Relieved as she was to be safely away from the insectoid Kolthraftian, Gelantrik knew she still had to prevent him from changing human history. But if she’d been hoping for help from Phineas, it was clear she was on her own.
Unprotected from the effects of the stasis field, Phineas lay on the floor of the stasis chamber, rapidly falling into a coma. Desperate, Gelantrik slapped his face to keep him awake just a little longer.
“Phineas!” she shrieked. “How can we stop Traalohlar?”
“Don’t rightly know,” he said, as if in a deep sleep. “Though I reckon a ‘skeeter net might help.” With that, his body stiffened as the stasis field brought his every vital sign to a standstill.
“Skeeter net?” Gelantrik wondered out loud. Might that refer to a primitive insect trapping technology? Even if she had materials or tools to work with, she realized, she could hardly create a net large enough to prevent the Kolthraftian from landing on Earth.
Besides, the only net that would have any hope of deterring the insectoids would have to be some kind of energy barrier.
“And here I am moving backward in time, when humans were even less likely to have the technology I need.”
For the moment, it seemed her only option was to continue with her mission and hope that switching off the remaining transponders would be enough to avert this unexpected disaster.
Unless … but no, she decided, it was too dangerous. And yet, when she arrived at the next temporal transponder location, deep in the basement of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 18th-century England, Gelantrik took a gigantic risk.
Instead of merely switching the transponder off, she also carried its comical frame into the stasis chamber and immediately took off for the next location.
She worked frantically over the equivalent of the next two weeks of local time within the chamber, and eventually collected all of the remaining transponders, making sure to dislodge them from their recharging stations.
It was exhausting work, but the one saving grace was that the humans had stopped their disastrous experiment in time travel at 2 BC. As it was, finding room for the remaining 20 transponders, one for each century, was rather challenging.
Then, with the help of the transponder units, she reset the stasis chamber’s coordinates back to Phineas’ time frame, and returned to California in the 1860s just a few hours before the insectoids, according to Phineas, had arrived, and threw open the doors of her stasis chamber.
“Phineas, wake up!” she shouted, not at all sure he would revive. “You’ve got to help me move this equipment!” Lucky for her, returning the ancient human to his original timeframe shut the stasis field down.
“Alright, Missy,” he grumbled. “No need to raise yer voice. But what in the Sam Hill you trying to do?”
“We’re building a … skeeter net … to scare the Kolthraftians away,” said the young Gantoorni female. She couldn’t help wondering what Director Jantraz would say if he could see her now.
But there was no time for speculation. Gelantrik carefully pushed the stasis chamber door open into the still intact mineshaft she’d originally materialized into.
Based on her memory of the star charts of this sector she’d studied back home at the Gantoorni Observatory, she arranged the transponders into a complex array, with Phineas’ help.
“What kinda Tom Fool pattern is this?” asked the cantankerous human.
“It’s a … a star chart, I hope,” said Gelantrik. “Come on, help me switch these transponders on. I’ll show you how.”
Before long, the not-yet collapsed mineshaft was echoing with the cumulative hum of the transponders as their complementary wave forms fanned out into local space-time.
Traveling along trajectories roughly matching the gravitational fields generated by the twenty-one nearest stars, the combined transponder signals would converge in deep space to form a temporal maze, light years from Earth.
Then, as each transponder lost power over the next century, local space-time would slowly return to normal. In spite of herself, the Gantoorni smiled.
“I’d like to see those insectoids navigate that,” said Gelantrik.
“But what do you reckon we do now?” asked the perplexed human.
Gelantrik looked down at her dusty boots and sighed.
“You go about your life,” she said. “I’ve done all I can to help. It’s time I returned home.”
Before a pair of ancient eyes that had already seen more strange things than any in their time, Gelantrik pressed the button on the device Ludovica had given her and promptly disappeared.
(To be continued)
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