Jack Morgan tried to relax in the small seat of the airplane. He was on a flight to one of England's Channel Islands to meet with Shinobi. She thought she had a way to get the information he wanted on Hex's equipment, but wanted him along.
The last few months had been quite eventful, Jack thought. He'd posed as a NASA computer technician to break into their systems for more information on the anomaly they'd spotted over Los Angeles. The anomaly disappeared and reappeared several times, with no indication of having traversed the space in between. Jack didn't have any reason to think the Architects were behind it, but he needed to check out any advanced technology.
Unfortunately, it turned out that NASA didn't originally detect the anomaly. The Monolith, the Protectorate's orbiting headquarters, detected it and passed the sighting on to NASA. To get the detailed information he needed to decide if the anomaly was time travel related, he'd need to get access to Monolith. Compared to that, infiltrating the Sisters of Hope compound in Guernsey would be trivial.
Jack spent the majority of the flight doing research using his recall bracelet. He'd not spent enough effort lately tracking differences between the current history and what happened in the original timeline. That might give him clues to what the Architects were up to.
For one thing, they seemed to be eliminating physicists and other scientists involved in areas of science that might contribute to time travel. Jack certainly had no objections to that, but he doubted their motives were as altruistic as his. No doubt the Architects wanted to develop the technology themselves. The thought of time travel in their hands shook Jack to the core.
He suspected Shinobi to be working for the Architects, unknowingly or not.
Guernsey was certainly beautiful, and according to his recall bracelet the coastline of Moulin Huet was where Impressionist Auguste Renoir painted in 1882. Besides being beautiful, Guernsey was a labrynth. It had nearly five hundred kilometres of roads and lanes in an area only covering some forty square kilometres, and many of the country lanes had high banks that were built back in the Elizabethan times.
Jack concentrated on the conversation with Shinobi as he drove along the narrow roads. The short stone walls flashed by on either side.
"So you think Hex has some abnormally high technology?"
Shinobi nodded. "Absolutely. From what I've been able to find out at a distance, she has enough computing power in her bedroom to launch a fleet of space shuttles. And get this... She sleeps in a tank of organic fluid that is some sort of interface to a DNA computer grafted onto her brain."
Jack shook his head. It certainly seemed like out-time technology, but he needed to be sure, and to trace the source of it. It did no good to eliminate the users.
"So, Jack," Shinobi said, smiling coyly, "why are you interested in advanced technology?"
"So Shinobi," Jack countered, "who are you working for?"
"Asked you first," she laughed.
"Let's just say I have an interest in anachronisms."
"Anachronisms?" Shinobi pursed her lips. "As in time travel?"
Jack shrugged. Shinobi laughed again.
"Now this totally alters my perspective on history." She shook her head. "I mean, look at the Bible. You've got Moses and Jesus, who both, from the sounds of it, could've easily been hippies in bath robes and Birkenstocks that jumped back in time. And what about Nostradomus? He could've been some idiot with an almanac."
Jack laughed despite himself.
"You'd be surprised at the reality behind history." He looked pointedly at her. "Your turn."
"Fair enough," she said. "I'm working for Maximillian Powers. He's interested in anything that might give him an edge, including revolutionary power sources."
Maximillian Powers. Jack hoped that he wasn't involved with the Architects. With Powers' backing, the Architects would be difficult to take down.
Jack pulled the car off the road. They were at the rear of the Sisters of Hope compound, a granite manor along the south coast. Shinobi turned serious again.
"Okay, I'll get by the security system and get the info we need on Hex," she said, handing Jack a radio receiver. "You stay here and make sure I've got an escape route."
"Will do." Jack leaned against the car and admired the way Shinobi's uniform fit as she vaulted the stonework fencing surrounding the compound. A few minutes later the radio crackled.
"Everything's okay so far," Shinobi reported. "Don't get too bored without me."
Jack shook his head, smiling, and tossed the radio receiver into the car. He kept an eye on the compound as he listened to Shinobi's progress reports.
