The Time Catalyst

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Chapter 17

The University of Washington State, at the Computer Engineering facility; Saturday, 12:51 am…

Patrick woke up to Tadosh’s radio call. He pushed the night light to his watch to see the time and answered Tadosh’s call over the high-tech, portable radio.

“Yeah, Tadosh…?”

“You know, it’s okay if you need to go home, Dr. McClain. I’ve been on plenty of mission on my own in the 23rd century, especially after I lost my partner.”

Patrick and Tadosh were hiding within separate, large bushes on the Computer Engineering Department’s grounds. Patrick and Tadosh had advanced spying gear from both Patrick’s corporation and Tadosh’s futuristic equipment. Once again, they were both clad in black clothes for the task.

“No, Tadosh, but thank you,” Patrick softly whispered over the radio. “Even if they don’t show up here tonight, or at all, the worst we lost was some sleep!”

“Okay, I just wanted to let you know for the record…Dr. McClain?”

“Yeah, buddy?” Patrick laughed within himself after saying that. He thought how ironic it was that he’d call this little man “buddy” and ended up working with him, given their tense introduction to each other just weeks ago.

“Listen, if something should happen to me tonight, I want you to promise me that you will continue the mission.”

“Continue the mission? Tadosh, listen to yourself! First of all, I don’t want you to talk about things like that, okay? Secondly, I’m a scientist and a successful businessperson. There’s no way I could pick up after you if…”

“I understand where you’re coming from, Doctor. But from a practical standpoint, someone has to stop these guys from trying to wipe out governing bodies in all of human societies! The Solar Unlimited is the time catalyst, and no one else in this time—aside from Drogheda, his men, and I—knows how to work it better than you! Not even your lab assistants can substitute for you on this, especially since most of them don’t even know about the time travel implications of the Solar Unlimited.”

Patrick mauled on what Tadosh put to him.

“Let’s just get through tonight. How about that?”

“I mean it, Patrick! The time catalyst has to be destroyed, whether I’m alive taking these goons with me, or even if you have to dismantle it yourself and leave Drogheda and his men trapped in this time…it has to be done!”

Patrick noticed that for the first time since they had met, Tadosh had addressed him by his first name. Patrick speculated that it was more about Tadosh emphasizing his point about taking apart the Solar Unlimited than any intimate male bonding. Tadosh went on.

“You have to understand, Doctor, why I am bringing this up again…I don’t know how it’s like to be rich. I’ve grown up in a lower-class family. I joined Pangea at a young age not just because I believe in their doctrine of global stability, but it was also a way out of poverty for me. Like the old saying goes, You can’t miss what you’ve never had!”

“Yeah,” Patrick said over the radio with a grin, glad to hear that some things from his time carried over to Tadosh’s generation, “we have that saying in the 21st century, too.”

“Well, my point is, Dr. McClain, I can only imagine the temptation that might be there for you once I go back to my time.”

There was a long pause on either side of the communication line.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying, Tadosh.”

“Oh, come on, Doctor. Who’s to know, right? I go back to 2287 with Drogheda, Stefan, and Tage and there’ll be no one from my time left to confirm whether or not you’ve destroyed the time catalyst! As you’ve said yourself, the potential financial rewards for your personal wealth would probably make you the richest person in the world—at least!

“Like I said, Dr. McClain, I don’t know how it is to be rich. Once a person becomes super wealthy, I don’t know, it’s almost like their genetic code has changed! You become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. You become accustomed to people waiting on you. And don’t even mention fame…! Look, I’m not saying that you’ll go bankrupt after dismantling the Solar Unlimited. You’ll still be a billionaire. But from what I’ve read and heard about rich people like you, Dr. McClain—in particular, those that are really driven, it’s like being rich is a narcotic fix for you! It’s not enough just being rich after a while. You then have to go the next ten miles, just because it’s there…”

Again, the communication line went silent. Tadosh did this on purpose so his words would stay in the young man’s mind.

“All I’m saying, Dr. McClain,” Tadosh finally said in the night, “is that you must fight these temptations when they come at you, and they will. Even many years after you’ve demolished the Solar Unlimited, because you’ll still have the project in memory! You must use that same drive and discipline that made you rich to help you leave the Solar Unlimited in the past!”

