Monthly Archives: March 2013

Around Gray’s Choose Your Own Adventure, Volume Two

 

 

No. 322
CYOA2 Part 1
March 4, 2013

 

Snow had been falling when Lt. Rob Martin had departed for Hawaii, but his trip was no vacation. While the jet jostled up and down from turbulence, Martin kept one foot on the bag beneath his feet at all times. The part inside was needed for a top secret project.
Upon arriving in Honolulu, Lt. Martin’s orders were to board a one-way flight to a classified location. It was sure to be one-way because, where he was going next, there was no place to land the plane. The pilot was to ditch the aircraft in the sea and Martin was told that they would then be “recovered”. The word did not fill him with confidence.
Martin was now one of the four people not at the site who were cleared into the program. Only Martin’s boss, the President, and a shadowy third party knew all the details of the scheme. Martin had been told yesterday, and he still couldn’t believe that what he had heard was true.
He was being sent to Point Nemo, the location in the Pacific Ocean that was farthest from land. There, under water, an experiment was underway that depended on the equipment that Martin was bringing with him. The outcome of the experiment could change the world.

 

 

 

No. 327
CYOA2 Part 2
March 10, 2013

 

Martin eyed the other passenger as the small plane sped toward Point Nemo. He watched her lean down and casually adjust the laces of her boot. Martin struggled to understand how she could be concerned about something so trivial. He’d just been flown halfway around the globe on an urgent, secret mission. She seemed as cool and collected as if she was taking a trip to the corner-store.
What was also awkward was that Martin didn’t know how much she knew. He decided to play it safe, and not speak to her at all until they reached their destination.
She was having none of that. “Holly Ridgeway, NASA,” she told him, thrusting out her hand boldly.
“Hi,” said Martin. “Lt. Rob Martin. Good to meet you, Ms. Ridgeway.”
Ridgeway smiled. “You’ve got it, then?” she asked, pointing at the bag Martin had been gripping the entire flight.
“It?” said Martin, weakly deflecting the question.
“The servo,” said Ridgeway. “The one they need at Nemo. You know, you’d think that they’d keep one of two of those on hand in case of emergencies. That was all in my report.”
“Was it?” asked Martin, giving nothing away.
“Oh, yes. It’s my test,” she told him.
The pilot’s voice crackled over the intercom. “We’re setting down in one minute. As noted in the pre-flight briefing, we’ll be ditching at sea. Please follow my instructions after we set down, and brace for impact.”
“Here we go,” said Ridgeway with a wink.
Martin clutched his bag even closer, and closed his eyes.
“Brace!” called the pilot.
Then the plane hit the water with a shuddering crash.

 

 

If you think Ridgeway is an ally…
If you think Ridgeway is the villain…

 

No. 328A
CYOA2 Part 3
March 11, 2013

 

Martin lay in his seat, stunned by the impact. A red haze clouded his vision. Far in the distance, he could hear the pilot speaking, telling him how to escape the fuselage.
Something tugged at his bag. Something in the back of his mind told him to pay attention. His eyes snapped fully open and he saw Ridgeway collecting the precious part. Martin waved his arm at her, trying to drive her away.
“Stop,” he mumbled.
“Relax,” she told him. “You’re tangled in your seatbelt. Give me a second to get you out.”
Martin slumped back, and looked toward the cockpit. The pilot had made his escape from the sinking plane.
“There,” said Ridgeway. “Come with me.”
She grabbed Martin under his arms and hauled him toward the hatch. He made sure he kept a tight grip on the precious part. Water began to flow into the cabin through the open door, and Ridgeway struggled under her heavy burden.
“If you could help at all, Rob, that would be fantastic,” she grunted.
Martin found his legs and shuffled along with her. Suddenly they were both out of the wreck and under a clear, bright blue sky, floating in the cold water of the conspicuously empty South Pacific. Martin felt another hand grab his shirt just behind the neck and he was quickly hauled up into a raft.
The pilot helped Ridgeway aboard, next. And the three sat, waterlogged, in the flimsy boat.
“Everybody alright?” asked the pilot.
Ridgeway and Martin nodded.
“Won’t be long now,” said the airman. “I just need to send the signal.”
With a flourish, he produced a grenade. He pulled the pin and dropped the bomb into the ocean. Seconds later there was a muffled explosion and a geyser of frothy white spray as the sea erupted.
Soon after that, there was another sound. Martin strained to hear it, but couldn’t identify the source. It was a loud hum, or rumble that seemed to come from everywhere at once. The water under the life raft heaved up, and the gentle motion of the waves was replaced by a solid surface.
Propping himself up, Martin peered out over the side of boat. He’d been told about the craft during his briefing, but nothing had prepared him for the sight before his eyes.
Surrounded him on all sides was an enormous metal disc that had risen out of the deep.  A hatch opened up and a woman’s head popped out. “Hello,” she shouted. “Welcome to Nautilus Base. Can I have the password, please?”

 

 

No. 328B
CYOA2 Part 3 Alternate
March 11, 2013

Martin lay in his seat, stunned by the impact. A red haze clouded his vision. Far in the distance, he could hear the pilot speaking, telling him how to escape the fuselage.
Something tugged at his bag. Something in the back of his mind told him to pay attention. His eyes snapped fully open and he saw Ridgeway collecting the precious part. Martin waved his arm at her, trying to drive her away.
“Stop,” he mumbled.
That got her attention. Her eyes widened, and she threw a panicked glance toward the cockpit. The pilot had bailed out, into the sea. The plane was empty but for the two passengers.
Seeing they were alone, Ridgeway pulled a gun. “Sorry,” she told Martin, almost sadly. “They’ll assume you died in the wreck.”
She snatched the bag away and pulled the trigger at the same time.
Martin’s last view was of Ridgeway scrambling out of the sinking cabin as water rushed in through the hatch. He felt the ocean reach his feet, and then he died.

 

If you think Martin doesn’t know the password…
If you think Martin knows the password…

 

No. 329A
CYOA2 Part 4
March 12, 2013

 

Martin’s mind went blank. He’d been told the password during his briefing, but with the long flight and the crash, he’d somehow forgotten. “I don’t know it,” he whispered to Ridgeway. He began to search his pockets and bag frantically, hoping that he’d written it down somewhere.
Ridgeway put her hand on his arm. “It’s ok,” she said quietly. She turned to the woman at the hatch and called back. “Charybdis.”
The woman nodded, and stepped onto the wet deck. “Are you all ok?” she said as she got closer to the raft. “He seems hurt,” she said, pointing at Martin.
Martin stood up slowly. “I’m fine. Lt. Rob Martin,” he said, introducing himself. “I have a servo that you need.”
The woman shook his hand. “Captain Land,” she said in reply. “And Ridgeway, good to see you again.”
“You, too, Captain,” said Ridgeway.
The pilot was greeted, and the trio were led into the station.
“Come with me,” Land told Ridgeway and Martin. “I’ll show you your quarters, then we can get to work. Lt. Martin, I’ll take the servo, if you like.”
“Work?” asked Martin. His duty, as he was aware of it, had only been to deliver the part.
“Of course,” said Land. “You’re crew. What did you expect?”
Martin felt the hairs rise on the back of neck. His first instinct was to lie to the Captain. “No, never mind. I’ll be ready in half an hour. Sorry, it’s just the shock of the landing and all.”

 

Martin’s quarters turned out to be a small cabin, deep in the bowels of the Nautilus. He had the space to himself, and some time to think. He had the impression that Ridgeway was staying in the same part of the station, but it was difficult to tell. The corridors from the hatch to his current location all looked the same, and he had the distinct impression he had been taken on a route that was designed not to pass any sensitive areas.
Most worryingly, he’d remembered the password he’d been given. It had not been “Charybdis”.
He also found that his door was locked from the outside. It was relatively simple to pick it, though, and soon he was standing in the passageway. He moved slowly down a line of identical doors, pausing at each one and calling Ridgeway’s name softly.
She answered at the fifth. Martin made sure there was nobody else around, then carefully let himself in.
“What’s going on?” he asked harshly.
“I don’t know,” she said, and with enough fear in her voice that he believed her.
“This isn’t right,” he said.
“No,” she agreed. “Something’s wrong.”

 

 

No. 329B
CYOA2 Part 4 Alternate
March 12, 2013

 

Martin was quick to answer, having been told the code before he left Hawaii. “Scylla.”
The pilot gasped, horrified. Ridgeway seemed like she was going to be sick.
The woman at the hatch frowned. “How many of you are there?”
Martin looked at his companions. “Just the three of us,” he called back.
“That’s incorrect,” the woman announced. She disappeared and the hatch slammed shut. Nautilus Base began to sink back beneath the waves. In seconds, the raft was alone on the surface.
“Idiot!” shouted the pilot.
Martin was confused. “What’s going on?”
Ridgeway slumped against the side of the boat. “Nautilus is a massively secret project in the middle of nowhere and you gave them the wrong code.”
“No, I didn’t,” Martin protested. “’Scylla,’ that’s the one.”
“’That’s the one’ is right,” said the pilot darkly. “If there’s only one person. You’ve killed us.”
“That can’t be right,” said Martin. “Get them back. You sound like you know the right one, tell them!”
“Can’t,” said Ridgeway. “They’ll assume they’ve been compromised. The base is probably already on the move.”
“What can we do?” asked Martin.
“We drift,” said the pilot.

 

The supplies on the raft lasted a week, then the hunger set it. After two, the trio was desperate.
On the last day of the third week, Martin awoke from an exhausted sleep to see the pilot standing over him with an oar.  Martin didn’t have the time or strength to raise his arms to defend himself. The paddle hit him squarely between the eyes, killing him instantly.

