MEANWHILE (A.D. 2115)

Dr. Yoshimoto is looking into E. Xi’s eyes.

“Don’t be afraid. You’re highly capable,” says Dr. Yoshimoto.

“Yes,” E. Xi says flatly.

“I’m giving you the key code to Anomaly—the name of one of the “glitch windows” in the Time Labyrinth. The Anomaly “glitch window” will open up to allow for your entrance into the Labyrinth; however, once inside, there’s no telling when or where you’ll end up. You may end up in a familiar part of the Time Lab; or, you may find yourself entirely off the grid. I may be repeating myself—”

“You’re repeating yourself,” she says.

“I know,” he says, “But, this may be the last time you ever hear me say these things. Maybe not the very last time, but the last for a while.”

Silence builds a glass nest in E. Xi’s mouth.

“When you arrive, use your time compass to locate the nearest Labyrinth door; or, as a last resort, an Anomaly. If neither appear for miles, your last last resort is to use the needle of your time compass to create a “tear” in the fabric of time. This “tear,” or portal, is liable to collapse as it is an uncontrollable variable. Only the time key can mend “tears” in time. You don’t have the key; I’m glad, I’d never wish such a thing on you.”

“What about Zed?”

“She’ll be fine.”

Dr. Yoshimoto’s eyes are varnishing themselves in a coat of tears. His waterlines are shining behind his glasses.

“I wish you Godspeed,” he says quietly, “You’ve been a good daughter to me. I won’t hold you with long goodbyes, though. You only have three minutes.”

“Until next time,” E. Xi says quietly. Dr. Yoshimoto is nodding, damming a clear blue river of unsaid words. Pebbles of regret are appearing under the lucid, sunlit water of his mind.

***

E. Xi is running down a white hallway as swiftly as Hermes. Her lilac afro-curls are trailing behind her. Red lights are flashing; they indicate that all operating technological systems are set to shut down in two minutes. The secret police have been contacted. They are coming to arrest E. Xi’s adoptive father, Dr. Yoshimoto. They also want to apprehend E. Xi. The entire building is locking down.

The hallway lights are going dark. Momentary darkness is abiding. E. Xi’s breathing is heavy. Suddenly, bright flashes of yellow light are accompanying a loud siren that screams, “This is not a drill. Yellow alert! Someone in the building is a threat to state security. Building is on lockdown. Yellow alert! This is not a drill.”

E. Xi is hearing boots clomping up the corridor, and the click of a revolver. She is running up to the Anomaly: it’s a mammoth sliding door with a white “X” on the front of it. E. Xi is waving the neon pink barcode on her wrist in front of the door’s scanner.

The Anomaly is sliding open. Somebody is running up to E. Xi from behind; but, the Anomaly is closing on them. It is a special police officer. He is shooting at the sliding door’s glass, but the glass is bulletproof.

E. Xi is flinching at the sound of the gun’s rapid firing; the glass door is thumping. E. Xi is standing at a neon pink podium; the podium has a keypad. Her hands are sweating as she punches in the ten digit activation code to the Time Labyrinth’s Anomaly. Now, the room is turning pink: E. Xi is disappearing into the Labyrinth.

***

THE PAST    

A time portal is opening up in the sky. E. Xi is a pixie falling through dusky steampunk clouds. Her cybernetic Shiftware is rebooting: her wavy hair turns blonde; then blue; then red; and finally pink; her skin blooms deepest brown, then, snow white; her leotard morphs into a leather midriff top and leather pants, and then into invisible armor.

E. Xi is unconscious. She is spinning and cartwheeling gracefully through the air; E. Xi is falling with great velocity. Her purplish hair is flying like an otherworldly flame. She looks as though she were dead.

Her Shiftware has finally finished recallabrating itself. It is now in protective mode. A purple force field is surrounding her; the force field glows softly, like bioluminescence. Veins of pink electricity candy-stripe her protective purple aura.

***

Caesarion is the teenaged son of Queen Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. He is looking up at the Egyptian night sky from a marble balcony. Evenings in maritime Alexandria are always beautiful; but, tonight’s sky is especially lustrous.

Descending from moon-kissed clouds is a goddess. Pink lightning and a halo of pale light are attending her floating body. Caesarion is putting his arms out to catch his angel. E. Xi’s force field is disabled, and her body lands in his arms.

Purple waves of hair gush from her scalp, and sculpt an artful frame around her golden face. E. Xi’s Shiftware has morphed into an inordinately long gown of golden, shimmering gauze. Caesarion is startled.

Presently, he’s being groomed to be a lord over a kingly inheritance. His mother dreams of an Asiatic empire with Caesarion at its helm. This is a good omen. Caesarion is thinking, Certainly all my mother has wished for concerning me is manifest, here, in my arms. The gods have sent me a goddess to guide me to Rome. Now, I shall walk in Caesar’s footfalls. With her help, I shall clench Jupiter’s scepter yet.

***

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