I. THE DAY WE STOPPED DYING
Dranna was a tiny
old lady, more bone than body—born with a degenerative heart that
kept ticking away feverishly toward a supposedly soon-to-be early
end. Despite doctors prognostications, however, since she was very
young, that she would die within the decade—she had proven them all
wrong—going on to live decade after decade into her golden years.
Whenever interrogated about her secret she always said it was simply
the case that she prayed a lot—and believed most vehemently in a
Good girls go to Heaven, she would tell Astara every night—but to no avail, for the darkness did not leave the girl's eyes, as she saw little fit in the world for favoring in memory or looking back upon from some golden pond up in the sky.
i. When Christmas Darkens
Astara's earthly human angel Dranna always prayed for her soul, ever since she was a little girl. The girl was an orphan—and had seen the rigors of reality all too closely for such a young age. Dranna was one of the nuns at the orphanage, who would come in to pray Astara to sleep—and cast blessings against the Devil.
|In the Future, Eterniti became the New Afterlife.|
She would rather die and just be gone, she often thought. She had no interest in living on—in more than her share of this Hell called Earth. She wanted to be scattered across the cosmos with no shred of consciousness left to call her own. Her Heaven—her true trophy for this terran adventure—was simply to enjoy what she could while she could—not to take even one hour for granted—and then finally to let it all go down where only stardust mingled.
Whenever Dranna would hear her speak of such things, however, the nun would go into a panic of rituals trying to exorcise the orphan. But it was never any use, for Astara was not possessed—but rather dispossessed of her very own spirit. Disconnected from her higher form—she could not truly enjoy a creative minute in the minutia—and she could not truly imagine a pleasant heaven of the mind.
Her mind was madness too far in—and her heaven was the desert of thought—the absence of being—and the magic of non-existence. So she grew up to be a lawyer—and sailed the Barrier Reef on vacation—balancing the best of living and working—with no thought to tomorrow—no thought to yesterday—no thought to anything but breath.
This was all until she met Rockwell who broke in.
He busted up her heart and made her want to feel again. The way his eyes gleamed when he smiled at her—the way she felt faint when they embraced—nothing could compare—and the innocent girl in her was reawakened. The one who thought about weddings and shining knights started to surface, if only for brief flashes—but he saw it and melted.
He was a sucker for her callous heart—her hard upbringings—but also her stalwart work ethic that had led to such a vertical ascent into the court world—and her willingness to explore new lands.
He himself rarely traveled—and never enjoyed a single job in his life except his art. In many ways she was the magnetic opposite of him—but together they shared a bond: the kind that united two gazes meeting in unspoken trust. They made pledges and promises—uttered gushes and suffered fawnings—always pushing and pulling into love.
Then one day they were having a drink at the very place they first met—when he had put on a show down the streets—and she had come to see him. Afterward, pints at the Lost Souls Pub had oiled their awkwardness into motion—and then emotion—finally allowing romance to bloom.
But this day an argument erupted over the bill.
She was tired of him always being broke for art.
He was sick of her always putting money first.
She wanted him to try more life—experiment.
He wanted her to settle down—have a family.
She told him over and over how she hated kids.
He told her he did not care but in truth he did.
He thought perhaps one day she would cave.
She knew he thought this but let him think it.
They would not speak for the rest of the night.
By morning they would be back to inseparable.
Their days went on this way from hot to cold.
One thing that was for sure was hearts of old.
They knew each other like the lines of time.
All that was left was to live out life unsold.
They had not given in—not given up on love.
She had been on the brink—and he out of luck.
But together their spark reignited from inside.
They could look forward to forever going by.
Nothing was impossible for couples together.
But it was becoming rarer and rarer those days.
It was the year 2050 and things were different. People were different. Love was considered the territory of insane people and common fools. Sex was satisfied by robots and it had become all the rage to erase your spirit from body.
People who underwent this transformation—via oral vaccinations that were free at all pharma dispensaries—amounted to no more than mindless zombies. Meds were self-prescribed now. People interacted with computers to learn what drugs might cure what personality disorders they had picked up as a result of 'Experience'.
Experience was a sin in the new pop culture—and so those who were one day close friends—the next did not remember you—or themselves--going through what came to be known as 'Starting Over'. It became nearly pandemic for awhile, as folk went overboard hitting their reset buttons all too often—for fewer and fewer truly good reasons—in some cases even giving on Restart Benders.
Basically they treated their lives like computers—and treated their souls as the unwanted refuse accumulated from too much exposure to a marred world.
Other technological atrocities or marvels, depending on the perspective, abounded in these times—but none was more tantalizing to consider than the near breaking discovery of time travel and the key to immortality.
From separate science camps across the globe—these two discoveries were coming along in parallel—so that not only was the world wondering what to make of either one of them individually—but what it would mean to make use of both of them in tandem—to what net result?
“I don't like it one bit,” Astara said on Christmas Eve, feeling Rockwell's hands—looking into his eyes. “I don't want to live forever. God forbid I even live to old age.”
“You don't really mean that babe, honestly?”
“Well you know for you I will stick around.”
“Always a dark joker you were but seriously.”
“Love it don't you? You'd love to live forever.”
“I just think creativity and youth go together.”
“And you love art, so you could always paint.”
“We never stop changing. There's always art.”
“Okay, so what about this time travel business.”
“Now that I'm not so sure about. Sounds iffy.”
“See now that is something I could get behind.”
“You'd like to go back, do it all again maybe?”
“Just get as far away from myself as possible.”
“You've never been comfortable in your skin.”
“Skin is gross. Rather be bones decomposing.”
“Just don't leave me behind,” he kissed her.
She kissed back harder, missing him already.
“Promise me you text second you get home.”
“Promise babe. We will live together soon.”
“I can't wait to cook us breakfast everyday.”
“Dish duty is the least I can do for your eggs.”
“As long as you leave my other eggs alone.”
He smiled, hugged her goodbye--and left.
Then he burst back in a second later, grabbing her by the neck and crushing lips with her—as they fell back once more in to her bed and carried on for one last episode of passionate lovemaking. For a girl so obsessed with losing herself, she became incredibly connected in the heat of intimacy—and for a man so into creativity, he could never tire of doing the same things over and over with her forever.
This time, however, on a spur of whim, almost act of self-sabotage to her own happiness—just to see a smile on his face and win him over ever that little more—she let him leave the rubber aside that night—just to feel him closer.
Little did she know that once was enough.
Little did they know he would never make it home.
Little did Fate care, pitching in a twist just for show.
She would never forget, the following day, the news.
Detective Sam Raymond arrived at her door sombre.
He had been friends with Rockwell. They went back.
A tear thread down one cheek as he lowered his head.
He could not look Astara in the eyes, so dark was he.
“Star, it's Rocko.”
“Look at me Sam.”
“He's … He's gone ...”
“What?” Star broke down. She seemed to age before his eyes. He held her close, stroking her hair, telling her it would be alright. They would get through this together.
He told her Rockwell had been in a fatal car accident on his way home last night. He had been driving along minding his business when an eighteen wheeler came careening through a red light colliding with his driver's side at 140 kmph dead on killing him instantly upon impact. They found his body nearly unrecognizable, caged in the crushed frame of the car, burned to a corpse of wax and ash goo.
She could not bear to hear anymore and turned.
He followed her into the bedroom where he deferred.
“Please leave now, Sam. Thank you … for coming.”
“Star, I can stay if you want, it's no problem at all.”
“No, I think I need to be alone now. I'm very tired.”
He could tell she was in shock and sat beside her.
He held her hand and rubbed the small of her back.
She turned into him and cried for a very long time.
He comforted her as best he could, praying for Rocko.
Christmas would never be the same again for either.
They spent many days together just talking.
She shared with him many stories of her Rock.
She told him how they had met at Lost Souls.
The pub was a common passion for them both.
They hit it off immediately, both slightly jaded.
But then her stories about him started to wane.
In place of the memories were new ones with Sam.
She began to look at him in a different, warmer light.
But a month on she learned she was having a baby.
Sam had mixed feelings but pretended to be cool.
Her memories of Rockwell were renewed for awhile.
But then she thought of Sam again and turned back.
She liked Sam—but she still loved Rockwell as well.
But she knew she had to put one behind to move on.
She knew for the good of Sam and herself what to do.
She burned every thing of Rockwell's she had around.
She erased every last trace of him from surroundings.
All memory was subdued—all triggers given release.
Her baby would not know anything of a natural dad.
She would carve out a future for her own happiness.
It was not a cut and run but a last ditch effort at life.
Dranna would argue with her not to delete it all.
But Star grew addicted to Restart on a daily fix.
