|If you've already read this, or if you feel like reading more, chapters 1-7 are all available here. "Lost Agent: Newcomer"
-1- The Crash
As the Minute Maker hurtled toward that blue planet, Autumn felt herself slip from consciousness. For a weightless moment she felt like a piece of debris floating through space with no stars. She opened her eyes but nothing changed. Was she still in the ship? A dank scent wafted in the void, like an old indoor pool. The air was so saturated she could almost taste it. “Timeno?” she called. The echoes kept close, trapped in the confines of the ship. No answer.
She sat up and the top of her hair brushed against something smooth. Her hands inspected the object which seemed to jut out from the nearest wall. Her seat. The ship must’ve landed on its side. She pulled herself up just as something knocked against the outside of the hull. Her boots started to slide and she tightened her grip. “Is someone out there?”
In the corner of her eye a crescent of light began to emerge as the escape hatch creaked open. A loud voice broke the silence. “Anybody home?”
Autumn splashed through the gathered puddle and stopped in the opening. The wet sand below stretched ahead, disappearing inland through the thickening wilderness. She glanced at the hatch door and found what looked like a beat up miniature grandfather clock staring down at her from the other side. Timeno. She never quite knew what to make of him. With a body like a heap of time-tracking accessories and those unreadable eyes, the sight of him would make most humans feel like heading for the hills. She always felt small around him, but couldn’t afford to let his size intimidate her. After all, they were a team. “…Uh, afternoon.”
“Evening.” He stepped out from behind the hatch, his footsteps ticking across the sand in close pairs like a weak heartbeat. One leg was always shorter than the other, forcing him to use a cane.
“W-whatever. I’m just glad you’re okay.” She felt bad watching him lumber around, but she knew better than to talk about it.
“Me? What about the M.N.M? It’s a total wreck.”
She hopped down from the open hatch and gave the banged up ship a look over. Her pale skin stood in sharp contrast to her blue T-shirt and synthetic shorts, both of which were soaked. “Just a few dents and scratches,” she replied. “No problem for an industrious guy like you, right?”
“Well, of course not.”
“Alright then.” Autumn looked away from shore, where the sun’s golden reflection shined on the water’s ripples like glitter. “Where are we?”
His eyes flickered. “Titinan. Why?”
“Oh, nothing. It’s just been a while since I saw the ocean - an ocean, I mean,” she said as she stared across the water. “I thought it might be home.”
“You can day dream later. Now, we don’t want my precious M.N.M to get rust do we?” he stated slowly as if talking to a kindergartener.
“If you’ve got an idea, just show me.”
“Oh, nothing huge. Just a new invention of mine,” he announced, showcasing a device strapped to his wrist. It resembled a thick bracelet, and its surface had a cool glint to it. On top of it was mounted a tiny laser and prism-like sphere. “With the T-mentualizer, moving that baby shouldn’t be any problem.”
“Catchy name," Autumn said skeptically.
“Believe me, it’s awesome.”
Facing the Minute-Maker, Timeno drew his long arm and fiddled with the contraption on his wrist for a short moment. A light blue image shaped like an oversized hand materialized in front of him. Following his own movements, it reached out, grabbed the ship, and effortlessly lifted it out of the shallows. “And there you have it.”
“Interesting. Is it some sort of hologram?”
“Nope. It’s a soligram, or solid hologram. Mind blowing, huh?”
“Yeah,” she answered unenthusiastically.
“Anyhow, I’ll see if I can’t fix her up.”
“Don’t forget to drain it out.”
Timeno noticed her eyes had wandered out to sea again. He glanced up at the ship before repositioning it. With a snicker he turned it over and the water inside splashed out, right on top of her. Splash!
“Aagh! I didn’t mean on me!”
“Sorry about that; I guess there’re still a few bugs to work out. Heh, heh.”
She shook her head in frustration. "Yeah, hilarious."
“Don’t heat up too much Autumn. I wouldn’t want you to change seasons on me.”
“Just set the ship down.”
“Okay, okay.” The soligram flickered, dropping the Minute-Maker in the sand with a dull clunk. “There. Now I’ll check out the ship, alright?”
