When Jasmin is caught in the terrorist attack on the London underground in 2005, her terrified thoughts help her, as do similar thoughts for Katherine in the year 1310, Trudie in 1874, Giselle in 1945 and Zarine in 2374. They are all awoken in 2341 as electrical charges contained within crystal balls. With Zarine’s knowledge and the base’s computer, they are given new physical bodies and find that they are identical in appearance.
They must find out about themselves and also ward off the Spunoid, a spider like intelligent species who are at war with humanoids in this world.
Why are they there and why did they all suffer a terrorising attack before arriving? And is their own future being controlled by something else in the vast universe that transcends time and space?
“Michael! Where are you Michael?”
Jasmin’s heart raced when at the near hysterical voice that filled the room. She glanced at Zarine who approached the crystal ball that was lit up with forked lightning flashing inside it.
“Just remain back here, Jasmin,” Zarine whispered. “I need to calm her and get her into the laboratory. If she sees us both, it may make matters worse.”
“So I need to talk with her.”
“Your clothes, Zarine. If this new girl is from our time, won’t my appearance seem more natural to her?”
Zarine shrugged. “Okay. Settle her and carry the crystal ball through to the lab.”
“Right.” Jasmin approached the ball and tried to remember her own first reactions when she saw Zarine. That’s it, she had to look directly at the lightning, otherwise it would appear that her eyes were avoiding the newcomer.”
“Trudie,” she said in a quiet voice and stopped directly in front of the ball. “It is okay. You are safe here.”
“Oh my God,” the voice appeared to come directly out of the ball. “Are you my angel delivering me to heaven?”
“No. My name is Jasmin and I am a distant relation of yours.”
“Where’s Michael?” Trudie voice turned to a sob. “He was with me and he’s gone.”
“He’s safe.” Jasmin had no idea who this Michael was or what had happened to him but she had to calm the new girl. “Just tell me what you remember.”
“The ship caught fire…” In a sobbing voice, Trudie described how Michael and herself woke up and all the events that followed.
Jasmin listened but found some parts of the story unusual. “It was a wooden ship with sails you say?”
“Of course. The Cospatrick is an immigration ship. We are going to a new life in New Zealand.
Oh hell, Trudie must be a distant ancestor but she could not remember any of her grandmothers or even great grandmothers with that name… and a sailing ship!
“I know this may sound a silly question, Trudie…” she started.
“Can you answer one first?”
“Your shoulders, arms, legs and even your bosom are partly uncovered. Isn’t it sinful to have so much flesh exposed?”
Jasmin almost said Trudie should wait until she saw Zarine but stopped herself. “Everyone wears clothes like this now, Trudie. They are not regarded as immoral.”
“I see. So you are not an angel but a distant relation? Your hair and clothes are strange but your face looks like my mirror image.” The voice gasped. “You aren’t the devil punishing me because of lustful behaviour?” She began to sob. “I wanted Michael to wait until after we were married but the powers of the flesh were too strong. We knew each other before our vows were taken and now I’ve been sent to eternal damnation.”
Jasmin hid a grin and turned her mind to the more serious question. “You are alive, Trudie, not in any heaven or hell. You are safe but will you answer my question now?”
“What is the date today?”
“If it is past midnight, it would be the twenty-fifth of November.”
“The year, Trudie?”
Oh hell. Trudie was alive over a hundred and thirty years before her own and goodness knows how long before Zarine’s time. That was why she was on a wooden sailing ship. “So Michael is your husband?”
The lightning flickered but there was no reply. Perhaps Trudie had nodded what she thought was her head.
“You need to talk, Trudie,” Jasmin continued in a kind voice.
“We were on our honeymoon and heading to a new life.”
“And you both made it Trudie or I wouldn’t be here.”
“And why’s that?”
Jasmin gulped. How could she explain the situation? She turned and noticed Zarine who stood back to the side of the table out of Trudie’s sight.
“Tell the truth, Jasmin,” Zarine said. “I’ve always found it is the easiest way in a difficult situation.”
“Who’s that?” Trudie’s voice changed to a tremor. “Please, you sound real but I can’t see you and I’m scared.”
