RETURN TO GRASSBURG
Part One- Veddel returns
Daria Morgendorffer, that observer, commentator and character of Lawndale College, was nowhere to be found as the match began. In her usual evasive fashion she had chosen not to participate in the fans hooting, shouting and waving of flags so synonymous with a football game. After all, she would reason to one questioning this decision, why go outside in the windy autumn weather, put on supporters clothes and cheer for a team she knew not, cared not for, and was decidedly indifferent too? Besides, even if everyone she knew was in a trance at the field, she was to watch some television. No harm in that? Just a little viewing. Sure, she could entertain herself in many ways, but, just for a change, she decided to surf around and see what was happening in the world.
This rather simple decision covered up a deeply complex mind which had witnessed some extraordinary things. It had grown up thinking itself rational and logical, from lessons learnt and things observed, and then, all of a sudden only three months ago had been thrown into a turmoil of mutation of the laws of physics, a voyage to the future. The ice cream containers lay in the cardboard box, waiting to be used. But a sort of guilt stopped her from doing just that. It was eating away at her like rats at a foodbag. Everyone about her was completely unaware of the existance of portals and othersuch phenomenom, yet she had experienced them herself. Sure, it was the future... That gave it some credit. But to continue living, knowing what was happening ahead of her, was like being a prisoner of ones own knowledge. Could she really live and die knowing on her deathbed that she had left the containers rotting away in some tip to biodegrade in about a million years after the very future of which she had lived in? Certainly, but not without deep and constant reminiscing.
Part Two-The return
That night a more fierce wind blew up, and even the tired and partying fans of the winning team (Ashmore College) must have gone inside to continue their revelling. Daria lay awake for some time, thinking and considering about the various ways the containers could be used. The energy was a finite one, but all the same she felt a urge to better her own conditions using it. But then that guilt struck again. Even if these were the same laws of science used in her time but more malleable, it was still like denying all she had learnt. Yet, she thought with a mental sigh of acceptance, it did exist. She had travelled forwards in time through a portal. So, collecting herself, she began to devise a trip.
Max Veddel sat in his office, tapping his fingers on the table. "Blasted thing" he muttered. "Why won't it- ah, that's more like it!". He typed in his thoughts through the portalmonitor of his computer. "In reply to your request, Mr. Linwell", he typed, "I have to say you show much enthusiasm for the grant. Nevertheless I must bestow upon you the honest, if harsh and undesirable, truth, that I can not waste my presidential powers on such concerns, especially with the upcoming budget. I therefore advise you to your council representative who-" Veddel stopped. Odd, he thought, it seemed that his portalmonitor was glowing rather less in a area of his view. He put his hand through, nothing. Just the swirling timespace, revolving about like a washing machine, churning until it recreated itself. "Must be the light" he consoled himself, completely aware it was not the light. But the shadow got bigger and he turned around. "Why, if it isn't Miss Morgendorffer from the 2000s... It's a pleasure to see you." He shook hands, and looked at her rather plain face, noticing an ever so slight look of curiosity about his surroundings. "Ah, let me explain." He went to his desk and took a badge of some sort from a drawer, then, pinning it to his lapel, he said "What do you think of that?" Daria didn't think much of it at first. It read 'Max Veddel- C.C'. "Er- it's a status representing badge, I believe" she said. Veddel nodded "Yes, but look, what status do you think Chief Commander means, m'dear?" Daria sighed. "I don't know, Chief Commander I suppose?" Veddel laughed. "Of course. But not just any CC. No, I'm the president!" At this Daria's eyes bulged. "The president? But what about Vonvell?" Max Veddel looked rather pleased with himself and said triumphantly "Vonvell... has lost the election." At this Daria said "Already?, an election?" and Veddel nodded, beckoning to her to come forth and see the rest of his status symbols. "Yes, I won it by a majority of four seats. At one point it seemed Flortucky was going to give in to the Norths, but thankfully us good old fashioned Souths beat them to a pulp of paperwork!" Daria nodded. "Right. Well, thanks for showing me your new... position. I'll... I'll just see how Vorzkieg is going." That seemed to freeze Veddel, displacing his beaming smile (his face was always so honest to his emotions, it could be hilarious or annoying) with a look of utter misery. "Oh, yes, Vorzkieg. Well... i am afraid our friend has... given up" said Veddel, almost tearfully, though with perfect tone. "You mean he died?" asked Daria bluntly. "I'm afraid he... passed on, just two weeks ago" said Veddel. "He's dead?" inquired Miss Morgendorffer. "Yes, that's right, for Odin's sake, he's dead, By Benjamin Franklin... how many-" Just then a ringing noise came to their ears. "A, that'll be Betty with my mid-afternoon lunch." Daria stared at him for an explanation of why he called it that but none came. She supposed lunch must have replaced meal.
