Previous Chapter

Chapter IV

Uncertainties

infsym

The Squire System, while antiquated, works well for Aeon Legion recruitment. Given stagnant Saturn City demographics, recruits must be drawn from various historical periods instead. Naturally those with military backgrounds are preferable, but talent comes in many forms and the Aeon Legion’s mission encompasses so much more than warfare. However, it is highly advised that all legionaries vet their potential squires before enrolling them into the Academy’s training program. If a legionnaire does not put the effort into recruiting a squire, then why would the recruit put effort into the training? Choosing a potential squire has nothing to do with luck.

-Introduction to the Aeon Legion’s Squire Recruitment Manual by Praetor Lycus Cerberus

Terra gasped as she searched for her rock hammer. She grabbed it and held it close to her chest. The stranger jumped from the tree before landing next to Terra with the grace of a falling feather.

“Good ages Terra,” the silver haired woman said with a voice that carried on the wind. Her wavy silver hair reached down her back and curled at the tips. Sky blue eyes contrasted with the tanned tone of her skin. Her slender, athletic build and youthful narrow face made Terra guess the woman’s age in her late twenties. The woman smiled, grabbing Terra’s arm and pulling her up without even a grunt. “Infinite apologies about my sudden appearance. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Terra steadied herself before stepping away from the intruder. “Who are you?”

The silver haired woman stared at Terra as though expecting to be recognized.

Terra looked at the woman’s uniform, feeling a strange sense of deja-vu. The woman’s sleek, pearl white armor was segmented with metal seams and decorated with glass orbs. A thin stripe of blue decorated the edges of each plate. Underneath her armor, she wore a form fitting white suit. Her armor, along with the sheathed sword she carried at her belt, made the woman’s overall appearance look like a futuristic rendering of an ancient knight.

“Crash. I keep forgetting that,” she said after a moment. She looked down to a long and narrow device worn on her right forearm that covered from her wrist to nearly her elbow. The complex device had a convex, glowing glass orb above her wrist, like the face of a wristwatch. When her left hand drew near the device, a series of holographic translucent blue buttons appeared over and around the edge of the device’s glass face. She touched a button. “Minerva, Restore Terra Mason’s memories.”

Terra raised an eyebrow when a glowing blue ring formed around her center. It moved counterclockwise around her. She tried to escape it, but it encircled her within seconds before vanishing.

The moment the ring dissipated, Terra’s missing memories flooded back into her mind. She remembered Hanns, the soldiers, the battle at the library, and the silver haired woman who fought them by herself. Finally, Terra remembered her own struggle with Hanns over a history book. She remembered everything.

Forcing herself calm, Terra turned to the woman. “Who are you? What did you do to me?”

The woman assumed a military posture before putting her right fist over her heart while snapping her feet together in a strange salute. “Centurion Alya Silverwind of the Aeon Legion. I am the wielder of the aeon edge Silverwind which is also my alias. I am a citizen of Saturn City and twelfth member of the Legendary Blades.”

Terra gazed at the woman with a blank expression. She looked over Alya’s strange uniform again and noticed the word Invictum which was displayed below a golden infinity emblem on her upper arm. Below the infinity emblem was a patch that depicted twelve swords arranged in a circle and pointed inwards. Terra did not recognize any of the other insignias.

“Oh. And I’m also a time traveler,” Alya added, as though it were a minor detail.

Terra’s eyes narrowed. “I find that hard to believe.”

“Let me show you,” Alya said as she snatched Terra’s rock hammer. Before Terra could protest, Alya held it in her right hand, the same hand with the strange watch like device. The glass orb in the watch began glowing before the hammer started to levitate in the air. Terra’s eyes widened as the worn edges and dents faded from the hammer’s surface. Alya handed it back to Terra, who inspected the hammer. It looked new, like the day she had first bought it.

Terra stared at Alya. “How?”

Alya pointed to the watch like device on her right forearm. “It’s called a shieldwatch. It’s singularity technology that controls time. Everything I did in the library was all singularity technology. Well, also a lot of training and experience.”

