place, out of time.
Regardless of my own navel-gazing, we emerged from the time vortex to the comfortable sight of that enormous blue globe of earth in the distance, in its familiar, 2032 form.
“Who would’ve ever thought I’d be coming home to fight Nazis?” I said, to no one in particular.
“Yeah,” Corcoran punctuated his statement by chambering a round in the holster of his sidearm and grabbing what appeared to be a ghastly laser rifle, based on that awful contraption I had used to fell the T-rex 65 million years in the past. “But ain’t somebody gotta do it?”
I nodded, and wasted no time availing myself of the armory. I found several copies of my trusty old Beretta nine millimetre, as well as two (admittedly more advanced) copies of my prototype laser pistol that Steve Bloomington had appropriated for himself toward the end of our previous voyage.
I decided that given the potential torrent of Nazis that we’d be facing, there was no such thing as “too much firepower,” and loaded one of each into a holster on each shoulder.
I followed that up with a chest plate of (I must say rather light) body armor that hung in the armory closet.
Bavaria of my own time period was coming into view, and I had forgotten just how hard hit the Continent had been during the war.
The ship’s computer overlaid red “no go” zones over the landscape, presumably where low-yield nukes and dirty bombs had been dropped.
Fortunately, Leipzig had generally remained untouched. By 2032, it was perhaps the largest remaining city in Germany, and widely considered one of the continent’s leading centers of culture and scholarship.
In fact, despite three world wars, it was amazing how little had actually changed since Steven, the Commander, and I had visited the city during Bach’s time. Old buildings still dominated the landscape; even newer construction had been done in a way to try to recapture the architectural style of “the Old World.” In a way, I suppose it was also an attempt to recapture a simpler time, an easier time, without the wanton destruction of the present era.
Little did they realize just how brutal life had been even during a supposedly “cultured” period such as the Renaissance.
In fact, my travels had opened my eyes to just how brutish and “base” human nature could actually be. What frightened me wasn’t how much buildings and weaponry changed through the years. Rather it was how little humanity’s appetite for destruction had wavered through century after century.
I pondered all of this as we descended toward the university. I recognized the building that housed Klaus’s office almost immediately. It was “modern” not so much as meaning “of the times,” but rather in that way that most academic buildings were rectangular and looked to have been built around 1976.
The computer plotted a tight approach, and as we came in for a landing, we shot out of the way as another brushed metal saucer almost threw us off course.
“Sunday driver…” I raised my fist at the passing craft for maximum effect.
“Alright Doc, ain’t no time like the present, am I right?”
I don’t know if it was meant to be a joke or not—I simply nodded and turned my attention toward the door, where I steeled myself for whatever awaited outside.
Corcoran nodded in kind. “Okay, let’s do this. Computer, open the main door.”
The gangway extended into what I immediately saw was a sort of civilized wilderness. At first, the only “Nazis” I saw were a bunch of skinheads, the likes of which had been known to join gangs targeting those unfortunate Muslim migrants who remained in Europe in my own time. This was a rather horrid fact that I had put out of my mind in my drunken stupor, and for several moments, I once again felt downright had by the Commander.
But as I looked past those ugly foot soldiers currently undertaking this half-assed “siege” against the science department at the University of Leipzig, I noticed several of the honest-to-God, World War II-era Nazis that we had previously been face-to-face against, directing the assault.
Even more oddly, another group of black-uniformed Nazi thugs was emerging from a large bell-shaped craft, that appeared to be covered in some kind of script that looked eerily like hieroglyphs of some sort.
The Commander and I disembarked our own craft, and took cover behind a nearby pile of benches that had been assembled as a makeshift barricade. This must have drawn the fascists’ attention, as we were almost immediately torched by a tongue of fire unleashed by one of the World War II-era Nazis wielding a proper flamethrower.
Ricky cocked an eyebrow in annoyance. He shouldered the laser rifle and levied several bolts of plasma at the flammenwerfer, leaving three rather large holes in the man as he fell limply toward the scorched earth.
I could’ve sworn the Commander raised the laser rifle to his face and smiled before laying down more covering fire to help us get our bearings.
I fired several rounds at two approaching skinheads. They cried in pain as I hit one squarely in the knee, and the other in a shoulder, halting their advance, temporarily at least.
“Come on!” Corcoran motioned toward an entrance, guarded by two hulking figures in black jumpsuits. They wore what appeared to be incredibly advanced gas mask contraptions on their faces, with glowing yellow eyes that made them appear somewhat “less-than-friendly.”
