Aeon Legion was just awarded best fantasy book of January 2017 by Best Fantasy Books HQ. Read their full review here:
Aeon Legion was just awarded best fantasy book of January 2017 by Best Fantasy Books HQ. Read their full review here:
I made a book trailer! Check it out. I hope to add some more content to the Aeon Legion channel down the road.
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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
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.”
Read the rest.
“Alya Silverwind, we need to talk about this report. It just says ‘Bad guys defeated.’”
“Right. That sums it up rather nicely.”
“Crashing End, Alya! Have you ever considered filling these out properly?”
“You know Orion, that’s the thing I like most about you. You are adorable when you try to give me orders. Although I suppose I should have noted how that girl saved the mission. I think her name was Terra.”
“It was rather odd. Her tactics were awful.”
“Well whoever it was, have you considered that she might be just a civilian?”
“Oh. You may be right. I spend too much time around Legendary Blades. I tend to forget that even civilians can be brave. You know, I think I may actually look into that.”
“The Hanns case?”
“The girl. Yes. I think I will. Orion, I will send you the rest of the data on Hanns. Have Minerva issue a formal warrant. Meanwhile, I am going to take some personal time. I will talk to you later.”
“Wait what? Alya? Crashing End. No one ever listens to me!”
-Conversation log appended to case file for Hanns Speer, full report still pending
“These memories we will cherish forever…” the girl trailed off, her speech paused as she rubbed tears from her eyes.
Terra rolled her eyes. The graduation robes made the crowded gymnasium even more hot and stuffy. Graduation had dragged on long enough without every student giving a speech breaking into tears. Why did they care so much? She had no happy memories of this place. Almost all the classes were boring and most of the students didn’t even acknowledge her existence, except for the ones that annoyed her.
Hannah, the class valedictorian, dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief before continuing her speech. “These memories we will cherish forever, even though we go into a larger world. Now we, the graduating class of 2000, stand at a crossroads. We shall keep the past in our hearts while we go forward into the future.”
She walked off the stage as the history teacher, Mr. Smith, approached the podium. “Congratulations class of 2000! Go forth into a new world!”
A cheer went up from the students as applause thundered through the gymnasium. Terra allowed herself a brief sigh. High school was done.
Terra made her way through the crowd, searching for her parents. She just wanted to go home. Now a slow, packed crowd stood in her way.
She grimaced when someone stepped on her foot again. Such things happened often to her as people never noticed her presence until they stumbled into her. When she looked down, she saw a graduation card at her feet dropped by the person who had just walked by her. Terra looked over to see Ray who walked to meet his family.
One of the football team’s stars, Ray stood tall with a bulky build, but was not a perceptive individual. Ray was nice, if lazy and often coaxed admiring girls into doing his homework for him.
Terra picked up the card, opening it to read the words Congratulations Ray. Love Grandma!. Three one hundred dollar bills lay in the fold. Terra closed the card, leaving the money untouched and followed Ray.
“Such a smart young man and so sharp,” an older lady said to Ray. “What are you going to do after graduation?”
Ray grinned and saluted. “I’m joining the Marines.”
“Why?” she asked.
Ray smiled. “Because I want to be a baddass!”
Terra cleared her throat and Ray turned. She presented the card to him.
Ray checked the card. “Hey thanks! See. I have everything covered.”
Terra rolled her eyes as she walked away. She rejoined the crowd, trying to push through to find her parents.
“Well if it isn’t Terra the Terror herself,” came a voice from behind her.
Terra turned to see Hannah with her arm outstretched towards Terra’s face. Hannah’s graduation gown sleeve concealed her hand.
“What?” Terra asked, crossing her arms. She knew Hannah plotted something as usual.
Hannah smiled as she shot her hidden diploma out of her sleeve, stopping right in front of Terra’s nose.
Terra stared at Hannah, unblinking.
Hannah shook her head. “Didn’t even flinch. Do you know why I’ll miss you?”
Terra pursed her lips. She would not miss Hannah’s strange mind games. “No.”
Hannah grinned. “Because I’m better than you in almost every way. I’m prettier, smarter, have better grades, and I’m more motivated. Despite all that, you are better than me in one way.”
“I don’t stroke my own ego every five seconds?”
“You never flinch. In a way, I’m really glad you didn’t try hard in class. Otherwise, I would have had to actually work to be valedictorian. Though I am also kind of sad that you didn’t compete with me. I feel cheated, like I never got to see Terra Mason at her best.”
Terra scowled. “Are you done?”
Hannah stared at Terra for a moment before tearing up. She then embraced Terra. “I will miss my rival!”
Terra rolled her eyes while she patted Hannah awkwardly on the back.
After a moment Hannah let go and wiped her eyes. “Now if you excuse me I have to go gloat some more before I accept all my scholarships. A PhD won’t earn itself! Good luck and I hope you find a decent rival to replace me.”
Terra almost asked Hannah what her plans were after graduation, but decided not to give Hannah the pleasure. No doubt she had already planned her future, unlike Terra who spent most of her time reading about the past.
“Terra Mason,” came a voice from behind her.
Terra turned to see her history teacher, Mr. Alden Smith. “Mr. Smith.”
Smith nodded as he approached before cracking a slight smile that always preceded his usual criticism. “Well it seems you have graduated despite your lack of effort.”
“Hey! I made an A plus in your class after you gave me extra assignments, like that report on FDR.”
“I did that to push you into doing better. Why didn’t you try to get all As in your other classes? I know you are capable.”
