Catalyst: Multiple Incoming (1) - (4)
This is the new online edition 'Catalyst', first published on G+ a couple of years ago. A new piece of the story will be published to the site every couple of days. To read from the start of the story, GO HERE.
Copyright Dark Aelf, 2021
Benson bursts into the backup operations room as the first warning alarms start to sound.
Benson yells, “Change of plan. Set the time transfer to T+272.01 hours into the mission. The first group, come to me - Now!”
Grant mutters, “Acquiring new vectors. This will take just a moment.”
Catalyst bursts into the room, sweat dripping from his head and a cat in his arms. He turns and tries to close the blast door into the area, “One of them was following me! Something else is in here!”
Chas says, “Calm down son. Go take your place with Benson, I will check.”
Grant says, “Almost got this. One minute...”
Graham shouts, “Reactor heat increasing steeply. We need to go, or it will...”
Benson says, “This is Mission Control. Cut the chatter. This is no longer a test, guys. We have to make this work.”
Chas comes back into the area, “All clear out there, no hostiles.”
Benson says, “This is Mission Control, 39+ years into this exercise. I trust you all, but we only get one shot at this. You all remember when Labrinth came back, with that thing. I am afraid we are going back to that point in time. I know this is not the optimal case we trained for...”
Benson is looking at the members of the first team gathered around him, each with an arm extended to hold him and his artifact, he continues, “Everything is looking good. We are now seeking Go/Stay authorization for insertion of team A into the Catalyst Timeline.”
Grant says, “New coordinates set!”
Brent says, “Handing over to the Base Artificial Intelligence. Activating her defense protocols.”
The Base Artificial Intelligence cuts in, “I confirm mission clearance from all directors, now awaiting authorization from Mission Control to proceed.” Benson says, “Authorized, let’s go.”
Benson and the other five step towards the blue light of the time gate, a fine white dust pouring into the control room. The reactor pulses speed up. Tremors quake the floor in rapid succession. Benson’s vision adjusts and spots the cat that Catalyst is carrying.
Then Benson and his team disappear.
Chas says, “Team 2 take your places. We leave in 30 seconds.”
The remaining members of the team become disoriented by the dust particles and reduced visibility. When they finally manage to disentangle from the consoles, they walk through the time gate. The Reactor Alarm goes off, “Danger! Danger! Reactor overheating. Shut down in 5 minutes.”
Chas sprints to the door. Grant says, “Where are you going?”
“Commander Cannonball, please resume your position, I have this contingency covered,” calmly states the Base Artificial Intelligence.
Chas shouts, “I am assuming control of Mission Control.”
The Base Artificial Intelligence says, “Confirmed; I will deal with the breaches after you leave.”
Chas returns to the time gate, shadows around him. Grant looks up at him and whispers loudly, “Who are these...”
Chas says, “Got some additional help. Play it cool. Team two looking good. We are now seeking Go/ Stay authorization for insertion of the second team into the Catalyst Timeline.”
The Base AI says, “Clear, now awaiting authorization from Mission Control to proceed.”
Chas says, “Authorized, let’s go. Hold on tight, follow me.”
Chas and the others step into the time gate. He searches for eyes in the dark and her arms slip around him.
There is a commotion at the door of the room, and they hear the sound of movement. Flat shadows were approaching through the dust.
Blue light appears around them, waves of tremors, like small earthquakes rock them gently, while the stars start to move towards them. They leave behind a scene of chaos.
Mission Time T+272.01 hours
It was not a good week. Most had not slept for days. Catalyst was lost. Labrinth was sent to find him. The reactor had overloaded, and they were struggling to return a basic level of operation.
Fires were burning out of control around the facility. Smoke was swirling through the operations room. Just before, something had come through the time gate causing mayhem. Mission Controller Benson and his deputy were running out of options.
Just when things could not seem to get worse, the time gate suddenly activated. DelCon reported,
All eyes were on Benson and the time gate.
