A Brief Moment in Time

© 2011 By Timothy W. Spencer

Sutepmi watched the dripping blood as it rained to the floor. He had bounded into the room – exuberant with delight, a big smile on his little buttery-brown cherub face – but stumbled to a halt when he saw his mother's eyes; then sat down heavily on the carpeted floor. "Maataa," he squeaked. The white carpet drank the crimson droplets like a thirsty animal. "Maataa," he said again, the Hindi honorific escaping his lips in a near whisper.
Sutepmi sat at the foot of his parent's bed watching the blood drain from his mother's body. She lay with her head lulling off the lower-left corner of the bed; a wide gash along her throat. His five-year-old mind took in the scene before him, and he knew in his heart that his mother was dead. When his father, "Pitaa," returned to the room through the bathroom door –hands covered in blood, still gripping the knife used to do the deed – Sutepmi wanted to be somewhere, anywhere, but there. Sutepmi realized belatedly, that he had gotten up and ran before his mind had given the command.
 The sphere Sutepmi found in his hand after he dashed from the house – through the backyard, and into the woods of their country estate – was round and warm to touch; fitting perfectly in his little hands. Where did it come from? He didn't remember picking it up.
 Then he did remember. It had been on the floor in my room. I thought it was a new toy: a present. That was why I ran to her. She always brought me presents. Sutepmi didn't stop running for fear of the nightmare catching up with him, not looking back; holding firmly onto his new present. When he felt comfortable; he came to a stop in a copse. Their canopies making it darker then the day was old.
He stood there panting; wondering what to do, where to go. Sutepmi spun in a circle. Where’s the house? He realized that, in his panic, he had gotten himself lost. He gripped the sphere tight. Strangely the orb gave him a sense of purpose and motivation. Sutepmi instinctively knew the object was the reason that the carpet was not soaking up his blood like his mothers. When he thought about it, the ball told me to run. I don’t know how, but it did. Just like it’s doing now comforting me; letting me know that everything will be okay. That I’m not lost, in fact, I’m anything but. As he concentrated on the silver orb, it began to glow.
 The darkness under the trees pushed to the fringes. He watched as the glimmer grew to a shine, then the luminosity increasing to a blinding bright white light. When the glare cleared, Sutepmi found that he stood in a glade full of young boys. On the grassy mounds that surrounded the glade, boxes set on small plateaus carved out of the earth; it looked like the kids lived in them. A ripple spread through the scene; reminiscent of a stone thrown into a pool; the scene changed to a cavernous room made of metal with three young boys lying on the floor in the middle. A woman with long white blond hair and pearly white skin standing over them; around the edge of the room sat many men and women. All with the same white blond hair and pearly white skin; another wave and Sutepmi stood in blackness.
 The blackness was not complete; Sutepmi could see the people mulling about at the edge of his vision. Weaving in and out of one another, it reminded Sutepmi of his grandmother's loom; the one she used to make his sweaters. The blackness slowly receded, and the people became coherent figures picking through wreckage and debris.
"Are you attempting to contact someone?" The nearest woman asked, with mild interest as she studied the piece of metal and concrete she held in her hands.
"I'm afraid, who are you? Where am I," Sutepmi whimpered.
She looked up at him. A comforting smile gliding across her face, "There is no need to be afraid you are going home. We always knew she would send you."
The ball of light expanded; then a pinkish hued light sucked in the landscape and replaced it with darkness again. The little silver ball pulsated. I’m not in the woods anymore. Sutepmi thought nervously. He stood on a deck that surrounded a podium. All around men and women, wearing red and blue one-piece suits, the humans Sutepmi recognized, but most were races he did not; all rushed about pushing buttons on stations with blinking multicolored lights, came and went, and watched many screens showing glistening planets.
An elderly black man stood at the podium, rigid and alert, with his hands behind his back, "Sutepmi Dna Raef, I am Admiral James McNeil, you are aboard the Intertime Temporal ship 'Occasion.' Welcome home."

"Go deep into yourself; you must listen to the world around you my son," Sunn-kim instructed Be’ca.
Be'ca Tesslamoo'r sat opposite his mother. They both sat in lotus position, in the center of the lush courtyard garden lawn of the Tsur Monastery.
"Do you know your soul my son?" Sunn-kim asked.
Be'ca sat; back straight, his body taut with anticipation.
"Can you hear the world within you, around you?"
He could feel her calm; it frustrated him. Why is she calm? She's sitting twenty feet away, and I can feel the calm radiating from her. Be'ca did not move; his thin, muscular body was rigid with expectation. It was coming; he just couldn’t predict when, and that was the test. It is a test. I will never know from which direction my attacker or attackers would come.