“Why should I? This place is stupid.”
Smith shook his head. “Honesty isn’t always tactful, young lady. To you this place seems stupid, and yes much of school is foolish, but you still owe it to yourself to try harder. You are tougher than you look. I can only imagine what you could accomplish if you turned all that stubbornness into determination. So what will you do now?”
Terra gazed down. “I’m not sure. I want to go into geology, but I’m still undecided. Everyone else already seems to have a career choice.”
Smith smiled. “Well just remember, Terra, that you have a choice. I think the hardest thing for you is realizing that you have choices. You are always so busy holding still that you forget to move forward.”
Terra looked at Smith. “What should I do then?”
Smith gestured to the other graduates. “You see these youths? They all think they know what they want. Wealth and fame. Others have already planned their futures unaware of just how much the future doesn’t care about their plans. What should you do then?”
He locked eyes with Terra.
“While you live, shine,” he said with a smile. “Be the best person you can be. That is all anyone should ever do with their life. Don’t squander your time staying still, Terra Mason. Grab opportunity when it drifts by on the wind. Make the most of your life because time demands its toll on us all.”
The next three months flew by as summer began to fade into fall. Days passed quickly while she read and spent time in her quarry. Today, Terra returned home after visiting the library for the first time all summer. She had avoided the library. She no longer felt safe there for some reason. She guessed it was related to that strange gap in her memory before graduation.
That missing afternoon at the library bothered her at first, along with her sudden fixation on World War II books. By the time of graduation though, she had dismissed the whole missing day affair. Instead, her mother’s relentless college campaign became Terra’s primary concern. She worried as the final battle over college with her mother drew close.
Terra approached the door to her home and opened it with care to avoid the creaking sound it made when opened too fast. She peeked into the hallway, making sure it was clear. With the hallway vacant, Terra tread with soft footsteps around the boards that squeaked. In the living room, she could hear the television playing while her mother, Bethany Mason, sat facing the computer with her back to the hallway.
Terra made her way to the stairs. When she was out of sight of the living room, she sighed in relief.
“Terra. Come here please,” Beth said from the living room.
Terra grimaced as she let out a low growl. How did her mother do that? She sighed in frustration before walking back towards the living room.
“I think you may like this one,” Beth said, still sitting, as she turned to face Terra. Bethany Mason was still in her business dress. Terra almost never saw her out of formal business attire or without an unimpressed frown. “They have a really good finance and accounting program. I think your high math scores can get you admittance.”
Terra looked at the computer screen, pretending to read. “Do they have a geology major?” Terra asked in a bored tone, already knowing the answer.
“There is that bluntness again. No wonder you have so much difficulty making friends.”
“Sorry, Mom. I have no interest in finance, accounting, business, nursing, law, or medicine,” Terra said, counting each with her fingers.
“Well you should. Those are all good, high paying fields. Geology is just a hobby. I want you to be successful.”
“I know,” Terra said, turning to escape while praying this conversation was finished.
“Young lady,” Beth said as she stood with hands on her hips. She was taller than Terra by a foot. “I did not say we were finished.”
Terra slouched, stopped, and sighed before turning around again.
Beth shook her head. “Terra, would it kill you to do something difficult every once in a while? You drifted through school without ever pushing yourself. You have done nothing all summer long but read World War II history books and dig up rocks in that pit behind the house. Now it’s fall semester and soon it will be too late to enroll in a good college.”
Terra crossed her arms and glared at Beth.
Beth frowned before pointing at Terra. “When your father and I still struggled–”
“Yes I know,” Terra said, trying not to roll her eyes at hearing the same story for the thousandth time. “Our family went through hard times before you were promoted. Dad had to work double shifts. You don’t want me to have to go through the same thing.”
Terra hoped that would end it. She turned to leave again only to find her father, Fredrick Mason, blocking her escape.
“Good news!” Fred said. He was a head shorter than Terra and as poorly dressed. He wore a stained T-shirt and worn bluejeans. She often wondered what her mother saw in him until Fred smiled, which was always difficult to not return. “I talked to my friend Jeff today. He says he could use a part timer for his garage. Basic stuff; answering the phone, a bit of cleaning. That sort of thing. Interested?”
Terra shook her head. “No, not really, Dad.”
Fred winked as he nudged Terra. “Come on. It will get your mother off your back.”
Beth glared at him.
Fred shrugged. “Look I know you want her to go to college, but maybe she just needs to work a little to find her calling?”
“Look,” Terra said, trying to hide the irritation in her tone. “I just want to take it easy for a while.”
“Easy?” Beth said as she crossed her arms, a habit she often criticized Terra for. “Very little of anything easy is worthwhile. This family prospered because of my determination and your father’s self sacrifice. Besides, I know you are capable of working hard. There isn’t much that can stop you once you make up your mind. God knows we could never do anything with that bullheadedness of yours.”
Terra clenched her jaw as she glared at Beth, unblinking.
Fred sighed. “Oh great. She just went into stubborn mode.”
Beth’s eyes narrowed. “Oh I know that look. Now you will just stand there until we give up. Fine! I didn’t want to do this, but here is your ultimatum. You have until the end of this week to enroll in a college.”
Terra wanted to say “Or what?” but decided against it since it would prolong the fight.
Fred put a hand on both Terra’s and Beth’s shoulders. “Okay. Why don’t you both stop trying to out stubborn one another. Families fight, but families love too.”
