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Zhu shrugged at Rev, in this case she was nearly as clueless as her friend.  Temporal events had certainly been proved, and she had even read about some things back when she had connectivity to the internet.  Yet, all the things she had researched had been highly speculative and theoretical at best.  At least she could help her friend with the terminology, "mutiverse... the theory that there are infinite divergent paths for each permutation of events.  Like there's one out there where I have chrome bits and you're the super genius... well I'm pretty sure." 

 

There was an article on commonality among the multiverse that she had read the stipulated while there were infinite divergent paths, those paths still had a certain degree of commonality.  So Zhu would still be recognizable across them all, even if things were radically different.

 

"I don't think that robed figure was good.  If he was trying to save people, that isn't a good way to go about it.  What can we do to help.  I mean, we're still on the clock... if it's still even the same day."

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GM

 

"It may someday come to that."  Daedalus said in response to Rev's statement about Lawrence and his parents someday having to go face Collapse, a trace of sadness in his voice.  "But Lawrence is nowhere near ready for such an encounter and it may be possible that an actual showdown is not actually necessary."

 

"I agree this new individual certainly appears to be a threat, although I would note that when Velocity first encountered the alternate future Lord Harrow and his time agents, they kidnapped her and then later kidnaped Lawrence's father.  But they have been helpful since then."  Daedalus stated in response to Zhu's comments.  "But until we have reason to believe otherwise, we will view this robed figure as hostile."

 

"But right now, I believe you two have done more than could have been expected of you."  He then stated with a smile.  "And yes it is still February 14, 2018 back in Freedom City, although it is getting close to midnight.  I am going to contact the Lighthouse and get word back to Velocity that you three are here.  Then I want to go take some scans of the areas where this robed figure and its time simulacrums were to see what I might be able to learn."

 

"In the meantime, you three can just rest some until we can get you back to Earth." 


"They are certainly welcome to remain here with us until their transport home is ready."  Paradigm offered.  "And of course whatever other assistance we may be able to provide."

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Rev

 

"I could certainly do with some rest. Got to spray on Zhu's gel skin" sighed Rev looking at her chrome arms and legs. 

 

Need to? Well, it would be advisable. Attracted less attention. 

 

"A pair of sneakers if you have any. And some lollipops to get my sugar back up. But even better would be some fuel. I'm running a bit low after charging around" she said, giving a lopsided awkward grin. "Any petrochemical will do. Military space fuel, even!" she added keenly. 

 

 

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For a moment she had visions of the end of the first Star Wars movie... or was it the fourth?  Well no matter, she could picture a room of people cheering and shouting as she and Rev walked up to get their reward for a job well done.  Of course Rev's reward wasn't in galactic credits, but in Cherry Bomb lollipops, which she seemed to have quite the addiction too.  It did seem that Paradigm was offering to give them support, although that could be construed to mean a number of things.  Probably best not to push things too much. 

 

Still... she couldn't help herself when she asked, "um, yes, would it be possible to get some selfies with you?  ...and maybe an autograph?  I mean, I know that sounds weird, but this is really kind of cool to meet all of you."  She paused and hemmed and hawed for a moment, "and if it wouldn't be too much trouble, I'd love to get a spec on whatever protocol serves as wireless communications here.  Maybe some kind of translation matrix so I can write some software to compensate."

 

She gave all of them a wide smile, hoping that wasn't pushing things too far.

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Paradigm

 

Daedalus got up to leave to make the transmission back to Earth and then go visit the locations where the robed figured had been, promising Zhu he would be sure to see her again before she left and provide an authgraph.  Paradigm then regarded the two Terran teenagers and their various requests. "Unfortunately there are few vessels that rely upon any sort of fuel source I am afraid."  Paradigm replied in response to Rev’s request for some fuel.  "But there may be something similar we can locate.  And while we do not have 'sneakers,' I believe we can provide some form of footwear."  She then added. 

 

At Zhu’s requests, she had a briefly puzzled look, "selfie?"  She stated at first, before a look of realization came to her, "ah yes, I recall Queenie mentioning it was some form of visual recording of oneself in different locations and with different individuals.  Yes, you may take a few if you so wish."  She then stated. 

 

After Zhu (and Rev if she wanted) had taken a few selfies and been provided an autograph, Paradigm led the two teens and Lawrence out of the room they had been in and back into the command center proper. "The best person to answer your technical questions would be Traveller.  Seresk, can you see our young friend to the hanger?  I believe Traveller is working on the Kavaca." 

