The Duke stands back and watches as Anise slowly paces around the console room, the sound of her black high heels echoing against the marble roof with each step. She trails her hand across the edge of the console, the many bangles on her wrist tinkling against the metal as she stares across the myriad of buttons, levers and controls.
"I can take you anywhere in the universe, time and space" says the Duke, "but you'll have to pick one."
"How do I decide?" says Anise, "I've never been out there before. I ain't ever been overseas before. Not before today, anyway . . ."
"Why don't I simplify it, then?" says the Duke, walking up beside her. He flicks three switches, spins a dial, then grabs onto one of the levers. "Here, hold this," he says. Anise grabs it with her left hand, then The Duke wraps his other hand around hers.
"What are you doing?" Anise asks. The Duke pulls the lever one degree to the left with a click, then looks her dead in the eye.
"The Past," he says, then he pulls it to the right, "The Future. The further you pull the lever, the farther we go."
He lets go and walks around to the other side of the panel, and grabs onto the ignition crank.
"Are you kidding?" says Anise, "That's no contest . . ."
Anise yanks the lever to the right, making the gears clunk loudly.
"As you wish," says the Duke, and he starts up the time machine. Anise stumbles, and clings onto the edge of the console as the floor sways and tilts. The familiar whirr, humm and drone of the machine thunders through the place as the ship dematerializes and they go flying through Time and Space.
"Is it always this rough?!" screams Anise over the din.
"Of course!" the Duke cries back, "Did you expect time travel to be easy?"
The Duke adjusts a few more of the controls, before slamming the lever back into place. They come to a sudden halt with a thump.
"Woah! Easy on the landing . . ." says Anise.
"I do apologize," says the Duke, checking some of the screens, "we've arrived quicker than I expected."
"If it took a long time to travel, then it wouldn't be a very effective time machine, would it?"
"I guess not . . ." says Anise, stepping closer to see what the Duke was doing. As soon as he notices her, the Duke looks up at her.
"Feel free to step outside," says the Duke, "The atmosphere is appropriate for respiration; the local atmosphere is somewhat foggy, temperature approximately eighteen degrees & according to these instruments, the time is . . . morning."
"Aren't you coming?" asks Anise
"What? Oh, of course! I was just trying to calculate the year." says the Duke.
"Can't we find that out . . . out there?" says Anise, pointing at the door.
"Oh . . ." says the Duke, taking his hands away from the console, "alright then."
The Duke walks up to Anise then, side by side, they head for the door. As they approach, it opens automatically and The Duke stops just before it.
"Lady first," he says. Anise smiles and steps forward. As soon as she steps inside, she gasps and stumbles backward. She falls back into the Duke's arms where he holds her tight.
"Are you alright?" asks the Duke, concerned.
"Yeah, I'm fine. It pushed me back," says Anise. The Duke slowly lets her go and she composes herself.
"Let's see," says the Duke. He too steps into the lift-lobby, falters slightly at the threshold, then falls forward and braces himself by spreading his feet apart, standing posed at a thirty degree angle bent towards the door. The Duke presses a button on the lift panel, and the elevator doors open with a ding to reveal a dim grey-blue sky. "I think I see the problem."
"What's going on?" asks Anise.
"We've landed at an angle. I'm terribly sorry about this, the ship's gravity doesn't continue past the real-world interface . . . here," says the Duke, reaching back inside to offer Anise his hand. She takes it and uses it to right herself as she transitions from one gravity to the next. The door closes behind them, then the Duke steps up to stand by the edge of the second door to help Anise walk up and through it in her heels. Stepping down a foot or so onto the crunch of small pebbles and dirt under the heel of her shoes, Anise looks around and sees broken, twisted metal; discarded machines and equipment and in the distance could see tall skyscrapers, scattered across the skyline.
"What is this place?" mutters Anise. The Duke, still locking the doors behind them, couldn't hear her. Eventually he jumps down and Anise turns back to look at him and the timeship. "Oh my god! Is that what your ship really looks like?"
The Duke turns around himself, and sees the dented, broken and slightly rusty old box. It was an elevator car, out of its shaft, with exposed bolts and rivets down the joints. After a moment, a small pair of spindle-wheels attached to the roof start to spin, in turn maneuvering mechanical joints attached to the doors, which close with a jarring, rusty, scraping sound.
"Actually, no, the ship is camouflaged. The outer shell changes to blend into its surroundings."
"And where would that be, exactly?"
"Upon first impressions, I would say: a junk yard," says the Duke, approaching a pile of scrap metal. Anise follows close behind.
"What are we doing in a junk yard?" asks Anise. The Duke kneels down and picks up a twisted piece of wiring attached to a small, broken box and inspects it closely.
"We're in luck," says the Duke, standing up, "this is a spaceship junk yard."
"Why is that lucky?" asks Anise.
"Because, from the quantity and degree of scrap in this yard alone, we must be in some kind of Industrial District."
The Duke drops the scrap and walks down the makeshift path through the junk.
"As in industry?" says Anise, "That doesn't seem lucky to me, Duke. I don't want to see industry. I want to see the future!"
"This is the future," says the Duke, perplexed, as they round a pile of junk and head towards large door, leading out of the yard. "Do you not want to see your people's accomplishments in the realm of interstellar travel?"
The two round a pile of sprockets, rusty metal and broken glass to find a large door, leading out of the yard.
"No, Duke, I want to do something fun."
The Duke, stops by the large door, still looking perplexed and begins to stroke his beard with his thumb and forefinger as he thinks.
