The night had been very long. Ambrose and Odin spent the whole of it looking up at the stars. They made-up absurd constellations, laughing themselves to sleep on a grassy hill facing the San Francisco bay.
Odin awakened to the sun in his eyes. He glanced over to Ambrose, who was snuggled up in a ball with his bag of odds and ends. Odin swiveled his gaze out to the water. His eyes grew, and his jaw dropped.
“Ambrose!” Odin stammered, pulling on the blanket under them.
Ambrose clenched tighter before rolling over and squinting at Odin. Between his blinking, he saw the side of Odin’s face. Why wasn’t he looking at me? What was he looking at? He sat up, following Odin’s gaze.
Peeking right above was the dawning sun. But on the wrong horizon.
Odin continued staring at the horizon. “We need to see the captain,” he answered, scrambled to his feet.
In the city, the early commuters had awoken it. Everyone seemed to fill the streets. Some were breaking store windows. Others were starting fires. The rest were running aimlessly, screaming.
“Stay close, Ambrose!” Odin said, trying to be louder than them.
Ambrose grabbed the back Odin’s jacket as they squeezed in between the oncoming mass. His right fist clenched tight to the leather, as they were jostled left and right—his left hand pushing against his ear: muffling a fraction of the sound.
A man ran into them. He jostled Ambrose’s fingers enough that when the crowd got denser, and the shots rang out, they let go without any hope of reconnecting.
Odin was pushed away by the people filling in the gap between him and Ambrose. He found trying to get back as hard as it was to move forward before. Every time he made his way closer, he was pushed back.
Impossibly, he found Ambrose scrunched in a ball on the street, rocking back and forth with his hands pushing against his ears. Odin’s eyes were drawn to the man who ran into them, who now laid behind Ambrose with three bloody holes in his back. With the thundering of police-issue boots, Odin knelt. “Come on, Ambrose, we need to go!” he said, pulling Ambrose’s hands away.
Ambrose screamed as loud as his labored breathing would allow and Odin immediately jumped back. He released Ambrose’s hands, letting them slam back like a rubber band. He stood, saying, “Alright, we’ll do this the hard way.” He threw Ambrose over his shoulder.
Ambrose screamed all the way down to the warehouse district. By the time they got to their decrepit destination with a shiny lock, Ambrose was bright red, breathing louder than a foghorn. When Odin set him down, he could barely stand.
“I’m sorry. You okay?” Odin asked, digging a key from his pocket.
Ambrose just shook his head as he collapsed against the wall.
“I’ll get you some water, and you can sit down.”
Odin pushed the door open to what was an office. There were spray-painted symbols on each foot of the walls and charred office furniture on the floor. The only thing left in the reception area was a stack of pallets.
Ambrose swung his bag off and rolled onto the pallets while Odin went behind the main desk and came back with a glass of water. “Come in when you’re ready?” Odin said, with his hands hovering over Ambrose’s upper arms.
Ambrose was still shaking his head yes as Odin went through another door. As soon as he closed the door, he yelled, “What the hell is happening, Captain?”
Most of the large warehouse room was filled with two space shuttles. On the far right was two long steel tables, covered by blueprints and tools. Odin could only see a couple of people from his place by the door.
“Nice of you to join us, Commander. Where’s your little friend?” one of the two men that stood behind the tables said, as Odin walked towards them.
“Lieutenant, this is not the time!” Captain Peter Centauri, the second man, said. “We have more important things.”
“Like the sun rising on the wrong horizon!” Odin said, throwing his arms out.
“And birds falling out of the sky. And EM pulses. And, and, and,” the Lieutenant said.
“Maybe you should have written them down,” Odin sniped, making the Lieutenant’s green skin redden.
Banging his fist on the table, the Lieutenant said, “Maybe if you were here instead of playing around~.”
“Commander! Lieutenant! As long as you don’t want a court-martial, we need to figure this out and soon or we’ll be making Earth home.”
The two turned away from each other. “Do you know how this happened?” Odin asked.
“No, only that whatever caused this happened about one this morning. The first EM strike hit about 1:30, nearly killing Matthews and Jove with electrical explosions.”
“Are they alright?!”
“Be better if they knew what was going on,” the Lieutenant paused and switched to a heavily annunciative tone, “you’ve explored space more than we have; have you ever seen anything like this before, Commander?”
“No, but maybe Ambrose does?”
“Ambrose does what?” Ambrose asked from the door.
“C’mere, Ambrose.” Odin waved him closer. “Can you pull up a scan of the event from Titan’s sensors, Lieutenant?”
“Make it fast. The next time pulse is in…,” he threw up his wrist, “three and a half minutes."
The Lieutenant pulled out a circular metal disk and a similar-looking pen. Placing the disk on the table, he poked the top with the tip of the pen. A green rounded-top cone emanated from the device. He moved the tip to a different spot, saying, "I'm setting it to a quarter to one and speeding it up for time's sake."
Ambrose watched intently as an Earth model appeared in the round part and started spinning counterclockwise. He smiled as it continued until the Earth slowed to a stop.