"Which ask the louder question," Sunn-kim continued. In one quick, silent, fluid motion, she leapt to hear feet and covered half the distance between them; her eyes closed. From the depths of her Dgelong robe, she pulled a glittering sword; her hand clenched about the hilt. The sleek blade slid languidly from the batiste folds of the flowing maroon colored fabric, belying her nimble expeditiousness of execution; a tribute to her a lasting celerity. A lengthy split second later, Be'ca's eyes snapped open, shining a bright and alert iridescent ice blue; he leapt backward pulling his own sword just in time to parry her swing.
Be'ca's intensely gleaming eyes focused on her, calculating her every move; but Sunn-kim did not meet his glare. Sunn-kim's fluid movements were all the more intense and beautiful because her eyes had not yet opened. The rapid-fire clang of metal-on-metal - ferocious, furious and precise - the sound echoing around the walled garden. Sunn-kim advanced quickly, not giving Be'ca a chance to attack. Be'ca, losing space to maneuver or withdraw, turned and ran. Sunn-kim’s sensitive ears caught the sound of retreating footfalls and advanced to engage.
"Running will not stop your opponent. You must find their weakness and defeat them," Sunn-kim scolded, lunging forward as Be'ca reached the ten-foot-high wall surrounding the garden.
Running directly towards the wall; Be'ca scaled it, then flipped backward over Sunn-kim, twisting his body mid flight as he did so. Sunn-kim swung her sword upward. Be'ca parried; then landed squarely on his feet. Their swords clanged again, "you are slow today Master. Are you not feeling well?" Be'ca asked sarcastically. In an act, of cockiness he spun, putting his back towards her, blocking all her advances without facing her, and then spun to face her again. Sunn-kim jumped into the air; soaring over Be'ca. As Be'ca turned to prevent her sword he miscalculated, and received a foot to the chest. He tumbled backward from the lawn onto the pavement; then rolled up onto his feet.
"If you presume to have the upper hand, student, you might lose one. Focus," Sunn-kim commanded.
Be’ca angrily lunged forward; viciously attacking.
Now the one in retreat, Sunn-kim blocked every variation of Be'ca's sword. Still: she had not opened her eyes, "you allow your injured masculinity to guide your hand. I cannot be taken by a childish act. You must focus!"
"You forget, master, I am not a man. I'm not even human. So how can masculinity rule my hand?" Be'ca growled. Swinging his sword, and then kicking and missing, kicking again, missing, and then swinging his sword.
Flicking of her sword - as if she could have done it at any point during the lesson - Sunn-kim disarmed him. Be'ca's sword flew off into the brush without a sound. Holding the tip of her sword to his neck, she chided, "You have never been very good with the sword."
Be'ca's eyes narrowed, then he burst towards her, her sword joining his. Be'ca's movements matched, every fist swing blocked, and every kick thwarted.
Then, with Be'ca's index and forefinger at her cervix ready to crush Sunn-kim’s larynx, it stops, "So you've beaten me student, has your training come to an end?" The equanimity of her voice dug deep; again she radiated peace, and that irritated Be'ca. Sunn-kim's eyes slowly opened, staring at him, but seeing nothing; her eyes were clouded and blind. With lightning fast hands, she flipped Be'ca; throwing him five feet away, where he hit the ground hard. Sunn-kim put a rickety hand to her back and rubbed as she limped slowly to stand over him, "I think not."
Sunn-kim staggered slowly over to where she left her walking stick; feeling every day of her one-hundred-and-twenty years as she picked her way along the high wall around the garden. She lifted it, hunched over, placing her weight on the stick for support as she hobbled toward the shrine. Be'ca lay there waiting; the air slowly returning to his lungs. When he finally entered the shrine Sunn-kim knelt before Buddha in prayer.
"By amending our mistakes, we gain wisdom. By defending our faults, we betray an unsound mind.[i]" Her eyes opened; she faced him; eyes bright regardless of their cloudy uselessness.
"Hui Neng," Be'ca said.
Sunn-kim smiled, "So you have been studying the masters."
"A man, who has learned but a little, grows old like an ox; His flesh increases, but his wisdom, not."
"But, you are no man. Not even human," she said.
Be'ca smiled. "Touché, mother," Be'ca's smile faded as he knelt next to her, "I must leave the monastery mother."
"I know my son."
"You know…how?"
A smile spread across Sunn-kim’s face, "Because it is both the mother's and master’s job to know. You have found one I can feel it."
"Yes, the pull gets harder every day. I must go to New San Francisco."
"Yes you must, and do not waste time, it is dangerous to do so."
