“How much?” Dr Kallisti Hamilton-Stathis, Ph.D (“Quantum irregularities in the supersymetry of the Einstein-Riemann manifold”) stared at the contract the TV company had put in front of her. The fee they were offering was the equivalent of two years grant money from the Science & Education Research Council (assuming they approved the latest application) simply for appearing in their dumbed-down science quiz show! It helped that she was blonde, pretty and as one colleague had said “had excellent prospects” (the reason she no longer wore low-cut tops at work). She expected that it would also involve an outfit that would attract the sort of attention she usually tried to avoid. The money was too good to resist though. She looked at the sharp suited TV Producer sitting opposite her at this rather expensive Bistro in London’s Soho, the centre of operations for so many ambitious TV companies in Britain.
He smiled encouragingly, “… and if it does well we see the potential of your own spin-off series as I’m sure the viewers will be interested in your… um… impressive talents.”
Kallisti took off her glasses and polished them with a napkin. “They aren’t something I usually show off in public.” she replied, replacing her glasses and fixing her gaze on the man’s shirt collar. She had dressed for this meeting in her professional suit, the one she wore to attend grant and faculty meetings. It was sober and smart for Cambridge but she felt dowdy and behind the times in this ultra-hip part of London.
“But they have been essential to get you where you are today wouldn’t you say?” He smiled again and sipped from the glass of wine, leaning back in his chair. He reached out and let go of the wine glass before he was able to place it on the table. Kallisti sighed as she watched the glass begin to fall to the floor. As it fell, it slowed down so that it stopped less than halfway to the floor. It then rose smoothly to be level with the table. She raised an eyebrow at the TV Producer who reached out and took the glass with a grin. “I’m sure there will be a great deal of interest in your unique abilities!”
Parlour tricks and pranks, that’s all anyone ever seemed to see in her ability to manipulate space and time. Few understood what her abilities were able to do, including herself to some extent. To most is was reassembling a broken egg by making localised time reverse, lifting heavy objects by reducing the local gravity field and other ‘tricks’. The fact that these abilities allowed her to investigate the intricacies of space and time directly were of interest to only a very tiny number of academics, many of whom where either sceptical or jealous of what she could do.
“Very well, this opportunity will give me a bit of independence from the grant authorities I guess.” She reached out for the contract. “However I do need to have my lawyer check the provisions before I sign it.” Her ‘lawyer’ was her father’s golf buddy who she’d know since she was a kid. Grant monies didn’t stretch to having your own lawyer!
“Of course, that is only to be expected. We’ll arrange an appointment with the wardrobe department so they can get set up for the fittings as soon as possible, we are under pressure to get going as we have studio slots booked next week. We can provide accommodation for you in Cardiff or course.” Kallisti rolled her eyes, she knew that in her future would be a tight red mini-dress. Her friend from the History department had appeared on a TV show last year and they had laughed together over lunch at the ridiculous dress they had made her wear, but now she faced the same problem. No matter how many academic qualifications or papers published, all they ever saw was the blonde hair and the tits.
“I look forward to it.” she said with mock enthusiasm. The producer beckoned to the waiter for the bill. “Thank you for the lunch it was very nice.” The dover sole had been overcooked and too salty, the spinach limp and tasteless and the salad dry and bitter. She shook his hand, smiled and headed toward the door. As she passed a glass partition, she saw the TV Producer reflected in the glass – he was staring at her intently, admiring her backside in the tight trousers of her suit, a smug smile on his face. At that moment her phone rang so she left the restaurant and once on the street answered it.
“Ah kalispera Mama!” it was her mother checking up on her as usual. “Good news, I’ve got the job on that TV show!”
“Well done my darling, you’ll be fantastic, I’ll get Peter to set the video thing to record it!” her mother was excited. “Your father would have been so proud of you! His lovely daughter appearing on the television!”
