Dr. Samuel Marks breaks the rules, again. This time they were his own....
As I sat waiting to meet my oldest friend, a man with a thick grey beard approached. He said, “What trouble are you in now?”
“Excuse me?” I sat up straight. “You must have me mista-“
He interrupted, “No, Samuel. I don’t make mistakes.” He sat down across from me and waved the serving girl over. “I help clean up yours.”
Then I recognized the twinkle in my friend’s eyes. “Tollack!” I stood to embrace him. “Five years and I almost didn’t recognize you, man. We mustn’t go this long.”
“No, I suppose not. You need someone around to keep you in check.” He turned and scanned the room. “Ah, come, let’s duck into the room there to talk without open ears.”
I knew he’d be furious with me. I’d react the same way. Well, not exactly the same. There would have been much less cursing and pounding of furniture. Nonetheless, his reaction was not unexpected.
After all, he had every right to be pissed off. I’d broken my own law, the same law I expected him and the others to all adhere to. And, I didn’t care.
"This is ... just ... pure madness, Samuel!" Tollack slammed his fist on the table, again. "The Society will never accept it.”
“I don’t see how the Society has come to think they have any say in the matter?” I retorted.
“You ... you don’t see how?” Tollack slid his stool back and slapped his thigh. “Do you not remember the laws you imposed when we formed the Society? Did you forget about rule number two: Do not engage in a relationship. Period. You said we could flirt, fondle and f**k as we pleased-"
“I never said that!”
“Well, maybe not in those words exactly-“
"I suppose those were Marcus’s words. But, that’s the gist of the point I’m trying to make here. You intend on marrying this girl?” He paused to gulp down his beer. “Tell me this, old friend – does she have any idea you’re old enough to be her grandfather’s great-grandfather?”
“Of course not.” I added, “I may be old enough to be her great grandfather in age, but physically I’m only a few years her senior.”
Tollack chuckled. “As if that makes it all permissible.”
I couldn't keep it in any longer. “We wed four months ago.”
Tollack’s jaw just about hit the floor. “You’re joking?” He was stunned. “You have to be. Right? I’m right, tell me I am. I have to be….”
I put a hand on his shoulder. “Vivienne is my wife, Tollack. And, I assure you, she has no knowledge of the Flamella tree, the Society or the Future. She only knows Samuel Marquette loves her and is her husband.”
“Sam, you’re making a foolish – nay, terrible mistake. You can’t-“
"I already have.” He rose to pace around the room. “Look, I'm not asking for permission, Tollack. What’s done is done.” I needed to tell him first, before announcing it to the Council. "She should've died six months ago."
"Six months? You've kept this from me for six months?" He was used to me coming to him with everything. Like I did with the vaccine on the moon. And the plan to escape to the past. "And we've done away with The First Law too? Thou shalt not change history. Where is she now? How do you know she isn't out there tripping up the timeline as we speak?"
"I'm well aware of the laws, Tollack. I can’t affect the timeline, I know. This won't prevent Albert Einstein from being born." I paused to take a drink of my beer. Then, I answered him, "She's safe. In a cabin, where she won't come into contact with anyone, until I return." I'd set up a couple of locations no one else in the Society knew of, just in case. "The only way out of it now is murder."
Tollack snorted. "Fat chance you'll let that happen."
"You've known me too long." Nothing would take Vivienne from me. Now that I'd found her, I would never let her go.
“You can’t have children, you know. Or they’ll want to get married and have more little invaders from the future of their own. Are you going to create a list of all eligible soon to be dead bachelors and bachelorettes when the time comes? Have them scout out who they’d like you to save?”
“Stop it, man. You’re being unfair.”
“Unfair? You're going to say I'm being unfair?” I saw a look in his eyes I hadn’t seen in decades. The look he had when he watched a building burn with a girl he fancied inside.
He knew she was going to die in the fire. He begged the council to be allowed to save her, so they could live out her natural life together. We fought about it for hours. Just long enough that by the time he decided he would defy us and go to her anyway, it was too late. The barn was already engulfed in flames.
“Beta dome to Samuel, come in Doctor Marks.”
“W-what?” I’d wandered too far in my thoughts.
"I said I still don't see how this isn't breaking The First Law."
"Not changing history includes our own."
"What the devil do you mean, Sam?"
"Do you remember the night we left the moon?"
He looked at me as if he thought I'd lost my mind. "Of course."
"The strangers who helped us?"
"The Travelers? Yeah, I remember. They came back to make sure we got out."
"No, Tollack. That's just it - they didn't come back to help us."
"What the devil do you mean, Sam? How else could they-"
"They came forward."
He blinked. "But," he started and stopped again. He took another drink. "What haven't you told me?"
"The woman - did you hear what he called her when he tried to warn her?"
"It sounded like he said Sam." He was confused. "I thought he was calling you."
I shook my head. "Something about her felt so familiar. She knew Artemis. Then, when I heard him call out to her, he called her Sam. And, I realized... Her eyes were my eyes, Tollack. Her voice was my mother's."
He sat still a moment, studying my face. "So, you think she's... what, your great great-"
"I don't know for sure. But I feel it. Or, I felt it. I just - I know she was my descendant. Is. Will be?"
"Holy mother of Paradoxes." He slapped the table, and looked me in the eye for a long moment, measuring my words. He found them worth their weight. "And him?"