 

After a month, a passing fishing vessel spotted a lonely lifeboat far from any shipping lanes. As it drew closer, the crew could see two passengers.
When the survivors were plucked from the ocean, the rescuing crew noted that they were in excellent health for having been adrift for so long.

 

If you think Martin will play along…
If you think Martin will try to escape…

 

No. 330A
CYOA2 Part 5
March 13, 2013

 

“I don’t think it will do us any good to try to escape,” said Martin. “Not right now, anyway.”
“I agree,” said Ridgeway. “But do we just sit and wait?”
 Martin quietly considered the plan before he spoke. “They may still need us. I’ve delivered their equipment, but I’m not sure if I would have been told about the experiment in as much detail as I was if they were just going to detain me. And you, It’s your experiment.”
“Unless Land’s gone rogue,” Ridgeway suggested. “Did you see how she looked at us when we arrived? I’m not certain they were expecting us, even if they needed the servo.”
“We need more information,” Martin concluded. “I’m going to go back to my cabin. It won’t do for them to know we can meet. If they threaten us in any way, we’ll make a move. Until then, we play cool.”
“’Cool’,” said Ridgeway with a nod. “Got it.”

 

Land returned after the promised thirty minutes. With her was a short, dirty looking man. “This is Albert Hodge,” Land introduced. “He’ll be your liaison with the science team. But, for the moment, would you two like to join me on the bridge?”
Martin and Ridgeway said yes and were soon led to the control center of the Nautilus.

 

“Amazing,” gasped Ridgeway. Martin, too, was impressed. At the center of the bridge was a giant holographic schematic of Nautilus Base. The scale was stunning. Near as Martin could tell, a jumbo jet could land on the top deck with room to spare. And there appeared to be seven such decks.
“Is that the core?” Ridgeway asked, pointing at a void at the center of the station.
“Indeed it is,” said Land with a smile. “Hodge will show you around there after dinner.”
Something clicked in Martin’s brain. “You didn’t need the part, did you?”
Land laughed. “Of course not, we’re completely self-sufficient. But we didn’t have you, and you’re a hard thing to find.”
Hodge began to laugh as well, a joyless, grating sound.

 

 

No. 330B
CYOA2 Part 5 Alternate
March 13, 2013

 

“I think we need to escape,” said Martin.
“Escape to where?” Ridgeway asked. “You saw what we passed over on the flight here. There’s nothing out there.”
“They’ve got to have a way to get around. Boats, or escape pods, or maybe even a seaplane hanger. This base is enormous. We just need to find something,” Martin said with more courage than he felt.
Ridgeway quietly considered the plan, sparse as it was. “I suppose, at least, a walk around couldn’t hurt.”
They left the cabin and crept back up the passageway the way they’d been brought. Martin took the lead. Coming to a blind corner, he paused and motioned Ridgeway to retreat to a discrete distance. Then he poked his head around.
It was the exact wrong moment. Captain Land was coming down the hall toward him and noticed the surreptitious movement.
“Halt!” she shouted. “Guards!”
Ridgeway, who’d been behind, managed to escape capture, but Martin wasn’t so lucky.

 

“So you want to leave our installation?” Land asked him before she had him shoved into the tube. “We can certainly accommodate that.”
A large cover was lowered into place, and Martin could hear screws being tightened. It had a tiny porthole in it, through which he could still see the Captain.
Martin watched as Land pointed to somebody. He didn’t know it was a technician who pulled a lever to open the tube to the deep.
Martin was ejected through a torpedo door. Nautilus Base was currently keeping station far below the surface, and the pressure of the water crushed the lieutenant immediately.
Inside, Land was furious. “That’s one,” she screamed at her minions. “Now find the other!”

 

If you think everything is going as planned…
If you think the captain has gone rogue…

 

No. 331A
CYOA2 Part 6
March 14, 2013

 

“That was an excellent meal,” said Martin. He wasn’t lying. Captain Land had prepared a feast for her guests although, throughout the dinner, she’d been elusive when questioned. Martin would have liked to have found out why she needed him, specifically. He resolved to uncover the answer.
“It was, wasn’t it?” Captain Land agreed. “We have an excellent support staff on board. They’ve been poached from the best hotels all over the world.”
Hodge and Ridgeway were having their own discussion at the table. Martin heard the words “energy” and “isolated” but couldn’t make out the rest. Turning back to Land, he asked her point-blank about his situation.
“Why me?”
Land swirled her wine glass and said nothing.
“Why do you need me?” Martin insisted.
The Captain leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. She sighed deeply and then replied. “You’re going to find out eventually, I suppose.” She waited a little longer before finally getting to the point. “We need you to calibrate the machine.”
Ridgeway and Hodge’s conversation stopped abruptly and everyone turned to stare at Martin.
“I don’t know how to do that,” said Martin. “I’m really just a delivery man.”
Land smiled. “Why do you think they told the delivery man about the entire project?” she asked him. “I should be clearer. You’re the calibration. Perhaps Mr. Hodge can explain it better.”
Hodge fixed Martin in an uncomfortable gaze.
Martin shifted in his seat.
Ridgeway’s eyes were wide, but she stayed silent.
“You’re the first one,” said Hodge. “We tried this experiment twenty-seven years ago. You were the result. Our technology then was primitive, and we didn’t know much about the time-barrier. You came through and the lab went up. Took the city with it.”
Martin swallowed hard. “A city exploded? It seems like people would remember that. You’re crazy.”
“Of course they do,” said Land. “Everybody does.”
“Chernobyl,” Ridgeway whispered. “That was us,” she said, realizing.
“That’s right,” said Land. “This time we’ve decided to conduct our business without as many neighbors.”
Martin spoke up. “But what do you mean ‘I came through’?”
“You got the briefing,” said Land. “You know what we’re doing.”
“I’m from the future?”
Land nodded. “You were a baby, then.”
“And now?”
“Now, after all this time, we’re ready to turn on the machine again,” confirmed the Captain. “Finish your dessert. Then we’ll head down to the core.”

 

 

No. 331B
CYOA2 Part 6 Alternate
March 14, 2013

 

“That really was an excellent meal,” said Martin. He wasn’t lying. Captain Land had prepared a feast for her guests although, throughout the dinner, she’d been elusive when questioned. Martin would have liked to have found out why she needed him, specifically. He resolved to attempt to get some information from the outside. “Is there any chance I could use your secure comm gear to reach my boss? Let him know I’ve arrive safely, and all that.”
The Captain fidgeted in her chair. She flashed a telling glance at Hodge before she replied. “I’m afraid we can’t have that. All of our long-range connections are down right now.”
Ridgeway interrupted. “What about the emergency beacon? That runs on a separate system from the rest. I’m sure we can send a message that way.”
Hodge pushed back from the table and stood. Land held up her hand with one finger extended. “Wait,” she told her minion.
She rose from her seat, too. “How do you know about the beacon?” she demanded. “I thought you were part of the lab team?”
“It’s the same system as on the Space Station,” replied Ridgeway. “That was my last project.”
Hodge shook his head.
“Too much,” Land agreed. “This is my project,” she told her captives. “I can’t have you interfering.” She sighed, and closed her eyes. “Hodge, deal with them.”
As Martin and Ridgeway were hustled out of the room, Land stayed behind and screamed at them. “Nautilus is mine!” she ranted “I will not allow it to be taken from me!”

 

The pair were locked in a narrow room filled with pipes.
“We’re near the core,” Ridgeway observed. “That’s not good.”
“Why?” asked Martin.
“Because, unless I’m mistaken, those are cooling ducts for the experiment,” said Ridgeway grimly. “I can only guess that Land’s taken over because the experiment is ready to go online. If she activates it, we’ll freeze.”
“How long have we got?”
“It’ll be instantaneous.”
As soon as Ridgeway said the words, a deep rumble filled the space.
“Goodbye,” she told Martin.
Their bodies turned to ice and then shattered.
By turning on the machine, Land had taken the first step towards the end of the world. 

 

If you think Martin will go quietly…
If you think Martin will freak out…

 

No. 322A
CYOA2 Part 7
March 15, 2013

 

“Did you know about this?” Martin whispered to Ridgeway.
“Some,” she admitted. “But about the program. Not you.”
Martin raised his voice to address the Captain. “Was I the only one?” he asked.
“No,” said Land. “There were three children. You and another stayed here, and the other one went back before the accident. The little girl who remained died in a car accident when she was seventeen.”
Martin took a moment to process the information. “Why did we end up here?” he said. “Why us?”
Hodge answered. “We don’t know. Like I said, we didn’t know much about the barrier. The machine was on for a total of five minutes. We sent one man through, and the three children arrived on our side.”
“What happened to your man?” asked Ridgeway.
Land shook her head.
“Then we had an energy spike,” continued Hodge. “And the machine destroyed itself.”
One more thing occurred to Martin. “How far into the future am I from?”
“We don’t know,” said Land. “But if you let us, we can try to find out.”
Martin and Ridgeway exchanged glances.
“Alright,” said Martin. “Take me to the core.”

