The Hollow Half – Chapter 35 (Epilogue)

The next invasion of the Earth came on May 20th, conveniently enough right in the middle of my final exam in history, which I just hadn’t had time to study for.

Meta-awareness was great for pointing out an incoming fleet of Ex-terrestrial lizardmen. It filled me in on the fact that they were descended from Earth dinosaurs that were captured and uplifted millions of years ago. It was delighted to show me a quick vision of their original home in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, with the warning that it was the central aim of their “reconquest initiative”. But telling me what George Washington’s home state was for question fourteen on my history final? That was apparently asking too much.

“Think they’ll let us go out there?” Minnie asked.

“Not sure. These guys may not even make into the atmosphere.” I replied as we were bustled down to the shelters below the school.

“Who’s on the case?”, she asked.

“Pretty much everyone I think. The Dinolords or whatever their name translates as aren’t exactly subtle. The Galactics pegged them as inbound a week ago.” I replied.

“Invertrix said they had some weird tech.”, Jessica said as she joined us. She was already transformed and looked just a little bit too eager to try out the training that Invertrix had been putting her through.

“How weird?”, Nell asked as she joined us. She was in her official costume already as well.

Of our group, only the three of them were registered with the FBMA. I’d considered joining but Agent Haffrun had arranged for a different sort of apprenticeship for me instead.

“Extremely long range teleporters for one, but limited to organics only.” Jessica explained.

“So they’re going to start dropping plague bombs on us?” Minnie asked.

“No, troops. It’s part of their honor system. Also, they want to use the planet after they ‘win’ it, so they can’t afford to go too destructive.” I said, relaying both meta-awareness info and what I’d read from the report Heartbeat had passed along.

“How tough are their troops?” Minnie asked.

“Well, they’ll be naked, so there’s one advantage. On their other hand they’re uplifted dinosaurs with about a million years of gene breeding to support their war forms. So, pretty tough.” I said.

“I don’t gotta hold back then? Excellent!”, Jessica eyes were alight with joy.

“Will you be able to support us?” Nell asked me.

“Yeah, definitely, and not just me either.” I said.

“Seriously? She’s gonna be here too? Where’s the fun in that?”, Jessica grumbled.

“No humans need to get hurt? Sounds kind of fun to me.” I shrugged. “Anyways, the Galactics are here too, so if the Dinolords are strong or sneaky enough to break through them, there’s going to be plenty of fighting to go around.”

Nell’s wrist communicator lit up a bright blue.

“They’re sneaky enough. No response to friendly communication hails on their known hyperwave frequencies and long range teleports are being reported from around the globe.”

“And we’re being called in!”, Jessica exclaimed, looking at her own communication read-out.

“Good luck!”, one of our classmates called out.

“Yeah! Bring us back some dinosteaks!”, another said.

“Ewww, that’s gross!”, a third said.

There was a general chorus of well wishes that followed before the portal opened to take us to Brassport’s FBMA command center.

“Junior Agents, Envoy.” Mission Chief Stackhaus nodded to us as we arrived. It was still a little weird to see Chief Stackhaus without his fire fighting gear on. That first image of him had lodged itself indelibly in my mind. With his experience in both disaster response and coordinating human and meta-human teams he’d been a shoe-in for the role of Meta-human Mission Chief in the wake of Agent Haffrun’s departure.

He’d taken the job at the urging of several people, Agent Haffrun, Heartbeat and myself included. In theory he could have easily refused. His service with the Brassport fire department was long enough that his retirement package was quite secure. In reality though I don’t think there’s anywhere he would have felt more comfortable being.

“We in reserve or do we have an objective yet sir?”, Minnie asked.

“Reserve.”, Stackhaus said, eliciting a groan from Jessica, “But I want you suited up and equipped as a strike team secondaries.”

“Strike team? Not Rescue and Recovery?”, Jessica asked.

“You were cleared last week. Didn’t want to use you this soon but the Dinos aren’t giving us much choice. Brassport PD is on reconnaissance duty. Professor’s got the first target or the hardest one we find. Taurus you’re with him. Heartbeat’s on the second incursion, Amp you’re with her.” Stackhaus said, using Minnie and Nell’s official code names.

“Wait, what about me?” Jessica asked.

“Invertix is on overwatch for the North East. She’s requested you for her squad.” Stackhaus said with a solemn expression. At Jessica’s squeal of delight, I noticed a tiny smile struggled  to break out of the corner of his mouth.

“As for you Envoy Smith, can we count on any support from the Parliament in this?”, Stackhaus said, addressing me.