So slowly she began to slip into a fog of oblivion.
Bad memories were gone—but so were the good ones--leaving her an empty shell—sending Sam to despair.
But every Christmas, she seemedto cheer up. She would treat little Sam Junior to every trapping of the season—and make sure her child was protected from the harsh world.
Whenever Junior would ask who the stocking was for that said Rockwell on it, the room would grow quiet, as Sam shrunk away—and Star stared ahead blankly.
Dranna would be over for a week helping with the cooking and cleaning—and one time she found a framed picture of Rockwell in one of Star's drawers.
She quietly put it away carefully.
She prayed one day Star woke up.
Until then, that was all she could do.
She never discussed it with Sam ever.
Sam began to lose hope in Star's love.
Her started seeing someone else in secret.
Dranna noticed signs but said nothing yet.
Star seemed oblivious to all of the tell-tales.
It was almost as if she knew but did not care.
Finally, one day, she called Sam 'Rocko' by mistake—and he flipped out. He lost his temper and stormed off.
He left to see his mistress, and she began to think.
She went to her drawers and retrieved everything.
She sat in the dark with candles praying for him.
She prayed for him to come back to her one day.
She told no one she did this at first, but soon.
Soon, Sam told her he was leaving for another.
So she prayed for Rockwell openly in deep pleas.
“Please,” she whispered. “Take me with you ...”
But Rockwell was dead and she was now insane.
ii. The Dues of the Tempor
Rockwell opened his eyes in a start.
He lay splayed out on a rotating table.
Wires connected him to a bio-meter.
They were monitoring his transition.
He had been Reclaimed—made Immort.
The Future was Heaven and he was there.
It was not too far ahead of his own time.
Humanity had learned how to live forever.
Then they learned how to time travel soon after.
Henceforward they vowed to retrieve all past lives.
They would not disturb the timeline—but quietly bring them forward, at the point of their deaths--into the future where they were kept alive and given immortality.
This was the true Afterlife hereafter he was told.
The answer to the riddle of God was now known.
Man himself was God to his past—in the years on.
But they would not go back for everyone—not at all.
There were courts and juries to decide who survived.
Those deemed unfit to carry on were all left behind.
And those who were chosen were bound to duties.
In return for their salvation they had to serve it out.
They were mantled Tempors and sent back in time.
Each Tempor had to Retrieve a thousand lives.
Only after then could they go on into dreams.
The rest of eternity would be seamless—but there were these final tests—these daunting tasks of transcendence.
Each death was unique—so each Retrieval required creative approaches—sometimes stealing a strand of dna—other times gravitating their fleeing souls into instant black holes that teleported them into a cell bank in the future times—in tandem with regenerating their body from cultures—in order to provide them with a fresh new shell for their new adventures. The more any Tempor could retrieve of a person the better—and the closer they timed it to the Artifact's moment of death—the better they could salvage a man or a woman in their entirety—whole and intact—unshattered.
They teamed him up with an long-timer Boston Black.
He wore an undertaker's outfit like all the old guard.
Boston had failed many a Retrieval and still served.
“How many Retrievals would you say you've tried?”
“Oh, Hell. Must be going on two thousand now.”
“And how many … have you ...”
“Saved? Seventy-five and counting.”
“Why is it so hard? What's the problem?”
Boston had a good laugh—and chuckle.
He led Rockwell to the Temp Jumpers.
They scrubbed down in the clean room.
Then they slipped in to the Jumpgear.
Powering on they signaled for Rewind.
Doors closed and they stood in darkness.
The circular room began to rotate in lights.
The building vanished revealing landscape.
The landscape twisted and shifted in time.
The years rolled backward—far back now.
They landed in the times of the old west.
A woman was just about to die giving birth.
She was a saint throughout her entire life.
The Round of Deliberation judged her right.
She was a perfect candidate for Retrieval.
Her papers were signed and sealed.
Her Tempors were assigned.
Old Black and Newbie Rivers.
In their Jumpgear they stood outside the spectrum of common light—where the human eye did not see.
They stood by and watched her give birth.
They watched uncomfortably as she died.
Then they stepped in and went to work.
They clipped hair, swabbed saliva and skin.
Black put the Jumpstarts against her temples.
The nanotech attracted her soul and kept it.
The Jumpstarts were then coded to go home.
They then returned to the present with her dna.
The woman was cloned and recombined in spirit.
But the soul was strictly kept attached for energy.
It was the spark that electrified the body so alive.
She was afterward encouraged to subdue spirit.
She was made Immort and trained as a Tempor
One more was thus resurrected from past time.
It was a long hard climb reuniting the family.
“Get some sleep,” Boston ordered. “You'll need it.”
“What do you mean? I feel wired—wide awake.”
“Trust me. Tempjumping takes a lot out of you.”
“Tomorrow we should try for two Retrievals.”
“Don't get a head of yourself. One life at a time.”
“I have to get back to Astara somehow, that's all.”
“Who? You mean your girl from your past life?”
“I … I … I promised her I would see her soon.”
“Son, you must get a grip. There's no going back.
“There must be a way. They say Immorts are free.”
“Yes free, free to explore and distort the present.”
“Free to make the present become their dreams.”
“Yes, but whatever Astara you imagine is not her.”
“She will be the same—if I think she is the same.”
“That is a psychosis, son. You need to move on.”
“No choices in love. We all do what we must.”
“Listen to you … You sound like a fool, boy.”
“If you met her you would know, trust me.”
“Just get some sleep. Tomorrow's a big day.”
“Two Retrievals, Boston. Two before noon.”
“It cannot be done, kid. It has rarely been so.”
“I never turned down a challenge. Bring it.”
“I'm going to have you reassigned to a desk job.”
They shared a laugh and sauntered off to rooms.
The next morning Rockwell was slow to rise.
His bones ached as his new body acclimatized.
He was hurting from yesterday after all, but now he had to live up to his challenge—and so the started again.
First thing they Tempjumped back to the 1950s.
A surfer was just attacked by a shark—near death.
His name was Green—Gomer Green—the legend.
No one on the west coast was unfamiliar with him.
He had broken all the records—with all of the luck.
But his luck had finally come ashore—in a frenzy.
Black and Rivers walked on water, for their densities were adjustable in the Jumpsuits. They watched in horror.
“God, can't we stop it when it's this bad, honestly?”
Boston shrugged. “Be my guest, kid,” he offered.
Rockwell smirked, bowed his head and marched.
He approached the man who thrashed about now.
The shark had him by the leg dragging him down.
Rivers shortly jumped in to the frigid, bloody water.
He aimed his Hammershot and fired—blasting shark.
He pulled Green from the broken ice—up to safety.
Boston helped them both back above water. They held Green up long enough to Tempjump him back home.
They immediately hit the emergency medic alarm.
Green was transported to the med rooms pronto.
His leg was stitched back together by lasers—flesh restored to new by vibrational technology—and while they were at it they took 10 years off his life to bring him to prime.
“Sometimes they do that,” Boston explained. “You probably noticed they took a few years off you too you know. But after we graduate, we can choose what age to live at.”
Green was deputized as a new Tempor and sent off.
So the cycle continued—and it was only mid-morn.
“Well done, but slow down there son, it's too much.”
“Don't you want to get off this rat-wheel, Boston?”
“Sure, kid—but we're Timejumping, remember? We can take all the time in the world. We'll get there one day—and when we do, we can just Rewind ourselves to fresh.”
“Are you sure it works that way? I'd be worried.”
“You worry too much Rivers. But on with your mission—let's see what you got in you—what you carry.”
Next that morning was a Jump to the deep jungle.
A Journeyman—epic odyssey-maker—called Vigor the Dark Hunter—was meeting his match with a jungle cat.
The cat had him by the neck—and snapped him back.
Vigor was strong, however, though his spine broken.
He actually still fought back through blinding pain.
Black and Rivers Tempjumped right beside the two.
The cat sensed them and took off through the vines.
Vigor rolled about in the agony of nerve spasms.
“Damn it,” Boston cursed. “That can't happen.”
He bent down and Templejumped Vigor fast.
“It sensed us? So some things can sense us?”
“Yes ...” Boston sighed. “We are here to some.”
They sampled Vigor's dna as he gasped at them.
Rockwell reviewed his training. “Now it changes.”
“Yes—now we've altered the Great Timeline. There will be forms to fill out, but it will be alright. It was just a cat. How much difference could the change of trajectory in one cat's life really make, anyway? I'm sure the Aegeless One will give it a Pass and still count it toward another soul saved.”
“Who is this Aegeless One anyhow? They mentioned him all through training—but never where he came from.”
