Howdy Beacons, welcome to the sixty-first uncharted territory of HACK. If you’ve made it this far, it’s time to suit up and see what’s out there.
Once I wrote Chapter 2, which again is actually the first chapter written for this soon-to-maybe-never-be-published novel, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. Sure enough, not long after I wrote Chapter 3. Let’s recap, shall we? A giant portal opened up over Sacred Heart School, sucking in any of the students that weren’t already killed by the fireballs raining from the sky. Our intrepid heroes, the Time Warriors, made it safely aboard their ship, along with a girl named Michelle who Sebi has an unrequited crush on. I believe I was reading/listening to a lot of Dune at the time, so I figured it would be best to write each chapter from one character’s perspective, a la Frank Herbert. I haven’t exactly held to this, but this chapter at least is written entirely from Michelle’s perspective. Now, my fifth grade students were able to spot the clues about Michelle’s ulterior motives, so I assume you will as well. Also, I tried my best to make her seem like a crazy bitch. Did I pull it off?
It’s clear to me that this chapter needs lots more revisions. I haven’t really looked at it in over a year. I’m thinking specifically of the description of the Time Warriors outfits. I need to describe every detail of their suits and gear, but all I’ve got so far is “all-terrain slippers.” Anyway, they emerge from the portal into an uncharted Universe. All of the information on their Akashic Data Drives (ADDs) has been stolen, or erased. There’s a increase in exposition here as we learn more about the Time Warriors from the perspective of someone who’s (almost) as clueless as the reader. Enjoy…
Chapter 3: ADD and Thee
Michele awoke but did not open her eyes. She always did this, even on weekends when not a precious moment of freedom could be wasted. She only took a minute or so, to remember what she had been dreaming and attempt to draw some conclusion from it before doing anything else. She recalled school, was that already yesterday? The last thing she remembered was gym class. She experienced a moment of revulsion as the image of that nerd Christian picking his wedgie popped into her mind. Then she almost giggled when she saw the soccer ball smash into the back of his head, his glasses popping out and pirouetting to the ground.
Then she remembered the explosions…the church collapsing…screaming…and the bodies…the crushed bodies of her friends. Her eyes jerked open in horror and she screamed out loud. She was lying on her back, floating in space , surrounded by the infinite backdrop of pure bright stars. She flailed her arms and legs but did not dare turn her body for fear that she would fall deeper into the semi-nothingness that surrounded her.
No oxygen in space. She would suffocate to death. In utter terror she gasped convulsively, but soon realized that she could breathe normally. She thought of that one science lesson with Mr. D where he explained that in space a person would suffocate to death in less than a few seconds, and that that’s right where he’d be sending those students who weren’t paying attention to him.
What if I’m already dead? This thought created a new wave of panic that swept over her as she realized she was utterly alone. It was neither too cold nor too hot, and briefly her thoughts went tangent into a memory of reading about Goldilocks Zones, places in different solar systems where planets may be at the right distance from their suns to produce life.
Michele closed her eyes again and prayed. She visualized herself kneeling right at the altar inside Sacred Heart Church and begged God to please please help.
There was a sudden unidentifiable sound. She knew she hadn’t imagined it. Summoning her courage Michele once again opened her eyes. The stars were gone. All was a warm blue light and from the glowing softness emerged a human silhouette. Her heart pounded yet she felt grateful for the sensation. Then the figure came into focus. It was Sebastian, that OTHER nerd who once sent her a four page cursive-written love letter and an envelope stuffed with coins from other countries. THIS IS HELL! She again screamed out loud and as Sebastian came closer she jerked her body and turned sideways, but just as she had feared, she fell. Almost instantly she landed on all fours against the same blue nothingness, just a few feet lower. She ignored this and crouched like a cornered cat, then sprang upward right toward Sebastian. She smacked into him, knocking him “down” and began clawing at his face.
Sebastian put his arms up defensively to protect himself, while Michele screamed, “What is happening?! Where am I?! Don’t (smack) you (smack) dare (smack) TOUCH ME!”
