The man laughs. "Oh, don't worry. Alibis have been invented for each of you: you're all at a conference, for various reasons. Janet, a dancer, is obviously on tour right now. Doctor Margaret, you're at a surgeon's conference in the Caymans. We've doctored up photos, and you've sent a postcard to your family of you in a bikini enjoying a margarita. Natalie, we sensed that you were having familial troubles, so we had them believe that you were taking a short sabbatical, and that you would be back, and that you loved them very much. And you call them each and every day."
"So you've discovered time travel?" Margaret asks, inquisitively.
"In a sense."
"I though the concept was impossible," Natalie says. "Wouldn't it rip you apart, atom by atom?
"That's what we believed."
"What happens if we die while we're on this mission?" Janet asks. "What will happen to our families?"
"Believe me, we've conducted all possible scenarios. If you don't make it back, then we will let your families know. We won't let them know what happened, but we will let them know."
"What would happen if we declined this offer?" asks Margaret.
"This mission is too important to allow you the liberty of refusal."
"Would all three of us be traveling together? What year are we going to?"
He smiles. "All will be revealed in due time. All you need to know is that there is an artifact that we are wishing to recover." After a pause, he continues, "The first of three time periods you will visit is March of 1917, in what was then Petrograd, in Russia."
"How will you keep in contact with us?"
"I'm glad you asked, because I'm sending one of my men, to make sure you don't get up to no good. He will record your progress, make sure that you're doing what you're supposed to, provide you with all protection needed, etc.. I'll introduce him now."
Suddenly, an android named Ames (Christian Swenson) walks through the door. He seems a bit off in his behaviors, though he looks entirely human. He's far too deliberate and precise in his maneuvers and mannerisms.
"I've very pleased to be accompanying you on this mission." He turns around and faces the corner, in an unsuccessful attempt to make everyone feel less uncomfortable.
"Have you been through time before?" asks Natalie?
"Not to my knowledge," Ames says.
There is an unpleasant pause, after which Margaret says, "Will clothes be taken care of? What about money."
"Yes, you don't have to worry about any of that." says the man. "And now, we must begin."
"But what is our mission?" asks Janet, concerned.
"Ah!" he says, "I almost forgot!". "You are tasked with finding a man named Father Grigori, and asking him all he knows about the artifact. Ames will help you with the specifics."
He and his guards walk them through a door. After passing through several rooms, they arrive in a large white chamber with a rack of clothes. They get dressed in what appears to be period wear, after which a robot bodyguard removes the rack. Alone in the room, it begins to glow white. Suddenly, a wooden door materializes on the far side.
|Demonstrations in Petrograd in March 1917|
|The Alexander Palace|
|Woodland outside the Alexander Palace|
“Do you think they exhumed his body, and then burned it, because they hated him so much?” asked Natalie
“Actually, that’s exactly what happened”, says Ames. “We have stumbled upon the remnants of various revolutionaries’ attempt to do precisely what you described. Interestingly enough, records of this event tell that his body suddenly sat up in the midst of the flames, despite having been dead for about a year.”
“Crazy…”, Janet says. “Maybe that means he’s alive, after all.”
They all begin to fan out in search of clues. Suddenly, Margaret notices a pile of ash a ways off. She beckons everyone to come and see, as Ames notices another a considerable distance in the same direction. They follow the makeshift trail until they arrive at a crudely-made hut, right in the middle of the forest. They notice that a fire is burning, and that a dead deer (with no apparent injuries) is roasting on a stick over it. Suddenly, they hear a crack behind them. They turn around, and see an abnormally tall man holding a cleft branch in his hands. He is bearded and abnormally tall, but can be unmistakably recognized as Father Grigory Rasputin. Out of the blue, he lunges forward to attack. However, Janet steps out as if to counter him, and he stops in his tracks, with a wide-eyed look of awe on his face.
“What is your name?” asks Janet.
“I know my name. It is Grigory Rasputin.”
"Excuse me, sir" says Ames, "But by all my accounts you should be dead."
"Yes, that is true. I am dead."
"But you speak with us as if you were alive, how is that so?"
"Well, it depends on your definition of 'dead', I suppose."
Janet suddenly interjects, "Why did you try to attack us? And why did you stop?"
"I felt threatened, considering what has happened. But I stopped because, for a split second, you seemed to be my dearly departed daughter, Maria. That mistake may have saved your lives "
"Oh!" Says Janet. "How did she die?"
"She didn't die. She left me! For America! To become a...dancer."
Rasputin weeps bitterly as he sits down, head in his hands. There is a solemn pause, but eventually Margaret speaks up.
"So, we were told that you know about something called the Artifact?"
"Yes, I do."
"What is it, then?"
"The Artifact is an ancient relic of great power - and danger."
"What does it do?"
"In short, prolonged contact with this object makes one unable to die."
"So, that's what happened to you?", asks Janet
"Yes. Ever since the Artifact was entrusted to me, no matter what ordeals I undergo, I ultimately emerge unscathed."
"What else do you know about it? What does it look like?", asks Ames
"It appears how it needs to appear, different to different people. To me, it looked like a chalice."
Ames suddenly looks satisfied. "That's all we needed. Thank you, Grigori."
They walk away from the forest as Rasputin returns to his hut. As they are about to leave earshot, he screams "Maria!". They walk uneventfully back to town, by the protesters, and to the door. Ames puts a special key in it, and they walk through into the large room from whence they came.