 

"Of course Paradigm."  The large reptilian Praetorian replied before looking down at Zhu.  "This way please."  He started, leading her toward one of the exits from the command center. 

 

Paradigm then looked back to Rev and Lawrence.  "Now, let us see about finding you some footwear and perhaps some form of 'fuel.'"

 

Seresk led Zhu out of the command center and through a main corridor of the headquarters.  The large Praetorian explaining to Zhu that they were going to see one of the more technically adept members of the Praetorians, who was currently conducting some maintenance on one of the spacecraft used by the Praetorians.

 

As the two walked down the corridor, Zhu noticed the passed a room that appeared to be filled with holograms of various alien looking individuals.

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Zhu was walking on cloud nine as she looked through the various chambers and buildings that she passed.  Her phone now had multiple selfies with some of the most famous heroes the world... universe had ever known!  The best ones included her and Rev and they were definitely going to be replicated to a million different spots so she wouldn't lose them.  Add that to a pair of autographs and this valentines day couldn't get any better.  Well, she mussed, perhaps some kind of date with Taylor Lautner, but that was probably getting more than a little ahead of herself.  Still it was Valentine's day, so a little wish for romance wasn't totally wrong!  As they walked she tried her best to memorize everything she saw, but as they were walking she actually stopped dead in her tracks.

 

"Excuse me... I know we're going to go see Traveller, but what's in that room?  I mean... I do a lot of things with holograms and I'd love to see ways to make mine better."

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GM

 

Seresk stopped as Zhu did, looking over towards the room she asked about.  "That is our memorial hall."  The reptilian replied, a solemn expression coming to his face. 

 

Leading Zhu over through the entrance to the room, they came into a dimly lit room.  On either side of the room were dozens of holograms representing costumed beings of all shapes and sizes, arranged in rows.  There were many humanoids with all manner of skin tones, feline humanoids, reptilian humanoids, even insectoids.  At the far end of the room, opposite the door were a dozen life sized stone statutes.  In the center of these was a male figure with a powerful physique that closely resembled Paradigm, both in his facial features and the pattern of the costume he depicted as wearing. 

 

"Over two thousand, I believe you Terrans refer to it as 'years,' ago, some of us were the protectors of an ancient stellar empire known as the Delaztri Empire.  When a powerful enemy attacked the empire, it took the combined might of our entire order to stop them.  These holograms are in memory of those that perished in that conflict, including Paradigm's brother."  Seresk stated, focusing his gaze on the statue of the male in a similar costume at the far end of the room.

 

"Daar Val-Ren was among our most powerful members and served as one of our Imperators.  When those of us that survived were awoken from suspended animation some three years ago to face our ancient enemy once more, our first action was to elect Paradigm as our Imperatrix."

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Rev

 

Rev, meanwhile, was enjoying a refuel with Paradigm. 

 

This is good stuff! Hardly needs any refining! which was pleasant, as refining fuel made her emit methane. It was not social, nor was it pleasant. 

 

With a tube stuck in either side of the neck she waited a minute for her reserves to fill. "Thanks Paradigm. I mean, for everything. The fuel, saving our asses, and yeah, the footwear..." she sighed. 

 

Sure, it was footwear. But man it was square....

 

She took the time to respray on Zhu's gelskin over her arms and legs. Bar a few singed clothes she looked kind of human again. 

 

"Whats your deal, anyway?" she asked Paradigm. "Not that I am complaining!" she added hastily. "But doesn't this whole collapse thing effect, like, everyone? I mean, sounds like the whole universe should be concerned..."

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Zhu froze as she was about to enter the room to see all the cool holograms.  Suddenly she felt the weight and solemnity of the room as she looked at all the members who were rendered in the cold bath of a light rendering their form.  Then there was the aspect of the time scales.  It wasn't surprising that they had existed longer than Earth, but finding out that the person she was talking too had been alive at the time of the Han Dynasty was something amazing.  That they all had was humbling.  Her culture often took its long and proud history as a point of pride.  Hearing about millennia of service casually bantered about made her realize there was so much to learn.

 

"I think... maybe that I can wait on looking at those.  I'm not sure looking at the memorials of your heroes to see how the pretty holograms were creating would really be appropriate.  I would like to see this room, but perhaps when I have some time to properly digest it and show the respect that it deserves."