“Where It came from. The Aegeless One does not identify with gender, time or even existence. It is Other.”
“'The perfection of what humanity has become.'”
“Yes, exactly—from the Temp Testament. The Aegeless One was the first to go full Immort. Others have followed suit to degrees—but the majority still only enjoy limited immortality. Most will never achieve full Immort and only live two thousand years or so. It has to do with coding.”
“What do you mean coding? Like in the mind?”
“In the Bodymind. Parameters must be met.”
“So does this Aegeless One have the answer?”
“It claims ownership over the Final Secret—but has not yet divulged it—though many pilgrimmages have been made to the Temple at the Mount where it lives—to beg mercy of it, that it might bestow what it knows upon humanity. But though it always holds court for whoever purports to deserve more—it has not yet given the ultimate arithmetic to anyone yet. It claims only the noblest deserving would ever learn.”
“Brand new future—but just a lot more of the same.”
“No one ever said this was paradise, my friend. We said it was Heaven—what Heaven is often thought to be—with near immortality, free energy and unlimited creative potential—the arena for enlightenment is divine—but the likelihood of corruption and distortion no less than before.”
“What we need is a leg up—some way for leverage.”
“Trust me, Rivers. It would be done, if any way.”
“But everyone's just giving up on the past—Retrieving until they complete Tempor—then disappearing into a limbo of fantasy of their own mind's conjuring—like that's life.”
“Now you're starting to see it my way newbie.”
“This is worse than even a few decades ago. It's worse than Restarting all the time—it's like Retreating all the time.”
“Well said … Now look at this … Vigor's soul's signal has been scrambled by his spinal injury—so our Templejumps have no effect. We can retrieve his body but not his mind data—or Spirit atoms. He will be a half-boot.”
“You mean we will rebuild his body just blank.”
“Yes, what in training they called the Tabula Rasa clause. If a Retrieval can only attain custody of the Artifact's body—then a hollow humanoid would be rebuilt and allowed to live on Immort—despite having no memory of past life. If, contrarily, a Retrieval can only attain custody of the Artifact's Spirit—then that Spirit must be given a new body of it's choosing—in order to also live out in the present eternity of free Immorts—what locals had come to call Eterniti.
“So Vigor will not know about the jungle?”
“He will not even know how to speak.”
“They will program his language.”
“Yes—every nuance recoded.”
“But how will he choose what to be—what kind of man to be—when he does not even remember being a man?”
“That, my friend, is the Final Question, for what they found would happen is that, somehow, people always know.”
“They always know what they really want to be?”
Boston nodded, sunk in thought. “Somehow they know, deep inside—instinctively beyond mind—beyond body—perhaps beyond even Spirit--which flies in the face of everything Aegeless One says about how misleading and malicious the Spirit is to the Body. You will remember from training, in the texts, he teaches that in order to be most human, we must separate from Spirit—leaving mostly Body—and just a little bit of Mind. Well, this phenomenon, however, would seem to suggest that it is in fact the Spirit that lingers long after the Mind is gone. Spirit appears to be central.”
“So I'm surprised they are even allowed to live on—being such counter-examples of what Aegless One teaches.”
“It is a political maneuver—for the New Allegiance needed some cooperation in order to placate the plebs whose family and friends were being denied Retrieval based on zero atomic Spirit count. Most of the so-called 'New Ones' quickly grow desperately depressed and commit suicide—being detached from their natural groove in the Great Timeline.”
“It's all so crazy—yet all I think about is Astara.”
Boston only shook his head. “This too shall pass.”
That afternoon they saved three more lives—putting them both on an extended high—especially Boston who had his sights set high again for the first time in forever. They Retrieved a jumper—a euthanasia—and an elder pneumonia. Tomorrow they would get back a doctor with a heart attack, a pilot with a death wish—and a baby with a birth defect.
Nine Stars of Fire were awarded to them again and again—for consistent and outstanding achievement. They made a great team—a Tempor pair extraordinaire—a couple of cloaked bionic Immorts from the future traipsing about history plucking out the gems for posterity. They were starting to actually enjoy themselves—and especially the looks on people's faces when they got so good they were saving Artifacts more often before they died than after, sometimes only seconds before, just to give them front row seats to their own transitions. To the Artifact—Black and Rivers were dark shining phantoms from the tunnel of light coming to escort their souls off to the Afterlife—or whatever came next.
That year they ascended to the upper levels of Eterniti—under ever more watchful favor of the Aegless One. They Retrieved golfers from lightning strikes, chokers from windless pipes, screamers down endless drifts, skiers under avalanches—mountaineers on perilous peaks—some just dying in their sleep. Some were saved from venomous snake bites—some from train wrecks at night—some from disease's ravages—some from doctor's carnages—some from brain stroke—capsized boat—gun shot—skull crack—knife suicide—accidental work injury—cancer—stress--you name it—they saved it. Eterniti was looking pretty different with all the new faces hanging around. They all talked about Black and Rivers and how they were going to save everybody one day. That was the common joke anyway.
Black liked all the attention, when he was honest with himself—but Rivers more preferred to keep his mind on the task at hand—which was to graduate and look for Star.
If it was not for her he was not sure he would have survived this long—lost to a reason for swinging on.
One day they were about to save a teen, Calistico Caldrey, who had gotten killed running a train on his bike. He was the kind of kid who thought he was invincible and pushed everything way too far. So this time was his last of the luck and beginning of the buck back, as he got hit, was rushed to the hospital—then fell in to a coma and put on life support.
Black and Rivers entered the room where he lay and they knew right away that something was different. Calistico lay motionless, but the monitors jumped alive as they entered. It was obvious the kid could sense their presence on some level. They were caught off guard, because this had never happened before. Calistico had some aura about him, which they could see clear as day—on first glance.
“He's supposed to be in a coma.”
“He is—but incredibly conscious.”
Rockwell stepped up bedside.
“You can hear me can't you?”
“He's supposed to be dead in five.”
“His signature is strong, it's strange.”
“I agree, something does not fit here.”
“No light is so strong this near the end.”
Then suddenly, Calistico opened his eyes.
“Jesus!” Rockwell exclaimed, staggering.
Boston bolted bed-side, as the kid talked.
“You have come to take me to Hell, no?”
“Kid—for God's sake—there is no Hell.”
“You were going to the future my boy.”
“But now you look half-alive at least.”
“Yes, we need to go, this is very bad.”
They started to back away. They had definitely just totally skewered the Great Timeline by engaging the kid. If anyone else sensed them there, they would be in big trouble.
“Please leave me for God,” he begged.
His eyes closed again, breathing slowed.
Then they saw his soul rise up, vanish.
The room lit up in a big bright blue flash.
The Tempors were temporarily blinded.
Afterward, they interrogated each other.
“What the Hell was that? What was that?”
“That, my friend,” Boston surmised. “That was Something much bigger than Eterniti ever was.”
They returned to the Present to regroup.
They were each grilled on the incident.
Elders interrogated every aspect of it.
The Aegeless One even listened in.
All agreed it was an alien illusion.
The Winged Ones—or Traitors to Reality---were tricksters from another world, come to brainwash humans into believing there was any other Afterlife than Eterniti.
They called them the Arcs, after their lightshows.
They often appeared as just small orbs of energy.
“I don't buy this alien agenda,” Rockwell confided in Boston later. “It's all too convenient. Why do they care?”
“Because they're devils from stars, Rivers. What other excuse do they need to lead humans astray on Earth?”
“So they come and they steal away our souls?”
“If we don't get to them first, often they do.”
“But what if they're … real angels, Boston?”
Black laughed uproariously. “Get real, son.”
So they carried on with their Retrievals. They continued to save record number of Artifacts. But Rockwell was beginning to lose his way, his drive—even despite his single motivator in reuniting with Astara, he could not help but begin to think that perhaps this future was Hell on Earth.
The people of Present were all too materialistic for his truest likings—too involved with their myopic little worlds—too selfish and greedy—too dismissive of all things emotional—too ego-maniacal about the supremacy of man over all.
He was beginning to feel like a pawn—a player being moved around—tricked into thinking he was helping people by bringing them forward to the future—when in fact, he could not help but begin to speculate, he may after all be simply delaying their ascension to the true Heaven—the true Afterlife—instead trapping them on Earth in Eterniti.
The Dues of the Tempor may be permanent in a negative sense—and he may now be locked in a death spiral with the very opposite of what it meant to be Human.
iii. Vanish into the Void
One day Star had enough. She left Junior under the care of Dranna and set out to do what she must. She wandered about the city aimlessly for a time, picking her spot carefully—working her way up to the inevitable task.