 

The team passed through an entire array of security zones. Martin observed Land using a number pad, her fingerprints, a pass-card, an iris scan, and, lastly, a key from a chain around her neck to reach the inner bay of the core.
They stepped onto a platform that hung over a vast empty space. The walls were smooth and white, and there was nothing to indicate scale. Martin got dizzy looking at it.
“It’ll take a second,” said Land, who seemed unsteady herself. “It happens every time. Hodge?”
“It’s almost two million cubic meters,” the scientist confirmed.
“There’s no machine,” observed Martin when he regained his bearings.
“The machine is built around the Core,” said Ridgeway. “The control room, if I recall correctly, should be directly below us.”
Hodge held out his hand to show the way. “Down here.”
They followed his direction and arrived in the nerve center of Nautilus Base. The room was filled with computer screens, but there was no sign of human activity at the moment.
“Where is the crew?” asked Ridgeway.
“They’ve been kept in the dark about the next step,” said Land. “The fewer people who know about Lt. Martin, the better.”
“I feel safer already,” said Martin, with his eyes locked on a metal chair in the corner of the lab. It was set on a raised platform, and there were white ceramic shackles on the arms and legs.  “That’s where the calibration happens, I’m guessing,” he said, pointing with his chin.
“It’s perfectly painless,” said Hodge.
“Think of an ultrasound,” said Land.
“Would you, please?” asked Hodge, indicating toward the chair.
“Alright,” said Martin. “Here goes nothing.”
He sat down, and Hodge drew closer to latch the restraints closed.
“No,” Martin interrupted. “If you don’t mind, Ridgeway, I’d like you to strap me in.”
Ridgeway laughed nervously, but performed the task. “All good?” she asked when she was finished.
Martin wriggled his hands and feet against the straps. “All good.”
“This is just the first part of the experiment,” said Land. “Nothing will happen in the core, and we won’t run the machine. We’re just going to get some readouts on the screen here.”
Martin realized, suddenly, that even though he was here, confined to a chair in the heart of a top secret lab that was floating as far from land as somebody could get, he didn’t have any more questions. He began to feel a measure of excitement, even.
“Let’s go,” he told the others.
Hodge pressed a button. For almost a second, nothing happened. Then a high-pitched whine began, coming from something hidden behind the bank of computers.
“Shut it down!” said Land urgently. “Cut the power!”

 

 

No. 322B
CYOA2 Part 7 Alternate
March 15, 2013

 

“No,” said Martin. “What you’re saying is insane.” He stood up and slammed his fist down on the table. “I want proof. Right now.”
“Calm down,” whispered Ridgeway.
Martin turned on her. “Did you know about this the whole time? Are you some kind of babysitter they sent along?”
“Hold on,” said Land. “Relax. I know this comes as a shock.”
“You!” Martin shouted, his attention now focused on the Nautilus crew. “You, Captain, and Hodge. What kind of sick experiments are you running here?”
He lunged at Land, but his foot caught on his overturned chair.
Ridgeway watched in horror as Martin fell forward. His head struck the corner of the table with a sickening smack and his limp body collapsed to the floor.
Hodge was the first to reach him. “He’s dead,” was the confirmation.
Captain Land put her head in her hands. “Can we still use the body for calibration?”

 

If you think the experiment has begun…
If you think there is a problem with the data…

 

No. 333A
CYOA2 Part 8
March 19, 2013

 

Hodge slammed his fist down on the emergency button and all the computers in the lab went dark. The noise continued, though.
“I don’t know what else I can do,” he said through clenched teeth. “Everything should be off.”
 “I’d really like to get out of the chair now,” Martin said quietly.
Land and Ridgeway rushed to unlock the restraints.
“It’s not working,” said Ridgeway, with real fear in her voice. “They’re fused shut.”
From somewhere, out in the Core, an alarm began to sound.
Hodge’s head snapped toward the sound. “Oh no,” he said. “That’s the field-detection alert.”
Every light in the lab went out, plunging the group into complete darkness.
Land was the first to understand. “We’ve jumpstarted the reaction. The experiment’s begun.”
Martin was struggling against the restraints. “Something’s going to happen. I can feel it.”
A blinding flash of energy from the Core strobed through the windows. Everyone in the lab watched the giant space fill with light. The smooth walls intensified the reaction like a lens, and the roiling tendrils of lightning soon congealed into a stable glowing ball, bright with power.
The manacles on Martin’s chair popped open and he slumped to the floor.
“He’s exhausted,” Ridgeway reported from his side. She put her head on his chest. “There’s a strong heartbeat. I think he’s sleeping.”
“Amazing,” whispered Land, who was captivated by the time-barrier.  “It worked. After so long.”
Hodge rushed to reboot the master computer. He studied the read-outs intently. “Levels are holding. The barrier appears to be stable. I don’t know how the reaction started without the proper procedure, though.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Land, distantly. “We’ve got it now.”
“Should we send in the probe?” the swarthy scientist asked.
“Of course,” replied the Captain. “Immediately.”
Hodge punched in the command and a hatch opened in the wall of the Core. A small drone was launched into the barrier. It disappeared into the light without leaving as much as a ripple in the surface.
Data streamed back onto Hodge’s screen. “We’ll know very shortly if we’ve been successful.”
Moments later though, the drone reappeared in the Core. 
“Why did you bring it back?” Land demanded.
Hodge’s face turned a shade of ashen gray. “I didn’t,” he said. “It came out right where we sent it. Five seconds into the future.”
Then another drone emerged.
“What’s happening?” Ridgeway asked.
Hodge began to shake with fear. “That one’s not ours.”
Martin woke up with a start. “I can feel it all over,” he said from what sounded like a long ways away. “The barrier is vibrating. We haven’t got much time.”

 

 

No. 333B
CYOA2 Part 8 Alternate
March 19, 2013

 

Hodge slammed his fist down on the emergency button and all the computers in the lab went dark. The room was eerily silent.
“I’d really like to get out of the chair now,” Martin said quietly.
Land and Ridgeway rushed to unlock the restraints. As soon as Martin was loose, he jumped free and hustled to the far side of the lab.
“What was that all about?” Land asked Hodge.
The swarthy scientist was examining a print-out from a machine close to the chair. “There’s a problem with the data,” he reported.
“How big of a problem?” Land pressed.
“Martin isn’t the key,” Hodge concluded.
“Can that be right?” Land said. There was a touch of disbelief in her voice.
“It is,” said Hodge, peering at the paper. “In fact, according to this, if we use him, it will be more like putting a lock on the process.”
Martin spoke up from the corner. “Hey, guys? I don’t feel too good.”
Ridgeway was at his side immediately. “What’s wrong?”
Martin fell to his knees. “My insides feel all queasy,” he gasped, holding himself tightly around the belly.
From somewhere, out in the Core, an alarm began to sound.
Hodge’s head snapped toward the sound. “Oh no,” he said. “That’s the field-detection alert.”
Every light in the lab went out, plunging the group into complete darkness.
Martin began to scream. “It burns!”
A blinding flash of energy from the Core strobed through the windows. Land and Hodge watched in horror as the shatter-proof glass was shattered and Martin was pulled back toward the light. Ridgeway tried to grab his arm, but she was too slow.
When Martin hit the center of the blazing ball, the reaction suddenly quit, leaving the survivors unable to see, again. But they all heard the impact as the Lieutenant’s body fell to the floor of the Core, far below.
Emergency lights came on, casting a dirty yellow glow. One by one, the computers began to reboot. Hodge started to access the Core’s sensors to find out what had just happened. He soon had his answers.
“We’re finished,” he said. “The time barrier will never open again. We’d configured incorrectly. Martin wasn’t from the future. He was from the past.”

 

If you think Martin will enter the barrier…
If you think Martin will evacuate the Nautilus Base…

 

No. 334A
CYOA2 Part 9
March 21, 2013

 

“What is he talking about?” Land asked Ridgeway and Hodge.
“Not sure,” said Hodge, hurriedly. His attention was focused on the foreign drone that was approaching the lab. “That’s the more immediate threat,” he said, pointing.
Martin grabbed Hodge’s arm. “No. The barrier is. There’s something wrong with it.”
Hodge shook our of Martin’s grip. Keeping one eye on the foreign drone, he punched a command into the computer.  The original drone disappeared back into the barrier. “You’re right,” he whispered to Martin.
“What is it?” Land demanded.
“The information I’m getting back says that the drone’s gone further into the future this time,” said Hodge. “Seventy-five years.” Then his eyes widened. “Wait. Now it says forty minutes. Changing to a year. Now five. Now a month.” He turned to the others. “It’s doesn’t just go to one time.”
As he finished saying the words, the circumference of the time-barrier increased suddenly, engulfing the mysterious drone and penetrating the walls of the lab. Ridgeway, who was standing closest to the windows, disappeared into the portal.
It collapsed in on itself just as quickly, returning to its former state, floating in the middle of the Core.
The three left behind stared blankly at the empty space.
Martin recovered first. “I’m going in,” he said. Before anyone could stop him, he grabbed a pistol from the Captain’s holster, and had leapt off the observation deck into the barrier.

 

He hit the ground hard. Rolling upright, he found himself still in the massive bay. He wasn’t alone though. He was surrounded by a ring of armed troops. All of them had their guns trained on him.
“Get up,” said the leader.
Martin followed the order.  “Where am I?” he asked.
“The same place you left two years ago,” replied a familiar voice. The statement echoed through the Core.
“Hodge?” said Martin, straining to see into the lab. “Did Ridgeway make it here?”
There was a sinister laugh. “She did,” said Hodge. “About six months ago. You’ll meet her again shortly.”
“I need to get her and go back through,” Martin told him. He finally saw the scientist. He began to get a very bad feeling.
The last two years had been unkind to Hodge. Martin saw a large scar running up the man’s face, and one of his hands had been replaced by a crude metal hook. What stood out the most was Captain Land’s hat perched jauntily on Hodge’s head.
“Where’s the Captain?” Martin asked. “She’ll back me up.”
“Oh yes,” said Hodge, scratching his chin with the hook. “The Captain. Well, it seems that soon after the barrier opened, she had an accident. I command the Nautilus now.”
One of the guards nudged Martin with the barrel of a gun. The prisoner was marched back to the cabin he’d been held in when he’d arrived on Nautilus. The journey was much different now, with various parts of the base having been patched and ruined, as if a battle had taken place. Particularly gruesome were a number of man-sized scorch marks in the main passageway. Martin’s cell had seen the door replaced with crudely welded bars. Martin was thrown in, and left by himself.

