Authors: Aaron Martin Fransen
Laid out before him, in a massive panorama filling the sky, was the whole of the Milky Way galaxy, or at least what little of it was visible from the Orion arm where the Earth sat.
He understood like he never had why early man had called it the Milky Way. A virtually unbroken band of stars stretching out beyond the limits of his vision, like milk spilled in the heavens.
He knew the stars. He knew what to expect. And he could still feel tears starting to form in his eyes. It was the most amazing thing he could ever have imagined.
He could “hear” Jessica warning him to close his eyes, she was bringing him back. He did.
Suddenly he could feel gravity. He opened his eyes and saw blue sky. He was laying down, at least, otherwise he was sure he would have fallen.
Jessica and John helped him remove the helmet.
“I can die now,” he said to them. They both smiled.
“Not if I can help it,” John said.
It only took a couple minutes to get the suit off. They were getting good at it.
“You know, if you stop and think about it, it’s absolutely staggering how much energy there must be in the galaxy, never mind the universe. It’s literally unimaginable.”
John gave him kind of a funny look.
This Rob Melnick fellow was dangerous.
Pan had been watching him clandestinely for two days, making a note of every person with whom he communicated, but he had to be careful. Johann had hidden himself from Pan once, there was nothing to say someone else in this organization couldn’t do the same thing.
He watched as Declan left the office once more and Rob walked over to look out the window of his skyscraper office. It was an incredible view, and Pan noted that his office was larger than any room Pan had ever stayed in. There was a lot of money coming in from somewhere. Correction, from the cabal that Arthur had uncovered. Rob was a foot soldier, he realized that now, but who was making the orders?
There was a knock at the door, and Declan opened it. “Mr. Konig is here sir.”
The door opened wider and a tall, middle aged gentleman walked in, confident. Fearless. As he walked into the office it was clear that Rob was deferential to this man.
Konig walked to the desk and sat down, then started working at Rob’s computer. “Leave me for a moment.”
Rob left the room, closing the door behind him.
This was very odd. Pan could feel something not quite right about this situation. He tried to stay very still, and very quiet, but it apparently didn’t matter. Konig turned and looked him right in the eyes.
“Pan Syker, I believe, is it not? I don’t know that anybody has seen you without a beard since you were a young man.”
Pan knew he had to act immediately. He disappeared, and reappeared outside the school where Zack was playing in the field, and quickly looked around. He couldn’t see anything, but something was itching at him that something was wrong. He couldn’t take any chances.
He walked up to Zack, who threw him a confused look, and upon taking Zack’s hand, disappeared, much to the shock of the thirty six people watching.
Then he sent a message to everyone else.
Out now! They’ve found us. Meet at the designated spot.
He and Zack reappeared in a remote island in Hawaii. They had decided on this place months ago just in case something like this happened, but Pan suspected he was the only one who really thought it could.
One by one they arrived, Catherine, Arthur, Jessica, John and Jack in tow. John walked urgently over to his son and made sure he was alright, kneeling down to hug him, then looked up at Pan. “What the hell happened?”
John was relieved that Zack was safe, but he knew that Pan had taken him in full view of his classmates. That was a hell of a risk, so whatever had happened was dangerous. He made a note to buy his father a beer when this was over and thank him, again.
“I met a fellow who could see right through my defenses.”
“I’m guessing that was Konig,” Arthur said as though it was a fact, not a question. Pan raised an eyebrow at him.
Arthur walked over and sat on a nearby fallen log. “He’s a ghost, of sorts. The only reason I was even able to find any record of him is that at one point he decided it might be useful to have a passport, so I was able to find a name. Until I found that, he was just a number attached to thousands of accounts around the world.”
“Who is he?” John asked.
“He’s nothing. He has no job, no income, no designation, nothing. He is simply in control of this massive network of wealth, and the worst part is he’s not alone. There is literally a cabal of twelve of them that manage it. So far Konig was the only one I’d identified, but he seemed to be the most active member of the group. At least right now.”