Beth scowled at Fred who simply smiled back. After a moment, Beth’s scowl faded. “Oh all right, but the ultimatum still stands. If she can find a job, then that is acceptable as well,” she said before leaving the room.
Terra let out a long sigh.
Fred turned to Terra. “I know she’s pestering you, but it’s only because she lo–”
“I know. Because she loves me,” Terra said as she returned Fred’s warm smile. “But I need time to figure things out.”
Fred nodded. “You just need to do something. Sometimes we have to follow the wind.”
After dinner, Terra went upstairs to her room. The floor remained clear of any clothes or other items. A dusty television and old game system sat on the dresser in the corner. Her open closet contained untouched dresses, worn jeans, and stained tee-shirts.
A sizable overcrowded bookshelf took up much of the room. The top of the bookshelf, dresser, and window seal hosted an impressive collection of rocks, minerals, ores, and geodes. Diorite, gabbro, basalt, pumice, marble, quartzite, and obsidian all decorated the room. Some she had found herself while others she bought. Terra had arranged them in groups according to the layers in which they are naturally found.
Vestiges remained of Terra’s younger teenage years. A dusty make up kit lay on the dresser though a large lump of rock crystal rested on top of it. One could just make out the edges of a boy band poster under another poster of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The poster read Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.
Terra gathered her worn rock hammer, chisel, and a small spade, placing them in her tool bag before leaving. “I’m going to the quarry again. Be back in a bit,” Terra said before she left the house, not waiting for a response.
The colors of fall painted the trees as Terra walked through the backyard. Patches of yellow dotted the mountains in the distance while red leaves floated in the creek she crossed. Knee high golden grass swayed in the fall winds as Terra passed through the fields.
The quarry lay near her house a short walk away. The couple who had lived here before considered the pit an eyesore so they had planted a row of trees to block the view. In fact, her family had gotten a good deal for the property because of it. Although it devalued the property, for Terra it was a boon. She had often played there during her childhood. As she grew older, she used it to find a few of the ores and minerals for her rock collection.
The terraced pit descended five tiers, each six paces deep. A small dark pool was at the bottom. Moss grew in patches on the flats while tree roots grew into the top tier. Dark veins of ores marbled the walls. Over the years, Terra had chipped away at the walls, sometimes finding new pockets of ore like a gardener cultivating crops. After all, this place was like her garden. A place of sanctuary for her.
She climbed carefully onto the first tier. Terra took each step with care which she had learned years ago when she still rock climbed. When she reached the bottom of the first tier, her heart was racing from exertion while she wheezed. After resting for a moment, she stared working.
Taking out her small, worn rock chisel, Terra chipped away at a patch of dolomite. Last week, she had found traces of magnetite ore and now hoped to hit a larger vein. She dug around a large chunk of rock before trying to pull it out with her bare hands.
Terra grunted and strained as she pulled at the loosened chunk of dolomite stone. “Stubborn stone!” she said through gritted teeth as she pulled harder. The stone did not give and Terra slipped, falling down to the ground in a hard thump.
She lay on the ground, gasping at the exertion. Terra’s mind wandered to the future as she gazed at the sky. The clouds moved at a steady pace, swept along by the wind. She closed her eyes as a gentle breeze washed over her.
Terra sighed. “Do something. Follow the wind. Yeah right. That’s not how it works. The future never comes to the present.”
When she opened her eyes to the sky, they seemed to be playing tricks on her. It looked as though someone stood in the tree above her, balancing on a large branch. After a moment, her eyes focused. She then realized someone really was in the tree, watching her. A woman with silver hair.
Continuum Time: 4:23pm, February 10th, 2000 AD (local calender).
Location: Continental United States.
Enemy Forces: Approximately 1 platoon, early 1940s heavy weapons.
Lethal force is not authorized.
Warning: Recommend full strike team for this engagement. At least tw–
Warning: Civilians in area. Advise that on–
Attention Centurion Silverwind. Strategos Orion left the following message for you.
“You know, Alya, just because you can match an army by yourself doesn’t mean that–”
-Combat log of Centurion Silverwind
Terra ducked as Hanns regarded the silver haired intruder. “Silverwind,” he said in a low tone. He then pointed at the silver haired woman, the one he referred to as Silverwind. “Feuer Frei!” Hanns yelled.
The guns roared as rounds pelted the statue where Silverwind stood. But she moved so fast that Terra saw only a blur. The woman jumped down into the maze of bookshelves as the statue shattered under the gunfire.
The gunfire stopped as Nazis scanned for Silverwind’s location. They moved forward, searching between bookshelves. Four of them stalked around the corner, rifles raised and ready to fire. They stopped before one motioned to proceed forward into the maze out of Terra’s sight.
“Da ist sie!” one yelled. Gunfire rang through the library, forcing Terra to cover her ears again. When the shooting stopped, a helmet rolled across the floor into Terra’s view. Seconds later, a soldier flew over the shelves. He grunted as he struck the ground and rolled into a nearby wall. He did not get back up.
The remaining soldiers pointed their weapons toward the disturbance, waiting for Silverwind to show herself while Hanns dug through books nearby. Terra then understood. This woman, this Silverwind somehow knew about this temporal intrusion. Hanns’s soldiers were trying to buy him time to find a book.
Six more soldiers moved to the center of the room toward Silverwind’s last location. They stood close by one another with bayonets attached to their rifles while one soldier drew a sword.
“Feigling!” one yelled.
Silverwind stepped out to face them, drawing a silver sword unlike any blade Terra had ever seen. Its translucent edge glowed a faint blue and took on a static grainy appearance. Above the cross guard, a small orb burned bright blue.