 

It was three days before he saw anybody again.
Hodge appeared, whistling as he approached.
“Why?” Martin asked when Hodge stepped in front of the bars.
Hodge didn’t answer. Instead, he drew a pair of handcuffs from his belt and motioned for Martin to turn around. Once Martin was shackled, Hodge put his hook through the links on the handcuff chain and pulled the prisoner along with him.
“Where are we going?” Martin demanded.
“You’ll see,” said Hodge.

 

Martin was taken to another control room, one that was on the far side of the Core. Instead of computers, this one had more industrial machines. There were large switches and levers everywhere. Hodge sat Martin down on a bare metal bench.
“Now,” said the villain. “Now you’ll help me with my true experiment.”
“I won’t do anything until I see Ridgeway,” Martin told him defiantly.
“Very well,” said Hodge. “She’s over there.” He pointed with his hook. Ridgeway was indeed there. She was strapped to a chair very much like the one the Martin had been in when the barrier first appeared.
“Why is she in the chair?” asked Martin.
Hodge laughed his devious laugh. “She’s my calibration,” he said with a cackle. “Oh, that’s right. You still think you’re the reason the barrier opened in your time. No, sorry. That was me. Or, it will be in about ten minutes here. It didn’t start early at all. I opened it to the past.”
 “Remember when Land told you about the three people who came through the portal at Chernobyl? How one returned to their time? That was me. You, me, and the girl, we were all ripped from our homes and sent back. Thirty-six hours to be precise. They didn’t know how close the ends were, then.”
“It was only a little more than a day?” asked Martin.
“Correct,” nodded Hodge.
“And Ridgeway helps you how?” Martin pressed.
Hodge grinned. “I’m not going to use myself as a guinea pig, am I? I needed somebody else. Since there were only three people who are up to the task, my other options are clear, aren’t they?”
Martin realized what he was saying. “But she died,” he said. “Land told us the third girl died.”
“And just who do you think told Land?”
“So that whole time you worked on the experiment, you were planning this? To kidnap me and Ridgeway?”
“No,” said Hodge. “I worked here the whole time so that I could rule the world. With a functioning and properly calibrated time-machine, I have ultimate power.”
“I’ll save Ridgeway,” Martin told him, with cold resolve in his eyes. “And I’m going to stop you.”

 

 

No. 334B
CYOA2 Part 9 Alternate
March 21, 2013

 

“What is he talking about?” Land asked Ridgeway and Hodge.
“Not sure,” said Hodge, hurriedly. His attention was focused on the foreign drone that was approaching the lab. “That’s the more immediate threat,” he said, pointing.
The drone was close, now. The whine of its engines could be heard through the thick glass of the observation windows.
“It looks like ours,” said Ridgeway. “Can you stop it?”
Hodge was too busy entering commands into the computer to reply. “Ah ha!” he cried out as a screen changed color from yellow to green.
The drone’s flight path wobbled slightly.
“I think I’ve got it,” said Hodge.
They were his last words. The drone smashed through the window, the computer, and Hodge before burying itself in the bulkhead on the far side of the room. There was no explosion, but deep, black smoke began to billow out of the wreck.
The fire suppression system in the lab kicked in, flooding the chamber with inert gas.
“Come on,” Land ordered. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
Ridgeway gathered Martin to his feet and she and the Captain carried him toward the exit. None of the party noticed that behind them in the Core, without a hand on the controls, the time-barrier was expanding.
The group was just exiting the security zone around the Core when the first blast rocked the Nautilus.
Captain Land turned white. “It’s happening again,” she whispered.
Martin, who had regained his senses, grabbed her arm. “You can sound the evacuation alarm. We may lose the Base, but we’ll live.”
Ridgeway joined him in reassuring Land. “We just need to get to the bridge.”
Another detonation rocked the vessel. This one was bigger than the first.
“We need to hurry, though,” Ridgeway told the Captain. “Martin? Can you get her other arm?”
There was no reply.
“Martin?” Ridgeway repeated.
Hearing nothing, she turned around.
Martin was dead. The last explosion had driven a metal beam straight through his chest.

 

If you think Martin will fight in the future…
If you think Martin will return to the past to fight…

 

No. 335A
CYOA2 Part 10
March 22, 2013

 

A guard approached Hodge with a status report. Martin watched the guard carefully. There was something about the man’s demeanor that made him seem vulnerable. Martin saw Hodge give the guard an order. As the guard turned to leave the room, Martin understood what his captor’s weakness was. Hodge was a scientist, not a soldier. If he’d been commanding the rogue staff of the Nautilus for two years, their training wouldn’t be as efficient as it could be. Martin knew the advantage in a straight fight would be his.
All he needed was a distraction. Hodge seemed like a talker. Maybe that would work. “Do you remember coming through the time-barrier all those years ago?” he asked the scientist.
Hodge turned to face the prisoner. He shrugged. “I was young, then, only nine. One minute I was at home, the next I was in a strange place, like a factory. Somebody with a gun threatened me, and I tried to run, only to stumble back into a giant light. I thought I’d fallen in fire. But, instead, I was home. Unfortunately, it seemed that almost a year had passed. My mother had died in that time, and my father had started drinking.”
  “I see,” said Martin, as he struggled surreptitiously to escape from the handcuffs. “Do you know what happened to the man that was sent from the Chernobyl side?”
“Yes,” said Hodge. “I killed him. He would have been the only other person who knew that we weren’t from the distant future. If he had reported back to the people in charge of the time-barrier, they would have hunted me down and prevented me from achieving this,” he concluded with a grandiose sweep of his hook.
Martin had freed himself from the cuffs and made his move while Hodge was mid-swing. He dove at the smaller man, tackling him to the ground while at the same time trying to avoid the dangerous pointed claw. “Ridgeway,” he shouted. “Hold on.”
Ridgeway shook her arm weakly against her restraints. “No problem,” she said sarcastically.
Hodge was quickly subdued, but before Martin could free Ridgeway, the guard returned. He saw Hodge on the ground and turned his gun immediately toward Martin.
“Freeze,” was the unoriginal command.
Martin slowly raised his hands. At the same time, he was able to take an extra step toward the guard without being noticed.
Ridgeway saw martin move forward and created her own distraction.
“Look out!” she cried from the chair. The guard’s head snapped toward the sound while Martin lunged forward to grab the gun. Once the guard was disarmed, he too was tied up next to Hodge.
Martin released Ridgeway. She gave him a light kiss on the cheek.
“Thanks,” she said.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Martin told her. “We’re still not where we’re supposed to be.”
They turned back to confront Hodge, but he was missing. Martin pointed the gun at the remaining guard. “Which way did he go?”
The guard gave up the information without hesitation. “Toward the bridge. There’s a master-control for the Core that’s been installed there.”
“Can you walk?” Martin asked Ridgeway.
She took the gun off him and cocked it aggressively. “No problem,” she told him. Then she swung the butt of the rifle into the guard’s face, knocking him out. She shrugged at Martin. “They weren’t very nice,” she explained. “Let’s go finish off that maniac.”

 

The bridge was dark and silent when they approached. The giant holograph had been replaced by a hastily installed booth. Great snakes of wires flowed into the base across the previously uncluttered deck.
“I think we found him,” Martin whispered.
Ridgeway pulled the trigger and sent a hail of bullets toward the compartment. The assault seemed to do very little in the way of damage.
“Cover me,” said Martin. “I’m going to get closer.”
He made it to within an arm’s length of the target when the lights came on, catching him mid-stride.
“You’ve made a mistake,” Hodge’s voice mocked over the intercom. “Your friend just shot up the Nautilus’ guidance computer. We had some problems with the old one, so we had to make do with what we had on board. Lack of parts, and all that. I’m sure we could get some more from the mainland with a convincing enough story. But, for now, I think, we’ll be stuck on a course for the ocean bottom.”
“Where is he?” Martin called to Ridgeway.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t see him.”
Martin ran back up to Ridgeway. “We may have already won,” he told her quietly. “There’s no point chasing him all over the base.”
She understood. “If we can escape, he’ll die when the Nautilus implodes at crush-depth. We don’t have to fight him.”
Martin raised his voice again, for the benefit of their unseen observer. “Where are you, Hodge? We’re coming for you.”
A disgusting cackle echoed out of the speakers. “You won’t find me. And I’ve got full control of the barrier. Come on, Lieutenant, do your worst.”
Ridgeway and Martin made a show of leaving the bridge. “Are there escape pods?” he asked her once they were out of range.
“Better,” she told him. “Follow me.”
Together, they ran down the passageways of the sinking base. They began to hear ominous creaks and popping noises as the vessel descended. Luckily, their path didn’t take them near the Core, and so they did not have to deal with the security layers to get to their objective.
“Through here,” Ridgeway told Martin as they arrived at a seemingly nondescript hatch at the end of a corridor. They stepped inside and Martin almost lost his balance when he saw what was on the other side.
The “escape pod” on Nautilus Base was actually a full-sized submarine.
“Can we handle that?” Martin asked, still amazed by the sight.
“Yes,” Ridgeway confirmed. “It’s heavily automated, for emergencies. It only needs a crew of two, but can carry up to fifty people.”
“’Dakkar’,” Martin read the name painted in ornate letters on the side of the sleek boat. “Fits the theme,” he remarked with a grin.
“Stop wasting time,” Ridgeway told him. “Let’s go.”
They clambered up the narrow ladder to the boarding hatch and made their way inside. They strapped in, and initiated the sequence to eject.
They heard the outer doors of the Nautilus open, and water rush in.
Then they were free.
The radio began to crackle, and a familiar voice filled the Dakkar. “You’re getting away,” screamed Hodge. “Cowards! You won’t defeat me! I am the master of time!”
Martin laughed. “For about another minute, Hodge, and then you’ll be crushed.”
Ridgeway was less impressed. “’Master of Time?’” she replied with a smirk. “That’s what you’re going to go with?”
Martin pulled her toward him and shut off the radio. “Come on,” he said. “It’s poor form to taunt the condemned.”
Sure enough, a minute later, Martin and Hodge heard the Nautilus implode, destroying everything still on board.
“Do you think he made it out?” asked Martin. “Or to another time?”
“No,” said Ridgeway. “He wouldn’t be able to control the barrier without one of us to calibrate it. Or,” she said, pausing for effect. “Without this.” She pulled a peculiar-looking circuit board from her waistband. “They only had one on board. Funny, though, I specifically outlined that vulnerability in my initial report on the project.”