Betty, the servantgirl of the president, greeted the two with a broad smile. She offered them drinks and they sat down, Betty giving Veddel such news as the weather and what time his appointments were for the next month. It was all pretty interesting since she was a robot. "Sir- might I inquire as to whom this intruder is representing?" asked the servantgirl robot with a high pitched shriek of an electronic voice. Veddel laughed "Not to worry, m'dear"-Daria took notice he said this to all girls-"Not to worry. She's on her own, a traveller like myself. Only she get's a far better deal at the Customs Scanner!" He laughed again, drinking his black drink. It smelt like caramel with mint. Daria felt like it was time to do something. "Veddel, is it allright if I come to your world when I get bored or something?" she asked, like a child asking a parent permission to do something. Veddel said, holding his jacket and speaking rather more decadently than his former rebel self, "Look, m'dear, I'm the president. Of course you can. The boxes can be reused. Just reactivate them." Daria asked how that was achieved and Veddel said, eating his sandwich as he did so causing his voice to sound muffled, "Quite fimple. Juft Preff the Lid back on tightly, that'f all."
Daria found contentment in this fact and returned to the hallway. As she entered the portal she heard Veddel say "And make sure to visit next election! I could do with a informant who could tell me how to win it old style!" and sighed. So, she thought, looking at the swirling clouds of vapour about her, this was what Max Veddel had become. Yet another tempted by that monster, government power. His band of rebels were probably in a similar situation, or rebelling against the man who once led them. Still, the war was over. But this seemed rather meagre a fact compared to knowing that the future was hardly better than the past. If only the containers could let her alter it for the better...
Part Three- The Mystery at Lawndale College
Jane had only decided to join Daria at Lawndale College for a few reasons, most notably the continuation of their friendship. For although electric mail was a fine way to correspond, they both felt they might as well enjoy their younger years before starting work together. And, at the same time, they had both got jobs on the side at a shop which paid for their 'education'. In fact, the corrupt system of the state meant that the college was more a boarding house for young people than a knowledge inserting plant.
But corruption and the lack of order in the education department was not the most important thing in Daria's mind. When she again met her now rather curious friend who was beginning to wonder what Daria was doing , for she hadn't told Jane about the portals, what with that confliction of mind, she decided to finally reveal her secret, if only to make her own time seem better. After all, the only guilt in knowing what she did was that everyone about her couldn't possibly know it, and if her best friend did, it would sufficiently alter the situation as to make it far more acceptable.
"Oh- hi, Daria" said jane, who was holding what appeared to be a piece of paper. "Hello. Er, look, about all this dissapearing from the College... it isn't anything suspicious, I want you to know... just that in the future-"-There, she had said it, those condemning words-"...in the future you see... well..." "Well what?" asked a obviously perplexed Miss Lane, whilst accepting a coffee which she had ordered at the college caf'e earlier. Daria immediately decided to reveal what had actually happened.
As she did so, and Jane listened, and as it began to get more science fiction like with every second, it appeared that Miss Morgendorffer was on the verge of tears as she finally finished with her recent revisit. Jane said, in a most casual manner "Sounds great... what's it gonna be called?". At this Daria, frustrated with her, said, standing up "It isn't a book, it actually happened. I'm telling you... I went through a portal and met this Max guy who introduced me to the president who is now him- don't you get it?" Jane laughed "Is this part of your- your'e serious?" "Of course I am! Since when have I acted unseriously? Just... Just let me show you- here- before anyone else thinks I'm mad!" said Daria in a pitch that seemed to rise up with annoyance. For, however set in one is to the troubles and resignations of one's life, if one breaches the space-time frame there is certain to be a reinvigoration of one's spirits. She took Jane by the arm in a most uncharacteristic manner and sped down the hall at a lightning pace to her room where, after fiddling with the ice cream container lid to 'reset' it, she opened it to Jane's view. Something that she instantly regretted.
Jane's stare was unimaginable, and this Daria knew only too well. It is not easy to come to terms with such a phenomenom, yet, slowly but surely, knowing of Miss Morgendorffer's usual temperament, Miss Lane approached the purple circular glowing, swirling, shining, glistening yet not glinting, gaseous portal and whispered "That's amazing"
"Well, shall we try it?" asked Miss Morgendorffer, exasperated at everything but now 'everything' was over even more so that it was taking so much time to enter the future. "Come on, iv'e done it- er... not so many times, but theyv'e all worked. You'll see- just step in after I enlarge it." Daria took hold of the portal and almost effortlessly opened it's frame to allow one to stand within it, like a school corridor locker. Jane entered and immediately jumped "But- where am I? This isn't anywhere!" Daria said, beginning to relax now Jane was convinced of her facts authenticity, "Just go forwards- it'll kind of spit you out" She did so, and Daria followed, thankful.
The other students at the college were not at all affected by the dissapearance of their fellows that night, nor the next. But after half a week rumours began to spread. Ugly, most horrid rumours like that the two had deserted, or that they had been kidnapped by a criminal or madman. But unbeknownst to them, the two had actually explored most of Grassburg's limits to their fullest extent, and everything between them. They had met Veddel, who was pleased to see another from the past, Daria noting his all too casual stance on time portalling with both relief (for this proved he was not all conformed to the government's greedy and corrupt ways), and astonishment (for theyr'e seemed to be no regulations at all regarding this practise now!).
However, as back at Lawndale the rumours spread, Jane and Daria's friends (whom there were several, it being America), began to wonder what had really taken place. Finally, after a week had passed, and the town had begun to ask for an enquiry into the matter, the Chief of Police agreed to look into the matter.