"Yes mother, you have taught me well."
"You have leaned much in fifty years. Your father was my dearest friend, and because of that I want to keep you close, but, you must fulfill your destiny.
Confused Be'ca said, "How will I recognize my destiny."
"We do not recognize our destiny. Our destinies recognize us."

At thirty-five Sutepmi Dna Raef stood at the brink of success, years of training brought him to this point in life; this is the mission he had worked toward, the mission that, if everything went as history dictated, would start it all. He squeezed the Dilation Sphere in a white-knuckled grip when the portal opened. Sutepmi grimaced; even after two hundred walks through time – fighting the leathery, burnt looking, bastards – he still did not find the inky black hole in space-time inviting. Anything but; I'll never get used to it. It's like dying over and over again.
The portal sucked in the air in the Distension Chamber; as it always did the two-inch thick glass held. Tech Anani Abalo stood to Sutepmi’s left at the control panel, "atmosphere stabilizing, 75, 98; atmosphere at 100 percent norm."
"What’s portal status?"
"100 percent norm; we have a lock on MDYT 08122148 - 17:43:35 - 37°37'N 122°23'W.  You should arrive at the destination with five seconds to dissuade the mark," Anani said and looked at him with searching, worried eyes.
“Everything will be alright Nani,” Sutepmi massaged the younger man’s shoulder and he relaxed slightly, “I’ll be alright. I’ll be back before you know it.”
“If you don’t I’ll never know will I? If you don’t succeed, none of my future – this future, our future, the future we live in, happy and married – none it will have ever happened. We will have never happened.”
“Don’t worry. We’ve talked about this. Everything will be just fine.”
“You have five seconds, Tempi. Five seconds. Is that enough time? Is it?”
“Yes, we’ve talked about this. It’s more than enough time. I only need to change the course and outcome of events, not change time itself. The slightest deviation is all that’s needed.”
“That’s exactly my point Tempi; the slightest deviation could be catastrophic.”
“Or exactly what’s needed.”
Nani glared at him. Nan’s lack of retort, his lips a tight thin line frustration, signaled he would let it drop for now. Sutepmi know the argument would be continued when he returned.
He never wins this argument, yet he never stops trying. I know he’s just worried. This is my job and it’s important. I know he understands that, yet before every mission we have this same argument. Though I have to admit there is more at stake this time.
Is five seconds time enough to avert the destruction of interstellar space, inter-dimensional space, and the annihilation of life itself? Sutepmi didn't know, but he wasn't going to allow doubt to shake his resolve. My whole life literally relies on the success of this mission. He squeezed the ball again; it had become an unbreakable habit over the years. He couldn't remember a moment over the last thirty years when he didn't have the little gift from his mother; given just before she died - murdered. I even sleep with the thing under my pillow. She must have found some incriminating secret about father, and it got her killed; she had known a spy was on Earth somewhere in her vicinity. She had said so in her last report; she had spoken of being very close. She said, 'he’s here somewhere I know it.' The very next day she was dead, and I found the gift that brought me to this ship.
Sutepmi stared at his reflection in the glass; the homeless bum disguise was sufficient. He looked past his reflection, at the featureless black nothing encircled by the brilliant blue nimbus: the portal.
Anani said, "We're ready. I’ve made it clear that I don’t believe that five seconds is enough of a leeway. We’re cutting it to the bone, and they know everything we know."
"Don't worry Anani it is more than enough time," Sutepmi held up the sphere.
Anani glared at the silver ball resting in Sutepmi’s palm. He didn’t like it and took every opportunity to express his contempt for the ‘trinket’. For twelve years – two years of dating, and ten years of marriage – that’s how Anani had been referring to Sutepmi’s gift. But Sutepmi saw something else today, a glimmer of curiosity. "Does it do what they say?" Anani asked trying to be nonchalant and not succeeding.
"What do they say?"
Sutepmi gave Anani what he hoped was an encouraging smile. He’s never asked about the sphere before. I don’t know why he’s chosen this moment to show a glimmer of interest, but I want him to know everything about me.
Anani rolled his eyes but there was smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "Well, that it stops time or at least slows it down?"
"I do not know, from my perspective time never stops or slows; it could affect the outside world. Sometimes the leather-face does not know what's happening beyond the two of us, that has been puzzling, but I use those times to my advantage.
"Is that how you’ve gotten out of so many scraps?" Anani looked at the silver ball in Sutepmi's hand, "What about the homing beacon thing? Is it true that no matter where you are in the time-space continuum the portal can find you? For everyone else, the portal has to be precisely calibrated, but I’ve noticed with you, all we just turn on the generator and it knows."
