It all had been months in the making, though at this particular moment, it seemed a flicker in the vast ocean of time to Elizabeth Andrew Jackson Libby Long. With the help of Mike's predictive capacity, they had reached a nearly 100% certainty of action. Preventing the New Chinese Republican Fleet from entering Luna space for even just two hours would save millions of lives and keep this timeline a stable, useful, productive one. It had all been going according to plan, an imaginary wishful thought that precludes the universe from inflicting its opinion on the righteous, or at least the self-assured. In fact, she mused, as Gay Deceiver began to, for lack of a better phrase, freak out, the wake of the anti-matter explosion about to engulf the five of them would spare their works. The Overlord clearly only intended to eliminate them here and now. Did he see some merit in the Time Corps action here, then? It was worrying.
Ah, but then, they were milliseconds away from total annihilation anyway, which should rightly be much more troublesome.
"Discorporation immanent, unable to escape blast radius!" Libby had once thought that the anxiety that sometimes crept into the ship's voice was unnatural, but right now, it was appropriate, almost comforting.
"Jump!!!" Athene, designated as pilot for this mission, wasted no time deploying this simple phrase which activated the ship's Continua Device. And then, they no longer were.
Part 1- The High Castle
Jacob's miracle machine, the apparatus through which the Time Corps was made possible, deposits intrepid agents not only when, not only where, but what. Randomized jumps were the only way to gain a buffer from pursuit in emergency situations. It would take hours before their nemesis could work out what had become of them. Cloaked from the visible spectrum of light (though not from the ultraviolet and infrared, such a feat was too draining on Gay's reserves), they soared above a city that was equal parts steel and glass, squat concrete, and slick looking Japanese design. These last parts were constructed in such a way as to draw focus and attention to them, and they seemed to circle the mighty financial-type buildings spread throughout Asia during the end of the 20th century. It all seemed to scream the Crazy Years, yet was unmistakably a bit off. To the west, a large expanse of ocean lay, pinned to the earth by several mighty battleships.
Picking an abandoned, or at least, unoccupied, warehouse by the waterfront to stop, Gay's electromagnetic stabilizers easily unlatched a heavy rolling gate and flew on inside.
"Goodness! I've had more than enough excitement for this lifetime. What's next, fearless leader?" The ship's lights danced in a playful pattern, the AI blowing off a bit of steam.
"First, we need to evaluate where we are, though I think we can narrow down when." Libby examined some data the ship had collected in the first few moments.
"Kobe?" Lapis suggested.
"I didn't see the Port Tower..." Lorelei responded.
"That's on a river, this seems like more of a inlet."
"It's Seattle." Athene suddenly responded, having fallen silent while she changed in the back, her holographic belt coming up with a more appropriate garb to the approximate locale.
"How do you know?" Lorelei demanded, now having bound up out of her seat.
"I know due to the position of the morning moon, the sun, and because I know the exact topography and the shape of Puget Sound. There is no other similar combination of features."
"Hmmm...I didn't see the Needle...this area looks like late 20th century, which means it would have been erected decades ago." A sliver of worry was in Libby's voice, though she seemed to dismiss it. "Gay, take a nap, and we'll look about while the device recharges. The exposure to the initial shock wave drained your reserves by 25 percent." A warm sigh is the only response, and the four disembark.
It is early now, the sky still grey, but what might be a lively place of business is quiet like the dead. The view from above confirmed that this metropolis was not a ghost town, however. Zombies are poor drivers, and they feared little from bizarre aggressive aliens; in truth, the collective experiences of the Time Corps confirmed that humanity was the only real bizarre aggressive species in the galaxy.
Walking off the docks, wearing modest and muted colors, Athene, Lorelei Lee, Lapis Lazuli, and Libby moved north and met with the stone rail of West Garfield Street. A lone car, a robin's egg blue Toyota, zipped by, but nothing else.
"Where is everyone? Is it Sunday?" Lapis tugged at her ponytail, held in place by a strange pink elastic mass. At least it matched her flats.
"Hold on..." Athene seemed to perform some complex finger-gymnastics on a small computer at her wrist. "Alright, I've just hacked an overhead telecom satellite. Sorry, I needed to wait until it moved directly overhead, without Gay I have only a weak signal. It is, in fact, a Monday. May 3rd, 1993."
"Hmm...weird. Is that...or, rather, it, or should I say, now, a holiday?" Lorelei tapped her chin as the quarto crossed the wide street and started climbing up a set of steps leading deeper into the city. "The Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross is the only one I can think of, and that can't be what explains all this." They reach the peak of the incline, and gaze out into the Queen Anne neighborhood. A mad grid of train tracks looms underneath, and a thin bridge connects them. The architecture is all wrong, and packed in very tightly. Now they can see more people milling about. Not the frenzied rush of the Crazy Years workday, but a more relaxed, reflective movement. That's when Libby spotted the Rising Sun, the national flag of Japan, flying from the roof of an auto-repair establishment on the other side of Elliot Avenue.
