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Valkyrie Protocol Snippet #2

David's and Jacob Holo's newest alternate, cross history novel.
Valkyrie Protocol Snippet #2
Post by runsforcelery   » Mon Jul 22, 2019 7:16 am

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

Posts: 2417
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:39 am
Location: South Carolina

"Not good!" Elzbietá jerked her omni-throttle and spun the ship around. "I'm switching the impeller back on! We've got to fight whatever's pulling us!"

"I'll see what I can do to increase power to the impeller!" Philo vanished again.

The entire ship bucked again, even harder, as the impeller powered back up. Elzbietá fought to maintain control, and Raibert felt gravity switch off as Philo redirected the reactor's output.

"Speed at eighty kilofactors," Kleio reported. "Ninety. One hundred."

"One hundred?!" Raibert blurted.

"Whatever this is, it's really got us!" Elzbietá shouted.

Something slammed into the ship with a great clang and shifted them sideways, but Elzbietá corrected their course.

"What was that?!" Raibert exclaimed.

"Wish I knew! Philo?!"

The Viking reappeared at her side. "We're fine, whatever it was! Just a big dent in the armor!"

"And the impeller?"

"It's as hot as I can make it, but I don't know how long the power lines will last at this output!"

"Hang on, everyone!" Elzbietá warned.

Raibert tightened his grip on the railing.

Elzbietá clicked two icons on her impeller control then shoved the omni-throttle forward. The ship trembled as if every surface were part of a giant tuning fork.

"Come on!" she shouted. "You can do it!"

"Is the ship supposed to be shaking this much?!" Raibert asked.

"It'll hold together!"

"Speed stable at one hundred nineteen kilofactors," Kleio reported. "Speed now dropping. One hundred eighteen. One hundred seventeen. Rate of deceleration increasing."

"There we go." Elzbietá eased the throttle back a hair, and the vibration lessened. "Philo?"

"Output holding. The superconductors must be glowing right now, but we're still beneath danger levels."

"Good. We should be okay as long as we—"

A great screeching catastrophe ripped down the ship's length and threw everyone against their restraints. Elzbietá's controls vanished, Philo's avatar locked up for a moment then disappeared, and every light on the bridge, both real and virtual, winked out.

The three corporate crewmembers sat in complete darkness as the ship fell through the void without power.

"Well," Raibert said. "Shit."



Chapter Two
Antiquities Rescue Trust, SysGov, 2980 CE


Doctor Teodorà Beckett reached for a brave face as she stepped out of her office in the Ministry of Education. She affixed a practiced smile and strode down the corridor to the executive level's main counter-grav tube. Colleagues nodded as she passed or exchanged brief, banal pleasantries while hiding their true feelings behind the same emotional masks she herself wore.

And why wouldn't they?

All of them worked for ART—the Antiquities Rescue Trust—and all of them had labored long and hard to climb to the peak of their organization. They'd put in the hours, struggled through the research, performed the tedious and often dangerous field work, led Preservation expeditions into the past, and most importantly, succeeded time and time again.

They'd recovered wonders thought lost to the sands of time, interviewed great leaders and monstrous villains alike, brought clarity to the unknown, and furthered humanity's understanding of itself by peering long and hard at where it had come from.

They'd done so much good.

But the price . . .

Teodorà selected her destination from the menu hovering in her virtual vision, then stepped into the open tube. Gravity took gentle hold of her, cushioning her descent though the Ministry of Education tower, and she sighed with unrestrained relief now that no one could see her. She lowered her head, eyes moistening as her mind once again wandered back to what she'd done.

Yes, they'd achieved so much. But the evil they'd wrought, even in their ignorance . . .

Teodorà hugged her shoulders as a cold emptiness filled her chest.

"I didn't know," she whispered. "How could I have?"

A shiver ran down her spine and she shuddered. She bit her lip and wondered—not for the first time—if she should edit the parameters of her synthoid body. Sometimes it was a little too lifelike, but she'd always shied away from making large-scale changes, perhaps fearful of giving up too much of her original humanity. She'd only transitioned to the durable synthetic body because of work. That and because she never again wanted to experience the feel of a Persian sword through her gut.

In a strange way, thinking about her transition from organic to synthetic helped clear her mind, and her face was the picture of professional composure when she reached Guest Retention. Her feet came to rest on the floor, and she smiled at the receptionist.

"Doctor Beckett," the man said, feet propped up on his desk and an old 2D movie playing in his shared virtual periphery.

"Doctor Kohlmann." She offered him a curt nod.

He paused the movie with an absent wave. "Here to clear Pepys for transfer to the Retirement Home?"

"Yes, that's right."

"Okay then." Kohlmann took his boots off the desk and sat up. Additional screens appeared around him. "Looks like he's enjoying his morning beer. Kind of funny if you ask me. I always assumed he'd be a tea drinker. You know, being British and all."

