Part One- The Portal
It was an unusually warm day, that Friday. Not a cloud in the sky, not a sound except for the humming of planes as they flew above, and the calls of birds. A few people had gone outside, but only to buy ice cream or cold drinks to cool themselves down. Nothing stirred in the grounds of the college as the heatwave continued. But this was no ordinary heatwave. For one thing, it was a little too hot, and for another, the quietness was just odd. After all, this was the afternoon, children should be playing, workers coming home, teenagers going to milkbars or arcades. It seemed most odd that no one had at least tried to get to a nice air conditioned caf'e or other city building. It was almost like this oddness furthered itself. The people opened curtains slightly and looked out, peering like some cold war spy. They called via telephone their friends and asked "What are you doing?" and "Why have you not come to- et cetera". Almost every inhabitant was locked in this social prison, a entrapped by their own madness and fear of being the first to venture out.
It was two o'clock when Miss Morgendorffer arrived at the caf'e next to the park and sat down, waiting for her friend Jane to arrive. She observed, with not an untrained eye, proceedings about herself. A elderly man, whom she had seen once or twice in the neighbourhood, was walking his poodle (rather ungroomed due to the man's senility) in a way that made him appear even older, bending over to stop the sun from penetrating under the brim of his hat. At last Jane arrived with a cardboard box, unlabelled and oddly plain- no sticking tape or signs of any ripped label. "Hey- have you seen what's going on at the town hall?" she asked, placing the box on the caf'e table, one of those modern frosted glass types. "No" replied Daria, in a tone of indifference. She didn't care much for business at the town hall, which was for the most part now a mere image thing for town pride. All the real business of local politics happened in the bureaus of Lawndale's sprawling office district. Due for completion 2010. She inadvertently gestured with her eyes the box, and Jane, in a rather apologetic tone, said "Er... that's for the heat. It's ice cream and cold drinks. Sorry if it's taking up too much space...." Daria gave a look of quiet acceptance and continued to gaze at the lamp post opposite. For a moment she stared harder- had it just- no... that was impossible. She resumed her observations of the box, which was showing signs of getting warmer- small wet patches appeared throgh the film like cardboard. "Oh- I'd better get this home... you coming?" "No, I think I'll go for a walk." Replied Daria in a cool tone of half boredom, half relief at being able to leave the caf'e, for about two minutes previously, a man in a wealthy business suit had sat down and was chatting animatedly to a person apparently called Jill who lived at 15 Broadacres Road, and worked for a Mister Clive Draymore Stanton at a wage of thirteen dollars per hour.
That evening, when even the two girls, the wealthy businessman, and the elderly dogwalker had departed, leaving the prematurely closed caf'e in darkness, something strange happened. Not all too unusual, really. The lamp post quivered- like a guitar string does, a faint resonance, barely detectable to the human eye. But then- as the quivering increased to a more noticeable movement, a odd noise penetrated through the blackness. A kind of theramin like sound, as in an old science fiction film. It got louder and louder until it reached it's apparent summit, continuing in a tone of constant shaking. The pole began to brighten... and then, just as it's outline became visible, the light turned a deep purple shade. It increased in size but not brightness, still no more noticeable than a man wearing a brown suit amidst gentlemen wearing light brown suits. Then, after a minute or so, a sudden dark figure of some sort appeared- though only briefly, and, being apparently humanoid, made footsteps across the street to the caf'e Miss Morgendorffer had been sitting outside of only four hours previously. Then, less than three seconds afterwards, the purple glow- however faint and dark, subsided, and the quivering and noise stopped.
Part Two- The Encounter
Miss Morgendorffer sat complacently on her bed at the college rooms. Only a minute ago she had turned off the television. It seemed there was nothing but talent shows and reality programs on. Jane entered the room and asked if Daria would like to attend a meeting at the milkbar but she declined. "This quite unusual of you... I mean, it's a chance to get some fresh air and cool ourselves down. Iv'e never known you to refuse common sense on more than a handful of occasions!" said Jane, almost raising her voice in her impertinence. Daria smiled, that small smile that says quite plainly "Yes, but, you see..." and said "Oh, but this is common sense. Let's have the meeting here. I know a chap who can fix the ventilation system." Jane looked at her, frowning in thought, and replied "Very well, but Trent is going to play with the Spiral boys and he would ever so like your company... a sort of acceptance of your friendship." To this Daria stood up, walked over in the closest fashion to defiance she had ever let herself down to, and said in tones of matter-of-fact simplicity "Those words cut like ice through butter, Jane- let us not be tempted by the contemporary art of coming too quickly to conclusions. I shall go, but only as the favor a friend may or may not do. Do not take it personally... It's... It's the heat, that's all". But nevertheless Jane remained suspicious to this strange behaviour. It wasn't the heat only... it couldn't be... And she was right, but if only it had been sooner that these thoughts may have swayed her mind into asking Daria what was different. If only for jane's own sake.