The COP entered Daria's apparently deserted room and began to scan it, both with his eyes and fingers, looking for evidence. Firstly he ordered both rooms (which were on the same stretch of hallway in Dormitory Block Four) to be closed to the public, and tape was put up in an effort to prevent the students trying to get a better look. As has been said, they were hardly students in the proper sense. A modern college is more of a backpacker hostel with a loose cover of technology and funding. Nevertheless some of the people there had enough intelligence to realise this was very odd indeed. For one thing, which COP James Antson noted himself, there appeared to be no reason for this desertion. It was not like it was a jail, and they had appeared to have little issues in the past according to their records, which COP Antson had read scrutinously. It was almost unbelievable. No reports of harassment, or even petty crime or personal issues.
COP Antson spied throughout the rooms in an effort to comprehend what had happened, and, with a stroke of luck, he observed what at first appeared to be merely a piece of lint or dust. But as he got closer, at first to collect possible evidence for study, he noticed it seemed gaseous. Like a ball of cotton like vapour. What it was, in fact, was a portal, or at least a tiny bit of portal energy, which, due to it's size, merely poked like a pin through the dimension, a wormhole in every sense of the term's application. COP Antson tried to pick it up, but it seemed to stick to the floor. He noticed the odd gas ball was also revolving, drawing bits of dust and dirt towards it like a sun draws planets in with gravity. But, despite being a well educated man, Antson seemed quite sure it was just some strange experiment or odd mixture that was the norm for modern students to have. After all, when Antson was Daria's age, he hadn't heard of the mobile phone.
"Well, Steeves, Cralson, it seems there's absolutely nothing here with which to create a story. Iv'e checked with the Morgendorffers- Daria, the one who owns this room, has one sibbling, a Miss Quinn, but she isn't here- works for some fashion magazine downtown... No, they say that she had no troubles or issues at all. Seemed almost super-ordinary to me. No criminal record, no drug usage reported, in fact I just spoke to the College Cleaningwoman who said she was a very tidy girl whose room needed little adjustment. It all seems quite suspect. We'd better check for possible kidnappers who live in town. Scout the grounds- I want every inch searched until your'e covered in mud" said Antson to his men, who nodded, replying in the affirmative.
Part Four- The Mystery Deepens
COP Antson and his men searched every nook and cranny in an effort to find a scrap of evidence with which to at least give some substance to what was becoming, with every passing second, a more and more odd and suspect case. Steeves, a former soldier-turned-cop who had an eye for detail (he had been a weaponry technician and repairman) looked with vain for the usual clues. Cralson, a rather less intelligent cop whose main use was to protect COP Antson from attack, scouted about for a few minutes, shrugged his shoulders and lay down to light a cigarette. It was at this moment a friend of Jane's, and a loose associate of Miss Morgendorffers, John Cradford, approached, wearing a brown jacket, and trousers, but a green shirt. His hat was tipped to one side, and Cralford immediately guessed he was, whether actively or not, a rebel to some degree from conformity. "Hello, I'm John, John Cradford. I knew Miss Lane and the girl who was kidnapped. Can I be of any assistance sir?" he said. "Firstly-" began Cralford, a fat man with a thin moustache and sunglasses, "We haven't yet ascertained whether this was a kidnapping. And secondly- mind your own beeswax. Can't you see I'm trying to have a smoke?" John nodded but continued, tilting his hat more precariously to the left, "See, the thing is, Mister, Jane'd never run off on her own. Sure, she weren't no scaredycat or anything, but she was right content 'ere. She's a fine artist you know. You should see that recent insterlation at them there museum down Bridge Street in the Cap'tal!" Cralford gave a angry look at John, but he stood, so, giving up, he turned to the boy and said "Look here, sonny jim, you and yer college friends aint my cup er tea see. Now, I aint one ter judge or anything, but I'd suggest ya be running off to play one of your drinking games, or listen to your Mp3 device. Aint got no time fer trubblemakers." John took no offense and continued to stand there, until, most indignantly, he lit his own pipe, a cracked old thing of dark clay, and said, smoke billowing about the two to Cralford's annoyance, well aware he could hardly persecute John for something he was doing himself, "Y'know, Off'ser... Seems awful strange what a kidnapper'd want with Daria. Always seemed the quiet sort, really. Not a scaredycat, mind you, just a bit... withdrawn, thassal. Bittera loner, if you ask me- though I wunt tell Miss Lane that or I'd be for it. Look, p'raps y'd like ta know this. When you were investigatin' 'er room 'n' all, dinyer notice he window was shut? Locked from the inside by the looks'it. S'posin' now that creep your'e conjurin' came in through the main entrance and somehow remained unnoticed, p'raps in the Kitchens-" "I'm beginning to think your'e the culprit, sonny!" laughed Cralford, seeming to enjoy the company despite his former hard appearance, "-Yes, well, s'posin' he did, then he'd have to go upstairs to the corridor, make his way past obviously open doors, for you know how social we is, then, knowing how antisocial Daria can be, he'd have to tempt her into unlocking her door, drag her and her friend without bein' noticed off, and make his merry way back through the crowded hall, through the open grass of the grounds under numerous lights, and then to whence he came from. Donyer see, Off'ser?"
