Monday, October 2, 2023

The Sands of Time 55

Mallory was reviewing old surveillance footage when she saw it. She almost missed it, was half asleep. 

Was that Joon?

There he was, in Ops. A couple weeks ago. Middle of the night. He strode in with purpose and none of the night staff paid any attention. Made some adjustments at a control board, walked over and took some readings on a tablet next to the Gate. 


Attached an object, where no one would see. Returned to the panel, adjusted some dials, went back to retrieve his device. An alarm telltale went off but he deactivated it before anyone noticed. Took a look around and exited. 

Mallory about spilled her coffee. 


Stella looked up at the immense tank. Deep in the bowels of Sanctuary, where few had access. Even Mallory had never been here. The thing within thrashed weakly in its holding fluid. Was it awake? Sentient even, or just a bug? A Chaos tadpole, or so Hillier had named it. If it was a tadpole, what would it... become? 


She seemed to remember that tadpoles changed into frogs or something. But they changed. She looked closer. This thing had what looked like multiple eyes. Otherwise it was all slime and head and tail. It was immense, as well. She had no idea where it came from. It preceded her time here. Supposedly the holding fluid kept it in stasis, prevented it from growing. But how did they know? 

Stella rubbed her eyes. She was fatigued. They'd been running for days with barely any sleep. Hillier worried her. And Grant was taking a much greater interest in the goings-on here than had previously been the case. 

Joon had gone from being a trusted but lower level member of Command to being her go-to time traveler. Funny the difference a few weeks could make. Who could she trust though? Maia had stepped up, but what did they truly know of her? She made a note to look deeper into Maia's background. She hadn't gotten where she was by not being informed. 

Would Hillier betray Joon? Could they trust her? Probably should have slapped an inhibitor collar back on her, and fuck what Joon thought. Was she getting weak, she wondered? 

There was movement in the tank. Not unusual, but eerie. Thrashing. Stella had the distinct impression it was watching her. She felt a stirring in her mind. Nerves, surely. There were few other people here, a few technicians to monitor the tadpole, and a few guards. The chambers here were immense and cold. Shadows. The barely discernible hum of equipment. 

Stella turned and left. She was thinking of people in the past, sent back to a place and time where there were no people. Where people were unnatural. 

Behind her the thing in the holding tank thrashed. 


"Are you sure?"

"I'm positive," Mallory replied. "It has to be Joon."

"And we just sent him back to eliminate the other team."

"There's more."

Stella raised her eyebrows. 

"You may want to sit."

"Just tell me," Stella snapped. 

Mallory took a drink of her coffee. 

"I did some digging, asked the computer to cross reference..."

Stella was getting impatient. 

"Alright, here's what I found. There was a point a week and a half ago where Joon was in his quarters. But he was also in Ops."

Stella looked up. 

"Right. And... he came out of the Gate before that and went back through afterward. How no one noticed this is mindboggling." 

"He may have picked slow periods..."

"He did. And with the artifact retrieval forays we've been doing, I think it was a no big deal reaction for anyone who did notice." 

"So we have our saboteur."

"Yes ma'am."

"But we don't know why." 

"We could ask him... if he returns."

Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Sands of Time 54

Joon returned to his quarters to find Hillier there- in the shower. She emerged dripping wet and not even remotely modest. He turned to leave, but she said "Wait."

He remained half turned away. 

"Joon, we're adults. You can look at me. Look!"

He turned back to her. 

"You want this body."

He couldn't lie. 

"Do you want to fuck me?"

He turned to leave. 

"You can have your way with this body. I warn you, I'm more ferocious than your little sunbeam Maia, I suppose. I bite sometimes."

"Hillier," he started. 

"That's not my name," she whispered. She was next to him. "Would you prefer this?" She assumed her natural form- jet skin, silvery hair, amber eyes. She ran a hand over his arm. "Maybe I'll tell you my real name as you fuck me." 

A moment passed. 

Joon crushed her to him and kissed her hard. She threw her arms around him and jammed her body against his. He wanted all of her. He loved Maia- didn't he?- but he wanted this... woman? like nobody else. What had this witch done to him? 