She stood straight backed with feet together and lifted the blade in her left hand. Silverwind then placed her right hand behind her back and raised the edge of the blade a few inches in front of her face with the guard just below her chin. She held this pose for a few seconds as though saluting her foes. Her confident smile showed no hint of fear as she faced one of the greatest villains in all of history. In fact, she seemed impressed they were trying to attack her at all. Then she swung her sword out at an angle to her side as though to signal her salute finished and that she was about to attack. She did.
It lasted seconds. Silverwind moved too fast for Terra’s eyes. Like a whirlwind, she moved in a blur of motion. She seemed to strike each soldier simultaneously, dancing around them as though they were statues. All Terra could see was the woman’s long, shimmering hair trailing behind her as though she were a silver wind.
The soldiers all fell at once in a heap of broken bones and bleeding faces while their weapons lay cut in half upon the ground. Only the Nazi wielding a sword remained. He slashed at the woman as she raised her own sword to block. Blades met, yet there was no ring of metal meeting metal. Instead, the woman’s blade sliced through the Nazi’s soldier’s sword with his own momentum. He stared at his clean cut blade with wide eyes before the woman struck his neck and he fell.
Silverwind faced the remaining soldiers. “All combatants, you are in violation of the Temporal Accords! You are ordered to return to your home time immediately! Fail to do so and the Aeon Legion will consider this a crime against Time and you will be dealt with accordingly!” she said in perfect English.
A hail of gunfire sounded from the room as the machine gun fired. More fire came from the anti-tank cannon shooting at a steady, but slow rhythm as its rounds punched through walls. Silverwind braced herself, raising her right hand to reveal a small device with a glowing orb that was attached to her forearm. She held it in front of her like a shield. Armor piercing rounds froze in place just as they struck a translucent field that emanated from Silverwind’s forearm device. Each impact sent a ring of energy rippling across a force field that extended from the orb of the device. The energy field was shaped like a buckler and Terra guessed it had the same function as a shield from antiquity, only more powerful and able to stop bullets. When Silverwind lowered her shield, the bullets remained frozen in mid air.
“Infinite!” Silverwind said, smiling. “I hate boring missions!”
The machine gun and cannon kept firing, sending tracer rounds streaking towards her. The woman’s afterimages flashed between bullets before she jumped over several bookshelves in an impossibly high leap. Soldier’s manning the machine gun tried to shift their aim, but the woman attacked too fast. A silver blade sliced through the machine gun’s steel without effort. The soldiers didn’t even have time to yell as she grabbed one and flipped him into the other.
The cannon fired again, but she dodged the shells with impossible speed before jumping onto a vertical wall. She then ran on the wall as though it were a floor. The soldiers angled the cannon upward and fired. Shots hit around her as she weaved between the rounds with inhuman reflexes.
Stray hits sent large chunks of marble downward towards Terra. She scrambled out of the way by a mere span as debris rained around her.
Silverwind jumped on the top of the cannon. The gun’s two crew members tried to draw their pistols, but were too slow. The woman crouched and kicked one on the side of the face while jabbing the other in the throat with her hand. She jumped down, slashing at the cannon with her blade. A bright light flared from the edge of her sword as it hit the cannon. The cannon exploded and Terra fell to the ground, hands covering her head as small bits of smoking debris fell around her.
After a smoldering wheel rolled by her, Terra opened her eyes to find Hanns who stood next to the SS soldier. He held a book in one hand titled World War II: The Turning Point and his glowing watch device in the other. Hanns pointed at Silverwind before uttering something to the SS soldier. The SS soldier snarled and pointed his rocket propelled grenade launcher at the woman, but shifted his aim to the cowering library patrons.
Hanns eyes widened when he saw where the SS soldier had aimed. He tensed and yelled before he tried to grab the weapon away from the SS soldier. The weapon fired, missing the civilians and instead exploded above them.
A heap of debris fell toward the library patrons. Terra closed her eyes, cringing at the inevitable outcome. The screams suddenly stopped. She opened her eyes enough to see Silverwind standing amongst the patrons. The debris now drifted down slowly, like settling dust.
“Hurry! Take cover around the corner over there and don’t move!” Silverwind shouted.
The SS soldier fired with a submachine gun while Hanns retreated into the maze of shelves. Shots impacted on her shield as she covered the retreating patrons. When the last patron cleared, she charged the SS officer so fast it seemed as though she appeared in front of him in an instant.
Their hand to hand fight was as short as it was brutal. Within a single heartbeat, the elite and feared SS soldier lay on the floor in a heap of broken bones. He groaned, unable to move.
When the remaining Nazis began throwing grenades, Terra crawled behind a large chunk of marble while keeping her head down. She noticed Hanns hiding behind a shelf. He wiped the sweat off his brow as he worked with his pocket watch device. The gunfire fell silent.
A flamethrower armed soldier approached Silverwind. He aimed and shot a stream of fire at her. The fire froze in midair on Silverwind’s shield. She struck him and he fell incapacitated. With the final soldier beaten, Silverwind searched between bookshelves for Hanns. “This is your third infraction Hanns. One more time and they’ll authorized lethal force.”
Terra’s eyes widened. She’s holding back? Terra thought.
Hanns activated his hand held device, forming another green glowing sphere in the center of the library. He shouted more orders in German and the remaining soldiers dragged the unconscious bodies of their fallen comrades into the portal. Hanns then grabbed a nearby book, tearing out a clump of pages before hiding out of Terra’s view.