"I guess you have answered your own question," Sutepmi said as he leaned in and kissed Anani on the lips. The metal door fitted in the glass chamber slid open. As he stepped toward the open door, he said, “Don’t worry Nani, I’m coming back to you. I’ll always come back to you. No matter what changes in the future, I’ll always find you and come back.”
He walked toward the nimbus; it crackled and sparked, as if it can’t wait for him to enter its bowels. It's looking for another tasty Sutepmi meal.  Before he stepped through he looked back at Anani through the thick glass. A tear slid down Anani’s cheek. “I’ll see you in a few minutes,” Sutepmi yelled, blew him a kiss and disappeared into the blackness.
The coldness of the inky black void penetrated bone. Mentally he knew it would only take a second to transverse space and time, but it always felt like decades as he moved through the void. His trainers, when he was twelve, told him, never close your eyes in the void, your mind might get the impression that you are dead, you do not want that do you?
Sutepmi took slow arduous steps towards the exit embosom with bright blue; drawing him towards it: a moth to a flame, do not get burned. Something brushed his shoulder; Sutepmi shuddered. It is a Void Mole, nothing to be afraid of. Of course, no one knows what Void Moles are there are theories, but no one knows for sure. The theory is that they are souls of the dead. Another theory; lost time travelers trapped in the void wanting help finding their way home.The one that Sutepmi believed was that of adjacent wormholes touching briefly. It fit; every time I feel a Void Mole, I've come up against one of the Leathery bastards. This time history tells us that I will meet one there.
Sutepmi's long, dirty ankle-length coat flapped about as he stepped out of the void and into the deserted alley; the nimbus collapsed behind him. I’m not worried; Anani will open it again at the prescribed time. Sutepmi turned to the right; walking determinedly towards the alley opening. Nylon should be there any second now. When he got to the end, he spotted Nylon Myers crossing the road just as history described. This is all foretold. My presence here is to be.Not for the first time; he pondered the sometimes confusing cylindrical nature of his job. He thought of one of his teacher's teachings, 'everything that will happen has happened, everything that has happened can be changed.' I have to be careful not to eliminate myself, he thought sardonically.

Be'ca followed the lure. The mental leash of energy led Be'ca down the street stumbling; as a child pulled by a rushed mother. Up the streets of Old Town San Francisco, into the new mega-structures, he passed the new Presidio Interstellar base, across the New Golden Gate Bridge into what was once known as Oakland; this is good, he thought, I can deliver the information chit at the same time, after I see Arahant.
* * *
Sunn-kim said, "You will know when it happens. Arahant will pull you. You will seek out a unique progenitor. You will have to go towards the pull, no matter how weak or strong, you will have no choice." She had been telling and re-telling the specifics for fifty years. The whole time she aged, her onyx hair turning white, her eyesight leaving her little by little every passing year. "I was six years old when I lost my sight; a hover car struck me. I hit my head; dirt and debris getting in my eyes. My sight returned the night you were…conceived. During my time with your father – for lack of a better word – I became younger in appearance. I was well into my seventies when Tel Tesslamoo'r was pulled to me. It took him seventy years to find his Arahant. When your father returned to his chamber, my sight faded, my wrinkles returned, and the years have moved on."
"But when you are with him, your eyes improve. Don’t they?"
"Yes, they do. I couldn’t stay there locked away; I want to be outside. Besides, I needed to prepare you. If your father is correct they’ll never stop trying to get you, and when they do you’ll need to be ready. Let's hope they don’t, at least not until you have gotten past you sixtieth birthday.
* * *
The first time Be'ca laid eyes on Arahant he didn’t know what to say. Not because he couldn’t talk, but because it happened so fast. Also, he hadn't been expecting the wave of nausea that overcame him. Be'ca had been walking along the area where the pull was strongest; an area stretching for three lengthy city blocks in every direction. Be'ca spent the whole day walking in a relative circle.
A man walked past Be'ca. The guy with short blond hair and slender build strolling ahead of Be'ca was in an active military jumpsuit and regalia; he didn’t know that Be'ca fell into step behind him. The man’s aura created an umbilical of energy that attached to Be'ca, refusing to let him free. Be'ca closed his eyes. He let the energy led him. The energy flowed into Be'ca in warm pulsating waves; waves that Be'ca instinctively knew was the man's strong, steady heart beat. Be'ca's heart synced with that beat. As easy, and as soon as it became part of Be'ca's whole being; Arahant was cruelly snatched by a disembodied arm reaching out of the darkness. The hand made the blond man - Arahant - disappear.

