This is the second installment in our ongoing serial story, written by our regular contributors. The first part, in which Daeva came from the future to steal Jeffrey Jamison, and Melina Penrose and Eran Jamison witnessed her leaving in her machine, can be read here.
The Franklin mini time machine arrived smoothly on Gardotion-56, in the year 2178, and Bruna and Tinsley ran towards it. Daeva opened the hatch and handed a struggling Jeffrey to Bruna. “Can you handle him? He’s pretty upset.”
Bruna nodded. “I was your nanny, wasn’t I? You weren’t exactly easy.”
Daeva smiled. “I don’t recall.”
“I’ll have him smiling and playing with the others in no time.” Bruna locked the boy under one arm and walked towards the nursery, where four other children of various ages were housed.
The next morning, Tinsley found Daeva vacuuming the time machine. “We screwed up,” he said. “Jeffrey’s babysitter was Melina Penrose.”
“So?” Daeva climbed out of the machine and leaned against it.
“The co-inventor of the time machine?”
“And she saw you. It was all over the news for a year or so, and the tabloids grabbed onto it and never let go.”
“Oops is right. And instead of inventing it in 2090, when she was forty-five, and having Jacob Cartwright as her co-inventor, she invented it in 2071, with her father and Jeffrey’s sister, Eran, as two of the co-inventors. And your machine was not built by the Ben Franklin Corporation, but by Penrose and Jamison.”
Daeva passed her hand over her machine. Hadn’t it always been a Penrose and Jamison Hummingbird? She loved the large hummingbird engraved on its side. “How come you remember this and didn’t have your memory completely changed when the past changed?”
“Actually, my memory was changed. But I’ve invented a storage device whose memory isn’t affected when the past changes.”
She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. “As far as you know it stays the same.”
He frowned. “What do you recall?”
“That you’re right. Since I was inside the time machine, maybe some of my memories are intact.” She walked past him towards their house, on the other side of the small settlement from the nursery where Bruna and Clotho took care of their future leaders.
He raced after his sister, trying to match her long strides, even though he was two inches shorter than her, and not nearly as athletic. “That isn’t the point. We’ve got to be more careful. We can’t just charge into important people’s homes and take their children. You were lucky this time, in that it didn’t change history too much, but what if we prevent our own births?”
“We have to take the risk, Tinsley. I’ve told you that. We need these special kids: geniuses, fighters, leaders—”
“You don’t even know if they’ll grow up to be those things. Maybe some kid plucked out of a battlefield or famine would be just as smart—”
“I do know. It’s genetics, plain and simple. Look at this kid I just brought. His parents are both outstanding astronomers. He’ll grow up to be brilliant, the kind of person we need to have a technological advantage over our enemies.”
He stopped chasing her to catch his breath. “Well, we’ve got to stop,” he shouted, then leaned over and panted.
She whirled around. “No. I’ve researched Camille Winton. She’s next.”
Shocked at her daring choice, he stood as tall as he could. “That’s crazy. I won’t help you.”
“Yes you will. You want this as much as I do.” Then she passed through the gate and went inside.
“It will end badly,” he whispered to himself. “I just know it will. She’s too cocky and greedy.” Honestly, he was amazed they hadn’t blown themselves up already. Taking Lindsey McFarland had been nuts, no matter how good her father was at winning wars. It had changed history, he’d been sure of it, although, at the time, he’d had no way of fact-checking. That was why he’d started playing with time himself, to create a bubble inside which information didn’t change, where he could store snapshots of history and knowledge. And he’d succeeded. Look at what he now knew about their newest trainee.
The day after Jeffrey’s abduction, two policewomen showed up at the house and took Melina into custody. With no evidence of a break-in, and no fingerprints other than hers and the family’s in Jeffrey’s bedroom, she was the only suspect. She spent three days at the county facility for juvenile offenders, before an indictment was handed down, she was fitted with an ankle bracelet, and released to her parents to await trial.
Angry and scared, she moped around the house. “No one believes me,” she shouted to the walls. She wouldn’t speak to her mother, stomping past her into her bedroom and slamming the door.
