Tempo's home dimension of Quarternion
Chaos led Josh and Lithe about half a mile to a large skimmer hidden behind a stand of trees. Two Minions kept the muzzles of their cell disruptor weapons at the backs of the captives’ necks the whole way.
“Do not try to use your elastic powers to run away,” Chaos told Lithe. “Even an agile Frobenian cannot outrun a disruptor beam.”
Chaos, his captives, and about twelve Minion zombies boarded the large skimmer, and it zipped them away. It was the ﬁrst time Josh had ridden in an anti-grav vehicle. There was always a hiss with an underlying soft whine associated with anti-grav travel. The ride was as smooth as Emily Kinicki’s skin, and the party arrived at an ominous fortress in short order. It was a smaller version of The Cluster’s main stronghold in Cadavra, but this one had all the same amenities: high walls, deep empty moat, and a courtyard ﬁlled with prisoners. The prisoners, almost all Frobenians, were not chained to posts, as those in Cadavra had been. The molecular properties of the elastic Frobenians would have allowed them to easily slip off chains and shackles. Here, prisoners were kept in cages of wire mesh so ﬁne even a Frobenian could not squeeze through. The captives were exposed to the elements, torrential rains, followed by three blistering suns. Lithe was thrown into one of the cages. Josh was taken inside the complex by Chaos and two Minion warriors, one a female.
“Hold him here,” Chaos ordered, “while I prepare the chamber for his dimension jump into Cadavra.” Then Chaos got way into Josh’s face. Josh could feel the breath of Chaos play off his cheeks as the creature spoke. His tone was hostile, his breath—cold. “Once in Cadavra, you will be taken to a special room. We call it, rather ﬁttingly, the mesmer room. There, your will shall be crushed. Your intellect shall be turned to my purpose,” he said, clenching that clawed ﬁst before the face of the petriﬁed Josh, “and your brain turned against your rebel friends!”
“G-g-geez, lighten up!” Josh stammered.
Chaos only grinned, then left. The female zombie pushed Josh against a wall with her disruptor. Josh began to tremble. He thought about his parents and how he’d willingly joined the DimensioNoids to escape Chaos. Now, he just wished he was home and living the life of a normal kid. That’s when the female Minion’s disruptor weapon morphed into a scimitar and she sliced off the other Minion’s head. The headless Minion crumbled into a pile of rotting debris, and the female Minion morphed into the welcome form of Emily Kinicki, purple bathing suit, and every hair, in place.
“I have acquired the regeneroot,” she said without any sign of relief for Josh’s sudden rescue. “I’ve hidden it aboard the skimmer on which we arrived.” Tempo morphed back into the form of a Minion, put her weapon at the back of Josh’s neck, and said, “Hurry!”
Josh got the picture. Like a prisoner being transferred, Josh marched quickly out of the complex with Tempo acting like a Minion guard behind him. They passed sentries at every doorway and, once outside, guards on the walls looked down at them. As they crossed the complex, Josh stopped short.
“What are you doing?” Tempo whispered.
“We can’t let them keep Lithe in a cage,” he resolved.
When they’d ﬁrst arrived at the fortress, Josh had seen a Minion activate the controls that opened the cage where they’d put Lithe. It was a panel built into a nearby wall. He strode quickly to it. There was a bank of levers. One was a large lever set off the end of the bank. Lithe was watching from her cage. In her mind she was saying, Don’t do it! but her heart disagreed. Josh’s quick mind concluded that the big lever opened all the cages at once. He pulled it. The cages all clanged opened and two dozen Frobenian prisoners stepped out. Alarm bells rang, and Josh’s ‘guard’ turned back into Tempo— well, Emily Kinicki, actually. “Now, you’ve done it!” she said.
Lithe stepped forward. “Use your burn bands and escape!” she shouted.
“We have to get the regeneroot. It’s hidden aboard the skimmer.”
“Go. We’ll keep them busy.”
“This way!” Tempo shouted to Josh, then she turned and led him through the arch to the skimmer port.
The Frobenian escapees elongated their legs and stepped up onto the high surrounding walls. The wall guards ﬁred their cell disruptors. Some of the Frobenians were killed and wounded. The rest shot out their arms into thin tendrils, wrapped them around the throats of the Minions, then snapped the tendrils back, beheading their former jailers in great numbers. Frobenians didn’t need weapons to kill zombies.
