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Undoing Tragedy

part 6 of The Vanished Timeline

by Grace Grieve-Carlson and Channing Jones

(a fictional story in the Galactic Era universe)

part 1 here

Day by day, Yanashi welded the weapon and built its electrical circuits with the help of the stone tablets she found in the ruins. She was under the strict supervision of Dr. Danenbrow’s operatives. Being treated like a prisoner would typically be her worst nightmare. But between the demanding work, her conflicted feelings about the weapon, the influence of the opal, and her worry about Neela, she barely thought about her own life.

The weapon was mostly steel, and stood at about 10 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Though the stone tablets gave her the basic outline, Yanashi often felt like she was getting information telepathically from the opal about what to build. Or maybe the opal’s energy was helping her tap into the memories of her past life that built the weapon. Every piece completed felt like a weight lifted from deep in her unconscious mind. Meanwhile, her conscious mind was bombarded by visions of the violence she was helping to create.

It took her about six months. With the weapon nearly completed, her internal conflict came to a head. She spent the day pacing, pretending to calculate and work. Am I really going to turn this weapon over to Dr. Danenbrow and his cronies? There has to be another option. She leaned against the opal. Even its calming influence couldn’t quell her fear. Breathe, Yanashi. What’s your next step?

Hello, family members? Bird guy? Psychics? If you can hear me thinking this right now, I’m stuck. I’ve been following my intuition, but it’s led me somewhere I don’t think I should be. I’m out of my depth. I need guidance.

Yanashi sat in silence. Suddenly, she heard footsteps enter.

“Come on, Yanashi, let’s eat,” came Kyrin’s voice from behind her. He held out a vat of soup. Yanashi sighed and accepted.

“How are you holding up?”

“I’m…finished,” she mouthed.

“Oh…okay.”

“Well, only a few more connections and it should work. I don’t know what to do.”

Kyrin looked off into the distance as he ate.

“I don’t know either. But when you know, I’m here. My offer to fly you away from here doesn’t expire.”

“Kyrin…that night, just before we came here. Did you see the bird-man in Silke’s bar?”

Kyrin raised his eyebrows.

“There was a feathered man with a beak like a bird. He told me something weird, like, he can hear my thoughts. And he gave me that opal you saw when you came back to the table.”

Kyrin leaned in closer.

“Don’t tell anyone else. The ICC is allied with the Dracos. Dracos have been at war with Avians ever since they started trying to imperialize the galaxy.”

“I thought you said the ICC barely knows anything about the Avians?!”

“Shhh! We know they actively oppose the Dracos. That’s the one thing we know for sure. And that they apparently don’t flow by our standard understanding of space and time. They’re beyond it. Sightings are rare. I believe you, but I don’t understand it.”

Yanashi spent the rest of her day thinking about the Avian. It’s good to know there are powerful beings out there somewhere working against the Dracos. I hope I get to see one again. Later that evening, just as Yanashi was about to stop her “work” and go to sleep, Dr. Danenbrow came in with two large Dracos in military garb. Yanashi had a sour feeling in the pit of her stomach. A hundred scenarios ran through her mind before she could choke out a reaction.

“What’s happening?” she asked Dr. Danenbrow.

“We’re shelving this project.” Dr. Danenbrow replied coolly, straightening his glasses.

“Why?”

“Where we allocate ICC resources is not your concern. This is no longer a priority. Come with me for your next orders.”

Shit. I’m in trouble. Yanashi could feel herself grow weak and frazzled as the two Dracos lifted up the opal and took it away. Dr. Danenbrow led her to his office and closed the door.

“I have someone here who wants to meet you.”

Behind Dr. Danenbrow’s desk was a man with a long, dark beard, dark sunglasses obscuring his eyes, and strange tattoos up and down his arms. When Yanashi came in, he opened his clasped hands, and a ball of pink energy ballooned out from them to encapsulate the office.

“Just making sure no one can hear us,” the man said. Yanashi couldn’t contain her fear.

“Are you going to kill me?”

“What the hell? Of course we aren’t going to kill you,” the man replied, his brow furrowing. “Danenbrow, how are you treating this woman?”