Patrick said nothing. In part, because many of these things that Tadosh said to him had, in fact, been on his mind. But the way that Tadosh summed it up for him that night made the task of decommissioning the Solar Unlimited seem more challenging than Pat realized. But they were words of wisdom, Dr. McClain knew deep down inside.

Just then, Patrick saw two figures walking in the dark in the direction of the Computer Engineering building.

“Tadosh,” Patrick whispered even lower than he had been that evening, “they’re here!”

“All right, Dr. McClain, let’s keep calm…don’t do anything yet. I’ll let you know when it’s the right time to move.”

Later…

After Drogheda slipped inside the window he broke to gain access to the inside of the building, Tage climbed through as well. They were on the first floor of the Computer Engineering Department. Like most public universities, the University of Washington State did not have guards manning the facility.

The room that Drogheda and Tage broke into was a sundry classroom. Both men managed to bump into several chairs as they maneuvered in the darkened room, griping as they did so. After opening the door that led to a deserted hallway, Drogheda non-verbally motioned to Tage to go down the opposite end of the hall where he was going. In very deliberate strides, the two late-23rd century Anarchists went out looking for their missing colleague.

Tage came upon a flight of stairs. He reached into his pouch of equipment that he brought with him from Drogheda’s apartment and took out his high-tech night vision goggles. They were a lot lighter in weight than the 21st century version. Indeed, they looked more like regular reading glasses, just with a few gadgets and lights here and there. Drogheda also donned his night goggles.

Tage reached the second floor of the Computer Engineering complex. He whipped out his teleportation spectrometer but saw no registration of teleporting residue. He left out the spectrometer in case that situation had changed. In his other hand was his lancer gun. Tage was constantly pointing it out into the dark with each step he took in the darkened hallway.

Drogheda was still on the first floor of the building going room to room with cat-like motions. Like Tage, he had checked for quantum residue from any teleporting activities and found none. But unlike his younger counterpart, Drogheda replaced his spectrometer into his pouch so he could have one hand free to hit his teleporting buttons should an emergency arise.

Since Drogheda had his lancer gun shot from him at the Miracles, Inc. skyscraper weeks ago, he had to resort to using primitive 21st century weaponry…Drogheda had a gun he bought from a downtown pawn shop not long after losing his advanced future gun. Under the circumstances, it was the best he could do.

When Drogheda finished his sweep of all the classrooms and offices on the first floor, he called up Tage on his communicator, making sure to have the call alert Tage via light indicator or skin-sensory. That way Tage’s communicator would not chime out loud and give him away to Dr. McClain and Tadosh—if they were there.

“Sir…?” Tage responded very quietly over his communicator. He stopped creeping along the floor so he could concentrate on the conversation, and so that the conversation would not be a distraction to him if he were to run into a surprise.

“I’m done down here…if you’re still searching the second floor, I’ll head up to the third. Isn’t that where your office is, in the dean’s area?”

“Yeah…do you want me—“

Over the com-link, Drogheda heard a faint blast sound. Tage’s communicator was still on, so Drogheda was able to hear his body, his gun lancer, and the communicator hit the floor.

“Tage,” Drogheda said as loud as he could without being too loud, “Tage…!”

Over the communicator, Drogheda heard some scuffling around with some sliding noise, like someone dragging a body on a floor. Then the communicator went blank…

Drogheda now looked around the hallway of the first floor. The building seemed a lot darker now that he was alone! He knew that he could teleport to the second floor right away and catch either Patrick McClain or Tadosh in the act of dragging poor Tage around.

But he could fall into a second trap: it could only be one of them, and as Drogheda would engage in a fight with one, the other could be waiting in the shadows of the dark, and do the same to him what they did to Stefan and Tage. Or, perhaps both Dr. McClain and Tadosh would be there, waiting for Drogheda. Either way, it was two against one, and no matter how primitive of a time Drogheda was in, some universal truths transcended time.

Live to fight another day, Drogheda thought to himself. He engaged his teleporter and quickly vanished in a wisp of blue light and electrical arcs. He automatically materialized in front of the car that he had driven he and Tage in. Drogheda was able to do this since he had pre-programmed his teleporter with the coordinates of the location of his car, just for such emergencies that he was in now. Knowing that Dr. McClain and Tadosh could only trace where a teleporting activity took place and could not trace where he was going, Drogheda hopped into his car and sped away, not sure if he should go back to his apartment.

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