Wherever Rockwell had gone, if he was right after all, if Dranna was right—if everything she believed as a little girl was actually true—and there was a place beyond—then she would go there to find her true love again. No man in this world would ever be good enough. No romance would ever live up to what they once had. She had heard it said that people only ever get one chance at real love—and if they miss it, if they break that bond—then they are left dangling ever on.
She did not want to spend the rest of her days that way. She was not afraid if there was nothing after the end—but what she was afraid of was waiting forever to find out—in an existence rendered hollow by her haunting memories. She cared not whether she merely vanished into a void—as long as she did not slowly wither away in a vice of despair.
So she stepped out in front of a bus. She caught the bus that day, right full on—in the middle of rush hour.
The traffic came to a halt as the scene unfolded.
She lay limp in the street in a pool of crimson.
Her light was slowing leave from her eyes.
She managed to blink twice but that was it.
Then she saw a flash and two figures arrive.
To her astonishment and amazement it was him.
Rockwell walk up to her in an aura so crystalline.
He knelt by her and held her hand, urging her on.
“You can come with us now, we are her for you.”
But the very presence of her old flame enlived her.
She suddenly came back to life, so Tempors left.
On her way to the hospital she spoke of him.
After her recovery she told others about him.
She had seen him for real, she was sure of it.
It was not a dream—not a mindless fantasy.
She knew it was really him come to see her.
She prayed he would come again very soon.
She called out to him more than ever before.
She left notes by the door and on the walls.
She stayed up late repeating his name.
She woke up at night dreaming of him.
She would see him soon. She knew it.
There was little love could not cross.
Black and Rivers returned to the Present.
“What does it mean that she was my lover?”
“No one picks these missions, my friend.”
“So it was just coincidence I found her.”
Boston could only shrug. “I can't say.”
“She was tight there, so close to end.”
“Your probably triggered her back.”
“This means more paperwork, right.”
Boston sighed. “No rest for the wicked.”
“But this means she's always with us.”
“As long as they don't write her off.”
“You really think they would do that?”
“You know as well as I what they do.”
“They might think she's a risk now?”
“Any threat to the Timeline is a risk.”
“I will not lose her. Not all over again.”
“Son, there's little else that you can do.”
“I'm telling you now, that is the line.”
“Don't make me knock it out of you.”
“Don't test me on this if anything else.”
“I can't lose my ticket into Eterniti.”
“Not asking you too. I will do it all.”
“Whatever you're thinking—just don't.”
“Eterniti is not enough for me I'm afraid.”
II. TRANSCENDENCE UNCHAINED
i. Unseen Signals Inside Us
Calistico sat in his humble throne in the clouds, looking down at the Seeing Pool—talking with his Overangel Poe about the impact of Love upon the Human condition.
He was watching Rockwell work—the poor Tempor who had almost unwittingly prevented him from ascending to Heaven. “He truly does not know he yet walks in Hell.”
“It is Beginning to Dawn on Him,” Poe spoke.
“I never got to experience Love while alive.”
“Every Life Serves a Purpose in its Stride.”
“Their bond is so strong they sense it inside.”
“Yes. The Power of Love Rises Over All.”
“They are like bright beacons to each other.”
Poe swirled the pool so the image churned.
The picture turned to Star alone in her room.
“She feels him even now—in different times.”
“They were Born for One Another by Fate.”
“I have been assigned to assist this man.”
“His Virtue is Your Inclusion in His Life.”
“I have looked into his heart. He lies.”
“He Tells Himself He Will Never Love.”
“Not again, anyway—unless I can help it.”
Rockwell had been thinking all day of seeing her.
He planned his escape a thousand times before.
He would wait until Black had a sick day.
Next time he flew solo he would break.
He would Timejump ten times to start.
He would lose their tail through chaos.
The Eye of Eterniti—of the Aegeless One—would cross lines of sight trying to espy him in the Timeline.
Then he would find his way to her—hidden.
He had a plan for saving her from the past.
They would be reunited by faith or fist.
Nothing would divide them again.
Nothing would tear them apart.
Nothing would sear their hearts.
All that stood between them would soon vanish into stardust, leaving only the feelings once shared.
There was a time and a place in every man's life for finally concluding love was a choice—but not a conscious one. All that remained for the body of flesh was to find it.
All that was needed was to sense the signals.
There was no machinery—no math to the pull.
You just felt it—and when you did—time was up.
These moments must be met with but a march.
A single-minded walk to the end was in order.
Nothing else mattered but the reunion of two.
Nothing else patterned itself upon the divine.
Calistico stood by silently, in stark approval.
Rockwell's Angel plotted for his happiness.
ii. Time in Love Too Thin
Boston was summoned to the Inner Sanctum.
Aegeless One took a long time in order to begin.
Black had heard something was wrong but not what.
He was soon informed that Rivers had gone off alone.
He had skipped out earlier that morning on a Jump.
“We were tracking him for several Jumps until now.”
“God damn it! He went and did it. You lost him?”
“We'll find him again soon, he's Jumping quick.”
“He's doing it on purpose to jam up the feed.”
“He can't sustain it for long. We'll find him.”
“Your confidence is misplaced. He has tricks.”
“That is why you are here. You've been reassigned.”
“You want me to hunt him down. My own partner?”
“Tempors have loyalty to Eterniti not individuals.”
“Yes, Aegeless One, but I feel someone else ...”
“We believe we know where he will end up.”
“You think he's going after the girl don't you.”
“You will Demort him and extinguish the girl.”
“You want me to mess with the Timeline more?”
“Once threads are bare, they must be cauterized.”
“Aegeless One, in all humility, this seems much.”
“If you care not for this mission, we will defer.”
“You will find someone else to do the work?”
“Yes—and you will be added to be Demorted.”
Boston's head swam for he had heard the doom.
It was his life or his friend's—and he had a choice.
He knew he would regret it either way unto forever.
He doubted he would even be able to do it for sure.
He tried to imagine looking into Rivers' dying eyes.
“I will do it,” he said, bowed and departed gloomy.
Astara closed the fridge, feeling a little depressed.
She set her mug on the counter and refilled it.
She walked over to the dining table.
She noticed a magazine open.
She had not left it that way.
Then turned another page.
She gasped spilling coffee.
She spun about feeling chill.
Something had just walked past.
“Rockwell?” she said aloud, hopeful.
The window facing French and Fourth streets suddenly opened—letting a breeze blow in.
She rushed over, looking outside.
“Rockwell?” she pleaded pitifully.
But it was not Rockwell in her apartment. It was Calistico—sizing up Rivers' love—getting a sense for what he was up against—getting them back together.
Then opening the window, he flew off over the city asleep—the City of Sirens, as it was called, after the mysterious, melodic harmonies that were often heard coming from the direction of Mount Miramar. New London was a hotspot of interdimensional activity. It always had been—always would be—making it a favorite playground of Angels.
Calistico soared low and climbed high—taking in the sights and sounds of Rockwell's old stomping grounds. He wanted to understand this man's history—in order to get a grip on his future—and what motivated him onward.
Reports were coming into his mind regularly from his Overangel who was tracking Rockwell's whereabouts in time. Rockwell was to be warned the second Rivers arrived. They knew soon or later he would come for the girl—and they would be ready to save one from Hell in Eternity—if not both.
Rockwell skipped across the Great Timeline like a stone on the water. He was a ghost through history—an aloof traveler, hitching a ride out of the hands of the Aegeless One—by always staying one world ahead of the Tempors that now hunted him. It was at once exhilirating and terrifying.
He knew sooner than later he would have to make a final play toward some happy end. The Tempors would catch up to him eventually—but all that mattered was he see Star one last time and fulfill his promise of returning to her.
He hopped through the Middle Ages—back to the Stone Ages—up through the Egyptian times—into the far flung decades of the 20th century—before finally landing in 2050—phasing in at the back of a deserted bus en route through New London on track for Star's apartment block.
He could feel his heart slamming against rib cage.
His pattern of involvement with Astara was all tangled up inside him—making him long for her more now with every second—strung tighter and tighter inside about it.
It was early morning and she would be on her way to work soon—to catch this bus. A few more passengers got on before they arrived—but as they turned the corner—he saw that Astara was not there. He began to panic—sensing the Tempors were nearly upon him—worrying they already had her—when he saw her step out to the stop and stand waiting.
The bus stopped—the doors opened—and on she stepped—not seeing him instantly—making her way to the back of the bus—sitting directly in front of him. At first he did not budge—afraid of startling her—but then she turned around and looked directly at him—through him—around his seat—sensing his presence but still not seeing him so unsure.