I instinctively reached out for Corcoran’s shoulder. “Are you—?”
He shrugged my hand away and bolted for the door. Amid the chaos outside of the building, I had little choice but to follow Corcoran toward the menacing pair.
As we approached though, the two soldiers merely nodded and waved us through.
“Appreciate it fellas,” Corcoran huffed as we made it inside the comparatively quiet hallway. In fact, I was quite amazed by how little damage the building had taken during the firefight. I assumed that meant it hadn’t been going more than a few minutes before we arrived.
Corcoran stopped and surveyed the hallway. It took several seconds before I realized he was looking at me.
“Well what?
“Where is this Klaus fella’s office?”
It hadn’t occurred to me that the Commander had less-than-perfect information, so I gathered my wits and tried to remember where we had crunched those equations all those long nights ago.
Truth be told, it likely would’ve been easier had I had a stiff drink, situational “muscle memory” and whatnot. And while I craved a glass of Macallan 18-Year, if I was honest with myself, it was likely equally for my nerves as it was in any attempt to remember where Klaus’s office had been.
It finally clicked in my head, and I motioned for Corcoran to follow me. We navigated the maze-like corridors of the science building quite easily in hindsight. Though I suppose the soldiers with the yellow, glowing eyes were ensuring that no stray Nazis entered the building as of yet.
We finally came to the door with “K. Thurber, Professor” next to it on a rather plain, unassuming nameplate.
“Here it is!” I tried to wrench the door open, but it held fast. “We may need some sort of—"
“Move, Doc!” Corcoran motioned me away from the knob. I took several steps behind him as he squeezed the trigger on his laser rifle, and dispatched the door handle with little trouble.
He put his shoulder into the door, and we found ourselves in Klaus’s usual unkempt office. Old-fashioned notepads littered the landscape, each one filled with priceless knowledge ranging from the equations explaining quantum entanglement or negative index of refraction optical physics to a series of (I must say rather clever) dirty limericks Klaus came up with after our various visits to one of the nearby pubs.
One thing that seemed a bit out-of-place was the foot-tall leprechaun that appeared on his cluttered desk as soon as it heard my voice.
“Hoi-toi-toi-toi! Oy, Finny! Just the man I was looking for!” The fantastical little creature let out in a delightful Irish brogue.
While I momentarily thought my foray into the past had driven me permanently mad, I then remembered how Klaus had amassed his small fortune. Unlike me, who had a fabulously wealthy (and in hindsight utter fraud) of a billionaire benefactor, Klaus had trouble securing funding for his wildly speculative and theoretical studies.
So instead, he brought to market a rather clever concept called “holopaper,” that served as a programmable gift wrap of sorts, whereby a holographic figure was projected above a wrapped present and invited the recipient to open it with whatever message the gift-giver desired.
In this case, Klaus had (quite correctly) assumed that I’d be enchanted by the hilarious little leprechaun. While I would’ve thought under more normal circumstances he’d delight in the thought of me chasing the little guy around the corridors of the college, it stayed put as I approached. He had quite clearly deployed it just to get my attention.
I unwrapped the green-and-gold paper from around the rectangular package. It was, unsurprisingly, another notebook. And while this one was filled with more than a few dirty limericks, it also contained hundreds of seemingly partially-finished equations, most of which were tantalizingly close to those that had unlocked time travel for me, though oddly only about 90% of the way there.
“What is it?” Corcoran asked.
“I’m not entirely sure…” I replied.
“Well, whatever it is, just pocket the damned thing and let’s get the fu—”
His curse word was interrupted by a loud “CRASH!”, and we were both thrown back against the wall. The blast left a cloud of dust and debris at the other end of the room, and as it cleared, a large opening became apparent.
“Hang on to your ass and grab some cover, Doc!” Corcoran toppled over several thick tables to provide us with some protection from the shots that were beginning to fill the room.
I threw myself against one of the felled tabletops and peeked over its precipice. Several stormtroopers adorned in black “SS” uniforms streamed through the new access way into the outside, spraying the room indiscriminately with automatic weapon fire.
Their machine guns were deafening. Albertson, I can still hear the sharp, “RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT” ringing in my ears to this day, each second bringing the horrible cacophony closer and closer to our position, even as Corcoran and I returned fire with our own, somewhat more advanced energy weapons.
The awful noise was followed by cries of “Snell! Snell!” There must’ve been a dozen of the highly-trained shock troops now. Though we may have clipped one or two of them as they advanced on us, it was becoming quite apparent that we were in for whatever horrible punishment these ghastly Nazi animals had in store for us.