“Mama, it hasn’t even been recorded yet! I’ve no idea when it will be on the telly, it could be months!” She felt the familiar lurch in her insides at the mention of her father. Even though it had been over 15 years, she still missed him. Her mother’s new husband was a lovely man and in some ways she could pin her academic success to his influence, but ‘Daddy’ would forever be her real father. The awful car crash that took him much too soon would always mark a turning point in her life.
“Pff, it was what you always wanted when you were young, to be the famous model and glamorous star! I remember you parading up and down in front of the mirror!” She smiled at that childish memory. She had always been obsessed with dressing up and showing off as a child but it had been her step father showing a 12 year old Kallisti the rings of Saturn through the telescope in their back garden just after getting married to her mother that inspired her to be interested in something other than make-up and showing off! “So will you be staying on London long then?”
“I was going to meet Susannah later and stay over at her place tonight. She’s been on the telly before so I’m sure I can learn a lot from her experience.”
“Is that the one with the actor boyfriend? You need to watch those actory types, never trust them!” her mother’s finger wagging was almost audible on the phone.
“Yes, but its okay he’s cool and he’s off filming anyway, we’ll just have a girly night in!” Or out is what she preferred, Suzie was always a laugh when they went out back in the day! “Okay Mama, going down into the tube station, catch you later, love ya.”
* * *
Kallisti stumbled on the step up to Susannah’s front door and pressed the doorbell, clutching her coat around her so that nobody would see the short skin tight red dress she was wearing at this early hour of the morning. The locks on the door clacked and clicked and the door opened a gap on the chain as Susannah peered out.
“Oh my god where did YOU get to last night!” On seeing Kallisti looking rather bedraggled on her doorstep, she unlatched the chain and opened the door fully. Kallisti slunk into the hallway, wincing.
“Ugh, don’t ask, its too long and sordid a story!”
“Excellent, that’s just what I need to hear!” Susannah grabbed her friend’s arm and steered her into the large kitchen to the back of her rather grand house in Chiswick. “Tea is on, get your coat off and tell me ALL about it!” Susannah was a tall slim blonde woman with long curly hair that cascaded in ringlets around her face. She was in her mid 30s so was a bit older than Kallisti but they had been friends for years. She was also an academic, but a historian with several books to her name and becoming famous on television as the TV producers loved her pre-raphelite looks.
“You are such a bad influence on me, why is it that whenever I go our with you I seldom end up going home with you?” Kallisti cradled the mug of tea in front of her, squinting at the sugar bowl as she didn’t have her glasses on.
“So the dress did its job eh? Aren’t you glad you borrowed it then?” Kallisti had raided Susannah’s wardrobe and settled on the sexy red dress that Susannah had acquired from one of her TV appearances. The dress had caused a bit of a stir on Twitter after that broadcast! “Well spill the bean, who was he and what perverted things do the two of you get up to! Come on, frustrated movie widow here, Tom’s not due back for weeks!!!”
“He was some sort of city type – was showing off about the markets or some such, talking to me like I was some blonde bimbo, I almost dumped him, but well…” She grinned wickedly, “When he stopped talking his mouth was useful for other things!”
“Hang on, you aren’t wearing… omg you left your knickers behind!” Susannah roared with laughter. Kallisti giggled.
“When I woke up this morning all I wanted to do was get out… I did NOT want to listen to him talking again, so I snuck out and thankfully found a Black cab! I found my coat, shoes and dress but couldn’t be arsed looking for anything else!”
“You are such a tart!” Susannah hugged her, laughing. “During the day you are all serious and ‘don’t look at my tits, listen to what I say’, then you get a drink you and a sexy red dress and you become a raving slut! I love it!”
“Yeah well I’ve learned from the experts haven’t I? You and Alice were excellent tutors! Now you’re both ‘oh no I’m a good girl now I’m famous’, yeah I remember what you two were like back in Cambridge!”
“Did you do your gravity trick with him?” Susannah topped up their mugs of tea.
“Nah, he was too full of himself already and I just wanted a good shag, didn’t quite get a good one, but it was good enough!”
“So no sign of a boyfriend… or maybe girlfriend?” Susannah winked.