“Star,” he said—phasing into fuller light—and she froze, jaw slung as if she wanted to scream but could not—then she nearly swooned fainting before catching herself—and looking closer—really making sure it was not just her eyes—but she could tell he was real.
“Rocko?” she offered.
“Yes … It is me, babe.”
She kept staring intently.
He did not flinch—waiting for her to get over her initial disbelief—for her truer feelings to come flooding back.
“Is it really you, hunny?”
“Yes ... It's a long story.”
“Am I just going crazy?”
“No, Star, you are not.”
“You were at accident.”
“Indeed. I was there.”
“But why now? How?”
“I'm not dead, Astara.”
“What do you mean.”
He was bathed in light.
“I'm from the future.”
“You are from what?”
“When you die—some get saved by future versions of us—who are immortal time travelers.”
“But I didn't die. I survived.”
“We had come to save you.”
“You mean you saved me?”
“No … you changed that.”
“What did I do to do that?”
“It is believed that you sensed my presence—so changing the course of the Great Timeline—which is the worst case scenario for a Tempor—and for the State of Eterniti. The State must be kept stable—unchanged by our Retrievals of souls from History. It is the Prime Duty—to Protect the Past.”
“So you are in trouble then?”
“I am a wanted man, babe. Our time together is thin, until we make a choice otherwise. We are both in danger beforehand, before we take action now.”
“I can hardly even believe you.”
“I am really here. This happened.”
“What kind of danger?” she inquired.
Suddenly something slammed on the bus roof.
They both looked up at once. The driver pulled over, hearing it too. Whatever it was now walked along the roof of the bus, each footstep coming down in a terrifying crunch of steel and strength. It was one of the Tempors for sure.
“What the Hell is that?” Star staggered in breath.
“We have to go, now ...” he said grabbing her hand.
He pulled her along to the front of the bus. The driver had the door open now and he was outside looking at the roof. A brilliant flash of blue light threw across him, leaving him awash in a blinding, temporary brainwash designed to separate him from consequences of Past Interference. The Tempor on the roof was now firing this Great Neutralizing Stunner all across the crowds that surrounded—stabilizing and insulating Eterniti from the harm of Timeline Trauma.
Two more Tempors were spotted up the street. Rockwell led Astara through the crowds on foot—following a winding way to shake the tail—as their clocks unwound.
“We have to make a choice. They will not take you back now that you've seen the Truth. They consider you a risk to everything—and they will now terminate you on sight—just as they will with me for going rogue. Our only hope is beyond the stars there is a Heaven Greater than Eterniti.”
“You know I don't believe there is—so what hope is there for us if the Rulers of the Future want us cold dead?”
“There is one other way—one way to evade.”
“You mean just keep running? Is it possible?”
“They track us by our natures, not our energy. They predict where we will go—not measure it in any traditional sense. They use intuition—but call it code-breaking—when they knock through someone's walls of thought and principle—to come upon a prognostication for where they go next.
“We had such technology in innovation even in our time—but it became so advanced, to outwit the machines became challenging. We learned it is always still possible for a human to outsmart an electrode—but it requires a passion for original thinking. We cannot go anywhere we once wanted to travel. We cannot dress in any way we used to prefer. We cannot do anything that is anything like what we would be expected to do. We have to turn left even when right seems like no big deal. The more we change it up—the longer we will make it alive—and we will be together the entire time. I still have my Immortality—for they cannot take that back unless they have me pinned down—but when you have lived out your life—then I would so give up my Powers and go forward with you into whatever may lie beyond the Mountain of Mortality—beyond the Valley of Eterniti—in the Clouds of Creation—the Final Sun—where Our Love Shines.”
He stopped and kissed her now, caught up in a throng. The crowds were continuing on their paths—but in zombie-like trances—only conscious enough to keep moving.
But then he sensed Boston's presence. Black was back.
He turned and saw him emerge from the mob in light.
“The is the End of the Line, my old friend,” he said.
“Boston … What? Oh … they got to you, I see …”
“Damn right, they got to me—look what you did.”
“I didn't do anything, old man … I did this for her.”
“And now you've lost both your lives for the cause.”
“You have come to do what you must, so go on.”
Rockwell knew he had the upper hand—he was more adept at Jumping than any Temp he knew—but bringing Astara complicated the balance—and it would take skill.
Black would be on him at every turn for the duration. He felt betrayed—but also understood the man's motivation. He truly believe, despite all their discussions, that Boston had no faith in spirits beyond his body—or of his body. All Black wanted was to fulfill his Dues of the Tempor and spend Eterniti on a tropical beach living in a hut with a hunny.
Rockwell could not blame him but would not die.
He would randomize every atom of his being first.
He would scatter their days to the ends of the earth.
There would be no tracks to follow—no clues to claw back—no stars to lead the way—only ever following chaos.
“You could have had FOREVER!!!” Boston roared.
His old partner laughed wickedly now, possessed.
He was bitten by the ego bug—the need to everlast.
This was the mentality to which every Citizen of Eterniti eventually succumbed. Aegless One no doubt told Black he would have everything he ever wanted in spades. But the way it always panned out was it was never enough.
Citizens of Eterniti were a dastardly bunch of energy thieves—all so hollow and vacant, without that creative spark—simply existing for the want of stealing someone else's spin.
“You see I don't need forever, when I am with her.”
“Oh please, Rocko … You've got a lot to know.”
“Aegless One is not right about everything, Black.”
“Blasphemy! I am going to enjoy finishing you!”
“You say that now, but we were good friends.”
“Some things change? Maybe I never cared.”
“All you had to do was look the other way.”
“They would have terminated me too, son.”
“Don't call me that! My real father never got saved. He was scattered to the winds—and that is where I'm going—but not on your watch—not in this Line of the Times.”
“You will die one day—whether by our hand or your own. You will not last long once she is gone.”
The wind was picking up into gusts.
“I won't on going on without her.”
Black shook his head in disgust.
Aegeless One's Eye materialized.
It peered down through clouds.
Rockwell knew the time was up.
It was now or not at all if anything.
One look from the One could strip him from Immort and then he and Astara would both be lost.
Boston saw Rockwell's hand move to his side—and he knew the boy was going to activate his randomizer.
Black jumped to chase them down—but their particles were already blinking in and out—about to launch into photons—weaving waves through the dimensions of Time and Space—threading them across the toroid of History.
But even with the spectacular talents that Rockwell had learned through his time as a Tempor—none of that would have saved them without getting a head start. He had waited too long—given Boston too much time—allowed the Aegeless One to descend upon their position—and so the only thing that intervened was the Angel he did not know he had.
Calistico unfolded from a realm of Gold—white wings spreading wide as he stood his ground before Black—shining.
The crowds who still milled about in a trance noticed none of this. It was an event outside of Time in the sense that nothing they did would jeopardize the gait of greater tomorrows—nor close their gateways back to the future Present—but Black knew if he did not finish Rockwell he would be finished himself—so Calistico was just a footnote.
He stormed the Angel—firing off a flurry of rounds—screaming toward the Messenger of Heaven with a searing determination to destroy whatever blocked him from target.
“Stand down,” Calistico commanded, voice in heights.
“I spare no quarter for demons from ether-frames.”
“Rockwell is protected by Divine Right, mortal.”
“Deliver me from your fantasy, fool—and die!!!”
Boston swung for the Angel—but it flew up high.
It swooped back down and blasted him with light.
It tore at him in a primal fire wholly unfamiliar to it.
Calistico knew his bond with God was to sacrifice.
He did not deserve Heaven without humility.
All he had was a chance to help Rock and Star.
By sparing one unit's love, he loved vicariously.
Aegeless One skimmed over the two clashing.
The One swung its gaze over Time in chase.
But Rock and Star had all the head start.
They needed but just one opportunity.
So they took it and vanished into nothing.
They went somewhere but only they knew where.
So the longest manhunt in Eterniti had finally begun.
Plus the first romance to span millenia soon ensued.
Aegeless one would remain enraged until their end.
Black would be Tempor until Rock and Star collided.
The two would change the Great Timeline with every footstep they took—throwing Eterniti into a deep dive.
The Days of the Immort were rocked to the core.
Every sunrise brought new changes to challenge.
Not until the pair of heretics were apprehended would the wheel of fortune roll back toward Eterniti. Not until they were eliminated from Time would order be restored. Not until they were cut off from cascading paradigm shifts through History's ripples would it all end.
Their one weapon was Time. Their one choice was but to change the Future before the Future changed them.
iii. Going Rogue In History
They visited other worlds—other times—and never looked back. The next step was always a surprise. The next jump was always a mystery. They did not survive by wits or wisdom so much as wild abandon—complete disregard for what came before. The only constant was the other.