She kept smacking at his face and the rest of his body. Her knees dug into his stomach and he gasped helplessly. Then he decided to take action. He clutched her side with his hand. Michele yelped and spasmed as Sebi took the opportunity to free his self from under her body and scrambled backward into the blueness. An oval white light expanded behind him and he disappeared through the opening. She ran after him, but the portal closed and she banged her body against an invisible blue wall.
“Let me out of here! Let me out of here!” she screamed and banged against the nothingness.
“Michele…please, just listen!” Sebi implored. He looked back at Phil and Christian; each of them had a look of bewildered annoyance on their faces.
“Michele…Michele you’re safe,” Sebi’s disembodied voice seemed slightly muffled, like he was on the other side of a door, “I know this is weird but please don’t panic. I’ll explain everything.”
“Just let me out of here!”
“Will you promise not to go crazy?”
“Michele you have to trust me. You’re aboard a spaceship. Me, Phil and Christian are, uh…”
He again turned back to look at the two, hoping that one of them would prompt him, but they simply stared back at him scornfully.
“Well…were lost,” Sebi said, trying to divert from the truth he almost blurted, “And the sooner we explain things to you the sooner we can find our way back home.”
Still more silence.
“Just let me out.”
“Do you promise to remain calm?”
“I…promise,” she conceded in a low but audible mumble.
The oval white portal slid open and Michele stood there trembling. Her hair was so dirty she looked like a brunette instead of the light brown auburn Sebi imagined running his fingers through. Her face was bruised and a cut they had hastily stitched above her eye. Her blue school uniform almost blended perfectly with the blue light of the room behind the portal. It made her body look invisible except for awkwardly floating arms, legs and face. But then she shifted position, and her tattered plaid school dress ruffled.
Her voice startled him as he realized he was staring down at her skirt and legs. He jerked his head up. She was staring at him directly as if demanding an explanation.
“You can walk through, it’s perfectly safe,” Sebi said encouragingly.
Michele hesitated, gingerly placed her foot through the opening, then closed her eyes and hopped through. When she opened her eyes again Sebastian’s face was inches away from hers.
She stepped back and turned as if to escape. The “room” behind her once again shimmered with stars, and the white portal door quickly receded, disappearing into its center. She turned back around and faced Sebastian.
“That was our MedLab,” Sebi said cautiously, “You were banged up pretty good and we had to heal you.”
“Where are we?” Michele asked as suddenly her gaze swept around her new surroundings. One of the benefits of being an athlete was that she could catalogue and remember many details with just once glance.
The room she was in had about the same square footage as their 5th grade classroom, except there was no ceiling. She recognized the same stars from the room she woke up in by their luminosity and distance patterns. Those stars fit no pattern from the familiar sky one would see on Earth.
The room was indefinable shape, because she could tell where it started or ended. It seems there were portals like the one she had just come through all around the place, and she caught glimpses of rooms behind each of them which she stored in memory for further examination. She was also standing on stars, but the floor was more translucent. She guessed that was so someone didn’t disorient themselves by walking, and thought how foolish she had been while overcome with fear back there. Her eyes briefly noted the surreal technology that permeated the walls. It seemed embedded into the space backdrop, all of it glowing softly with intricate geometric patterns she failed to comprehend. She got the distinct impression that the walls were breathing. Directly in front of her, on a kind of raised platform was a wide open area with two boys she knew all too well, Christian and Phil. She was surprised to see Phil. He didn’t seem the type who would hang out with these nerds. Phil was weird in a different way. He and Christian were sitting in what looked like ordinary chairs; Phil’s was a floating black throne-like thing and Christian sat cross-legged on a floating purple papa san. They stared at her with hesitating expressions.
“You’re aboard our ship, The Beacon. We told you that earlier, but uh…you…forgot.”
But she did remember. Instead, of saying so she said, “What is this all about?”
“Well, that’s a little hard to explain. “
“Oh, for the gods’ sakes!” Phil’s annoyed voice started them both.
“Shut up Phil,” Sebi stammered.
“Look Michele, we’re not who you think we are. “
“I think you’re a bunch of NERDS!”