Cralford rapped sharply on COP Antson's car window. "What is it Cral- 'Ello, 'Ello, 'Ello!, What have we 'ere, eh? A wee chap's got his name a bit of soot on it now, aint 'e!"said Antson, smiling and opening the car door electronically, for it was one of those automatic ones. Cralson shook his head and said "No, Sir. It's a friend of Jane's, Sir. Says some good truth about the matter. The thief couldn't have come in without at least a dozen noticing, Sir." "Well, explain, Cralford."
After explaining John's theory Antson nodded. "Right, that means it must have been someone who goes unnoticed in a college environment. One of the staff, perhaps?" But Cralford shook his head again, and said "Sir, John's informed me that the only staff in Dorm Block Four are the kitchen workers and the Cleaninglady and theyv'e been accounted for. In fact, if another member was to have gone in, it would be against all policy- besides, the students would have noticed and informed us had there been something peculiar. I reckon John here's right in assuming it had to be a student." COP Antson took off his own sunglasses which had been absent before and said, shaking his head, "Kids today" Cralford smiled. "Theyr'e hardly children sir. This isn't a elementary school Sir." Antson sighed. "That's the point. Why can't they stay crossing their legs and tucking in their shirts? Why do they go astray, Cralford... Why?" Cralford merely shrugged his shoulders, muttering something about police eruptions that Antson didn't hear.
Part Five- The Two Time Travellers
Back in the future, Daria and Jane were not the least anxious to get back. They had explored much of the country to see it's improvements, and, giving they knew the president, found it not too difficult to get free accomodation as they went. All the while Daria had secretly been writing a book whilst Jane was asleep. She, that morning, revealed this and Jane said, holding a cup of timetea (essence of blackhole with a drop of white dwarf, actually terms for coffee with milk, in what appeared to be a second spaceage, only more ridiculous) "Well, it's about time you started doing something constructive." Daria had pondered this, but not for long. Just a few hours later they had begun a train journey to Europe to meet Vorzkieg's successor, Atekun. Atekun was, apparently, Vorzkieg's old political opponent, but seemed quite popular with his policies of giving money to fund many projects across his empire. Daria suspected foul play but had not too much guilt, knowing only too well just how 'foul' the play was in her own frame of reference.
The two time travellers sped underneath the Atlantic through the Sub-Atlantic Inter-Continental Railroadway and were soon emerging like a bullet from a barrel through the roads and lanes of the villages of western england. The view was spectcaular, but only that from a distance. The train was going so fast that the objects within a few kilometres sped by quite rapidly. But soon they slowed down, entering the grand station in London where they made their way to their hotel.
Vorzkieg's successor seemed the type who would be fashionably late, but, like a jack-in-the-box with a portal in it, he sprung through their door, which was opened to greet him, quite prematurely indeed. The two girls greeted and shook hands and then Atekun said "Well, we must, of course, be comfortable- Dreevens- come in here, would you. Dreevens is my assistant." Daria nodded, expecting some sort of robots like Veddel's Betty. But instead a real flesh man entered, carrying two suitcases, which at first they did not recognise, but then remembered having seen in Vorzkiegs office. "These are just a few things to make us feel more at home" he said, smiling to himself. Daria turned to Jane and vice versa, noting the "we" in his sentence. "Er- not that I wish to intrude, Mr Atekun-" "Just Lord Imperator Atekun the First of the EU to you, my dear" "-Yes, but, are you planning to stay with us?" "Why, certainly" said Atekun, as if it was plainly obvious. "After all, this is my house." Jane and Daria, had they been animations, would have popped their eyes out. "I thought it was a hotel- in fact even in our times-" began Daria, but Atekun interrupted, "Used to be, yes, but it was converted to the Imperial Suite just nineteen years ago for Vorzkieg's predecessor, Valdard the Fourth of France. My, my, we shall have a simply splendid time. I shall show you the Temms, the mountains of the Desalination Plant District, and the lovely regenerated triassic forests of- But, do forgive my manners, let me unpack your things" "Oh, that's fine" said Jane. "No, no, it won't be at all a bother- let's see... My, what a lot of useless garments... clothes, clothes, shoes... What do you plan with this thing here- Tooth Paste? What is that?" Jane laughed, and Daria enjoyed the fact she was happy. "It's for cleaning teeth. You use that brush to wiped it onto your teeth and then you scrape it off and rinse your mouth through." Aketun stared blankly for a second, then, with a rather uncharacteristic laugh for his status said "My, my, we are going to have some fun. Miss Morgendorffer, if you will, may I take your things into your wardrobe. We must be tidy, you see. Yes, yes... Ah, Dreevens- get the girls and yourself some timetea pronto!" Jane looked up "What about yourself, Lord Aketun?" Daria noted that she was using a tone that suggested sarcasm in a light manner, but Aketun didn't notice, merely saying with a shrug of words "Oh, I don't drink that stuff, come on, let us get ready. The Hoverbus will be ready at Ten past Thirteen. My my..."