“Give it a rest, I was drunk at the time but she was rather cute… I’m not really interested in that direction…”
“Until you’ve had a few drinks…” Susannah smirked. Kallisti blushed. Her phone bleeped at her, a text alert. She dug into the pocket of her coat lying on the kitchen counter top.
“What? Some bloke in America wants to talk to me! What time is it over there?”
“4am if they are East Coast, who is it?”
“Cosmic Titan? Oh god its some superhero bollocks over there, jeeze.”
“Well you know the old saying with great power comes great responsibility!” Kallisti glared at her. “You can borrow the dress if you need a hero costume… but I would recommend knickers if you decided to fly about… ow!” Susannah laughed as Kallisti playfully slapped her shoulder. The phone rang, the ringtone being David Bowie’s Life on Mars.
“Yes this is Doctor Kallisti Hamilton-Stathis… Um yes I think I’ve heard of you… Legion of Valour… okay… um yes it convenient to talk… yes I’m alone… what?” She held her finger to her lips gesturing to Susannah. “Why do you need to know who else is in the house? What is this some kind of prank? What…”
There was a whooshing buzzing noise and a pop as the air on the other side of the kitchen counter was replaced by a large man wearing a red superhero costume with a red and blue cape and a large white star in the middle of his chest. He was holding a mobile phone to his ear. Kallisti jumped off the stool and with a gesture summoned a small glowing ball of gravity right in front of him. The controlled singularity pushed the man up against the wall.
“What the fuck do you think you are doing?” she shouted at him. “How dare you teleport uninvited!” Susannah dropped her mug in shock at this sudden appearance.
“Please do not be alarmed, I just thought it easier to talk in person rather than on the phone.” The man spoke with a deep American accent. Kallisti tipped her head to one side and the glowing ball of gravitational energy shrunk slightly and floated over to her to hover by her shoulder like a pet parrot.
“Well in England teleporting into someone’s house uninvited is considered rude.” With another gesture of her hand, the broken mug that Susannah had dropped reassembled itself and rose back to her hand.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but we do have an emergency on our hands and we need your particular expertise.” He gestured at the glowing ball of gravitation energy Kallisti was able to control. “My name is Cosmic Titan and I am the leader of the supergroup known as Legion of Valor” His pronunciation made the missing ‘u’ very clear. “We are based in Paragon City and I’ve come to ask if you would come and help us investigate a peculiar space-time anomaly that has appeared in the middle of the city.”
“Don’t you have your own people over there? I know of at least two others who have gravity control powers… “
“But neither of them also have temporal manipulation abilities as well.” Cosmic Titan pointed to the mug that had reassembled itself and was now in the hand of the stunned Susannah. “We have been in touch with several so called experts in and nobody has yet been able to help. The anomaly is slowly growing larger and swallowing everything it touches. We’ve not been able to touch it so far so we are reaching out beyond our normal contacts and your name was brought up…”
“I’m not a superhero, I can just… do things…” she looked from the American to her friend who was standing slack jawed at this interloper in her kitchen. “look you’ve invaded Susannah’s kitchen and its not fair on her, we should go elsewhere to discuss this.”
“Er… don’t you NEED to change your clothes Kallisti?” Susannah raised her eyebrows at her current outfit. Kallisti sighed.
“Oh, yes um, give me a minute or two will you, I only got home… um I need to change my clothes, won’t be long.” she struggled to explain. Picking up her coat she headed for the door, quickly re-tracing her steps to pick up her mug of tea as well before heading upstairs to the guest bedroom to change. Returning a few minutes later having changed into her favourite peasant-style top and jeans and tying her hair back into a pony-tail, she was surprised to find Cosmic Titan sitting at the breakfast table with a mug of tea and slice of toast, chatting to Susannah.
“Oh there you are! Cosmic Titan has met my Tom would you believe, small world isn’t it!” Susannah had recovered from her initial shock of her home invasion and was playing the perfect hostess, still dressed in her kaftan.