Reactor tremors built, becoming waves, rippling over the floor.
Six figures were writhing in the time gate. Suddenly the characters materialize, blasting the smoke from around the time gate. For a fraction of a second, there were two Bensons, one in the time gate and one at the command station. Then both fragmented into a swarm of particles that snaked through the air and fused into a new Benson. Four other specialists received the same treatment, leaving Catalyst at the time gate holding a very agitated cat.
Benson strode back to his station, saying into the com, “Commander Benson assuming command. Hold your positions and listen. Our mission has been successful. Teams from the future are arriving at the facility to stabilize it. A second team will come shortly. Once stabilized we will set in train changes to the timeline. Place yourselves under the command of the incoming specialists and have your analysts stand by.”
Benson searches for Catalyst. He calls out, “Get over here!”
Catalyst does not respond. Instead, he drops to one foot, holding the cat Wind tightly. He carefully looks around the facility, searching.
DelCon announces, “Time Gate activating, more incoming.”
Catalyst disappears into the darkness.
The reactor tremors build, a large number of figures writhing in the time gate. The figures materialize, blasting the smoke from the operations area. Benson has an impression of a rush of wind over his head and the brush of feathers. He turns and sees something spinning into the darkness.
He turns to catch a glimpse of Labrinth still in the time gate. Benson calls a greeting out to Labrinth, “You are a sight for sore eyes! Catalyst came through in the first wave. Find him!” He adds, “Safely!” but she has already gone.
Cannonball walks to Benson, “I have some problems you need to know about.”
Benson smiles, “I do not know how you found Labrinth, but as far as I am concerned, we are way ahead at the moment. All our primary objectives have been met.”
Chas said, “Let me dent that assessment. The base back in 2015 was about to be destroyed as I left. We have picked up another member, my wife. My fault, it was last moment, and there was no time to explain. I suggest she be allocated to the medical team.”
Benson said, “All good. The base problems will all be fixed if we get a chance to stabilize things here now. If… There is more here than just your wife and Labrinth. I just felt something go over my head. Sort your wife, then help find Catalyst. Keep Labrinth in check.”
Chas ran back to the gate.
Labrinth pulled David into the darkness beyond the blast wall and squeezed his hand. Chaos is all around, smoke swirling, consoles, and chairs strewn through the area. But she cannot see any panic. Instead, the teams seem to be getting on top of the problems. The Com blares out an update, “Power now stable. As requested, diverting all spare capacity to stabilize external missile defense silos.”
Labrinth turns to David, “Catalyst must have come through in the first group, but I cannot see him. We have to get to him quickly and keep him from damaging the facility or using the time gate.”
David says, “He can’t go anywhere without an artifact.”
She says, “He has had a long time to think this through. If he is planning to act now, he still has 40 minutes to sabotage the reactor. We have to distract him.”
David says, “There a lot of people up here, too many. If I were him, I would head down to the reactor. How do you get there from here?”
Labrinth says, “There are a couple of ways down, but he will only be familiar with the one we took last night, down the service lift in the storeroom.” She tries to orient herself and points to the wall, “There is a service door in that direction...”
As she speaks, the door opens, and light from the storeroom floods into the darkness. They feel a brush of wings as something passes over and near them. They hear Catalyst call out.
Labrinth starts to sprint towards the door, shouting back to David, “Get some backup!”
She gets to the door just before it shuts, pushing Catalyst into the storeroom. She locks his right arm behind him. He says, “Stop! Something just attacked me.”
She sees blood on his head and says, “Stay very still, or I will break your arm.”
Catalyst whispers more urgently, “Did you hear me. There is something in here.”
The door shuts behind them.
She says, “Explain what is happening. Then we will work out what to do. Why have you got a cat?”
Catalyst says, “You are frightening him.”
She pulls Catalyst towards the floor, and the cat jumps down. Wind turns and snarls at Labrinth, before disappearing deeper into the storeroom. Catalyst says, “Damn.”