Part Six-Lord Aketun and the New Wonders
Lord Aketun, Jane and Daria took one of the imperial cars to the station, but not the same station they had arrived at. It had a glass sign, lighted with some kind of LED, and Daria looked at it. It read 'OOSTN'. She smiled and said "Aketun- er, Lord Aketun, Oostn. I suppose that's another of your modern language changes. In my time is was-" Aketun interrupted her "Euston, yes-"(he put an emphasis on Eu)"-well about three hundred years ago in 2204, a referendum of the old United Nations was set up to try to create a world language, and they settled, rather nostalgically, for it had been getting rather disused since the introduction of Basic and Mobile, old English. They simply spelt it more properly, fixing all the old mistakes. I remember reading that Lundn was once called Londinium under the Greeks." Daria didn't bother to correct him, knowing it wouldn't do much good. "You know" said Aketun as the train came into the station, to Daria's shock a steam engine powered train that resembled a late victorian model except it's LED lamps and Computerised controls (no fireman was visible, just wires, it seemed the 'steam locomotive' was merely for looks and didn't emit any 'steam'), "Back when I first got a government position I was but a humble dairy farmer in Cornpoint. Oh, Corn Wall, yes. Yes, I remember it like it was yesterframe. I was quite well known in the district, mind you, but I needed to use my money and power for a cause. So I chose politics." Jane looked at Daria, they both knew this meant he wanted more money. "Yes, I feel I'm doing a great bit of good for the EU. I'm turning a once derelict nation into one to be proud of" said Aketun, boarding the train and carrying the two time travellers bags into the single carriage, another ornamental thing, for inside it was as modern and up to date as any building or house. "I hope this won't be a propaganda journey" said Daria to Akeun who looked as if he were about to boast yet more. He smiled and nodded. "Yes, I'm afraid I must seem a tad like a televisor advertisement. But all I say is true. Do sit down."
The train started without a jolt, it seemed even the coupling was deceiving them. It slowly sped up to about a hundred kilometres per hour and sped through the suburbs of Lundn, which, even though never having been there before apart from her visit to Vorzkieg in the city, she knew must have expanded, for instead of fields, they passed only rows and rows of apartments, lining streets made of what looked like grey cement. The train made it's way north and Dreevens started to whittle something on a piece of wood. Daria and Jane observed him, but Aketun seemed uninterested, after a few minutes of noticing their stares he said, "Oh, he does that as a sort of drug activity. Keeps him stable. He's amounted quite a collection." Jane began to ask Dreevens, in a sympathetic manner, about his woodworking passion, and Dreevens seemed only too interested to give her information. Meanwhile Miss Morgendorffer was observing the towns they passed. After what seemed about two hours ride they began to slow down, reaching a more hilly terrain. From then on all four of them looked out the window. Impressive hills began to rise either side of them. Daria thought of how they had eroded since her time. A sped up erosion caused by pollution and heavy rain due to global warming had certainly scarred them, though, in nature's usual fasion, in a beautiful, almost perfectly ironic manner, the black trees and deep gullies cut by flooding seemed quite picturesque. Daria thought of an idea for a question and spoke to Aketun as the train hurtled along. "Lord Aketun, how did you stop global warming in the end? Was it by machinery or some kind of prevention methods?" Aketun was still for a second, then said, "Daria, we never fixed it, only... sort of fixed ourselves. You see the energy used to create portals meant we had found, to some extent, a almost reusable form of eternal energy- it could only be destroyed by a solar flare or something of that magnitude. So all old devices, such as was the inspiration for this train, were replaced by portalenergy operated electrics. Wiring systems remained the same, of course, just in smaller sizes using nanomanipulation of atoms. However the energy was perpetual. Of course global warming is not only caused by an increase in greenhouse gases but a decrease in forests to absorb those gases, and this, unfortunately, was not fixed so easily, or even now, fully. You see, we invented a electric tree which sucked in carbon and other harmful gases like methane, and converted, using an ingenious chemical process, these waste gases into oxygen. These trees, like everything else mechanical, were shrunk down in an effort to multiply them, but of course gas molecules can't be, so the basic output is the same. We covered all the old outdoor farms, now converted to indoor operations, with the electric trees, but of course even this wasn't enough. We had done so much damage with the explosions in portal discovery and first operation that it was like a meteor, we almost faced extinction. But by a stroke of luck the same explosions seemed to clear the atmosphere like using a bomb to explode mines. We had less to clean up. Although the explosions only sent the gases a few thousand kilometres into the atmosphere, but enough to let us invent portals so we could manage the gases into timespace itself. You see, timespace is eternal, infinite. If you destroyed everything that makes it up it would continue to exist somewhere. It's like a backbone to all the frames, or times as you'd call them. Without it the times form a new one. To destroy it entirely, or to manipulate it you'd need a collosal source of power, like breaking every vertebrae rather than slipping a single disc. Nevertheless, we had to put the gases somewhere. Ah- here's our first stop." Daria and jane prepared to get their things, but Dreevens already held them and said "This way, ladies, my lord." Lord Aketun nodded to his servant, Daria again wondering about how the caste system had changed since her time and just how well she would be able to live if she hadn't averted a war. Would there be a random selection process? For Dreevens appeared both mentally and physically like Aketun, only with the classic characteristics of a servant gathered with age. Perhaps the unfair old system, based on luck, the social system, was still, in some form or another, operating. Were people born into poor families still given less chance of making it big than those in rich ones? And what about racial equality? She had only seen the white faced and skinned people, making her own times whites seem like indians. Everyone seemed happy. Maybe that was all that mattered. Happiness. Maybe their was fairness in that everyone accepted that the system was unfair, and made it fair by giving their lessers some of what they had. There were many possibilities, but, fearing another lashing of propaganda, Daria decided to find out for herself rather than ask the election poster that was Lord Aketun.