 

She waited until he started walked her towards wherever Traveler was before talking again, "so you were there when that happened?"

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Paradigm

 

Between Paradigm and Elite, they had managed to find a pair of boots that managed to fit Rev and come up with some sort of petrochemical.  Paradigm had then led Rev and Lawrence to another section of the Praetorian headquarters. 

 

The Praetorian headquarters' lounge was located along an outer edge of the facility.  The space covered three levels of the headquarters in a tiered design that consisted of various platforms and seating areas stretched over the three levels.  The outer wall of the lounge curved upward from the lower level towards the upper level, and was several large sections of plasti-steel, providing a view of the nearby nebula as well as the wormhole which connected the otherwise remote CoVic station to other parts of the quadrant.  Even at this distance, a steady flow of space traffic could be seen entering and exiting the wormhole.

 

Lawrence was greatly impressed with the sights, as the group found a table to sit at on one of the levels of the lounge.  He moved over near the railing to look out towards the nebula and the nearby wormhole.  Paradigm gave Rev as small smile as the teen again thanked her.  "You are again most welcome Rev."  She stated simply. 

 

At Rev’s additional question her expression become more serious.  "At any given time there are any number of things the entire universe should likely be concerned about, but for the most part, only an almost incalculable fraction of all the beings that exist ever know about any one of them.  For most, even if they had some inkling of any of those dangers, there are far more immediate and tangible issues facing them that are daunting enough without living in fear over something they have little hope of influencing in the least."

 

"The potential threat of Collapse is dire to be sure, one I will take very seriously.  But at the moment, there is no clear path that would afford me an opportunity to try to do anything about it.  I possess no immediate means of travelling to the future or the past, let alone to the same in other timelines.  And even if I could, what limited knowledge I have on such matters suggests that such an endeavor can be complicated by the limitations on what one can do to alter the flow of time.  I do not presume to know that I know better how to handle the situation with Lawrence and this Collapse than those that have more experience with it."

 

"Should the need arise, I will provide any assistance I can, but until such time, there are hundreds of worlds that at times look to my fellow Praetorians and I for assistance and protection.  I cannot overlook that responsibility for something I have no immediate means of influencing."

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GM

 

Seresk gave a small nod when Zhu indicated she should probably wait before going into the memorial hall.  Turning away from the room, the towering Praetorian continued to lead the teenager through the Praetorian headquarters.  "Yes, I was present at that terrible battle."  He responded to her question.  "As was Paradigm, Elite, Magnetar, Traveller and several others you have not had an opportunity to meet.  About two dozen of us manage to survive to see the Communion defeated, at least for a time.  We were not even able to return to Delaz Prime before we were intercepted by a powerful artificial intelligence known as the Curator.  Weakened as we were from our battle, the Curator’s drones managed to capture us and we were placed in suspended animation."

 

"When the Communion returned a little over three years ago, the Curator, now somewhat changed from what it had been, revived us to help turn back the tide of the Communion's advance.  Although the empire we once had defended had long ago disappeared into history, we could not sit by and allow the destruction of others that needed our protection, so we once again went out into battle."

 

He gave Zhu a small smile.  "But the Communion has again been defeated, hopefully for certain this time.  And while there are still many challenges facing this sector of the galaxy, we continue to offer our aid and protection to those that request it."

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That was humbling.  Everything they knew was long gone to the ashes of history, yet they still served and offered their protection willingly.  It was a lesson that was very eye opening.  She walked in silence for a moment, the looked up at the giant Lizard warrior.

 

"Thank you," she said sincerely and quietly, "I guess few of us on Earth even know the things you're doing to keep us safe.  It sounds both lonely and dangerous, what you do, that is."

 

While they were walking she was taking samples of the wireless spectrums, while she couldn't understand any of it, at least it was something she could analyze later.  It was something that she did without really even thinking and didn't distract her from her massive guardian.  "I hope that you've been able to find others of your kind... or people to make a new life with.  I can't imagine waking up 2000 years from now."

 

 

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Rev

 

"Yeah I understand all of that" said Rev to Paradigm, unplugging the fuel lines from her neck and feeling most  refreshed. "But its...like a gnawing fear, now. In the back of my mind. Something out their that can eat up the universe...at any time. And there isn't anything we can do about it. That's pretty tough to know. Like you have swallowed a bomb or something. Honestly? I wish I didn't know...."