From the other side of the storeroom comes the sound of stores toppling from a high shelf.
Catalyst says, “Listen! We have to get out of here; I think it is trying to get me.”
She says, “Focus! I am the only one you need to worry about.”
There is a quiet knock on the storeroom door, and she pulls Catalyst back to the door.
As she reaches for the door, the storeroom lights are cut, and they are plunged into darkness. There is a concussive explosion under her feet, and she is thrown against the wall, losing hold of Catalyst.
She staggers back to the door, feeling blood on her shoulder. She reaches the door and pulls David inside. David tries to say something to her, but her head is ringing. She pulls him to the ground and puts her finger to his lips. They move along the wall a little way.
She sits, holding David and waits for her hearing to return. She whispers very quietly into his ear, “He used a stun explosive on me. I am ok, but he said something else is in here as well.”
David whispered, “Chas is on his way.”
They hear a scuffle and another explosion deep in the storeroom. Catalyst calls out, then silence. David starts to move, and Labrinth holds him back, “Shhh.”
They hear the sound of something falling near the doors to the exit passageway. Labrinth freezes and then turns slightly towards the reactor lift. They see the lift controls light up and the elevator starts to move. Labrinth jumps up and starts running towards it, with David in close pursuit.
In the dark, she suddenly trips over something. Something with fur and claws. She falls heavily, her leg under her and David comes down on top of her. She gasps in pain. He says, “You ok?”
Labrinth grimaces, “He must have gone down to the reactor level...” David said, “Wait.”
He fishes out his mobile phone and switches on the flashlight.
Labrinth looked at him and asked, “How did you do that?”
David said, “You are badly hurt. Do not move.”
He runs his hand down her leg, and she winces. He looks at her, “Girlfriend. We have 30 minutes before the artifacts fire up again, and we need to be there to go back into the future. Can you walk?”
Labrinth shakes her head through gritted teeth.
David says, “Ok. Plan B.”
She says, “What is Plan B?”
He says, “Trust me.”
Labrinth says, “Completely. I should have tied him up.”
David whispers to her, “Next time, but I think the lift was a diversion.”
David switches off the light and stands up, saying in an ordinary voice, “Ok Catalyst. We have not met. I am Chas’s son and Labrinth’s boyfriend. Right now, I speak for all three of us. I know you are still here. Whatever you were trying to achieve here will not work. You do not have any of the artifacts. You cannot get back into the Main Command Room without coming back past us. The base has been alerted to your presence, and they will find you. You do not have time to do anything meaningful.”
There is silence in the storeroom.
David continues, “I have a suggestion you might want to consider. If you hear me out, we will help you.”
Labrinth whispers urgently, “No! You can’t do that!”
David says, “Shhh. Catalyst?”
Catalyst mutters, “Ok, I am listening. Call Labrinth off. Chas told me she is hunting me. I know she has a gun.”
Labrinth says, “We lost it. You threatened to destroy this timeline. I will not let you do that.”
David said, “Neither of us will.”
David squeezes Labrinth’s hand. He says, “Ok. I will keep it really basic. We want to go back to the future. Together. We want it to be secure. Just an ordinary life, just like you wanted. We do not want time quakes or the risk of you collapsing that future. You once told Labrinth that you were planning to collapse the future and here you are close to doing just that.”
The door to the main operations room opens and closes. They hear the sound of running.
Catalyst shouts, “It might be too late. Something else is hunting us.” There is the sound of equipment being thrown into the aisles. Catalyst says. “I cannot change the timeline by myself. I want to go back, but if Labrinth decides to stay, your future is safe as long as she lives. This timeline, the temporal probability cloud, cannot be collapsed unless Chas, Labrinth and me, all three, transfer back to the very first time we traveled in time.”
There is silence for a moment, and another voice, distorted beyond recognition, cuts the air, “Nowhere to run. So few possibilities. Let me get this straight. If one of those three dies in this timeline, it is secure.”
Catalyst says, “No!”
The sound of gun echoes through the room.