THE SHADOW CONNECTION - First Chapter



Chapter One

Dr. Albert Snowden. You have been sentenced to death for unauthorized travel through time and space,” said the two-story-tall metallic sphere in a deep, digital-sounding voice. Eight large segmented tentacles extended from its body, four supporting it and the other four reaching out.

Dr. Snowden’s heart thumped like a war drum as he faltered back. He knew the sphere to be a Time Warden commander, a leader among the Time Wardens, a timeline-void race and something he had encountered before. Looking around, he saw no sign of Emily, his niece who was always at his side. He shouted her name a few times.

“Emily’s not here. You’re alone. You will die … alone,” said the commander as it scuttled closer.

Dr. Snowden began to tremble as the ground shook with each step the commander took. He shouted out for Evaran, the powerful and mysterious being that had saved him and Emily from an alien abduction long ago and allowed them to travel with him.

“Evaran can’t help you. No one can.”

Dr. Snowden reached for his personal support device, which was always on the survival suit that Evaran had given him. He swallowed hard as he grabbed an empty pocket. His breath became erratic when he looked down and saw his brown twill pants, cotton vest, jacket, and bow tie, which all stood in contrast to his white shirt and fair skin.

“You’re weak and defenseless. You’ll die as such.”

His eyes widened as one of the commander’s segmented tentacles reached out and grabbed him. He was lifted into the air, and a cold sensation began to form on the bottoms of his feet.

Death. That is what you’re feeling.”

“No!” he said, with each hand grasping a tuft of gray hair on either side of his balding head. “This isn’t how it happened.”

“Time can be rewritten. You escaped death … once. Not this time.”

Dr. Snowden screamed as the tentacle began to squeeze him. It felt like ladder rungs had formed inside his body, and something dark and sinister was climbing up them.

The commander paused about fifteen yards away from a metallic wall. “No escape this time. Prepare to die.”

Dr. Snowden grunted as the tentacle that held him began to squeeze again. He spewed a mix of blood and spit at the commander.

The blood spread across its shell, and after a moment, parts of the commander began to dissolve.

“No!” it said as it dropped Dr. Snowden. “This is not possible!”

Dr. Snowden struggled to breathe as a glow formed around him. An image of a female version of Evaran appeared next to him. He knew this to be Levaran, a parallel-universe version of Evaran. “Levaran! Help!”

Levaran moved between the commander and Dr. Snowden and raised a hand. “Hear me, Time Warden. He is protected.”

The commander emitted a high squeal as it continued to dissolve.

Dr. Snowden felt a warm radiance overtake the cold sensation that had been consuming him. When he looked around, he realized he was a big ball of light, similar to something he had seen in his past. He was a Hoxscarus, the final evolution of humanity. The wriggling tentacles of light that extended from him pulsed with energy. With a determined push, he flew forward and into the commander, dematerializing any part he touched. Once the commander crumpled to the ground with over half of it missing, he landed and assumed human form again. He glanced at Levaran. “What … what just happened?”

Levaran smiled. “You must accept what you are.”

“What?” Dr. Snowden’s eyes widened as the overlord, another powerful being he had met in his past, sneaked behind Levaran and placed his hands on both sides of her head. The overlord’s high-tech ancient-Egyptian appearance was how he remembered it.

Levaran screamed as blue electrical arcs shot out from her head and into the overlord’s hands.

The environment began to shake with a vengeance.

Dr. Snowden tried to transform or move, but it was like his feet were rooted to the ground.

“Wake up! Accept what you are!” said Levaran.

“I don’t understand!” said Dr. Snowden over the thundering noise that seemed to fill the air.

Everything went black.

Scene Break

A moment later, he shot up in his bed. Sweat ran down his face. He looked around and saw that he was in his bedroom at his home in Northwest Columbus. His breathing began to normalize as he realized it was just a dream. The buzzing sound he had heard in the dream continued to fill the air. It was his PSD. He grabbed it and opened it up. It was Emily trying to contact him. He tapped at her portrait in the holographic display that had shot up from the PSD.

“Hey, sleepyhead, I made breakfast. You coming—” Emily wrinkled her eyebrows. “You okay?”

Dr. Snowden licked his lips as he continued to breathe hard. “Yeah. I just … another dream is all.”

“The commander and Levaran one again.”

He nodded.

“Well … there’s a plate of bacon and eggs down here that will help you forget about that.”

He sighed. “I wish it was that easy.” His PSD showed it was a little past 9:00 a.m. With a grin, he said, “I’ll be down in a few.”

“Okay.”

The PSD’s holographic display dissipated.