“Melina.” Her mother tapped on the hollow plywood. “Come to dinner.”
“Not hungry. Go away.”
Melina heard soft voices, her parents conferring, then, “Larry, talk some sense into her.”
“Can I come in?” her father asked.
Melina rolled onto her back. “Sure. At least you believe me.”
The comforting presence of her father filled the doorway, then sat next to her, weighing down the bed. “Tell me what you saw,” he said.
When she finished describing the ship, and the woman in her black skin-tight clothes, he said, “I want you to come to the office with me tomorrow. I have something to show you. I think you’ll like it. But before that, I want you to come to dinner. And then I want you to do your best to draw what you saw.”
“The lawyer already made me draw it. Although I could tell she thought I was lying. Dad, what will they do to me? I’m scared.”
He laid a hand on her arm. “Nothing, sweetheart. You and I are going to prove the machine could exist.”
“With math. Now, come on. Be nice to your mother. She means well.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Suit yourself. But will you draw the machine for me?”
She shook herself, went to her desk, and picked up her stylus. “I need my smartscreen, but the police took it as evidence.”
“I’ll loan you mine. And let’s record this, so it can be used as evidence.”
It took her all evening, but finally she felt that she had a good image. Exhausted, she fell asleep on her bed, still holding the stylus. Sometime in the night, her father must have come in and removed the smartscreen and the stylus, because both were gone when she woke up, the sun shining brightly in her window.
She walked down the hallway, rubbing her eyes. Her father sat at the kitchen counter, drinking coffee and scanning the news on his smartscreen.
“Ah, there you are. Did you ever read H. G. Well’s?”
“I thought not. What you’ve drawn is a space-time machine. Only a little classier than the ones from the book covers.”
All thoughts of sleep fled and she yelped excitedly. “Time machine? It’s possible? Dad, we have to make one.”
He smiled and shook his head. “It isn’t that easy. It’s possible in theory, but I’ve never seen it, in any of my computer simulations, nor has anyone else. It will probably take huge amounts of energy to create, even if it can be done.”
“I want to figure it out.”
“Well, that’s why you’re coming to work with me today. I want to show you a design. It’s crude, and it doesn’t work, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to use electromagnetism to travel in time.”
For the first time since Jeffrey’s disappearance, she smiled.
“You’re a smart girl. If anyone can do it, you can. But you’re going to have to learn a lot more math before you get there.”
She hung her head. She loved math, and she’d made it through a calculus course already, but her school didn’t offer anything more advanced.
“Tell you what,” her father said. “Let’s see if we can get you into a differential equations class at one of the colleges in the area this fall. Freshman physics, too. You need to start with the basics.”
“Yay! Thanks, Dad.”
Her mother cleared her throat, and Melina realized that she was at the stove, pouring batter into the pan. The wonderful scent of baking pancakes rose and Melina’s mouth watered.
But then her mother spoke, as if Melina wasn’t there. “Larry, I thought we discussed this. She’s too immature for college; she already has enough trouble relating to her peers.”
“That’s not what’s really worrying you, is it? It’s that time machine.”
She sighed heavily. “I’m worried that she made up the machine to block out the real memory. I want to take her in for testing.”
Larry set his cup on the counter. “What? You can’t do that. She’s fine.”
“I’ve already made an appointment with one of my colleagues.”
“She’s been through enough, being treated like a criminal. And the trial will be harder. Accusing her of being crazy—” He trembled. “You shrinks.”
Karen came around the counter and put a hand on Melina’s arm, as if she knew her daughter was ready to protest. “She’ll have to be evaluated, anyway. Better this way, than some court-appointed nincompoop.”
His shoulders slumped. “Fine. When is it?”
Melina stared in horror at her parents. Psych evaluation? She wasn’t crazy. Forget the pancakes. She fled to her room. She was lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling when her father knocked again.
“Listen,” he said, “I know this sounds awful, but she’s right. You’ll have to be evaluated. Might as well do it now.”
She sighed. “I didn’t make it up.”
“I know. Now, come eat something. We need to leave for the lab, if you’re coming along, and I won’t have you fainting on me.”
Read the next Chapter here.