Silverwind patrolled between book shelves at a slow, but steady pace, searching for Hanns. When she neared the end of the aisle, Hanns darted in front of her a few paces away. He drew his pistol with his right hand while keeping his left hand behind his back. He fired.
With her usual blindingly fast reflexes, Silverwind brought up her arm to shield herself. As her shield activated, Hanns threw a wad of torn pages at her that he had kept hidden in his other hand. The pages froze in midair, obscuring Silverwind’s view.
Hidden behind the frozen papers, Hanns fired several shots. The shots impacted the woman’s shield. She charged, grabbing Hanns’s right arm and breaking it. Hanns had switched the pistol to his left hand during the distraction. He aimed point blank at a gap in the armor on her abdomen beyond the woman’s shield. A shot rang out.
Blood seeped out of Silverwind’s mouth as she swayed.
Hanns wasted no time and kicked the woman to the floor. He holstered his pistol and used his unbroken left arm to pick up the history book he had dropped amid the scuffle. Victorious, Hanns limped towards the portal in the center of the room as his broken right arm dangled to his side. His men had already retreated into the portal.
Terra sank behind the marble debris, trembling as her thoughts raced. Hanns had won. He held the history book in his hand. If he made it back into his own time, history might be forever altered.
Hanns took another step closer to the portal.
Terra slid down further on the floor, trying to control her rising panic. Maybe another sword wielding time traveler would stop Hanns? She could stay behind her happy little rock until this insanity ended.
Hanns took another step closer to the portal, standing a few paces away from Terra now.
Terra gritted her teeth to stop herself from trembling. She had always been like a stone; trod upon, ignored, and beneath the notice of everyone, even Hanns as he limped past her.
Being like a stone wasn’t so bad though. Most left her in peace, but she never did anything brave. Stones didn’t need to be brave unlike the heroes and heroines of history she admired. Those heroes and heroines would have urged her to act right now.
Hanns took a step away from Terra, walking past her.
Sweat beaded on her brow. She knew it was suicidal to try to stop him. Hanns was a trained soldier and armed. Terra was a nearly graduated high school student without a direction in life. He was from an age of warfare and strife. She was from an age of sitcoms and video games.
Hanns took another step. He now stood a few paces away from the portal.
Terra sat alone with only her thoughts. She could just sit there, close her eyes, and wait for it to be over. It would be easier to be like a stone and do nothing. But she was the only one who could do something now.
Then she felt anger sink into her stomach. How dare Hanns! she thought. How dare he wreck my safe library, putting everyone at risk for his own ambition! It was just like the bullies at school. No one ever stopped them just as no one was left to stop Hanns.
Terra then realized that right now, she was Time’s only defender. No one was going to help her. No one was going to save her. Evil was about to win and only she could stop it. It was her chance to be a heroine.
Terra set her jaw and stood to search for something, anything to use against Hanns. She grabbed a loose fist size chunk of marble before she charged. In spite of spraining her ankle, she caught up to the limping Hanns just before he took the final step to the portal. She raised the rock as high as she could before smashing Hanns on the back of the head. He crashed to the ground, book falling out of his hand onto the floor a few steps away while his gun fell into the portal.
Terra smiled, dumbfounded, not at the Nazi soldier in modern day America, the time travel portal, or the silver haired soldier with strange powers, but at her own hands. “I… I did it! I stopped him!”
Terra’s smile vanished as Hanns groaned before standing and rubbing his head. She paled, hesitating as an angry Hanns turned to her. He clenched his left fist, but instead of striking Terra, looked to the book.
Terra yelled, shaking herself out of her panicked state and dove after the book. Hanns ran as they both grabbed the history book at the same time and pulled at opposite ends. Terra was thankful for Hanns’s numerous injuries as he was still strong enough to match her with just one arm. The tug of war went on seconds longer before Hanns dragged both Terra and the book towards the portal.
Before Hanns gave the final tug, a light breeze blew around Terra. Hanns’s eyes went wide at something behind her. Silverwind descended towards Hanns, her blade pointed at his chest. He let go of the book, falling back into the portal before the blade stabbed him.
The portal dissipated, leaving a small crater at its epicenter. Terra gazed at Silverwind with wide eyes. She searched for a bullet wound on the woman, but no trace damage remained. After surveying the room for stragglers, the woman sheathed her sword.
As the silence returned, other survivors emerged. Terra appraised the damage; marble pillars not smashed to pieces appeared riddled with bullet holes and chunks of marble and burned books lay strewn across the floor mixed with empty bullet casings and scorch marks. A fire remained frozen in midair while the debris from the grenade blast still fell in slow motion. No one seemed hurt. The Nazis had recovered all their fallen comrades before disappearing through the portal.
The woman scanned the room. “No deaths on either side. Good,” she said before touching the convex glass face on her forearm device. “Mission accomplished. Minerva, Restore this area.”
For the first time, Terra looked at the woman in detail. She appeared in her mid twenties, with silver hair that reached halfway down her back. The tanned hue of her skin contrasted with bright, sky blue eyes.
Terra couldn’t help but feel envious. Not of Silverwind’s beauty, but her power. This woman stood without a single scratch amid smoking ruins, a breeze flowing through her silver hair. An immortal with power over time itself who used that power to stop villains and save the innocent. A real heroine.
Terra wondered, just for a moment, what it would be like to have such power. What would she do with that power? If she had that power, she wanted to be like this heroine who moved like a silver wind.
