So, there I was, years in the future on some death trap space station or whatever. And who turns out to have apparently put this whole thing together? Elisabet. The woman who had already been missing for awhile back in my real time, had actually set up everything on this space station specifically to kill all the other people (whoever they were), give me access to my powers again, and release me. Just… what–how? Well, maybe she just showed up back home at some point in the intervening years and… found out I was gone? Or maybe I went back to the present before she showed up and told her where to go, eventually, to help me right now? But that–ow. Fuck. Yeah, figuring out time travel still sucked.
“Felicity.” The voice of Elisabet grabbed my attention once more, and I glanced up from where I’d been gazing off at nothing to find her waving her hand. “I need you to pay attention.”
“Wha–are you–” I started, confused about this being a recording. Then I stopped. Time travel. Wait, if she did know how I reacted to this, didn’t that mean–nope! Nope, nope, not getting into that line of thought. I didn’t have nearly enough ibuprofen packed away to handle that pain.
Again, the hologram of Elisabet waited until I was done reacting before she continued. “First, yes, this is a recording. Right now, you are roughly four years in the future from where you were. Which is quite far off from Fossor’s intentions. His spell was meant to send you five years into the future, and directly to his stronghold planet, where you would have been met and restrained by an army of his personal minions, who had been given those five years to prepare for every possible action you could have taken in an attempt to free yourself.”
Okie dokie, that sounded bad. Hearing that, I swallowed hard, trying to think of how that would’ve gone. Badly, for me. A bunch of Fossor-troops given half a decade to prepare for me and anything I could do? It wouldn’t have been pretty, that was for sure. But on the other hand, I wasn’t there. I was… wherever here was. And a year early.
“As you’ve noticed,” Elisabet was saying, “you are not on Fossor’s planet. And, as I said, you were only sent forward four years rather than five. That’s because at the exact moment that Fossor triggered the spell intended to send you forward, I used a spell of my own, intercepting his spell and redirecting the energy. One year of the time portion was put instead toward altering your final destination to be what it is now. Which, of course, makes your immediate question…”
“Why wouldn’t Fossor have people waiting here for me?” I promptly asked aloud. “He’s had four years to figure out the destination and time were wrong too. Unless he had to be right there at the place he sent me off from and my friends kept him away?”
“Your allies being at his old home was likely helpful,” Elisabet’s recording agreed. “But that is not all of it. I included obfuscation spells to mask your exact destination, providing over a dozen possible locations and many possible dates across that full five year span. If Fossor had been able to study your exact departure point for long enough, he almost certainly could have worked his way through those deceptions. But he was forced to employ other methods of checking your destination. Methods which were successfully masked. His only option was to prepare for your arrival in any of the possible locations on any of those dates. Hence positioning these stations, such as the one you are on, exactly where you could possibly have arrived, full of mercenaries in his employ, with magic specifically intended to leave you personally trapped with no powers. The people on that station, and all the others like it, will have been waiting years for your possible arrival.”
She went on a bit more, explaining that this station that I was standing on had originally been positioned to watch the Meregan homeworld. That was part of how Fossor captured Gavant and the others. And the Meregan homeworld was where Elisabet herself had been trapped. Apparently that was a long story that she wasn’t going to get into right then. The point was, she had made her way to the station with some help from, in her words, ‘a friend of yours’, and had secretly placed the poison gas spells and the hints to me about what to do, programmed to activate only at the exact minute I showed up. She’d also left this recording.
“Right now,” Elisabet continued after explaining that much, “you’re probably wondering exactly how this could have happened, how I knew precisely how to do this. That is because of–”
The hologram cut out briefly, and suddenly I was staring at the image of a much different figure. It was a teal-skinned, white-haired teenage female. A Nereid, I realized. She popped up into frame, waving. “Hi, Flick! It’s Dexamene. Wait, you don’t know me yet, huh?”
Except I did know the name. Dexamene the Nereid. Tristan had mentioned her. She was a friend of his from back on Nicholas Petan’s ship. His best friend from those times. And, if I’d been reading his expression right, potentially more than a friend. She’d meant a lot to him. But he’d had to take his chance in getting back to his sister and the rest of his family. He’d known it would be five years before he could see her again, after he was sent back.
And yet now I was seeing her in this recording. Wait, now… now for me would be five years since Tristan was sent back to Earth by Petan, wouldn’t it?