As Nylon stepped up onto the dirty sidewalk, Sutepmi wondered how this scrawny youth of twenty years held in his hands, not just my existence, but that of all the time continuums and the worlds within. It makes no sense, but the information isn't wrong. History isn't wrong.Nylon walked down the street with purpose; Sutepmi knew that Nylon had just received a mysterious message from his sister. Nylon was walking to their parent’s house instead of using the transportation pad at his apartment building; he wanted to think. If he hadn't made such a fatal mistake, he wouldn’t be holding the fate of all creation in his pathetic hands. When Nylon stepped into the crossing of the alley, Sutepmi reached one strong hand - the hand not holding the sphere - out, grabbing Nylon by the collar and drug him into the relative darkness.
Sutepmi used his large, muscular advantage to pull the smaller man into the depths of the alley. Once they were at the prescribed place; Sutepmi dropped Nylon unceremoniously onto the filthy roadway. Nylon hit the ground; in an effort to get away, he rolled right into a puddle of putrid runoff. Sutepmi paid no attention; he looked around the dark and dank space. Its coming I can feel it.
Nylon took advantage of Sutepmi's distraction to lunge at him. Nylon pushed Sutepmi, who stumbling backward, fell against the concrete wall hitting his head. Startled, Sutepmi said, "Go home, you're in danger," rubbing his head as he spoke.
"What are you doing? Why did you grab me like that?"
Nylon glared at Sutepmi, obviously he's annoyed. Sutepmi saw understanding float across Nylon's face. Good; he thinks I'm just a drunk or a druggie, a homeless bum. The disguise has worked flawlessly, and I haven't changed history. "'ou 'ould go 'ome. Ou 'ouldn't be on the 'reets, only 'eople 'ike me on the 'reets," Sutepmi said slurring his words and wavering on his feet playing up the ruse. Sutepmi thanked God. Nylon didn't think twice about how a supposed drunk had no trouble knocking him off his feet, and dragging him twenty-feet. Sutepmi reached for Nylon again.
"Keep your grubby hands to yourself bum," Nylon snarled.
Sutepmi watched the pinprick of light pop into the existence about ten feet behind Nylon about four feet off the ground. The little star-like light twinkled - pink then blue - then it split; the pink point of light shooting up in a thin line, the blue doing the same in the opposite direction: both creating a thin seven foot tall fiery line in space that hung in the middle of the alley. Then the doorway opened. Damn, the other hasn’t arrived.
Nylon was facing Sutepmi, so he didn't see the man with the reddish burnt-looking leathery skin humanoid step out of black nothingness. Sutepmi moved to the rehearsed position he'd done it a thousand times, practicing regularly to get it right. This brief moment in time begins and ends the war; if I don’t get this right he could kill all of humanity.' No pressure,' Sutepmi's trainer had quipped so many years ago.

Snapping his eyes open; Be'ca searched for the blond man. Be'ca didn't know how he had seen the blond man get pulled into the alley - my eyes were closed- but he could feel Arahant's mounting fear. Arahant was no longer ahead; the sidewalk was empty. Be'ca knew the blond man was near - I can feel it- the umbilical of energy still pulsed; only it was speeding up. Something is wrong.
A surge of energy shot through Be'ca, jouncing about his body; pushed by fear and anxiety felt through the umbilical. Arahant needed protection. Be'ca had to save Arahant. He had learned that basic fact from early childhood, almost from the moment he could speak. She had taught Be'ca, prepared him for this moment; instinct imprinted on every cell, ingrained in every thought pattern told him it was so. Sunn-kim - mother - had told him so.
* * *
"You must protect. Perform this duty by any means necessary; no matter what the personal cost. Arahant must be protected until your final gestation is complete."
"But how will I know?"
"You will know in here," Sunn-kim put one gentle finger to his little chest, "your heart will tell you."
"Mother, where do you go at night?"
"To Protect."
* * *
Be'ca forced the memory down; I can't deal with that right now. He ran towards the alley. Once there he stopped; assessing the situation. 'Always know you enemy, my son, it is your most lethal weapon,' Sunn-kim's words rang in his mind. Be'ca watched carefully; about thirty feet away a small, stocky dark-skinned man stood facing another man who looked to Be'ca to be of the same skin color though burnt and disfigured. Both men appeared to be frozen in time. The pulsating of Arahant's heart slowed to a near stop though Be'ca didn't feel life leaving Arahant. Be'ca saw Arahant lying on the ground between the two men holding one hand above his right temple; though Be'ca still sensed no immediate danger. Why, clearly something is happening; but what? No one has moved a single inch since I arrived; all three are motionless.

