The training Gelantrik had received from the humans had prepared her well. By now, the stasis chamber had taken her to hundreds of spatio-temporal coordinates. At each, she’d switched off a nearby temporal transponder and re-entered the stasis chamber.
The entire process took no more than five minutes. Trouble was, the humans had created a network of temporal stepping stones that stretched back thousands of years.
“I’ll be at this forever,” Gelantrik muttered. And yet, she pressed on. Working in her favor was a reassuring thought. The humans would risk one last temporal jaunt, back one century to stop their ancestors from planting the transponders. That way, the devices Gelantrik switched off in the past wouldn’t be switched on again in a continuous loop.
Besides, Ludovica had told her, once a significant number of transponders were shut down, the temporal anomaly engulfing the Milky Way would be more manageable. In fact, if Gelantrik could just reach the era immediately before the development of the first electrical grid, the transponders would only impact the past.
“That should contain the crisis,” Captain Ludovica had said. “Maybe we can live with that. But we owe it to all sentient life in the universe to restore order if we possibly can.”
In principle, Gelantrik agreed. Yet the task was beginning to fray her nerves. The only saving grace was the special gravitational field she was encased in, that kept her outside of time. Instead of aging or getting physically tired, she was simply reliving the same five minutes.
Eventually, she emerged from the stasis chamber that the humans had planted in the year 1860. It rested in an abandoned mineshaft 100 kilometers northeast of “Sacramento,” according to the sensor inside the stasis chamber told her.
“So alien,” she whispered. But no more alien, she reflected, than the mystery of time travel itself. She paused long enough for a deep breath, then crept out of the stasis chamber, expecting to find the next temporal transponder. Her heart leapt. According to the readout on the stasis chamber console, this was the very era she’d been trying to reach.
But no sooner had she stepped out into the air than her hopes were dashed. As she walked over to the gleaming transponder unit, a shot from a projectile weapon rang out over her head.
“Hold it right there you foul abomination!” a rough voice echoed off the mineshaft’s walls.
Trembling, Gelantrik spun on her heels to see an ancient human, brandishing a metal handgun. Wearing garments of woven plant fibers and processed animal skins, he wasted no time jamming the barrel of his weapon into the frightened Gantoorn’s bulbous abdomen.
“What in Tarnation you doing here, She-devil?” he asked.
Gelantrik bowed her decidedly non-human head.
“Please Sir,” she said. “I have no intention to harm you. But you must let me switch off this device or you will be in grave danger.”
“You must think I’m some kinda imbecile!” the human roared. “The very idea that I should let you switch off that there temporal transponder … why it’s just … indecent.”
“You know about the temporal transponder?” asked the Gantoorni. “How is that possible?”
The ancient Californian removed his dusty Stetson hat, wiped his forehead with a slightly less dusty handkerchief from his back pocket and put it back on his head.
“You better ask Mr. Traalohlar that question,” he said. “Come along now. I reckon he’s gonna be mighty interested in making your acquaintance.”
The human waved the end of his Colt 45 in the direction of the mine entrance and she followed him out.
“If you don’t mind,” she said. “Where does Mr. Traalohlar come from?”
“Well, now why don’t you just ask him that yourself, Missy?” said the dusty human.
The moment she emerged from the mineshaft, her eyes widened. For there stood a tall, blue insectoid, glaring down at her from inside a dark, metallic encounter suit.
“Good work, Phineas,” it said. “Didn’t I tell you my energy readings would be accurate?”
“Yes, Sir, Mr. Traalohlar,” said the human. “Caught her pokin’ around the transponder. You reckon this here’s another outer space personage like yourself?”
“Indeed,” said the insectoid. “Though I’m not at all sure … ah … you’re from the Future, aren’t you?”
“Why should I tell you anything?” said Gelantrik. “You’re only here to make trouble.”
The insectoid laughed in thin reedy gasps.
“Making trouble?” he said. “On the contrary, I’m just about to make a new acquisition for the glorious Kolthraftian Empire!”
(To be continued)
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