Daria went to the 'bar where she found the band setting up their equipment. At sight of both Trent and Quinn she instantly set into motion to take more interest in her surroundings. It was odd that Quinn should go to the 'bar, especially when she had so many times renounced 'bars, clubs and diners, and all manners of vulgar social meeting-places' as being just that. "Oh, hello sister" Daria said, taking a free sample of sweet. Quinn looked the other way and said "What's this- are we invaded by the army of the irrespectable?" Daria sighed "Look- I know your'e acting strangely. Couldn't you just tell me-" Quinn swiftly turned around and spoke harshly "Look- this isn't my fault... none of it is..." "Oh" said daria, realising what it was all about. Only half a month ago Quinn had taken a liking to one of her admirers, a young gentleman called Frederick Thalmore from a neighbouring town, and ever since had found herself on the brink of despair when she found out HE was to dump HER. Daria, amidst half the population of the Earth had found this scenario, on the whole, an exxageration to the point of being insane. "Come on, Quinn, wer'e in college now- we can't go acting like babies when something silly like Fred-" Quinn looked at Daria like a hawk eyeing a mouse and said "Will you ever understand? That was a week ago... This is far worse." Daria sighed and took another sweet. "Well, what is it? Can't sisters share such information or am I to be treated as a communist?" Quinn laughed, a hollow laugh. "No, but you don't know n... nothing!... There! I said it!", and with that she stormed out of the bar. At this Daria was stunned to the point of questioning not only herself but her surroundings. Was this all a dream... some peculiar nightmare given her due to betrayal to some deity... Now she was going truly mad. "I can't take this. This whole town... it has an air... an air of mistrust and suspicion. I must seek for myself normality. This heatwaves getting to peoples heads!" And then, she too, to a bewildered Miss Lane, left the 'bar and walked briskly towards the park.
Just as she crossed the street something happened which really got to her nerves. A car, swerving into view from around a corner, came charging towards her like a bullet of nearly two tons. She narrowly avoided getting run over, and, in that brief, but powerfully thought provoking moment of self mistrust and questioning and then that longer moment of realisation- she did in fact realise, but a lot more than that a car had narrowly missed her. A whole lot more. In front of her, walking down the parkside pavement, was what seemed to be a young man, in his early twenties, wearing an old fashioned trench coat, like a detective from a story. His collar was upturned so as to hide his face, and he wore an old felt hat, it's brim nearly fully obscuring his features. At seeing Miss Morgendorffer he went, apparently without much thought, to one side of the pavement to let her pass. Which she did not. At this affront he looked up and Daria fell back somewhat. His stare- that glowing red LED like stare, coming from within that deep, dark eye socket from two piercing eyes. That nose- like a crooked, bent white stone. That mouth, thin lipped and long, showing no signs of emotion. And that hair, bending to avoid his ironically normal ears, in lines of brown, no definite shade, just brown. Daria looked at him and he at her for several seconds, before the man, lifting his hat and lowering his collar, spoke for the first time. "Ah, sorry m'dear, I couldn't help but noticing that you'd stopped, as I let you pass. Is there some't what you be needin' from me?" Daria said "No. Are you requiring something from me?" to which the man, to Daria's relief (and it surprised her) smiled and said "Well, that's allright then. Come on, show me around this town of yours. I need to get m' bearin's" Daria nodded, brought magnetically into his gaze, drawn to inquire, to investigate. Why were his eyes like lights... Why was his face so pale, and yet so hard, like a stone? How could he look so cold, not a drop of sweat, in this heat? These and more questions filled her mind as they walked together past the milkbar.
"Are you new here?" asked Daria, knowing what the answer would be, but feeling the need to keep up a conversation, if anything, to keep the man talking about himself and his peculiar condition. The man replied in an equally unemotional voice (in stark contrast to the almost computerised laugh he gave previously) to his face, "That I am , m'dear. Er... I come from a land to the east, and... well to tell you the truth, have not updated my watch for daylight savings. Do you have the time so i may correct my watch?" Daria nodded. She had no watch, but had seen the milkbar clock when she had passed. Almost as if he knew that, the man said, after Daria said it was Two Thirty in the afternoon, "Quite", and didn't even bother to change his watch.
Several minutes later, after visiting the town hall, came the next surprise. The man, in adjusting his brown leather gloves (Yet another odd thing, considering the weather), revealed his bare white skin, with barely visible hairs lying flattened like ink from a press, and no watch on either wrist. "That's most peculiar indeed" she thought, as they walked on.
Then, at Four Fourty Six they left, having toured the town, to go their separate ways. The man had not mentioned his name, or whether he planned to stay at a hotel or some place of his own, or even what 'land to the east' whence he came from.
That night, as blackness, that cooling blanket of comfort and that concealer of crime, befell across the town, Daria awoke. She looked out the window, or, rather at the curtains, for she was not altogether happy to let the drunk students from their night outings see in. She arose and went to the curtains, pulling them apart, and, in doing so, forgetting that if anything was out there, it was pitch black. But, to her surprise, she did see something. An odd glow. Not a usual glow either... it was so dull. And it was a large glow, illuminating about a quarter of her view. Yet from near it's edge to it's centre it remained that same odd purple hue. "That can't be. This is just too frightfully like a story from Verne or Wells!" She hurried downstairs in her nightgown, passing the student dining hall, the community hall and lecture halls until she came to the grounds, cold in the night air. As usual there were the assortment of drunkards and gamblers, two-up schools operating under cover of darkness. But no one seemed at all aware of the glow. And then, things began to upgrade pace. A little way ahead of her, by not more than two hundred yards, were three friends, engaged in a intoxicated argument. Then, one broke apart from his friends and ran away, the others seemed dumfounded. He later came back, holding what appeared to be, to Daria's shock, a gun. He started acting foolishly with it, gesturing wildly at nothing, and then, in a split second moment, it happened. Something stirred, which made Daria look at the glow once more. Then, in a instant, apparently out of thin air, a man appeared. He, to Daria's further amazement, appeared to be the very man she had taken about the town only that day. He looked at the gun wielding drunk, pointed something at him, and then, in a moment directly from science fiction, his gun vanished, leaving the man mad. He was mad with rage more than confusion, in his drunkenness he forgot common sense, and tried to find the culprit. Then, in yet another moment from outer space, the trench coat wearing gentleman pointed the same object at him, and the drunk seemed instantly to calm down, even re-adressing his mates, who appeared to have a sudden liking for him again. They were sober as bread and water. Daria tried to question the man but he didn't seem to notice her, merely muttering aloud "It's always the weak-minded who go first. I must get business done and close the portal... We can't risk another-"- and then he vanished just as he'd arrived. Daria, stunned to the bone, stood, in the cold darkness, for at least two minutes of wild erratic thought.