A sharp whistle caused me to raise my gaze upward. I was met by a horrible old Nazi, his face made up of a seemingly hideous combination of sharp angles, his uniform adorned with shiny metals for committing who-knows what number of atrocities.
As he opened his mouth to spew whatever horrible things were to come forth, a curious thing happened:
There was another whistle, though this one was from the doorway to our left. It was rather weak and ineffectual, but it drew our attention, as well as the attention of the decorated Nazi and his horrible compatriots.
In the doorway stood two figures dressed in the black jumpsuits and futuristic gas masks with the glowing yellow eyes we had seen outside. One was tall and lean, and moved swiftly like a ninja as it bounded across the room to our position, snapped the Nazi Commander’s neck with an almost stunning grace, and unholstered two desert eagle magnums and opened fire into the crowd of fascists, all in seemingly one fluid motion.
The shorter figure in the doorway opened fire on the Nazis almost immediately. It wasn’t necessarily “stout” as it were, but surprisingly agile for its frame; it scurried about the room plugging Nazis with its laser gun like a little wombat of death, leaving hole-strewn Nazis like Swiss cheese in its wake.
The two were a magnificent sight for the sorest eyes, and allowed the Commander and I to regain our bearings and open fire on the remaining stormtroopers.
We stemmed the tide and began our own advance toward the gaping hole in the wall. The powerful energy weapons whined with each pull of the trigger, and while their bolts of focused energy didn’t always hit their intended targets, I was surprisingly accurate despite having shared a piss-soaked hell hole with several other bums but less than a day before.
Finally, only one stormtrooper remained. The taller figure in the black jumpsuit backflipped across the room, seemingly through a hail of gunfire that the stormtrooper unleashed at it.
The shorter figure scurried from side-to-side, dancing through the bullets as it made its way toward the Nazi, whose wide eyes belied the panic it felt.
As the taller figure got behind the fascist soldier, it grabbed under his arms and caught him in a firm body-lock.
The wombat of death arrived in front of the soldier and put its laser pistol up to the Nazi’s chin. It said a few muffled words through its glowing yellow facemask, its tone dark, low, and ominous as the words started becoming clearer and clearer.
“Take that, you douchenozed, Nazi fuckface!” the smaller jumpsuited person exclaimed in its deep, altered voice.
The Nazi closed his eyes and winced… and waited… one second… two seconds…
Nothing happened, and eventually he opened his eyes to see what sort of sick trick this shorter figure had in mind.
The taller figure kept its hold, and cocked its head to the side.
Something clicked in the shorter figure’s head.
“Oh yeah,” it said, almost matter-of-factly. It pulled the trigger, and a puff of ash followed the laser bolt out through the top of the gaping hole that used to be the stormtrooper’s brain.
The shorter figure shook its head. “Always forget that part.”
“I just thought you were being dramatic,” the taller figure said in the same, altered, monotone voice.
“Yeah… yeah, that’s it…” the shorter figure said.
“Yeah right…” the taller figure responded.
“Hey, Rowan and Martin,” Corcoran emerged from our spot behind the tables. “This is great and all, but we gotta mission to accomplish here.”
“We?” The shorter figure took a short step back. “So you mean he—?”
I took several cautious steps out of my hiding place, hands raised (though still on my guns) to show that I meant the deadly duo no harm.
“Oh my God!” The shorter figure reached for something on the side of its head, and pressed it to no avail.
The taller figure did the same, though the first time it did so, the face mask began stripping away from its face. “We got here just in time,” a female voice greeted us from where the contraption had been previously. I racked my (still groggy, from the medigel, I supposed) brain for where I had heard the velvety tones before.
And then it hit me. It seemed so long ago… though I suppose it actually had been, in both senses of the phrase, all that time ago back at Chronobase Alpha during dinosaur times.
“Commander Sanchez?” I asked.
“It’s Captain now, actually,” she responded, in the same, down-to-business, matter-of-fact tone I had known her for previously. “And I think you’ll remember my colleague as well…”
She pressed the button on the side of the shorter figure’s mask. Before the face mask could disappear back into the sides of the figure’s face, its arms were outstretched, and it was running toward me, with more alacrity than I ever imagined possible given the jumpsuit’s inhabitant.
“Doctor Templeton!”
Steve Bloomington wrapped both arms around me in a big, genuine bear hug.
And for the first time in recorded history, I was glad he did.

Chapter 4 is available here

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