 

Three weeks later, Martin and Ridgeway were standing in the Oval Office.
“Thank you for sacrificing two years of your lives to save the world,” said the President as he handed them their medals.
“You’re welcome, Sir,” said Martin. “But I just have one question. Did you know that I came from the future when you sent me on the mission?”
“No, he didn’t,” said a voice from just outside the room. The speaker stepped through the door. “But I did,” he said just as Ridgeway and Martin recognized him. “Nautilus Base was my idea, too,” said another Martin.
“Where did you come from?” the first Martin demanded.
“From thirty-six hours before you were sent back,” answered the doppelganger. “And, by the way, instead of asking pointless questions, why don’t you give Holly a kiss?”
“Good idea,” said Martin, who took his own advice.

 

 

No. 335B
CYOA2 Part 10 Alternate
March 22, 2013

 

A guard approached Hodge with a status report. Martin watched the guard carefully. There was something about the man’s demeanor that made him seem vulnerable. Martin saw Hodge give the guard an order. As the guard turned to leave the room, Martin understood what his captor’s weakness was. Hodge was a scientist, not a soldier. If he’d been commanding the rogue staff of the Nautilus for two years, their training wouldn’t be as efficient as it could be. Martin knew the advantage in a straight fight would be his.
All he needed was a distraction. Hodge seemed like a talker. Maybe that would work. “Do you remember coming through the time-barrier all those years ago?” he asked the scientist.
Hodge turned to face the prisoner. He shrugged. “I was young, then, only nine. One minute I was at home, the next I was in a strange place, like a factory. Somebody with a gun threatened me, and I tried to run, only to stumble back into a giant light. I thought I’d fallen in fire. But, instead, I was home. Unfortunately, it seemed that almost a year had passed. My mother had died in that time, and my father had started drinking.”
  “I see,” said Martin, as he struggled surreptitiously to escape from the handcuffs. “Do you know what happened to the man that was sent from the Chernobyl side?”
“Yes,” said Hodge. “I killed him. He would have been the only other person who knew that we weren’t from the distant future. If he had reported back to the people in charge of the time-barrier, they would have hunted me down and prevented me from achieving this,” he concluded with a grandiose sweep of his hook.
Martin had freed himself from the cuffs and made his move while Hodge was mid-swing. He dove at the smaller man, tackling him to the ground while at the same time trying to avoid the dangerous pointed claw. “Ridgeway,” he shouted. “Hold on.”
Ridgeway shook her arm weakly against her restraints. “No problem,” she said sarcastically.
Hodge was quickly subdued. Martin ran to the door to make sure the guard wasn’t on his way back, then he released Ridgeway. She gave him a light kiss on the cheek.
“Thanks,” she said.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Martin told her. “We’re still not where we’re supposed to be.”
Hodge was screaming at them from the floor. “Cowards! You won’t defeat me! I am the master of time!”
Martin laughed. “You aren’t two years ago. I’m going back, and we’ll make sure you don’t get the chance to get close to the Core again.”
Ridgeway was less impressed. “’Master of Time?’” she said with a smirk. “That’s what you’re going to go with?”
Martin pulled her toward him. “Come on,” he said. “We can taunt him in the past.”
She didn’t disagree, but she gave Hodge a swift kick on the way out. The pair hurried down the stairs toward the shining barrier.
“Are you sure this is the way back?” she asked Martin right before the passed through it.
Martin checked his watch. “He said it would line up with the day we left in ten minutes, ten minutes ago.”
“Okay,” said Ridgeway.
They stepped forward together.

 

They arrived in the past instantly. But there was a problem.
“Where’s the Nautilus?” asked Martin, confused.
Ridgeway surveyed the dense jungle that surrounded them. “I think we’ve gone back too far.”
“How far do you think?”
Ridgeway lowered her voice abruptly before she answered. “All the way back,” she whispered. “Judging from that Tyrannosaurus,” she finished, pointing at the fearsome beast.
The Tyrannosaurus saw the pair and turned to attack.
“I hope ‘Jurassic Park’ was right about staying still,” Martin hissed out of the corner of his mouth.
But “Jurassic Park” was incorrect. The dinosaur closed the distance in no time. Ridgeway was the first to go, swallowed in one swift motion. Martin was less lucky. He felt the Tyrannosaurus’ teeth grip him around the belly and rip him in half. He watched his legs go down the monster’s throat before he bled to death, sixty-five million years before he was born. 

 

 

No. 335B – CYOA2 – Martin Returns to the Past

Part 1: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-322.html
Part 2: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-327-cyoa2-part-2.html
Part 3: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-328a-cyoa2-part-3-ridgeway-is-ally.html
Part 4: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-329a-cyoa2-part-4-martin-doesnt-know.html
Part 5: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-330a-cyoa2-part-5-martin-plays-along.html
Part 6: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-331a-cyoa2-part-6-everything-is.html
Part 7: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-332a-cyoa2-part-7-martin-goes-quietly.html
Part 8: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-333a-cyoa2-part-8-experiment-begins.html
Part 9: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-334a-cyoa2-part-9-martin-enters.html

A guard approached Hodge with a status report. Martin watched the guard carefully. There was something about the man’s demeanor that made him seem vulnerable. Martin saw Hodge give the guard an order. As the guard turned to leave the room, Martin understood what his captor’s weakness was. Hodge was a scientist, not a soldier. If he’d been commanding the rogue staff of the Nautilus for two years, their training wouldn’t be as efficient as it could be. Martin knew the advantage in a straight fight would be his.

All he needed was a distraction. Hodge seemed like a talker. Maybe that would work. “Do you remember coming through the time-barrier all those years ago?” he asked the scientist.

Hodge turned to face the prisoner. He shrugged. “I was young, then, only nine. One minute I was at home, the next I was in a strange place, like a factory. Somebody with a gun threatened me, and I tried to run, only to stumble back into a giant light. I thought I’d fallen in fire. But, instead, I was home. Unfortunately, it seemed that almost a year had passed. My mother had died in that time, and my father had started drinking.”

  “I see,” said Martin, as he struggled surreptitiously to escape from the handcuffs. “Do you know what happened to the man that was sent from the Chernobyl side?”

“Yes,” said Hodge. “I killed him. He would have been the only other person who knew that we weren’t from the distant future. If he had reported back to the people in charge of the time-barrier, they would have hunted me down and prevented me from achieving this,” he concluded with a grandiose sweep of his hook.

Martin had freed himself from the cuffs and made his move while Hodge was mid-swing. He dove at the smaller man, tackling him to the ground while at the same time trying to avoid the dangerous pointed claw. “Ridgeway,” he shouted. “Hold on.”

Ridgeway shook her arm weakly against her restraints. “No problem,” she said sarcastically.

Hodge was quickly subdued. Martin ran to the door to make sure the guard wasn’t on his way back, then he released Ridgeway. She gave him a light kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks,” she said.

“Don’t thank me yet,” Martin told her. “We’re still not where we’re supposed to be.”

Hodge was screaming at them from the floor. “Cowards! You won’t defeat me! I am the master of time!”

Martin laughed. “You aren’t two years ago. I’m going back, and we’ll make sure you don’t get the chance to get close to the Core again.”

Ridgeway was less impressed. “’Master of Time?’” she said with a smirk. “That’s what you’re going to go with?”

Martin pulled her toward him. “Come on,” he said. “We can taunt him in the past.”

She didn’t disagree, but she gave Hodge a swift kick on the way out. The pair hurried down the stairs toward the shining barrier.

“Are you sure this is the way back?” she asked Martin right before the passed through it.

Martin checked his watch. “He said it would line up with the day we left in ten minutes, ten minutes ago.”

“Okay,” said Ridgeway.

They stepped forward together.

 

They arrived in the past instantly. But there was a problem.

“Where’s the Nautilus?” asked Martin, confused.

Ridgeway surveyed the dense jungle that surrounded them. “I think we’ve gone back too far.”

“How far do you think?”

Ridgeway lowered her voice abruptly before she answered. “All the way back,” she whispered. “Judging from that Tyrannosaurus,” she finished, pointing at the fearsome beast.

The Tyrannosaurus saw the pair and turned to attack.

“I hope ‘Jurassic Park’ was right about staying still,” Martin hissed out of the corner of his mouth.