“So time travel is real? Those were real Nazis?”

“Making a time machine is easy. People have built time machines as far back as 1895 AD in your continuum’s dating system. Most are scientists and explorers wanting to witness history, but others like Hanns cause trouble by changing things.”

Terra’s mouth hung open for a moment. She then put the hammer in her bag before turning back to Alya. “Um. Silverwind is it?”

Alya glided closer. “You may address me as Alya if you wish.”

Terra leaned back when Alya drew close. “Well then, Alya. Um. So why are you here exactly?”

Alya again moved closer to Terra. “I wanted to thank you in person for helping me stop Hanns. If not for you, Hanns would have gotten away with the book and things would have escalated.”

“Um. You’re welcome?” Terra said, raising her hands in front of her and stepping back.

Fortunately, Alya backed off before studying Terra with narrowed eyes. She put her hand under her chin while regarding Terra. “I suppose I need to do a brief physical examination and check a few other things. I’ll be back in a few hours.”

“What?” Terra asked before another glowing ring formed around Alya, moving clockwise. The ring left a trail of light which formed a sphere around Alya that dissipated, leaving no trace of the silver haired woman.

Terra stood for a long moment and stared where Alya had stood.

“I’m still not sure,” came Alya’s voice from above.

Terra looked up to see Alya pacing on the top tier of the quarry. “That wasn’t a few hours.”

Alya ignored Terra and continued speaking while staring at the glass face of her shieldwatch. A small holographic disc glowed above the glass face. Alya’s finger traced the surface of the disc as though it were a touch screen. “No medical conditions a shieldwatch can’t fix. Good vision too. Still, she is physically unfit and will need to work hard to catch up in that area. Her grades are good. Could have been better I think. Excellent history score. Slightly above average sciences and math. I will have to ask her teacher about that. Minerva, give me a list of good times to interview her teacher and parents. Also, will removing her from the continuum affect its integrity?”

“No,” came a female voice from Alya’s shieldwatch. “No significant changes will occur even if she is removed from this continuum.”

Terra tried to see what the small holographic disc said, but she didn’t recognize the text. Instead, Terra tried to regain her composure. What did this strange woman want? Terra knew Alya had wiped out a platoon of trained soldiers by herself. If she wanted Terra dead, it would take little effort on Alya’s part. But, Terra knew Alya wasn’t evil. An evil person would have let the hostages die in the library. This woman put herself in danger to save them. “What are you after?”

Alya looked at Terra as though she had forgotten about her. She then smiled and jumped down in front of Terra. “Oh. Apologies again. I wanted to ask a few questions.”

Terra scowled. “You want to ask questions? You interrupt my day, invade my quarry, violate my personal space, tell me you are a time traveler, and then you want to ask questions?”

Alya smiled and nodded.

“Fine,” Terra said before crossing her arms.

“First. Who in Aion’s origin were those people at the library? The soldiers with silly red armbands. I asked Minerva, but she lectured at length about the history of Continuum Lambda.”

Terra’s brow raised. “You don’t know who the Nazi’s are?”

“Nazis? What an awkward name.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of World War Two?” Terra asked, putting a hand on her forehead.

“You mean the Great War? Continuum Alpha doesn’t have another one of those.”

Terra stared while her brow lowered.

“Well your continuum is rather strange. It’s one the few where European civilizations become dominant. It’s like… how would your culture put it?”

“Backwater,” came a female voice from Alya’s shieldwatch.

“Thank you, Minerva. Yes. The Legacy Library is the only interesting thing from this continuum. The Time cartographers from the Eighth Cohort haven’t mapped this part of Time well. This makes it rather difficult for me to find and arrest Hanns.”

“So are you some kind of time police force?”

“Let’s see. What is a good way to describe it from within your culture’s context? What are those people called in those colorful picture books? They don capes and masks to fight crime for justice.”

“Superheroes?”

“That’s it! That’s what we are. We are good guys and we stop bad guys from destroying history.”