"This will not be a wasted journey, Anise. I promise you that" says the Duke, shaking a determined, pointed finger. "I cannot allow your first experience of time travel be a negative one. Not after all you've done for me."
The Duke opens the door to the junkyard, and the two of them enter the huge, grey, industrial city of the future.
They walked through the city, its streets looked almost no different from what Anise was used to. No aliens or holograms, just streets made of tar and bitumen; street signs written in English on some corners and regular-looking buildings. The buildings were all quite tall, and looked very new with modern, artistic designs, but nothing looked especially futuristic. There were even cars parked by the road, with regular old wheels.
"Are you sure we've travelled in time?" says Anise, "this looks like normal to me."
"It all looks alien to me," says the Duke, "but I can guarantee you we've travelled ahead in time, at the very least, five hundred years."
"All that time, and no flying cars . . ."
"Look, there!" announces the Duke, marching across the road. Anise follows him to a bar near the corner, with a sign above the door naming it: Reap No Rewards. The Duke stands by the door and turns to face Anise.
"Will this 'fun' suffice?" he says, with a smirk.
"A nightclub that's open during the day?"
"This is the Industrial District, Anise. The harder people work, the harder they wish to relax; even if they work the night shift. Shall we?" invites the Duke, offering Anise his elbow.
"Well, I guess I'm dressed for it," says Anise, looping her arm through his. They step onto the doorway, but as the Duke presses against the door, an alarm flares and the entire portico flashes red. "Present Identification," orders the doorway, and a screen tucked in the side of the doorway lights up red.
"Why do all doors hate me today?" groans Anise.
"One moment . . ." mutters the Duke, reaching into his coat and retrieving the tuning fork-shaped device. He points it at the screen, which immediately changes to a green hue and displays the message "Enjoy Yourself" as it unlocks the door.
"A thingy that can break into pubs? Where were you five years ago?" says Anise. They press on through the doors and all around Anise could hear the sound of the music. It sounded like some kind of Hip-Hop and Jazz remix, but the strangest part was that it wasn't all that loud, rather it was an ambient tune. To the left, the disk jockey was rocking and grooving wildly with his mixer and hearphones; in the middle was a dancefloor comprised of flashing squares of light; above was a second level where there appeared to be tables and seating & to the right was the bar.
"So," says the Duke, only having to raise his voice slightly, "this is your trip, what would you like to do for fun?"
"I dunno . . . how about a drink?"
The two head past other patrons up to the bar, where a red-haired bartender with a moustache and a velvet vest was serving drinks. Once the bartender spots them, he leans over the bar to talk to them.
"What'll it be?" he says.
"We're new here. I was wondering, how do I pay?" asks the Duke.
"First drink on the house," says the barman.
"Excellent," says the Duke turning to Anise, "what would you like?"
"I want something from the future! What's your newest cocktail?" asks Anise.
"Newest? Uh . . . a Car Battery?"
"Yeah, that!" says Anise, turning to the Duke, "I've never heard of that before."
The barman scoops two ice-cubes in a short glass, flips up a bottle of green liqueur and adds a dash, adds a pinch of what looks like salt, some vodka, tops it up with a spray from the bar hose & finishes it off by adding a spiral of lemon skin and placing it before Anise on a napkin.
"Careful, it smarts a bit," says the barman, before turning away to serve someone else. Anise takes a sip of the drink. Then immediately flinches, puts it down and gasps.
"Gah!" Anise squeals.
"What is it?"
"It zapped me!"
"Static electricity, it zapped my mouth."
"Well, the drink is a battery. Didn't you see the ingredients he put into it?"
"No," says Anise taking another sip, "it's tingly, and it tastes like lime. Do you want a sip?"
"No, thank you. I have to pilot the ship."
"Right . . ." says Anise, drinking another mouthful. The Duke waits patiently while she has another sip, so Anise puts the glass back on the bar. "Duke?"
"I can drink on my own at my apartment. Is there something fun we can do together?"
"What would you suggest?" says the Duke. Anise turns to the dancefloor.
"Dance with me!"
"You call that dancing?" says the Duke, looking at the other patrons gyrate, jump and jive over one another, "I don't dance like that."
"Oh, come on! Please?" pleads Anise. The Duke looks at the dancefloor, then back to Anise.
"Wait here a moment . . ." says the Duke, then he marches across the club, and approaches the disk jockey. The Duke taps him on the shoulder and the man peels back his hearphones. Anise finishes her drink as they finish talking, then the Duke returns to the bar.
"May I have this dance?" asks the Duke, offering his hand.
"Hell yes," says Anise taking his hand, and the Duke leads her onto the dancefloor. As soon as they step on the floor, the volume of the ambient music starts blaring loudly.
"What the hell?!" yells Anise.
"Directional sound!" the Duke yells over the din, straining his otherwise deep voice as he points up at the speakers in the ceiling. The Duke leads Anise to the centre of the dancefloor, and turns to face her just as the music ends.
"Dancers, prancers, romancers and cancers," says the disk jockey, enthusiastically, "we're gettin' down with some gold school, from the old school. Here comes the drop! Wub-wub-wop!"
He starts the next record, which starts with remixed, electronic chirps before blaring loud, slow and deep.
"You asked for dubstep?!" cries Anise. The Duke leans in close to her ear and speaks low so only she can hear.
"I asked for something slower. Just follow my lead. Back and forward."
The Duke places his right hand on Anises back, and clasps her right hand in his left, level with their shoulders. The Duke steps back slowly, in time with the music, and Anise follows as they begin to rock-step back and forward in their intimate waltz.