He pulled himself up and sat on the edge of the bed. It was the fifth dream to occur in about a month since being back on Earth. The previous adventure with Evaran had been rough, and he and Emily had almost died. At the time, the energy that had saved them both came from Levaran. Maybe that was why she was always in the dream. He noticed that the nanobots, which had been injected into him during his alien abduction and were then changed by Levaran, were attempting to calm him down.

Traveling with Evaran had been anything but easy for him. Being able to move through space, time, and beyond was a powerful incentive, but it had its dangerous moments. He had learned that a universe had timelines that did not intersect, although they shared the same space. Universes existed in a plane, and the planes in a plane system called Synesia. At least he now also understood that Evaran was from the Cosmic Medium that filled Synesia between the planes and that his form in this universe was a plane form, the first one, and that Levaran was the last form to enter the plane.

He mused at how crazy that sounded. Although it had only been a month since he had learned all of that, it was still fresh in his mind. He knew that Evaran wanted them both to stay on Earth for a while to readjust to being around other humans and to immerse themselves back into their routine from before they had met Evaran. After meeting so many types of aliens and beings, he had to admit it was nice being back. Trying to return to the routine had been rough. Teaching astronomy to college students, when he knew there was so much out there, was difficult. He had to watch what he said.

A picture of Emily playing volleyball sat on his dresser. It was from when she was in high school and competed in a regional tournament. That was a good memory, and her father, Dan, was still alive then. Dr. Snowden wished he could see his brother again and knew Emily was forever changed after his death.

His throat constricted at how much she had gone through while traveling with Evaran. She initially had her doubts, but did not want to be alone, and decided to accompany him. As rough as it had been traveling with Evaran, he was glad to have her with him. She had been through some difficult times, and nine months on a prison planet had changed her from the innocent niece who had grown up with him into a tough-as-nails young woman. Although she had been easing up a bit, the last adventure seemed to confirm for him that the change was permanent. Glimpses of her past still shined through.

The PSD buzzed again.

He opened it and saw it was Emily again. She was probably upset that her cooking was getting cold. After getting his clothes on and cleaning up, he exited his bedroom and headed downstairs.

Scene Break

Emily tapped her fingers on the kitchen counter. Dr. Snowden was usually late getting up and eating breakfast. She missed using the replicator on the Torvatta, Evaran’s ship and what she considered more of a home than the one she was in now. Freshly cooked food had its appeal, and one she had remembered in the month they had been back. She surveyed the spread of bacon, eggs, and hash browns sitting in bowls on the table. Their smell filled the kitchen, and it reminded her a bit of when she used to cook for her dad.

Evaran was already seated at the table and in his usual outfit. She initially did not understand why he never changed, but she knew now that it was part of his plane form. The light-gray one-piece outfit with dark-gray padded sections had become ingrained in her mind. Multicolored lines segmented the outfit while a belt with various gadgets hung off it. The neck guard, forearm covers, and boots were metallic, and sometimes she had to squint when looking at them. They always seemed scuff-free. Evaran’s dirty-blond hair had a wave in the front, which stood out due to the slightly shaved sides of his fair-skinned head. His hair never seemed to move, as if it were made of molded plastic.

She felt a tap on her arm and tilted her head. It was V, Evaran’s trusty mobile artificial intelligence. She understood V was more complex than that, with an inner and outer container in the shape of an orb. The inner container had a type of energy similar to Evaran, and the outer container was a strong AI that had taken on a male persona. She had come to view V as her best friend, and V and Evaran’s unusual speech style was a quirk she found endearing.

“Analysis. You seem deep in thought,” said V.

“It’s nothing. I was just wondering where sleepyhead is.”

“There is a high probability that he is napping again.”

She laughed. “He better not be.”

Evaran looked up from the table. “Even if he is late, I have sampled your breakfast. It was quite delicious.”

Emily took a seat next to Evaran while V flew over and positioned himself opposite her.

“I have scanned it as well. It was a delicious scan,” said V.

She shook her head. “Now you’re being silly.”

V’s lights illuminated a bit.

The sound of footsteps filled the air.

After a moment, Dr. Snowden appeared and took his seat. He glanced around the table. “I know, I know, I’m late.”

Emily pushed a dish of bacon, a bowl of eggs, and a bowl of hash browns toward Dr. Snowden. “Dig in.”

“I think I will,” said Dr. Snowden with a smile. He began to fill his plate.

“You had another dream,” said Evaran. “Did Levaran say anything different this time?”

Dr. Snowden shook his head. “No … just the usual. Always ‘wake up’ and to accept what I am. I still don’t understand why my spit kills the commander or why I transform into a Hoxscarus. I hope there isn’t something crazy going on with my nanobots.”

“I haven’t had any dreams like that,” said Emily.

Evaran raised a finger. “It may be because you were knocked unconscious during that fight. As for the nanobots, perhaps we should run some tests.”

