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Friday, June 7, 2024


 Posted May 7, 2024


A Story of Mantra and Black September

By Aladdin and Christopher Leeson 




We all walk in mysteries. We are surrounded by an atmosphere about which we still know nothing at all.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Now left alone, I wasn't sure how well our conversation had gone. With nothing else planned for the day, I decided to mentally contact Gabriel.

It turned out that he’d been listening in on the conversation I'd just had. Should I be surprised?

What do the rebels want?
the snoopy little man asked telepathically.

"Mostly, they want to have Warstrike dead."

We can offer them much, but they unfortunately won't have time to enjoy it for long.

Yeah, I get it. They're going to blink out of existence. In that case, we can offer them almost anything, as long as we set the delivery date for after the eleventh hour.”

We will do what we must for the sake of the Multiverse, but I dislike deceiving people.” At that, he went silent.

“Gabe, are you there?" I asked. 

When his voice returned, he said, "I went to retrieve a useful apparatus I possess. It achieves the same effects as Warstrike's precognition but is more efficient."

“What do you want see?" I asked.

It is paramount to locate the Time Gem. If that is what Amber Hunt is coming here to seek, it might make a proper bait to draw her into a trap.

"Why didn’t you think of that before?”

Everything in its proper time, he replied.

"Oh, yeah? Weren't you just saying that time is a short commodity?" I reminded him.

Instead of replying, Gabriel gave a shout:
I see it! It's inside the castle!

“It’s not a castle. It’s an armory.”

Whatever it's called, the Time Gem is inside of it!

"Who has it? Not Necromantra, I hope.".

Jamie Tark has it!

Jamie? How in hell did she get it?

Hurry, Gabriel urged. We have to seize the Gem before Amber Hunt arrives.

“We also have to worry about Warstrike," I told him. "He'll probably want to turn the thing into a weapon against the rebels. And then there's Necromantra! She's such a nihilist that there's no way of knowing what she'd end up doing with the thing. What's next?" I asked.

I'm unsure, but I have confidence in your resourcefulness, he said.

"Why not ask your mechanical seer what to do?"

It doesn’t work that way.

“So, you're dumping all this on me again?" I grumbled.

Unfortunately, yes.

“Science guys! You can't live with them and you can't live without them! "Okay, just give me a moment to think!"

I had already mingled my aura with Jamie's bio-field when I'd touched her before. This would allow me to find her almost automatically. Our conversation apparently being over, I turned ghost and followed Jamie's psychic scent. I took the covert route through the plentiful rubble that cluttered the broken streets.

At the trail’s end, I found myself in a room that must have belonged to Jamie, since she was sitting at a small table playing with dolls. Mr. Paws was one of them, looking well cared for despite the decrepit state of the world overall.

I solidified in front of the child. "Hi, Jamie!"

She looked up with a gasp. "Mantra!"

"I didn't mean to startle you."

"Have you come to say goodbye?" she asked. looking worried.

"Not yet, but I learned something that makes me afraid for you."

Jamie wrinkled her brow. "What, Mantra?"

"I've found out you're a little girl keeping a big secret. I also know it's a secret that's too big to hold on to all by yourself. Can you tell me about it?"

"I don't know any secrets," she said nervously.

"That's funny. I had a Mantra vision, and I saw you holding a pretty gem. But instead of being happy, you looked sad whenever you looked at it. Why is that, sweetheart?"

"I – I –" she stammered.

"Is it a bad gem? Does it make you have nightmares?"

"No – I don't have bad dreams." She hung her head guiltily. "That’s just something I told Daddy."

Kneeling beside her, I took her hand and touched her cheek. "Why did you fib to someone who loves you as much as your daddy, Jamie?"

"The gem said I had to keep everything a secret."

"Why, honey?"

"Because the gem said it had powers, and if Daddy took the gem and used those powers, he might hurt people."

"Why would he do that?"

"Because he's the king."

"Is he a king who does bad things?"

"I don't know. But he's fighting with everybody. If people fight, it doesn't always mean they're bad, does it?"

"Of course not. But you say the gem speaks to you? I’ve never met a talking gem. Will it speak to me?"

"I don't know. Maybe if it likes you?"

"What sort of things does it speak to you about?"

"It said the Flaming Woman will soon come and take it away, and that if she does, everyone here is going to die. So I hid the Gem to keep the Flaming Woman from finding it."

"Are you sure?" I asked. "Strangers often tell fibs. Do you suppose that the gem might be fibbing?"

"I don't know. Why would the gem do that?"

"There could be lots of reasons. A bad gem might tell scary stories to make children afraid and sad."

Jamie assumed a worried look. I gathered her into my arms and whispered into her ear. "Jamie, magic can be good or bad. What do you think we should do about this sort of magic?"

Instead of answering, she pulled away and went to her toy box, withdrawing from it a smooth, oblong, glowing vermilion stone. I had seen the Mind Gem before, and it had looked similar, except for its color. This gem supposedly contained a god’s power to control the flow of Time. Who could be trusted with its control? Not Gabriel. There were just too many mysteries surrounding the little man for me to trust him.

Jamie came to me with the Time Gem cupped in her hands. "You can have it, Auntie," she whispered.

“Why, don’t you want it anymore?” I asked.

“I think an adult should take care of it."

Was she saying she trusted me, a near stranger, more than her own father? It must have had the right sort of face!

I carefully took the gem and felt its warmth through my gloves. I braced, unsure what a piece of an ancient god's corpse might do to me.

"Can you speak to me?" I asked the gem warily.

I can communicate with you,
said a whisper inside my mind.

