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Buffy - Willow and Tara

The Principalities - Episode E.3 - Extra Time

Posted on 2008.07.01 at 14:11
Episode E.3 – Extra Time
(see the preface for information)

23rd August 2086
“It doesn’t make sense.” John insisted. “Rufus Rhinehart left school at eighteen to pursue a career as a priest at the Church of Pancendia. Three years ago he drops out of the priesthood and just creates a time machine. When questioned about it by top scientists he has no idea how it works or even what all the parts were for. The next year this untrained man manages to perfect artificial intelligence; the Tanglemind. This should not be possible.”
“But yet it is so.” said Zacob. “Those are the facts and they are undeniable.” John nodded resignedly. John Zmith was a reporter for the Daily Declaration, the bestselling newspaper in the whole of the Principality of Fernex. He’d been writing up a story on the launch of the Time Agency when his curiosity had been piqued by Rufus Rhinehart. John was certain something was going on but he had no idea what. Of course Zacob probably wasn’t the best person to come to with this type of concern. Zacob was the Daily Declaration’s evidential editor. He dealt only in 100% solid facts and would not entertain rumours, gossip or guesswork. John was getting desperate talking to Zacob about it. Still, Zacob’s reaction had been a little more comforting than Zaniel’s. Zaniel was the Declaration’s rumours editor and was almost the complete opposite to Zacob. He was what, back in the olden days, would have been called a conspiracy nut. Zaniel had been so supportive and seemingly desperate to believe him that he’d been disconcerted. So here he sat in Zuke’s Luxury Lunches lost in thought and playing with his spoon.
“You know why I like it in here Zmith?” asked Zacob. There was no response. “It’s alliterative. I like alliteration. That’s why I took the job as evidential editor at the Daily Declaration.” Zacob paused. “You listening to me Zmith?” He clicked his fingers in front of John’s eyes. “Going to eat that toast torte?” asked Zacob eagerly.
“No.” said John, pushing it to Zacob. “Have it.” He stared into the middle distance thoughtfully as his boss wolfishly consumed his pudding. “I’m going to need a couple of days off.” said John eventually.
“Fine.” said Zacob. “So long as you aren’t planning on doing anything stupid.”
“Stupid?” asked John faux-curiously.
“You know.” said Zacob. “Like breaking into the Time Agency or something stupid like that.”
“You really think I would do something like that?” asked John stonefaced.
“I don’t know.” said Zacob. “I don’t engage in speculation. Regardless of whether you would or not, don’t.” He paused. “And if you aren’t going to buy me a toastaccino in the next five seconds then you can piss off.”
“Pissing off sir.” said John, with an ironic salute. Zacob waved him impatiently away.

As John arrived back at his building he found Zaniel sitting outside in a trenchcoat and sunglasses clutching a newspaper as a disguise. John dodged the black market crumpet seller who was attempting to purvey his wears and made his way up to Zaniel.
“Hey.” John said sitting next to him.
“I’m sorry!” said Zaniel standing up in an exaggerated manner. “I do not know you. I am not in anyway associated with you.” He dropped his newspaper. “Oh dear I appear to have accidentally dropped my newspaper. He knelt down to pick it up and whispered to John: “leave the back door open. I’ll be in in about five minutes once I’m sure we’re not being followed.” He picked up his newspaper, stood bolt upright and said in a loud exaggerated way. “I would say goodbye but as I do not know who you are that is not necessary.” He walked away. John sighed to himself and went into his house. He brewed a cup of tea and made some toast while he waited for Zaniel to show up.
“Toast?” John asked as Zaniel attempted to slink unnoticed into the room.
“No thanks.” said Zaniel. “Keep it to yourself but I don’t eat toast.”
“You don’t eat toast?” asked John. “Do you know how illegal that is?”
“I think so.” said Zaniel. “It’s the death penalty isn’t it?” John nodded dumbstruck. “Keep it under your hat then.” Zaniel said thoughtfully.
“I don’t wear a hat.” said John.
“Good.” said Zaniel. “Makes it easier to keep things under it.”
“I can’t believe you don’t eat toast.” said John. “You must be mad.” Zaniel jumped up and pressed his finger to his lips.