Dexamene was snickering. “Yup,” she informed me, “it’s been a long time. Anyway, here’s my side of things. You make it to Lord Petan’s ship, and you tell us about how you were sent into the future and that we need to send you back. Except you sent me to Aiken’te’vel, errr, that’s the Meregan homeworld, to help Elisabet here so that she can help you by redirecting the first time travel spell. See? You showed up where you are now so that you could end up on Lord Petan’s ship, so you could send me to Aiken’te’vel to help Elisabet, so you could end up where you are now. It’s a loop.” She twirled her finger around in a circle a few times. “But umm, as Tristan would say, don’t think about it too hard, or you might go cross-eyed.”
Too late, I was already thinking about it too much. Did that mean I’d always ended up here? But that didn’t make sense, because there had to have been a point when I ended up on Fossor’s world, right? The loop had to start somewhere. I must have ended up there at some point, escaped or something, and somehow created this loop. There had to be a point where I… or someone else, had set this whole thing up to work this way.
Ouch. Yeah, I was going cross-eyed. I should’ve listened to the advice.
“Told you,” Dexamene’s recording teased. “Don’t think about it so much. You’ve got other things to worry about.”
“Yes.” That was Elisabet, apparently doing something to push Dexamene out of the way so she could appear on the hologram once more. “You do have other things to worry about. According to your future self, we cannot tell you very much if this is going to go the way we all need it to. You need to act on instinct, not by following a script. But it was important that you know what kind of situation you are in. Your arrival will have triggered whatever measures Fossor prepared for sending reinforcements to collect you. If you don’t wish to meet them, you must follow the steps I’m about to give you for leaving the station. When this recording ends, a bag with a keycard, magic tools, and a diagram of a spell, complete with specific notations and instructions will appear. You must follow this guide to create the spell that will take you off of that station, where you will find yourself in a… hazardous situation. That is all I can tell you. Be prepared, act decisively, and you will eventually find your way to Nicholas Petan’s ship, where you can set these events in motion. With any luck, you will then be able to transport back to the time you left from. But remember, for this situation to exist, you must send this Dexamene girl to the Meregan homeworld on a specific date a couple months earlier than the one you were sent away from.”
There was a moment where it looked like Elisabet was going to say one thing, before she seemed to reconsider. Finally, she spoke in a quieter voice than before. “Unfortunately, every bit of power I’ve been able to store up went toward enacting this, and now… now it’s all I can do to avoid the Fomorians. I won’t have the ability to reach out to Jophiel or anyone else on Earth before all of this comes to a head. Felicity, you have to make it back to Earth. You have to warn the others and stop the Necromancer.” She paused before adding, “And I would appreciate it if, when you are done with that, you could send a little aid this way. There are other things to deal with once Fossor is no longer an immediate threat.”
She gave me a few more details about what I should do. But, as promised, kept quiet about most of the details. Eventually, Elisabet finished with, “I… hope you manage it, Felicity.”
“Yeah, good luck!” Dexamene piped up. “And I’ll see you soon. Oh, right, when I meet you, tell me that the tueln is under my bed. That umm… will and did really freak me out.”
The recording ended then, the hologram going dark. Staring at the spot where it had been for a long moment, I exhaled. Finally, I whispered, my own voice startling me as it cut through the silence. “Okay, this is a lot.” My hands covered my face, as I mumbled against them, “A fucking lot.” And wasn’t that just the biggest understatement in the universe? Really, how was I supposed to deal with all this? There was just so damn much. Time travel. I was in the future, and future future me had apparently set a whole thing up to have Tristan’s old friend travel to the Meregan world in the past in order to find Elisabet and have her set up a spell that intercepted Fossor’s spell, altering it to send me to this place, which Elisabet then prepared ahead of time for me.
That was enough all on its own. But now I was apparently supposed to go find Nicholas Petan’s ship using only hints (from myself, apparently) about where to go. No idea what might be between that ship and me. No idea what would come afterward. Except that I somehow had to get myself sent back to Earth, shortly after I’d left it. And I had to get there not only to save my mother, but everyone. Every Bosch Heretic was going to be killed and turned into Fossor’s slaves if I didn’t get back there in time to stop it. Mom was still his prisoner. Nobody else knew what he was planning. If I didn’t get back there, Fossor would have a literal army worth of enslaved undead Heretics to play with. And that… fuck. That would be the end of the Earth. There was no way he’d bother hiding out or being patient at that point. He would have the Seosten over the barrel, forcing them to take Heretics from him to fight their war with the Fomorians in exchange for allowing him to keep Earth for himself. He’d turn the entire planet into the same thing as his own homeworld. He’d turn not just all of humanity, but all of everyone who lived on Earth into his slaves, just like he’d done to his own people. And with every Bosch Heretic under his control, nobody would be able to stop him. Unless I got back there in time.