"Now, turn." The Duke pivots around pointing his free leg to the floor, and the Duke's coat splays outward from the momentum of the lapiz. Anise keeps in step, moving to the slow threading of the music, until the Duke raises his left arm up, holding her hand. Following his lead, Anise does a little twirl, pivoting on the toe of her shoe. When she returns to his embrace, Anise can't help but giggle as they sway side-to-side with the music turning slowly as a couple.
"I've never danced like this before!" says Anise.
"How do you dance?" asks the Duke.
Anise lets go of the Duke's hand and swiftly turns around in front of him. Pressing herself up against him she wiggles her hips, then as the music 'drops' again she slowly crouches down and slides back up his body. With the lightest touch, the Duke turns her by the shoulders, guiding her to turn around and face him again, then he takes her in his embrace and they return to dancing, stepping forward and back.
"That's not my style," says the Duke.
"It really isn't, is it?" Anise says, with a smile.
"Step and turn." they move together, rounding the innermost circle of the dance floor, until the music intensifies for the crescendo.
"Now, just trust me," says the Duke. Placing his hand higher on Anise's back, he braces himself, steps forward and leans in. Anise easily falls back with him and the song ends as the two stare into one another's eyes, the Duke supporting her at an angle. They hold the dipping pose for a moment, before the music starts to transition into some reggae-gospel mashup and the Duke lifts her back up straight.
Anise suddenly notices that there are a lot less people on the dancefloor, and that the dozen or so left were giving them a wide berth, making her feel sheepish.
"Hey, let's get out of here!" Anise yells over the music.
The Duke nods sharply, and together they head for the door. They push past patrons, prattlers and partyers before making it out the door and onto the street, where it was bright and inviting in comparison. Anise turns to the Duke.
"Well, that was . . . different."
"Did you not enjoy yourself?" asks the Duke, concerned.
"Oh no, I loved it! It was a lot of fun. Thank you for the dance."
"Then whatever is the matter?"
"The matter? I dunno . . ." says Anise, glancing down at her denim short-shorts and the stack of bracelets and bangles on her left arm. "I think I'm just not in the mood for clubbing. Like, at all."
"Then, what do you want to do?" asks the Duke. Anise turns to the club, then looks back at the Duke and shrugs.
"I dunno, I thought that would be more fun . . . maybe we should go back home."
"No, not yet."
"Well, I dunno . . . what do you want to do?" asks Anise. The Duke looks her dead in the eye.
"I want to see you smile once more, before this journey's end. Come on." The Duke leads the way slowly down the road, and Anise walks beside him.
They head down a few streets, left and right, nearing the edge of town. As they reach the final corner, Duke peeks around the corner, then glances back at Anise.
"This is what I want to show you," says the Duke, walking around the corner. Anise follows, curious, and as she rounds the corner, she cranes her neck upward to see the shape that stands before her.
"Oh my god . . ." murmurs Anise. The pair of them were looking up at a spaceship. Less than a block away, the road ended and there was a tall safety fence. But past that, between the buildings either side, Anise and Duke could see part of a spaceship which stood more than twenty storeys taller than them. Most of the ship was obstructed to the left and right, but what they saw looked like an enormous, metal shark fin. From the top, lines hung down which supported several working platforms, on which Anise could see men in orange jumpsuits that looked small from this distance. Each was working on sections of the ship where the shiny, grey hull had been pulled away, and they adjusted the dark, inner workings of the ship.
At one of the higher platforms, where several men where clustered, sparks would fly out in a dazzling stream of light particles, which fell as a radiant fountain of light before being swept away in the wind.
"When I saw this world for the first time, it was on the brink of destruction," whispers the Duke, his voice deep, sultry and mellow like caramel. "It is thanks to us that something like this is even possible . . ."
"It's amazing . . ." mutters Anise, trying to take it all in.
"I've seen worlds grow and peoples come together to reach out to the stars. It's an astounding leap, but still just one. Even your planet Earth will, in time, be seen as a stepping stone towards the rest of the galaxy . . ."
As they look up at the ship, Anise leans against the Duke, lying her head on his shoulder and she smiles.
After a few minutes, the pair finally start heading back down the road, towards the junk yard.
"We'd best carry on," says the Duke, "before we draw too much attention to ourselves."
"Yeah, I really need to get back home," mutters Anise. The Duke stops walking.
"Back home?" says the Duke.
"Well yeah," says Anise, stopping and turning back to look at him, "You know? My apartment."
"But . . ." the Duke frowns deeply, "you said you wanted to go everywhere - I can take you. Anywhere you could possibly wish to go in time and space, anywhere in the universe."
"Yeah, and right now I want to go home."
"Why? Didn't you like it?"
"Duke, it was amazing, really."
"Duke, I just want to wash this stupid makeup off my face."
The Duke stops himself before he says what he was going to.
"Oh. I apologize, I thought . . ."
"What?" asks Anise, confused.
"You do still want to travel with me?" asks the Duke.
"Of course! What did you think?" says Anise. The Duke clears his throat nervously, shakes his head, then turns around and continues walking. Anise does her best to catch up to his brisk pace in her heels. They enter the junkyard and follow the path around, towards where they landed the ship.
"I was also hoping to pack a bag or something," says Anise, "If I'm gone for a while, I might need some clothes, right? And where exactly can I sleep?"
"Oh no . . ." says the Duke, staring off ahead. He starts running.