“A) Keep it down. The government might have bugs in the walls.” said Zaniel.
“Probably.” said John. “That palace is old. I wouldn’t want to go poking about in the walls, I’ll tell you that for nothing.”
“And B) you’re calling me mad?” asked Zaniel, hastily attempting to steer the conversation back in the direction of Rhinehart. “You’re the one who wants to go up against Rufus Rhinehart. The man who has not only an army of robots but also time itself on his side.”
“Hold on.” said John. “You were supportive of my ideas before.”
“I’m still supportive.” said Zaniel. “I’m just saying that some might say that going after Rhinehart could be classed as suicidal.”
“So could not eating toast.” said John. “Seriously? No toast? Not even French toast?”
“Nevermind toast.” said Zaniel dismissively. “Give me the details on Rhinehart.”
“You don’t mind the potential danger then?” asked John.
“Evidently not.” said Zaniel.
“Okay.” said John. “Besides the obvious that he built his technological wonders with no idea how they work and no previous experience in building anything at all. Well I looked up Rhinehart’s discharge files from the Church of Pancendia. It turns out that he was kicked out of the priesthood although no reason was given. I spoke to Rhinehart’s high priest from the time. He said that Rhinehart was kicked because he, and I quote, ‘found Gods’.” He opened his folder and pulled out a sheaf of papers. “Then there’s the Time Agency itself.” he continued. “There is either something very fishy going on or the place is cursed. When it opened a couple of weeks ago there was a call for volunteers. Those who were chosen came back a week later with extremely dull and pointless stories about lifting and carrying things, almost as though they weren’t actually wanted at the Time Agency at all. Meanwhile fifteen of the most gifted applicants were turned down and have since gone missing. Some of their friends and family were questioned. They said that the applicants had become incredibly nervous and were jumping at shadows. Some of the applicants vanished in ridiculous unexplainable situations; in their locked houses at night, with all the locks still locked from the inside and the alarm still armed. We have footage of one applicant walking out of a supermarket and just not coming out the other side of the door. It’s as if they just vanished into thin air.” John paused and rifled through the sheets of paper. “There’s reports and reports from the Agency about Time Paradoxes fixed but it doesn’t sound right. One report involved the successful extraction of a cat from a tree. It’s just ludicrous.” John put the papers down and looked at Zaniel. “What do you think?”
“I think you make a good case.” said Zaniel. “What’s your next move? You can’t go to the government because Rhinehart has plugged himself straight into it. He’d hear about the investigation and then who knows what he’d do to you.”
“The Time Agency is asking for more applicants for some unspecified position.” said John. “I’m going to apply.”
“When you say apply you want to get the menial job in the Agency for a week or…?” asked Zaniel.
“In order to make any real progress as to what’s going on I’m going to have to aim to be one of those that disappear.” said John. “I know it’s dangerous. We’ll have to try and work out a way I can relay information to you.”
“How are you going to make sure you get picked?” asked Zaniel.
“Each of the applicants that went missing was the best in their field; the best scientists, engineers, etcetera. Some of those that went missing were just the strongest or the fastest.” said John. “I’m going to emphasise my abilities as a doctor and hope for the best.”
“I should apply as well.” said Zaniel. “Maximise the probability that we’ll get in. Between the two of us we’ll bring the Time Agency to it’s knees.”

10th August 2086
Zaniel was getting a very specific vibe from the other applicants. The rumour was that there had been significantly less applicants to this time. Zaniel figured that normal people didn’t apply this time. They’d heard that all those who were picked got was a week of menial jobs. These were people who had heard that those who were picked got a week of menial jobs and were instantly suspicious. They were here to investigate, just like he was. It had been a couple of weeks since John had vanished and Zaniel hadn’t heard anything since. Nothing was coming through on the radio and the tracer that they’d implanted on John had just vanished. It wasn’t that it had been destroyed it just wasn’t transmitting from anywhere. Zaniel was determined to get to the bottom of what was going on. He was currently sitting on a private plane hired by the Time Agency. They were flying out to the island Principality of Aitvaras. It was a principality that had until this year been dismissed as a myth; the Lost Principality of Aitvaras. It had resurfaced mysteriously, just as the Time Agency needed somewhere to set up their facility. John had noticed the convenient timing of the rise of the Lost Prinicpality of Aitvaras and dismissed it as a coincidence. Zaniel was somewhat more inclined to believe that Rhinehart had some part in the rising of Aitvaras.