Zarine moved around beside Jasmin and Trudie gasped. “You’re identical twins that look like me.” The voice quivered and broke. “It’s a dream. It must be a dream. I want Michael.” The voice rose in volume and pitch. “Michael! Where are you, Michael? Something ghostly is happening. Please, Michael, I need you.” The sobbing words turned to almost a scream. “My hands! I can’t see my hands! Please Michael. Help me.”
“Look!” Jasmin poked Zarine on the arm.
Beside the balls, a blue light the size of a marble appeared. It hovered, grew in size to that of a soccer ball and quivered like jelly until a new ball sat there. It was identical to the others but like Trudie’s ball was filled with flashing lightning.
“Trudie,” a male voice shouted. “It’s okay…” The voice gasped. “Why are there two of you and where is your nightdress?”
“Michael,” Trudie screamed. “Oh Michael. I can hear your voice but can’t see you!”
“Damn the explanations,” Zarine exclaimed. “Let’s get them though to the lab. You take Trudie and I’ll take the new ball.”
Jasmin nodded and picked up the ball that contained Trudie. She spoke softly in a soothing tone and followed Zarine, who had picked up the other active ball, out. The male’s protesting voice echoed through the corridor as they walked through to the laboratory.
Within seconds, two cocoons formed on the bed and changed into a girl with long hair dressed in nightgown being held by a youngish man in equally old-fashioned pyjamas. The pair hugged and kissed before Trudie glanced up and Jasmin saw her switching her eyes between herself and Zarine. Like Zarine, Trudie could be an identical twin of herself.
“So it wasn’t a dream,” Trudie whispered.
“No,” Zarine replied. “Jasmin and myself are your distant descendants many generations in your future. You were both in an extremely stressful situation and my computer rescued you.”
Trudie wriggled up and gasped. “I’m real. I can see my hands. Michael, we’re saved and real.”
Michael frowned. “I don’t understand.” He gazed around and flushed. “Oh dearest God, where did your sisters come from, Trudie and why are they … err… so fleshy.”
“Oh Michael,” Trudie chastised. “Don’t be a prude.”
Jasmin glanced at Zarine. She didn’t think it would take Trudie long to adapt. She turned to see Michael’s eyes embedded in her.
“Thank you,” he said. “I still don’t know what has happened but I know you two have helped Trudie and me.” He held out his hand. “Do ladies in your time shake hands with gentlemen?”
“Oh Michael, of course we do,” Jasmin replied and grinned as the powerful handshake almost made her gasp in pain.
Considering the time when they lived on Earth, the pair adapted remarkably well to their new environment. Even some of the newest electronic equipment that Jasmin had trouble comprehending was just taken in their stride by Trudie and Michael. One of these was the computer that could read their thoughts to produce new clothes for everyone to wear. Trudie frowned at the beautiful full-length gown and wired petticoat she had made.
“Do I have to wear this now?” she said. “I mean.” She turned to Michael. “You don’t mind if I have clothes more like Jasmin and Zarine, do you?”
Michael, still in his pyjamas nodded. “Perhaps Jasmin more than Zarine,” he said and his face burned in embarrassment. “I mean…”
“Forget it, Michael,” Zarine said. “I know we must be so strange to you.”
Trudie turned to Jasmin. “Can you think of something nice for me that the magic machine can make?”
Trudie grinned and formed a vision of one of he quite modest summer dresses that she wore to school in London. In England she actually wore more conservative clothes than home in New Zealand. There was a gurgling noise and a beam of mist covered the console. It disappeared and there lay a whole set of clothes, not only the dress but also underwear, nylon tights and the flat work shoes she preferred to wear to work.
“I have to wear these?” Trudie gasped as she picked up the garments.
“Only if you want to?” Zarine replied. “Buzz can design you anything you wish. You wear what you are comfortable in.”
“Michael?” Trudie turned to her husband.
“I think you’ll look gorgeous, my sweet.”
“You would.” Trudie pouted. “Okay, but only if you do, too.”
“Have a set of clothes that men now wear made by Buzz.”