“Why does that not surprise me?” She put her empty mug by the sink and helped herself to a bowl of muesli. “Need to eat something before gallivanting off anywhere, especially if you are going to teleport.”
“Well I was thinking more along the lines of walking out of here to the car that is waiting for us. We have a facility near Heathrow that links to our base in Paragon City.”
“Oh.” Kallisti shrugged and carried on eating her muesli. Susannah grinned.
“So is this a paid consultancy job you are offering my friend?” Kallisti rolled her eyes at her friend – she’d been in the commercial world too long and was looking out for the cash at every opportunity it seemed.
“We can arrange something with our lawyers for consultation fees yes, we can offer you this rate:” he wrote down some numbers on a post-it note and handed it to Kallisti. She almost choked on her muesli and when Susannah peeked at the offer, her eyes widened. “Is that okay? Our lawyers can draw up a contract for you to sign at the facility.”
“Ahem, yes that will be fine.” Kallisti tried to play it cool. “Well I suppose we’d better get started. I’ll get my stuff from upstairs its just a small bag…”
* * *
The Range Rover pulled up at a warehouse in an anonymous industrial estate near Heathrow airport. Standing around the area were several men and women conspicuously not carrying any weapons, but their stance and demeanour suggested they didn’t need them. During the trip out from London, Cosmic Titan had opened up a communication channel to Paragon City and showed her the now large spatial anomaly that was gradually swallowing up the huge statue of Atlas that dominated the central plaza of Atlas Park. She had been able to talk to some of the other gravity manipulators already on the scene, but they didn’t seem to have the same level of mathematical understanding of space-time that she had acquired. Now she realised why they had called her.
Inside the warehouse was a massive machine like a toroid tipped up on its edge with a large metal ramp leading up to the central hole. The outer parts of the toroid were rotating in opposite directions and it gave off a static charge that made the hairs on her arms stand up. Good thing she had brought her passport with her if she was now about to instantaneously travel to the USA! Several technicians in lab coats were monitoring a large control console to the right of the machine and on the other side were several people in a mix of military uniforms and business suits. A dark haired woman in a smartly tailored business suit approached them.
“Here you are, if you would follow me we can sort out the paperwork.” She nodded to Cosmic Titan and headed toward an office to the side.
“Make sure you read the small print!” Cosmic Titan whispered to Kallisti as she made to follow the lawyer. Kallisti adjusted her glasses and went into the side office and sat at the untidy desk. The wall behind the lawyer was covered in wiring diagrams and diagrams, some of which she recognised. She wished she could be studying these instead of the multi-page contract the lawyer handed to her.
“If you could sign here, here, here and here, initial here, and here please.” The lawyer’s smile was almost shark-like. Kallisti took the expensive ballpoint pen on offer and started reading the contract, clicking the pen’s button as she did. The lawyer’s smile twitched slightly as the clicking continued, longer and longer as Kallisti took her time reading the contract. She wasn’t great at legalese but had worked on enough grant applications to be experienced enough to plough through the overly-complex language.
“No.” she said and pointed at a clause on page 6. “I’m not signing with this clause which indemnifies you against any loss. You’ve asked me for help so you will cover any risks that I am exposed to while helping.”
The lawyer’s smile faded. “Ahem, let me consult with my superiors…” she pulled a phone out of her pocket, got up and left the room. Kallisti took this opportunity to look at the plans on the wall. After a few minutes the woman returned, followed by Cosmic Titan. “My superiors have agreed to remove that clause.” she scowled, took the contract and drew three crosses through the clause, initialling each one and signing the alteration. Cosmic Titan also signed the alteration as witness.
Kallisti signed and initialled the document with a smile and slipped the pen into her pocket. “Okay, lead the way!” The lawyer’s scowl deepened as they left the office and headed toward the portal. “So how long has Portal Corp had this facility in England. I’d never heard of it before.” she asked.
