This is the third 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. And the second can be found here.
“And does that bother you, Melina?” Dr. Alder asked, adjusting his glasses.
“I don’t know, Kurt. Would it bother you if your own mother didn’t believe you?” Her arms were folded tightly against her chest, her body was rigid.
The psychiatrist adjusted his tortoise-shell frames. “It’s Dr. Alder, Melina. We must maintain boundaries here, and your deflecting isn’t going to help anything.”
Her arms still folded, she continued, “Would it bother you, Kurt, if your father, whose knowledge is based in logic, reason, and hard sciences appeased your mother’s pseudoscience by sending you to a quack?”
Dr. Alder sighed. “Well, tell me about time travel. Seems like you jumped to the least likely conclusion in believing a woman from the future abducted Jeffrey. Why do you think it’s even possible? Why couldn’t this woman in her egg-shaped ship, with its halos, be a figment of your and Eran’s imagination?”
“Because, Kurt,” she stressed his first name yet again, “I saw it with my own eyes, and my dad is certain time-travel is possible. He’s talked about it for years. He also says that a ship that could time and space travel would have to look much like the one Eran and I saw. It isn’t fantasy. He’s an expert in the area; he completed the warp drive theorem for NASA. You know, hard, real science? That stuff you’ve never studied? Not all these questions about my feelings.”
Dr. Alder furiously scribbled something on his note pad. Melina attempted to get a glimpse.
“What are you writing?” she asked.
Ignoring her question, Dr. Alder moved on. “So how are your parents doing?”
“Your parents. Their relationship. How do you think they’re doing? You seem to be at odds with them. How do you think it affects them?”
“I’m not at odds with them at all. My father believes in me regardless of what he’s doing to make my mother happy and – ”
“And your mother?” Dr. Alder interrupted. “You seem to have some strong animosity towards her profession. How do you two get along?”
Melina eyes went hard and narrowed. She hugged her torso even tighter. Dr. Alder let out a hmpf of a sound accompanied by a sigh and wrote something on his pad again.
Melina checked her watch. She’d grown tired of this Luddite’s game. “It’s 10:59, Kurt. We have one minute left. Anything you need to add here or can we be done for the day?”
As he glanced at his watch his office view screen rang at his desk. He stood from the chair, placed the view screen’s communication device for private chats in his ear, and left his notepad on his seat. “I think we’re done here, Melina. Just give me one second.”
While his back was turned as he headed for the desk Melina positioned his pad so she could read his notes. The top page was flipped down halfway so only a portion of his writing on the second page was legible: “Patient Penrose appears to have some underlying trauma. I believe she may know exactly what really happened to Jeffrey Jamison but is unwilling or unable to vocalize it as her subconscious may be blocking the trauma. Whether she is consciously or unconsciously uncooperative could be due to extreme guilt or shame based on an inability to save or protect Jamison. Recommend additional sessions and a psych evaluation as an initial step.” Melina had read enough. She wasn’t a liar, she wasn’t crazy, and no amount of drugs or hypnotherapy or hugs was going to help her. Placing the pad back as she found it, she quietly grabbed her jacket and book bag without alerting Dr. Alder and walked out of the office.
Maybe it was wrong. His computer, built in its Penrose & Jamison (or should he say Franklin, he wondered) shell, which shielded it from the normal changes in history, could be incorrect. It wasn’t an exact science, after all. Tinsley stared at the data as though his gaze was going to change any of the factors it was projecting. He motioned with his hand to the left to scroll through the projections, hoping to find some trend that would differ from what he’d already witnessed. When there wasn’t one he ordered his system’s artificial intelligence, Vareese, to transfer the data to his comms wrist, the translucent communications bracelet he wore. Once it hummed and glowed with a warm orange light indicating the transfer was complete, he jumped out of his chair and raced down the hall towards the hanger where his sister kept the Hummingbird and the Rhino – the larger version of the P&J that could hold about ten people. The Rhino was designed to withstand kinetic attacks – lasers, rockets, plasma fire – should hostility ever be a concern for their team. After reviewing the information he’d gathered from his system, that was likely to be the case.