“I’ve sent the data that we had on the ‘Dinolords’ to Adjudicator Haffrun. She’s going to log it with the Parliament, but no Fleet response is expected. Terrestrial assets are free to act according to standard ‘Defense and Deterrence’ protocols however.”

“So you can help us?”, Stackhaus said.

“Yes, myself and one other who will be arriving shortly.” I said.

“I’ve seen what you can do. Give me a sense of what this other ‘asset’ is capable of.”

“Way too much!” Jessica chimed in before I could answer.

“Sounds fine to me.”, Stackhaus said. “What about the Olympians?”

“My brother told me that they’d have St. Agatha’s Hospital out of the Nyx’s realm in less than twelve hours.” I replied.

“I can’t believe somebody stole an entire hospital the day before an invasion!”, Jessica said.

“Not just one. One hundred and eight hospitals and urgent care facilities from points around the globe.”, Nell said.

“Yeah, that’s why it’s going to take twelve hours. They’ll get them all back, but it means they’re out of the fight for now.” I said.

“Then we’ll make due without them. Might turn out to be a blessing in disguise if they can bring St. Agatha’s back in one piece after the fighting’s done.” Stackhaus said.

We got down to planning our deployments from there.

As full heroes, Professor Platinum and Heartbeat were independently scouring the city to assist the Brassport PD in locating any incursions before the Dinos had a chance to establish a beachhead. While the others discussed tactics for supporting the heroes, I excused myself and found a spot relax. No sense waiting for Way to show up when I could meet her halfway instead.

Transdimensional projection was a daily activity for me at this point. Transfering from Earth 2615 (the Parliament’s designation for my world) to Earth 2614 was something I’d done so many times I could manage it without thought. I left a physical body behind on my own Earth to make the return trip quicker and then started hiking from the entrance portal I’d arrived at on Earth 2614 to the secured portal that lead to Gix, the nearest Parliamentary world.

Earth 2614 was an uninhabited world, with a deep, lush forest around the area between the Gate to my world and the Gate to Parliamentary space. Flying would have been a lot quicker but Earth 2614 was under Class 10 Heavy Interdiction by the Parliament. Essentially the Dreamlit barrier was like a wall of steel here and punching through it would set off all kinds of alarms. It was a measure taken to ensure my world would face fewer threats like the Oblivion Knight by making travel to it noticeably less convenient.

Normally that wasn’t much of a problem. It added about a half hour to my “commute” to the school on Gix each night but the time spent walking in the woods wasn’t unpleasant. With an invasion looming though I found the “commute” a bit more irritating.

“I wonder how much paper work punching through the barrier would really be?” I wondered aloud, looking towards the sky.

“My hand went numb after the second day.” Way said, jogging around a corner.

“Hi there stranger!”, I said, “How’d your week of Guardian training with Professor Haffrun go?”

“You know how she seems really nice? Lies. All lies.”, Way said with a smile that matched my own.

After the “incident” with the Oblivion Knight, Agent Lynn Haffrun had made a full report of the events that occurred to the Parliament of Time. Their protocol for such events were clear. Any time a civilization like my Earth’s either developed the capability to interact with the Dreamlit world or suffered an attack from a “Transcendent Entity” (which the Oblivion Knight more than qualified as), the Non-Intervention Protocol was suspended and formal relations were opened.

The idea, as Agent Haffrun explained it to me, was that societies that were exposed to the Dreamlit world were part of the Parliament’s realm, like it or not. We’d saved the world from the Oblivion Knight but other threats would follow him. It wasn’t a matter of allowing us to develop in our own way and at our own pace anymore. Either they helped us or my world would last just as long as it took me to make a fatal mistake.

Since she had worked so closely as part of the FBMA, Agent Haffrun was reassigned once discussions between the Parliament and the world leaders of my Earth began. In part that was to insure that there would be no favoritism shown to any one nation or organization. In part it was also to allow time for a thorough review process of Agent Haffrun’s actions and the events that lead up to and transpired during the “Oblivion Knight Incident”.

With her reassignment, “Agent Haffrun” also accepted a new position as “Professor Haffrun”. She began her teaching tenure with a class of fresh new recruits to the Parliament’s Diplomatic Corp. A class wherein Way and I sat shoulder-to-shoulder with recruits from a dozen different worlds.

It’s worth noting that the Parliament of Time’s “Diplomatic Corp” was also the division responsible for the operation and deployment of their World Breaker Fleets. As “diplomats” went, the Parliament’s had some serious teeth.