Michael coughed. “I doubt if the men’s fashion changed much…”
Jasmin caught Zarine’s eyes, who screwed her nose up as if to say, ‘You’d better do it’. She formed a mental image of an old boyfriend she had had in New Zealand with his shorts, top and sneakers. Again, the gurgling noise sounded, the mist formed and Michael’s new clothes lay on the console.
Michael flushed as he held the shorts up. “Nice underwear,” he said. “But where are my britches to go over them?”
“I think they are them.” Trudie glanced at Jasmin who nodded. “Okay. The deal is if you want me to wear my new age clothes you have to as well.”
“But you aren’t the only lady here.”
Zarine laughed. “Oh Michael. In the summer heat most of us don’t wear clothes at all, only a skinfold. That’s a transparent skin to protect us from ultraviolet rays on planets where ozone layers are depleted. Understand?”
“No, but I think these clothes will do.” Trudie grabbed Michael’s arm. “Where can we go, Zarine?”
“Through the door on your left there is a corridor. Take any of the doors on the right. They’re all sleeping quarters.”
Michael grinned and followed her out to find a bedroom. When they were gone, Zarine grinned at Jasmin. “I think I’m going to like our ancestors,” she said. “But what do you know about their time?”
“It was before most mechanical things had been invented. They were on a sailing ships heading to the country where I lived before I went to England…” Jasmin gave a brief description of what she knew about the customs of the time. ”
“How awful. You mean the men ran the place?”
“Pretty much so. In my time most women had equal rights.”
“But not all?”
“It is, or was the reverse here.” Zarine screwed her nose up.
“Men had no rights and only in my grandparent’s time did they became equal to us. Now, we are all equal, well on my home planet, at least. In other societies males are still only used to enhance the sperm banks and are kept in separate communities until called upon.”
“Yeah,” Zarine replied. “I guess every age has zealots and fanatics.”
Jasmin nodded. “I think terrorists blew up the train I was on in London.”
They were interrupted by a cough and Jasmin turned. She saw Trudie and Michael standing across the room looking terribly self-conscious. Except for her long hair, Trudie looked a spitting image of Zarine and herself.
“You both look very smart,” Jasmin said and meant it too. They both looked healthy with tanned bodies.
“As with you two, physical imperfections caused by exposure and a poor diet were fixed,” Buzz interrupted. “Humans do need to look after their own physical welfare.”
“Oh, hush up Buzz,” Zarine snapped.
“Now all I need is a haircut,” Trudie whispered. “Michael disapproves.”
“Well tell him…” Zarine started but shut her mouth when Jasmin gave her a discrete poke in the shoulder.
“I love her beautiful long hair,” Michael muttered. “And in these new clothes I need some way to tell her apart from you two.”
“I’m shorter,” Trudie retorted.
She was a centimetre shorter than Jasmin and almost ahead shorter than Zarine who towered over both of them. Michael was a little taller than Jasmin herself but shorter than Zarine.
“So just cut it a little bit,” Jasmin suggested. “You can still leave it longer than ours.”
“And I need a shave,” Michael said as he wiped a hand over his chin. “There was no razor in the bathroom.”
“Put the extractor in the bathroom over your head and set it to Faceclear, Careful it isn’t on Total,” Zarine replied.
“Why?’ Michael looked so serious Jasmin had to suppress a grin.
“All your hair will be shaved off, too. Many men like the bald look.”
“Yuck,” Trudie whispered and grabbed Michael’s hand again. “What about the shower, Zarine. We couldn’t turn the water on.”
“Our showers used warm water to wash us,” Jasmin explained.
“I see,” Zarine replied. “We use vacuum pressure to suck away perspiration and dirt. It’s far superior to water. Come on, I’ll show you.” She gave Jasmin a wink and led the other two out of the room.
The exterior of their building looked like a gigantic mushroom with a squat stalk. The domed roof was made of solar panels that Zarine said produced enough electricity to make them self-sufficient. There were no roads but a series of winding pathways led through shrubs and small trees to elongated gardens or orchards. All manner of vegetables grew in weedless conditions while apple; peach and nectarine trees were covered in ripe fruit. There was also a circular flower garden that was again well maintained with cultivated soil beneath roses and other flowers in full bloom. Several robotic machines used mechanical arms to cultivate the ground and a fine spray of water switched on at regular intervals to keep grass and plants moist.