 

She pulled at her hair a bit, disconcerted. 

 

Disconcerted to the max. 

 

"I guess I just got to get on with my life. Try not to think about it" she said, firmly, to herself. "But right now, I better catch up with Zhu. She is very naughty, and without my sensible and well behaved head around, she is sure to get up to major mischief!" she lied, happily. 

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GM

 

Seresk looked back down at Zhu and gave a smile again.  "As always, you are welcome, although I am not certain much of what we have dealt with since the Communion War could be something that would have threatened your world.  There are many formidable beings there that help to keep it safe."

 

When she talked about waking up again after such a long time, the Praetorian gave a slight shrug.  "When we first were awoken, we had little time to mourn or contemplate all we had lost, and were simply able to throw ourselves into battle.  Later, we each found our means of coming to terms with our situation.  For some, that mean leaving our ranks, though some have since returned.  Others of us have remained, seeking solace in our work and the reassuring presence of our fellow Praetorians.  We have of course added new members, including Galvanic, who was with us when we came to help you on the plaza."

 

Seresk had led Zhu to a large double door, which slide open as they approached.  Beyond was a huge chamber with a high ceiling that clearly had to be the hanger.  More than a hundred meters from where they were, Zhu could see there was not opposite wall, the darkness of space visible beyond through some sort of clear forcefield.  Although there was clearly room for a number of vessels in the hanger, there only was one present at the moment. 

 

Over a hundred feet long, it possessed a general teardrop shape and had a sleek, smooth silver hull.  A small ramp led down from the larger end of the teardrop, which appeared to be the rear of the vessel. 

 

"This is the Kavaca."  Seresk stated, as he started over toward the ramp.  "One of the vessels we use to move among the stars, for those of us that cannot on their on anyway."

 

The ramp led up into a large elliptically shaped room with a high ceiling that appeared to be a cargo area.  Along the walls on either side of the cargo area were several smaller rooms that appeared to be holding cells.  Seresk led Zhu forward up to stairs the led up to a narrow walkway that was slightly raised off the main floor of the cargo area and formed a small arch at the front of the cargo area.  There were five circular doors along the curved wall at the front end of the cargo area accessible from the raised area, two on either side of the arch and one in the center.

 

It was through this center door that Seresk led Zhu, taking them through another small room (also elliptical in shape) passing two doors, one to either side of the room and instead taking a door on the opposite end.  This brought them into a good sized semi-circular room.  This one was filled with a variety of advanced looking equipment, some of which pulsed with energy.  Toward the opposite end of the room was what appeared to be some sort of workstation, with a number of holographic displays.   

 

On either side of the workstation, along a wall that slightly curved into the semi-circular room, was a door.  One of these doors was open, and the sounds of someone working could be heard beyond.  "Sitara."  Seresk called out as he led Zhu towards the open door and toward the bridge.  "Sorry for the interruption, but we have a young Terran guest that wishes to speak with you about protocols for the station’s holonet."

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Paradigm


Paradigm regarded Rev as she mentioned how uneasy the knowledge about Collapse made her feel.  "I would say always try to remember to cherish every moment you have with your friends and loved ones and make the most of them all, but old habits are hard to break and you often fail to remember that any moment may be the last you see someone you care about."  There was a hint of sadness in her voice as she spoke.

 

"I am sure your fear over the possibilities regarding Collapse will fade some."

 

She then gave a small smile at the teen’s little lie.  "That would seem rather uncharacteristic of your friend."  She replied.  "But in any event, I am sure Seresk and Traveller can keep her out of trouble.  After all, do you not have an obligation to remain watchful over your young charge?"  She asked, pointing over toward Lawrence, who had drifted off to sleep on a sofa like seat.

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"Oh, well I didn't just mean Earth... I mean, I'm very grateful if you did... but more that you'd offer up your life and service to help people in general.  That's really wonderful and it makes me think about how I want to be in my life," she replied to Seresk before she was introduced to Sitara.  It did take her more than a moment to respond as she looked at the impressive ship and all of the cool looking machines there.  She could feel them, at the edge of her conscious and she was reasonably sure that she could work them.  The issue was that it was similar to speaking another language and she wasn't sure exactly what she would be doing.  Still, the impressive tech that was built into the ship made her giddy as she introduced herself.

 

"Hello..." she said, "I... well I don't know what to say.  I've seen some very impressive machines before, but this... wow... did you make it all?"