“Um, I don’t think they make a big fuss about them.” Cosmic Titan explained reluctantly. “We just use them when we need to, they do their own thing most of the time for good or bad.” he awkwardly shrugged. “We’ve had to fix a few of their messes over the years but they still manage to keep going, even after the Rikti…” he stopped himself. “Here we are ready to go?” he gestured for her to step through the glowing portal.
There was a slight resistance as if pushing through a thin curtain and a tingling sensation passed through her body as she passed through the null space between the two sides of the portal, instantaneously travelling over three thousand miles. There was a moment of confusion as gravity seemed to shift around her – she noted the effect, worthy of future study if she had the chance. She stepped down onto another metal platform in a facility obviously specially designed to house the dimensional portal, a large cavernous room with walkways at various heights around the sides and a series of switchback ramps up to an exit at the upper floor. Cosmic Titan and the unhappy lawyer stepped through behind her. Waiting at the foot of the cavern were two people, obviously superhero types from the way they were so flamboyantly or in one case skimpily dressed.
“These are fellow Legionaries, can I introduce Pagan Priest and Stained Glass Scarlet. The first was a tall man dressed in black with red arcane symbols on his outfit. The skin on his face was black and metallic looking and his eyes glowed red. The second was a shorter woman wearing tall white boots white mini-skirt and skin tight top. Her hair was also white and her face partly concealed be a veil.
“We have a helicopter ready to take us to Atlas Park, we need to head up top.” Pagan Priest’s voice was low and rumbling.
“As usual, all business, welcome to Paragon City!” Stained Glass Scarlet shook Kallisti’s hand. “How was the trip? Some people find the portals a bit disorienting.”
“I’m fine thank you, there was a little bit of gravitational distortion but that could be edge effects in the interface barrier.” Kallisti was craning her neck to look all around the facility, soaking up the experience. They walked up the ramps to the top level and along a short corridor to a bank of elevators.
“They bury these portals deep underground so they can be defended, which we have to do quite regularly.” Stained Glass Scarlet explained. The lift accelerated them upwards and took several seconds to reach the surface. Stepping out they were in an office building with plush green carpets, the effect marred by the sandbagged gun emplacement off to one side, manned by soldiers behind an impressively large gun. Walking through the foyer, they exited via the glass wind doors into the darkness outside. It was still before dawn in Paragon City on the East Cast of America, 5 hours behind the UK.
The three superheroes led her over a grass quadrangle between the large grey building to a helicopter pad guarded by police and soldiers. A large red and white helicopter was waiting, blades turning. They ducked their head and climbed into the passenger cabin. Immediately the copper took to the air. Kallisti peered out of the window but in the darkness she could not see much as they flew over water . Eventually she saw ahead the gigantic glowing War Walls that made Paragon City famous, constructed after the alien invasion some years back that separated the city into specifically contained zones rather than the usual sprawling chaos of a normal city.
They flew over the first wall they came to and immediately she could see the city zone lit up by street lights and decorative floodlights and between the tall building the central square dominated by the gigantic statue of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders… except that part of the large globe was missing, swallowed up in a swirling cloud, too far away to make out any details. The helicopter banked round between the skyscrapers to land in a park a few hundred yards from the plaza.
There was a large crowd held back by police barriers and inside the cordon a large number of police, soldiers and superheroes. Cosmic Titan led her to a tent set up at the foot of the steps leading up to the plaza. inside were several trestle tables with a huge variety of equipment with technicians in lab coats, camouflage uniforms, skin-tight environment suits and one in what looked like a futuristic space suit with its helmet folder back to reveal a distinctly non-human head with green skin and antenna on their head. In the middle was a man wearing a red a blue one piece costume with blue goggles and a chest emblem light forked lighting. Cosmic Titan led her over to him.
“Synapse, this is Doctor Kallisti Hamilton-Stathis from England. We’ve just brought her over here as she has an understanding of gravity anomalies and is also a Gravity Controller.” It was obvious these last two words were capitalised as he spoke them. She had heard these terms in various scientific literature but hadn’t grasped what they signified, it was referring to her special ability!