The fight raged in her mind for a moment. The towering Time Warden commander had spun around at high velocity with its tentacles extended. When it hit her and Dr. Snowden, it sent them crashing into a wall. She did not remember anything after that other than waking up due to an inferno blazing inside her. Dr. Snowden had told her that he felt the claws of death overtaking him. She could not even fathom what that was like. One thing she did know was that it had shaken him to his very core. She suspected the dreams were his way of trying to resolve it, and that would take time.

Dr. Snowden devoured his meal in record time. After he finished, he pushed the plate back. “Whew. Nothing like a fresh-cooked breakfast to make you feel better.”

“You look better,” said Evaran.

“Emily’s breakfasts always do that to me.”

“She is a good cook,” said Evaran. He glanced at both of them. “We have been here on Earth for a month now. How is your adjustment after everything you have been through?”

Emily played with her ponytail that lay over her shoulder. “It’s been all right. Classes are easy, and it’s … good to be around other humans. I do find it hard sometimes to control what I say.”

“Understandable,” said Evaran.

“My experience has been about the same, although keeping what I know to myself is challenging as a professor,” said Dr. Snowden. “James still kinda avoids me, and I can now sense nonhumans walking the halls. It’s just … different.”

Emily knew James as Dr. Bryson. She had met the parallel-universe version on their last outing, and they seemed identical to her. Dr. Bryson had roomed with Dr. Snowden in college, and even knew her mom, who died during Emily’s birth, and her dad. She understood why Dr. Bryson was irritated by Dr. Snowden. She and Dr. Snowden had a year’s worth of virtual-simulation memories in their heads from when they were abducted. A few things were off, and when Dr. Snowden asked about Dr. Bryson’s new kid, it caused a rift since Dr. Bryson was having difficulty conceiving with his wife in the real world.

Dr. Snowden waved a hand off in the air. “Anyways, it’s Saturday, and I plan to visit James. I want to clear the air between us. We can do the tests after that.”

“Query. Do you wish for company?” asked V.

“Not this time. I need to do this alone.”

“Acknowledged.”

Emily smiled. “Well, it’s a beautiful day out. I’m gonna hit the sand volleyball courts. V, you can hover around in stealth mode if you want to come watch me dominate.”

V’s lights glowed brighter. “I will be your silent partner.”

Dr. Snowden gestured at Evaran. “What are you planning on doing today?”

Evaran touched his fingertips together in front of him. “I have been researching the current status of Earth. I believe it is now time for me to check a few things out.”

“Trouble?” asked Emily.

“There are some … irregularities, but I do not know how serious they are.”

“Oh. You going to take the Torvatta?”

Evaran shook his head. “There is a local club I wish to investigate. I would ask for whoever is driving to drop me off, then pick me up on your way back.”

“We still doing the no-Torvatta-flying thing?” asked Dr. Snowden.

“We are. I believe some time away from it will help you in your immersion back into your normal routine.”

“Ok, I understand that for us … but why are you staying away from it?”

Evaran cleared his throat. “I want to immerse myself as well. It is a good learning experience for me, and I have enjoyed the last month. Before I came to Earth, quite a few of my adventures involved me mingling with the native population while the Torvatta stayed hidden away.”

“Okay, well, we have, what? Five more months of this, and then we can leave?” asked Dr. Snowden.

“If you still wish to travel with me, then we will do that.”

“My mind hasn’t changed on that,” said Dr. Snowden.

Emily crooked a thumb at Dr. Snowden. “I’m with sleepyhead on that.”

Dr. Snowden sighed and shook his head.

Evaran leaned forward. “A lot has happened in your journey with me. I do not want you to forget what it is like to be among your own kind.”

“We haven’t,” said Dr. Snowden. “Besides, we met humans outside of Earth on Fredoria, and humans in 3104.”

“Andia Kiggs and Jane Trellis,” said Emily, bobbing her head.

Evaran grinned. “I understand that, but I meant among your own kind in the environment you initially started from.” He glanced at Dr. Snowden. “Your dreams indicate to me that you still have some unresolved issues you need to work through.” He tilted his head at Emily. “It would be good for you to remember your past as well.”

She looked down. “Yeah … I know.” Although she thought that she would never be innocent like she was before, she had toned down her aggressive tendency to fight a bit since she had been back.

“Excellent. Let us clean up breakfast and head out. As always, you can carry your PSDs.”

After they had cleared the table and washed up, they assembled in the living room and began to leave.

“Shotgun!” said Emily.

“Defensive mode engaged,” said V as his four segmented arms extended and he went into stealth mode.

“V! I was referring to the passenger seat.”

A moment later, V eased back into view, with his arms drooping and lights dimmed.

Everyone laughed as they exited the house.


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