"Duke?!" cries Anise, running after him. The Duke stops before a large pile of junk and starts screaming.
"No! No no no! NO!" he yells.
"Duke, what is it?" asks Anise, but as the Duke walks back and forth furiously over the patch of dirty on the side of the path, she looks around.
"Where's the ship?"
"It was in this exact position," says the Duke.
"Oh no . . . you don't think they've scrapped it, do you?" says Anise.
"That's impossible," says the Duke. After a moment, he stops pacing and reaches into his shirt to grab the elevator key on the chain around his neck. He holds it in his clenched fist and presses his hand to his mouth as he closes his eyes.
"What are you doing?" asks Anise. The Duke opens his eyes and slowly lowers his hand.
"This way. Follow me." The Duke heads back towards the junk yard exit.
"What's going on? Where are we going?"
"The ship, I'm linked to it intrinsically. It's not too far away, I can still sense it."
"You know where it is?" asks Anise.
"I don't know exactly, but I can lead us to it and, hopefully, whoever took it," says the Duke, heading out of the junk yard, Anise right behind him.
"You think someone stole the ship? Why?"
"The ship wouldn't move on its own."
"No, why would someone steal it? It looks like a rusty, old elevator!"
"There are two possible reasons. Either someone saw a 'rusty, old elevator', mostly intact, and decided to take it. Or, whoever took the ship knows that it's a spaceship and wants it for themselves . . ."
Less than four blocks away, Anise and Duke come to a part of the district occupied by warehouses and storage facilities. They come to the entrance of one facility, with a wide open gate that the Duke stops beside.
"Why are we stopping here?"
"If I'm right, the ship is in that complex," says the Duke, pointing to a large warehouse within the property, almost thirty metres away, with the number "88" painted on the door, three storeys high. Beside it were numbers eighty-seven and eighty-nine respectively. There were a pair of armed guards standing on front of number eighty-eight.
"This looks bad, Duke. They've got soldiers."
"Ship-building materials can be expensive, they're most likely just protecting their investment."
"What are we going to do?"
"Whatever do you mean?" asks the Duke.
"Are we gonna sneak in and find the ship?" says Anise.
"What? Of course not! I am the Duke of Rathea, I do not 'sneak'. Besides, this is surely a misunderstanding. I need only introduce myself and ask them for my property back."
"What if they don't want to give it back?"
"I will convince them."
"Duke . . . I really don't like the look of this."
"Anise, everything is perfectly fine," says the Duke, "but if you wish, you may remain here and I'll return momentarily."
"Duke!" calls Anise, but he'd already left and was walking towards the warehouse. Anise crouches down and peeks past the fence as the Duke approaches the guards. The Duke salutes in greeting, and one of the men approach, raising a cautionary hand, signalling the Duke to halt. Anise couldn't hear what they said, but the Duke was gesturing politely as he explained himself. The first guard glances at the second, before holding the radio on his vest and chatting into it. He speaks for a few seconds before turning back to the Duke and raising his weapon.
Swift as a cat, the Duke grabs the weapon and elbows the guard in the face, making him collapse to the ground. The other guard runs up behind, but before the Duke can react, he jabs him in the spine with a taser. Anise gasps as the Duke yells out, then collapses to his knees, the second soldier speaks into his radio, then zaps the Duke again to make him fall flat on the ground, before three more guards come out through a small door within the larger, warehouse door. Two of the men grab the Duke under the arms and carry him into the facility while another, along with the second soldier, carry the injured guard inside.
"No no no no . . ." mutters Anise. She watches as the door closes and starts to panic, it all happened so fast. "What do I do? What do I do . . . what can I do? Damn it, Duke!"
She looks at the scene again, it's so empty, after all that commotion. Anise was all alone. That's when Anise realizes, she's alone. The soldiers all left and the door's unguarded. Anise juggles the idea through her head, weighing up her options. There were no guards, so she could make a run for it, but where could she go? There were obviously more guards just inside the front door, she'd be running straight into trouble. Although, she considered, there might be a back door, she might just be able to save the Duke. Anise decides it's worth the risk.
Jumping up, Anise moves as quickly as she can towards the warehouse, but she couldn't run fast and was making all the noise in the world as her heels clicked loudly against concrete.
"Stupid, stupid shoes!" Anise growls at her feet. She stops a moment to slip her shoes off her feet then, holding the heels in her hand, Anise starts sprinting barefoot towards the side of the warehouse.
As soon as she rounds the corner, she doubles over and starts panting,
"Oh my god," she whispers hoarsely to herself, "my heart's beating so fast . . ."
She takes a moment to compose herself, then she starts scolding herself.
"Anise, what the hell are you doing?" From around the corner, she hears the metal door clang open, and the stomp of heavy military boots as more guards step outside to take their positions. Anise holds her breath and starts tiptoeing down the side of the building very slowly, before speeding up to a fast walk, breathing low. It's only after she'd walked halfway down the side of the warehouse, about fifty metres, that she allowed herself to take a full breath again.
"Oh my god. That was so close," she murmurs to herself. She looks up at the warehouse. The entire side of the building looked impenetrable. There was a roller door or two, but she couldn't risk opening it, as it would make too much noise, "Damn it, Duke. Why'd you have to go and get kidnapped?"
As she walks further, she comes across a door cut into the wall. Carefully, she tries to turn the knob, but it's locked. Anise sighs loudly.
"I've snuck into clubs since I was fifteen years old," she says, as she continues down the side of the building, "there is always a back way in."