“Why not tell everyone this? Wouldn’t it be easier to tell everyone about the dangers of time travel rather than charging into libraries and beating people up?”

Alya frowned while waving dismissively. “Oh yes. That worked really crashing well. After the First Temporal War, we decided to use a different approach. Keeping time travel somewhat secret makes temporal traffic manageable. Less traffic, less fools who try to change history and cause Temporal Crashes by accident. I already explained all this to Hanns and he is still trying to abuse time travel.”

“Why tell me any of this?”

Alya smiled, leaning closer. “In truth, you caught my attention. I made a mistake when I underestimated Hanns. If it wasn’t for you, then Hanns would have escaped with the book. However, Hanns made a mistake as well. He underestimated you. Now I wish to know why. Why did you try to stop Hanns?”

Terra felt a spike of fear. Had she done something wrong? What if she had damaged history by accident?

Alya stood, expectant.

Terra clenched her fists and faced Alya, deciding that she had done nothing wrong. She wouldn’t flinch in the face of a time traveler or whatever this strange delusion was. “I don’t know why I did that. It’s not like a wanted to. I was really scared, but at the moment I was the only one who could stop him. For a moment, I thought I could be a heroine.”

Alya’s eyes narrowed in a piercing stare for a long moment. Then she smiled. “Infinite! That is exactly the answer I was looking for. I still need a little more information, but I can get that elsewhere.”

Terra tensed, waiting to see what Alya did next. To her surprise, Alya turned and jumped onto the top of the quarry as though gravity were more a suggestion than a force.

Alya looked over her shoulder at Terra. “Okay, Terra. I will return in a couple of months once I take care of a few details,” she said, silver hair streaming in the wind. A ring formed around her, moving clockwise to form a glowing sphere. She vanished with the sphere of light.

Terra stood alone in the quarry for a long moment. The breeze faded, leaving her surrounded by silent stone.

“Huh. That was kind of weird,” Terra said, her tone calm. Then her heart jumped when the ring formed at the top tier of the quarry, dissipating to reveal Alya once again.

“Ages, Terra!” Alya said, smiling. “Sorry it took longer than I expected. I meant to be back last week, but I got sidetracked.”

Terra scowled. “You were just here!”

“Oh. Right. I am accustomed to Edge time. I keep forgetting you are in the continuum’s time flow. Regardless, I have wonderful news! After much consideration, interviews with your parents, and high praise from your history teacher, I have decided to extend you a formal invitation to join the Aeon Legion as my squire! Isn’t that infinite!”

Terra’s brow furrowed. “When did you talk with my… wait! What was that last part?”

Alya moved closer, once again getting too close for Terra’s comfort. “Your single brave act in the Library was enough to get my attention. After that, it was a simple matter of checking to see if you meet a few other minor additional qualifications. Congratulations. You meet all of them! Now all we need to do is get you a shieldwatch and registered in the Aevum Academy.”

Terra stepped back. “The what Academy?”

“The Aevum Academy. It’s where the Legion trains new squires. They perform basic training. After that, I finish up advanced training. Simple.”

Terra stared at Alya with a blank expression.

Alya squinted. “I seemed to have confused you at one point?”

“At the part about time travel,” Terra said before taking a deep breath. “Okay. Excuse me if I seem slow. Still trying to process this. To be clear, I hit a guy on the head with a rock because he tried to borrow a book and this makes me qualified to join the time police?”

“Aeon Legion,” Alya corrected. “Also, we do a lot more than police time travel. Besides you don’t just join the Aeon Legion, you have to pass the training program at the Academy first.”

Terra was about to say no when another ring formed around Alya, again instantly shifting her pose.

As the ring faded, Alya’s expression changed. Her smile vanished and Alya now stood stoically. “Let’s try this again. Before you say no, consider this.”

Terra glowered, but listened.

“Joining the Aeon Legion grants many perks,” Alya explained. “The biggest is that the shieldwatch makes you immortal.”

Terra raised an eyebrow.