They parted, panting. 


"I can't. I'm sorry, you have no idea..."

"I do." She ran her fingers over his lips. "I've had that much. I can wait." She stepped away, magnificent. "I better towel off, I'm all wet." She smirked. 

She was Hillier again. 

"Not every man can have both of us." 

Joon left. In the corridor he collapsed against the wall, shaking. 

What had he done? 

Hillier wondered what she was doing. 

On monitor duty a surprised Mallory swore. 


Joon awoke to find Maia next to him. 

"Mmm," he murmured. "I didn't hear you come in."

"I didn't," she mumbled, and suddenly she was Hillier. "I did, though."

"Hush," she put a hand on his lips. "I don't want to sleep alone. "I'll be good."

She rolled over but he could still feel her. 

It was a long time before he slept. 

When he awoke she had her arm around him. 


Joon shut the car off, enjoying the late summer warmth. It was a Friday and he'd brought a treat home. He finished his cigarette, thought sadly about what was to come. 

How long could they do this? 

He went in, grinning as the kids rushed him. The box of Krispy Kreme donuts didn't hurt. 


Glazed- their favorite. He might have one too. Or maybe two. 

As he settled in his wife gave him a kiss. What was her name again? Oh, Lisa. Right. 

She sat in his lap and he wrapped his arms around her, enjoying the smell of her shampoo. She was a fine woman, deserved better. Deserved honesty. 

Joon wasn't supposed to be her husband. 

Her real husband was too dangerous, though. 

Or had been. 

He nuzzled her neck, felt guilty. He wanted her, though. 

It was too bad they were going to take this all away. But one couldn't afford to keep the attachments, right? How could one take a new mission when you were still emotionally attached to the last one? 

How many women had he loved?


Time to go. 

The Gate was humming and humidity came through in waves. They were looking into a landscape of strange fern like plants and what appeared to be an ocean. The Tethys Sea. It still blew Joon's mind that he was going to Pangea. 

Maia approached and they held hands. Hillier snorted. Stella was at the controls. Hillier had conferred with Mallory and they were as ready as they could be. 

"Time to go," said Stella.

Mallory came over, wearing goggles. The Gate was giving off unusual brightness. She clasped hands with each of them, even smiling at Howie who was levitating at eye level. 

"Come back," she said simply, and then it was time. 

They stepped through. 


The Tethys sea was magnificent. Great rolling breakers came in, they were on shore with a great forest at their back, slightly swampy. They could feel the humidity through their suits. Beige, lightweight, with an attached oxygen tank for breathing. No one really knew but it was assumed that O2 levels were lower, so this was compensation. They had brought extra tanks with them as well. 

Joon turned to survey their environment. His pulse was pounding. He had just stepped back in time- millions of years. Part of him wanted to go right back through- go home. But he was also one of a handful of people to ever do this. 

He might be dreaming. 

Maia was checking the atmospheric levels on a monitor that Mallory had handed her. Howie was floating high up- to get a view? Hillier, practical, was scanning the area with her weapon ready. 

Joon, however, was staring into the Triassic sea. At the crashed ship that was half sunken, waves slapping against it. An immense ovoid ship- and clearly not of Earth. It rose into the sky, sunlight reflecting off it, and Joon knew immediately the game had changed. 

The others followed his gaze. Hillier swore and went to one knee, covering the ship with her gun. There was no one around that she could see. Joon sent their guards to set up a perimeter, scout the nearby area. They had seven men with them, handpicked by Lawson, head of security now. 

Maia came over. 

"Atmospheric levels are okay. I'll need to look more, but initial readings are acceptable. I'll let Angie do the real testing." She was referring to Angie Perry, the scientist and brains of the operation, selected by Stella to make sure they could function in this environment. 

Angie came to confer with Maia as Joon continued to survey the ship. There were boards- wooden, that had been laid down between the shore and the ship. Someone was going back and forth. And he could see now, as he scanned the surrounding area, that there was a structure not far off. 

They were not sure what they'd been expecting, but not this- a crashed ship and a great mushroom shaped tower rising above the trees.