“Who are you?” Terra asked at last.
“Me? Don’t worry. You won’t remember I was here,” she said. “What is your name?”
Terra observed the blue light overhead again. The same ring descended over the library, however this time it restored the building to its previous state as it fell, erasing all the damage caused by the battle. Terra shook her head and looked at the woman again. “Name… Yes! My name. It’s Terra. Terra Mason.”
“Well Terra,” the woman said as she looked Terra up and down, “You should know that your tactics were awful. A direct charge against an armed foe? You should have at least tried a flanking maneuver or engaged in a ranged attack using commandeered weapons.”
“Um. What?” Terra asked, her brow furrowed.
The woman turned to walk away from Terra as she touched the glass face on her forearm device. “Minerva, access Saturn City Archives for a person named Terra Mason, age late teens, reference year two thousand on Continuum Lambda, eastern continental United States.”
Terra raised a finger to ask another question when the ring passed over her, erasing her memories of the library invasion and returning everything back to normal. At least for now.
A quiet day of surfing the internet at the local library was interrupted when Nazis kicked in the front door.
Terra Mason frowned, glancing up from her seat at a computer next to the geology section to see several armed men wearing Nazi uniforms storm into the library. She froze as her mind tried to process what she was seeing.
The librarian marched up to the soldiers. She faced one of the taller Nazis and pointed a finger at his face. “Not funny, young man. Go somewhere else for your little reenactment. This is a public library, not a theater.”
The soldier gestured to behind the counter, speaking in a controlled tone. “Aus dem Weg, Fräulein!”
Terra narrowed her gaze as she studied the man. He didn’t seem like a reenactor to her. The only World War II reenactors she had seen were at the neighboring town’s history festival. And most of those were usually middle aged pot-bellied, Americans with bad posture and fake accents. These lean and fit young men moved with a soldier’s discipline.
“Oh very funny,” the librarian said. She pulled out her cell phone. “I’m calling the police.”
A nearby soldier regarded the librarian’s phone with wide eyes as she dialed. He pointed at the cell phone. “Beschlagnahmen Sie jegliche Form von Kommunikation!”
The tall soldier in front of the librarian snatched the phone from the librarian’s hands before dropping it on the floor and crushing it under his boot. He pointed, again, behind the counter. “Setzen Sie sich hin und seien Sie still, Fräulein!” he said, more forcefully this time.
The librarian scowled. “My cell phone!”
The soldier shot her a dark glare. Unable to get his point across, the Nazi chose the universal language of violence. He aimed his rifle in the air and fired, shattering a section of the glass skylight.
The library patrons fell silent as the clink of the bullet casing echoed on the hard floor. Again, he pointed to behind the library counter before putting a finger over his lips.
A new order of implied violence settled over the library. The pale faced librarian offered no further protests in the face of a real gun and the other patrons became silent. None offered further resistance as the Nazis herded the remaining library patrons to behind the checkout counter.
Terra slid from her seat and hid behind a nearby marble pillar, taking care not to draw attention to herself while trying to keep her panic in check. This wasn’t how her day was supposed to go. At the urging of her favorite teacher, Mr. Alden Smith, Terra had volunteered to help shelve books at the library after school. In truth, she hoped to avoid her parents’ endless pestering about finding a good college in the face of her looming graduation. Now she was trapped with a bunch of armed lunatics.
She peeked from behind the pillar to count at least a dozen soldiers, with two more entering from the front and moving into the open reading area at the library’s heart.
More soldiers moved around a large sunlit statue of the Greek goddess Nike that stood under a wide glass skylight. They searched between the labyrinth of bookshelves for stray patrons. A pair moved between the large marble pillars near the edges of the library while others deployed a machine gun nest in one corner.
Terra felt her heart race.They had guns, real guns! She forced herself to keep calm in spite of a rising panic. Then she remembered her cell phone. She hadn’t even started dialing when she head a soft click behind her; the noise a rifle made when chambering a round. Her sudden turn caused the soldier to aim his rifle right at her face. She stood as motionless as stone.
“Eine Nachzüglerin!” he yelled to the other soldiers.
The Nazi looked Terra over, his posture tense and his weapon still pointed at her. Worn jeans and a stained jacket marked her as much a civilian as her nonathletic pear shaped body and slightly hunched posture. Terra’s youthful sunburned face had a dusting of freckles across her nose while her hair was the deep brown of tilled soil, messy and cut short just above her shoulders.
Terra’s frightened expression put the solider at ease. He lowered his rifle after taking her cell phone away.
A soldier guarding the checkout counter looked to the soldier confronting her. “Bring sie hier, bei den anderen Zivilisten.”
The Nazi motioned with his rifle, pointing to the crowd of patrons gathered behind the checkout desk. Terra put her hands up and began walking.
She eyed the Nazi intruders as the soldier escorted her to the checkout counter. Their gear appeared used, well maintained, and functional. She noted the R shaped runic insignia on the collar of their steel-gray uniforms. Most carried rifles. One was armed with a flame thrower while another wore a sword at his belt. However, the soldiers all wore a strange device on their belts; a flat and round metal plate shaped device with a convex glass light. Its glass face glowed a bright green. The device reminded Terra of an oversized pocket watch.
The soldier escorted Terra to the other patrons. Those gathered were the usual library goers. A child sat amongst them. As the boy’s sniffles became louder, one of the Nazis eyed him with an irritated expression. Terra frowned and moved closer to the boy. She put a hand on his shoulder and leaned in closer to speak quietly in the boy’s ear. “Don’t cry. Crying never helps. Can you be a big boy and not cry?”