Part Three- Miss Morgendorffer and Mr Veddel
For three days no more queer happenings ocurred, and Miss Morgendorffer felt once again that reason was returning to her. But even she couldn't escape the inescapable, that truth so viciously fictional it stung like a wasp. She had definitely seen it. How could she dream it if she was so sure? The only other explanation was that she was still dreaming, and that was impossible. "No", she thought to herself, getting dressed for yet another day, making it four since her first encounter with the man, "I must try to find out what is going on. People are still acting odd, even if these portals aren't appearing."
Daria made her way in a slow, thoughtful walk, to the Town Mall. It was almost empty, for it was barely Eight o'clock, and also a public holiday of some sort. But, since a few grocery stores remained open, she walked around the third floor in a circle. The man had to be real. That was certain. But to admit this was to admit that portals, strange devices that turned drunkards dry, and all kinds of things, were not only theoretically possible, but real. She, after noticing a security guard eyeing her suspiciously, set off to walk through the State Forest that had been rezones from 'future development' in one of the council's latest environmental policies.
As she arrived, she looked about. And then, it came to her. "Of course!" she thought, every muscle and cell and bone in her seemed to scream it with her, her very existance trembled with the idea's realisation. "If the man knows what's happening... tries to fix it... knows the effects of his portals on people's minds... then... he can... me... He can know I'm thinking what I'm thinking right n-" "-OW!" said a cold, indifferent bark of a voice from behind her. Daria turned round and stared. "Oh-"- it was all she could do to stop herself from shouting in excitement. "Do not worry, m'dear. I'm not your enemy. You showed me a great deal of your town. I thank you." And, as if scanning her mind, "And yes, I can't do that on my own. Minds emit electric waves and signals. Sure, it sounds all a bunch of nonsense, but theyr'e just too small to pick up with your own brain. Whereas my, more developed- and I mean no insult- cerebral ball of grey tissue can pick up all manner of such waves and signals. I'm what you'd call telepathic, if you get me?" Daria nodded. "But- I thought,... I always assumed that was impossible. I mean, as you said, those electric signals are so meagre as to be undetectable by merely another brain. Telepathic- how does it work- Oh-" "It's allright. I don't mind you asking. Quite simply, the brain, and all living organisms, operate on electricity. We didn't evolve from steam engines! But, as you so rightly read and believed, these impulses are so small that, well, let's face it, humans never had much in the way of super-senses like echolocation, although of course, all things emit tiny vibrations. Well, I, frankly, m'dear, come from the future." "Ah" said Daria, reassured somewhat by this statement. "I sense your relief. Are you relieved that I am not from your time, or that I am not going to get your job because of my superiority?" He laughed, and Daria, feeling more at ease, said "So-, if you don't mind me asking, how do you pick up these signals, Mr-... Mr?" The man smiled, the first 'true' smile, and said "Max Veddel. Pleased to greet you." Again, he laughed. Daria smiled too. "Ah", said Veddel, "I see you are intelligent. Not like some iv'e seen. Still, that's no surprise for a man from the future, now is it? Allright, now, telepathy, or at least the scentific version that exists in my time, is a bit like radio, or more, radar. Inside my brain is a genetically engineered 'receiver' which detects these impulses, even in your time if I use my portals. Then, I simply decode it's data. That's simple enough. You see, since it's genetically engineered, and linked to the communication sector of my brain, which has been genetically... given an external hard drive-" Daria laughed, though still in awe at all this. "And all I have to do is think of these impulses to... set it going. And, er... Oh, do forgive me, I gave you my name, but, if it isn't any trouble?" "Daria Morgendorffer, college student, Lawndale" said Daia simply, soaking up all this like a dry sponge in a bucketful of water. Veddel nodded. "Thankyou. And don't worry, in my time memory is very good. I shan't remember that. Lovely name. And now, I think, if you'd care to accompany me, we must discuss this matter further."