“What do you mean right now?” Jessica asked.
Pan answered for his friend. “We suspect they are a group that is using time travel to manipulate events to their liking.”
Time travel. He knew it was happening, but John felt it like a series of gears clicking into place. It made perfect sense, and explained some of the things the Key had been showing him the past couple of years. “If that’s true, when why not manipulate us to their advantage?”
“Because,” his father answered, “as Cathy figured out, they simply can’t see us. I don’t mean visually, I mean they are unable to view our actions. They can only see the outcome, and are unable to draw the line that associates it with anything we’ve done in the past. At least, they couldn’t while we were hidden. I don’t know about now.”
“If things had changed, we wouldn’t be here,” Catherine said. Pan nodded.
If they were exposed, it meant that they’d be able to find them if they even tried to go back. John was worried. He walked over and took Jessica’s hand, squeezing it lightly. “I guess we can never go home now, can we.”
Jessica just smiled at him. This was far from the first time she’d had to walk away from her life, and John knew it. But the bigger question remained: Their lives were of secondary concern, since there was an immense threat to humanity still approaching the Earth.
“Well,” Arthur offered, “we kind of have a way to track our opponents anyway.” Everyone threw him a confused look. “Since I was able to track down the registration numbers for their finances, with a little help from Pan I should be able to monitor their activities. It doesn’t help with the bigger problem, but it might help keep them from getting in our way.”
John sat on the log beside Arthur. “Well at least we’re in paradise. Probably wouldn’t hurt to build a roof though.”
“And a kitchen,” Catherine added.
“And a bathroom,” Zack chimed in. Jessica laughed, walked over and hugged him, which appeared to annoy Zack, although he was grinning as he groaned. John noticed how much taller he was now than the first time Jessica had hugged him. Nearly a foot in two years.
At least they had the whole island. John laughed. “Our very own Gilligan’s Island. There’s seven of us after all.”
“Easy for you to say,” Jack said. “Except for Zack and I, all of you can head over to McDonalds whenever you want. We’d be stuck eating coconuts for the rest of our lives.”
John considered it. He had every intention of showing his son the secrets of teleportation when he was old enough, but Jack had been an unanswered question for all of them.
to be reliable, but history had shown what danger appearances were. He made a note to talk to Pan about it at some length, to see if the Key of Knowledge offered any better insight.
When they had time. If they had time.
So the damned wizard had been spying on him.
Rob was furious all over again as Konig explained it to him. The wizard known as Syker had been watching him in secret, for at least a day, possibly longer.
“How did you know?” he asked his superior.
“Well,” Konig began, pulling on a cigar to think about his response as he continued to sit in Rob’s chair, “we could feel something, we just weren’t sure what at first. It did seem to center around you, but to be honest we weren’t sure until I walked in the room.”
“How was he able to hide himself from me and not you?”
Konig smiled. “All in good time.”
Rob bristled, but hid it.
“In the mean time, you will try to recall what you have been doing the last few days and start a plan to undo or change whatever plans you had.”
“What if he comes after me again?”
“Oh, he won’t. Besides, we’ve put some technology in place to alert us if he comes around again.”
Pan smiled as he listened, sitting at a Starbucks in Mexico wearing headphones attached to a tablet computer, allowing him to listen to the internet connected microphones he had left in Rob’s office.
He took a sip of his beer. He didn’t mind the Mexican beer, unlike Arthur who he had to admit was a bit of a snob about English bitters. Pan didn’t care, as long as it was beer was all that mattered to him.
He had hoped that Rob’s associates would never think to check the obvious, always expect some other-worldly technology. And he was right. Pan could actually sense the defenses they were putting in place, right through the Internet feed. But the feed itself was completely untouched.
Now he just hoped the other bugs would keep working.
It was frustrating for Catherine, but she understood.
