Catalyst: Of the Nightfall (2)

 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 

(2) Travelers in Time

In the morning they woke together, their hearts beating in tune.

On their way up the main house, Patroclus scouting ahead, Labrinth said, “She is your mother. I have told you how I pretended to be your doctor last night, but I think she saw through that. I will support your choice of what we tell her now. She loves your father fiercely, and I do not know what to do. Something we did changed this future, and she has been hurt.”

David nodded, and said, “It is sometimes too easy to underestimate my mother.”

Dawn met them on the lawn, running to David and hugging him. She asked, “Are you ok?”

David said, “We owe you an explanation, for all this.”

Dawn turned to Labrinth and smiled, “Thanks for bringing him back.”

They went inside to a small table next to the kitchen. Early morning sunlight flooded the eating area.

Dawn told them firmly that there was to be no discussion until breakfast of fried eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and fried potatoes was consumed. It was a long process, involving the making of hot toast and feeding birds on the outside deck. Finally, Dawn and David attended to dishwashing. They came to sit at the kitchen table with a fresh pot of tea.

Dawn smiled at them, “Well, who wants to start? , please, keep to the facts. I might be ancient, but please, no stories about elves stealing young children in the night. I did not come down with the last shower.”

David shuffled his feet, “We are time travelers. We think we know where dad is. We are going to get him and bring him back.”

Dawn thought about this for a moment, “No elves?”

David smiled at her, “Maybe. I cannot rule them out.”

Dawn said, “This is a bit different to the story this young lady was telling me last night. The one about you having a breakdown and how she was here to fix you up. I think I like that one more than the yarn you are starting to weave.”

Labrinth blushed and started to apologize, but Dawn held her hand up, “As a senior doctor at the local hospital, I hear all sorts of strange stories every day. I have learned patience because sometimes, in the most outlandish of accounts, there are small grains of truth. So, tell me the story from the start, and do not spare the elves.”

David bowed his head and turned to Labrinth, “Can you help me out, please?”

Labrinth asked, “Are you sure this is the way you want to deal with this?” 

David said, “Yes, for me, please.”

Labrinth poured herself a new cup of black tea and started.

My name is Stephanie. I was born on 16 February 1947.

I never met my parents.

I did well in the army schools that I attended, and I got a scholarship to Sydney University. When I was part way through an Arts degree, I was recruited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and trained in counterinsurgency and intelligence operations before serving time at the Australian embassy in Saigon. While there, I received training as a weapon and vehicle specialist.

They transferred me out of South Vietnam in 1974 and, after a period behind a desk in Canberra, they seconded me to Australian Temporal Research Facility.

Well before I joined, the facility had been playing with two artifacts. I do not know from where they came. One of the guys who had been with the project for a while joked that the Americans and British got the V-Rockets and submarines from the Nazis while Australia got the clocks. But, I think that was just a story. Whatever the case, a research team had been looking at them for some time and had worked out how to accelerate the artifacts through time. They had insufficient power for any practical application, and so the Government established a facility to advance research.

When I joined, the facility had been transferred to Woomera and relocated to the site of an old NASA base at Island Lagoon in central Australia. At the time there was a network of missile silos protecting Woomera. They were being decommissioned as the Americans withdrew support for Woomera and the Whitlam government in Canberra. One of the missile silos was scooped out, and they built a small reactor deep down in it. A nuclear reactor, in a rocket silo that had once been home to a missile with a nuclear warhead on it. No one was ever told about the reactor or the rockets.

Your husband, Chas, was second in command of the base. A bloke called Benson was in charge. There were hundreds of people involved, most with the power facility or the maths teams. Most of them worked off base.

Dawn nodded, “He didn’t tell me any of this, but that accords with everything I have been able to put together.”

 Chas was the first person from the facility to be sent into the future. He had done several short tests before a young kid skylarking at the facility got sucked in as well. They lost the kid.

We call the child “Catalyst.” He has grown up, and he is incredibly dangerous. He plans to change the past, going back into the past to destroy the facility. In doing so, he may kill people on the base like Benson and Chas. The facility is unguarded; it is vulnerable. The risks are exceptional.

I was sent into the future to find him and bring him back. I have failed.

I was a friend of Chas. He was the only guy on base I trusted. He told me about you, Dawn. I traveled to Adelaide the night he took you to the fair. I met the people who read your hand.

Labrinth reached down to drink her tea, but it had gone cold.

Dawn asked, “Why have you failed?”

Labrinth pointed to Patroclus, who was stalking a currawong on the other side of the window.

Dawn misunderstood, “The currawongs are safe.”

Labrinth tried to speak, but her mouth was dry. David said, “Stop there. I will get another pot, and I will finish.”

Dawn put her hand out to Labrinth and whispered, “I forgive you.”

Labrinth has tears in her eyes as a second cup was poured.

David said:

I am your son, but I come from a slightly different timeline. Labrinth found me, and I brought her back here. I agreed to help her stop Catalyst. We traveled back in time to report to the facility, but it did not go smoothly.

He stepped over and picked up Patroclus and continued, “The cat came, by accident, and got away from me causing chaos. When we returned, we found out that the problems we unleashed back there had brought forward Catalyst’s plans. Instead of finding dad here, we believe that Catalyst has already picked him up and taken him back to Woomera, probably to try to restart the facility. Dad is not dead. I am sure.”

Dawn said, “Your story might benefit from an elf. Do you have any proof?”

David said, “Last night I had a bit of time to think about things. I spent a while looking at the ceiling. Dad sticky-taped something above my bed. I have not opened it, but I expect it is just what we have told you here.”

He handed her the envelope. She looked at it and gave it back to him, “He has addressed it to you David, you should read it. I do not need to read it.”

Dawn called to Patroclus, and the cat came to her with two bounds, becoming a slightly unstable ball of energy as it jumped, “I believe you. Chas has told me most of this story, except for the bit about Catalyst. That changes things. We must stop him.”

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