“Well biologically immortal, technically speaking. The shieldwatch gives you eternal youth.”

Terra opened her mouth to speak again when the ring formed around Alya a second time.

Now Alya frowned slightly and had taken off the shoulder pads of her armor. “You also get to see historical events in person.”

Terra grimaced, raising a finger to interrupt when the ring formed around Alya a third time, again shifting her pose. Now Alya stood without her torso plate and her hair was more frayed at the edges.

Alya glared back at her. “You get a device that controls time! What more could you crashing want?”

Terra clinched her jaw, preparing to argue back when the ring formed around Alya a fourth time. Now she wore only the form fitting suit under the armor while her hair had become untamed.

Alya scowled, pinching her upper nose with her eyes closed. “Really crashing brilliant Alya,” she said as though to herself, “bringing up the training’s fatality statistics.”

Terra’s eyebrows raised. “What?”

“Never mind,” Alya said, shaking her head. “Do you have any idea how stubborn you are? At first I liked the challenge, but now you are just being obstinate. Smith said you were willful, but good Aion! I’ve met Manticores more agreeable.”

Terra scowled. “Stubborn? You haven’t let me get a word in!”

Alya sighed, pacing in front of Terra. She then faced Terra. “Did I mistake your courage? Are you not a heroine?”

Terra perked up. “A heroine?”

Alya’s slight smile returned. “Yes. That’s what I’m offering you. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Terra stared at Alya, confused. “But I’m not a heroine.”

“Oh really? So anyone would charge a trained soldier armed with only a rock?”

“But I’m just an average person. I don’t have crazy time powers or anything.”

“So average people can’t become heroes and heroines then?”

“Well yes, but…” Terra trailed off as the ring formed around Alya again.

Alya’s smile was wider this time and her hair better kept. “Now we are making progress!”

Terra frowned. “Stop time traveling to win arguments against me!”

Alya leaned closer. “Which, by the way, is another perk of time travel.”

“Why are you trying so hard to recruit me?”

Alya’s smile widened as if she expected Terra to ask that very question. “Because, Terra, I like you. While you have just met me, I have spent a lot of time getting to know you. You are honest, direct, loyal, much more clever than you appear, and most importantly, courageous when it counts.”

Terra was going to say something about flattery not working on her when the ring formed around Alya again.

“What’s holding you back is fear,” Alya said, her expression neutral again. “It’s why you hide in this quarry. Why you avoid your mother’s insistence on finding a college or your father’s attempts to find you employment. It is the main reason you never tried hard in school or competed with Hannah.”

Terra remained silent, wondering how Alya knew all this even with time travel.

Alya’s expression turned hard as the wind picked up around the quarry. She spoke with a quiet intensity. “But I have seen the steel in you. When everything else has failed, the real Terra steels herself and fights! I want to take that Terra from this quarry and purify her, turn her into steel. That Terra could be amazing. That Terra could be a great heroine!”

“But I can’t do any of those things you did in the library.”

“Training and technology, Terra. Exercise isn’t exactly singularity science. The rest is simply the shieldwatch. This is the power I offer; power over time itself. That power should be wielded by the worthy, by those who desire to be a hero or heroine. You are worthy, Terra Mason.”

Terra hesitated while she considered Alya’s words when another ring formed over Alya and again changed her pose.

Alya’s smiled had returned in full. “How about I show you time travel?”

Terra recoiled. “I don’t know…”

“Trust me. You will love this! Don’t worry. We will be completely safe. The Sybil have precogged no temporal storms. You will be fine.”

Terra narrowed her gaze as she thought. If Alya had ill intent, then she could have simply abducted Terra many times over by now. “Will I be gone long?”

Alya laughed. “It’s time travel.”

“Oh… Right.”

“Infinite!” Alya said as she grabbed Terra, pulling her close. “Let’s go!”

Terra was about to push away from Alya when a glowing ring formed around both of them, moving clockwise around them. As the ring passed, it wiped away the quarry and replaced the landscape with a strange grainy storm of blue energy.