She reaches the back corner, and carefully peeks around the edge. There's no one there, but just around the corner she can see a camera bolted onto the wall. She pulls back when she sees it, then slowly peeks around again. It wasn't facing her, rather it was pointed back in at the rear wall.
"What the . . ." Anise steps out, and can see that the camera is pointed towards a door at the back of the warehouse. The camera wasn't moving at all, so she takes a few steps closer. It was held out a metre from the wall on a little metal bracket, with a wire leading from the camera into the wall. It was bolted in three metres up the wall, she couldn't reach it. If she dared walk past it, someone would see her on the camera.
"Why do all doors hate me, today?" Anise whines. She just wished she had a rock or something to throw at it. "Oh, right!" exclaims Anise, holding up her high-heeled shoes. She steps back so that she's about two metres away from the doorway. She takes a shoe in each hand and lines up to throw with her good arm.
"Bloody shoes are useless anyway," she says, pelting the shoe. It sails high and misses by a few inches. It hits the ground ten metres away and clatters along the ground. "Come on . . ." Anise pleads.
She takes a step closer, aims the shoe and pegs it right at the camera. Twang! The camera swivels sharply around to the left as the shoe glances it, then the shoe bounces off the wall and also falls to the ground. It wasn't as good a shot as she hoped, but it looked like the camera wasn't pointed directly at the door anymore, so Anise takes the opportunity before someone comes to check on the camera. She runs up and slowly turns the doorknob. It turns freely and Anise sighs with relief.
Slowly, she opens the door to peek inside. Just through the door, all along the right wall, there was a large stack of metal shelving, which reached up two storeys tall. And continuing from there, more shelves continued parallel along the entire warehouse, each stretching from the front to the back, like a giant grocery store. But on each shelf, there wasn't fruit or vegetables. Stacked neatly together, each shelf held large wooden crates, metal canisters and glass cases, mixed intermittently with all manner of strange-looking devices that Anise couldn't recognize at all, which varied in size, shape and colour. Down the nearest row, almost halfway along the shelf, Anise saw men in white lab coats, wearing orange safety helmets, using a forklift to place a crate onto one of the higher shelves. None of them were looking in her direction, so she quickly sneaks inside, closes the door behind her and crouches down at the end of the shelf. Luckily, no one saw her.
"Alright, Duke. Where have they taken you?"
The Duke is slammed backwards into a chair, with two soldiers holding him down as they strapped him into the leather restraints on the chair. The Duke struggles, but he was still in pain from the electric shock. He was in a small room, six by four metres, with square, metre-wide sections of prefabricated walls that where stuck together with a ceiling made of cheap wooden panels.
"What is the meaning of this?!" cries the Duke. Neither of the soldiers speak, they just secure his arms, then strap in his legs. "I am the DUKE of RATHEA! You will respond when I speak, soldier!"
"Back off," says a soldier. Duke didn't understand what he meant, until the two soldiers back away and one of them jabs a taser in his neck.
"Argh!" screams the Duke, flinching with the shock, then slumping back in the chair from pain and exhaustion. The two guards finish strapping him in, then stand back and point their guns at him.
"Release me," growls the Duke through clenched teeth, "at once."
Neither of the soldiers answer, they just patiently point their guns at him. The Duke sees a desk in the far corner, study chairs and a shelf full of office binders and books. As he breathes slowly, trying to shift the pain in his muscles, the door opens and a doctor walks into the room.
"What's this?" asks the doctor, looking confused. "Report, soldier."
"We were approached by this subject," says the nearest soldier, still pointing his gun and staring daggers at the duke, "he walked right up to the front gate and claimed that we had taken his property."
"No," mutters the doctor, "that's impossible."
"I am not a liar . . ." says the Duke slowly.
"He looks like hell . . ." says the doctor.
"He resisted," replies the soldier with the taser.
"Will someone address me when I speak?!" yells the Duke.
"Yes," says the doctor, moving closer to stand a metre away from the Duke, "I'm Doctor MacDonald, what is your name?"
"I am the Duke."
"Alright, Duke. What are you doing here?" asks the doctor.
"These men attacked, then captured me. I wish to be released."
"I'm afraid I can't do that," says Dr MacDonald.
"Why not?" demands the Duke.
"Protocol. We can't let you go until you've been cleared."
"Cleared? You steal my property, assault me, seize me against my will and restrain me, then expect me to cooperate?!"
"Yes. You say 'your property'?"
"The elevator from the junkyard. I know you've taken it."
The doctor gasps, "Our latest acquisition?"
"Yes!" barks the Duke, "return to me my property!"
The doctor steps forward and places a hand on the Duke's forehead. The Duke yanks his head back, frowning.
"What are you doing?" the Duke demands.
"No way . . ." the doctor mutters to himself. He grabs part of the Duke's arm, behind the restraint, making the Duke flinch. Dr MacDonald asks "Where are you from?"
"Let go of me!" yells the Duke. The doctor then places a hand on the Duke's chest. His eyes go wide, and he recoils in horror.
"Oh my god!" he cries, shaking his hand as though flicking off dirty water, "he is an alien!"
The soldiers step forward, pointing their guns more menacingly.
"He looks so . . . human," Dr MacDonald whimpers, "oh my god . . ."
Anise peeks down the second row of shelves. There's no one there, so she heads down the aisle, being sure to make as little sound as possible with her feet. She looks at some of the items along the shelf. Each crate or container had a small index card attached to it, so Anise stepped closer to the nearest one to take a look. It read:
Position: 002.011.003"Nanite gel?" Anise whispers. She steps along to see a glass jar filled with some kind of blue sand, and reads its card as well, "Psychic Spectrum Narcotic. Warning: addictive."