As a very junior member of the Corp, I’d been assigned an official station on Earth 2516 and given the rank of “Junior Envoy”. It was the Parliament’s equivalent of “foreign exchange student” in terms of how much real authority I possessed. Mostly I was allowed to pass along official communications, which was fine with me.

Despite my “stationing” on my homeworld, I was expected to attend daily classes as part of my Diplomatic Corp training. Fortunately those classes were held on Gix, which meant all I needed to do was turn in early each night, travel through the Dreamlit World to Earth 2614 and then on to my classes.

Absorbing knowledge during my Earthly and Parliamentary school periods every day had been crushing my poor mind, but the end of the semester was drawing nigh which meant at least a few weeks of break from Diplomat school and a couple of months off from regular classes so I was pretty sure I could hang on.

“Did Professor Pen assign much reading while I was gone?”, Way asked. Professor Haffrun wasn’t the only teacher than we had at Diplomat school. The Parliament had been delighted to take Pen in and put him to work too.

They were able to identify him as a Remnant but unlike the Oblivion Knight, who’d been an Annihilator type, Pen fell into the “Akashic” class of Remnants. Akashic Remnants were basically parts of beings who’d reached some level of omniscience before they were scattered.

I teased Pen about being a know-it-all when I learned that but whatever omniscience he’d once had was lost when he became a Remnant. He still held a tremendous amount of knowledge though and had a good sense for how to impart it to young minds that wanted nothing more than to get out of school and go flying.

Which isn’t to say that we spent all of our time in class. Diplomat school ran about six hours per day, with Gix-time synched almost exactly to Earth 2615 time. Classes started at 9:00pm Earth time for me and ran till 3:00am. That left three hours a day that we could hang out afterwards before I needed to leave to get back for my Earthly classes. Some of that was spent doing Diplomatic Corp homework, but working on it together or with some of our other classmates meant the homework was usually done in just an hour or so.

“Yeah, two chapter each day. I took notes though, so it shouldn’t be too bad to get you caught up. Belle promised she’d help too.” I said. Despite how my first meeting with Way’s talking-dog-made-out-of-black-fire had gone, Belle and I had turned out to have a lot in common. That she happened to have far more casual reading time than I and amazingly similar tastes to mine meant she was my “go to” reviewer for pretty much all of the new fiction that I managed to squeeze in time to read.

“So what are we fighting today? I got your message and came as soon as we got back.”

“Dinosaurs from Outer Space.” I said.

“Ok. What do I need to know about them?” Way asked. I had to smile. I’d yet to find anything that could surprise or shock her.

I filled her in on their known capabilities and the plans that the other had been making.

“What about Adella and Patches?”, she asked.

“They’re still on walkabout. Adella’s catching up on some of the years that she lost and Patches is acting as her guide. I got a postcard from them a couple of days ago, they’d been at Machu Picchu last month.”

“Was that the place that had the outbreak of Incan zombies that you were telling me about?”

“Yep. I’m not sure from their postcard if they set that off, shut it down or both.” I said.

“Dinner says Patches set it off and Adella shut it down.”

“Hmm, risky bet, but I’ll take it. Betting on the catboy has worked out for me pretty well so far.” I said.

We arrived back at the portal to my Earth and stepped through it, transitioning to the skies above Brassport for a better view over the situation.

For just a moment everything was peaceful and calm. The two of us hung there floating on happy thoughts in a wide blue sky.

“Hi there!”, a diminutive voice said from behind me.

I turned to see a little girl, floating in the sky with us. She had on a plastic Halloween mask and a towel around her shoulders as a cape over her school clothes. I blinked in surprise as I recognized Samantha, the little girl from behind the library that I’d rescued half a year ago.

“So, I saw you at the stadium last winter, and I thought you were really great and then I saw you again when I was sleeping and then I sorta figured out how to do stuff like you and I wanted to say thank you and that I think you’re great.” she said.

“Samantha? You can fly?” I gasped.

“Yeah, I can do the dreamy stuff like you did. I should go back to Mommy now or she’ll be scared. So thank you! Good bye!”, and like that the world’s littlest dreamwalker vanished back to her Mom.

I stared at Way who looked back at me and shrugged.

“You had to know you were going to inspire someone right?”

Far below us I caught sight of Heartbeat winging her way around the city, Nell’s sparkling form flying after her. Below them police cars and fire trucks were dispersing to be ready for any trouble that was to come. Beyond them, all the people in the city were preparing too, whatever grudges they had put aside for the moment to unite against a common foe.

Living in a world with heroes can be pretty awesome sometimes.

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