Terra’s eyes went wide as she looked at the surreal landscape. The distorted world around her was now a shade of translucent blue with a static grainy appearance. The plants and animals around the quarry became ghostlike, surrounded by moving after images that bled into one another. Everything seemed in flux, moving in an azure shadow that stretched into a line on the horizon. A pale light illuminated the surroundings and when Terra looked up she could see the stars as though it was night. Somehow the sky looked strange filled with so many stars, more than she had ever seen before in her life.

Alya grabbed Terra’s arm. “Hold on to me,” she said in a calm tone that echoed in the blue haze.

“What is this?” Terra asked, her grip tight on Alya’s arm.

“This is the Edge of Time. Don’t worry. This trip will not take long. Our destination is close in Time.”

Alya walked forward as the surroundings blew away, like a hurricane had suddenly swept through. Terra could feel the wind blow against her, trying to force her back. However, Alya didn’t seem to notice the strange energy storm, acting as though this were normal.

After a few moments, the current died down and Alya stopped. She then looked at her shieldwatch for a long moment. Alya searched through a menu before pressing a holographic button. A ring formed around her, changing her appearance in an instant. No longer did she wear her armor, but an ankle length navy blue dress. Her long, silver hair was now curly, short, and dark brown. Terra thought Alya looked like someone from the 1930s. “How did you do that?”

“Shieldwatch,” Alya said as she checked her appearance. She then looked at Terra. “I suppose you will not be too obvious.”

“What time are we going to?”

Alya grinned. “You’ll see,” she said before pulling Terra a little closer. A ring passed over them both, erasing the strange grainy blue haze and replacing it with an alleyway. The air was cold. Partly cloudy skies loomed overhead.

Terra turned, trying to gauge her surroundings. While Terra gawked, Alya put a hat on Terra’s head and handed her a jacket. Terra then faced Alya who now also wore a hat and had hid her sword in a large bag she carried at her side. “Where did you get that?”

Alya sighed. “Listen, Terra. Don’t ask questions. Right now, just follow me.”

Terra followed Alya into an open area out of the alley. She immediately recognized the Capital Building ahead. A small crowd gathered there.

“Washington DC?” Terra asked.

Alya nodded. They walked to a spot near the East Portico and waited.

Others gathered. Their clothes appeared dated to Terra. However, Terra felt out of place in her jeans and tee shirt. The only period clothing she wore was the jacket Alya had given her.

Alya pulled Terra close again before their surroundings accelerated, like the world was on fast forward. When the crowd grew large, time returned to normal.

“Did you just speed up time?”

Alya grinned. “Yet another perk. I wish it worked in Saturn City. Crashing timeport crowds.”

Terra was about to ask what they were waiting for when a procession arrived. She gasped when she saw Franklin Delano Roosevelt arrive at the podium.

Terra couldn’t believe it. She was watching the presidential inauguration of her favorite president! He was right there. Terra stood in a historical moment, in person. It all felt so surreal, yet his words were clear and Terra could see him with her own eyes.

After he took the oath of office, Franklin D. Roosevelt started his famous inaugural address. “I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel.”

Cheers and applause erupted from the crowd. Terra had heard the recordings, but this was without the audible sharpness of the old broadcasts.

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.”

More applause came.

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Terra listened to the rest of the speech in awe. When the speech drew to a close, Alya leaned in closer. “Was it everything you had imagined?”

Terra shook her head. “So this is history?”

Alya looked back to the podium while the crowd cheered. “This is Time. This is what we protect. This is what you can be a part of. To protect the history you love. In this world, history is more than just words on a page. It lives and breathes. But if you are not careful, it dies too. You can protect it, Terra.”

Terra looked away. “I don’t know. This is wonderful, but I don’t think I am brave enough to join this Legion.”

Alya smiled, gesturing to Roosevelt as he turned to go. “Even after his words?”

Terra hesitated.