"I've never seen anything like that," he said, as Earth spun clockwise, "but I think our problem lies in the big splash in the Pacific Ocean at one o three and 47 seconds.”
“Splash?” the three men exclaimed.
“Yes,” Ambrose confirmed, shaking his head, “a splash. Pacific Ocean. One o three and 47 seconds.”
“Hold on a second,” the Lieutenant said, rewinding the video to 1:03:47 am. “There it is. That was barely on the screen for five seconds.”
“Is that a question?” Ambrose asked, raising his eyebrows to Odin.
“No. Just praise,” he answered, darting a look at the Lieutenant.
Before the Lieutenant could respond, he looked at his watch. “90 second shut down!” he yelled, making Ambrose squeezed his ears again. “Shut down everything!”
“Captain, just another~?” said a woman peeked out the back hatch of one of the shuttles.
“Now, Pollux!” Peter interrupted. In a soft voice, as if he had a headache, Peter added, “We’re never going to get up and running at this rate.”
“Have you heard anything from Titan?” Odin asked.
“Sayona says they won’t know anything for a day or so.”
The three officers walked away from the tables, leaving Ambrose at the table, staring off into space.
Odin spun fast on his heels. “There might be a faster way, and if we do it right, we might get it fixed at the same time.”
“How do you expect to do that?” the Lieutenant asked, losing his snide.
“First,” he walked back towards the tables, “we need to get off this planet. Ambrose?”
“When were you going to tell me Ambrose’s ship has a functioning teleporter?” Peter asked, sitting in a second-row seat in the cockpit.
“Never,” Odin said, tapping buttons on the control panel.
“Why? I know it can only transport three at a time, but it can be a great help~.”
“Three? What do you mean?” Ambrose asked from the helm.
Cutting in after Ambrose said 'three,' Odin answered, “Even if I could get to the mechanism, I wouldn't tell you because there's a reason why it's so well hidden in the mechanics. And until planet Alexandria is a part of the Martian Empire, we'll just have to manage.”
“We're getting a communication, Odin,” Ambrose announced.
“Put it through!” Odin said, triggering faster than Peter.
An automotive voice came over the intercom. “You are within a parsec of the council. Power down all weapons or prepare to be destroyed.”
“Aren't they friendly,” Peter laughed.
“Many races would love to kill the council so they can destroy the worlds they protect,” Odin answered, turning off the communique. “They give everyone a fair warning before making a ship space dust.”
“You think a people like that will help?”
“The council helps a lot of people,” Ambrose stated.
“They’ve helped Earth in the past,” Odin added, “why shouldn’t they now?”
“No,” a man shuddered in a cloak said.
Counting the man, only the four of them were in the council chambers. Ambrose, Odin, and Peter stood in front of an empty rainbow-like table. The man sat alone in the middle of the table.
“No?” Odin asked.
“Yes, we will not help Earth,” he said.
“Isn’t this a council? That means more than one person,” Peter stated, trying to keep his head.
“Yes, but all requests go through me, and we already made our decision on Earth centuries ago after the fall of Camelot.
“But~,” Ambrose started.
“I am bound by the laws of this council. We can not reevaluate with a significant change.”
“But, things have changed!” Odin said.
“Has it?" he asked. "You're blinded by the fact that you have people stuck on Earth. None of you are human. None of you can petition for a new ruling.” He rose from his seat. “Good day.”
He walked to the back wall, placing his hand on it. A blue, glowing rectangle appeared. He stepped through and vanished before their eyes.
“Now what?!” Peter asked, moving in front, making a circle between the three of them.
“Plan B, of course,” Odin said.
“I’ll tell you when I figure that out. Come on, Ambrose,” he answered, walking out of the chamber with Ambrose at his side.
They went back to the ship. After the long flight and the disappointment, Ambrose crawled into bed. Not long after, Peter ordered Odin to do the same.
Odin climbed to the second bunk in Ambrose’s room, leaving the other quarters open for Peter. He saw Ambrose snuggled asleep with his cat, Luanne, wishing things could be that simple. Staring at the ceiling, he drifted away, with Luanne’s third purr.
About the five hour mark, Odin began tossing in bed. His blanket slipped to the floor, with a woosh and a clap. On the other hand, a thunderous thud rang through the room when Odin followed.
Ambrose and Luanne jumped to attention. He held tight to his blanket as Luanne hopped down to Odin.
“I’ve got it!” Odin exclaimed as Luanne rubbed against him.
From outside the room, they heard a cascade of clunk. Peter appeared in the doorway. “Is everyone alright?!”
“I’ve got it!” Odin jumped to his feet and sped out of the room.
“Are you alright?” Peter called after him.
Odin kept moving on to the rear of the ship, barely turning back when he yelled back. “It’s not the first time I fell out of that bed, probably won’t be the last!”
“What is he doing?” Ambrose said, next to Peter with Luanne in his arms.
“I think he hit his head too hard. Better follow him.”
Odin was in the storage bay, sifting through a box. He threw things aside without a care.
“What are you doing?” Peter asked.
“This has been my home off and on for years, so I have boxes of things here. I just hope what I’m looking for is still here.” He leaned deeper into the tall box. “Aha!”