Zaniel looked around the plane. There were six of them including him; Zarah-Jane and Lee (who were evidently a couple), Zayne, Zames and Zhilip. Zaniel wasn’t ready to trust them yet though. It wouldn’t be hard to place a Time Agency plant amongst the applicants. For now he was going to play it cool and see what happened.
“Attention, this is Captain Zack speaking.” came a voice over the tannoy system. “We are making our final approach to the Time Agency Reception Facility. Please fasten your seatbelts.” Zaniel fastened his seatbelt and looked out of the window. They were below the clouds now. The view of the island was somewhat strange. The Time Agency facility was all there looking bright, shiny and new, but it had been built in amongst the ruins of Aitvaras. Some of the walls looked part ancient ruined walls and part modern walls. It was as though Rhinehart was rebuilding ancient Aitvaras with modern materials.

13th September 2086
The door clicked open and warm island air rushed in. Zaniel took a bite of his chocolate bar and looked at the group. They’d quickly come to an understanding that something was going on here and they needed to find out what it was. The work was hard and did indeed involve the movement of heavy objects. Zaniel would have been far more exhausted had he actually done his share of the work. Zayne had been doing that while the rest of them were trying to piece together their theories about Rhinehart and the Time Agency. Zhilip had told them about something he’d noticed while researching Rhinehart. At several seemingly unimportant points throughout history that there had been reports of everyone at certain areas dying of unknown causes for unknown reasons. He’d looked into the reports and found that the autopsies of the bodies matched the description of laser wounds. Zhilip was technically speaking a genius. He’d been aware of the most talented people vanishing and had purposefully misrepresented his ability so that he could investigate the facility itself. It was their lunchbreak at the moment, which according to Zames was the most opportune time to investigate. They were gathered around a locked door at the back of the dining room. Well technically speaking it was an unlocked door now that Zames had picked it open.
“Way to punctuate the moment with the consumption of chocolate.” said Zames, sarcastically. “You kind of ruined the dramatic reveal then.”
“Sorry.” said Zaniel. “I have a high metabolism. Lunchtime is still lunchtime even if we are breaking out of one secure facility and into another. If you want you could dramatically open the door again.”
“How about we just all get out of here before we’re noticed?” asked Zames.
“Works for me.” said Zayne. They were looking out of the door to the forest outside. It was looking out into part of the Aitvaran ruins; a ruined courtyard with a broken fountain in the middle and several broken benches around the edges. At the other side of the courtyard was another Time Agency building. Dotted across the ground rather unexpectedly were fish. They were dead and it seems had been dead for a couple of months now. The ancient flowerbeds were still there although they were now filled with seaweed and algae. Lying atop the broken fountain was a massive dead squid which if nothing else was rather disconcerting. “Come on then.” said Zaniel. “Lets get out there and investigate.” He walked through the door into the courtyard. The others followed, Zames relocking the door behind them so as not to arouse suspicion.
“Opinions anyone?” asked Zaniel.
“I don’t like the mounds of rotting fish.” said Lee. “That’s my opinion.”
“It’s as though they haven’t even came out here.” said Zhilip. “Fish still on the ground from where they would have been when Aitvaras resurfaced. Algae and seaweed still growing across the ruins.”
“It’s rather slapdash.” said Zarah-Jane.
“I don’t think there’s any more humans out here.” said Zhilip. “All we’ve seen so far are those Tangles and they don’t have a sense of smell. It kind of makes sense not to bother moving all these dead fish if you can’t smell it and you have more important things to be doing.”
“We should move on.” said Zames. “We shouldn’t stay out here longer than we have to.”