"Anyone else see that?" She murmured. There was little response as they attempted to grasp the meaning. Then, Athene did something bold.
"Excuse me, young man." She approached an average looking fellow wearing a clean looking stripped suit and a plain grey tie. Brushing a hand through his short, sandy hair, he seemed started by her directness. "Could you tell me who the regional authority here is?" He hesitated, a strange look in his eye, as if she had offended him somehow.
"Miss, I ask for your forgiveness, but I do not believe that I heard you correctly." He cocks his head slightly, no lack of nervousness on his face. Athene's eyes narrowed considerably, but Libby stepped in.
"You must forgive my friend, she is a foreigner on special dispensation. She is simply very curious about local politics, and wanted to know who runs this prefecture. I must shamefully admit that I myself do not know his name."
"Ah. I am more than happy to help educate on matters of civics. His name is Watanabe Hiraku."
"Thank you very much, sir. I hope that you enjoy the holiday."
"Your wishes are very kind, and I extend the same sentiments on our day of the great constitution." They parted ways.
"What kind of 20-something in Seattle, suit or no, talks like that?" Lorelei said incredulously. "And how did you know they'd call it a prefecture?"
"I'm not completely certain yet, but I have a hunch." This was Libby's only response. "Let's find somewhere to have breakfast. Gay should be ready by then."
Part 2- The Man
After marching through a good deal of residential area, some excessively steep hills, and odd looks at what Lapis was certain regarded their clothing, they eventually arrive at the northwestern edge of the business district. The day grows longer, and Libby makes a somewhat hasty decision; to stop in a shiny looking cafe. Katakana mingles with English on the establishment's window outside.
The maître d', a flawlessly presented Asian man, furrows his brows as they enter, gripping both sides of his podium.
"Can I help you?" He says in heavily accented English. Instead of immediately responding, Libby gives the man a low bow, approaching 90 degrees.
"We would like a table for four, please." The look she receives is inscrutable. The man seems flabbergasted at their request. He looks behind him, vaguely at the bar, then slowly back to the women.
"I believe you may have made a mistake...there is a much more appropriate restaurant down the street." Lapis, starting to catch on a bit, and unable to restrain herself.
"Appropriate for who? Four gringos with red hair?" What was before mere awkwardness in their would-be host had now transformed into full-blown panic. Fortunately for him, one of his employers' other functionaries, a much larger Asian man with a broad face and a thick turtleneck, stepped forward.
"I am afraid I will now have to politely request that you depart."
Several minutes later, after having thrown the place's bouncer through his own window, the four find themselves once again standing in front of the abandoned warehouse where Gay was resting. Fortunately, Athene had required them to equip personal invisibility devices earlier. This came in handy shortly after the restaurant, and even more handily when the patrol cars came by; the former AI was able to confirm that someone had "anonymously" tipped off the police that some strange foreign-seeming women were seen down by the water.
"Well, I don't think I've ever seen someone interrogated for the right answers to grade school level history questions. At least not with such gusto." Lorelei had long since changed out of her incognito clothing in favor of absolutely nothing. Despite the relative cold, it mattered little now that they could not be seen.
"I like to be certain about things. There were other possibilities, but none with these specific regional divisions. Japan controls the west coast, the middle is a buffer, and the Nazis have the east." Libby sighed, shaking her head.
"Ahh, so that's why there's no Space Needle. The World's Fair never came here. Oh, and today is Constitution Day! Odd that it fell on the same day anyway despite how the war ended." Lorelei said, her eyebrows indicating an intellectual appreciation for what was going on.
"Well? Where are we, Elizabeth? Quit holding out. I don't think I read this one." Athene grinned and stuck her neck out at her elder.
"In 1962, Philip K. Dick wrote a novel, an alternative history, that was set in San Francisco. He liked that city as a setting. FDR was assassinated in the '30s, the US stayed isolationist, and the Axis powers achieved total victory over the globe."
"Ugh." Lapis made a face and stuck out her tongue. "How dreadful."
"Well...yes, but…eh, I won't spoil it for you." Libby just winked, a split second before the sky roared with the sound of a sleek black ship breaking the sound barrier overhead. The Overlord had caught up with them. "But I see I won't have time right now regardless!"
"Gay!" Lorelei yelled as they ran inside the building. "Warm up the shower! I've a need to wash off all this fascism!"