A furious burst of energy ensnared the TUFFW Time Pod Mud Runner. Blue-white lightning crackled across her hull for agonizing seconds before releasing her into the chaos of the Battle Net.
The Analog/Digital Real Intelligence Algorithm interface struggled to maintain the pod's integrity. "We are almost through the worst of it," ADRIA reassured the pod's pilot.
Commander Gillian was anything but reassured. She was the best pilot in the Terran United Federation of Free Worlds, but no one had ever successfuly navigated through the deadly Beta Barrier of this when of the Battle Net. It was as if the gods themselves were all screaming at the top of their lungs, trying to make themselves heard over the deafening roar of some sort of unpredictable cosmic Blizzard.
There was another stomach-churning lurch as something else struck the pod. Gillian glanced back at her sole passenger, Mission Specialist Ogden. He was sleeping peacefully in his cryopod, insulated from the chaos around them. She envied him.
"Great Zakarum! Isn't there anything we can do?" complained Gillian.
"I'm afraid not," said ADRIA. ADRIA knew that Gillian's question had been entirely rhetorical, but it also knew that humans often took some comfort in having their pleas responded to in some fashion.
Gillian routed a little more power from life support and added it to the shields.
Just in time too. A massive blast shook the pod and ADRIA began spouting some gibberish about muffins. Something came loose from somewhere and smacked Commander Gillian in the forehead. Instantly, blood started streaming down her face and into her eyes.
Then, suddenly, it was silent outside. Gillian wiped the blood from her eyes and dared a glance at the view dish. Outside, the Battle Net was peaceful. Portals opens and closed, energy pulses darted along threads the threads.
"We did it!" breathed Gillian, reaching for the first aid kit.
"We are the first time pod to pierce the Beta Barrier," affirmed ADRIA after finishing a quick systems realignment.
"Now for the hard part," said Gillian.
"The future of the Terran United Federation of Free Worlds is in our hands now," said ADRIA. "Failure will result in unspeakable consequences for trillions of people."
"You don't have to tell me," Gillian reminded ADRIA. "I've seen it, remember? Elsie and Lord Cool breeding like bacteria, creating an entire race of self-centered, super-powered idiots. Why, the amount of galactic resources they've used on hair spray alone is staggering."
"The last forecast available before we made the time jump showed the Cools overrunning the galaxy within a century," supplied ADRIA.
"Set time/space coordinates for the Azure Drake," ordered Commander Gillian. "With any luck, we'll be able to stop Dr. Pepin and Captain Farnham before things get out of hand."
ADRIA was about to comply when the Battle Net lurched and twisted around them.
"Oh hell/hell," swore Gillian, trying to steer through the turbulence. "Is it the Boojum?"
"Worse," announced ADRIA. "It's the Adversary!"
Even with all her skill, Commander Gillian could not avoid the Portal the Adversary threw up in front of them. There was a shattering crash.
When Gillian awakened, it was clear that they'd made planetfall. It was also clear that the TUFFW Time Pod Mud Runner had made her final flight. Mission Specialist Ogden's cryopod was relatively intact and the emergency auto-revivers were already working to stabilize his metabolism and bring him back to consciousness.
"ADRIA? Are you functional?" she asked.
The reply came out of the remote unit that hung from Gillian's utility belt. "I have downloaded all remaining essential functions into your hand-held unit, pending repairs to the Mud Runner."
"I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon," said Gillian, looking through the gaping hole in the Mud Runner's hull. Outside was a peaceful green countryside. Just beyond the nearby hills, she could see the gray stone spire of a cathedral.
ADRIA reviewed the telemetry readings of their descent. "We appear to be outside the village of Tristram," said ADRIA.
"Somehow, that doesn't surprise me," said Gillian. "Well, that doesn't change our mission. Elsie and Lord Cool have got to be stopped." She paused dramatically. "By any means necessary."
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