Dr. Danenbrow cleared his throat, looking embarrassed.

“Yanashi, this is Veshunu, the president of the ICC.”

Yanashi’s jaw dropped.

“President Veshunu,” Yanashi replied, “I apologize-”

“No time for all that! Just call me Veshunu. The Dracos caught wind of this project and took the stone. They’re very violent. So far we haven’t had the power or opportunity to oppose them. But Danenbrow here thinks you’re our secret weapon.”

Dr. Danenbrow smiled at Yanashi.

“You want to use the weapon against the Dracos?” she asked.

“Correct. You’re close to being finished. We have some other technology recently completed that should aid you.”

Veshunu pointed to a bowl on the desk that Yanashi hadn’t noticed before. It was filled with a gelatinous liquid.

“This paste, when applied, will not only make you invisible, but undetectable to any sensors or psychic abilities of the Dracos. It’s ingenious stuff developed by a species in a distant galaxy. Go in and finish the weapon. Aim it at their battleship. Our spies will focus on getting the stone back while you work, and delay their departure if they try to leave before you’re ready.”

“You want to blow up their battleship?”

“Correct.”

Dr. Danenbrow and Veshunu looked at Yanashi expectantly.       

“If I’m going to comply, I want to know everything the ICC knows about this weapon.”

Veshunu nodded.

“About 500,000 years ago, a Planetary Death Ray was built by a Progenitor engineer. It backfired and instead destroyed Maldek, the planet they lived on.”

“It backfired? You mean it didn’t work?”

“Correct.”

“That’s not what I remem – I mean – why am I following the blueprints, then? What if it backfires again now and kills us?”

“The blueprints you found in the cave date from about 100 years after the Planetary Death Ray was first tested. The original blueprints were destroyed on Maldek. We think its engineers came to Mars and spent the rest of their lives perfecting it.”

That creator was me, in all those memories that I just got back. But I’ve had dreams about the weapon destroying planets.

“I know why you pause, Yanashi,” Veshunu told her. “You don’t want to watch those creatures die, much less press the button that kills them. These decisions are troubling. The reality is, life requires violence. It necessitates death, even in the best outcomes. Taking control of the future means aiming that weapon and firing. We’ll all be better off for it.”

“I’ll do it,” Yanashi answered. She looked down at the bowl of invisibility paste. “Slime me up.”

In another room, Yanashi got goggles and earplugs to keep the invisibility paste out of her eyes and ears. It felt like jelly, sticky and viscous, a very odd sensation against her skin and clothes. When she was completely covered, she looked at herself in the mirror. She waved her hand and saw nothing.

Yanashi waited outside the door to the room where she’d been working on the weapon. The two Dracos came up the hall, and she slipped in with them while they entered.

“Our orders are to take the opal. Let’s just leave this hunk of junk,” one said, looking at the weapon.

“Why not blast it to smithereens, just to be safe?” the other replied.

“What’s safe about that? If it is important, we should take it with us. We can give it to the weapons team and see if it’s useful technology.”

“Ugh, but it’s huge. It’s so unwieldy, how will we even get it through that door? It’s not our job to figure this out.”

“It kind of is our job.”

“Okay, let me rephrase that: it’s not our problem.”

“Okay, I get what you’re -”

The Dracos turned as the doors to the room opened and Kyrin entered. He froze.

“What are you doing here, kitty?” The Dracos sauntered toward him with stomach-turning grins.

Kyrin showed them his badge.

“I have a level six clearance,” Kyrin replied. “I’m part of the team developing this machinery.” Yanashi could tell he was fighting to keep his voice calm and level as the Dracos drew near.

“Ha! They let cats work for them!”

“Is that even legal?”

The Dracos each pulled long metal chains from their jumpsuits.

“Where’s the woman who was here building this?” Kyrin roared.

“They took her away. This project was,” he whipped the chain across the ground, making a loud crack, “cancelled.”

Kyrin got on all fours to sprint across the room as the Dracos whipped their chains at him. He was fast and agile, but he didn’t have a weapon. Yanashi was frozen watching the fight unfold. Fuck. He can’t teleport in and out of these classified ICC buildings. Okay, Yanashi, focus. This is the distraction you need to activate the weapon.