“Okay.” said Zayne. “We’re in the outer courtyard of the Visitor Facility. So the nearest ‘real facility’ will be through the ruins to the west.” They made their way out of the courtyard through an alleyway between two sections of the facility and made their way across a tropical beach that was rather spoiled by the dead fish that were scattered along it.
“What’s that?” asked Lee looking out across the beach.
“What?” asked Zarah-Jane. Lee pointed to a large pillar that was towering out of the sand.
“Allow me to investigate.” said Zhilip, he started down the beach picking his way between dead fish and sharp rocks. When he reached the object he looked stunned. “It’s a plaque.” he said.
“Saying what?” asked Zames.
“The Time Agency.” said Zhilip slowly.
“So?” asked Zames. “We know it’s the Time Agency.”
“It’s written in Ancient Aitvar.” said Zhilip. “Ancient Aitvaras was a Time Agency. No wonder it looked like Rhinehart was trying to rebuild Aitvaras. That’s precisely what he was doing.”

They made their way through a ruin, which unsurprisingly was full of dead fish, and up to the side of a facility. Zames picked upon the lock and they snuck inside into a sterile white laboratory. In the middle of the room was a pair of chambers the size of phone boxes. They appeared to be made out of purple and black light and they had the Time Agency logo stamped on the side.
“This is more like it.” said Lee striding up to the boxes. “Less rotting fish and more strange contraptions.” He opened the door and revealed a massive room inside. In the centre of the chamber there was a large control panel with numerous switches and dials. A thick grey manual was lying open on the console. Around the rest of the room were large dark purple and black coral formations.
“Impressive.” said Zayne, largely nonplussed that the box was larger on the inside than on the outside. “Not seen one of these for a while.”
“Excuse me?” said Zhilip.
“Don’t worry.” said Zayne. “I’m not working for the Agency. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you all later.”
“I’d rather that you told us all now.” said Zames.
“I would.” said Zayne. “But we’re on a bit of a clock.” He paused for a second to see if there were any objections then stepped into the box. “You know,” he continued. “If Rhinehart is as predictable as the others then this will be called a TARDIS.”
“The others?” asked Zhilip following him inside.
“This kind of thing happens more than you’d think.” said Zayne. “Aitvaras is, in continental terms, a yoyo.” Zayne turned and looked at those stood outside the TARDIS. “It would be a good idea if someone looked out for any Tangles. The rest of you would do well to try and gather as much information as possible.” Zarah-Jane and Lee walked into a small room offset from the main laboratory while Zames sighed and headed for the door. Zaniel sat down at one of the desks and turned on the computer that was built into the table.
“That’s unusual.” he said after a couple of minutes of searching through the files.
“What’s that?” asked Zames sauntering over.
“I’ve found a map.” said Zaniel. He pointed to the map. “We came in here at the Reception Facility and have been working and living out of the Guest Facility over here. We’re here at the Alpha Facility. But over here,” Zaniel pointed to the centre of the map, “where you’d expect to find headquarters or something equally ominous, is the Temple Facility.”
“That is weird.” said Zames. “I was researching Rhinehart, why he left the Pancendians…”
“My friend John was doing the same.” said Zaniel. “The reason they gave was because he found Gods.”
“If Rhinehart is here then he’s in the Temple Facility.” said Zames. “Which means that’s our next stop.”
“Pardon?” asked Zaniel. “Why?”
“What do you think?” asked Zames.
“You’re here to assassinate Rhinehart?” asked Zaniel.
“Yeah.” said Zames. “Aren’t you?”
“No.” said Zaniel. “This was an information gathering trip. Find out as much as possible about Rhinehart and the Time Agency.”
“And then?” asked Zames.
“Expose what’s going on here.” said Zaniel. “Assuming that there’s something to be exposed.”
“There’s no chance.” said Zames. “Rhinehart has time on his side. You can’t expose him because he can just go back and change things. When it comes to someone like Rhinehart you have to go for the throat.”
“Any Tangles on their way here?” asked Zayne as he nonchalantly stepped out of the TARDIS.
“From this vantage point you’ll probably know before I do.” said Zames. “After we’re done here we should head over to the Temple Facility.”
“To take out Rhinehart?” asked Zayne.
“Yeah.” said Zames. “See what I mean Zanny, this guy knows the score.”