“I love you so much sometimes,” she confessed.
He laughed good-naturedly. “And other times?”
“There are no other times,” she reassured him.
They were walking along a river path talking.
There was plenty of time for talking these days.
All their life was just on the run holding hands.
“Well I love you too. And I always will in fact.”
“We never seem to need to say it at all usually.”
“Maybe it means something unexpected is up.”
She looked across the water. Clouds collected.
They had only been in this quaint village a few days and signs were telling them to leave already. They were getting too comfortable, spending too much time in the old ways—the old patterns of loving each other. If anything it was their love that was going to find them out in the end. As soon as they started getting close old habits were hard to ignore—and if they were not careful, all of Eterniti would see their love lit up like a supernova in the Timeline—so obvious to the trained Tempor that they did not belong there.
So it was their turn again to move on—to flee.
They packed quickly and hopped an antique train into the mountains—passing through a zoo of exotica animals on their way to the nearest Timejump nexus on the local ley line.
In one of the aviaries a parrot took a liking to Star and she let it sit on her shoulder giggling. “We shouldn't be having so much fun when so many people want us dead.”
“If we live by that logic then we lose—they win.”
“True that. I just get tired of the relentless pursuit.”
True that! True that! the parrot chimed in with them.
“Oh … Can we keep him? I think he's really smart!”
“Well is it something that we would normally do?”
“Um … No not at all … We never liked pets.”
“Okay, perfect. Let's name him Chance.”
“He'll be our good luck charm for a second.”
“Yes, just until he becomes a habit, then not.”
Star winked and kissed Rock to show happiness.
They continued on up the mountain to the nexus and Timejumped a hundred years on and five thousand miles away—then again another five away—and then back five hundred years—blazing through a kaleidoscopic tunnel of light on their journey, bouncing around the Timeline.
Much of it was the work of senses, as Rockwell picked where to land next—and this time they would lay low in a little fishing village. Next time it would be a ski resort. Sometime it would be the big city hubbub that coveredthem—other times it would be the small quiet town that kept their mouths shut and kept the pair's secret safe from Tempors.
Ever Black was behind them, driving them on and on—always right so close he thought he could smell them. Whereas he was never wickedly minded toward Rocko before, now he was thinking every second about killing him and the girl—to get this ultimate chase over with once and for all.
He had Vigor as his First Tempor—ready to pounce—plus a tight-knit group of seasoned Tempor Assassins all ready to die—charged with the task of fixing the Timeline, no matter the cost—by ending the lives of the Rock and Star.
Meanwhile, the Aegeless One ever watched over their shoulders—ready to take Black's life if he failed. There was every motivation for their unit to succeed in its task—but the ever slippery twosome they sought bred every frustration.
At times Vigor was over eager to get on with it as well—and one time they were almost upon Rock and Star hiding out in a cabin in the woods of West Esterchest. Wynterton.
Vigor was sent ahead to scope out the situation.
This was Black's first mistake. Second: Following.
Aegeless urged them on despite cloudy insights—eager just to see some bloodshed either way. The length of their evasion was beginning to wear on even a Tru-Immort.
Vigor snapped some twigs but was low-key as they come—closing in on the cabin window by inter-dimensional stealth. He looked inside, could see nothing, but hear them.
They were talking low—then not at all. Vigor looked back to where Black signaled for him to hold his position. But then he heard the two exiting out a back door and turned back to head around the other side of the cabin and intercept.
“Wait!” Black yelled under his breath. “Damn!”
He sprinted after Vigor, but in the crossing paths of Tempors—every infinitely split moment was the moment you let prey get away—or the very hair-line in time you got away. It was the unlikely opportunity you seized upon your trophy—or the wildest of longshots your hunter conquered you.
Vigor rounded the cabin just in time to see the two disappear into the wood. He bounded on like a cat in a deep kill dash—drawing every ounce of energy out of him forward.
Meanwhile, Calistico flew overhead, tracking Vigor. He had been close the entire time, but now saw it was his turn to influence events in Rock and Star's favor for another escape.
He dove down slinging his bow and arrow of light—letting a bolt fly out across the wind into Vigor's back felling him. But Vigor bounced back, swinging about guns raised.
Vigor fired fifty one times before he blinked—and Calistico took a dozen odd hits—tumbling through the air to the ground—landing in a crumpled pile of limb and wing.
By the time the Angel recovered himself, he had Black to deal with instead of Vigor. Vigor was already out of range of his senses even—as Boston came barreling down hard.
He was forced to report back to Heaven in defeat.
Rock and Star threaded through the trees at breakneck speed sparing no risk just to get ahead a few more yards. Vigor gave chase with the steady beat of a hunter charged up.
Every twig they snapped—every branch broken and stream disturbed—sent small shockwaves ahead through History—through the butterfly effect creating giant ripples in Eterniti—threatening to throw Aegeless One's rule into jeopardy if they began making any bigger changes to Time.
Rockwell knew this—and he knew that was their best defense—to constantly keep Eterniti's Archidol upturned.
So they looked for ways to wire into causality.
They looked for simple twists turned catalysts.
Whatever kept them aloof—yet left a trace in their aftermath—a wake in their passing—improved their chances that the Future would be forever altered in consequence.
They climbed up out of the forest to the peak of a valley and finally stood before the nexus they were after.
It crackled in naked electricity to the watchful eye.
They walked up—holding hands—closing lids.
Vigor came out of the wood in time to see it.
They stepped into the folds of History's wheel.
Vigor saw them disappear—then ran up after.
He was less adept at Timejumping than Rock.
He struggled to find his center of being and sufficient concentration on demand—and he knew every moment he stalled the two outlaws of Eterniti got ever further away.
But the more frustrated he got—the harder and harder it became to focus—until finally he threw up his hands.
Meanwhile Rock and Star were riding horses across fields of roses toward a mountain range in the distance. Then they were riding a bullet train over a metropolis. Next they were hiding out in a van with a bunch of hippies heading for a festival where they would blend into thousands strong.
But they did not stay long. Next they filed through a lineup at a casino in the middle of the desert. Next they flew in a plane across a great ocean toward a different continent. Next they toured a space station on Mars—next they stowed away on a pirate ship out to sea between a thousand islands—then they left for a cruise ship on course for a new hideaway.
Always Vigor and Black were on their heels. Black had the werewithal about Timejumping—while Vigor had the muscle and maniacal rage for rushing toward the final kill.
Boston could do the deed himself if he must, but he would let Vigor have his fun—and let Rock meet his end.
They nearly caught the pair in a passageway under a library—almost threw down with them atop a building catching a helicopter—constantly came within tauntingly short reach of them just to come up short in the end—until the day that Black caught a clue he up until then had lacked.
He realized the couple were acting erractically on purpose, to throw them off—but if they held back a bit, let them think they were getting away for good—perhaps then they would slip up—make more mistakes—fall back into a more predictable groove—and give away the upper hand.
So he pulled Vigor back for a few days—which was not easy. Then a full week went by—by which point Vigor was about to bust out over being held up. He had to explain his plan to Aegeless One constantly. He knew his life was on the line over the risk he was taking—but he also knew it was on the line anyway no matter what they did—so it was best he did what he felt would get the job done right the first time.
It was not much longer before Star slipped up.
III. SALVATION'S LAST STAND
i. Delaying The Afterlife
Rockwell and Astara sat for coffee at an outdoor cafe overlooking the River Crysun. Astara was offered a cigarette by the waiter which she took after some brief hesitation.
They had both been feeling more comfortable.
It seemed as if the heat was finally off them.
It had been getting to a point past all sanity.
But now they could relax and enjoy life a bit.
This was the reason they were running after all.
All of this was so they could enjoy each other's company just some few precious more years together.
All of this was so they may look into one another's eyes just a little while longer in the expansiveness of Time.
Whatever awaited them in the true Afterlife—whether it be Hell or Heaven—or oblivion—it would be better than in Eterniti apart. But until then, they would stretch this mortal coil out as long as it would unwind—savoring every last drop of their mortal lives—lingering on the sidelines of History.
A fountain sprayed in concert with an orchestra that played across the bay outside of a shining music hall.
Gulls cried upon the bosom of a cool breeze.
Dolphins came in near the docks to play.
The sun sat huge on a dwindling skyline.
Rockwell felt Star's foot meander up his leg.
They smiled at each other—remembering love.
It had been ages since they could even take a breath.
Whatever lay in shadows for them later, they had to take what dreams came along while they could still dance.
Rockwell pushed back his chair and stood up, offering Astara his hand—and they fell into their old familiar step.
Their ballroom was the pier—their romance was the blooming stars—and the night ahead was as deep as their eyes could shine. Their future lied before them into the past.