Sutepmi heard the running footfalls coming from beyond the alley; finally, he's here. Sutepmi had to keep Nylon's attention. I have to keep him from noticing Be'ca approach, "You have to go now. You have...," leather-face hit Nylon to right-side of his head, just above the temple; Sutepmi hated seeing that part. It is history, what can I do? Nylon fell to the ground moaning.
Sutepmi looked at the Desik humanoid male standing before him. Nylon lay incoherent between them. Sutepmi narrowed his eyes looking thoughtfully at the leathery humanoid. He had seen many of them; they were always there, somewhere lying in wait. He had out witted all that he had come across, and he would continue to do so, but this one, there is something familiar about this one. Then it hit him; a fast rolling rock that nearly sent him to his knees.
"Pitaa," the Hindi honorific was out of his mouth before he realized what he was admitting to himself. I'm half Desik. How can that be? He couldn't deny it. The man - thing before him had not entirely changed its appearance, but it had completed enough of the change to be recognizable. It is my father. It all rushed back. Father coming out of the bathroom hands red with mother's blood. I ran, getting lost in the woods. The light of the sphere; bright and vivid; how it had comforted me. Now he understood why he, and only he, had to be the one to travel to this place; this time.
"Hello, my son, had you returned sooner," Eff'ick said with a sneer, "maybe you could have helped."
Sutepmi stepped back in surprise. How does he know my name? This time frame precedes my birth by at least two months.
"You wonder how I know your name," a wicked smile stretched across Eff'ick's face, "don't worry I cannot read minds as some of my…associates…do. This is all preordained; everything that happens, blah, blah, blah." He swung his hand in a dismissive wave with a bored look on his partly human face. "I will marry your mother," he stopped to look at an imaginary watch, already miming human gestures in preparation for his virtuoso performance, "well for me two more Earth weeks, for her three years prior to now. I know, I know, it's all so confusing sometimes."
"What are you doing here? Why are you here, Pitaa?" Sutepmi snarled.
"You haven't figured that out? Wow, are you my son,” Eff’ick asked, incredulously, “My son would have figured that out. You must have gotten more of your mother's brains than I thought. I mean I was impressed - correction, in the future, I'll be proud and impressed when you run from the house with the sphere. You don't even know that that is what I was - will be - looking for, do you? It's enough to make your brain ache; I'm sorry I meant, give you a headache. By the way, don't call me that Pitaa crap; my name is Eff'ick, remember it."
Something about him saying that made Sutepmi mentally stop. It was like his mind rebooted. He couldn't quite put a mental finger on it. It’s like Pitaa - Eff'ick - telling me that I can’t call him father absolves me of all the guilt. My guilt about running away, my guilt about not protecting mother and all the fear I’ve felt all these years. Sutepmi reached into his grubby pants and held the metal sphere. Its warmth radiated up his arm; a white light that emanated from the orb.
Eff'ick looked down at the glow, and in mild surprise said, "You have brought it with you?" The wicked smile returned, "You are Her son, aren't you. Foolish boy; you've brought what I want and at the wrong time. Well for you, for me it’s the right time to end it all," Eff'ick’s expression hardened as he took a stepped towards Sutepmi.
It had happened again: time slowed, nearly stopping. In normal space-time someone like Be'ca, running at top speed; he would have been here in seconds. We have been talking for at least ten minutes; maybe more. That realization was the catalyst; his training kicked back in and he forgot all about his father and the fact that he is a half-breed, probably the first ever, and said, "You're wrong Pitaa; I've come back at the right time," the corners of his lips curling slightly as he pulled the glowing orb from his pocket. Sutepmi held it in the palm of his hand at arms length just below eye level; the bright white light plunging the already dark and dank alley into a deeper pitch. "You see, Eff'ick," Sutepmi said the name with the contempt built up over thirty years; "my presence here was only to serve as your distraction."
Eff'ick gave Sutepmi an odd but interested look; then hearing the last footfalls coming from behind, Eff'ick turned. Sutepmi snapped his hand closed cutting off the blinding light; time soldiered forward again, as Sutepmi stepped to the side, and disappeared into the void as the man who had just leapt into the air sailed by.

The thought formed in Be'ca's mind just as things were starting to happen. The short-stocky man with his back to Be'ca jammed his hand into his pocket; a bright glow began to emanate from there. The stocky man pulled his hand out of his pocket; a ball of light glowed in the darkness. It looked like a small star, sitting on his palm like a docile pet; then it pulsed. A ring of pinkish-blue light exploded from the orb like a nova. The burnt man started forward; with his right foot, he kicked Arahant out of his way with so much force Arahant lifted into the air and flew into the opposite wall. Nylon hit the wall and fell to the ground. It broke Be'ca's paralysis; he started running.