The town in which they had arrived was little more than a village, though much different from villages in Daria's own timeframe. The buildings were silver, though the paint must have been given an anti-shine coat for they lacked any sheen. The windows were perfectly rectangular, like computer pixels, and the few villagers in sight, an old man and his friend playing chess at a table and two young children playing marbles, were wearing clothes that looked like plastic, though, once again, without any shine or gloss. It was almost as though the future fashion was utilitarian to the extreme, despite the colours of the clothes varying somewhat. The garments fitted tightly, and considering the weather (Aketun had given both the girls coats as it was snowing, and Dreevens and himself had put on overcoats too) must be insulated within that thin fabric. Daria observed that the chess game was a 3D projection, that the bar was open and it's sign was on a screen, and that it was animated. The Vomiting Frog.
They went to the two children for some reason, Aketun seemingly unnoticed as he past by them. Daria suspected he was a common visitor to the township. Aketun finally stopped at the end of the street, and turned. "What you are about to see is the ironically magnificent effects of global warming on the southern Scottish landscape. Watch-" he stepped a few paces from the end of the street in a area of lawn. They followed and, to their amazement, they were standing on the edge of a cliff, the erosion appearing quite recent, for the soil and rocks were bare of weeds, and still brightly coloured. The image had just come to them, and, after seeing their curious faces, he smiled and laughed and then said "Oh, it's quite simple. This is a portalvision. There is no park at the end of Main Lane, no, this cliff was always there. It's the latest in tourist business technology. Put a vision from another timeframe in front of them, an apparently dull park or building, then watch their faces as the view is revealed. Over there- on the horizon, is the Fourth Wonder of the Modern World. It used to be called the Firth of Forth, but now it is known as the Great Iceglacier. It was created in the last efforts to stop global warming with supercooling jets. We knew it was temporary, but in the colder parts of the planet the remains are still visible. The highest point of the glacier, Mount Hacksworth, was named after the inventor of the supercooling jet, Jules Firdron Hacksworth, who was immortalised in the naming of Earth's highest mountain. Yes, well, shall we go to our next destination? I simply must show you the New Paris museum of antiquities. They have just unearthed a two-wheeled travelling device from about four thousand years ago in the Premodernian Epoch. They are calling it the Doublewheel."
The seemingly neverending puns of the future's apparent ignoring of facts learnt previous to the Portalling Age was almost too much for Miss Morgendorffer to handle. She declined to continue and said to Aketun "Thanks, but we really must be going". Jane seemed to want to stay, but, after being convinced that Aketun was as mad as any other 'moderner' she agreed to portal back to the 2000s. But then something extraordinary happened. Aketun nodded to Dreevens and said "Miss Morgendorffer, Miss Lane, a word if you will. Perhaps you would give me the honour of taking me back to your own timeframe to see the wonders of this Lawndale you hail from?" Daria sighed. "Allright, Aketun, but your no Lord in my time, so you'd better be prepared for a shock of status." Aketun laughed "Certainly, my dear, certainly, My, my, this will be a fine voyage."
Part Seven-Aketun and the Old Wonders
The portal, as if acting on it's own accord due to Aketun's presence, spat the three out like melon seeds. Aketun looked about him and began to feel the walls of Daria's dormroom. Jane smiled and said "There's a sight. I wonder how he'll react when he has first contact with soap and non compressed food?" Aketun began to look at various objects and amused himself by staring out the window into the college grounds. "My, my, just have a look at that fine collection of specemins. I suppose we are in a collectable timeframe?" he turned to Daria who shrugged. "I wouldn't know. All I know is I'm hungry and the caf'e is downstairs. You can do what you like." Daria made her way down the stairway, passing by groups of laughing students and people carrying papers and suchlike. She thought about all this and decided to try and not take too much of a part in the proceedings. A kind of common sense filled in the holes of her brain left by curiosity and she felt content to have been to the future. Maybe it wasn't so bad in the past anyway. Maybe her portals could give her- that was an idea, she thought. Power to make things better in her own timeframe.
Aketun was given a tour of the room by Jane and after a while stumbled upon an object that made Daria look up. "I say, what's this, Miss Lane? It's like something from the antique museum. Er... is it an ancient computer?" asked Aketun. Jane smiled and said "No, just the latest technology. It was given to Daria for her inauguration into college as a gift from her parents. A fine thing too. It has seven hundred gigabytes of space on the hard drive." Aketun nodded, "Yes, I heard about those. Gigabytes are like miniframes of information- a mathematical system for sorting electric data into frames. Fascinating. Of course in my time we just use portal energy. Our computers are not on a scale." Daria looked closely at him and knew him to be speaking the truth. Maybe the future was fair after all. Or at least on a relative scale, if that was possible with all the portals and wormholes. "Shall we go for a walk in the grounds, Aketun?" asked Jane, seizing a chance to boast to the other students in a pictorial manner the fact she had a new friend (whose appearance was, however futuristic, quite grand). Aketun nodded. "Dreevens, you stay with Miss Morgendorffer" Daria took notice of this. Finally a chance to question Dreevens about the system of the future.