Part Four- Revelations from the Future
Daria sat with Mr Veddel on a rock, a grey, heavily eroded stone from millions of years of sedimentary buildup. Veddel sighed as he looked at the forest before him, the rock was part of a clearing from which he surrounding hills could be seen. "Now" he began, turning once more to his newfound friend, "Let me explain my story, and all these odd happenings. It all started... er... in the future." Daria smiled, recognising that this Veddel was a naturally friendly man. "In the year 2456 to be precise. That was when I was born. In 2456, of course, things were, or should I say, will be, very different from your time. For one thing, genetic engineering, rapid prototyping and portals have revolutionised everyday life. Before portals came into use in the 2440s we had basically a more refined form of car or bike. And no, they couldn't fly. Anti-gravity has still eluded us. In 2497, when I turned 41, strange things, and I mean for my time, began happening rapidly. Firstly the currency we had been using, the Kevlar, had suddenly dropped in value to a mere three percent of it's former glory. International relations between the European Union and the United American Empire were getting tense"-Daria took this all in, trying to record it all-"It seemed war would break out, and for us in the 2400s it seemed impossible. After all, the last warring tribes, the Sarwons, had been killed in fighting twenty three years ago, I mean, before 2497. But, nevertheless, war seemed imminent. Do you follow?" Daria smiled, saying she did and to go on. "Well, massive recruitment schemes were set up to find an army big enough to defend the UAE. But no sooner had we made our first rockets than the European Union had fired two nuclear underwater missiles at our shores from Bermuda, our weakness. We were all of a sudden turned from a peaceful, prosperous, happy country into a nation of warriors- ready to die for our Emperor, George Vonvell. Vonvell's policies before the war had been favourable, but now he was hated as much by his own people, for it was he who declared war, though no one seems to remember that... Anyway, Vonvell issued emergency recruitment orders, and me, being a citizen of the UAE, was forced, though I say this without any anger- for at the time I supported the scheme, being one of many tricked by televisor propaganda into believing it was the EU's fault entirely, to join up. I was sent to the Middle East as you call it, in my time a deserted barren wasteland used for missile tests by our government, to fight the EU. But no sooner had our regiment landed via portal before we were under portalfire. That's an ingenious, though deadly way of shooting cowardly. Put a gun in front of a portal, activate the portal, and fire. Now, you may see some apparent imperfections in my story, so here is a little Q and A. I know he Q." Daria smiled again. "Firstly, yes, we had portals, but of course these are physical just like everything else we use, and they can't just be zapped into existance anywhere. Time portals- that's different. But Transport Portals can only be used for civilian purposes. Private property, for instance, has portal blockers, just as the hyper-blockers of George Vonvell's Greenhouse. And portals are regulated by the Portal Regulation Commission, in other words the Red Tape Brigade. So, secondly, how I got here, to a time when those with in-built genetically engineered portal making technology can use it freely without government control, was to use a time portal. I'll get to that later. Now, as I said, we were under rapid fire from portalfire, and had to try to make use of re-loading times to access a portal and disarm the weapon. I made my way to a portal that had stopped firing briefly, and climbed into it, for portalfire portals are generally only wide enough to let the bullets through, but all portals, due to government safety control, which the EU is less restrictive about in wartime, can be 'pulled open' for extra room. I climbed through and attempted to fire a whipbolter, that's just another waste of money that sounds more deadly than it is in visortoons, and killed the officer. I then- ah, well, you see in my time death is not feared or despised. Merely postponed. We do not feel hate for killing, only for torture and punishment, the errors of your time." Daria nodded, eager for more new revelations. "Well, as I said, m'dear, I had killed the officer and looked about to take my coordinates. I recorded the base number of the portalfire building, and then returned, closing the portal as I did so. And there's another reason why we aren't gods in my time. Portals, yes, even time portals, need energy to survive. They are basically like the machines of your days in that they need constant input, and put out a constant pollution. Thankfully it isn't harmful pollution, merely a natural gas that dissapears into the atmosphere. Well, after we won that battle, if you can call it that, we portalled back to HQ for fresh instructions. Using the telepathy system takes more energy than talking, that is why I can research using my inbuilt database your own time's sayings and 'fit in'. And especially during wartime rations, so we had to physically report back to base, though it takes less than a second. We call them Microframes. Minutes are Subframes and Hours Mainframes. Now, here's where it get's ugly. Our commander, General Varragos, was lying, killed by portalfire, at his desk. There had been a breach in the antiportal system which needed a code to get through. But our codes were so new it couldn't have been a deciphering device. It had to be a time portal, which, due to international relations, are only used in emergencies. This was the turning point. Our troops, swearing vengeance, portalled using our own technology to the EU capital, Lundn. At Lundn they may have gone, but, me? No siree bob. I felt it was a breach not only of rights and privileges to use time portals in the manner the EU did, but to defend ourselves in an even more worse manner. So, I objected. I, in a moment of despair, used a time portal to get back to your time to try and fix the problem. So, you could say I'm on a mission. And now, I have an offer. Would you be so kind as to join me in my quest? I must try and change it so that the war doesn't happen. But n- that goes against more time rules than what I objected to. Wait... If I brought you to the future... that would be fine." Daria nodded, still amazed by what she was hearing. "But how can I help? I'm not even telepathic!" At this Max Veddel returned to his amused manner and said, betraying his cold stony face and crooked nose, "That, m'dear, is no concern to me. I rather indulge in your ancient speech!" At which they both laughed. But this brief moment of amusement soon passed. "Well, you see, Daria, if I brought you to the future I could try to convince the leaders, and remember, I am a soldier, to try and rethink their actions. You could tell them about the mistakes in your time. Our history files only tell of main events and isolated detailed reports from books or whatever you call them. And of course facts are never enough to sway those high and mighty leaders. General Vorzkieg, the EU leader, would, however, be quite interested in my case if I could present you to him." Daria again felt a sudden urge, almost electrical, to say "But won't I be injured if there's a war?" to which, through telepathy, Veddel understood. "Don't worry", he said, smiling with those thin long lips, showing a small section of his perfectly white, though rather mis-shapen teeth, perhaps caused by a fight, "In my time we have limits, even in this madness of which I speak. Civilians, whether future or past, are protected. That is why many, including myself, object to conscription by the hundreds based on namecalling from a computerised lottery". Daria nodded. "Very well. But will I return?" Veddel said frankly, without revealing any emotion as to the matter "I'm not sure"
Part Five- Forwards to the Future
Daria held Mr Veddel's hand, and observed how he was making the portal. Out of his third and fourth fingers came a string, like a silly string, but of a dull glowing purple. And within a second it had grown into a circular blur of vibrating portal matter. He released it and it sat in mid air, floating, and then they entered.