"Oh, Michael. We met him a few times before that night. He was an eight year old boy when we left."
Tollack just sat, absorbing all I said.
"I gave him the Flamella serum myself. In the papers they gave me, there was a note to me from him explaining when and how we would meet next."
"Because the next time I'll see him will be in 1881. He'll be here to kill me."
He thought on it for a minute. "I take it he told you how to stop him?"
"Something like that. He said to tell him I saved his life - with the "vaccine" on the moon. He said if we explained how we did it - with the Flamella serum - and why we really left, his younger self would stop and think, before executing me."
"And then he and your progeny will show up 300 years later, to send us back? Where are we, then? Dead? Skipped ahead?"
We'd considered several options for how to avoid crossing paths with our younger selves in the future. It was a lot to process. "I try not to think about where we'll be. Only that they have to get there to send us back here."
He sat in thought a few more moments. Then he asked, "What if we were wrong?"
"Wrong about what, T?"
"Wrong to run. Wrong to go back. To be here."
"Tollack, can you really think that? Especially after everything we've learned from travelers they've sent since? And, what they did to Alec and Annika?"
"We might have been able to stop them. To out the corruption, and usher in a new age for Earth."
"We would have been dead within hours, and the tree would be on a transport back to the surface. We had no other choice and you know it."
He drummed his fingers on the table, in thought. "No, I suppose we didn't."
"I am as sure as I've ever been, we are exactly where we're meant to be."
Tollack chuckled. "I don't know about where, but when, I suppose. Speaking of when -- when do I get to meet your wife?”
That wasn't part of the plan. “Well, T, I don’t know if-“
“Look, Sam, I'm your best friend in the world. I've always had your back. If this meeting was about you asking for my support, you have it."
"Thank you, Tollack.” I felt a rush of relief. “If not you, I don't know whom I could trust."
“Then, don’t you think she should meet me? The closest thing you have to family?”
“I sort of told her I had no one. She has no one left now either, and I think-“
“It comforts her to think you’re the same – both orphaned in the world.”
“Well, then we’ll explain I’m your cousin who was not on some ship lost at sea after all. What about that?”
“Yeah…well, we might've been able to pull that off in our own time, but-”
"Don't," he put a hand up. He'd acted as though the attitude toward his skin didn't bother him since we arrived in 1513. I saw through his bravado from the beginning, though; it wasn't something he was prepared for. And, a century later, he still didn't want to talk about it. He changed the subject. "I don't think you should tell the Council though."
I didn't know what to say.
"You haven't told her what you did, saving her life, right? She doesn’t know what we are?"
"No. All she knows is her family fell ill, and she was the only one who recovered." She shouldn't have. Had I not fed her the Essence of the Flamella tree, she would have perished with them. But, I was drawn to her the second I saw her, falling faster with each moment we spent together. For her, and for the first time, I broke my own laws of interfering with the timeline.
"Honestly, Sam, the tree and the fruit are - and should be - yours to do with as you please. I really don't know why you keep up this charade of a Council anyway."
"It's not a charade, Tollack. It's important to keep a balance of power."
"Yes. It was working so well for the U.C.E."
I sighed. "It was better than what the world will have for the next four centuries. Up to a point."
"Which point was that, Sam? The one where they firebombed six entire nations? I know, it's okay because they warned them first and took out the refugees. As long as they agreed to be chipped, that is."
His rationale wasn't that far off. "That happened half a century before we were born."
"Wait, let's see. What else? Oh, the famine of 2134. Or, my personal favorite, 2169, intentionally putting five hundred thousand souls on the moon at risk to flush out your tree?"
They could have prevented the passenger from infecting the Moon Colony with the Antarctic Flu. We knew now they allowed it to happen, because they suspected I'd been working on a secret project. Which, I was.
Dr. Barron Spaulding, one of my former instructors at the Science Institute, was elected as a representative before my graduation. By 2169, our understanding was he basically had control of the U.C.E. And now, somewhere in the future, he directed a relentless quest for the Flamella tree, and to eliminate those of us who fled with it to the past.
“I just don’t think there’s a reason for you to rock the boat. The council doesn’t need to know, unless and until you plan on bringing her into the Society. If you’re just planning on shacking up in the woods for a few decades, and keeping her off the grid, then what the hell do they need to know about her for?”
“I don’t want to keep secrets though, Tollack. We agreed to transparency.”
“We also agreed not to get into any relationships. We’re a little bit past that now.”
“So, again I ask, when do I get to have to pleasure of meeting the little missus?”
He wasn’t going to give in. “It’s a bit late for tonight. How about I meet you at the creek trail head in the morning. Around nine?”
“Alright then. I’ve already booked a room at the boarding house for the night.”
“Well, check out before you leave in the morning. I’ve just finished adding a couple of rooms to the cabin; I’m sure Vivienne will insist you stay with us for the duration of your visit.”
I returned home, to our little cabin in the woods. Vivienne was sitting on the porch swing, Artemis curled up in her lap, gently rocking back and forth. “Welcome home, husband,” she called as I rode up.
"Don't you move an inch," I said. I held my hands up, making a frame with my thumbs and forefingers. "I need paint that gorgeous picture in my mind."
She giggled, a pure, innocent sound - almost like a bird's song. Then, she blew me a kiss, and said, "Flattery might get you everywhere, sir. Would you go and get Dodge settled in already?"
I tipped my hat. "Yes, ma'am."