“Killing Rhinehart won’t help.” said Zayne. “As I was saying Aitvaras keeps rising to the surface. Every single time it’s the same. The same Time Agency, the same Tangles, the same TARDISes.” He paused. “Sure, killing Rhinehart would get rid of it all for now. But the Time Agency would be back eventually. We’d be treating the symptoms but ignoring the cause. This time I aim to treat the cause.”
“This time?” asked Zaniel.
“As I said long story.” said Zayne. “Check the computer for a Manifestation Facility.”
“There’s one.” said Zaniel tapping furiously on the keys. “It’s halfway across Aitvaras.”
“That’s where we ought to go.” said Zayne. “I’m sure you’re both aware of the reasons for Rhinehart’s dismissal from the Pancendian Church.” They nodded. “The Manifestation Facility is where we shall find Gods as well. And where we shall destroy them.” There was a scream from the small room which Lee and Zarah-Jane had disappeared into. Zaniel, Zames and Zayne ran up into the room. Zarah-Jane was sat strapped into a chair in the centre of the room. Wires were extended from the ceiling and the floor boring into her body. She was screaming. Lee had run into the middle of the room and was screaming and tearing at the wires.
“Don’t.” said Zayne quickly. “You’ll only hurt Zarah-Jane more.” He ran into the centre of the room, grabbed Lee and held him back.
“Let me go!” cried Lee desperately. “I have to help her. It was an accident. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
“You’ll do her more harm than good.” yelled Zayne. Zarah-Jane stopped screaming and started looking at the group in a strange way. Zayne turned to the main laboratory. “How are you getting on Zhil? We might need to make a quick exit.”
“Zarah-Jane?” asked Lee. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” said Zarah-Jane calmly.
“But those wires?” asked Lee. “What happened?”
“Nevermind.” snapped Zarah-Jane. “I’m fine. Just… give me a moment to compose my thoughts.”
“Don’t.” said Zayne, he was staring directly at her now. He was giving off the impression that if he stopped looking at her then something bad would happen, if he so much as blinked. “Zhil? How’s that TARDIS coming?” Zarah-Jane dived for the control panel at the side of the room and hit a large red alarm button.
“What are you doing?” Lee cried.
“Stopping you. You are all here to harm the Agency.” said Zarah-Jane. “You have to be stopped. The Agency is working for the good of all. You are working for the good of none.” Zayne was suddenly across the room and he punched Zarah-Jane in the face. Surprised by the punch she fell to the ground. She half-lay, half-sat on the ground and dabbed at her lip with her hand.
“Into the TARDIS!” He shouted. “Now!”
“What are you doing?!” demanded Lee. “That’s my girlfriend.”
“Not at the moment.” said Zayne. “At the moment she isn’t much of anything.” He moved towards her. Zarah-Jane suddenly kicked out at his feet knocking Zayne to the floor. She grabbed out for Zayne’s neck. Zaniel ran up to pull her off him when he was punched in the face by Lee.
“She just pulled the alarm on us!” exclaimed Zaniel ploughing his fist into Lee’s stomach. Zames rushed past the two and grabbed Zarah-Jane hauling her to her feet. Zayne sprung straight up, punching Zarah-Jane in the face again as he did so. She slumped onto Zames unconscious.
“Come on!” yelled Zayne, grabbing Lee by the shoulders and forcing him through the door towards the TARDIS. “Those Tangles aren’t going to take all day. And bring Zarah-Jane.” Zames and Zaniel staggered after him attempting to support her. As they did so the door at the far end of the room flew open and Tangles started piling through firing black and purple laser beams towards the group. They staggered into the TARDIS and Zayne slammed the door shut behind them.
“Take us out of here!” Zayne yelled at Zhilip who was hovering over the controls, with the manual in one hand and the other poised among the switches and dials. Zhilip started flipping some switches and although there was no visible signs of movement from inside the TARDIS the pillar that rose above the console lit up with a purple light and started pulsing up and down.
“What’s going on?” demanded Lee. “Why are we standing in this box?”
“Don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay.” said Zayne. “We’re going somewhen safe.”

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