“Fear holds you back, Terra. Courage drives you forward. One cannot exist without the other. In most, courage and fear exist in a shifting equilibrium. Not you though. Your brave actions shattered that balance within you. Fear is the only thing stopping you from getting what you want. But, courage will get the better of you eventually. That courage needs to be shaped, hardened, and polished.”

Terra looked away.

Alya then pointed to the shadows behind the podium. “Terra, look to the darkness there.”

Terra did, but saw nothing.

“Now imagine Hanns stepping out of the shadows and pointing a gun at your favorite president.”

Terra scowled before turning to Alya. “He couldn’t! Could he?”

Alya shrugged. “Maybe. Time travelers have assassinated leaders before. The Forgotten Guns were particularly good at it. The Legion could stop Hanns though. Even if Hanns succeeded, history would likely turn out the same. Still, more dead bodies have never made history a better place. These are all uncertainties though. The one thing that is certain is that you can face your fear.” Alya smiled. “Terra, you have already protected history once against all odds. Now I offer you the power of time itself to protect something you love. Yes there is danger on the way ahead, but I wouldn’t extend this offer if I thought you incapable of enduring it. However, if you wish to let nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror paralyze you, then go back to your little quarry and hide. I can even erase your memory again if you wish, but you need to make your decision knowing what you gave up.”

Terra bit her lower lip. “I just don’t know. This is so sudden.”

“I won’t lie to you. If you choose to come with me, then it will be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. But if you choose not to come with me, understand that you are giving up both history and the power to defend it. Everything I did in the library, the abilities, the sword, time travel, all this could be yours. But you have to choose it.”

“Right now?”

Alya sighed. “You have no idea how long I have been trying to recruit you. However, I would be willing to give you a week if you really need that long.”

“What if I change my mind after reaching this Academy?”

Alya burst out in laughter which drew the attention of several people nearby. “That will not happen. Trust me. If you change your mind after seeing Saturn City and getting a taste of the shieldwatch’s power, then you will be making history.”

After leaving the crowds, Alya brought Terra back through time to the quarry.

Terra checked the sun overhead, noting that it had not moved at all since she left. She then looked around the quarry. “So I won’t meet myself will I?”

Alya changed back to her original armored form with silver hair. “Oh no. It’s impossible to meet yourself using time travel. I don’t remember the technical details, but once you time travel, then that instance of yourself will erase any doubles to times you travel to.”

Terra turned to Alya. “So what now?”

“As promised, I will give you until the end of this week to make your choice. Not that I consider it much of a choice, but I can understand if you feel it’s sudden. Just remember, Terra, Hanns is still out there. While you spend your time deciding, he spends his working towards victory.”

The ring formed around Alya a final time and she vanished. Terra waited for Alya to come back again just as she had before, but she heard only the sound of a fading breeze.

Terra sat in the quarry for the rest of the afternoon, thinking. Alya had offered Terra almost everything she wanted. In truth, Terra had wanted that power in the library. But, knowing that history was more than just words on a page now made the offer irresistible. What Alya had offered Terra was the power to touch history.

She looked at the quarry wall and used her small pick to dislodge a bit of magnetite ore. Terra tossed the ore in her hands as she looked up at the darkening sky. This was her choice.

When the first stars appeared in the sky, Terra climbed out of her quarry. She reached the top tier before stopping to look at the quarry. In that moment, Terra realized that she was about to leave everything behind. After a long moment of solace, Terra turned and walked back to her parents’ home.

“There you are,” Beth said, looking at Terra’s feet to make sure she didn’t track mud into the house again. “How many opportunities did you find in your quarry?”

Terra sighed. “Actually, one found me.”

Beth raised an eyebrow while Terra sat at the kitchen table.

Fred walked over to the refrigerator to get himself a drink. “So you think about that job offer any?”

“Sorry Dad,” Terra said as her shoulders drooped. “It seems I have another offer.”

They both stared at Terra.

“What offer?” Beth finally asked.

Terra spoke in a whining tone while laying her head on the table. “I’m joining the time police.”

Bar2
Previous Chapter
infsym
Read the rest.