But “Jurassic Park” was incorrect. The dinosaur closed the distance in no time. Ridgeway was the first to go, swallowed in one swift motion. Martin was less lucky. He felt the Tyrannosaurus’ teeth grip him around the belly and rip him in half. He watched his legs go down the monster’s throat before he bled to death, sixty-five million years before he was born.  

Part 10: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-335a-cyoa2-part-10-martin-fights-in.html

No. 335A – CYOA2 Part 10 – Martin Fights in the Future

Part 1: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-322.html
Part 2: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-327-cyoa2-part-2.html
Part 3: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-328a-cyoa2-part-3-ridgeway-is-ally.html
Part 4: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-329a-cyoa2-part-4-martin-doesnt-know.html
Part 5: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-330a-cyoa2-part-5-martin-plays-along.html
Part 6: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-331a-cyoa2-part-6-everything-is.html
Part 7: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-332a-cyoa2-part-7-martin-goes-quietly.html
Part 8: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-333a-cyoa2-part-8-experiment-begins.html
Part 9: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-334a-cyoa2-part-9-martin-enters.html

A guard approached Hodge with a status report. Martin watched the guard carefully. There was something about the man’s demeanor that made him seem vulnerable. Martin saw Hodge give the guard an order. As the guard turned to leave the room, Martin understood what his captor’s weakness was. Hodge was a scientist, not a soldier. If he’d been commanding the rogue staff of the Nautilus for two years, their training wouldn’t be as efficient as it could be. Martin knew the advantage in a straight fight would be his.

All he needed was a distraction. Hodge seemed like a talker. Maybe that would work. “Do you remember coming through the time-barrier all those years ago?” he asked the scientist.

Hodge turned to face the prisoner. He shrugged. “I was young, then, only nine. One minute I was at home, the next I was in a strange place, like a factory. Somebody with a gun threatened me, and I tried to run, only to stumble back into a giant light. I thought I’d fallen in fire. But, instead, I was home. Unfortunately, it seemed that almost a year had passed. My mother had died in that time, and my father had started drinking.”

  “I see,” said Martin, as he struggled surreptitiously to escape from the handcuffs. “Do you know what happened to the man that was sent from the Chernobyl side?”

“Yes,” said Hodge. “I killed him. He would have been the only other person who knew that we weren’t from the distant future. If he had reported back to the people in charge of the time-barrier, they would have hunted me down and prevented me from achieving this,” he concluded with a grandiose sweep of his hook.

Martin had freed himself from the cuffs and made his move while Hodge was mid-swing. He dove at the smaller man, tackling him to the ground while at the same time trying to avoid the dangerous pointed claw. “Ridgeway,” he shouted. “Hold on.”

Ridgeway shook her arm weakly against her restraints. “No problem,” she said sarcastically.

Hodge was quickly subdued, but before Martin could free Ridgeway, the guard returned. He saw Hodge on the ground and turned his gun immediately toward Martin.

“Freeze,” was the unoriginal command.

Martin slowly raised his hands. At the same time, he was able to take an extra step toward the guard without being noticed.

Ridgeway saw martin move forward and created her own distraction.

“Look out!” she cried from the chair. The guard’s head snapped toward the sound while Martin lunged forward to grab the gun. Once the guard was disarmed, he too was tied up next to Hodge.

Martin released Ridgeway. She gave him a light kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks,” she said.

“Don’t thank me yet,” Martin told her. “We’re still not where we’re supposed to be.”

They turned back to confront Hodge, but he was missing. Martin pointed the gun at the remaining guard. “Which way did he go?”

The guard gave up the information without hesitation. “Toward the bridge. There’s a master-control for the Core that’s been installed there.”

“Can you walk?” Martin asked Ridgeway.

She took the gun off him and cocked it aggressively. “No problem,” she told him. Then she swung the butt of the rifle into the guard’s face, knocking him out. She shrugged at Martin. “They weren’t very nice,” she explained. “Let’s go finish off that maniac.”

 

The bridge was dark and silent when they approached. The giant holograph had been replaced by a hastily installed booth. Great snakes of wires flowed into the base across the previously uncluttered deck.

“I think we found him,” Martin whispered.

Ridgeway pulled the trigger and sent a hail of bullets toward the compartment. The assault seemed to do very little in the way of damage.

“Cover me,” said Martin. “I’m going to get closer.”

He made it to within an arm’s length of the target when the lights came on, catching him mid-stride.

“You’ve made a mistake,” Hodge’s voice mocked over the intercom. “Your friend just shot up the Nautilus’ guidance computer. We had some problems with the old one, so we had to make do with what we had on board. Lack of parts, and all that. I’m sure we could get some more from the mainland with a convincing enough story. But, for now, I think, we’ll be stuck on a course for the ocean bottom.”

“Where is he?” Martin called to Ridgeway.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t see him.”

Martin ran back up to Ridgeway. “We may have already won,” he told her quietly. “There’s no point chasing him all over the base.”

She understood. “If we can escape, he’ll die when the Nautilus implodes at crush-depth. We don’t have to fight him.”

Martin raised his voice again, for the benefit of their unseen observer. “Where are you, Hodge? We’re coming for you.”

A disgusting cackle echoed out of the speakers. “You won’t find me. And I’ve got full control of the barrier. Come on, Lieutenant, do your worst.”

Ridgeway and Martin made a show of leaving the bridge. “Are there escape pods?” he asked her once they were out of range.

“Better,” she told him. “Follow me.”

Together, they ran down the passageways of the sinking base. They began to hear ominous creaks and popping noises as the vessel descended. Luckily, their path didn’t take them near the Core, and so they did not have to deal with the security layers to get to their objective.

“Through here,” Ridgeway told Martin as they arrived at a seemingly nondescript hatch at the end of a corridor. They stepped inside and Martin almost lost his balance when he saw what was on the other side.

The “escape pod” on Nautilus Base was actually a full-sized submarine.

“Can we handle that?” Martin asked, still amazed by the sight.

“Yes,” Ridgeway confirmed. “It’s heavily automated, for emergencies. It only needs a crew of two, but can carry up to fifty people.”

“’Dakkar’,” Martin read the name painted in ornate letters on the side of the sleek boat. “Fits the theme,” he remarked with a grin.

“Stop wasting time,” Ridgeway told him. “Let’s go.”

They clambered up the narrow ladder to the boarding hatch and made their way inside. They strapped in, and initiated the sequence to eject.

They heard the outer doors of the Nautilus open, and water rush in.

Then they were free.

The radio began to crackle, and a familiar voice filled the Dakkar. “You’re getting away,” screamed Hodge. “Cowards! You won’t defeat me! I am the master of time!”

Martin laughed. “For about another minute, Hodge, and then you’ll be crushed.”

Ridgeway was less impressed. “’Master of Time?’” she replied with a smirk. “That’s what you’re going to go with?”

Martin pulled her toward him and shut off the radio. “Come on,” he said. “It’s poor form to taunt the condemned.”

Sure enough, a minute later, Martin and Hodge heard the Nautilus implode, destroying everything still on board.

“Do you think he made it out?” asked Martin. “Or to another time?”

“No,” said Ridgeway. “He wouldn’t be able to control the barrier without one of us to calibrate it. Or,” she said, pausing for effect. “Without this.” She pulled a peculiar-looking circuit board from her waistband. “They only had one on board. Funny, though, I specifically outlined that vulnerability in my initial report on the project.”

 

Three weeks later, Martin and Ridgeway were standing in the Oval Office.

“Thank you for sacrificing two years of your lives to save the world,” said the President as he handed them their medals.

“You’re welcome, Sir,” said Martin. “But I just have one question. Did you know that I came from the future when you sent me on the mission?”

“No, he didn’t,” said a voice from just outside the room. The speaker stepped through the door. “But I did,” he said just as Ridgeway and Martin recognized him. “Nautilus Base was my idea, too,” said another Martin.

“Where did you come from?” the first Martin demanded.

“From thirty-six hours before you were sent back,” answered the doppelganger. “And, by the way, instead of asking pointless questions, why don’t you give Holly a kiss?”

“Good idea,” said Martin, who took his own advice.

No. 334B – CYOA2 – Martin Evacuates Nautilus Base

Part 1: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-322.html
Part 2: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-327-cyoa2-part-2.html
Part 3: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-328a-cyoa2-part-3-ridgeway-is-ally.html
Part 4: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-329a-cyoa2-part-4-martin-doesnt-know.html
Part 5: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-330a-cyoa2-part-5-martin-plays-along.html
Part 6: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-331a-cyoa2-part-6-everything-is.html
Part 7: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-332a-cyoa2-part-7-martin-goes-quietly.html
Part 8: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-333a-cyoa2-part-8-experiment-begins.html

“What is he talking about?” Land asked Ridgeway and Hodge.

“Not sure,” said Hodge, hurriedly. His attention was focused on the foreign drone that was approaching the lab. “That’s the more immediate threat,” he said, pointing.

The drone was close, now. The whine of its engines could be heard through the thick glass of the observation windows.

“It looks like ours,” said Ridgeway. “Can you stop it?”

Hodge was too busy entering commands into the computer to reply. “Ah ha!” he cried out as a screen changed color from yellow to green.

The drone’s flight path wobbled slightly.

“I think I’ve got it,” said Hodge.

They were his last words. The drone smashed through the window, the computer, and Hodge before burying itself in the bulkhead on the far side of the room. There was no explosion, but deep, black smoke began to billow out of the wreck.

The fire suppression system in the lab kicked in, flooding the chamber with inert gas.

“Come on,” Land ordered. “We’ve got to get out of here.”