It was an amazing experience to a newcomer to portalling. In the future children don't wait to get their driver's license eagerly, but their intercity, and then if they pass the test, international portalling license. The license is merely a code given at birth which unlocks the 'powers' to create and use portals effectively. And all this was told to Miss Morgendorffer in what seemed to be a swirling mix of two worlds. Half the future- half her present. She began to make out buildings and objects in the future world as the washing machine like mixing stopped. The portal made a burp like sound as it arrived and they stepped into the grassy park they had just left, but different. "Did you extend that ride so as to let me see what it looks like?" asked Daria. Mr Veddel grinned, in his honest way and said "No, that's time portals. Every year adds a quarter of a quarter of a millisecond to the duration. But... maybe this time was longer due to the war. Anti-Timeportal 'walls' have been set up all across town, it takes more energy to break through them, though you can from the past. Well, look around you. Welcome to Lawndale 2500!"
Part Six-The Rebels
"I forgot to mention", said Veddel, as they walked to an apparently pre-determined location, "The reason I chose you was your personality and intelligence... I had no idea you existed until I arrived. Ah- now, I must inform you. There, since the last year when I came to your time, yes I was in your town for a month or so, I sped things up a bit, preparing things for this. And, I thoght it'd be something special to see the town in the year 2500. The moment you passed that lamp post, just before I said '2500', it turned that way." Daria smiled, taking in the future. On walls, apparently made of coloured smooth textured metal or plastic of some sort, were flat, until they reached the roof, at which point they curved into what resembled the top of a railway carriage. Instead of ventilation like in railway carriages, there was a single flat box that, from the visible turning of a fan, must be the air conditioning system. She could see this because they were looking down at the lower part of town, a one time swamp next to the park. As they descended the barely seven metre drop into this area things got more realistic. Advertisements, rather than in poster form, were shown on perfectly flat telvision screens, but instead of cigarettes or chocolates, there were pictures of a man in uniform. His face was scarred and mis-shapen, and he had obviously been in the army in his younger years- though this made no sense according to the 'no-war' story of Veddel. Max, sensing this, said "Ah, we still maintained a army merely for pride and image. They were mostly ornamental, but they also helped in portal experiments. As recently as 2480 a portal exploded in an elderly couples faces, severely burning them. George Vonvell was a pioneering portal creator in the first time experiment days." Daria opened her eyes. "That's your president?" Veddel nodded-"In my time he wasn't, but now he is. Now, I am the leader of a little band of rebels. I forgot to mention this in my haste, but I have, since that fateful day with Varragos, organised a group of like-minded individuals in a rebellion to overthrow Vonvell's tyrranic regime. The problem wer'e facing is we can't use direct force or the EU would take over, and Vorzkieg is no better an amigo. So, we must try to convince the locals to join our cause. But maybe I can turn Vonvell and Vorzkieg themselves to our way of thinking if I can take you to them. Oh- and one thing. These are dangerous times. Not for you, your'e a civilian. But if anything should happen to me, remember, my men will gladly portal you back to your own time or give you provisions here until then. They have no women in the group... all of our group would welcome some politeness... maybe convince them to stop drinking so heavily. Ah yes-" he sensed Daria's thoughts-"Yes, in my time we have drink too. And portalcigars. Those are illegal but you won't see Harry Darrel, that's our artillery expert... er yes... in case of emergencies... refuse a stick or two. It's harmless. Mostly the sort of stuff you'd have in cola or soft drinks in your time. Sugar and all. But it also has a mild drug whose effect is to create more dopamine in the brain, in such excessive amounts it leads to shoot-outs and portalpranks like flatulence balloons on chairs and itching portals. Oh, Daria, we severely need your logical, sensible brain. My men are as well mannered as Vonvell, in his younger days before the tension, and they will listen to what you say, especially since I brought you here. They trust me, I just can't bring myself to keep them in order to strictly. Wer'e all mates... in it together... taking one for the team, you know. You can be our Chief Advisor. Don't worry, I know what your thinking- it only-" They both smiled. It was as if "I know what your'e thinking" had stopped the war, if only briefly.
They came to the rebel base, a oddly common looking apartment next to a small vacant lot where young boys were playing baseball and having illegal portalcigars and drinking essence of spacetime, which Veddel explained, was a mix of reality and another reality, the void like substance sticking time together which Daria witnessed in the portal. "It's also an illegal honey flavoured drink for under eighteens. It brings them out in happiness and energises them a bit too much for public acceptance, but we all drank it." He put the device Daria had seen earlier into a small hole in the door of the block and pressed it tightly. It was only then Daria noticed a scar on his white, stony middle finger. A deep cut, healed years ago. As they entered she tried not to think about it in case Veddel noticed. But Veddel seemed quite unaware and Daria suspected that the telepathy had to be used with subconcious permission of some description. She swore mentally to find out what the scar was, and why Veddel's teeth were so oddly arranged.