Identification: Nanite Gel
Index #: 7855.600
WARNING! - Hazardous Material
She looks at the next item, it didn't have an index card, rather it looked like a small white cube with sides made out of glass. Next to it was a metal briefcase which the index card identified as an "Accumulative Energy Weapon". Next to that was a large crate which was labelled "Remote Dialling Device".
"What is all of this stuff?" Anise asks, staring at the strange collection. She stops in front of a shelf with just a small orange stone sitting there, with no index card. A bright blue light was glowing inside of it. Anise reaches over and picks it up. "They haven't labelled everything . . ."
Suddenly, the stone cracks between her fingers. Anise gasps, as it cuts her hand and she drops the sharp pieces of stone on the floor, which shatter into tiny, orange pieces, no longer glowing.
"Damn it . . ." she murmurs, looking at the small cut on her palm. Suddenly, Anise hears the sound of the forklift alarm, a steady beep which warned other workers that the vehicle was in motion, and it was getting louder. Anise glances left and right, but there was no quick way out along the aisle. There were also small pieces of what looked like orange glass all over the floor and she had bare feet, she couldn't risk cutting herself on it. Looking at the shelves before her, Anise saw only one option. She started to climb up, shelf by shelf, shimmying across using crates as half-steps to lift herself up from one level to the next. The rack was was 12 shelves high, and Anise climbed as quickly as she could, hoping she could get to the top before they spotted her.
Dr MacDonald stares at the Duke, both appalled and intrigued,
"You haven't alerted Hector Two?" MacDonald asks, glancing at one of the soldiers. "Why not?"
"We're safeguarding the hostile," says one of the soldiers.
"I am not hostile, I'm agitated," says the Duke.
"He's strapped to a chair," says MacDonald. "He's not going anywhere. Go now and alert them to the situation."
"Protocol, sir," says the second soldier, "any potential hostile must be kept under armed guard."
"Protocol also says to report back any alien encounters," says MacDonald matter-of-factly. The guards glance at each other, one of them nods and they both lower their weapons and one of them takes a small firearm from his belt.
"Doctor MacDonald, you're to keep a close eye on the prisoner until we return. If he cannot be contained, shoot him," he says, handing the doctor the gun. The guards then leave the same way they came in. Once they're gone, the doctor grabs the study chair, places it in front of the Duke and sits down, pointing the gun with one hand resting on his knee as he faces him.
"Why am I being held prisoner?" asks the Duke.
"We're defending ourselves," says MacDonald, "so don't do anything stupid, I won't hesitate to shoot you."
"You would kill an unarmed man?"
"If I have to," MacDonald says grimly.
"I have done nothing wrong."
"You invaded our planet."
"That is utterly ridiculous," says the Duke, sounding tired.
"Then why did you come here?"
"What planet did you come from?"
MacDonald lifts the gun and points it at the Duke's head. "Don't lie to me," says the doctor, pressing the tip of the gun between the Duke's eyebrows.
"You may wear human skin, but underneath you're all alien."
"You can't just shoot me," says the Duke, speaking low and serious as he stares directly into the doctor's eyes.
"Can't I? You're not human. You don't have any rights on this planet."
"You'd kill me for being an alien?"
"I'll do what I have to, to protect humanity," says the doctor, sitting back in his chair, pointing the gun from his lap. The Duke takes a deep breath.
"What if the only way to protect humanity, was to trust an alien? What if you had to let me go, to save your people?" asks the Duke. MacDonald smirks.
"Then I guess we're doomed."
Once she reaches the end of the shelf rack, Anise peeks over the end, and off to the left she can see a group of workers crowded around a large, rectangular box that was dented, rusty, old and undoubtedly the Duke's timeship. Surrounding the workers were two more soldiers with guns.
"There's the Elevator," Anise says to herself, "now, where's Duke?"
To the right, Anise sees some kind of warehouse office, a little room built into the corner of the complex, with windows and a door. Not far from the office, she could even see the little door cut into the bigger sliding door that the Duke had been taken through in the first place. She figured he was in the office. A loud whirring noise draws her attention back to the timeship, and as she watches, some of the workers approach the ship with a circular, metal-cutting saw, loudly spinning. The worker presses the blade to one of the doors and sparks go flying everywhere with a buzzing, grinding sound.
"They're trying to get inside? Oh damn . . ." Anise moves back from the edge and turns back along the shelf. "Okay, you got all this way, Anise. Now, how do you get in there?"
She couldn't do anything from on top of the shelf, but if she climbed down, the warehouse workers would see her. She couldn't just jump down, she'd get caught. Anise sits down cross-legged, and stares off into space, wondering what she could possibly do. But as she does, a thought comes to the forefront of her mind. It was an image of the Duke, a memory of him running out the door of his own ship and falling through the sky, with an alien ship chasing him. A moment when the Duke had risked his life to save the planet, and her.
"You risked your life to save me . . ." says Anise, standing up, "I owe you at least that much."
She glances back along the top of the shelf, when another idea hits her. There was so much weird technology on the shelves, perhaps something could help. Anise starts creeping along the top of the rack again, leaning down to read the index cards as she goes along.
"Amended Reality Goggles, no . . . Medical Hand Device, definitely not . . ."
she passes by a dozen items before she comes to a device without a label, lying on the shelf that makes her stop still. It looked an awful lot like a child's water gun, except it was made of metal, had sharper details and had a row of orange lights along the barrel. Anise picks it up and it isn't too heavy, but it looked like a pretty menacing weapon. "Yeah, this might work."