 

As she spoke, her botnet fanned out around her, taking measurements and analyzing everything they could.  The data coming back was amazing and it was something that she was going to have to think about and study for a very long time to come.

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The Traveller

For a few moments there wasn't any response, then come a couple of loud words that could only be swearing. Then Sitara appeared in the doorway looking a little sheepish, her face and jumpsuit covered in dirt.

 

"Well, you can start by not using blasted Lor electronics, what I wouldn't give for some old fashion Delaztri tech. I spent all morning repairing a fault link on Akazavani, now she's starting to false readings of active nanites!"

 

Apparently remembering why she called away from vital maintenance Sitara rubbed her hand clean and offered one to the young Terran, a gesture she'd learned from the other humans she'd met.

 

"Pleased to meet you I'm Sitara Shashikala, some call me The Traveller, or much worse. But Sitara will be fine."

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Rev

 

"Cherish every moment, huh? Well, I guess I can do that" brightened Rev. This was her nature. "Lets just hope there are plenty of moments to be had" she added, with a mixture of enthusiasm and bleak realism. 

 

"And that starts right now. I mean, after all, I'm only on an alien planet! In space. Outer space!" she said, standing up and feeling the awesome awe of the situation. "Do you have space ships? You have to have space ships, right? Fast ones? Like, light speed?" she asked. "I'd love to pilot one of those. That's real speed! Perhaps you can pilot us home? I mean, Lawrence has to go home, right, and we are looking after him as you said. And maybe you might just let me have a go driving one of your space ships?"

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Zhu gave a nervous laugh, "active nanintes... um... that's probably not a false reading.  Um... so there's not... um... a regulation against them is there?"  She shook Sitara's hand trying to appear more confident than she suddenly felt.  "I mean... it's very nice to meet you Ma'am... and um... I might be reason for your reading.  But they're really pretty harmless.  Well not harmless, but they're under my control.  It was an invention that I came up with."

 

She hoped that the woman wasn't mad at her, because she sensed a kindred spirit as she took in her jumpsuit and the obvious signs of working on the myriad machines that Zhu had seen on her way to the ship.  Letting go of Sitara's hand, she gave her a smile, "I um... was hoping to find out about some of the communication protocols and maybe learn about anything you want to explain to me."

 

 

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The Traveller

Sitara took another look at the young woman and couldn't help but smile at her response.

 

"Just save me another maintenance cycle trying to track it down." she laughed "It's just we fought quite a protracted war with an enemy that used nanites, so we're a little touchy about such things. And please call me Sitara."

 

It might have been long, long ago but she remembered being just like Zhu a wide-eyed innocent introduced to a wider universe. She couldn't help but take a liking to this teen.

 

"Well the code built on an old Delaztri standard and coded in Sanskrit, apparently it drove the Lor Naval Intelligence to frustration trying to decode it. How about we good to the galley and get some drinks and I'll answer what questions I can? The Lor might make terrible electronics but they have some decent fruit concoctions."

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GM

 

"Yes, we do have spaceships and they can travel much faster than the speed of light."  Paradigm replied to Rev with a small smile at the teen’s exuberance.  "You can see quite a few from here," she commented, gesturing out toward the transparent wall where Rev did see a number of spacecraft of various shapes and sizes flying around outside, several more distant ones moving around what appeared to be a slowly spinning vortex of cosmic flotsam and light bent at unnatural angles.

 

"That is a wormhole."  Paradigm stated.  "It connects to others across this sector, including one in your solar system and allows for travel far faster than the speed of light between those points.  I imagine you will be traveling through it on your return trip to your world."

 

"While I cannot allow you pilot one of our spacecraft, if you like, when your friend and some of the other Praetorians return to watch over Lawrence we can get you spacesuit and I can accompany you out there for a bit."

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Rev

 

"Awesome! Like faster than light. That's fast!" said Rev, duly impressed. She vaguely recalled something about it being impossible and relativity and something, but these were boring facts that should be ignored as far as she was concerned. 

 

"Are we going to use that wormhole? that would be neat. And double neat if I get to wear a space suit!" she said, getting almost too excited, now - she was tingling with electric excitement. One could imagine that in her case, with electricity running though half her body, it was actually literal as well as metaphorical. 

 

A slightly wet duty dampened spirits. "But we have to look after Lawrence, of course" she admitted. 

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