The surviving Frobenians then stepped down off the wall and elongated their legs to leap gracefully across the moat. If the Frobenian rebels ever decided to attack the fortress, that empty moat wasn’t going to stop them. As they crossed an open patch between the moat and jungle, more were hit and killed by disruptor ﬁre. To witness the death of a Frobenian to disruptor ﬁre when the Frobenian is in full elastic stretch was gut wrenching for Josh. They burst majestically like ﬁreworks over
in July. Still, most of the captives escaped, elongating themselves into the jungle and melting away—away to ﬁght another day. Kansas
As Josh and Tempo arrived, they found two Minions guarding the skimmer port. Due to the commotion in the courtyard outside their view, the guards were alerted. They ﬁred at Tempo as she charged, but she morphed Emily’s form to create two wide openings through which the disruptor beams harmlessly passed. Before the Minions could ﬁre again, Tempo turned one arm into a scythe, and sliced them in half. Tempo and Josh leaped onto the skimmer, and Tempo’s deadly blade returned to the delicate hand of Emily Kinicki. She placed that delicate hand on the controls and ﬁred up the anti-grav generator, took the vehicle high in the air, and ﬂew it over the wall. Minions poured out of the complex and ﬁred at them. Then a larger weapon mounted on one of the walls opened up. The skimmer was hit and caught ﬁre. They were well over the jungle when the skimmer started to lose power.
“Let’s burn!” Tempo shouted as she pulled a sack containing the vital regeneroot out from under a seat.
As the skimmer spiraled downward, the two DimensioNoids hit their burn band activators and vanished into two portals of ﬁre. The skimmer crashed in a thunderous explosion, but Josh and Tempo didn’t see it. They were safe within their burn tubes on their way back to the
. Upon his return burn into the Forbidden Land , Josh was worried he might again land in a snow drift. Instead, he found himself skidding along on a patch of ice like a drunken penguin, ﬁnally falling on his butt at the edge of the snowﬁeld of the black mountain. Forbidden Land
Tempo smiled. “You’ll get it eventually,” she said.
They again hiked up the mountain. There was no blizzard this time, but even if there was, it could not have chilled the heat of embarrassment Josh felt over Tempo’s great abilities, and his own inadequacies.
“You did well out there, today,” Tempo said.
“I was a nerd.”
“I do not know this—”
“I was lame-o, okay?” Josh said. “I couldn’t even keep up with you. You were—unbelievable. And I got captured, and you had to rescue me. C’mon. I’m the worst.”
“For me it was just another assignment in support of our cause. For you, it was a second successful mission,” Tempo held up the bag of regeneroot. She smiled with Emily Kinicki’s lips as she said, “I know the weight of the prophecy must be a diﬃcult one to bear. But really, you’ve helped us immeasurably. Be proud of it.”
“Yeah, I have been some help, huh?” Josh grinned, relieved that Tempo saw in him more than a bumbling organic with all its corresponding weaknesses.They arrived at the command center. Starla’s remote orbs immediately began preparing the regeneroot by grinding it with a mortar and pestle that were really constructed of pure energy and hung in the air at the bedside of Spindle. Spindle had been moved into his private quarters.
“Took you long enough,” Spindle japed to Tempo and Josh. “Any longer, and my missing leg might have grown on its own!”
Of course, it couldn’t have. The powdered regeneroot had to be mixed with just the right amount of water—yes, nothing but pure water, the bonding of oxygen and hydrogen elements constituting the life’s blood of every organic dimension. Under Starla’s watchful eye, though it didn’t really have any eyes, the pestle vanished and the concave energy container moved to the stub of Spindle’s missing leg. The remote orbs levitated the poultice in place, but Spindle had to fashion it with his hands into something approximating a right calf and three toed foot. Spindle then drew a deep breath against the pain, and elongated that leg to ﬁve times its normal length. He stiﬂed a scream of agony. The poultice instantly hardened and became a natural part of him, and when the leg snapped back to normal length, Spindle was whole again. Spindle turned to Josh and Tempo. Was that a tear in his eye? Was it from relief or gratitude, or was it just from the pain? Do the ruthless, incredibly brave Frobenians ever cry? Spindle smiled that lipless smile and in his bird-like voice said, “Thank you.”
“You’ll be going home, now,” Tempo said to Josh later as they all sat around in the ready room eating Starla’s rations.
“Yeah. Can’t say I’m going to miss the food.”
“There are many pleasing ingestibles in our worlds,” Spindle noted, “but Starla isn’t the best cook in interdimensional space. Although I must say, Starla makes a great leg!” he added, ﬂexing his new limb with dexterity.
Starla came in levitating a new red Frobenian uniform for Spindle. Spindle’s present uniform had been shredded and, of course, cut off at the knee.
“I may not be the best cook in interdimensional space,” Starla droned, listening in as usual, “but I am a more than adequate tailor.”