"Come on Dreeves- I mean Dreevens, I'll get you something to drink. There's a vending machine downstairs. Cola and that sort." Dreevens accepted. As they walked downstairs through the usual throng of students in a revelling state (again the corruption showed itself like a bright light. The rich could afford to 'educate' themselves into a comfortable job without question) Dreevens seemed to be fascinated by every inch of wall, floor and flesh he saw. It was all Miss Morgendorffer could do to stop him feeling people's clothes, staring in amazement at mobile phones and licking the wallpaper. The other students noticed this too, and Daria again felt that feeling of letting her inner self go and resign herself to the fact that Dreevens would continue to do this. "So, this is a vending machine. You insert one of these discs- or coins, and out comes a drink. Quite simple. Oh, and you must press the right buttons" said Daria, indicating the keypad. Dreevens nodded, taking to the machine like a child to a video game unplayed before. He pressed random keys and selected a orange drink, which fell once the sound of the falling coins was heard. He accepted the drink without much difficulty, knowing to pull the ring. As Daria watched with mild curiosity, he held it and drank it, first slowly, then normally, and then, with the last, fast, as if savouring each state. He then said, throwing it into the bin, already overfilled, "Why, that was nectar, pure nectar to my tongue. Magnificent." "You have nectar in your time?" said Daria. Dreevens nodded "Yes." Daria, thankful for this icebreaker began to question him. She found out that the future system, whilst it had it's bumps, was a fairly fair system. Dreevens was a servant by trade, and it seemed no particular caste was imposed on people until they got a job after school. They were given an amount of money and a house and rations and from there made their way in life using heir intellect. The one problem was, it seemed, that the system was taking time to spread from the EU and UAE to the rest of the world, and that, after all Daria had done to avert further fighting, a fourth world war was imminent, with an arms race with the Orient Empire. Daria, at last taking the chance to try to mend the situation, said to Dreevens as he drank his second drink (a lemonade) "Do you think you could arrange for me to visit the Orient leader like Vorzkieg and convince him to sign a deal? I mean- Aketun seems nice-" "Yes, he is" "-and it'd be wonderful to stop another crisis. Perhaps you could arrange something of that sort with your master?" Dreevens looked downwards, tilting his head in what appeared to be self-shame. "Well" he said, again looking at Miss Morgendorffer in the eyes, "It's possible. I shall inform him of your decision."
Part Eight- Into the Emperor's Palace
After Dreevens' brief conversing with his master, Lord Aketun was willing to try Daria's idea, but, before attempting anything he gave her a portal energy packet to carry in case the Orient leader wasn't impressed. Dreevens bid her farewell and Aketun opened a portal. "Goodbye Daria- may we see you safely return." The last thing Miss Morgendorffer saw was the smiling faces of Jane, Dreevens and Aketun as the whirling portal spun about her.
Emperor Hiroyak of the Orient Empire resided in a grand palace. Unlike the Greenhouse it was a massive affair- covering a large estate with gardens, courtyards and a large farm surrounding it, both as a buffer to prevent urban expansion of Bayjington's sprawling mass of polluted roads and towers, and as a self sufficient source of food for the palaces Emperor and his servants. He, like the other leaders, was not married, that primitive tradition having died hundreds of years previously during the first atomic war of the Middle East, but he had a group of friends, and was not antisocial. He sat enjoying a portalpipe, gushing green gas about his head, as did his friends, around a table of biscuits and sweets, cool drinks, for it was rathe more warm than China used to be due to global warming, seven degrees more, in fact. Also on the old table, a last relic of the great mahogany masterpieces, was a game of projected battleplanes. One of his friends, a man in grey uniform and black belt, black hat and tie, said softly, as though trying to conceal the pleasure of knowing he was making a good shot, "Six- B." Emperor Hiroyak's eyebrows lowered and one could see he was under strain, but he acepted this decision, and 'sunk his battleplane'. "You are playing quite well today, Aryon. I sense you must have found a answer to your tie problem" he said to the grey clad friend. Aryon nodded and said, a little more audible this time, "Yes, Master. I chose this black tie because-" ut Hiroyak had interrupted him "There is no need for words like master here, Aryon. We are both friends. I am Hiroyak, not Master. Calling me that merely wastes time. Ah- Fourteen- C!" Aryon looked down. "Blast!" he said, sinking his plane with his finger. It seemed the game was merely projected, not simulated. Just then Miss Morgendorffer's portal opened. She closed it behind her in case of someone going to her time, for several servants had jumped at the site and now eyed her suspiciously. She held her hand up and said, blandly, "I am here in peace. May I speak with the Emperor?" The nearest servant gestured to the others to withdraw and she moved forth towards the sitting men.