Ridgeway gathered Martin to his feet and she and the Captain carried him toward the exit. None of the party noticed that behind them in the Core, without a hand on the controls, the time-barrier was expanding.

The group was just exiting the security zone around the Core when the first blast rocked the Nautilus.

Captain Land turned white. “It’s happening again,” she whispered.

Martin, who had regained his senses, grabbed her arm. “You can sound the evacuation alarm. We may lose the Base, but we’ll live.”

Ridgeway joined him in reassuring Land. “We just need to get to the bridge.”

Another detonation rocked the vessel. This one was bigger than the first.

“We need to hurry, though,” Ridgeway told the Captain. “Martin? Can you get her other arm?”

There was no reply.

“Martin?” Ridgeway repeated.

Hearing nothing, she turned around.

Martin was dead. The last explosion had driven a metal beam straight through his chest.

Part 9: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-334a-cyoa2-part-9-martin-enters.html

No. 334A – CYOA2 Part 9 – Martin Enters the Barrier

Part 1: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-322.html
Part 2: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-327-cyoa2-part-2.html
Part 3: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-328a-cyoa2-part-3-ridgeway-is-ally.html
Part 4: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-329a-cyoa2-part-4-martin-doesnt-know.html
Part 5: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-330a-cyoa2-part-5-martin-plays-along.html
Part 6: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-331a-cyoa2-part-6-everything-is.html
Part 7: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-332a-cyoa2-part-7-martin-goes-quietly.html
Part 8: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-333a-cyoa2-part-8-experiment-begins.html

“What is he talking about?” Land asked Ridgeway and Hodge.

“Not sure,” said Hodge, hurriedly. His attention was focused on the foreign drone that was approaching the lab. “That’s the more immediate threat,” he said, pointing.

Martin grabbed Hodge’s arm. “No. The barrier is. There’s something wrong with it.”

Hodge shook our of Martin’s grip. Keeping one eye on the foreign drone, he punched a command into the computer.  The original drone disappeared back into the barrier. “You’re right,” he whispered to Martin.

“What is it?” Land demanded.

“The information I’m getting back says that the drone’s gone further into the future this time,” said Hodge. “Seventy-five years.” Then his eyes widened. “Wait. Now it says forty minutes. Changing to a year. Now five. Now a month.” He turned to the others. “It’s doesn’t just go to one time.”

As he finished saying the words, the circumference of the time-barrier increased suddenly, engulfing the mysterious drone and penetrating the walls of the lab. Ridgeway, who was standing closest to the windows, disappeared into the portal.

It collapsed in on itself just as quickly, returning to its former state, floating in the middle of the Core.

The three left behind stared blankly at the empty space.

Martin recovered first. “I’m going in,” he said. Before anyone could stop him, he grabbed a pistol from the Captain’s holster, and had leapt off the observation deck into the barrier.

 

He hit the ground hard. Rolling upright, he found himself still in the massive bay. He wasn’t alone though. He was surrounded by a ring of armed troops. All of them had their guns trained on him.

“Get up,” said the leader.

Martin followed the order.  “Where am I?” he asked.

“The same place you left two years ago,” replied a familiar voice. The statement echoed through the Core.

“Hodge?” said Martin, straining to see into the lab. “Did Ridgeway make it here?”

There was a sinister laugh. “She did,” said Hodge. “About six months ago. You’ll meet her again shortly.”

“I need to get her and go back through,” Martin told him. He finally saw the scientist. He began to get a very bad feeling.

The last two years had been unkind to Hodge. Martin saw a large scar running up the man’s face, and one of his hands had been replaced by a crude metal hook. What stood out the most was Captain Land’s hat perched jauntily on Hodge’s head.

“Where’s the Captain?” Martin asked. “She’ll back me up.”

“Oh yes,” said Hodge, scratching his chin with the hook. “The Captain. Well, it seems that soon after the barrier opened, she had an accident. I command the Nautilus now.”

One of the guards nudged Martin with the barrel of a gun. The prisoner was marched back to the cabin he’d been held in when he’d arrived on Nautilus. The journey was much different now, with various parts of the base having been patched and ruined, as if a battle had taken place. Particularly gruesome were a number of man-sized scorch marks in the main passageway. Martin’s cell had seen the door replaced with crudely welded bars. Martin was thrown in, and left by himself.

 

It was three days before he saw anybody again.

Hodge appeared, whistling as he approached.

“Why?” Martin asked when Hodge stepped in front of the bars.

Hodge didn’t answer. Instead, he drew a pair of handcuffs from his belt and motioned for Martin to turn around. Once Martin was shackled, Hodge put his hook through the links on the handcuff chain and pulled the prisoner along with him.

“Where are we going?” Martin demanded.

“You’ll see,” said Hodge.

 

Martin was taken to another control room, one that was on the far side of the Core. Instead of computers, this one had more industrial machines. There were large switches and levers everywhere. Hodge sat Martin down on a bare metal bench.

“Now,” said the villain. “Now you’ll help me with my true experiment.”

“I won’t do anything until I see Ridgeway,” Martin told him defiantly.

“Very well,” said Hodge. “She’s over there.” He pointed with his hook. Ridgeway was indeed there. She was strapped to a chair very much like the one the Martin had been in when the barrier first appeared.

“Why is she in the chair?” asked Martin.

Hodge laughed his devious laugh. “She’s my calibration,” he said with a cackle. “Oh, that’s right. You still think you’re the reason the barrier opened in your time. No, sorry. That was me. Or, it will be in about ten minutes here. It didn’t start early at all. I opened it to the past.”

 “Remember when Land told you about the three people who came through the portal at Chernobyl? How one returned to their time? That was me. You, me, and the girl, we were all ripped from our homes and sent back. Thirty-six hours to be precise. They didn’t know how close the ends were, then.”

“It was only a little more than a day?” asked Martin.

“Correct,” nodded Hodge.

“And Ridgeway helps you how?” Martin pressed.

Hodge grinned. “I’m not going to use myself as a guinea pig, am I? I needed somebody else. Since there were only three people who are up to the task, my other options are clear, aren’t they?”

Martin realized what he was saying. “But she died,” he said. “Land told us the third girl died.”

“And just who do you think told Land?”

“So that whole time you worked on the experiment, you were planning this? To kidnap me and Ridgeway?”

“No,” said Hodge. “I worked here the whole time so that I could rule the world. With a functioning and properly calibrated time-machine, I have ultimate power.”

“I’ll save Ridgeway,” Martin told him, with cold resolve in his eyes. “And I’m going to stop you.”

No. 333B – CYOA2 – There Is A Problem With The Data

Part 1: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-322.html
Part 2: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-327-cyoa2-part-2.html
Part 3: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-328a-cyoa2-part-3-ridgeway-is-ally.html
Part 4: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-329a-cyoa2-part-4-martin-doesnt-know.html
Part 5: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-330a-cyoa2-part-5-martin-plays-along.html
Part 6: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-331a-cyoa2-part-6-everything-is.html
Part 7: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-332a-cyoa2-part-7-martin-goes-quietly.html

Hodge slammed his fist down on the emergency button and all the computers in the lab went dark. The room was eerily silent.

“I’d really like to get out of the chair now,” Martin said quietly.

Land and Ridgeway rushed to unlock the restraints. As soon as Martin was loose, he jumped free and hustled to the far side of the lab.

“What was that all about?” Land asked Hodge.

The swarthy scientist was examining a print-out from a machine close to the chair. “There’s a problem with the data,” he reported.

“How big of a problem?” Land pressed.

“Martin isn’t the key,” Hodge concluded.

“Can that be right?” Land said. There was a touch of disbelief in her voice.

“It is,” said Hodge, peering at the paper. “In fact, according to this, if we use him, it will be more like putting a lock on the process.”

Martin spoke up from the corner. “Hey, guys? I don’t feel too good.”

Ridgeway was at his side immediately. “What’s wrong?”

Martin fell to his knees. “My insides feel all queasy,” he gasped, holding himself tightly around the belly.

From somewhere, out in the Core, an alarm began to sound.

Hodge’s head snapped toward the sound. “Oh no,” he said. “That’s the field-detection alert.”

Every light in the lab went out, plunging the group into complete darkness.

Martin began to scream. “It burns!”

A blinding flash of energy from the Core strobed through the windows. Land and Hodge watched in horror as the shatter-proof glass was shattered and Martin was pulled back toward the light. Ridgeway tried to grab his arm, but she was too slow.

When Martin hit the center of the blazing ball, the reaction suddenly quit, leaving the survivors unable to see, again. But they all heard the impact as the Lieutenant’s body fell to the floor of the Core, far below.

Emergency lights came on, casting a dirty yellow glow. One by one, the computers began to reboot. Hodge started to access the Core’s sensors to find out what had just happened. He soon had his answers.

“We’re finished,” he said. “The time barrier will never open again. We’d configured incorrectly. Martin wasn’t from the future. He was from the past.”

Part 8 – http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-333a-cyoa2-part-8-experiment-begins.html

No. 333A – CYOA2 Part 8 – The Experiment Begins

Part 1: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-322.html
Part 2: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-327-cyoa2-part-2.html
Part 3: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-328a-cyoa2-part-3-ridgeway-is-ally.html
Part 4: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-329a-cyoa2-part-4-martin-doesnt-know.html
Part 5: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-330a-cyoa2-part-5-martin-plays-along.html
Part 6: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-331a-cyoa2-part-6-everything-is.html
Part 7: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-332a-cyoa2-part-7-martin-goes-quietly.html

 
 
Hodge slammed his fist down on the emergency button and all the computers in the lab went dark. The noise continued, though.