"Here comes the tricky part, so I'll sign off for a bit."
A few minutes later, a shadow darkened the ground near the car. Jack looked around to find himself face to face with with two very tall women. One was robed, with a helmet, shield and trident. The other was in cargo pants and a tank-top, her sculpted arms wielding a menacing sword. Jack recognized them as Britannia and Iron Maiden respectively.
"You're on private property," Iron Maiden said.
"Well, technically," Jack said, "I think your property starts there." He pointed to a spot about a foot away from him.
"Oh, no," Britannia warned, pointing her trident at Jack. "You don't sod off that easy! What are you doing here?"
"And your answer better be damn good," Iron Maiden growled.
Jack didn't waste time with complex plans. He fully expected to get beat to a pulp no matter what he did, so he decided to play dumb.
"Hey, he never said there'd be trouble," Jack said, managing to sound frightened. Not a difficult task. "I'm just doing a job, okay?"
"Job?" Britannia asked, still gripping her trident tightly.
Iron Maiden also had a good hold of her sword, pulling back on her blade, ready to thrust it forward. "And if you mention the Associated Press, I'm going to stick you like the lying pig you are!"
"Some guy, you know," Jack said. "He says his name is Mr. Wax, offers me two hundred dollars to sit here for a couple of hours. He said something about a surprise on the front lawn, but he didn't say there'd be trouble!"
"Mr. Wax... I assume you mean the Waxman."
"Hell, I don't know. It's just this guy who told me it'd be easy money." Jack looked from one to the other. "Honest!"
Britannia looked at Iron Maiden. "You think this bloke's right?"
"Even so, we should still beat the crap out of him as a lesson to everyone else," Iron Maiden announced, swinging the flat of her blade at Jack's head.
Jack dropped and rolled toward Iron Maiden, using her body as a shield to avoid being blasted by Britannia's trident. That left him open to a blow with the pommel of Iron Maiden's sword. His head ringing, he rolled away and took cover behind a tree.
"Come back here you pig!" Jack didn't need to see them to know that Iron Maiden was royally pissed. He didn't need to ask his recall bracelet to know he'd likely be dead soon.
"So girls," Shinobi's voice could be heard nearby. "Why don't you pick on someone your own sex?"
Jack peered around the tree in time to see Shinobi dodging trident blasts by doing a series of gymnastic moves that would put an Olympic medallist to shame. At the end of the moves she ended up near Iron Maiden and neatly swept the woman off her feet. Unfortunately, she stayed still long enough for Britannia to take aim. The trident blast clipped Shinobi's shoulder, knocking her nearly to Jack.
Jack raced out from behind the tree and swept Shinobi into a fireman's carry. Dodging trident blasts, he managed to make it back to the cover of the woods.
"Hold on a second," Shinobi said. He paused behind a tree while she tossed several smoke bombs toward Britannia and Iron Maiden. "I'd say you could put me down, but I rather like being carried around."
Jack and Shinobi regrouped in town and stole a car to take them even further away.
"So, what did you find out," Jack asked.
"What, not even a 'Are you all right?'". Shinobi smiled and produced a handful of disks. "All the data you could ever want about Hex's technology. At least all the data I had time to get away with."
Scan disks for relevant information, Jack instructed his recall bracelet.
"Turns out that Hex is definitely from the here and now," Shinobi said. "She's Hindu, or at least was. Her real name is Ksatriya. I'm not sure now whether she's a person using technology, or technology using a person." Shinobi shuddered.
Technology exhibits synthetic antibodies as a method of serialization. Records show those numbers belong to Maximillian Powers.
Shinobi looked at Jack a little strangely. "Yeah, it freaked me out, too."
Jack smiled and tried to cover, but his mind kept coming back to what the recall bracelet had told him. Identifying equipment using synthetic antibodies was a technology from the future. So Hex's equipment was certifiably from the future. But the supplier of the equipment, according to the coding in the antibodies, was Maximillian Powers.
At some point in the future, Powers would gain
control of a time machine. Jack intended to be there when it happened.
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