“Excellent, so let me bring you up to date on what we know. About 10 hours ago a gravity anomaly formed at the very top of the Atlas Globe. We’ve not been able to penetrate it as anything we try to send in to investigate get spat out either in pieces or in one very small dense piece. We’ve had a couple of gravity controllers try to manipulate it but they’ve all failed and one of them is in hospital with an aneurysm.” Kallisti raised her eyebrows at this revelation, they hadn’t told her about that before she signed the sodding contract. Thank goodness she got that clause removed!
“The region seems to be gradually growing – initially it was only about nine feet in diameter but now its well over thirty feet. If it grows much further the statue will become unstable, but that would be the least of our worries. If our predictions of the growth of this thing hold out by this time tomorrow most of the city will be swallowed and then in about 4 days the whole planet will be consumed.”
“So we’re not talking about a Black Hole singularity effect here are we?” Kallisti asked.
“Well we don’t yet know – there is a region of unstable gravity that forms the outer surface but its not a simple attraction force, it seems to be rotating or swirling – the visual appearance is not much use it just looks like a misty cloud.”
“Hmm, people need to stop thinking of gravity as a force!” she mumbled to herself. “General Relativity shows its a space-time distortion that causes objects to experience differential accelerations. I need to see this thing I think.” she moved to exit the tent only to be stopped by an armed soldier, blocking the exit. “What?” She turned to Synapse and scowled.
“Um security is tight here, sorry you need to be signed in and out.”
“Oh for goodness sake, I haven’t even signed in yet!” A clipboard was handed to her with a pen attached by string. She wrote her name and checking her watch she wrote the time she entered and left the tent as the same time, using UK time. She handed the clipboard back to another soldier who signalled the sentry to let her out. She exited the tent and looked up at the statue and the large misty swirling carbuncle. Focussing her mind on the space-time around her she distorted it slightly and gently left the ground, levitating herself up closer to the anomaly. There was a stir of attention around as others noticed what she was doing. She didn’t notice the weapons being trained on her as she rose up. A voice behind her made her turn around.
“Might I suggest you warn us when you do things like that next time.” said Cosmic Titan, hovering just behind her, his body glowing slightly from the flying power he was invoking. “The authorities are understandably jumpy.”
“Hmmm, oh yes okay, I’ll um try to remember.” Her attention was on mainly the anomaly though. She cocked her head to one side and brought her hand up holing her palm flat. Beside her a small ball of faintly glowing energy manifested.
“You have a singularity pet!” Cosmic Titan was surprised.
“A what? Oh you mean my little gravity Quantum? Its a useful tool to test things, I’ve been able to do this for years.” she flicked her hand and the ball floated off toward the anomaly.
“One of the other gravity controllers tried to use their singularity pet to get inside that thing, but it didn’t work and they are now in hospital.”
“Well if they tried to brute force it I’m not surprised. I’ll need to focus so I’m going back down is that okay nobody will shoot?” She lowered herself to the ground and sat on the raised edge of the plaza, closing her eyes as she concentrated on her point of quantum gravity. “I use the quantum to map the lines of space-time distortion, it allows me to build up a mental picture of the four dimensional structure.” she explained to Cosmic Titan who landed nearby. “Its not about ‘getting inside’ its about understanding the structure first. See its got an undulant structure that seems to be overlaid with a curvilinear oscillation – that’s why nothing can get through, you need to understand the contrasting frequency responses and spot the resonance… there through, that was interesting… oh now that is interesting…”
Cosmic Titan had been joined by Synapse and a couple of technicians, one had a video camera pointed at her to record everything while the other had a large circular antenna on a pole he held near to where Kallisti sat.
“Please get that thing away from me, I can feel it rippling through the space-time manifold, its irritating.” she said and the antenna was swatted away, knocking the technician off his feet. Synapse shoed him away, gesticulating to some others behind to keep their distance.
“What are you seeing?” he asked.
“Its a pocket of space-time curled around something. The outer fringes are just interference patterns with the outside, the interference is growing the longer it lasts so that is why it appears to be getting larger. I’m going further in… oh!”
