The dust kicked up by the blast had just begun to settle when he sensed another wave of assailants rushing him. Falling to one knee, he let out a long, slow breath, focusing inward, dimly aware of the dust particles slowing in midair as they fell. He pushed up to his feet again and turned, noting the position of each new attacker, and what they were equppied with.
He turned his attention outward again, springing upwards as time resumed its normal flow. Half a dozen variously-armed melee fighters found themselves striking at empty air. In the moment before they could recover, he slapped the heels of his hands together, palms down, and threw his chi downward in a blast of raw power, reducing them to little more than scorch marks on the rock.
A high-pitched whine drew his attention, and he shot backwards several yards to dodge the blast of plasma that shot past him, the burnt-metal smell washing over him. He teleported down behind the shooter, creating a sword of pure energy and slicing through not only the armored soldier, but his comrades on either side of him as well.
Silence fell around him. The bodies faded away, leaving him alone on the open plains. He checked his heads-up display, sending a few quick replies to the messages he had waiting for him. As he prepared to teleport back to the man who had asked him to put on this little show, he felt a burning pain slam into his chest, knocking him hard to the ground. He threw his consciousness along the path of the bullet, looking across the landscape, finding the sniper and memorizing his identity just before the second bullet struck between his eyes.
He let out a shuddering gasp as his body jerked in his pod. His heart raced as he recovered from that sudden feeling of falling. The touch of a button opened the door, and he removed the tubes from his arms as he stepped out onto the hardwood floors. He tapped out a status update on the laptop on his desk: Completed challenge, but got sniped. Taking a break. Then he jotted down a note with the name of his assassin, so he could take his revenge when he went back online.
With a heavy sigh, he flopped onto his couch, flipping through his contacts and calling his favorite pizza joint. The virtual world simulated food and the IV tubes provided nutrition, but the very fact that food companies still existed confirmed his suspicion that people would always prefer the real thing. As the phone rang, he murmured to himself, “Just another day in paradise.”
I’m hunting for a job, but not having much luck. In the meantime, I really, really need a source of income. So not only am I accepting commissions, I am begging for them. Details are in the tab labeled ‘Commissions’ up near the top of the page. I can and will write any genre, on just about any topic.
Cold… So cold…
Her hands shake as she stumbles through the snow. The chill cuts right through her thin coat, and the snow soaks through her flimsy boots. She squints against the biting wind, her frost-bitten hands almost numb as she tries every door on the street, each unmoving latch another disappointment.
Her eyes drift closed as she reaches for another door.
The last door… So cold… Tired…
It opens. She manages to open her eyes, stumbling into the building. A rack of candles burns against the far wall, and she rushes to it, holding her hands out to it. She winces as the numbness fades from her hands, stinging pain replacing it.
A small door beside the rack begins to rattle. She ducks under the rack, staring at the door. It only rattles softly. The latch doesn’t move, and the rattling doesn’t intensify.
She creeps toward it, curiosity overcoming her fear. A trembling hand reaches for the latch. She pulls it open quickly, before her resolve can abandon her.
The small room is empty. It’s small, and stone, with nothing but a pit in the middle. She crawls forward through the small door, peering over the edge of the pit.
Who… are you?
She squeaks and scoots away from the pit, her back pressing against the door. Why is the door shut? She didn’t shut it…
Who are you?
Hundreds of voices, clamoring in her head, the same question, over and over. They hurt… The voices hurt!
“Clarissa!” she gasps out, clutching her temples.
The voices stop. Then they begin again, quieter. They don’t hurt her.
Clarissa… Mistress Clarissa. Help us!
She trembles, looking down into the pit. “Us…? Who… who’s there?”
We are lost, Mistress. You can save us!
A glow appears, deep in the pit, a bright blue flecked with deep purple, almost black. It rises up, swirling towards her. Clarissa scrambles back against the wall again, her heart racing.
The glow rushes over her, seeping into her skin. She shudders, feeling exposed, feeling violated. So many minds pressing against hers, so many voices in her head, make them stop!
“Mistress Clarissa.” A different voice. One voice, speaking for the swarm. “You can help us.”
“Help you?” Don’t talk to yourself, people already think you’re crazy.
“We can hear your thoughts, Mistress. You don’t need to speak.”
She swallows hard. How can I help you?
“We’re trapped here, miss. Here on this plane of existence. We can’t move on.”
Why? What can I do?
“Find our life energy, Mistress. Set it free! Our consciousnesses are trapped here, our energy trapped elsewhere. You have to carry us to our energy, and release it.”
Clarissa shivers. But I can’t… I can’t do anything. I can’t travel, I have no money…
A dark feeling passes through her, as though she can feel a smirk. “We can give you power, Mistress.”
Pain lances through her arm, and she gasps as she’s pulled to her feet. The glow returns, coalescing in her hand. She watches, helpless, as it extends into a long, thin whip. Her arm jerks, and the whip wraps around the door latch, and a second jerk pulls the door out of the wall.
She stares down at her hand as the glow fades. “What the… what did… what?”
“We have power, miss. We will help you. And you will help us.”
All the timelines of our universe can be represented as an immense tree. At the base of this tree is a single point; this point is the creation of the universe. Every time a choice is made, or chance affects an outcome, this tree branches, creating a new timeline for every possible outcome of every possible event.
One of these timelines follows a perfectly straight path along the middle of the tree, from creation to the end. On this timeline, and this timeline alone, exists a world known as The Academy. In this Academy are trained the Dimensional Guides, persons with the power to travel between and along all timelines save their own.
The most important duty of these Guides is to watch over the entirety of our universe’s timelines, ensuring that no malicious persons gain the ability to travel through time and affect a timeline besides his or her own. This is accomplished in part through the monitoring of the Great Tree, a holographic projection in the heart of the Academy.
Every branch of the tree is another timeline, and each timeline’s current location in time is indicated by a shining point. Branches beyond the timeline are estimates by the Watcher, leader of the Academy, an immortal with limited foresight. If abrupt changes occur to the tree, Dimensional Guides are sent to ascertain the cause. If the cause is temporal in nature, such as a time machine or a wormhole, the Guides travel back in time to prevent the change and remove the cause entirely.
The most shocking change the Guides ever saw occured in our timeline. Our light reached a certain point on the timeline, and whole branches began to vanish. Worse, the vanishings were, more often than not, of the best possible timelines for our world.
The branch in which humanity cures all diseases, including cancer and the common cold? Erased.
The branch in which the distribution of food is adjusted to end world hunger? Erased.
The branch in which society is pulled out of its darkness and the world comes to true peace? Erased.
Naturally, this greatly alarmed the Guides. They sent a team to our timeline, hoping that the cause was temporal, hoping that it would be a cause they could fix.
They entered our timeline at the moment the first branch vanished, and held themselves still in time, so they could examine the entire world at that moment to find the cause.
Carefully they searched the world, but found no temporal disturbances. They began again, this time searching for acts of destruction, wondering what could be so horrible as to end those good timelines.
They saw murder; but that was not new. They saw slavery; again, it had existed for some time. It had to be something new, the first occurence of some unspeakable crime.
After several passes, they finally found it. They were horrified, repulsed even… but this was not a problem they could solve.
The Guides returned to the Academy and told the rest of their colleagues what had happened to cause the erasure of so many shining timelines.
“The people of Earth,” they said, “now find it acceptable to murder their unborn children.”