“Where did you get a time machine?” Peter breathed, staring at a boombox-like object.
“Birthday, I think?” Odin said, standing to his feet. “But that’s not the point. If I can hook this up to the ship and we can go back to the council’s first meeting and change the outcome.”
“That’s brilliant. You should fall out of bed more often.”
“Save that for after I succeed.” He rushed past them towards the cockpit.
Peter chased after him. Ambrose walked behind, twiddling in a drowsy fog. He was like an ocean buoy, bobbing left and right.
When Ambrose and Luanne made it to the cockpit, the only thing they could see of Odin was his legs sticking out under the helm. Peter sat next to him.
The air was silent but somehow lively.
Ambrose sat down in the second row and released his hold on Luanne. She walked in a circle on his lap. She licked his hand as she laid down so he would start petting her.
Odin slapped the console and hoisted himself up. "I think I've got it! Ambrose you rea…?" He stopped when he saw Ambrose passed out in his chair.
"Hopefully, when you wake up, we'll be in the 6th century." Odin sat at the helm. "You might want to strap in."
Odin pressed the first set of buttons with speed but hesitated at the last button. His hand hovered without a twitch.
"Odin…?" Peter said.
He poked the button. The engines surged, shoving them back into their seats. It lasted only a few moments.
"Did it work?" Odin asked.
"I don't know. There's a communication coming in."
“You are within a parsec of the council," an automated voice said, sending dread through them. "All members proceed to council chambers. Others, please recede out of council space."
"I think it did," Peter added.
Odin hit some buttons, bringing the date up. "Yes!"
"They won't destroy us for not being members, right?"
"They didn't say it so, I guess not."
"Proceed with caution, commander."
They coasted the parsec, arriving along with another ship. There were nine other ships docked at the council chambers, a short but wide cylinder suspended in space.
The chamber's docking port accepted them without problem, like the previous time. They walked freely to the main chamber, though the halls were lined with guards. At the door of the chamber, they were stopped by a man with a long red robe. “Names?”
“Excuse me?” Peter asked.
“Names,” he repeated, “so I can announce you to the arbitrator.”
“Yes, of course, Peter Centauri and Odin Andromeda of the Martian Empire and Ambrose of Alexandria.”
“Thank you, please enter. The session will start soon.”
“Thank you,” Peter replied, leading them in.
The front of the room was full of people: members and their staff. It was loud and tight, to Ambrose’s dismay. Ambrose covered his ear and Odin moved behind him to block people from bumping him.
The room only quieted when five glowing rectangles appeared on the back wall in the colors of orange, green, blue, purple, and red. For people and the man who the three of them talked to before. As soon as they sat at the bow of the table, the crowd began clamoring again.
With the last group in the room, the red-robed man ran to the cloaked man. They former talked, rambling off names. A few minutes in, the cloaked man stopped him with a corresponding hand gesture. The red-robed man pointed to the three of them.
The two men rose and walked over to a different man with two people around him: a woman and a girl. They talked and pointed and the third man shook his head no.
A flood of guards came in and v-lined for Peter, Odin, and Ambrose. Being the soldiers they were, Peter and Odin fought back, while Ambrose tried to stay out of the collisions. For that reason Ambrose got to walk to the brig, and Odin and Peter were carried, unconscious.
Odin jerked awake at the sound of clanging metal. He looked up to see Ambrose with tear stains on his cheeks. “Are you alright?”
“He would be better if you didn’t drag him here, Odin.” The cloaked man appeared through the bars.
“How did you know?”
“Besides having two different parties from the Martian empire, you mean? You don’t know anything about my species do you?”
He threw off his hood. Ambrose jumped forward, wiping his eyes. “A fate.”
“Meaning?” Odin butted in.
“A fate can see the past, present, and sometimes the future.”
“My own future, where we met.”
“Then you know why we’re here? You can tell the coun~.”
“I promise to help your people get off of Earth but you need to answer my questions.”
The man stood. “What if I told you an alien race did that to Earth?”
“We need to help. They had nothing to do with it.”
“And what if I told you the humans did it to themselves.”
“No one deserves to live with that. They were so scared.”
With his answers, the man walked away.
“Wait what are you going to do? Where Peter? What?” Odin yelled, shaking the bars.
Hours went by that the two were left by themselves. Odin kept Ambrose's tears away, trying to keep himself from sinking.
The fate walked back with a cluster of guards and Peter. “You’re free to go.”
“What did they decide?” Odin protested.
“You’re free to go.”
His word initiated the guards to grab and knock the three of them out.
Odin awoke to light in his eyes. He jumped to attention. He was on the hill in San Francisco, again. As his breathing became rapid, his gaze darted to the west horizon: nothing was there.
“Ambrose,” he teetered. He couldn’t turn around. “Ambrose!”
Ambrose clenched tighter before rolling over and squinting at Odin. His eyes grew big and copied Odin’s action. Seeing nothing, he jumped around. A smile grew. “Odin look!”
Odin carefully turned around. “We did it!” he yelled, jumping to his feet.