“What is it?” Synapse’s voice was urgent but distant as Kallisti’s focus was drawn into the scene that was replaying before her… a young man meeting a lovely girl, they dance, they get close, she wants to go home with him, they spend a marvellous night together then the morning comes and she pats him on the cheek and walks out, leaving him crushed. With a gasp, she recognises her own behaviour! There down at the very centre of the gravity anomaly is the young man curled in a foetal position, oblivious to the world, the scene replaying itself in his mind again and again, eating him up.
She shifted her attention back to her quantum gravity particle and set it oscillating to try to attract the man’s attention, moving it to his feet to try to ‘tickle’ them. He stirred and sat up, his own gravity control powers grabbing onto Kallisti’s quantum gravity with ferocity, but Kallisti’s control was finer and more nuanced and she was able to make it duck out of his control and dance back. Its oscillation made the air vibrate with her voice “Please don’t hurt yourself like this, please let me help you?” The man’s face registered shock at hearing this voice from nowhere.
To the observers on the ground, suddenly the large misty anomaly collapsed in upon itself, causing a rain of debris from the damaged statue to fall around the plaza a cacophony of clanging brass fragments. Immediately several flying superheroes converted on the space above, surrounding the man now revealed, floating in the space over the ruined statue.
“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” Kallisti’s voice rang out from her quantum gravity particle. Surprised, the heroes kept their distance as she lifted herself up to meet the man. “My name is Kallisti, they brought me all the way here from England to find out what was wrong. Lets go and sort it out down below.” He looked at her slightly dazed, the effort to sustain the gravitational anomaly had taken its toll and he did not look well. It looked like he wouldn’t have been able to sustain it much longer, he was drained. Nodding weakly he started to lower himself, but halfway down his strength failed and he plummeted toward the plaza. Cosmic Titan was ready though and caught him before he hit the ground.
Kallisti lowered herself back to where she had left her bag, just as Cosmic Titan carried the man to an ambulance. “His heart has stopped! Get the adrenalin!” the medic shouted, starting CPR while the others worked around him. Synapse appeared beside her.
“Well that was unusual, I think I recognise him, that’s Mass Driver – he was in the Hero Corps training programme.” Kallisti explained what she had witnessed. “All that over a girl? Sometimes I despair at humanity!”
“Some people seem to have more of it than others!” Kallisti replied frostily.
“Is your singularity pet supposed to behave like that?” Cosmic Titan was looking behind her.
“Eh? I dismissed it just now, what are you talking about… woah!” she said turning to look where he was. A jagged rent in the space behind her was glowing with a sickening purple radiance and growing larger… well not larger it was as if it was coming towards her without moving closer. She could feel a pull from it as it tried to drag her toward it. Cosmic Titan grabbed her arm. “What the hell… this isn’t my quantum this is something… ” her arm slipped through Cosmic Titan’s grasp as she vanished through the rift.
“…else!” she landed with a thump on the steps up to Atlas Plaza. “Ow! What the fuck?” it was now daylight, the statue of Atlas was whole again and there were a handful of people looking in her direction as she had just appeared out of nowhere. A tall well muscled man was standing on the parapet under the statue, wearing just a pair of speedos and dancing along to a boombox at his feet. A few other oddly dressed people were about but there was no sign of Cosmic Titan, Synapse or any of the others.
“Hey Kallisti!” the man in speedos waved to her. Who on earth was he and how did he know her?
Fortunately her bag had followed her through the weird rift so she got her phone out – to hell with international charges, she checked but there was no reception. She looked around – on the far side of the plaza was the City Hall offices, maybe there would be answers there? She started walking around the base of the statue when a blonde girl dressed in gold floated down in front of her.
“Ah there you are, I suppose you’ve got a LOAD of questions sweetie?” she said. Kallisti stumbled, she looked just like her! Another blonde girl dressed in a green bustier and long skirt tail landed next to her, she also looked the same.
“Welcome to the Kallistiverse!” The first one said triumphantly.
