The man with Sergio’s face walked casually through the crates of monsters and the corpses of men. In this world, there was another man called Sergio Rios, a man with a wife and daughter. But this was not that Sergio. This Sergio served Invergence, an organization bent on destroying Argo Force and all they stood for. At least, that’s what this anti-Sergio believed.He was at an abandoned warehouse, one they had recently commandeered for their purposes.
He was at an abandoned warehouse, one they had recently commandeered for their purposes. Unfortunately there had been a few trespassers throughout the compound who had learned too much, and Sergio’s team had been forced to take them out. Now their bodies lay in a pile inside the warehouse. Soon they would become food for the demons that Sergio had arranged to be there.Sergio paused in his inspection to observe the large crates that other members of
Sergio paused in his inspection to observe the large crates that other members of Invergence brought in. These crates contained dangerous creatures from the planet Illadar. They procured them as a result of a mutual arrangement between Invergence and residents of Illadar’s moons. As his colleagues brought in the crates, a loud screech could be heard coming from inside. It reminded Sergio of one of those ingenious moving pictures he had discovered here called Jurassic Park. At the beginning of that “movie” as they were called here, an ancient raptor nearly escaped from a large crate, similar to the ones Sergio observed now. Though in this case, the monsters were largely docile. They were more intelligent than most animals, and understood their purpose here. They also understood that Invergence provided them with food.Sergio gave the order and the dead bodies were carefully lowered inside the crate. A ravenous
Sergio gave the order and the dead bodies were carefully lowered inside the crate. A ravenous houl escaped the crate and soon other sounds emerged that Sergio didn’t want to dwell on.He continued with his inspection. On the other side of the warehouse were a series of drones, also smuggled from Illadar.
He continued with his inspection. On the other side of the warehouse were a series of drones, also smuggled from Illadar. Invergence possessed technology superior to these, but they were never able to transfer that material to Earth intact. So they had to deal with other options. Thankfully, Illadar supported technology far superior to Earth, and with a touch of magic as well. That was enough to serve Invergence’s purpose. A few of the drones were damaged recently. They had discovered a small home in the middle of nowhere and were shot down by the resident. They had looked everywhere but couldn’t find the person who did it. A technician was working with these damaged drones to see what their memory banks could tell them.Finally, Sergio passed by the transfer tubes. These were large cylinders that facilitated transfer from their native dimension to this one. Travel from
Finally, Sergio passed by the transfer tubes. These were large cylinders that facilitated transfer from their native dimension to this one. Travel from Invergence Headquarters was not the most pleasant experience, and it was also very expensive. They were also reasonably certain that no one from Argo Force had figured out how they did it….yet. That was Invergence’s biggest advantage. They could infiltrate the worlds protected by Argo Force, but Argo Force could not do the same to them.He stopped when he reached the transfer tubes and waited. A new supply of reinforcements were scheduled to arrive at any minute.
He stopped when he reached the transfer tubes and waited. A new supply of reinforcements were scheduled to arrive at any minute.
A light flashed on one tube, then another, and another. Soon, all were emitting a cool, blue light. One by one, the tubes opened and revealed the new reinforcements. About twenty men, naked from the transfer.
Sergio gave the order for new uniforms to be brought to these men. Nearby soldiers complied, and soon, the recently arrived men were fully clothed.
“Which of you is in charge of these men?”
“That would be me, sir,” said one of the newcomers. He was a shorter man with hair shaved close and a little stubble on his chin. His body was strong and well-trained. “I assume you are Commander Rios?”
“Lieutenant Mason, sir.” The man identified himself, “I have orders from high command.”
The man waited for Sergio’s response. “So let’s hear it,” said Sergio.
“The high matriarch commands you to return to Invergence Headquarters immediately. You must go alone and take nothing with you…er…sir.”
“A simple trans-dimensional communication wouldn’t suffice?” This was a process they had recently achieved, the transfer of information across dimensional boundaries.
“No, sir.” the man clarified, “She specifically instructed you to arrive in person.”
Sergio grunted. He didn’t like having to travel between dimensions. The process always nauseated him. But he could not ignore an order from the High Matriarch. So he nodded. “I will leave immediately.”