They entered a hallway, but continued up a flight of electric stairs, Daria taking in the rotten smell, rotten damp walls, and old dusty pictures as they did. The humming stairway was oddly out of place amidst it all. Veddel explained they were compulsory and that 'normal' stairs had been banned in 2387 for causing physical stress. As they came to the first landing of the four storey building, daria once again saw the scar on his middle finger. It ran from one side to the other lengthwise, like a knifecut. But in this world of genetic engineering and portalfiring, surely a simple flesh wound could be dealt with? He suspected it might be a matter of pride as she entered the room next to the landing, which Veddel had entered and saw a band of rogueish young men, some older ones dotted imbetween their youthful counterparts. Most had crooked noses, deformed teeth and several visible scars. Theyr'e hair, in contrast to that of the public she had seen outside, was never the same shade, though it varied within the frame of a colour.
"Gentl'men of the Rebels of Veddel-" a cough and the gentlemen looked at the intruders intently, though respectfully, like a good schoolchild-"Here is the result of my quest. A Miss Daria Morgendorffer, from Dorm 4, Lawndale College." At this Daria noted mentally that he used the term 'dorm' rather than 'dormitory', and, based on what she had gathered of this man's nature, knew it must be a settled corruption. "Gentlemen, this is the saviour of our cause. She shall enlighten the leaders of these horrid squabbling empires and bring a gold'n age of prosperity to our world! Long live the cause!" "Long live the cause!" agreed the group of rogues, waving fists defiantly in the air. Daria thought, in a manner so as to attract Max's attention, why did the government not probe the minds of these individuals and discover their plans? Max smiled, and, turning round said "Thank you, Daria. Your'e getting the gist of it." He turned round once again, the eyes of his followers tracking his face. "This young girl has just asked me why the government has not found out our little operation- well? Who will be so kind as to give the information requested?" The oldest of the men, who appeared well beyond sixty years of age, said in a weathered and refined through his life voice, a accent whom Max and all the people about seemed to use, a refined and blended mix of all the english speaking nations, "I will." He stood up and said "Miss Morg'ndorffa- we stops the gov'nment from findin' us out eas'ly. See this-" He took out his 'device', the same sort Max used for all those strange purposes, but an older, scarred one with a feel of nostalgia about it, and pointed it randomly at a spot apparently on the wall next to the small window. After a faint clicking sound a buzzing was heard like a plane in the distance, and then a small metallic pop- and the patch of air directly in front of the device sparked with electricity before, like a gas, it was absorbed into thin air. "That's how", he said in a smug tone of pride, as though he had invented the system. "Yes, McDrakefe... Er, well-"Max turned once more to Daria-"The system is this- we, in the same manner as we create anti-portal zones, control our own comunications. As you may have guessed from releasing or preventing your thoughts to be heard by me- in my time telepathy is controllable. Whereas in yours it is not so. I could read your darkest thoughts, but that's not here nor now. The point is, as long as no one betrays us-" "Death to the betrayers!" came a slogan chorus-"Yes... as long as no ones betrays us we remain unnoticed. But of course we have to keep operations undercover. This part of town, in your time low density residential flats and houses, is now, as you can see, resembling a Brooklyn of your time. Now, let's make haste and show you to Vonvell and Vorzkieg!" And with that, he conjured a portal, and, gesturing to her to enter, and after her doing so, said "Goodbye Friends! Hail the Cause!" "Hail the Cause!"- and he vanished.
Part Seven-The Presider
"Who is it? Where are your passes?" asked a electronic voice from the box outside the no-portal zone of the Greenhouse. Veddel sighed, then, saying quickly in a whisper to Daria "Here's something I prepared earlier", slid a card almost in one movement from his jacket pocket (he had replaced his overcoat with a brown jacket, revealing brown shirt and trousers, but kept his hit, though at a higher brim level) into a slot underneath the voicebox. It buzzed for a few seconds, then the gates opened.
"What was that?" asked Miss Morgendorffer, purely out of curiosity. "Oh, nothing. A little army souvenir. I forgot to mention that before we were shipped off- as the saying goes- to the Mideast I had received medalfiles and commendations as well as this VIP pass from winning four 'decisive and significant' battles. Pah... More like winning low oil prices." Daria questioned him through expression, to which he replied "Oh- we still have oil. The arabs of the 2200s learnt how to make it artificially. They also promised to take out the harmful ingredients if the world megapowers agreed to let them keep the formula a secret. Now petrol is as clean as olive oil.
They strolled, ironically Max seemed rather relaxed now he was in sight of his enemy's residence, towards the giant doors, all a mild green like the colour of beans. The doors swung open, apparently in a nostalgic fashion, though obviously electrically operated for no one stood to greet them, and they, after reaching the marble steps, entered the atrium.