“I don’t know what else I can do,” he said through clenched teeth. “Everything should be off.”

 “I’d really like to get out of the chair now,” Martin said quietly.

Land and Ridgeway rushed to unlock the restraints.

“It’s not working,” said Ridgeway, with real fear in her voice. “They’re fused shut.”

From somewhere, out in the Core, an alarm began to sound.

Hodge’s head snapped toward the sound. “Oh no,” he said. “That’s the field-detection alert.”

Every light in the lab went out, plunging the group into complete darkness.

Land was the first to understand. “We’ve jumpstarted the reaction. The experiment’s begun.”

Martin was struggling against the restraints. “Something’s going to happen. I can feel it.”

A blinding flash of energy from the Core strobed through the windows. Everyone in the lab watched the giant space fill with light. The smooth walls intensified the reaction like a lens, and the roiling tendrils of lightning soon congealed into a stable glowing ball, bright with power.

The manacles on Martin’s chair popped open and he slumped to the floor.

“He’s exhausted,” Ridgeway reported from his side. She put her head on his chest. “There’s a strong heartbeat. I think he’s sleeping.”

“Amazing,” whispered Land, who was captivated by the time-barrier.  “It worked. After so long.”

Hodge rushed to reboot the master computer. He studied the read-outs intently. “Levels are holding. The barrier appears to be stable. I don’t know how the reaction started without the proper procedure, though.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Land, distantly. “We’ve got it now.”

“Should we send in the probe?” the swarthy scientist asked.

“Of course,” replied the Captain. “Immediately.”

Hodge punched in the command and a hatch opened in the wall of the Core. A small drone was launched into the barrier. It disappeared into the light without leaving as much as a ripple in the surface.

Data streamed back onto Hodge’s screen. “We’ll know very shortly if we’ve been successful.”

Moments later though, the drone reappeared in the Core.  

“Why did you bring it back?” Land demanded.

Hodge’s face turned a shade of ashen gray. “I didn’t,” he said. “It came out right where we sent it. Five seconds into the future.”

Then another drone emerged.

“What’s happening?” Ridgeway asked.

Hodge began to shake with fear. “That one’s not ours.”

Martin woke up with a start. “I can feel it all over,” he said from what sounded like a long ways away. “The barrier is vibrating. We haven’t got much time.”

No. 332B – CYOA2 – Martin Freaks Out

Part 1: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-322.html
Part 2: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-327-cyoa2-part-2.html
Part 3: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-328a-cyoa2-part-3-ridgeway-is-ally.html
Part 4: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-329a-cyoa2-part-4-martin-doesnt-know.html
Part 5: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-330a-cyoa2-part-5-martin-plays-along.html
Part 6: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-331a-cyoa2-part-6-everything-is.html

“No,” said Martin. “What you’re saying is insane.” He stood up and slammed his fist down on the table. “I want proof. Right now.”

“Calm down,” whispered Ridgeway.

Martin turned on her. “Did you know about this the whole time? Are you some kind of babysitter they sent along?”

“Hold on,” said Land. “Relax. I know this comes as a shock.”

“You!” Martin shouted, his attention now focused on the Nautilus crew. “You, Captain, and Hodge. What kind of sick experiments are you running here?”

He lunged at Land, but his foot caught on his overturned chair.

Ridgeway watched in horror as Martin fell forward. His head struck the corner of the table with a sickening smack and his limp body collapsed to the floor.

Hodge was the first to reach him. “He’s dead,” was the confirmation.

Captain Land put her head in her hands. “Can we still use the body for calibration?”

Part 7: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-332a-cyoa2-part-7-martin-goes-quietly.html

No. 332A – CYOA2 Part 7 – Martin Goes Quietly

Part 1: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-322.html
Part 2: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-327-cyoa2-part-2.html
Part 3: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-328a-cyoa2-part-3-ridgeway-is-ally.html
Part 4: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-329a-cyoa2-part-4-martin-doesnt-know.html
Part 5: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-330a-cyoa2-part-5-martin-plays-along.html
Part 6: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-331a-cyoa2-part-6-everything-is.html

“Did you know about this?” Martin whispered to Ridgeway.

“Some,” she admitted. “But about the program. Not you.”

Martin raised his voice to address the Captain. “Was I the only one?” he asked.

“No,” said Land. “There were three children. You and another stayed here, and the other one went back before the accident. The little girl who remained died in a car accident when she was seventeen.”

Martin took a moment to process the information. “Why did we end up here?” he said. “Why us?”

Hodge answered. “We don’t know. Like I said, we didn’t know much about the barrier. The machine was on for a total of five minutes. We sent one man through, and the three children arrived on our side.”

“What happened to your man?” asked Ridgeway.

Land shook her head.

“Then we had an energy spike,” continued Hodge. “And the machine destroyed itself.”

One more thing occurred to Martin. “How far into the future am I from?”

“We don’t know,” said Land. “But if you let us, we can try to find out.”

Martin and Ridgeway exchanged glances.

“Alright,” said Martin. “Take me to the core.”

 

The team passed through an entire array of security zones. Martin observed Land using a number pad, her fingerprints, a pass-card, an iris scan, and, lastly, a key from a chain around her neck to reach the inner bay of the core.

They stepped onto a platform that hung over a vast empty space. The walls were smooth and white, and there was nothing to indicate scale. Martin got dizzy looking at it.

“It’ll take a second,” said Land, who seemed unsteady herself. “It happens every time. Hodge?”

“It’s almost two million cubic meters,” the scientist confirmed.

“There’s no machine,” observed Martin when he regained his bearings.

“The machine is built around the Core,” said Ridgeway. “The control room, if I recall correctly, should be directly below us.”

Hodge held out his hand to show the way. “Down here.”

They followed his direction and arrived in the nerve center of Nautilus Base. The room was filled with computer screens, but there was no sign of human activity at the moment.

“Where is the crew?” asked Ridgeway.

“They’ve been kept in the dark about the next step,” said Land. “The fewer people who know about Lt. Martin, the better.”

“I feel safer already,” said Martin, with his eyes locked on a metal chair in the corner of the lab. It was set on a raised platform, and there were white ceramic shackles on the arms and legs.  “That’s where the calibration happens, I’m guessing,” he said, pointing with his chin.

“It’s perfectly painless,” said Hodge.

“Think of an ultrasound,” said Land.

“Would you, please?” asked Hodge, indicating toward the chair.

“Alright,” said Martin. “Here goes nothing.”

He sat down, and Hodge drew closer to latch the restraints closed.

“No,” Martin interrupted. “If you don’t mind, Ridgeway, I’d like you to strap me in.”

Ridgeway laughed nervously, but performed the task. “All good?” she asked when she was finished.

Martin wriggled his hands and feet against the straps. “All good.”

“This is just the first part of the experiment,” said Land. “Nothing will happen in the core, and we won’t run the machine. We’re just going to get some readouts on the screen here.”

Martin realized, suddenly, that even though he was here, confined to a chair in the heart of a top secret lab that was floating as far from land as somebody could get, he didn’t have any more questions. He began to feel a measure of excitement, even.

“Let’s go,” he told the others.

Hodge pressed a button. For almost a second, nothing happened. Then a high-pitched whine began, coming from something hidden behind the bank of computers.

“Shut it down!” said Land urgently. “Cut the power!”

No. 331B – CYOA2 – The Captain Has Gone Rogue

Part 1: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-322.html
Part 2: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-327-cyoa2-part-2.html
Part 3: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-328a-cyoa2-part-3-ridgeway-is-ally.html
Part 4: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-329a-cyoa2-part-4-martin-doesnt-know.html
Part 5: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-330a-cyoa2-part-5-martin-plays-along.html

“That really was an excellent meal,” said Martin. He wasn’t lying. Captain Land had prepared a feast for her guests although, throughout the dinner, she’d been elusive when questioned. Martin would have liked to have found out why she needed him, specifically. He resolved to attempt to get some information from the outside. “Is there any chance I could use your secure comm gear to reach my boss? Let him know I’ve arrive safely, and all that.”

The Captain fidgeted in her chair. She flashed a telling glance at Hodge before she replied. “I’m afraid we can’t have that. All of our long-range connections are down right now.”

Ridgeway interrupted. “What about the emergency beacon? That runs on a separate system from the rest. I’m sure we can send a message that way.”

Hodge pushed back from the table and stood. Land held up her hand with one finger extended. “Wait,” she told her minion.

She rose from her seat, too. “How do you know about the beacon?” she demanded. “I thought you were part of the lab team?”

“It’s the same system as on the Space Station,” replied Ridgeway. “That was my last project.”

Hodge shook his head.

“Too much,” Land agreed. “This is my project,” she told her captives. “I can’t have you interfering.” She sighed, and closed her eyes. “Hodge, deal with them.”

As Martin and Ridgeway were hustled out of the room, Land stayed behind and screamed at them. “Nautilus is mine!” she ranted “I will not allow it to be taken from me!”

 

The pair were locked in a narrow room filled with pipes.

“We’re near the core,” Ridgeway observed. “That’s not good.”

“Why?” asked Martin.

“Because, unless I’m mistaken, those are cooling ducts for the experiment,” said Ridgeway grimly. “I can only guess that Land’s taken over because the experiment is ready to go online. If she activates it, we’ll freeze.”

“How long have we got?”

“It’ll be instantaneous.”

As soon as Ridgeway said the words, a deep rumble filled the space.

“Goodbye,” she told Martin.

Their bodies turned to ice and then shattered.

By turning on the machine, Land had taken the first step towards the end of the world.  

Part 6: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2013/03/no-331a-cyoa2-part-6-everything-is.html