He found his second-in-command, to let him know that he was leaving. He gave instructions for helping the reinforcements to acclimatize to their new environment. Once he had made all the necessary arrangements, Sergio retreated back to the transfer tubes. He stripped of all unnecessary clothing and located a syringe with an icy, glowing fluid inside. He jammed the syringe into his leg, turned on the transfer tube, and settled inside. It didn’t take long for the icy fluid to begin its work. He gasped and nearly blacked out. He had gone through this process several times before, but he never enjoyed it. He never got used to it. His eyes flew back in his head and dizziness took him. Lights from the inside of the tube began swirling faster and faster. Just when he thought he was about to vomit, the lights grew constant, blinked once, then the door to the tube opened.
He was no longer on Earth. At least, not the same Earth.
A dark room greeted him as he stepped out of the tube. A few people inhabited the room. He staggered, and a young aid helped him stay on his feet. Another brought him clothing. It was formal wear, appropriate for an audience with the High Matriarch. Apparently, they had been expecting him.
As if confirming his thoughts, the aid who had given him his clothing spoke, “The High Matriarch will see you now.”
That woman never had learned patience. Sergio finished donning a sleek overcoat and nodded. The aid led him from the chamber to the throne room. The walk took several minutes, and they passed by multiple guards. The tube chambers could not be placed so near the throne room, as that would make it easier for an assassin to materialize right in the heart of the Matriarch’s residence. Instead, they were placed just outside of the building, next to the barracks. And so they walked for several minutes in silence.
Soon, they approached the entrance to the throne room. Two large doors extended to the high ceiling above. They were greeted by four of the High Guard, brawny men and women and some of the most exceptionally skilled fighters. What Sergio wouldn’t give to have one of them join his team on Earth. The aid provided a note to the guards, most likely signed by the High Matriarch herself. The guard grunted and then the four of them opened the heavy doors.
Inside was an impressive sight. At least, it was impressive to those who hadn’t seen it before. The chamber stretched to the skies, and the roof sat hundreds of feet above them on long columns. Behind the throne were large windows, three of them, that stretched almost as high as the ceiling. The light from those windows cast three long projections on the floor, leading to the entrance where Sergio stood. The aid bowed to the throne and exited.
The throne itself was lavishly decorated, and its back stretched high, like everything else in the room. Smaller chairs sat on either side of the throne, and a council of women sat in these. But it was the woman sitting on the throne that drew Sergio’s eye.
The High Matriarch, a woman with dark skin and piercing gray eyes. She wore a simple crown that clashed with the extravagance of the room around her. Her eyes found his and they remained cold.
“Welcome, Commander Rios,” she said as he approached.
“Power and long life to you, mother,” he said, choosing the honorific reserved only for the High Matriarch.
She nodded. “Tell us how go things on Earth? Have you found the girl?”
“We have not, mother,” Sergio confessed, “We located her parents, just before her birth, but members of Argo Force interfered.”
“And you could not hold off such a pitiful force as they?”
“Forgive me, mother. But they were far from pitiful. There were dozens of them. We were outmatched. It would serve us well to not underestimate them.”
A few gasps came from the women sitting throughout the room. Sergio had very nearly reprimanded the Matriarch. Sergio didn’t back down. He knew his limits, especially given his past position in the High Court.
The High Matriarch pursed her lips. “And your report also indicates that you nearly found them again.”
Now, this was a subject Sergio would need care to relate. He had not told anyone about his debacle with his alternate self, the wife, and Alice herself. He didn’t know that he could ever tell that story. If word got out that he had disobeyed orders and approached the couple without backup, it would mean the end of his career, if not his life. He chose his words carefully, “Yes, I nearly stumbled upon them in a place called Tennessee. I called for backup but they got away before help could arrive.”
“And you expect us to believe that these inexperienced, soft Earth people could escape you?”
“I do, because they did.” Sergio responded, “Again, you underestimate our opponents.” Another wave of murmurs ran through the room at Sergio’s brashness
This time, the Matriarch smiled. That did nothing to put Sergio at ease. “How do we know that you didn’t let the girl get away, or that you’re going easy on them. You do, after all, have a certain connection with that family.”
“I was under the impression that my connection to this family was the very reason I was chosen to pursue them.”
“Yes, but perhaps it was a hasty decision. We did not pause to think about the potential…biases you might have. Biases that might keep you from doing whatever it takes to secure the girl.”
“I will do what must be done.”
“YES!” Sergio’s response echoed loudly in the chamber. Everyone tense. Even Sergio knew better than to raise his voice at the High Matriarch.