The President's atrium was truly a sight from a Roman palace. Marble pillars, a fountain and indoor plants lining the walls. Pictures of former presidents (Daria's heart skipped a beat as she recognised those familiar faces of Washington, Roosevelt, Carter et cetera) all staring blankly, or with the same smile or frown. They came to a man who before was unnoticed (Daria suspected portals were used in the same manner as the gates- it's who you know) and bowed before them. He introduced himself as Karlus Marrel, the President's Chief Housekeeper, and Karlus took them to the President's meeting chamber. As they entered Vonvell greeted them warmly from a chair, it was like a scene from the early 1900s. A fireplace, three sofas and even a plastic moosehead. It was only then that Daria remembered something. Max's eyes, once blazing like red LEDs were now normal, dark brown. She realised they had changed when they had come to 2500. Maybe a time portal thing- she thought. The President Vonvell beckoned to the man and girl to sit down on his sofas. They did so and the crackling sound from the badly animated firescreen, along with the heat coming from the obviously unrelated heater unit opposite, made for an uncomfortable feelin, like visiting a eccentric old man who seems on the verge of doing something violent. Vonvell even looked like a insane by age man whose past experiences with portal explosions must have changed him not only physically but mentally as well. He shook hands and sat down, a creaking from his chair, a handing over of drinks (Daria suspected illegal by their brightly glowing green colour, and the minty smell) and portalcigars. Daria tried not to accept the ominous looking stick- one end for sucking in the fragrance- one surrounded by that curious purple glow, but Vonvell insisted, and, after a almost frantic gesture by Max, assuming this was some time honoured friendly tradition, she accepted the object, all too aware of the corruption going on. Max and the President drew in the vapours but Daria only pretended too. The portal blocked all vision of the inside, and Max noticed that she wasn't touching it to her lips but didn't argue. Vonvell and Max talked for a while on meaningless issues until Max finally said (After the electric clock on the mantelpiece had travelled from three o'clock to four o'clock) "Well, er, I hope you don't mind me asking"-"Oh do, boy, do"-"Yes, well, you see, Miss Morgendorffer, as you may have guessed is from the past, about 500 years. And iv'e had a rather alterior reason for my visit. You see... I wish this war would end." Daria understood this as an icebreaker when the President affirmed her suspicions by replying "Oh yes, we all do. But then again, we can't leave our nation to the hands of the enemy." Max nodded, going along. "Yes, I am patriotic there. But, wouldn't it be so great if we could return to those grand old days of peacetime... Before the portal war?" This confused Daria, but was soon explained by the Presidents answer of "Yes... much like that frigid- er... cold war of the 1970s. terrible." Daria tried not to laugh at the idea of the cold war being restricted to the seventies. "Yes" continued Max, "If only there was a way we could convince Vorzkieg to-" Vonvell interrupted, letting smoke billow from his portalcigar, "You don't honestly think we can do a deal with that tyrant do you? I mean- it's all wev'e got, our passion for justice and equality. If we lost that and tried dealing with the enemy-" Max interrupted this time, seeing a opportunity. "Yes- but that's the point. We could steer him, or at least the Eurunionians to our system. To our values. Conversion is a trifle glorier than corruption" Daria noted 'glorier' as another term. "Oh, quite" said Vonvell, puffing smoke into Max's face, "But listen here, boy, I was in the Portal Investigation Commission. I know the spies tricks." "ut theyr'e not all spies. What about the civilians... the Businesspeasants?" asked Max. Vonvell shook his head in an aloof manner and said "No, no, that's not the point-" Max cut in, seeing light at the ed of the long tunnel. "Yes, but it is. Don't you see- we get their PEOPLE on our side, and their LEADER follows!" Vonvell sat silent for a moment, then, after putting out his cigar by tapping it (a small stream of a green dust like powder fell out of the once portal-locked end) spoke "Allright then. How do you propose we do that?" At this Daria spoke for the first time, taking the risk out of pure frustration. "I think, Mr. President-" "Just Vonvell, m'dear"-"Yes, Mr Vonvell-" "No, without the Mister... and with a slight rise in 'vell' thankyou-" "Yes Vonvell, I think Max Veddel wants me to show you how in my time things of similarity, though on a lesser level, happened, and how we... tried to solve these scenarios." Vonvell paused yet again, taking in the aroma of Max's cigar like a corrupt man being corrupted. "Oh, very well then, m'dear. Come on Max, tell me what she can say." Max spoke "A lot". Vonvell sniffed, obviously this quick speaking affronted his laid-back lifestyle far removed from his days at the PIC. Daria took a chance. "I think the situation can be solved. The only way to convince the 'enemy's people we are not their enemy but the enemy of the actions taken by their leader (Daria mentally said "and you", to which Max smiled for a second) is to prove it. I suggest you make a direct portal to his Greenhouse-" "The Kieghouse. It was once known in your time as... er... ah yes, Buckington Palace" Daria continued "Yes, the Kieghouse, and we present myself for inspection to the masses. Make news coverage on your- what did you call them- televisors?" Max nodded "We replaced boxes with visors years ago. Three-sixty three dimensional footage. Of course that's why we have special eyes that pick up 'visor images in the side and back of our heads beneath the skin." Daria nodded, in awe once again but only briefly. "Yes. Tell the people to scan my thoughts. I will release thoughts of my time... what I know of it. And of how some problems were solved, and the consequences of those which weren't". Vonvell at last smiled and said "Ah, that could work. Shall I get you're a portalcade to protect y-" "NO!" said Daria defiantly- "I must be without protection. If what you say is correct and civilians can't be harmed in war-" "All efforts are put to stop that"-"Then I will go unprotected. Max will announce me, that is all." Vonvell nodded "Are you sure your'e willing to do this for your country and the world?" To which Daria smiled for the first time in the Greenhouse and said "Not for either actually. For the rights of the people to go about their business unaffected by issues which are both silly, tiresome and not even political. There's no reason for war. Why did it break out again- Oh yes, the Kevlar was devalued-" "Well that's of importance!" cried Vonvell in defence. "Hardly" said Daria, "If you'd sorted out a deal about the currency none of this would have ever happened. Making a war because of monetary issues is hardly sensible." Vonvell fell back in his chair and gave up, saying in a tone of reluctant admission "Go, then. See what you can do" And with that Veddel and Daria left, leaving a dazed Vonvell.