Beyond the circular lawn, they were surrounded by thick forest with no roads or tracks of any sort. Beyond this in the northern distance, a range of mountains poked up into the cloudless sky. In the other directions, only the sky could be seen above the trees.
Jasmin was impressed but also concerned. In some ways the scene was beautiful while in others, it was alien. There were no straight lines or rectangles with every garden a circle, oblong or kidney shaped. Except for the spray, she could see no running water such as a creek or drainage ditch. An occasional bee buzzed around the flowers but there were no other insects or animals, either domestic or wild.
“What do you think of this place?” she asked Zarine when they were several metres behind the other pair and couldn’t be heard. “Is it what you are used to?”
“No,” Zarine admitted. “I lived in a city of high rise buildings, elevated walkways and roads. The sky was usually overcast, though in recent years the world government reduced pollution by banning the use of fossilized fuel. This place is as unusual to me as I guess it is to you.” She nodded at the pair ahead at the other two. “They seem less surprised than we are.”
“Because they never knew a modern world.”
“And I’ll show you something else,” Zarine said and called out to the others. “We’re going to the edge of the forest. Want to come?”
Trudie turned. “Yes,” she called back. Michael and herself turned to follow.
About a couple of hundred metres out from the building the lawn stopped, there was an untidy strip of grass and shrubs before the forest rose, thick and menacing. While the vegetables and flowers around looked similar to those at home, the forest appeared totally alien with spidery looking trees, hanging vines and a lower covering of thorn bushes.
“Walk towards it,” Zarine said.
Jasmin frowned. “But you said we should stay away from it.”
“I will,” Michael said. He stepped off the lawn and pushed through the knee-high grass. Ten metres from the trees he sort of bounced and flung his arms around as if he was wrestling with an invisible creature.
“The force field,” Zarine said. “It’s like walking into soft jelly. Try it.”
Jasmin nodded and, with Trudie beside her, walked though the crushed grass trail Michael had made. When she reached a space beside him, her arms felt as if she was reaching in a jar of treacle. The further she pushed, the thicker it became but there was nothing visible, not even a shimmer in the sunshine.
“Is it to keep wild animals out or to keep us in?’ Trudie asked the perceptive question that was on Jasmin’s lips.
It was Zarine who answered. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve asked Buzz but all he did was repeat the safety code about having to protect us from alien viruses and bacteria.”
“And have you seen any natives or wild animals?” Michael asked.
“None. Until Jasmin arrived, I was totally alone. In a whole month, there were no people or animals. We have insects and things like lizards at home but the only insects here are the bees.”
“Who fertilize the blossoms and flowers and live in a hive,” Michael pointed to pile of circular wooden boxes not far from where they walked off the lawn. “I think that’s one. I saw three others further around.”
“Let’s go back,” Jasmin whispered. Her earlier contented feeling had changed to one of apprehension. There were too many unanswered questions that even Zarine couldn’t answer. She walked out to the lawn and waited for the others.
Trudie came up to her. “But we can trust each other, Jasmin,” she said. “We are the strangest family perhaps there ever was. I trust Michael and both of you. Does that help?”
“So you noticed how I feel?”
Trudie nodded. “One more thing, too.”
“And that is?”
“I think we are safe. If some ghost or devilish creature wanted to harm us, wouldn’t it have done it by now?”
“Oh Trudie,” Jasmin whispered. “I thought I’d have trouble trying to explain everything to you and Michael but it is you who are supporting me.”
“Michael and I left our home in England to travel across the world to a new country. That took courage, Jasmin. I thought I’d never see my family again but I’ve found Zarine and you. Now isn’t that a bonus?”
Trudie took both Jasmin’s hands, squeezed them and reached out to place an arm around Zarine as the four walked back across the lawn towards the mushroom building. That aroma of newly cut grass competed with the fragrance of roses to arouse their scent buds. Overhead, the sun still shone down from the cloudless sky.