She studied him, reading his expression. “Very well,” she said finally, “You will return to their Earth and continue your search. But be warned, that we will view more failures as evidence of your guilt. Bring her to us, or we will find someone else to do the job.”
“If I may, mother,” Sergio replied, daring one last question, “why can’t you give us more information about where she will be and when? You have access to the time stream.”
“The uncertainty of her future makes it…difficult for our time readers to locate her.
“And it would help if my men and I knew why you want her.”
“She is destined to become a high-ranking member of Argo Force, our enemy. I would think that is enough.”
“We have many enemies at Argo Force. We don’t exert the same efforts to locate them when they are infants.”
“True, but Alice will be a Founder. She is critical to the formation of Argo Force in the first place. If we can change her path, we could potentially erase Argo Force from existence.”
“So why not just kill her then?”
“We would prefer that you bring her in alive, but if impossible, you are authorized to use deadly force.”
Sergio still felt like there was more that they weren’t telling him, but he let it go for now.
“Very well, mother,” he said, “I shall leave immediately.” Anywhere but here, he added to himself.
“May the gods see you there,” she replied, without a hint of sincerity to her voice.
Sergio left the chamber and returned to the transfer room outside the palace. No one accompanied him this time, and his thoughts wandered. He still wish he knew more about Alice and what they wanted her for. He wondered, idly, if he couldn’t fake the girl’s death, then raise her for himself. That’s what he tried to imply when he confronted the girl’s parents, but their irrational fear of him put an end to that.
He arrived at the transfer chamber and began the process to return to the other dimension. He injected himself, lay down in the transfer tube, and waited for the pain to take him.
Moments or hours later, he gasped as his body came back to life. He was back on Earth, Argo Force’s Earth. The tube opened and he took a moment to compose himself. One of his men waited with his clothes on hand. He quickly dressed and donned his hat.
“Sir!” a voice rang out. It was one of the technicians who had been working with the damaged drones. Derek, Sergio thought his name was, or maybe Donald.
“What is it?” Sergio didn’t feel much in the mood for conversation.
“We recovered footage, and…” he paused, “well see for yourself, sir.”
He handed a pad to Sergio, who took it with interest. The pad began playing footage of the last minutes before its destruction. The drone was patrolling the house when something caught its attention. It turned to one of the side doors from the house, and there—Sergio’s heart lept—was Katariina, Alice’s mother. The woman held a shotgun in her hands pointed directly at the drone. She fired straight at the camera, and the feed broke to static.
Sergio’s excitement rose, “When was this?” he asked the technician.
“Barely a week ago.”
A week, too long.
“I want everyone ready to leave in thirty minutes. Carl!” he addressed is second, “Get everyone ready to move out. Get the trucks loaded.”
Sergio turned back to the technician, “I saw an old truck in that footage, and possibly another vehicle as well.”
“Do what you can to track them. Monitor all security cameras, run facial recognition, do whatever you can. But find them!”
The technician saluted and returned to his work. Meanwhile Sergio continued barking orders as the Illadar demons and active drones were loaded into large trucks. The monsters snarled as they were lifted up by cranes and plunged into darkness. Sergio didn’t care. The angrier they were, the more they would welcome the change to hunt something. And right now, Sergio could feel the thrill of the hunt himself.
Two weeks later
Sergio slammed his fist into the dashboard of his smart car. They had been hunting relentlessly for two weeks and had found no trace of the couple or the girl. He was beginning to think they were searching in the wrong direction. Frustration threatened to destroy Sergio, make him act irrationally. All of his men could sense that he was on edge, and few troubled him beyond the regular reports he required of them.
He continued his drive, leading the pack of smart cars and shipping trucks behind him. They were now in Oklahoma, and still had no luck. Presumably his team of technicians were scouring security feeds in order to find evidence of the couple, but they had found nothing yet. The couple must be playing it safer than usual.
His flip-phone rang. He sighed and answered. Probably just another disappointing report.
“Sir!” came an excited voice from the other end, “I think we found them!”
Sergio sat up straighter. “Tell me!” he ordered.
“We have a report of a young couple and a vehicle matching the one at the home in Tennessee. And get this…” The voice on the other end sounded, if possible, even more excited. “They were arrested and are being held in Amarillo, Texas.”
A smile split Sergio’s face. “Tell everyone, we’re going to Texas.”
He hung up the phone and adjusted his route to take him towards Amarillo Texas.