Josh watched the spectral energy entity ﬂoat across the room with the new uniform ﬂoating before it. It’s a glowing ball of light, Josh thought, with the smarts to consider the DimensioNoids every need, and manufacture whatever was needed. Food had to be gathered. Starla couldn’t produce anything organic. Nor did it have the knack for cooking. Still, Starla could scan the enemy’s movements and produce the data and maps and weapons that made their missions possible. The Peitgen could send them ﬂying off into different dimensions, while computing the terminus landing data for their arrivals to exact speciﬁcations. All at the same time! Yes, Fractal’s a cool guy and a great warrior in the ﬁeld, but Starla’s the leader of the DimensioNoids. And loyal, powerful Denso, comical, deadly Spindle, and then there was Tempo. A marvel, a miracle, who could turn herself into the girl of Josh’s dreams, or an ape from another dimension.
“Well, I’d better get going,” Josh sighed, suddenly aware that he was going to miss these rowdy rebels terribly.
“You will be back, Joshua Miles,” Denso assured. “We need your insight. Your leadership.”
“Yes, The Cluster will make some move we will have to counter, and you will be needed,” Fractal agreed.
Josh had given up on trying to convince them diﬀerently. “Sure, just let me know. Right now, my parents need me. I can’t imagine what they've been going through.”
“Parents,” Denso sighed, “are yours as stubborn as mine? I have tried to get my parents to leave Ramanujan. Go to a place as yet uncorrupted by The Cluster, but they refuse. They seem to somehow be attached to home.”
“Mine are likewise,” Spindle contributed. “They live in constant fear they will be discovered to be parents of a rebel and be arrested, but they refuse to leave Frobenius.”
“My parents are in hiding,” Tempo sighed, as the talk of home and of parents made them all think of better days. “Quaternion is honeycombed with mines and tunnels. Before the wars, we were a supplier of precious metals to all the dimensions,” she noted for Josh’s beneﬁt. “So complex are these tunnels, the Minions cannot ﬁnd their way. Still, my parents live in constant fear deep within those dark and stiﬂing passageways.”
“Kinda like us,” Spindle joked. No one laughed.
Fractal avoided the talk of parents and home. It made him angry. His demons remained hidden within him as deeply as Tempo’s parents were hidden within the dark maze of the mines of Quaternion.
After learning Josh planned to return home, Starla struggled to ﬁnd a way to call Josh on his burn band without also alerting any Solarians within earshot. Josh suggested the method Solarian cell phones used to permit discreet calls. Starla reconﬁgured Josh’s burn band to vibrate silently, signaling Josh that the DimensioNoids wanted to contact him. Josh could then ﬁnd a place of seclusion where he could talk freely. The others thought it just another amazing example of the boy’s genius, though it really wasn’t Josh’s idea at all—at least not the original idea, just the application.
All the DimensioNoids, even Starla, who seldom ventured outside the command center, joined Josh for his burn home. It had begun to snow again outside the entrance to the DimensioNoids’ lair and the wind had come up biting cold. Josh did the customary double handshake with Fractal, Denso and Spindle.
“Stay frosty!” Josh said in the vernacular of his Solarian peers.
The big super warriors stood there in the swirling snow and wicked wind dumbfounded by his words.
“We shall be so if we stay out here much longer!” a confused Fractal shouted above the wind.
Josh laughed, and then he turned to the aloof Starla and said, “Keep an eye on them.”
“I have no use for eyes, being that I am able to scan anything directly into my neuron envelope. I shall, however, monitor the team constantly, and, may I add, watch over you, as well,” Starla said, without even the slightest insinuation of emotion.
Josh held both of Tempo’s hands differently, tenderly. She retained the form of Emily Kinicki, purple bathing suit offering no protection against the cold, and none needed. Her hands were as warm as if she and Josh were standing before the cozy ﬁreplace in Josh’s house.
“At last I will be able to return to my normal form,” Tempo said in Emily Kinicki’s voice.
“That’ll be a relief for all of us,” Spindle cracked.
Then in the telepathic thought their hand-holding allowed, she privately added, “Until your return burn.”
“I’m going to miss you,” he sent back with his mind.
“And I, you,” she telepathically said.
It was Emily’s voice inside Josh’s head, but the real Tempo sifted through. She was unlike any girl Josh had known. Okay, so he’s never known any, but his dream girl couldn’t be dreamier than Tempo of Quaternion.
Josh turned to the hulking muscular men and the hovering light entity of no speciﬁc gender.
“I’m going to miss you all,” Josh said, surprised himself that he was actually choked up by his imminent departure from interdimensional space.
Josh released Tempo’s hands and stepped away. He waved, and they haltingly waved back, unsure of the actual meaning of this patently Solarian gesture. Then Josh smiled, hit the activation button on his burn band, and was gone in a portal of ﬁre.