After making sure the aisle was clear, Anise tucks the device under her arm and climbs down the side of the shelf. It takes a little while with the thing under her arm, but she manages to make it to the ground. On the ground, she finds what looks like the trigger, grabs it, then holds the thing with two hands trying to imitate what she'd seen on television.
After taking a deep breath and psyching herself up, Anise heads to the end of the aisle and peeks around the corner. She could see the warehouse staff were still working on opening up the timeship, but no one else was around. The office was just ten meters away.
"Here we go . . ." Anise tells herself, but when she tries to move, her muscles tense up and can't move. "No, damn it . . . come on, come on, you can do this. You've come this far." but Anise was so scared, she couldn't move.
"Come on! He'd do it for you . . ." Anise takes three sharp breaths, then like a coiled spring, she leaps out from behind the shelf. Feet slapping against the ground, she bursts into the office and points the barrel of the device at the first man she finds, a doctor sitting in a study chair.
"Get back!" Anise yells, "I've got a gun!"
The doctor drops his gun on the floor, then stands up, hands raised. Anise sees the Duke strapped to a chair.
"Anise?" the Duke says, surprised.
"Hey, Duke," says Anise, "I'm here to rescue you."
"I see that," says the Duke, "could you unstrap me from this chair?"
"Hmm? Oh, right . . ." says Anise, stepping over to the chair. Balancing the gun with her trigger hand, she unclasps the strap on one of the Duke's hands.
"Are you alright?" she asks pointing the gun at the doctor.
"I've felt worse," says the Duke, as he then proceeds to undo the rest of the straps himself.
"You can't stop us," the doctor pipes up, "humanity will rise up against you. We will not bow to extra-terrestrial masters."
"What's he on about?" asks Anise.
"He thinks we're alien invaders," says the Duke standing up. "Now, please, be very careful with that thing. It's dangerous."
"It's a gun, Duke. It's supposed to be dangerous."
"That is not a gun," says the Duke.
"Not a gun?" says Dr MacDonald from the far side of the room, with a cruel smirk on his face. He dives to the floor, reaching for the firearm he dropped.
"No!" screams Anise, squeezing the trigger. A clear-blue gel explodes from the end of the device in Anise's hands, spraying all over the doctor. He groans and moans, but can't scream as the gel covers him head to foot. He struggles, but his movements become slower and slower until, with a light crackling sound, the gel hardens and the doctor stops, completely still.
"Oh my god. Is he dead?"
"No," says the Duke, "but he's probably in an awful lot of pain."
"You said it wasn't a gun!"
"It's not a gun. It's a delivery mechanism for a high-density coolant, designed to cut off the oxygen supply to a flame and then seal any heat damage."
" . . . it's a fire extinguisher?" says Anise, placing it on the chair.
"Exactly. Where did you find such a thing?"
"The warehouse. This entire building is stacked to the brim with freaky technology. They've even got the Elevator."
"You know, your timeship," says Anise, pointing out the office windows at the ship.
"Oh, right. 'Elevator', I understand."
"We've got to stop them. They're trying to get inside."
"They'll never get inside without the key," says the Duke, "but we will have to get past them."
"How?" asks Anise. The Duke slowly steps over to the window and looks out at the warehouse.
"Duke, are you sure you're alright?" asks Anise, "I saw them take you, it looked rough."
"I'm recovering quickly," says the Duke, looking out the window. "It will take more than that to kill me."
"Okay then. But how will we get out of here?"
"Anise, this entire facility is filled with alien technology."
"It's all alien? I thought it was just futuristic."
"No. From what the doctor says, I fear they've been stockpiling it all in an attempt to defend this planet from aliens."
"Well, how did they get so much of it?"
"There's an awful lot of alien technology on this planet, scattered all over the place, for reasons I couldn't care to guess. These people have just collected a lot of it in one place."
"What are we going to do about it?" asks Anise.
"Isn't it obvious?" asks the Duke, turning back to her, "I'm an alien."
"Yeah, I know, so what?"
"Anise, this warehouse is full of dangerous technology, and I know how to use it . . ."
The Duke pulls the laser spanner from his pocket and fiddles with it as he peeks through the door.
"What are we going to do?" asks Anise.
"I'm going to acquire some technology I can use, and activate it. However, it may take some time and the guards could discover me. To avoid that, I'm afraid I'll need you to deviate their attention."
"And how will I do that?" asks Anise.
"You're a beautiful woman, I'm sure they'll find you distracting."
"Is that a compliment?"
"It is an accurate assessment," the Duke replies. "Just be sure they're looking away from the shelves, and when I return . . . brace yourself."
"Brace myself for what?"
"I don't know yet, I can't predict what alien technology I'll find useful. So, be ready for anything."
"Right . . ."
"As soon as you're prepared, head out there and get their attention."
"Alright then," says Anise. She lets takes a deep breath and clears her throat. Then she exhales. Then she takes another breath.
"What are you doing?" asks the Duke.
"I'm not ready yet. I'm just," Anise exhales, "getting ready."
"The sooner the better."
"Alright! I'm going," says Anise, heading out the door. She waves and calls at the warehouse staff. "Hello?! Excuse me? Can I get some help, please?!"
Immediately, the guards move to intercept. The workers, who were using a laser cutter on the doors, also turn to see what's causing the commotion.
