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Valkyrie protocol final version snippet #6

David's and Jacob Holo's newest alternate, cross history series.
Valkyrie protocol final version snippet #6
Post by GraysonLady   » Wed Aug 19, 2020 9:24 am

GraysonLady
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Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2020 9:34 am

Chapter Three

Transtemporal Vehicle Kleio,

non-congruent

"I've finally decided how I'm going to kill all of you," Philosophus declared with appalling cheer.

Raibert Kaminski froze in his seat, more from surprise than shock or horror. His mouth hung open, his head tilted to the side, and a piece of glistening tuna nigiri hovered before his lips, pinched tight in his chopsticks. Synthoids didn't require food, but that didn't mean they couldn't enjoy it. Although a casual observer might have been excused for concluding that his expression was not one of "enjoyment" at the moment.

Philosophus' avatar had appeared rather abruptly on the other side of the command table in Raibert's virtual vision. He wore no tuxedo today. Instead, he was clad in chain mail, his beard, freed of its braids, flowed down his broad chest in all its unruly majesty, and his battle ax was slung across his back.

He still wore his horned pilot's helmet, of course.

A bead of soy sauce condensed along the bottom of the tuna and dripped onto Raibert's pants. He frowned as a patch of his uniform's fabric became waterproof, and the soy slid off his leg to splatter on the floor. He set down his chopsticks and wiped away the few remaining droplets with his napkin.

"Philo, can this wait? I'm trying to eat here."

"Oh, but it's a good one." The AI grinned like a proud father. "In fact, it may be the best I've ever come up with."

"Uh huh." Raibert glanced around the time machine Kleio's wide, circular bridge at his fellow team members, both of whom — unlike Philo — wore the same greenish-gray Gordian Division uniform he wore.

Benjamin Schröder sat in a seat folded out from the room's outer wall with a dozen images and reports glowing in mid-air around him. Elzbietá Schröder stood with a set of virtual controls suspended in front of her, and both were clearly engrossed in their own tasks.

Heavily engrossed, he noted with a small measure of annoyance as neither of them even bothered to look up.

He sighed.

"Okay, fine. I'll bite. How are you going to kill us?"

"Can't say." Philo chuckled. "It's got to be a surprise."

"Then why bring it up?"

"To build anticipation. It's the end of your campaign, so I've got to up my game. Besides, I think I've been going too soft on you three." His grin widened. "The climax should be more . . . dramatic."

Raibert rolled his eyes.

"It's not another cyber-lich, is it?" Elzbietá asked, still without looking up. "You know I hate fighting those things. Half my spells don't work because of all their immunities."

"My dear, you have nothing to fear." Philo stood, placed a hand on his chest, and bowed theatrically. "The finale won't be anything so mundane."

"All right then." Elzbietá smiled slightly as she looked at him at last. "Sounds like fun."

"Or rather —" Benjamin's eyes flicked up from his work "— sounds like I should start building a new character. Again."

"Oh, I'm sure it won't be that bad." Elzbietá's tone was downright perky. "Right, Philo?"

The avatar's grin became inhumanly wide.

"See?" Benjamin pointed at the grin in question. "He's going to kill off my character again."

"You and everyone else, actually."

"Oh, come on, Philo." Elzbietá stepped away from her controls and patted the avatar on the shoulder. Her wetware interfaced with the control room's infostructure, and his armor jostled even though her hand had touched only air. "You wouldn't wipe out the whole party, would you?

The edges of Philo's grin reached his ears. Literally.

"Would you?"

"Oh, yes he would." Raibert grimaced.

"I guess it's time to say goodbye to Hector Carnifex the Second," Benjamin grumped. "You can both say hello to Hector Carnifex the Third if you survive."

"Why don't you create a whole new character, instead?" Elzbietá asked. "Maybe try out a different class while you're at it?"

"Not interested. I already went through that hassle once, thank you very much, and I'm not doing it again. Pouring over that many spreadsheets is not my idea of relaxation."

"Solar Descent's character creator isn't that bad."

"Says the woman who makes spreadsheets for fun," Benjamin pointed out with a lopsided smile.

Elzbietá looked at the overhead and whistled guiltily.

"So you're not going to tell us?" Raibert asked.

Philo shook his head.

"Not even a hint?"

Benjamin harrumphed as he repositioned one of his reports, signaling his exit from the conversation.

"Hmmmm." Philo stroked his beard. "Okay, maybe one. It involves non-Euclidean geometry."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Raibert glanced at Elzbietá, who shrugged her shoulders.

"I can't make it too obvious, can I?"

"Well, I guess it can wait until we're back home." Raibert picked up his chopsticks and raised the same piece of nigiri to his mouth, then paused again as a noise from Benjamin distracted him.

"Hmmmmmm?"

Raibert gave him a sideways glance.

"Mmmmm. Hmmm? Mm-hmmmm!"

Raibert sighed and set the tuna down again.

"What is it, Doc?"

"Hmm?" Benjamin looked up.

"Are you still going over Kuebiko's report?"

"Yeah."

"You're better off waiting until we complete our own survey. There's a real risk of drawing the wrong conclusions from data that incomplete."

"I know. But . . . ."

"Sounds like you found something interesting despite all that," Raibert observed.

"I might have."

"Care to share with the rest of us?"

"I can if you want." Benjamin shrugged. "It's only a hunch."

"Well, I tend to like your hunches. So let's hear it."

"Sure." Benjamin flicked one of the reports with a finger. It vanished from his side and re-materialized in the center of the command table.

"What am I looking at?" Raibert asked.

Benjamin joined the others around the table and enlarged the color-coded globe.

"The population center densities of Universe-T4's Earth, as captured by the Kuebiko. Well, what very little of it we have."

Raibert nodded.

Prior to his own adventures with the Gordian Knot, no one had even known there were other universes. The entirely new math Philo and Kleio, the TTV's non-sentient program, had crunched in the wake of the Knot's collapse had changed that. They'd been forced to figured out how to navigate through this newly discovered transdimensional space between universes – now referred to as the transverse – to get home to their own True Present from the limbo left by the dissolution of Elzbietá's home universe. As a result, SysGov now knew not only that other universes existed, but how to reach them by crossing the transverse.

It had taken a while for the full realization of just how close the Knot had brought SysGov's entire universe to destruction. And then it had taken another while to create and staff Gordian Division to keep that from ever happening again. In that interim, ART and the limited number of TTVs which had been built purely for research had remained SysGov's only time travelers. Horrified by the notion that it might have created child universes by its operations, it had dispatched expeditions, armed with the impeller modifications for transdimensional travel, back to the temporal coordinates of some of its major incursions. Raibert was reasonably certain ART had intended to prove that it hadn't created any. Unfortunately, that wasn't what it had found at all.
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