The boy looked at her and nodded, but his eyes remained misty.
Terra felt her heart harden with old memories. Crying never helped. She had promised to herself to never cry again. Not even in the face of Nazis.
Terra looked up to see what the intruders were doing.
A soldier set up a tall antenna like device on a tripod base. A green glowing light on the top hummed in unison with a luminous, rhythmic pulse that grew faster as the soldier backed away. It glowed bright green before a flash of light filled the library.
From where the antenna had stood a sphere of green light burst, its edges crackling with electrical bolts. The sphere grew to fifteen paces in diameter before a pair of German soldiers wearing pitch black goggles emerged from the glowing portal. They dragged a wheeled anti-tank cannon behind them. As they left the light, the soldiers discarded their goggles before loading the cannon. They wheeled it to one side before turning over book shelves to set up a makeshift fortification.
The patrons gasped while Terra stared with awe, the afterimage still flashing in her eyes. What is that? she wondered. Fireworks? Projectors? CGI? She couldn’t deny the strange sight. These Nazis had emerged from nowhere.
Another half dozen soldiers swarmed from the glowing sphere. At the end of the group, one stood out. Terra recognized him by the twin lightning bolt symbol on the collar of his black uniform. A soldier of the SS; the famous elite warriors of the Third Reich, chosen for their absolute loyalty to the Fuhrer and unshakable belief in the superiority of the Aryan race. The rocket propelled grenade launcher he carried on his shoulder did little to lessen his intimidating presence.
The soldiers then made way and stood at attention. One more Nazi emerged before the sphere dissipated with a loud screeching crack. The carpet edges were singed where it had met the sphere and a faint smell of smoke now hung the air.
The Nazis saluted the newcomer. Terra felt surprised to see a traditional military salute, rather than the Nazi salute she often saw on documentaries.
This newcomer appeared to be in his thirties with a rectangular, clean shaven face. He removed his officer’s peaked cap to reveal his neatly parted, dark brown hair. He wore a dark blue-gray officer’s long coat with a rank insignia Terra didn’t recognize. An even pattern of polished medals and insignias hung on his well pressed uniform with an R runic insignia on the collar. His belt holstered a pistol and in his left hand he carried a large pocket watch with a green glowing face. He hung the watch at his belt and surveyed the area. The sincere smile would have made him charming, even handsome in spite of his precise military bearing, if not for the red Nazi armband he wore.
A soldier approached the officer and stood at attention. “Einsatzbereit.”
The officer nodded. “Gemeindepolizei?” he asked.
“Nicht hier,” the soldier said.
The young boy cried before Terra could calm him.
Unfortunately, the child’s sobs distracted the Nazi. “Beruhigen Sie den Jungen. Wir möchten doch keine Bösewichte sein.”
The soldier nearest to the child put his hand on a holstered pistol. Terra and the other patrons gasped. She didn’t even have time to react as the soldier thumbed his weapon. Then to her surprise the soldier reached past his gun to pull out a small package. He unwrapped it to reveal a bar of chocolate.
“Chocolate?” the soldier asked with a heavy accent. He smiled as he offered it to the child.
The patrons continued to stare at the soldiers, their expressions a mixture of shock and horror.
The soldier with the chocolate leaned back, his brow furrowed. He looked to the officer, expectant. The officer issued orders in a soft, confident tone before the soldiers guarding the patrons dispersed. He said something to the SS soldier. The SS soldier glared for a moment before leaving without a word.
The officer turned to the patrons and approached with hands clasped behind his back. His smile appeared genuine. “I apologize,” he said. His English had only a faint German accent. “I do not intend to keep you here long, but we must ask you to remain here to avoid further complications. Rest assured, we have no intention of harming you and we will be out of the way soon.”
The patrons exchanged nervous glances while the child trembled. Terra wondered when the nice guy act would disappear.
Another silent moment passed. The officer’s smile lessened. After a moment he cleared his throat. “My apologies again. I should introduce myself. I am Hanns Joachim Speer, commander of the German Zeitmacht and I am from your past. I have come from the year nineteen forty by way of time travel.”
Hanns smiled again as if waiting for questions. The patrons continued to stare.
Terra raised an eyebrow. Time travel? she thought. What kind of trick is this?
Hanns cleared his throat again. “Ungesprächige Leute,” he said under his breath as he frowned. His gaze searched the crowd. “If I may ask a favor, could someone tell me the current year and location? Given the language, I believe this to be the United States.”
The blank stares of the patrons continued as did the room’s oppressive silence. Footsteps made by patrolling soldiers and the occasional soft click of weapons stood out all the more in the awkward quiet.
“Anyone?” Hanns asked as his gaze searched the gathered patrons. “Anyone at all?”
Terra wondered if, perhaps, Hanns felt accustomed to people being more friendly with him. His charm was worthless when he dressed like a villain from an old war movie.
Hanns frowned again after another moment of silence. “Why do you stare at me like I’m a monster?”
“How can you not know?” Terra whispered, thinking out loud.
Hanns heard and his gaze snapped straight to her. “Excuse me?” he said, forcing a smile. Hanns looked relieved to find someone who would talk.
Terra tensed before forcing herself still. “I guess you couldn’t know,” she said, having to force out the words.
A soldier approached Hanns and stood at attention. “Wir haben den Hinterhalt vorbereitet, die Silberhexe kann kommen.”
