Just as the Time Police were about to converge on us, we jumped through the door. Kink immediately slammed it shut behind us and tore off the knob. The door vanished, disconnecting the knob from the larger Temporal Central Grid. A red emerged from Kink’s gauntlet and enveloped the knob. Presumably, Kink had just put it in temporal stasis as a way to keep the Time Police from tracking it, not that I thought that was likely going to be enough to keep them from finding us.
“Now, what’s the plan?” I asked her, hoping she had one. “If the Time Police are after us, what are we going to do to keep them from coming and get us? They could be here any second. It’s not like how long it takes them to find us matters on this side.”
“Don’t worry, Frank,” Kink said, wrapping herself around my arm. “We’re safe here. We’re in a bubble of space/time. The Time Police can’t get in.”
“Can’t get in? Since when could you do something like that?”
“Well, I may have had a little help.”
“Help? From who?”
“From me.” We were immediately put on edge from that voice. We jumped back as Freyja walked into view from behind us.
Jamal roused himself enough to push Tilly behind him, as if that would be enough to protect his daughter from her mother. “What are you doing here?”
“Making sure you all don’t get erased,” Freyja replied, then turning to Kink as if that conversation was over, she asked, “Did you have any trouble?”
“Nothing I couldn’t handle.”
“And the knob worked?”
“It took a little doing, but it got the job done.”
“Did they track you?”
“Well, they’re not here yet, so…”
“What is she doing here?” Jamal demanded.
Freyja looked at him. “Didn’t we just cover that?”
Jamal turned his fury on Kink. “Why is she here!?”
“She’s here to help, Jamal,” Kink replied. “I know the two of you had had some issues over the years, but…”
“She stole my child!”
“Stole?” Freyja scoffed. “I took my daughter to spend time with her. I know living as a revolutionary is dangerous…”
“What did you say? ‘Revolutionary’?” Jamal chortled. “What kind of deranged world do you have to be in where you could ever define yourself as a ‘revolutionary’?”
“A pretty horrible one,” Freyja replied with complete sincerity. “I don’t know what you think is going on, but we have been fighting this horrible war for years.”
“War?” I asked. We clearly had missed a couple chapters here. “What war?”
“The war against the Time Police,” Kink replied. “You know this. We’ve fought against them together many times.”
“No, we have not. I have never fought the Time Police. They’ve always been our allies. Or at worst a neutral party. They’ve never been our enemies. We’ve never been ‘at war’ with them. That’s just crazy.”
“We’ve never been enemies…until now,” Jamal amended.
“Something has changed,” I had to agree. “This was not the Time Police we knew.”
“Then you have been lucky,” Kink said. Her mood had turned gloomy. I could see the wariness behind her cheerful facade.
“There was a fall,” Freyja started to explain. “The Time Police were eradicated, wiped out entirely.”
“Yes,” Tilly said, then pointed at Kink “By her.”
“Me?” Kink asked, innocently.
“Yes. It just happened.”
“I did not just erase anyone.”
“Not this you. A different temporal instance of you. We just experienced it.”
“And their return?” Freyja asked. “Who is responsible for that?”
“Um…” Tilly said. “My future self did, I guess.”
“Your future self?” Kink asked. “You mean you’re responsible for all this madness?”
“Now, now, Kink,” Freyja said, coming to her daughter’s defense. “We don’t know that Matti…or future Matti had anything to do with this.”
“I think she did,” Tilly said. “She returned the Time Police back into existence in order to stop you two from fighting.”
“Us two?” Freyja looked at Kink and Kink looked back. They both looked confused.
“Yes,” I said. “You don’t remember this? You two were fighting over an artifact with reality-bending capabilities. Does that ring a bell? The older Tilly stole it from you, restored the Time Police, who you had erased because they tried to stop you from altering time, then destroyed the artifact. Do you not remember any of that?” They both stared at me blankly. “So do you not remember this because it’s still in your future or did the Time Police completely erase it from ever happening?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Freyja said hastily, though I wondered if it was because she was more uncomfortable with being manipulated or not knowing something. “What matters is what happened when my daughter brought the Time Police back. That future version of you must have changed something, or the artifact did, because as you say, these are not the innocuous Time Police of old.”
“No,” Tilly agreed. “The older me said she made them stronger.”
“Stronger?” Freyja repeated. “Why would she do that?”
“Why do you think?”
“You turned the Time Police into unstoppable monsters just to spite me!?”
“Me? No, I didn’t do that. But an older version of me did. And I can see where she’s coming from. I probably would have done the same thing.”
“Why would you do that to me? I’m your mother!”
“My mother?” Tilly laughed. “You mean the woman who has ruined hundreds of trillions of lives?”
“I have not!” Freyja replied defensively.
“If you haven’t, then it’s because this incarnation of the Time Police stopped you from being able to do it.”
“You ruined mine,” Jamal said. “That’s for certain.”
“Ok, ok,” Kink said, stepping between them. “I think we’ve had enough Blame-Freyja time.”
“Do you?” Jamal asked. “Because I think I could go for maybe a few more hours of it.”
to be continued…