He was angry when he asked, “What are you even doing here?” I could hear the agitation in his voice, angry at me, at himself, as he demanded, “Why’d you come back here?”
We were both so embarrassed by his little attempt at flirting with me. Both of us wanted to leave it behind as quickly as possible. “I didn’t,” I told him, moving on. “This is my time, Frank. The quantum instability threw Tilly’s calculations off. You’re in your future.”
The other me looked confused now, as did the others. “Our future?” But Frank recovered quickly, using his head. It was actually kind of impressive how fast he was to adapt to the new information. “Can we go back?”
“Not yet,” I told him. I had to send him off on the right path. He had to see the right way to go. “You still have a job to do.”
“Job? What job?” he asked me, confused over what I had to admit was a confusing situation.
So, I told him, “The Xian need your help.”
“Our help? Why can’t you help?”
For a hero, he was quite reticent to help. Maybe he knew I was trying to trick him? No. When I was him, I didn’t think that. I had just been trying to find my feet and now so was he. And besides, I’m not trying to trick him. I’m trying to help him. I just can’t tell him the truth. I smiled at him because I knew what waited for him. Soon he would understand, too. Soon he would see. “I already did.”
The other me understood that I had done what he must now do, but Jamal didn’t take it so well. “What the hell is that supposed to mean? And where the hell am I?” He glanced at his daughter. There was fear in his eyes and worry. “Where are the rest of us? Why are you the only one here?”
I shook my head. “I can’t tell you that. I shouldn’t tell you this either, but I did to me, so I guess it’s ok for me to tell you.”
Jamal didn’t buy it. “Right. That makes sense.” But there was nothing I could say, I had to keep from altering the timeline any more.
“So what are you even doing here?” the other me got straight to the point. That’s what I liked about me. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small container.
Tossing it over, I said, “I’m here to give you this.”
The other me reached out and caught the bottle awkwardly. He tried to cover it up, but he fooled no one. “What are these?”
“Nanite pill. They’ll make it so you can breath outside this room.” Which was partly true but I didn’t tell him the whole truth. I couldn’t. “It may hurt for a few seconds as the nanites adjust to the new atmosphere.” And as they stabilize your quantum profile enough to be Freed.
The other me studied the pills in the bottle. Did he suspect? No. How could he? I hadn’t. “Why are there only two?”
“One for you, one for…” I don’t call her Jennifer, I had to remind myself. I called her Doc. I always called her “…Doc.” Why was that? Why didn’t I use her name more? That seemed strange now. Was it fear? Was I afraid of getting too close to her? Was I afraid to feel something for Jennifer besides guilt? “Tilly and Jamal don’t need them,” I continued. “They already have the upgrade.” And apparently that was enough for the other me because he swallowed it.
The Xian led us all out of the chamber room and after a little growing pains the past versions of us were able to breath just fine. The Xian explained their problem and past me gave me a dubious look. “And you solved this?”
I saw what he was trying to do. He was trying to get information from me. “No can do. You know I can’t tell you anything. Time paradoxes. In fact, I should be going. We should be passing by Earth by now. I have to go. I have my own work that needs to be done.”
And with that, before he could say another word, I turned around and walked away. My work here was done. Now, to deal with the real mission.
to be continued…
and to see the other side of this conversation click here