Little did they know their dance would cut short.
Calistico had been reassigned by God to other duties after his defeat at the hands of Vigor and Black. Other Angels were sent after the Tempors to do what they could to steer them off the trail of Rock and Star—but Calistico knew now first hand the two tasked with replacing him were no match for those men from Eterniti. He had a real investment now, in seeing the couple to safety. He hated failing—but even more—he hated seeing others tearing apart hearts of true love.
“They do it because their own souls have gone cold,” he often complained to his Overangel—seeking his old job.
“God will never let you go down there again, young wing. He knows you are very passionate about the case now—and he fears you are blinded by the cause—so putting you back on that path would be putting you in the cross-hairs.”
So Calistico went about his divine duties in the sky, tending to cloud formations—seeing to sunrise precision—making certain earth rotations stayed true. But ever he kept eye on Rock and Star down below—watching their progress.
When the time was right, if he must, he was determined to defy God's orders—and fight for love.
He knew how to take down Black now, he was sure of it—after having looked further into the perpetual Tempor's past. Vigor, on the other hand, would be a harder egg to break. That one was more beast than man. He might need to be treated as such in order to give Rock and Star a chance.
He began stashing away a bug-out bag in his cloud nook—where he could easily grab it the day he set to Earth--rogue against the Holy Spirit—at least for this one mission.
God, however, could see what was coming and frowned solemnly sad for Calistico. Any Angel fallen, no matter the good intentions, though retaining of powers, was susceptible to influence and action from the other side. The Devil would be on his tail as well as Astara's—and there was nothing God could do for either of them. Even if all his Angels fled, he would be the one to adhere to His Principles—his steadfast belief that they must not mess with the Timeline.
Otherwise, as was once set into stone, the Timelines become crossed—blurring Fate and setting the point of existence being at odds with the nonsensical denouements of History—and there becomes no longer any point to life.
God himself was once a man ascended to the Sky—and he did it by one means alone—on his own. So he saw it as his duty to pass on that one secret Gift to Man: Go it alone.
Every deserving Justice was worth doing it oneself.
Every pair of wings won was done on one's own.
To intercede, was to interrupt—to set fire to Time.
Their duty was not to protect Rock and Star's love, but to see to it that they were not prevented from passing on—from finding the True Afterlife. God knew Aegeless One wanted them not just dead—but souls scattered even from recombining in Heaven or Hell. Aegeless One wanted them scrubbed from History completely—with no residue behind, not even in the hallowed annals of Higher Orders—or the lightless caves across the dungeons of Lower Earth Levels.
The two Angels sent to take over for Calistico—Lethalum and Boone—were more the rebels than trusted ones of God's flock. They were chosen for being effective hunters—but not so much for their cleverness in spiritual matters. They tracked the Tempors diligently, nevertheless, and waited on orders from their Overangel when and whether to strike.
Black and Vigor appeared on the pier from out of a fog that was just rolling in off Beata Bay. They spotted Rock and Star dancing and jagged off to the right for the cover of dark edges. They closed in slowly, carefully—Black holding Vigor back until the last sec, before releasing the bloodthirst.
Since his inception as a Tempor, Vigor had deteriorated into a near total savage, only interested in prey.
Now that he saw the pair of outlaws in the flesh, it was all the barbaric futurian could do but resist darting in.
“Wait for it, Vigor,” Black urged, scanning the inlands for any sign of the Winged Demons who hunted them.
“Aegeless One has warned us of this God—these Angels among us—who seek to protect these two, for whatever reason I cannot imagine.”
“What are they, Boston?”
“Aliens from the Stars.”
“What do they want?”
“To harvest Eterniti.”
“Not on our watch.”
“Rock and Star will fall.”
“This is our chance, Black.”
“No … this is your chance.”
Boston waved Vigor on .
The tough thug obeyed.
Rock and Star danced.
Vigor stalked in close.
Lethal and Boone arrived.
They split up flanking Vigor.
Black spotted them--cursing.
Rock sensed one then two.
Star did not seem to notice.
All went quiet for a second.
Then all at once threw down.
ii. So Many Lost Sanctuaries
The Devil followed Calistico in a cunning restraint.
It knew the Angel's weakness was for human love.
It would betray even God to protect that passion.
Even Demons of the Under Earth were impressed.
But the Winged One would fall for his foolishness.
He believed in High Ideals despite knowing better.
It watched as the Angel made a final break for Earth—after seeing Lethalum and Boone delay Vigor in combat—only to leave Rock and Star open to Black's direct attack. Boston was on them like lightning when he saw Vigor caught up.
Rock pulled Star toward the far end of the pier.
Boston pushed through the crowds chasing them.
He had no time to prep the people, so they swayed.
They gasped as the Tempor blazed by lit in blue.
The Timeline rocked in strain under the burden.
Black cornered them by the water. A big storm blew in. Rockwell's weakness was the girl—and Boston knew it.
When his old partner went on the forward—he deflected engagement, blasting Rockwell back with a strike of supernatural strength—betraying new powers bestowed to him by the Aegeless One—of precedent setting access to Eterniti's Eye of Enchantment. The Great Seer had been eager to secure closure on the Rock and Star case—so bestowing such unheard of force in just one—and a Tempor even.
Black then stepped straight for Star—reaching out and grabbing her in a blurring flash—spinning her around to stand between him and Rockwell—holding gun to her head.
“This is what becomes of love when you cherish it!”
“Wait!” Rockwell implored. “Please! Boston! No!”
Vigor spun about entangled by the two Angels.
Lethalum tore at him with elongating talons.
Boone pummeled him with bolts of light.
He fired back at random, blinded now.
All three spun across the boardwalk.
The rolled in a pinwheel of limbs.
God and the Aegeless One pitted their respective patriots and pawns against each other.
The causes of Heaven and Eterniti ran cross-ways, even if neither came close to Hell.
Even Angels could claw.
Even Tempors could cry.
Yet their duties collided.
So Lethalum had a mission.
Boone had his orders true.
But Vigor had a passion.
He had the upper hand.
He understood one thing. He was invested in the death of Rock and Star. His very evolution depended on it.
What he did not know was what he was going to become—once set free to Eterniti.
He dreamed of being King.
He envisioned floors of gold.
Girls and greatness awaited him.
His happiness was not complicated.
All he desired were the material tings.
That is why Eterniti appealed to him so much—and what the Aegeless One appealed to in him.
It was enough for him to believe that the Angels were Aliens. He did not know of such things as Spirit and the Real Afterlife. To him, if denied Eterniti—he would become dust.
He would not abandon his atoms without a fight.
He had empathy but survival superseded everything.
He crushed and crippled those Angels without mercy.
Even the animal instincts inside Lethalum—even the uncommon cold, calculating, killer instincts of Boone were not enough to stop him. He was a madman with a single purpose.
He spun Lethalum about to face Boone—then broke his wings behind him. Boone torpedoed in after him—but he smashed the second Angel down with a morbid howl. He let out the wild inside to sing in violence and spare no assault.
The Angels soon lay dead at his feet—and he was covered in blood—panting for more now with a taste of it.
Aegeless One sat back in his throne in satisfaction.
Black's finger twitched on the trigger at Star's head.
Calistico swooped down at light speed to intercept.
Vigor stalked in for blood, ready to question it later.
All points collapsed in a calamity as thunder broke.
The first drops of rain were felt as Black fired off.
But the gun did not work, for Calistico jammed it.
It was easily short-circuited by the Angel's mind.
He landed before Black and the girl, grinning.
Black had a short sword to her throat now.
“Now it is time for this game to finally end.”
“What are you, demon? Alien from the stars?”
“Let the girl go and you will not need to find out.”
“I already know—and soon all of you will be gone.”
Vigor approached rapidly, closing in on Rockwell.
Rockwell stood locking gazes with Astara now.
He was giving her strength—peace in chaos.
Black sliced her throat and Calistico moved.
He moved the world to him more than him to it.
Time almost stood still in his speed of response.
He tackled Black off the pier as Vigor hit Rock.
Astara found her bearings and ran saw it all.
Rockwell staggered dazed by the surprise attack.
Underwater, Calistico blasted Black in blue nova.
The entire Bay lit up in a brilliant cool light flash.
This distracted Vigor from finishing Rock off.
Rivers Timejumped to seconds before, in order to catch Vigor off his mark—and slammed him off his feet.
He rushed afterward in a whirlwind fighting back—landing on top of Vigor—pounding his face with knuckles—nearly break his own hand—then ripping Vigor's own gun from his side and aiming it between his eyes—on the edge.