"He was born about a century too early for that. Tea was still an expensive novelty during his time. The 'China drink,' I believe he called it."

"Well, whatever makes him happy."

"Any topic restrictions I should be aware of?"

"None." Kohlmann transferred the case file to her. "He knows where and when he is. The man asks a lot of questions."

"And how stable is he?"

"Very. He's been one of our best guests, to be honest. Risk to you is nonexistent. And even if he did attack you"—Kohlmann shrugged—"what's a fifty-seven year old indigene from the seventeenth century going to do against a synthoid?"

"Not much, I suppose."

"You know, I've been meaning to ask you, is your synthoid police-grade?"

"No, but I do have a few enhancements. It seemed prudent after the Thermopylae mission went south and . . . you know." She rested a hand on her stomach.

"Yeah, I do." His eyes flickered to her abdomen for a moment, and he gave her a sympathetic smile. "Well, he's all yours." He pointed a thumb down the hall. "Just let me know when we can cart him off."

"Certainly, Doctor."

Kohlmann gave her a quick wave, then planted his boot back on his desk and unpaused his movie. One of the characters shouted obscenities, and then explosions rippled across the screen.

Teodorà opened the case file and followed the virtual arrows down the hall. She waited until she was well out of sight before shaking her head.

Doctor Jebediah Kohlmann, she thought. How did you go from leading ART Preservation missions and headlining major exhibits to being a desk jockey? She smiled without humor. Probably for the same reasons I'm doing a goddamned exit interview sure.

"Let's just get this over with," she muttered as she stepped up to the correct door.

A camera on the other side fed images to her virtual vision, giving her the impression of a transparent door. Interview Chamber 62 had been prepared as a quaint seventeenth century English cottage set on a grassy field with a few trees breaking up the otherwise flat landscape. A high brick wall marked both the edges of the field and the chamber's outer walls, and a visual simulation of a bright, cloudless day stretched out beyond that.

The subject sat in one of two chairs around a white metal table beneath the expansive crown of one tree. He took a slow sip from his mug, then set it back down next to a plate of salted pork and cheese slices. He leaned back, knitting his fingers over the bulge of his stomach.

Samuel Pepys—Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and King James II—possessed a round face framed by a dark, curling wig that descended past the shoulders of his long brown coat. He smoothed the white lace of the cravat puffing out below his neck, then raised his mug once more.

Teodorà knocked.

"Mister Pepys, may I come in?" she asked in the seventeenth century variant of Old English.

"Ah, another visitor." Samuel set the mug down and rose. "Please enter."

"Thank you." She sent the door her authorization code, stepped through, and let it lock behind her.

His eyes brightened when he caught sight of her. Her synthoid matched her original body in every external detail, from her tall, slender build to her olive skin and cascade of long, dark hair. Today she wore a white suit with a scarf that displayed a shifting pattern of glistening ice.

"Mister Pepys, my name is Doctor Teodorà Beckett. I'm here for your exit interview. Is now a good time?"

"Oh, of course, of course." He gestured to the empty chair. "Would you care to join me for some refreshments?"

"I would love to. Thank you."

He rounded the table and pulled out the chair for her. She sat down and let him slide her into place.

"Doctor Beckett, you said?"

"That's right."

"And would the doctor like something to drink?"

"Well . . . I know it's a bit early in the timeline for you, but I'm actually in the mood for a good cup of British tea."

"I think the machine inside can manage that." Samuel stepped into the cottage and returned a minute later with a teapot and an empty cup. He set the cup down in front of her and poured. "It asked me how I would like my tea, but I wasn't sure what it meant, so I told it to pick something popular."

"Thank you, Mister Pepys. I'm sure it'll be fine."

"My pleasure."

She raised the cup and breathed in the robust aroma before taking a sip. The tea's warmth filled her, and she set it back down.

"Mmm."

"It's to your satisfaction?" he asked.

"Very much so."

"I'm glad to hear it. Food and drink always tastes better with company, and especially so when the company is a beautiful woman."

Teodorà laughed off the compliment. She'd never considered herself beautiful, not in modern terms anyway, but she could understand how the medical sciences of the thirtieth century—or an eternally youthful synthoid—could make a person look positively angelic to someone from an earlier time.

"Looks can be deceptive," she admitted. "I'm actually older than you."

"What amazing technology this world has." Samuel shook his head in mild bemusement. "I suppose I should stop being surprised by what you can do. After all, I lived most of my life in constant pain." He spread his arms. "And yet, here I am! Freed from agony at last!"

"Your bladder stones, I assume?" Teodorà glanced to her side and performed a quick search through his case file. "Ah. I see the original interviewer had you treated."

"Read that on one of your invisible documents, did you?"

"I suppose you could call them that." She took another sip of tea. "But I'm sure you understand curing you was trivial for us."