Yanashi connected a few wires and calibrated the weapon. They aren’t back yet with the stone. This is going to take way too long…wait! Yanashi reached into her pocket.

I have the smaller opal the Avian gave me in Silke’s bar. Maybe this is enough to blast their battleship.

Across the room, the battle raged on, Kyrin using chairs as shields and projectiles. But he didn’t have enough to work with, and he was cornered. He scratched deep grooves into one of the Draco’s faces as they tied him in their chains.

“That’s why we don’t let cats roam free. You’re a hazard to the civilized people of the galaxy.” The Draco spit at him, blood running down his face. Then he took out a machete and placed it against Kyrin’s throat.

Do or die, Yanashi thought. She placed the stone into the machine and it whirred to life. All three heads whipped around to watch it.

“What the -”

Yanashi pressed the trigger.

The weapon spun and mutated, and as she watched it, time seemed to move more slowly around her. Kyrin and the Dracos were frozen in place, then went blurry and dissolved. Yanashi was barefoot, free of the invisibility paste, in a bright open field. Alone. Wait, no, he’s here: the Avian.

“Hello, Yanashi.”

“What is happening?”

“Yes, you deserve a good explanation. In your past life, you engineered the Planetary Death Ray that backfired and destroyed Maldek. Only it didn’t backfire. It destroyed thousands of planets. Your technology led to a ruthless galactic empire that killed and enslaved billions.”

“How is that possible? I’ve had dreams that make me think it’s true. But no one from the ICC seems to know anything about that part of history.”

“Instead of explaining, let me show you.”

Yanashi was launched into a dreamlike state, just like the first time she met the Avian. She felt the grief of knowing she was the engineer of so much death and pain. She saw herself, the Progenitor engineer, sneak in and try to destroy the Planetary Death Ray. She was caught and imprisoned on Mars. She was locked in jail for the rest of her life, only let out on a limited basis when she was very old and close to death. Then she created those blueprints, carving them in stone because she knew she didn’t have the strength and resources to build the machine herself.

Suddenly, she was back.

“Wow. So I haven’t been building a weapon?”

“No. You’ve been building a temporal negator, an antidote. When you pressed that trigger today, you caused the Planetary Death Ray to backfire in the past. If you hadn’t, this timeline would have collapsed in on itself, and the negative one would have taken over. Instead, you’ve caused the negative timeline to finally vanish. That’s why nobody else remembers it. Everyone in my dimension is very grateful to you. And now, I need to send you back.”

“Wait – the Dracos are still terrorizing us now. They’re about to kill my friend.

The Avian nodded.

“I’m not going to blow up their battleship. I don’t want your leaders to think you did build a weapon, and keep abusing you and the Central Energy Stone trying to destroy things. But I will help.”

He clapped.

“When you’re back, you’ll have leverage against them. Your leaders can keep those two Dracos hostage and negotiate the bad situation they’re in with the Dracos.”

“That’s what the opal is called – the Central Energy Stone?”

“Yes. It’s a vestige of Avian civilization, actually, found later by Progenitors. Part of the defense grid we built around the planets of the Solar System. We Avians are what you and your colleagues call the ancient builder race. That’s why I’m here. Be well, Yanashi.”

Yanashi awoke back in the ICC headquarters. The “weapon” was silent and dark once more. Kyrin stood over the Dracos, who were now bound and gagged in their chains. She removed her goggles and wiped the paste off her face.

“Oh my god, Yanashi?” Kyrin yelled, panting. He limped over to her. Yanashi looked like a smeared, floating face.

“What the hell just happened?” he asked her.

“It’s a long story. Let’s find Veshunu and tell him we have hostages.”

Thirty minutes later, Yanashi and Kyrin were cleaned and bandaged and in Kyrin’s plane, on the way to retrieve Neela from Backstep.

“I’ve learned more about the opal. It’s Avian. It’s way older than we thought. And since the weapon didn’t work, I bet Danenbrow will let our team keep it and run more tests.”

“You want to keep working on my team? What about going back to your home planet and seeing the life you were meant to be living?”

“One day. Right now I want to enjoy this life.”

 

THE END

 

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