Cocoa took Free-Jon and Emelia to the Newcrest Science center that he’d helped build while Penelope while she was at summer camp. First he took them to the medical wing. “Before you travel more, I want to make sure you’re all in place and you’re not still scrambled.” They lay very still while he used the machine to scan them. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to peform any surgeries. This is just getting some basic readings. You said you’d traveled this last time with a space-time thingy? Not a portal?”
“Oh,” Cocoa looked it over. He’d heard about this thing. It was much smaller than he’d expected for all the chaos it had caused. “This will be very helpful. Let me just get a final sample from you both and we can go upstairs and talk to A9’s cousin.”
“How will this help?” Emelia asked.
“I can extract the time from you both that you need to return to. Your molecules record every moment, so I just need to filter it out to find the correct timestamp. That’s why we have centrifuges.”
Upstairs he place the time-space thingy for A9’s cousin to scan and incorporate.
The robot whirled to life. It wasn’t as friendly as A9, since it was lacking an identity core. But it would do the trick. Emelia’s gadget worked with time and space, he needed to get his portal to work the same way. At last they were done and Cocoa took the calibration printout. He skimmed it. That didn’t look too bad.
That night they had a weenie roast. Cocoa was certain he’d have the portal working by the next day, so Nova wanted to throw a party to say goodbye.
“And that,” Nova said, “is why you must never curse anyone with loneliness.”
onezero clapped. “I like that story.”
“My turn, my turn!” Free-Jon jumped up and down with excitement.
“What cheese can be used to encourage a bear?” He waited, but everyone was silent. “Camembert!” The party was just getting starting and he had 18 more cheese jokes to share.
They ate hot dogs and roasted marshmallows as the dusk deepened to night. A fall chill passed through them even though it was still summer. A warning of what was to come.
“So, Emelia, Cocoa says you’re leaving tomorrow?”
“I think so. The moon isn’t right, but he says that portals don’t need moon phases. That’s how it went so wrong when left the tree house. I miscalculated the TARDIS. And we aged up all wrong.”
“So, you were elders?” Penelope asked. “What does that feel like?”
“It’s like being an adult, on more…more like being a child again.” Emelia tried to explain. It was hard to explain what the full compliment of traits felt like to someone who had never had more than one trait.
onezero understood though. She knew that back home, she was an adult herself, even if this version had never been more than a child. “It feels like spinning backwards, with the chalky taste of white on your lips. Like being more full than you’ve ever been.”
Free-Jon nodded. “It’s confusing because you can’t wear your favorite hat even if you want to.”
Penelope realized she’d just have to experience for herself someday. Although not too soon, she hoped.
It was the last day of summer. Literally. The only way to get the kids back into time was to start time back up again.
“Don’t worry,” Nebula assured the kids. “Normally we have aging turned on, but our player had to go on vacation for several months and we wanted it to be summer just a little longer. “So we’re just returning to the normal time stream here.”
Cocoa however, was just a little bit worried about the whole situation. Oh turning on time, that was easy, but getting them both home.
“It’s me, isn’t it.” Emelia had tracked him down to the lab again. He sighed. She was too smart for her own good.
“I’ve got a clear reading from Free-Jon and can calibrate the portal to anytime in his time-stream before you two left, but…”
“But I aged down to go to summer camp,” Emelia nodded. She wasn’t too surprised. She remember reading abut closed loops in the book. “What would happen if I went through with Free?”
“You might just disappear all together since you don’t already exist in the timeline. Or, you might go spinning endlessly into space.”
“Or it might work out?”
“Or it might work out.” Cocoa agreed. No one had ever tried this before. Sending someone back into a closed time loop who hadn’t been present before. Especially as a child. She might not even be a child when she arrived. Or Free’s timestamp would be strong enough and pull her into the loop without a hitch. “There’s no way to know.”
“I’ll do it.” Emelia said. “It’s the best chance I’ve got, only…don’t tell Free-Jon, alright?”
“Ready?” Cocoa asked coming up behind the kids, clustered around the portal. The air was crisp with autumn now in full swing. “You’ll want to leave now, before school starts.”
Free nodded. He remembered seeing a portal like this before. “The lyin’ witchin’ wardrobe. But…it didn’t work before.”
“That’s because the concept of time didn’t exist at summer camp. It was always ‘now’ so there was no ‘before’ to return to. I’ve tuned this to your home, Free-Jon, since camp is closed. That’s the closest we could get.” He apologized.
“But,” Free looked worried. “Em wasn’t there before I left. If she comes through with me, what will happen to her?”
“I’ll be fine,” Em assured him.
The two blue peas were whispering to each other. “It’ll work out.” onezero announced. Penelope nodded in agreement. “We can hear the 1,000 mommies and they say to go.”
“Goodbye, Free.” Penelope said with a hug. “You probably won’t remember me when you get back to before you left, but I’ll remember you.”
onezero watched the two enter the portal. She held her breath. She hoped her mommies weren’t mistaken.
Then, with a faint Vttthhhump the two time travelers were gone.
- Nova’s story was written by Summerfalls for the October short story contest – check it out.
- The Newcrest Science Center was based on a build by Wiremamr and it’s a very nice rebuild of the Get to Work Future Sims Labs.
We’re all crossing our fingers, hoping they get back safe and sound!