At top speed Be'ca jumped into the air feet forward, and flew directly toward the burnt man. Be'ca's right foot struck the burnt man in the middle of the chest. The blow hurtled the burnt man backward. The force sent the burnt man head-long into a gaggle of trash cans ten feet away, and then sliding another five.
The burnt man hopped to his feet quickly and ran toward Be'ca; he swung wilding. The burnt man was easily discouraged from continuing the fight when Be'ca put another breath expelling kick to his chest; knocking the burnt man backward a second time.
A black, fiery rimmed rectangle formed in the air behind the burnt man. Be'ca had never seen anything like it, but he realized that this person planed to go into it; Be'ca surged forward.
 "This is not over human," the burnt man snarled, and then disappeared into blackness.
 Stunned: Be'ca stood looking at the swirling garbage cans where the black opening had been. A burst of pain flowed through the umbilical; he remembered Arahant. Be'ca turned to find only Arahant remained. The other man, the short and stocky man, he had disappeared. Arahant lay on the ground groaning. Be'ca helped him sit up, leaning him against the wall.
Arahant groaned, "Ah...What...Who hit me?"
"Arahant, will you be ok?"
"I don't...know...my head…what did you call me? That's not me name, my na..." before the man could finish Be'ca left him there. He ran, nausea threatening to send him to his knees in gasping heaves, fear that dizziness would topple him. Be'ca only wanted to regain a safe distance. Soon we will join, but not now it’s too early. The pull was strong, though he couldn't be that close. Out on the main street he felt a little better. He leaned against the nearest building; the nausea gradually subsiding. He walked hoping to find a Transpost somewhere nearby; he needed to get farther away, though he knew he couldn’t go far. As he passed a window Be'ca caught a glimpse of himself. His thick hair – shoulder length, ebony, and poker straight – had lightened and begun to curl. His sharp facial features – earned through fifty years of hard manual labor at Tsur Monastery in the Himalayan Mountains – had softened; the wrinkles that age and a hard life provide: gone. He looked twenty years younger. The thick, muscular, lithe body he had always been so proud of; now thinned, curvy and sensuous: feminine.

Sutepmi found Admiral McNeil waiting for him when he stepped from the portal.
"Welcome back Commander Raef, I trust since we haven’t dissolved into primordial goo, the mission went as planned?"
It pissed Sutepmi off, and the Admiral’s flippant and calm demeanor didn't help, "You knew it was him. That’s why you're here, right? You've never been here when I've returned before. You knew didn’t you?"
"If you are referring to your father's presence, yes I knew."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"It was essential that you be the one to do this mission - history dictated your presence. If you had prior knowledge of your father's presence we could not have adequately predicted the outcome; it was vital to maintain the time stream."
"You lied to me," Sutepmi said, feeling betrayed.
"I did no such thing; I simply…omitted."
"As if, lying by omission is any different."
"I have bigger concerns, Commander."
"I’m going back. I need to go back," Sutepmi declared.
"Where," Nani asked.
Sutepmi locked eyes with him. He had forgotten Nani would be there. He’s always here. His anger drained slightly, "To that day," Sutepmi said quietly. All his life he had thought about it; going back to stop it: to save her. All his training screamed no; you can delete yourself.
Anani’s eyes went wide with fear, “No, Tempi you can’t. You might destroy her time stream. You can destroy every time stream. Who knows what could happen if you change something. It’s too risky.”
“The opposite side of that argument was equally compelling. The future is ever changing; a vast unknown. What if my future is to save her? What if the future depends on my changing the past?”
“I can’t help thinking that you’re just justifying your own faulty assumptions.” Anani snapped, but he instantly regretted letting his anger and fear get the best of him.
Which was why, when they heard it, they both couldn’t believe the Admiral’s answer, "Okay."
"What," Sutepmi and Anani said in surprised unison.
"Go, now, stop Eff'ick, only you can."
"Wait you know his real name?"
"Of course, I do, I know everything about the scumbag."
"That's my father you're talking about," Sutepmi said facetiously.
"Yes and he's raised you well," The Admiral replied; a smile playing at the corner of his lips.
Anani looked from one to the other fear, anger, uncertainty all warring for prominence on his African features.
“Open another portal Mr. Abalo your husband has to make another trip to the past; you know the coordinates," Admiral McNeil said as he left the chamber.
Anani glared after him than turned to Sutepmi, “I don’t like this. I like this even less than your last foray into the past, Tempi, and I didn’t think that possible.” Anani said as his entered the coordinates.