“You do that. I’ll go scout the area for a bit. By the way, you may want these”, she added, revealing some screws in the palm of her hand. "They were in my hair, thank you."
Wringing a bit of excess moisture from her hair, Autumn walking along the shore. Off to her left, the beach quickly turned to wilderness as it stretched inland. Further ahead, a large stone arch jutted out from the wilderness and into shallows. Details were difficult to make out in the twilight, so she decided to sit against the base of a nearby tree. Barely leaning overhead in the breeze, it resembled a palm tree painted with various shades of deep red. Sitting there watching the ocean, her eyelids were getting heavy.
She closed her eyes, and allowed her mind to drift. She imagined herself back at home in her mother’s greenhouse. Strolling among the plants, dozens of rare species passed by, but one image remained clear. Just outside the greenhouse, in the far corner of her back yard there stood an apple tree. It was but a sprout, too young to yet bear fruit. She never forgot it. It was the only thing she’d ever planted herself.
When she opened her eyes, she found herself lying in a field, surrounded by tall grass. The sky above was clear, save for a single cloud resembling a puff of smoke which somehow blotted out the sun. She rose and saw she was in the middle of a forest clearing. A steady breeze softly swayed the grass between her and the trees, which loomed almost like the walls of a great enclosure. She felt something against her leg and looked down to see a vine had started snaking its way up her boot. A subtle sound began to rise in her ears as she tried to bat it away, while more and more vines slithered toward her. The dark cloud had nearly covered the sky, and the winds became wild and erratic. The swarm of vines had wrapped their way up to her neck and engulfed her vision, the howling wind the only sound left she could hear.
Autumn came to with a start. She looked side to side; easing up when she was certain it had only been a dream. She heard the offbeat footsteps of her approaching partner.
“Hey, you awake?” Timeno asked.
Autumn thought for a moment. “I suppose I am.” She tried to get up, but found that her shirt was literally attached to the tree. “What the?!” Her momentary relief turned to panic. She aggressively tugged herself away from the tree, tearing the back of her shirt in the process.
“S-so,” she stammered. Her heart was still pounding, but she tried to compose herself. “How’s the ship?”
“Not so hot. The good news is that I have managed to restore back-up power to the M.N.M," he explained as they walked back down the beach. "Unfortunately, it appears that the outer hull has cracked.”
“What about the cargo? It’s still intact, right?”
“Well, yes. Still, a spare Collector Core isn’t going to do us much good by itself. Those things were built for major starships, not little private ships like ours.”
Autumn breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. It’d be a shame if we lost it.”
“Even so, we could be stuck here.”
She paused, contemplating the statement. Soon they had once again reached the Minute-Maker.
“Alright. I suppose we might as well settle down until morning,” Timeno said before disappearing into the ship.
“Could you get me a sleeping bag?”
After a moment, he emerged with a blue and white capsule, nearly the size of his palm and tossed it to her. “Here.” It opened like a loose bottle cap, and something resembling a thick glob of gelatin fell to the ground. In a matter of seconds, the capsule’s contents stretched and expanded into an entirely different form, a full-sized sleeping bag.
“Ah, the old Particle Alteration Compound. It’s amazing what good engineering can do,” Timeno said in his usual proud manner. He put down his cane, and sat in the sand with his back against the ship.
“Yeah, well…” Autumn lay on top of the bag, and rested her head in her arms. “...personally, it feels kinda weird.”
“You’ll get used to it.”
“Aren’t you gonna use one?”
“Nah, I’m fine as is.”
Autumn stared into the starlit sky. “It sure is clear tonight.”
“Well, I can’t remember the last time I saw such a full sky back home. There must be billions of stars out there.”
“At least. I once tried to count em, but my parents told me it was a waste of time.”
“Do you think we’ll ever find home again?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“I’m serious, do you?”
“…I don’t know.”
“I hope so.”
Timeno took in a deep breath. “You should sleep while you can. I’m intent on an early start tomorrow, even if I have to carry you.” Autumn wasn’t sure if he was joking or not. She gave him a quick glance, but his stoic expression looked indifferent. Turning away, she pulled up her covers and tried to relax. It was going to be a long night.