"Perhaps so, but it's still a marvelous gift." He held up a finger. "And I will not soon forget it."

"I'm glad you feel that way. So you feel you've been treated well?"

"Quite well! ART's hospitality has been exceptional, though the constant questions about my diary have grown a tad tiresome."

"Well, we are historians."

"Still, it's been a delight speaking with each of you, and especially with your invisible companions."

"Integrated companions," Teodorà corrected.

"Did yours come from a machine? Or was it once a real person?"

"I . . ." She grimaced. "I'm between companions, at the moment."

"Oh, I'm sorry. It sounds like I've stumbled upon an uncomfortable topic. Please accept my apologies, Doctor. I didn't to pry."

"No, it's all right." She sighed. "Fran and I . . . we had a bit of a falling out. That's all."

Her last conversation with Fran still stung in her mind. They'd fought over ART, of course. The latest skirmish in a months-long war. The Gordian Protocol hadn't destroyed ART, but it had gutted its mission so severely the place bled a constant stream of talent. It wasn't just another scandal that could be swept under the rug like Lucius' idiotic adventures. No, it turned out that ART had committed atrocities on an enormous scale in the name of science, and who wanted to bear a stigma like that?

ART was a shambling, rotting corpse that still shuffled forward because it didn't know any better. The organization they worked for was already dead, whether they liked it or not, and Fran refused to stick around for the bitter end. She'd asked Teodorà to leave, then pled with her to abandon ART—

—and finally threatened her.

"I t's me or ART," she'd said.

And Teodorà had chosen ART.

Why?

Even now, she wasn't entirely sure.

I can't walk away from all this, she thought. Even in the state it's in, I know there's something worth saving amidst the wreckage of all our careers. I still believe in this place.

Even if no one else does
.

Samuel refreshed her tea. "Would you like to talk about it?"

"You know," she chuckled, "technically, I'm the one who's supposed to be interviewing you."

"That doesn't mean we can't have a pleasant conversation in the process, wouldn't you agree?"

"Perhaps."

"And, if I'm not mistaken, there's a great deal on your mind right now."

"Is it that obvious?" Teodorà tilted her head to one side.

"Let's just say you hide it well, but not quite well enough."

"Well, be that as it may, I still have a job to do here."

"Of course, of course," Samuel backed off. "Please, don't let me impede you."

She raised the cup to her lips, then paused and set it down without drinking.

"As you may already know, this is your last interview with ART," she said.

"Yes, I'd gathered as much." He frowned. "As incredible as this place is, I know I don't belong here. It'll be hard to go back after seeing so many wonders and meeting so many interesting people, but I've come to accept this is the way it has to be."

"I'm sorry?"

"So, when are you taking me back in time?"

"Mister Pepys, we're not taking you back."

He blinked. "But, I assumed . . ."

"Didn't they tell you already?"

"No." He leaned in and spoke softly. "You mean I don't have to go back?"

"You don't want to?"

"I beg your pardon?" Samuel gestured to the cottage. "There's a machine in there that makes more types of food and drink than I knew ever existed in all of creation. I could spend a lifetime trying them all, and that's just the first wonder to come to my mind. Why, exactly, would I want to go back?"

"Some people find the transition to the thirtieth century difficult to handle," she said, and he grinned.

"Some people aren't Samuel Pepys!"

"Yes, I can see that," she chuckled.

"What do you normally do if you don't take people back?"

"Typically, we keep historical figures here in isolation while we conduct interviews, then transfer them to the Retirement Home to live out the rest of their lives in comfort."

"So you're serious. I don't have to go back if I don't want to?"

"No, it's not that. The truth is you can't go back."

"I don't understand." His brow furrowed. "You have time machines. Surely you can travel to when you picked me up and leave me there."

"I'm sorry, but that's not possible."

"Hmm." Samuel rubbed his chins. "Interesting. It seems my assumptions were wrong."

"Well, technically we can. We used to think we couldn't, but even though we can now we're not allowed to, and for very good reasons."

"Now I'm thoroughly confused."

"Sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to."

"So you can put me back, but you won't?"

"Yes, that's right."

"Why?"

"It's . . ." she smiled apologetically. "Complicated."

He leaned forward and smiled. "Try me."

"Seriously?"

"Absolutely. If I'm to be stuck in the thirtieth century for the rest of my life, I might as well learn why."

"Chronometric physics isn't the easiest topic to comprehend."

"Then, Doctor Beckett, I would be honored to have such a lovely woman as my tutor."

"Mister Pepys." She shook her head, grinning. "You do realize I've read your diary."

"Oh? The whole thing?"

"Well, excerpts. The most salacious bits, certainly."


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Valkyrie Protocol Snippet #2
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:41 am

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2282
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

"Well, excerpts. The most salacious bits, certainly."

LOL! :lol:
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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