“Don't do it!” Calistico called out from behind him.
Rock turned around to face his Angel bathed in blue.
Vigor watched every movement for an opportunity.
Astara sensed this wishing Rock would just shoot.
The rain was coming down hard now in droves.
Calistico held out his hand for Rockwell's gun.
Rock took Vigor's second gun and now was holding off Tempor and Angel alike. Star joined him by his side and the two of them began to back away.
Vigor started after but Calistico grappled him down--even as God sent a flock of Overangels after them to end the event—even as Aegeless One sent back more Tempors to quell the disorder. Amidst a great clash of Tempor and Angels—the Devil walked about unseen—relishing the fray of fools. The Devil did not distinguish between prey—but like the Prime Predator—took out the weakest first—while Rock and Star made their ultimate get away—for Rock had an epiphany.
He finally realized the only way they would ever escape this chase permanently was to completely disconnect from themselves—not just act differently, but actually become other people—go rogue to Time.
So he took them to a quiet Church where they prayed—and in a garden out behind, he bathed them in wave after wave of blue photons, erasing every memory they ever had, rewinding their Experiences to the start—with simple hypnotic instructions and levels of consciousness stepped down to naked mind-frames.
He had explained everything to her. He had outlined how their lights would be undetectable by Aegeless One—and likely even the Angels—by using his Tempor powers to erase their lives from the State of Time.
He underestimated the Devil.
They would no longer know themselves—but neither would the rest of the universe. They would no longer be in love—but their love may yet rekindle and remain protected.
They would not even know many things of the world—but hopefully they would soon learn of them once more.
They would leave behind instructions for themselves, to read after making the great leap into the abyss of identity.
One day they would wake up on a big sailboat on the high seas—stocked with supplies enough to spend a lifetime on a remote tropical island. They would be lost yet free.
They would rise up and meet each other for the first time—learn to love again—live in the world again—and be happy, at peace for a time—for the rest of their natural days—ever still wanted by Aegeless One, but never found—ever still considered of interest to God, but never seen.
Not until their final end would they ultimately reveal themselves again—but in the mean time, they would live out their years in as much contentment and care for each other as they could muster—by their own handwritten instructions—given to them by their former selves.
That was the plan, anyway.
But their feelings for each other were not really there—even if it were better than life on the run. At least they had this time together—stolen back from the cold, heartless Eterniti—protected against an imperfect God in their own manifest Paradise. Heaven may be the Greater Vibration of two extremes—but for now they would live untouched for the corporeal time allotted them. Setting up sanctuary, they settled in. Only the Devil still sensed their faint trace.
iii. Manifesting Emancipation
Rock and Star never learned their true names from the instructions they had left behind for themselves.
Their former selves were afraid of triggering memories in their new selves--thus drawing unwanted attention their way from the Tempors and Aegeless One.
They instead instructed themselves to call each other Sun and Moon and live as friends—at least at first.
Unfortunately or fortunately—their new selves developed different ideas about what was right for them.
Through the notes, they guided themselves into the jungle of the island—where a fully functional, impervious, solar-powered outpost had been built for their arrival. They had set themselves up with every possible necessity and luxury—every possible defense and armament against harm.
They had wanted themselves to be supremely happy.
They had spared no measure to see to it—to that end.
But they soon learned something stalked the woods.
They would hear horrific howling at night and day.
Their dreams grew disturbed and they grew weary.
Whatever they had done, in their former lives—they sensed now something sinister had caught up to them.
The Devil wanted no prisoners. He had come to consider Rock and Star as trophies—those souls even God could not convince—even Eterniti could not seduce. He would have their spirits enslaved for escaping the Afterlife.
They would not cheat Heaven or Hell on his watch.
He came to the fortress in the jungle at night down.
He set off alarms and then slipped back into wood.
They would come out searching but he would leave.
Then he would come back to scuttle their comfort once more—slowly working away at their mental defenses.
Eventually, he lured Moon, who was sleepwalking again, out into the darkness, by calling to her in Rockwell's voice. She heard her name, 'Astara,' for the first time—and it triggered a deluge of real memories in the wake.
He led her by voice toward the river.
He made her kneel down over the water's edge, then she saw his demonic face in the water—and the Devil grabbed her by the hair, forcing her face to go under.
She fought back, but he would not relent.
Rockwell noticed her missing momentarily.
He came running out yelling her name aloud.
She screamed for him breaking out of the water.
The Devil pushed her face down under again smiling.
Rock sprinted about the wood desperately to find her.
When he did, she was alone, dunking her own head.
He pulled her back, slapping her face, waking her.
She told him what happened and they prayed.
They returned to shelter and pulled their notes.
They looked for anything warning of predators.
She told him everything she now remembered of their past lives—in turn triggering his own memories—turning them back into beacons in Time—no longer so well hidden.
They turned to off limit sections in the notes that they were not supposed to read before certain criteria were met—and they found some passages about the Three Fates—or Three Afterlives—in an Appendix titled the Three Eyes. According to their former selves, there were three possible sequels to life: Either in the future as Immorts, in Hell as Sinners—or Heaven as Saints.
They learned how they were supposed to live to ripe old ages before relinquishing themselves to the split chances between Heaven and Hell. That was the plan, anyway, but now that they remembered everything, Paradise was about to be upturned into a final stand.
They began raising Hell, lighting nightly fires on the beach so big they could almost be seen from the stars, in order to be sure God could hear them. They knew the Devil could find them—so they decided to be sure God could find them as well—as He may be their only chance. Neither of them any longer had any final answers, except in their last ditch hopes of going all out to the extreme, putting their best chips down in an grand existential ultimatum.
So God did find them again—and also eventually Aegeless One and the Tempors. Once again Rock and Star had hunters afoot—but this time they were far less adept at Timejumping. They would have to stand their ground however they could or die trying.
They were not quite comfortable in their own skins yet, having gone through amnesia and back again—but they were much more fresh and rested. Lifetimes of feeling had come back to them all at once—as if every day that ever existed happened only just yesterday.
So they were more passionate, more alive—more on fire and ready to fight for their right to love peace. It seemed everyone wanted a piece of their Fate—but they would fight.
Hell was for the Hard of Heart—Heaven was for the Boundless Feeling—Eterniti was for Control—but Paradise was the Haven of their Hearts. They would not give up.
Everything they knew of what mattered was here.
God sent Overangels this time, to tangle with the Devil in the swamps, as Rock and Star climbed to the peak of the promontory that overlooked the Shining Sea. The Tempors climbed up after them—with Aegeless One's Great Eye rising on the horizon—glaring at them in rage.
They stood before his gaze in pure defiance.
They kissed under a Gold Sun in bloom.
The One roared, booming aross the waves.
The Tempors closed in on them—so Rock prepared himself, driving his inner Fire up higher than ever before.
His upraised his hands to the azure sky.
Sure as alive he would not surrender.
His fists began white hot in blue light.
He moved to engage the first Tempor.
The other struck after Star in a flash.
Meanwhile the Devil danced with the Overangels in a melee of mayhem—mauling them even as he succumbed. God was weary of this upstart interfering. He put all of His power behind His Overangels—urging them to conquer.
Rock took several critical blows before raising the Tempor up above his head and tossing it off the rock.
It tumbled toward the water below, but Timejumped just before hitting. Star now grappled with the other, but he swiftly intervened, pulling it off of her—and firing several rounds into the Tempor's gut. It stumbled away bleeding.
It slumped to its knees, quickly losing its life.
Miles away the Overangels did the same—in their last throes even as they took the Devil out of Time forever.
The Great History of All would never be the same.
Rockwell embraced Astara once again—lingering long on her gaze—grabbing a hold of his love ever so tightly.
He could feel a Vortex of Perpetual Energy rising up his spine—surging up through the two of them—imbuing them with the Ultimate Gift—their true inner powers unchained—their true human potential finally keyed open by the unadulterated magnetism of their earthly human love.
Thus forward would be a new world, without the Devil stirring up Man's insecurities and fears, but not without the same daily struggles that gave the human condition meaning—not without the same yearnings for survival, the same desires for freedom from oppression and control.
So they knew, as new Lights of Life, new Champions of Humanity—they had but one choice: to move forward.
They had but one duty left they could not deny.
Eterniti would have to Fall—in a War of the Past Versus the Future—in order to preserve Love and Light and what it meant to be Human. Aegeless One must now die.
Holding hands they ran off the rock together, diving down toward the rocks below—burning away into thin air half-way down—in shreds of light—aloof in Time once more.
Their Love would live on forever—as Hell fell behind.
Vigor (Dark Hunter)
Cover Art: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=17174&picture=heavenly-ambiance&large=1