Part Eight- In Lundn
They exited the portal and found themselves in a cold Lundn street, between two three storey apartment rows. Daria forgot all about the heatwave until then when the bitter cold bit at her hands and face. "Er- Veddel, that heatwave, and all those odd happenings... they were created by your portal weren't they?" Veddel nodded. "Yes. No harm done really. Although it can get out of control if not monitored. You see, due to the immense power needed to keep a time portal active, it gets it's energy from both times, drawing in electricity from nearby sources. Animals are a good source of free electricity" daria looked at Max. His hands in his jacket pockets, he was still smoking his portalcigar. "Max- what if someone sees you?" "Oh, this?" he said, throwing it into nearby grass. Daria sighed in her mind and Veddel laughed. "Don't worry, it looks like one of your drinking straws. Now, I couldn't take you directly to Kieghouse-" Daria felt again that odd feeling of Buckingham palace being referred to as Kieghouse-"due to the anti-portal zone. It's a wider one than at the GH." They came round a corner and Daria saw 'Kieghouse' in all it's glory. Just like the Greenhouse it was a shade of green, not too light, not too dark. Except it also had light green, white and gold touches. They walked up to it, passing a few people sitting in chairs, or reading 'visorpapers (you could hear them saying "Stupid stocks have gone down again- better sell out", or "Come on, make it rain... oh come on! When will this drought end?" or even "Hey... nice to see you... Yes, it is a fine day in Lundn today, Anna... Wow, nice shirt... Yes, I will join you after the advertisement break for coverage of a polar bear cub at Berln Zoo!"
Kieghouse had a similar entry system to the Greenhouse, and Daria, thinking on purpose the question "Aren't you a American soldier?" was given the answer "Yep. But I won battles for both sides." Daria smiled. "You mean a double life?" He shook his head and said "The businesspeasants of Ingland thanked me for saving them from their tyrant opressor before the liberated island of Vite was retaken by the Inglish army. They told the 'visorpapers about my efforts and the 'tyrant opressor' gave me a deal. A VIP pass to Ingland if I didn't tell any more people and said I had set up the whole thing. But the people still owe me. Theyr'e a nice sort really- Ah- that's done it." This time a zapping sound was heard, and instead of swinging inwards in a grand manner, both the gates and the doors slided open electrically.
They entered the meeting chamber of Vorzkieg, Daria eager to compare the EU's leader with 'her own'. Vorzkieg was something of a dissapointment. Rather short for his width, and his 'bushy moustache of fibres that'd cut you' Veddel had mentioned just before the portal to Lundn was quite small, and certainly not of a blade consistency. Vorzkieg appeared to be english, but his name and accent said otherwise. "Ah- helloo. Good to see yooo." He drawled in a rather important manner, but nevertheless seemed happy to listen to them. "Look, me and my pastfriend Miss Morgendorffer have a proposal. We had another plan, but after seeing you I think we both agree what is best." They discussed animatedly for several minutes. After that agreements were made, contracts drawn up on a filecard and hands shaken.
"Well, that was easy enough" said Veddel. Daria smiled and said "Don't put yourself down." Veddel laughed "I won't. Now, if only Vonvell will agree to this deal, it'll prove once and for all that this war will end all war. Literally. Proving that a rational neautral answer is far superior to a irrational biased answer for the good of all concerned." Daria turned to him and said "Do you really think iv'e helped sort out this crisis? Could I go back to my time?" Veddel sighed. "But you haven't seen the Eyeful Tower, or the Televisor shows, or the Glass Pyramids of Eqozetochi!" Daria smiled. "Iv'e done all I can. Now all I want is to return to my own time. I know this time may be better, but I don't know anyone here, iv'e no house- and frankly portalcigars give me a headache!" At this Max nodded, and, waving and creating a stationery portal at the same time said "Goodbye! I'll keep in touch!" Daria entered the portal and felt herself being transported back to her own time.
Part Nine- Conclusion
The heatwave ended finally and Lawndale was set free from cowering indoors next to the fan or wearing nothing but a shirt and trousers, cooling off with a glass of cola. Daria received no word from Max or the future- but it persisted in her mind enough for him to care it seemed, for on a cool evening she heard a rapping on her dormroom door. She opened it. And there was a package on the floor, a cardboard box. No label, no sticking tape. And definitely no adress. She picked it up and went back inside. After opening it's somehow sealed top she found a letter, written on a computer on a shiny white paper, and underneath what appeared to be label-less ice cream containers. She read the letter "To Miss D Morgendorffer, Lawndale, the 2000s, It is with great jubilation that I inform you our battle has been won. The two leaders have agreed to have a set value for currency that will last until the collapse of our unions. We are now the United American Empire in it's truest sense. United. I hope that you may visit me sometime. That will be possible. You have the mind of one who appreciates the future world and I should love to show you a 'visormovie or take you hoverskating. No, it uses a portal underneath, which get's rid of gravity entirely inside it, making it hover. Because we have portals. Yes, if we had portals in the car days we'd have floating cars, that's the bureaucratic system, thankfully we didn't or my hometown (incidentally it is now known as Grassburg) would be strewn with litter. If you ever want to see New Mount Everest or Moon Station 5 just use the ice cream. Daria opened a container, and she jumped back slightly, for inside was a dull purple glow. On each container a mark underneath read the following words:
NEW SAN DIEGO
DETROIT- home of the hoverboard
ALWORTH CO.- my workplace as a financial advisor to the president's transportal network to Moon Station 5
After reading this, Miss Morgendorffer went to the window. On the grounds the happy, smiling faces of the students were engaged in activities of recreation, all too unaware that the greatest political decision in history had been made by the observer.