When they arrived at the police station, Sergio was disappointed to see no rusty truck anywhere in sight. He hoped they had located the right station. He parked, exited the car, and walked inside. Once there, an elderly police officer looked him up and down.
“Can I help you?” he said, wary of Sergio’s unkempt and dangerous appearance.
Sergio flashed a fake badge at the man that identified him as an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “I’m looking for two fugitives. We got word they may be detained in your facility.”
Sergio held out a picture of Kat and the other Sergio that he had obtained from their home. “They may have also been traveling with a small child.”
The officer glanced at the photo, then nodded.
“Yeah, they were here.”
Sergio’s eyes darkened, “They were here?”
“Sure, but I thought y’all sorted that out already.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Well, I mean, because one of the feds already showed up and took them away.”
Sergio narrowed his eyes.
“One of us? Explain.”
“An older fella,” the officer explained, “Came in here claiming to be looking for those two. When he saw that we had them, he said he was ordered to take them away. Said they were undercover agents and that we arrested them under false pretenses. I mean, but what were we supposed to think when they were armed and had a basket of fake identities?”
“And you let them go!” Sergio’s temper was rising.
“Well yeah, his paperwork checked out. We even confirmed everything. He was legit. Speaking of which,” he eyed Sergio suspiciously, “Can I see that badge again.”
“Not necessary,” Sergio waved him off. “If they’re gone, my services are no longer required here.”
“Just for safe measure, sir,” the man continued, “You know how it is.”
Sergio didn’t know how it was, but he didn’t care. He placed both hands on the desk between him and the officer. He was about to say something when the old man narrowed his eyes at Sergio.
“Hang on,” he said, “You look a lot like that immigrant.”
Sergio had had enough. He raised his arm, his pistol in hand, and fired!
The shot took the man in the forehead. His face jerked backward, then he crumpled to the floor. Several other officers sitting in the room scrambled to their feet, reaching for their sidearms.
But it was too late.
Spurred by the sound of the gun, Sergio’s men came charging inside the room from where they had been waiting outside. Gunshots echoed through the small station. One by one, each of the remaining officers fell.
Sergio took a moment to peruse the files, finally locating the report of Alice and her parents’ brief incarceration. He took steps to avoid the slowly spreading blood on the floor. After glancing through the report, he tossed it aside. It told him nothing that he already knew. Immigration law, Sergio sniffed. It always amazed him how the humans of Earth could preoccupy themselves over such trivial matters. They had no idea the scope of what happened all around them, the epic battles of legions and worlds.
After a bit more digging he found their medical report and…yes! A blood sample! This was exactly what he needed.
He tossed the medical report in the trash and made his way outside. He didn’t know where his doppelgänger and family had gone, but he would find them. He had resources far beyond theirs, even when they had help from Argo Force.
He approached the truck, the one carrying all their equipment, but most importantly, it carried demons. He barked an order and members of his team opened the truck and slowly extracted one of the large crates inside.
The creature inside breathed heavily, but did not scream. It sat, patiently, almost as if it knew its services were about to be used.
Sergio walked up to the crate, and began opening the latches. His men hastily retreated from the crate and raised their weapons. One even called out, asking him to stop. He would deal with that one later.
Finally, the door to the crate sprang open, and Sergio stood face to face with the demon inside. It was of the same species as the demon who attacked Alice’s homestead that first night. It stood hunched over, but would have towered over eight feet if standing straight. It’s body and face were shriveled, and its elongated arms ended in sharp claws on disturbingly human-like hands. Its eyes found Sergio’s and they measured each other. The creature was intelligent. It wanted Sergio’s blood, but it new that Sergio could provide it with much more. So it made no move.
Sergio took the sample of blood, taken from Katariina, the mother of Alice and the wife of Sergio’s reverse self. It was time that this world lost her too. He threw the sample to the ground and smashed it with his boot. The blood pooled on the ground. The monster sniffed, hungrily. It moved on all fours, closer to the blood.
“Find them.” Sergio commanded the beast. It extended a black tongue to taste the sample of blood. It shuddered with pleasure, then bolted. Sergio sprang to the side as the beast exited the crate and took off running. Sergio waved an arm at his men, telling them to put down their weapons. Many might think it wasn’t smart to let a beast like this loose on a planet like Earth. But Sergio did not care anymore. He barked another order and a technician activated a drone, instructing it to follow the monster. Sergio would find his family, no matter the cost. He would find Alice.
The demon howled at its new-found freedom.