She felt like she was the only one not doing anything, no matter how many times Arthur explained that because of her they were all able to do what they needed to do.
It didn’t help, not completely. Arthur at least had gotten himself a useful hobby all those years ago. She had done nothing but cook and knit, and keep the books. It suddenly felt very insufficient.
But there was Zack, and they were right that someone had to at least look after him. Both John and Jessica were bearers now. She felt bad that they now had to take him away from his friends. He was a teenager, it was going to be difficult, but she was glad that so far being in paradise seemed to alleviate some of his worries.
They had grabbed a laptop from somewhere, and Jack was apparently teaching him how to program. They seemed a good fit, thankfully, because it kept him occupied. Both of them in fact.
Now she just had to try to make a shelter. It had been a long time since she’d exercised those mental muscles, having sworn long ago to not try to use any so-called magic in fear they might get caught.
Of course that had all changed two years ago, but she was still rusty. This was going to take some work.
John hated to do it, but he knew that if they had a chance against whoever this enemy was, they had to. Going to the press was the only way to save themselves now.
They were exposed like a raw nerve now, and if their adversary knew, then the rest of the world might as well too. He just hoped he wasn’t opening Pandora’s Box in the process.
They had all discussed who they would go to, and ended up deciding on Tam Lee, one of the senior reporters from a weekly national news program. Jessica said she trusted him, and he tended to go with her hunches.
John was waiting, invisibly, when Tam arrived at his office. Seven fifteen in the morning. John liked him already. He’d always felt that someone who went to work early was someone who tended to put their jobs above their own well being. This could bode well.
Just as Tam settled in and opened his laptop, John appeared, sitting in the chair across from him.
“Shit!” Tam almost screamed out of shock.
John held his hands up, placating. “I’m just here to talk, and I have a story I think you might be interested in.”
“How did you get in here?”
“Like this,” John said. Then disappeared, but reappeared less than a thousandth of a second later, standing by the door.
Tam was wild eyed.
“I have a story to tell you that concerns wizards, conspiracies, and the fate of the world. If you’re interested, I’d love to tell you all about it. But I can go find someone else instead if you prefer.”
It took a few seconds, but Tam appeared to finally understand what he was asking. “Uh, no, I, uh, please, sit down...”
To press the point, John teleported to the chair.
“Jesus,” Tam said quietly. “I take it you’re a...a wizard?”
John smiled. “I do okay, I guess.”
“So...this is magic?”
“No. It’s technology, but admittedly it’s a technology of the mind, so I can see how it would be easy to confuse it. I’m John, by the way,” John said, holding out his hand. “John Syker.”
Tam slowly shook it, hesitant.
“And I have one hell of a story for you.”
It was working.
Rob’s friend in special effects in Hollywood had come up with his professional analysis of the footage of the disappearing space suit, and while the analysis itself may not have held up to scrutiny, anybody who wanted to keep their career steered clear of the controversy. Thus far the only people saying anything against it were the usual hacks that nobody was really going to listen to anyways.
The news programs had done an adequate job of making fun of the footage, making it sound like it was no better than some schmuck taking video of a UFO with their phone.
Of course, the idea of teleportation appealed to Rob as he looked out the window of his private aircraft, but he did enjoy the perks of his travel arrangements anyways. It denoted power and respect, and he wasn’t keen to give that up.
“It would appear they’ve gone to ground,” Declan said to him, reviewing some notes.
“Of course they have. As soon as they knew we were onto them, it was just a matter of time. We just have to be ready for them when they pop their heads up again.”
So we can cut them off
, he finished to himself.
Tam was stunned, but his reporter’s instincts were starting to take over. The last hour’s tale had seen him go from gawking attempts at disbelief, to doubt, finally to belief. And he had become comfortable enough with the idea that he was now asking what he hoped were intelligent questions.
“So how old are you then?”
John laughed. Okay, maybe not so intelligent. “I’m thirty eight, but the rest of my family is significantly older, except for my son of course.”