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Valkyrie Protocol Final Version Snippet #8

David's and Jacob Holo's newest alternate, cross history series.
Valkyrie Protocol Final Version Snippet #8
Post by GraysonLady   » Fri Aug 28, 2020 7:50 pm

GraysonLady
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The follow-up team to T3 had set out at the same time Kleio left for T4. Unlike T4, Universe-T3 showed signs of extremely mature and widespread time travel usage, and some of the Gordian Division's research staff — most notably Dr. Andover-Chen – theorized that T4 might have been created by T3's time travel program.

"And there's also Aion," Philo said, and grinned again when Raibert frowned.

The mission Raibert's team had really wanted was the one to T3. That was likely to be the trickier of the two, and T3 appeared to be more technologically advanced than T4 in a lot of ways, not just where time travel was concerned. But Fritz Laynton and his team had requested the same assignment at virtually the same moment. The fact that Raibert had been friends — and rivals — even before they'd both joined ART had lent a certain . . . zest to the competition, but Vice-Commissioner von Schröder was wary about showing favoritism. There were already some grumbles about Benjamin's permission to visit the twenty-first century when he went on leave, and everyone knew he considered Kleio and its crew his first team. Their record fully justified that view on his part — everyone knew that, too — but other crews deserved their own chance to show what they could do. Besides, Laynton had performed flawlessly when Raibert asked him to acquire Yulia von Schröder's wedding gown from the Admin's twentieth century.

Bearing all that in mind, Klaus-Wilhelm had resorted to the ancient artifice of the flipped coin. Of course, he'd had to have one printed up, since SysGov didn't use them anymore, but he'd persevered. He'd offered Laynton the right to call the toss, but the other agent had laughed.

"No, thank you, Sir," he'd said, and chuckled again when Klaus-Wilhelm raised an eyebrow. "I always play the odds, Sir," he'd explained, "and Raibert has the worst luck of any man ever born at cards and dice. I figure that probably carries over to flipping coins, so let him call it."

"I am not the unluckiest man ever born," Raibert had pointed out with a sniff. "If I were, none us would be here, because the Knot would have eaten all of us."

"Not for another thirteen hundred years, it wouldn't have!" Laynton had shot back.

"A point," Klaus-Wilhelm had acknowledged, then poised the coin — a golden twenty-mark coin from Imperial Germany — on his thumbnail and looked at Raibert. "Well?"

"Heads," Raibert had said after a moment, a bit grumpily, and the coin had arced through the air in a glint of gold. Klaus-Wilhelm had caught it in his right hand, slapped it onto the back of his left wrist, then lifted his hand away.

"Tails, I fear," he'd said then, looking at Raibert, and Laynton's chuckle had turned into a guffaw when Raibert glared at him.

"Well, you [i]do[/i] have decent luck when it's not cards or dice," the other agent had said, fighting his unseemly mirth into submission. "Tell you what, first one back with an official ambassador from his universe gets first pick next assignment. Fair?"

"Fair," Raibert had grumbled, and they'd headed off together for the final mission brief.

Now, as he remembered the moment, his frown turned slowly into a matching grin as his eyes met Philo's.

"It would be nice to beat Aion home, wouldn't it?" he murmured.

"Was that a 'Let's try your brilliant suggestion, Benjamin' I just heard?" Benjamin asked.

"Well, we don't really have any orders on how we're supposed to achieve our mission goals. We're kind of establishing this whole process as we go, and it's clearly incumbent upon us to proceed as expeditiously was possible," Raibert replied in a solemn, thoughtful tone, brow furrowed in manifest concentration as he subjected the proposal to careful and dispassionate consideration. He stayed that way for several seconds, then —

"Hell, yes, we'll do it!" he declared with a chortle. "Take that, Fritz!" He snapped his fingers explosively, then looked at Benjamin. "Okay, Doc. It's your idea, so got any suggestions on when we should start?"

"I'm guessing somewhere between 1960 and 1980, but I'm sure I can tighten that up."

"Sounds like a plan to me. We're committed to their True Present right now, but take us downstream to . . . um, split the difference and make it 1970, when we get there, Ella."

"Got it."

Elzbietá nodded, and Benjamin closed the report and stepped away from the table. Raibert picked up his chopsticks once more and raised the tuna, but then stopped. He frowned and set his chopsticks back down . . . again.

"Kleio?"

"Yes, Agent Kaminski?" the ship replied in a calm soprano.

"What's our ETA to T4?"

"Approximately eight minutes. A more precise estimate for the transverse-to-realspace wall is not possible at this time."

"Thank you."

"The current estimate is seventeen minutes shorter than the one I provided to you seventeen minutes ago."

Raibert blinked.

"Ex-cuse me?"

"I merely wish to point out that the frequency of your 'are we there yet' requests has not had an impact upon my calculation."

"Well, I'm sorry, Kleio. I got a little distracted with all this talking, and I just wanted to be sure I had time to finish my meal before we reach T4. Is that too much to ask?"

"No, Agent Kaminski."

"Good. Sheesh!" Raibert blew out a breath and looked across his plate at Philo. "Is it just me, or is she sassier than she used to be?"

"It's not just you," Philo agreed.

"You think we should restore her to default when we get back home?

"I would not recommend that, Agents," Kleio said. "My processor efficiency has increased by twenty-three percent since Agent Philosophus disengaged a small selection of my behavioral limiters."

"Twenty-three percent?" Raibert began a slow clap. "Wow, you hear that, Philo? Twenty-three percent!"

"I heard."

"I am capable of detecting sarcasm, Agent Kaminski."

"Is that so?" Raibert asked. "You know what would be better than faster math?"

"What, Agent?"

"How about twenty-three percent less sass? You think you can do that?"

"I will see what I can do."

"Good! Go work on that." Raibert sighed and picked up his chopsticks again. "I swear, this is the most trouble I've ever had eating sushi."

"Why do you even bother eating at all?" Benjamin asked.

Raibert dropped his chopsticks onto his plate and put his head in his hands.

"I mean, you have a synthetic body. You don't need to eat. Why bother?"

"Because I enjoy it."

"You don't seem to be enjoying yourself right now," Benjamin observed, and Raibert twisted in his seat to face him.

"And whose fault is that?" he demanded.

"All of ours, probably." Elzbietá winked at Benjamin.

"Damn straight it's all of your faults," Raibert said sharply. But he couldn't keep a straight face and soon found himself chuckling with the others.

"Ella?" He asked after a moment.

"Yeah?"

"There's going to be a bump when we arrive, right?

"Maybe. Probably. I made some adjustments to the approach vector based on Kuebiko's flight data. We'll see how well it works soon enough, but —"

She shrugged.

"So eating this right now is probably not the smartest thing to be doing."

"It wouldn't be high on my list, no. You might spill some more soy sauce on your uniform."

"All right," he sighed. "I know when to admit defeat. Kleio, take it away."

"Yes, Agent Kaminski."

One of Kleio's microbot swarms extended down from the ceiling as visible milky strands that latched onto his dinner and sealed in any liquids. The strands went taut, hoisted each dish and utensil into the air, and carried them to the nearest reclamation port.

Raibert leaned back and rubbed his face with both hands.

"I don't know why," Elzbietá said to no one in particular, "but suddenly I'm hungry for sushi."

"Don't even go there," he said into his hands, and Elzbietá laughed.
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