But, you know, no pressure or anything.
“We’ve gotta go,” I said out loud, looking toward my ghost companion. “Elisabet was right, Fossor’s reinforcements are gonna show up soon. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be here when they do.”
“Yes,” came the dry response, “something tells me my brother is rather unhappy with both of us. And if he has succeeded at his ploy in this time, he will have very dangerous threats to throw around.”
That was a point that made me blanch, pressing a hand against my stomach briefly. No. No, I didn’t even want to think about that. If he had that kind of power to throw at us–worse, if he had my friends to throw at us, my… no. I was going to move on and make sure I didn’t have to deal with anything like that.
But in any case, those thoughts were another reason why getting out of here right now was the best move. Quickly, I turned to open the bag that had appeared, as promised, when the hologram disappeared. Inside was a field-engraver for spells, a red and violet keycard, a piece of paper with a long series of symbols written on it that were all connected by an intricately swirled line (along with notes about how to make this spell work), and one of those enner things, the coins that held spell energy. Sliding all of those into my pockets, except for the field-engraver, I moved quickly out of the room I was in. Time to go, time to go, beyond time to go!
Running by that point, I went straight for the same room I’d originally appeared in. I had to ignore all the bodies, had to not think about them at all. Not right now, there wasn’t time. Not if I actually wanted to avoid any confrontations with… anyone.
Reaching that first room, I moved to the middle and knelt down before grabbing the paper from my pocket, dropping the field-engraver for the moment. Instead, I touched my free hand to the floor and used my inscription power to copy over each symbol in the sequence one at a time. I would stare at the symbol being copied, touch my hand to the right spot on the floor, and focus for a second before it appeared. So much faster than actually drawing all those things.
But I did still need that field-engraver that Elisabet had provided. According to the notes written on the paper, each of these symbols had to be connected with that intricate line that was on the paper as well. And they had to be connected in a certain way. First, I touched the engraver to the enner while murmuring the activation word the notes mentioned. As soon as I did that, the power from the enner drained right into the engraver, and it grew somewhat warm in my hand. It was ready.
Touching the tip of the empowered field-engraver against the first symbol, I carefully drew it up and out, checking the paper before making a small loop, doubling back on the line slightly. Then I angled it downward to barely touch the next symbol, angling across in a sort of underline motion.
Telling myself not to get into a rush, I followed the line through the rest of the symbols at the specific speed and path the notes had been crystal clear about. Careful, I had to be careful. If I got into a rush and fucked it up… yeah, that would be bad. Do it right, Flick. Just calm down and do it right.
Of course, thinking that just made me remember all the times in the past when I had believed I was thinking to myself, only to later find out that it was actually Tabbris secretly giving me advice.
I missed my sister. I missed everyone. Fuck. If Fossor succeeded in his plan back then, what had happened to Tabbris? What had–
No. Stop it. Just stop it. Focus right now. Do what you have to do right now to make sure then doesn’t turn out like that.
With that firmly in mind, I finished the connected symbols. According to Elisabet, the spell had to be drawn right here because of its distance to the station’s various power sources. I looked over the whole finished product hurriedly, comparing it to the paper. Good, good, right, it looked fine. As perfect as I could make it.
Finally, I produced that keycard and moved to the console that was nearest the door. Crouching, I felt around behind it until I found the slot that Elisabet had described. Shoving the keycard in that slot, I waited just long enough for the console to light up purple before blurting the last command that had been carefully written on the paper, “Execute Evac Elisabet Nine Nine.”
Instantly, every bit of power the station had was drained. The actual lights dimmed down to near nonexistence, and I was floating as the artificial gravity disappeared. But right there in the middle of the room, the symbols of the spell that I’d been instructed in making were glowing bright green. Then, one by one, they all shifted to be silver. At the very instant that the last symbol changed color, a glowing silver-blue portal was projected into the air above the spell.
Also at that exact moment, I heard voices. They were coming from the corridor, through the hatch I hadn’t bothered to close. There were people out there. Fossor’s back-up minions. They were here. Were they random thugs, or people I knew? Were they–
Fuck it. Shoving every doubt, concern, and worry I had deep down into the pit of my stomach, I shoved my feet against the nearby wall and hurled myself at the portal. From the corner of my eye, I saw figures start to come through the hatch. I heard a shout. Was it–was that my name? Was–
Then I was through the portal, and gone.