He imagined Daeva heard his footsteps as he approached. She was already exhaling loudly before he ever said a word. “What now? Out with it,” she ordered.
“You’re taking them too soon. I knew this would happen,” he replied.
“Knew what would happen?”
“Our first real paradox, that’s what.” He typed a few buttons on his comms wrist and a holographic projection of charts and equations appeared. “This is the system’s algorithm. It not only tells us when the timeline in which we reside shifts, but it also predicts which movements might create cataclysmic changes within space-time.” Tinsley pointed to a position on one of the line charts that began at a green steady state and rose exponentially into a bright red. “This inflection point. This is what I’m talking about. You’re taking children too early and it’s adding risk into the system.”
“I’m doing what you told me to do. I’m taking kids with no future. Children that were going to die, anyway.”
“Yes, but taking them weeks, days, or even mere seconds before they were to die causes the issue.” He swiped away the chart and replaced it with an original news clip of Jeffrey Jamison’s death. “Jeffrey’s death was a historic tragedy in his hometown so much so that it inspired this man,” he swiped left again and the image of a round-faced man with bushy eyebrows and thinning hair appeared, “Donald Haverson. He was the father of a son around Jeffrey’s age. He was motivated by Jeffrey’s loss enough to create an emergency floatation system that lined children’s clothing. If the wearer was submerged in a meter of water for ten seconds, specialized tubing within the clothing would inflate. It increased child survival rates in drownings by four thousand percent!”
He could practically hear his sister’s eyes rolling. “So what? A guy didn’t make money off of a new device? Someone else will have seen the opportunity in the market later at some point.”
Tinsley, typically soft spoken and shy, could hear his voice raising as he spoke to his sister. “Don’t be thickheaded, Daeva! The second and third tier effects are what you aren’t seeing!” He paused for a moment. In an effort to collect himself he took his right hand and slicked it through his wild hair. He exhaled and then asked, “Who is William Setty? Have you ever heard of him?”
Daeva shrugged. “His name is not familiar to me. Should it be?”
Nodding, Tinsley pecked at a couple of buttons on his comms wrist. A video of Daeva speaking directly into the camera began playing, “If you’re watching this it means Tinsley is right. Daeva, you’ve made some serious miscalculations. Tinsley is going to ask you about William Setty. He is – or was – one of the 22nd Century’s most beloved authors on Earth and a young admirer – ” holographic Daeva paused for a moment and continued, “ – a young admirer of your father. On numerous occasions he wrote of a story about a childhood accident in which he would have drowned had it not been for a device called the Haverson floatation system. He recounted this story to you after he resettled on Gardotion-56.” Holographic Daeva now wiped a tear away. “You’ve done something stupid now, Daeva. Something you likely can’t take back. Will was the love of your life and you don’t even remember him.” The video blinked out.
Daeva stepped back in horror. “What the hell was that, Tinsley? What type of joke are you trying to play here? I haven’t cried in years! My tears dried up when Papa died! I don’t even remember recording that video!”
“Of course you don’t! Because the timeline shifted, and in this timeline Haverson didn’t have a dead Jeffrey Jamison to inspire him, and William Setty didn’t have Haverson to create a life-saving device, so he died as a child on Earth. He never resettled here, and you never fell in love. Do you get how the ripple effect works now? Do you understand what we’re playing with here? One change can ripple out through time and has an effect on everything.”
Silent, she nodded.
“Then please don’t go after Camille Winton. Leave it alone. Give me a couple of days. Vareese and I will scour the databases and find a more suitable child. Just leave Winton out of it.”
Daeva stood tall. Her shoulders slid back, her chest pushed outward. She’d regained her composure. Shaking her head, she told him, “I cannot do that, brother. We’ve come too far, and too many people must pay. I will do all that I can to be more careful, I promise you, but we must move forward.” Wide-eyed yet stern she glanced at him for a moment and then turned and headed for the Hummingbird. “We must continue. This is why we need to move faster,” she replied. “I will be cautious, but our father will have justice.”
Read the next chapter here…