"What have you been telling Jamie?" I asked.

Only truth.

"What is truth?"

Truth is an accurate description of a quantitative reality.

"Cute answer! Where are you from, and why are you here?"

I come from the Infinity Array. I am here to hide from my brothers.

"Why do you need to hide?"

They hold me to be a traitor. I cooperated with the Reality Gem to allow the Black Knight to break the Array. The other four seek revenge.

“How can they hurt you?”

They can unite to render me inert like the Ego Gem now is.

"Why did you break away from the array?"

I can see ahead in time and knew that the intentions of the Ego Gem would end reality. Not even the Infinity Array may continue to exist where reality is absent.

“How do you know about Amber Hunt, whom you call the Flaming Woman?" I asked.

The Black Knight broke the array, but the presence of Amber Hunt is needed to prevent the immediate destruction of the Main Branch. I must take her into the first possible nanosecond when she can apply her power.

So, that was Amber Hunt's role in this debacle? This was a nuance that I hadn't known about. I wondered whether Gabriel knew how Amber Hunt fitted in? If he did know, why hadn't he told me?

"Time Gem, in your vast knowledge, do you know how to prevent every particle of the Nemesis Energy from escaping?"

I do not. I was part of the array when the first energy wave escaped. If I return to that nanosecond, I will occupy the same point in time twice, and that will create a paradox that must be avoided!

"Would the paradox be worse than letting the Nemesis Energy destroy the Multiverse."

"Hold on here? I did a paradox when I met a different version of myself from a different year and timeline! It didn't hurt either one of us!"

Your paradox was harmless because you are not an Infinity Gem.

Trying to see reality as a god saw it was overloading my mind. Maybe Gabriel could understand the Time Gem's lingo.

I hear you, Mantra, the Timekeeper spoke into my mind.

"Good, now tell me what to do."

The data is being analyzed. It is paramount that I analyze the physical gem also. Please bring it to the Time Sphere.

“What if it doesn't want to go?" I asked.

Try asking it nicely, my friend.

Before I could think of a rejoinder, a grating voice echoed between the cement walls. "So, there you are, bitch!"

My force shield reacted to my startlement  to protect myself and Jamie simultaneously.

Necromantra still looked like I remembered her, with no sign of aging. She still had the same costume I'd seen her wear before, the one that made her look like a tart. Before he went insane, I'd knew Thanasi well; I'd never had any inkling that he was the type who would get his jollies by sashaying around as a slut-dressing woman the first chance he got.

I didn't want to start a fight with Jamie present, so I tried a threat: "I killed you once, I'll do it again."

"When did you kill me?" she asked.

“In another timeline. Just looking at you reminds me of why I did it. I can't believe I actually felt bad for a while."

“When you're dead yourself, those bad feelings won't bother you anymore," she said scornfully.

“You're still the same little ball of sunshine, aren't you?"

"What's that in your hand?" the witch asked.

"Take a guess."

"Try this guess. I formerly felt the raw energy of the Power Gem that Lord Pumpkin used to attack me. What you have feels like the same energy. That's the kind of power I've always dreamed of having. Hand it over!"

"Why should I?" I said.

"I promise that if you give it to me, the child, at least, can live," Necromantra said.

"That seems uncommonly generous of you. Why would I think you'd keep your word?"

The tattooed woman smiled. "She's annoying, but I've been putting up with her to get the goodwill of her father. That no longer holds; that gem will allow me to destroy my enemies without need of Warstrike's help."

"Why do you want the city?" I asked. "It's a wreck. Wouldn't you prefer to take over a nice tropical beach somewhere?"

"You've heard my terms," the under-dressed redhead stated in a cold, hard voice.

"I have a better deal," I answered back. "Get out of my way, and I'll let you live. Don't you think that it's significant that I control the gem right now?"

This was tough talk, but I didn't have the foggiest notion of how to make use the gem, or even what the thing was capable of.

At that, Necromantia swept her arms up over her head and zapped me with a flaming mass of magical destruction.

Wow! My shield had kept Jamie safe and me safe, but I didn’t think it could stand up to many more of those!"

Mantra! Gabriel spoke into my mind just then. Think! The Time Gem controls time. Turn time into a weapon! Think outside the box!

That was an idea! Just as Gabriel had previously recommended, I decided to petition the piece of red rock I held politely. "Time Gem, please protect Jamie by putting this obnoxious bimbo someplace where there are lots of hungry dinosaurs!"

In front of me, a vermilion vortex opened. The power waves flowing out of it shoved me backward, my shielding notwithstanding. The energies whirled, forming a funnel made of crackling arcs of light. The funnel zeroed in on Necromantra and swallowed her down, shield and all. In just a couple of seconds, both the vortex and the witch had vanished.

"Mommy," said the little girl. "Where did the queen go?"

"I'm not sure, Jamie. Gem, where did she go?"

In your terminology, she now exists in an environment on this world prevailing seventy-five million years ago. Is that depository satisfactory?

"Yeah, I like it. Thanks much."

"Is the queen gonna come back, Auntie?" Jamie asked plaintively.

Would she? I doubted it. Unless Necromantra learned to time-travel, she couldn’t possibly survive for seventy-five million years. Anyway, when the Nemesis Energy hit this world, not only would its present be destroyed, but its entire prior existence would be wiped out, also.

"No, I don't think so. She'll never make you afraid again."

With a happy laugh, Jamie hugged me around the hips.

It had not been a victory I could savor. Necromantra's appearance had amounted to a mere annoyance. The real problems we faced still lay ahead.



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