Hanns nodded, dismissing the soldier and looking at his watch again. He smiled and looked at Terra. “Young lady, would you mind accompanying me?” Hanns asked, gesturing to the library shelves.
Hanns stood with hand outstretched, like a gentleman offering a dance to a lady. She frowned before following Hanns.
They walked to a stack of bookshelves while Terra observed the soldiers’ activities. They had set up a machine gun nest in one corner and the anti tank gun near the bathrooms. The rest of the soldiers patrolled the outer edges of the library. Terra wondered if they were preparing an ambush.
The soldiers ignored the patrons. Their wary sight darted around room and they often looked up as if scanning for an unseen aerial foe. They kept their distance from the SS soldier who leaned on a nearby wall with a bored expression.
“Are you a student of history?” Hanns asked in a conversational tone as he inspected the first book shelf.
Terra’s eyes snapped back to Hanns. “History? I haven’t even graduated high school yet.”
Hanns shook his head. “Just like the young, ignorant of the past. Admittedly, my university focus was more on science and engineering. I love ancient poems though. The Odyssey and The Iliadare my personal favorites.”
Terra, again, forced herself calm. She had to focus, to figure out why Nazis were here in a library and if they really were time travelers. Hanns didn’t seem like the Nazis portrayed in movies and video games. He didn’t even wear a monocle and, so far, hadn’t let out a mad cackle. Terra wondered if she should encourage him to talk more since he didn’t seem hostile yet. “Um. I actually prefer geology,” Terra said in a shaky voice.
He smiled. “Geology? Wonderful. The study of the intersection of earth and time.” He turned to the shelf and ran an index finger across the row of books, stopping on one called Understanding Spacetime. He thumbed through a few pages before putting the book back. They made their way to the next section.
Terra looked up at the shelves, wondering what Hanns was after, assuming he was a time traveler. They stood in the science section one row down from literature. The row after that was history. Her eyes went wide as she stopped. “History,” she whispered.
Hanns grinned while he continued to trace his finger across the books. “A single history book could change everything. The Waffen SS wants to confirm their glorious future,” Hanns said, rolling his eyes. “But I need it to save lives.”
“If we know our enemies movements and strategies, we can end this war with minimum loss of life. After Poland and France fell so quickly, I doubt the rest will last. Victory is assured, but why prolong the conflict? With a simple book, we can soundly defeat our enemies and end this war with minimal bloodshed.”
Terra stared at Hanns with wide eyes.
Hanns looked over his shoulder at Terra. “However, I am curious why you Americans appear fearful of us? It’s not like we will declare war against your country. The United States is neutral. I suppose we will have gained a fearsome reputation by the end of the war, but I assure you, we are not your enemies.”
Terra grimaced. “You talk like you are the good guys?”
Hanns faced Terra and regarded her with a piercing stare. “We took a failing nation and turned it into a superpower. We avenged our soiled honor after that venomous treaty in Versailles. You can’t tell me that treaty was fair, lumping the sins of the Great War solely at our feet! We stood up for ourselves against the entire world. How are we not the heroes?”
Terra raised her hands before stepping back. “Sorry! Please calm down.”
Hanns’s expression softened. “I apologize. I didn’t intend to frighten you. I went through difficult times after the Great War. We all struggled during the Depression.” He grimaced as though recalling a bad memory before he shook his head and smiled. “Now exciting things are happening. The new Nazi Party looks only to the future, unlike the old Republic. They even supported my time travel project despite the strange premise. For the first time in years, we have hope for the future.”
“I don’t understand. Why all the soldiers if you’re after a history book? Why not disguise yourself as a normal person?”
Hanns frowned, tapping a book with his finger. “You think we didn’t try that?” Hanns said under his breath. He took a book titled Escalation of the Vietnam War. Hanns thumbed through a few pages before putting it back. “Why would the Americans attack a French colony?” he said, more to himself than Terra. “In answer to your question, we ran into… complications.”
“Complications?” Terra asked before glancing at the books ahead of Hanns. They stood only a few steps away from the World War II books. She felt her heart begin to pound as she pondered the implications of Nazis finding a history book. Just before Hanns’s finger brushed over a book titled D-Day: A Narrow Victory, a blue light illuminated the area.
Above the skylight a small glowing blue ring formed over the library. It moved down at a steady pace while growing bigger. Soon the glowing ring encircled the building. Between the ring, a translucent grid of light beams passed through the walls. The grid passed right through her before it continued downward until disappearing into the floor.
Hanns glared at the passing ring while his hand tightened around his pistol. “The gods are hard to handle when they come blazing forth in their true power.” He stood, silent for a moment. “She’s here!” he said through gritted teeth. He drew his pistol before pointing to a nearby marble pillar. “Young lady! Hide behind that pillar and stay down.”
Before she hid behind the pillar, she saw a sudden flurry of activity from the invaders. Their rifles clicked, the machine gun’s ammunition belt clinked, the anti-tank gun gave a mechanical growl as the crew adjusted its firing angle. Even the SS soldier took cover.
A stillness settled over the library broken only by the sound of a rising wind outside the building. Terra knelt on the ground behind the pillar, covering her ears with her hands.
Terra lifted her hands to hear light footsteps on the roof. The soldiers noticed too and raised the aim of their weapons.
A soundless moment passed. Terra let down her guard just before the glass skylight shattered, raining shards over the library. A figure descended through the broken skylight. A woman dressed in white armor landed gracefully on top of the statue of Nike, her long silver hair streaming behind her in the wind.