"Hey, I'm a little lost. Can someone tell me what year this is?!" Anise calls out. The soldiers stand a little way back, guns raised. Anise screams as loud as she can, "DON'T SHOOT ME! I'M UNARMED!"
"Get on the ground," says one of the guards.
"Oh my god! Why are you pointing guns at me!" screams Anise, putting her hands up, "I've never even broken the law before! Except maybe drink-driving, but who hasn't done that, right?"
"Calm down and get on the ground." commands the soldier.
"Okay, okay okay . . . okay," says Anise quietly, kneeling down. "Where the hell are you, Duke?"
"Lie down, on the ground," says a soldier, stepping closer.
"I can't, I've got my hands up."
"Put your hands down."
"You told me to put my hands up!"
"I gave no such order. Now, put your hands down."
"Leave her alone!" calls the Duke, as he steps out from behind the shelves. The soldiers point their weapons at him, and Anise back turns to see him as well. In his hands, he held a strange box. It looked like a part from a car, with exposed belts, a radiator grill and even a small exhaust fan, the only thing that looked alien was the space in the middle, where a small ball of white lightning was suspended within the machine. The duke was holding the machine with one hand, by a handle on the left side and pointing his laser spanner at it with the other. It would have been impossible to hold from that angle, so it was obvious that the machine was supporting its own weight somehow, to suspend itself in the air.
"Open fire!" yells a soldier. Anise screams as they fire their weapons at the Duke, but he doesn't flinch. He stands unharmed, but as the bullets fly the lightning ball starts to pulse wildly. After a moment, the gunfire stops, and the room is silent except for the low humm of the machine. The lightning ball returns to its normal state.
"Do you know what this is?" says the Duke, with a wide grin on his face. "This is a Gravity Engine. All I have to do is adjust this spanner here, and I can turn 'up' into down. So do as I say, and everyone can keep their feet on the ground."
After a moment, the soldiers lower their weapons and the warehouse staff all look around nervously.
"Duke, it's about time," says Anise, standing up and running over to him.
"I thought I was quite expedient, considering how hard it is to turn over a Gravity Engine," says the Duke. "Now, everyone! Move away from the elevator!"
The staff and soldiers do as he says, clearing the way into the ship.
"Alright . . ." the Duke says quietly, so only Anise can hear, "now, wrap your arms around me."
"We can't let these people keep all of this technology, they are much too dangerous. Wrap your arms around me, and hold on tight . . ." says The Duke. He raises his right arm, holding the spanner, and Anise grabs him in a tight hug. "Now, just trust me."
The Duke jabs the gravity engine with the laser spanner, and the world turns. Everything shifts to a forty-five degree angle, sending the staff and soldiers tumbling away to the far wall. After some creaking and groaning, all of the shelves tip over as well, spilling crates, containers and alien technology to the floor. Things crash and shatter, and some things even explode as strange technology breaks, activates or malfunctions. Even the timeship starts to slide along the ground.
Before the ship slides too far, The Duke adjusts the engine, putting gravity upright again, then removes the spanner, making the ball of lightning disappear and the gravity engine stops floating to fall down by his side.
"Quickly! To the ship!" yells the Duke, pointing the laser spanner at the timeship. The doors slide open with a ding, and Anise makes a run for it with the Duke following after. Things continues to leak, blow smoke, disappear and explode as more crates break open and the contents of glass containers spill out on the floor. Anise runs inside the ship, stopping herself against the second door. She bangs it with her hand, before turning back to the Duke.
"Come on! Open the door!" she yells. The Duke makes it in after her, opens the panel and retrieves his key. He unlocks it, it slides open and the two run inside, the door closing shortly after them.
"Finally! Let's get out of here!" says Anise.
"My sentiments exactly," says the Duke, placing the gravity engine on the ground. He presses one button on the console, then pulls the starter lever. Anise braces herself, feet wide apart, as the centre column slides up and down and the entire ship rumbles, groans, sways and makes a ruckus, with it's familiar sharp, rhythmic, grinding sound. They fly through Space and Time, then the Duke replaces the lever and they finally stop with a deep thud.
Anise stands up straight, and starts to chuckle to herself.
"What's so funny?" asks the Duke.
"We made it!" says Anise, running over. She grabs him in a hug.
"Are you alright?"
"Of course. That was insane. I can't believe I did that!"
The Duke grabs her by the shoulders and pulls her off of him, but then holds her at arm's length to look into her eyes.
"You did well," says the Duke.
"It was incredible," says Anise, with a smile, "and we got away just in time."
"This is a time machine, Miss Trevino," says the Duke, "it does everything just in time. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but you wanted to go home to wash off your makeup, yes?"
"Yeah, I guess I did," says Anise.
"Right . . ." says the Duke, turning to the console, "I'll just have to point us in the right direction, then." Anise steps back as he fiddles with the controls.
"Wait. We're not back home? But I thought we left the future."
"We did," says the Duke.
"Well, then, where are we now?" asks Anise, looking to the door. "What's out there?"
"At the moment? We're just floating in space," says the Duke, "there's nothing out there."
Just then, from behind the doors, Anise hears a small mechanical voice. It was muffled, but she could hear it say 'Console Room'. Then, the doors slide open to reveal a policeman. He steps out into the console room to reveal a yellow high-visibility vest, policeman's cap and full kit with radio, taser and everything.
"Where did you come from?" asks the Duke. The cop looks over at the Duke and points an accusing finger at him.
"You!" the man shouts, marching towards him, "I'm Inspector Chester Franklin Edison, and I want to know what the hell is going on here!"