"Er- I'm from the past" she said, not knowing the best way to adress herself to the men. Hiroyak looked up at her and said "Can't you see I'm- what did you say, girl? The past? That's ridiculous. Stop playing games." Daria persisted. "But I am from the past. Aketun-" "Aketun?" enquired Hiroyak "Yes, Aketun, he, well, gave me permission to do this. I'm here to avert a crisis of sorts." Hiroyak stood up, his friends not following him, and spoke directly to miss Morgendorffer "Look here, girl, I don't waste my time with pranksters. What sort of joke is this? Has Aketun sent you, has he? Has Aketun's glorious army finally sent a spy, has he? Has he?" Daria shook her head. "I'm no spy. I'm here to show you what happened in my time- so you can stop similar mistakes from occuring. If you don't sign a deal soon, and continue with this arms race, there could be a global conflict." Hiroyak smiled and said "Yes, but we will fight bravely for our land." Daria sighed impatiently, "That's the point. Don't you see? If you signed a deal your'e own people would benefit. Vorzkieg and the President both understood." But Hiroyak wasn't in the least interested. "Look, if you'll just listen to me. Aketun would agree to a pact- and I'm sure once iv'e told you of the things that happened, or could have, in my time, you would too." "Oh, so wer'e making assumptions now?" asked a frustrated Hiroyak, finally letting his emotion show. Daria nodded. "Yes, and from experience and knowledge. For instance- if you were to continue in your race for weapons, one of you would have to give in eventually. That means one of you would be at a loss. And even if you were the victor-" "Which I would be!" "-you would have wasted time, thus allowing your own people to become restless. Spending your budget on war when there's no reason, is like throwing away the police, the hospitals, the schools- all for your own pride's sake. Is that really what you want?" The Emperor stood silent and then said "If I signed a deal he'd make use of me. I know Aketun. Ever since he came here ten years ago offering a business deal with one of his bloody dairy companies." Daria nodded. "But a lot's changed since then. Look, I know he can be difficult- but that's just his character. Vorzkieg was no different, as are you and your predecessor I'm sure. The point is that we must do a deal to avert another war. Think of the toll it could have on the system. Wer'e finally creating a fair system for real- and you want to spoil it for the whole world just because your so selfish and arrogant?" Hiroyak took this into his stride, but his steps were getting shorter. "Well, I still need to think-" "There's no time for thinking, Hiroyak!" said Daria, exasperated, but sure of an eventual win, "We must act now. Look, I am a friend of Aketun's. If you join me then I can be the balance, you can be the weights." Hiroyak finally gave in. "Very well, take me to Aketun. But as a imperial visit. No bleeding portals, girl!" "Good. I'll get Aketun's meeting room ready for discussions" said Miss Morgendorffer, who then created a new portal and exited in an instant.
The televisors were beaming messages into the heads of millions of citizens as the reports came in. Miss Morgendorffer had again averted a crisis and was being officially thanked by Lord Aketun of the EU. His American counterpart, Max Veddel, and Orient Emperor Hiroyak were to meet. "It's the big three all over again!" said Jane, smiling as Daria came back to her own frame. Daria nodded. "I must be in all the visorpapers now. Well, you want to get a coffee? I could do with a rest." Jane nodded "That'd be lovely. Oh, just a second- Veddel gave me this after the ceremony. It's a portal device." Daria looked at it. "He gave you a portal device and not me? Wow. That's odd. Must like you." "I think it's for us to share. See- it can do these amazing things. Wait till I show-" Daria looked at her. "Er- wait till I use this for... making tha coffee?" Daria nodded. "We mustn't let the future change now. It's our duty to make sure no timeportals come to our frame. Just imagine the devastation. I'll get rid of those ice cream contain-" Just then a purple glow had appeared and Daria sighed in her mind. "Not again" she said. Max Veddel, Lord Aketun and Dreevens had come out, wearing what appeared to be their idea of twenty first century garments (baseball caps, shirts, bright orange jackets and cargo shorts with rainboots). "Ah, thought we'd just say thanks in private. Miss Lane, Miss Morgendorffer, for your work in stopping the wars, iv'e decided to give you both, out of fairness and generosity, high positions in our time research department. You are welcome to travel through timespace and report back to our frame at this institution-" He handed Daria a card, "-and enjoy yourselves whilst you do. Have fun exploring. You should consider yourselves lucky, not many people are eligible for time researching, it's a very good career. And you will be paid too. In both rations and money for whatever place you are in. And finally, from us, we'd like to say thankyou both for being the answer to such a horrible situation. Goodbye... My, my, we must get back- I do hope there showing repeats of those great comedy shows from the 2450s!" The portal closed, leaving jane and Daria, Daria holding a card, in the room. Silence reigned briefly until Daria, holding the card up to read it, said "540 Smith Street, Grassburg- the new and improved headquaters of the Time Research Establishment. You will find us quite easily. Just look outside." They went to the window and opened the curtains for the first time. There, in the grounds, was a previously unnoticed tree. Perfectly normal in shape, it appeared to be a pine. Under it, and through it, were the students of Lawndale College, and, as it's purple glowing bark and foliage swayed in the wind, the two time travellers could have sworn they heard Aketun say "My, my, they'll love our retro computer design- look, you can even feel the keyboards!"