“Well, yes, but we’re also more than that. We’re like, explorers and um, adventurers in um, time and space and…” Sebi’s voice got lower and more uncertain. “…other um, universes…sorta.”
Michele snorted in disbelief. “Are you serious?”
“No, this is all a cruel joke,” Phil interrupted again, “Our Catholic school education has finally driven us all insane. In fact, the school hasn’t just been demolished by the gods know what. We’re still there, just completely brainwashed into believing that all of this is sooooo real. They’re going to harvest us for communion mass and–”
“SHUT UP PHIL!” Sebastian’s voice rose to a deep and threatening volume. His anger actually surprised Michele. She had never seen him like that and for a second it stunned her. He turned to look at her again and said in a softer but tense tone, “You know how some people have hobbies, like collecting stamps or rescuing animals from shelters and finding them homes?”
His direct reference to her passion for animal rescue again surprised her. How did he know she had done that?
“Yeah?” she said, still doubtful.
“Well, our hobby is mapping new universes, new ways of thinking and dreaming.”
“You people are crazy. Let me out of here.”
“Listen Michele,” Sebastian said sternly, “Fifth grade is fun and all, but there’s more out here,” he swept his right arm in an arc and gestured upward to the stars, “and most of humanity is barely aware of it. We’re not. I know you like Mr. D’s science class. You always have the right answers and you get your facts right more than he does sometimes. So think of this as an opportunity to broaden your horizons, to learn more about the endless possibilities that await those who are ready to make them happen.”
“Yeah,” Phil interrupted again, “Like the possibility of wandering forever in the middle of nowhere, slowly going insane from boredom listening to you paint a picture of us as glorified astronauts.”
“Come on Phil, cut it out,” Christian finally chimed in, “She’s listening isn’t she?” He looked at Michele with a matter-of-fact expression. “Don’t mind Phil. He’s trying to hide the fact that he is worried about our predicament.”
“Our predicament is that we don’t have a crapping clue what’s really going on?” Phil growled.
“Oh, that’s really reassuring,” Michele said, “Is that why you brought me here, so I can help you figure out what’s going on?”
Sebi answered, “We brought you here because the school was attacked by an unknown force. You were hit by a falling piece of rubble and I…I rescued you.”
“Oh, puh-lease!” Michele rolled her eyes in disgust.
“It’s true darlin’,” Phil said, “Loverboy here may not have a brain to donate to science, but his heart would get top dollar on the organ market.”
Michele stared angrily at Phil, “Don’t call me darlin’…creep…and what about everyone else, huh? You just left them behind? What’s so special about me?”
“There’s nothing special about you,” Phil said coldly.
Michele almost attacked him, but then she remembered her promise and thought better of it. She clenched her fists instead, digging her dirty fingernails deep into her palms.
“What. About. Everybody. Else?” she said in a low threatening voice.
Christian cut in, “Some of them are dead, but some of them were sucked into the portal that opened up over the playground. We took The Beacon through the portal but ended up in a place we can’t recognize because…well, nevermind.”
“Because WHY?” Michele persisted.
“Because some surreptitious saboteur has erased our Akashic Data Drives,” Sebi said.
“Akashic Data Drives?” Michele asked.
“ADDs for short,” Christian replied, “We’ve successfully ruled out accidental erasure, but there is a signature trace of viral intrusion from a source outside the ship.”
“So you’ve been hacked?” Michele was now intrigued. She walked across the room, causing all three boys to stop and simply stare at her. Sebastian then walked forward quickly, catching up to her.
Michele knew that the word Akashic came from the Akashic Records, that mythical storehouse of all human knowledge and wisdom which any living being could access. If what they said about being explorers of other universes was true, they would need some serious data devices to store all of that information.
As if Christian knew that she was coming to this conclusion, he said, “All of our experiences were stored there. Now we’ve got no frame of reference to find our way home.”
Michele felt his serious concern. “So what are you going to do?”
“We’re going to do what we always do darlin’, explore.”
Michele straightened, pulled back a tight fist, and punched Phil squarely in the jaw, knocking him out of his throne-thing and onto the floor.
“Explore my fist on your face,” she said.
Towel Boy is high on trope.