“Oh shit you mean you are both versions of me from different time lines?” Kallisti gestured at them both. They glanced at each other in surprise.
“Er, yes but we’re supposed to tell you… um how do you know that?” the second Kallisti had an interesting accent – she had heard some of the history researchers reading in Middle English and her accent had traces of it.
“Thank god, another one of us with brains!” This came from behind her, she turned and was confronted with a tall bronze skinned creature with horns protruding from either side of her head but her voice was familiar and her face, even bronze looked the same. She was dressed in tight leather trousers and biker jacket and carried a laptop. “Kallisti Bronze at your service, specialising in quantum physics and keeping the average IQ of the Kallistiverse in double digits! This is Kallisti Gold and Kallisti the Friar – she doesn’t like demons but you are human it seems so you should get on fine.”
“Okay so how many of us has this rift displaced and how did it start? I got the distinct impression it wasn’t a natural space-time anomaly.”
Kallisti Bronze clenched her fist. “YES! Finally someone who can help, so what is your specialisation?”
“I’m Doctor Kallisti Hamilton-Stathis, my PhD is in quantum irregularities in… are you okay?” she reacted to Kallisti Bronze leaping up and down in joy.
“I think we’ll have to call you Doctor Kallisti, I don’t understand what you were talking about but you are obviously a scholar and we are sorely in need of your help. We have to reopen the rift so I can get get back to my own timeline and fight the terrible evil that is happening.” Kallisti the Friar took her hand, her face serious. “Lets go home and we can have tea and biscuits, we get them sent over from Oxford by Mother.” Doctor Kallisti felt strange, as familiar as all this seemed, she was in an alien land and this mother was not her Mama!
“So what’s different in your timeline to here then? How come you’re all brainy?” Kallisti Gold looked her up and down judgementally.
“Um, well I did well at school and went to Uni and… So who’s timeline is this one? This must be where it all started if multiple versions are being pulled here.” Bronze and Friar looked at Gold.
“Ah that would be me, you see I’m an energy blaster… oh what powers do you have by the way? You do have powers don’t you?” It was obvious that Gold had the attention span of a stunted goldfish.
“I can manipulate gravity and time to a limited degree.”
“YES!!!” Bronze was fist pumping again. “Thank fuck for someone who is finally useful… no offence girls…” she said in response to the scowls from Gold and Friar.
“I’ll remember that next time I have to rescue you from a Rikti invasion!” Friar raised her eyebrow. “Come on that tea won’t brew itself. Can you fly or leap or teleport? Otherwise we’ll need to get the train?”
“The train sounds fine, I only arrived in Paragon City a few hours ago and it was dark so I haven’t seen much yet.” They all started walking toward the train station, except for Gold who took to the air and floated a bit above and ahead. “So tell me how the rifts started?”
“Well there was this thingy in the Portal Corp lab thingy and it was going sort or ‘wooo woo humm zzzzzz wooo’ and then I did a Nova by accident…” Kallisti Bronze mimed a big explosion, “and then it wasn’t going ‘wooo woo’ any more but more crackle crackle and then it sort of exploded but didn’t it went whmomp but silently…” Bronze shrugged, “and then Bronze turns up followed by Red… it was all a bit confusing.” Bronze twirled her finger to her temple, making herself go cross-eyed. Friar slapped Bronze’s arm. “Hey Mum and Dad will be so pleased to have a new one to meet and a Doctor as well! Are your Mum and Dad academics as well?”
Doctor Kallisti experienced the lurch in her stomach that mention of her father… “Hang on, is Dad alive here?” Gold dropped to the ground in front of her.
“Yes he… oh my god!” Gold suddenly worked it out. “Oh no he didn’t die in your timeline did he?” Gold was already in tears and hugging her fiercely. Two plus two fitted together neatly and she thought of the time she had spent with her step-father, introducing her to the night sky and distracting her from her previous obsession with being a fashion model. So that meant… she felt a shiver… if her father had survived is Gold what she would have become?