* * *
Sutepmi stepped from the portal into the wooded grove; the fresh air assaulting his senses. I've been on the ship far too long. He had stood right here thirty years ago. That wasn’t entirely true. It has only been, in the true scheme of things, less than two seconds since my five-year-old self left this place. Sutepmi headed back to the house.
Sutepmi stood in the doorway staring at her; her beautiful face an expressionless death mask. He heard the water running in the bathroom: Eff’ick.
As if he heard Sutepmi's thoughts, a voice said in perfect Hindi, "Sutepmi are you there?"
Sutepmi, startled at being out maneuvered again, non-the-less answered calmly, "So you do read minds."
Eff'ick barked a laugh, and said, "No, my son, as I said at our last meeting, I am not one of the Desik species with that particular ability." The truly handsome "human looking" Indian man stepped from the bathroom wiping his hands with a red tinged towel.
Sutepmi saw himself in Eff'ick’s face. The same bone structure, skin coloring, eyes, even the way he walks resembles mine.
Eff’ick sat on the bed next to Petra; letting his fingers run through her coal black hair, "The Desik is a unique species. I am unique amongst the unique; one of a kind. That is why they chose me for this mission; fathering a child with a human female…well…let's say that was - what is the "human" phrase - icing on the cake.
"How is it possible that you are my father? Aren't Desik's and Human physiologies incompatible? That is what science tells us."
"I don't know my son," Eff'ick spread his arms wide and smiled, "as I have told you; I am unique amongst the unique." Eff'ick pointed at Sutepmi and said, "You do know what that makes you, don't you?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You, my son, are even more unique than I. Come to the Home World with me, my son, we will rule them all," Eff'ick said with a greedy glint in his eye.
"I don’t want to rule anyone, Eff'ick."
“Hum, I thought we were starting to connect there for a minute," Eff'ick's jovial affect started to fall. Only to be slowly replaced with a frightening look of hard megalomaniacal anger, "well then, give me the Dilation Sphere," Eff'ick demanded.
"What makes you think I would ever do that?"
"Because it's mine, and I want it back," Eff'ick said tightly.
As if signaled in some way, the sphere lit up in Sutepmi’s pocket. Eff'ick's eyes fell to the glowing fabric, "see it knows my command and wants to be returned." Eff'ick thrust an open hand towards Sutepmi and said, "Give it to me, now!"
The sphere changed from a dull pink to fiery red hot and burst from Sutepmi's pocket. In a blazing streak, it flew across the room and landed on Eff'ick’s palm, "see my son, it knows me."
The orb pulsed once, twice, three times then flared. When Sutepmi's eyes adjusted he saw the most wondrous thing: Petra Raef floated three feet away in all her angelic beauty. She wore a flowing white robe that fluttered in some unfelt wind. Her hair floated about her head - every strand a sentient creature - freely. Her skin a buttery luminescence glowing with life. "Hello," Petra greeted, "I am the essence of the orb. Since this hologram is playing, he who claims to be Siad Raef, but whose true identity is Eff'ick Tilise, has attempted to acquire by forceful means the gift left to my son Sutepmi. Eff’ick Tilise may have also attempted to gain access to my programming." The Hologram looked in Sutepmi's direction smiling his mother's sweet smile.
Then it turned, and its expression hardened, "these eventualities are not acceptable."
With those words, the Dilation Sphere glowed purple. Eff'ick screamed and tried to drop the orb. It would not fall. Streaks of electricity wrapped around Eff'ick hand, then traveled up his arm, wrapped around his head, and engulfed his body. It lifted him into the air over the bed; he floated above Petra's stiffening body, writhing and screaming trying to free himself.
The Hologram looked at Sutepmi again and smiled a mischievous smile as a portal, to a location known only to the essence, opened just below Eff'ick. The purple field holding Eff'ick in the air stopped, and he fell.
The portal winked out of existence, and the little silver orb floated back to Sutepmi and landed in his outstretched hand like an obedient pet bird. The hologram smiled again and said, "I am always here, my son, you only need call," then Petra’s likeness dissolved into tiny flakes of silver, twinkling in the air. The silver flakes swirled, forming an eddy of silver. The funnel whirled, slowly condensing, swirling faster and faster as it moved toward Sutepmi. As it grew nearer, it rose to hover over the silver ball that rested in Sutepmi's palm, then collapsed into the orb with a flash.
Sutepmi looked at the orb than at the body of his dead mother, and for the first time since he ran from this atrocity he allowed himself to cry. I'm not lost anymore.

[i]Chicago: Chapter Seven: Guidelines for Dao Cultivation, http://www.scribd.com/doc/17561471/Chapter-Seven-Guidelines-for-Dao-Cultivation (accessed July 15, 2010).