You definitely altered my original plan for that scene, that much I will say, Saffa. But, for the better. Most certainly
for the better.
For the first time since the destruction of the Swiss facility, all of RAF filed into the Media Board. There was a feeling of unease in the air. They could all sense that their short time of peace was coming to an end. What else, after all, would the staff need to gather them all together to tell them?
Richard quickly got down to business, knowing that he had a lot of material to cover. Between the disappearance of the backup copies, and the missing Po, and then the unraveling of time itself. It was a lot to take in.
The crowd sat in somber silence, absorbing the news. Indeed, it certainly seemed like the happy times were over. Although many of them had expected this, from the moment they had heard Estrid's mirror-wave call, it was still a serious blow.
"Now, we need to figure out what to do," Richard said, almost expectantly. As if he was waiting for someone to jump up and raise their hand and have the answer. "Queen is our most pressing problem. My guess is she may even be connected to the backups, and . . . " he trailed off as he looked at Anna, who was hugging herself in such a desperate way it was like she was trying to will Po back into her arms. Richard left the sentence hanging, not wanting to voice aloud his concern that Queen might have taken her son.
"Anyway, there's nothing we can do from here, if she really is in the real world," Richard went on. "I'm the only one who could do anything at all, and Queen will be far more powerful than I am, out there. We need to find a way to cross over."
"We shouldn't have destroyed the reverse teleporter," somebody muttered, and there were a few morose nods of agreement from the rest of the crowd.
"Wait, wait," Seal commented, standing up to let herself be heard. "Don't we
have a Time Matrix, too? There should be one in the Animorphs Board, right? If Queen can use hers to wreak havoc in time, can't we use ours to go back to the real world and stop her?"
"I think it's the same one," Aquilai said, from the chair next to Seal. He said it quietly, almost sadly, like he was delivering bad news.
"What?" Jess wondered, looking at Aquilai sharply.
"It's the same one," Aquilai repeated, speaking louder and a bit more confidently this time. "There is only one
Time Matrix. What, do you think it's a coincidence? The thing that started this all off, the thing with the power to alter reality and create a new reality, just happens
to be an object from a book series we all read
. And, oh, by the way, just happens to be something we have one of
?" He sounded angry, but not really at anyone in particular. Like he was angry at reality itself.
"How can it be the same one, though?" Blaze wondered from across the room, but it came out like a rhetorical question, because he was already putting the pieces together. They all were.
"They said that there was a false positive during one of the reverse teleportation tests," Myitt said distantly, recalling what she had heard at the Swiss facility, as recounted to her by the former innerworlders, Bloodbane, Shade, Becky and Kyris. "They said that the scientists' data told them something had come through, but they never found it. Whereas they had found the Time Matrix a couple decades prior, in Egypt. And from that we concluded that the Time Matrix had appeared, and somehow sprung back in time."
Aquilai nodded. He had heard the story before. And, in fact, he had been pondering this information for a long time. Long enough to figure out, or at least guess at, what the other RAFians were only just now putting together.
"But what if that wasn't the whole story?" he wondered. "What if it was us
, steering the Time Matrix to that time and place? We may have aimed, or, well, we may aim, for the time and place where they were doing the reverse teleportation tests. That's where, and when, the barrier between our worlds would be at its weakest. And then, once through, we would immediately pull a u-turn, to 1988. A year before it would be found. Should be fairly simple, since we believe that's where the Time Matrix 'wants' to be. But we'll still have to time it just right, because we can't stay in the Swiss facility for more than a fraction of a second or we'll be seen. After that, we simply leave the Time Matrix where it was, or will be, found." He rubbed his head, annoyed by the interchangeable past and future tenses.
"We can use my TARDIS to move through time after that, since we'll have to leave the Time Matrix behind," Aquilai continued. "My TARDIS, of course, isn't as powerful as the Time Matrix is, but it's better than nothing."
"Wait, how can one time machine be more powerful than another?" someone wondered from the crowd.
Dino would have smirked, if she'd had a human face. Oh, she knew quite well, as the owner of probably the stupidest time machine ever invented, how one time machine could be more powerful, or, in her case less, than another.
"Where the Time Matrix follows the multiverse theory, my TARDIS does not," Aquilai explained. "When the Time Matrix alters the past, a brand new timeline is created. It can, therefore, actually alter
history, such that it is completely different from how it would have gone in the original timeline. The TARDIS, on the other hand, must stay within its own timeline. If the TARDIS goes back in time, then, the past will have already happened the way that it happens. You can do whatever you want, but then that's how it will have happened, in your own past."
He shrugged. "There's a few exceptions, of course, since logic doesn't always apply to Doctor Who. But in general, the TARDIS cannot
actually alter history. Granted, it can still tie knots in time until it's reduced to a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey, stuff. But it's still only that one timeline."
Phoenix stood up. "My time machine is the same way as Aquilai's. Plus, mine can only carry two passengers. So we'll be using the TARDIS for the most part."
Dino spoke up, adding, <Same with mine. Technically mine can
create alternate timelines, but they will always collapse again at some point. And, um, mine can't really be aimed
. You just have to cross your fingers and hope you hit somewhere near the time you were trying for. If you hit within roughly a million years, well, that's about the best you can do. And even that
takes several tries usually.>
"Alright, so we have a plan," Richard said, rubbing his hands together as he got down to business. "First thing, we need to find the Time Matrix." He pointed at Cloaky, Lumy, and Blue. "You three, the construction site. Cloak, you can use your terrakinesis, Lumy and Blue, you'll need shovels."
The three of them hurried out of the auditorium and off to the Animorphs Board. Richard realized that Cloak probably could have accomplished the task on his own, but he didn't want to send any RAFian anywhere without backup. Not at a time like this, when too many things were already going wrong.
"Wait," Myitt said, wrinkling her brow like she was straining to remember something. "They said, the Swiss people said, that they knew that the thing that came through the reverse teleport was an object. Something about the coding being static, or something. But, that means, there weren't any life signs. So, how could it have been us?"
"I don't know, maybe we find a way to hide our life signs?" Aquilai wondered. "Actually, yes, come to think of it, we'll have to. We need a way to protect ourselves. Queen has the Time Matrix. What's to stop her, from finding out our identities, going back in time, and deleting us from history? No, we can't risk that."
He stood up and abruptly walked out of the room. "I'm going to work on something," he explained as he left.
"Wait for me," Goom said, following the Time Lord. Whatever he was up to, Goom was sure he could help him get it done faster.
Terenia realized something else. "We can't send everyone into the real world," she pointed out. "We'll only get one shot with the Time Matrix, and we're going to be limited by how many people can touch a ten-foot-diameter sphere at once. I'd say, maybe twenty or so. Besides, we may need a contingent of RAFians to stay here on the forum, in case Queen attacks here. The real world is our top priority, but we can't leave RAF defenseless, either, or Queen may be able to use our own technology against us."
Hands shot up across the room as RAFians volunteered for the mission, but Richard made a calming gesture with his hands. "We don't need to decide just yet. Think about it. We have, well, we have at least until Aquilai and Goom are done working, and the Time Matrix is unearthed. Then, when we are ready, we will choose who goes, and who stays."