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Tuesday, June 12th, 2018, 8:00 am
Jared had always packed lightly for trips. With the builders, he had an even better excuse to pack minimally. When he finished packing, Michelle rifled through his bag to see if he had missed anything.
She asked, “Why didn’t you pack a toothbrush?”
“Well, I don’t usually use them on trips. I just kind of rinse my mouth out with water before bed.”
“Water . . . before bed.”
“Aren’t you worried about bad breath?”
“Nah, I rinse.”
“But it’s just water.”
“Well, my teeth feel clean, though.”
“It’s just water!”
“Not really, public water has fluoride in it.”
“Right, public water . . . in the US.”
He didn’t really want to pack a toothbrush, so he embellished his claim by saying, “No, it’s a standard. They do it everywhere.”
“A standard,” she questioned raising her eyebrows.
“Yes, like . . . like room temperature, a standard.”
“So who makes these standards?”
“You know, those people.”
She asked, “The standards people?”
“Exactly, the standards people”
“I just made that up. There are no standards people.”
“Yes, there are.”
She shook her head at his stubbornness. “Just pack a toothbrush!”
“Pack one for the team; you know I’m going to hear about it if your breath smells the whole time. They’ll blame me, like I have to mother you or something!”
“No, you won’t hear about it, I promise.”
“Yes, I promise.”
“Like you promise you’ll get Spencer to use the potty!”
“Yes, I mean no. He’s stubborn. I’ll get him too use it!”
“Really?” she asked, lacing the word with deliberate skepticism.
“Look, if I need to brush my teeth, I’ll use a builder to make one.”
“What if the builder breaks?”
“Honey,” he said, “If the builder breaks we’re going to have bigger problems to worry about than my breath!”
“Just pack one. I know you: you won’t build one just to spite me, and I won’t even be there!”
“No, you won’t.”
He mocked, “Right, OK, just because I’m like crazy, I’m not going to brush my teeth. Right, you got me pegged.”
“Joke all you want. I know you won’t.”
“Don’t whatever me!”
“Michelle, I will.”
“I know my name.”
She shook her head and left.
He thought to himself, ‘I won’t brush my teeth. The water will have fluoride.’
After Jared left the bedroom, he went to their makeshift workroom and packed a few tools, in case there were any problems with the builders. When he was ready to leave, he said his good-byes to his family. Carmen was not there; she was already at the time machine hangar. The children could have gone to see the launch, but he and Michelle decided that Deirdre and Spencer would not be able to sit through it.
First, he hugged his wife. As they hugged, he said in her ear, “I love you.”
She replied, “I love you, too. Please be careful, and come back safely.”
“I will,” he replied as optimistically as he could. Really though, he did not know, could not know what would happen. It was like saying to a child ‘It’s OK,’ to something that was far from OK. He kissed her on the lips, and then went on to the kids.
First, he hugged and kissed Deirdre. He said, “I love you, Honey. I’ll see you later.” He doubted she would remember him if he didn’t come back.
Next, he hugged his son. Spencer knew he was going to be gone for a day, because that was about all they had told him, but he seemed to sense there was more to the trip. Spencer knew something was wrong, but not what specifically. They hugged, kissed, and high-fived each other. Though neither Michelle nor Jared could remember how high-fives got added to the hug and kiss ritual, they kept up the practice.
Jared knew Spencer would remember him, maybe not past his teens, but long enough to hurt, long enough to remember. Suddenly he wondered if it would be like Carmen. Carmen had been much older when she lost her parents, and she lost both of them, but still it seemed so similar. He knew, as well as he could, how much heartache Carmen had gone through, and he wished to himself that the same pain would never happen to Spencer.
Spencer looked up to his father and said, “I love you, Daddy.”
Jared almost broke down and cried hearing his son say that. He bent down and hugged his son again. “I love you, too, Spencer.”
“Are you OK, Daddy?”
Jared did not know how to answer. They had hoped Spencer would not notice anything was wrong, but he should have known better. Really, it was obvious just from the fact he had a bag of luggage. As far as they could tell, Spencer could not even remember back before they lived in the colony. It was probably the first time Spencer had even seen a luggage bag. Of course, they had been acting differently as the day had approached, and they still acted unusual. It should not have been a surprise at all.
Jared wondered how much his son knew. Finally, Jared said, “Yes, I’m OK, Spencer.”
Spencer blurted out, “Daddy, stay. Don’t go, please!”
“Spencer, I’m sorry, I have to go.”
“No, Daddy, please. I’ll be good, I promise.”
Jared knelt down again and hugged his son, “Spencer, I have to go. I know you’ll be a good boy. You are a good boy. Spencer, you’re not in trouble. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“OK, Daddy, be good.”
Jared snorted in place of laughing. “OK, I’ll be good. You be good, too.”
“I will, Daddy. Bye-bye.”
Jared shut the door to their home for what might be the last time. He walked through the colony processing the mixture of emotions. Most of his feelings were not about himself, but his children. He worried about Michelle too, but not as much. Michelle knew what was at stake; she would probably get over him in a few years. The kids though, they might never stop hurting, he thought.
Jared was the last of the team members to arrive in the time machine hangar. Samuel and Aaron had opened the door. Opening the door actually caused the air inside the colony to stabilize. To get the door open, the lung’s disc had to be forced down.
Many of the colonists were there to watch the launch. Among the crowd were Carmen, Keith, Samuel, Emma, Amelia, Seamus and Toby. Kara had said she would go, but Mike probably asked her not to.
They had all practiced using a time machine Jared set up with a builder, inside the colony. The time machine inside the colony was disabled to work as a simulator.
There were still only three time machines in the hangar. The first thing Jared did was make four more. With the time machines setup, Aaron asked, “Well, shall we go?”
Jared said, “Not yet. We need to move them into place. Also, we should use all three bays. Originally, we presumed that the changes would be small and only one person would go. In this case, we are sending four people. I really should have made these to hold multiple people. For the same reason we will be away for a day, we need to use separate launch bays. If we all use the same bay and miss, we could collide.”
Aaron said, “But we only have three bays!”
“Right, but Samuel made the bays longer than needed.”
“Which you complained about," Samuel noted.
”Well, it looks like the length is a good thing. We can launch one a couple hundred feet in. The other we can launch from the start of the bay. I’ll pilot it and be sure to land far short of where the next one comes in. We’ll launch the second one to aim for ten minutes later. I’ll push mine back toward the hangar just in case.”
Samuel said, “So who will pilot the second one?”
Aaron said, “I will.”
The team moved the four machines into place. Samuel measured and marked the two hundred foot location in the northern bay. With all four in place, Jared gave them a final refresher course on piloting a time machine.
“So first, make sure the computer's time and date is correct. Next, enter the target time and date. Once you hit the launch button, a five-second countdown will begin. Take hold of the steering wheel and when it launches, guide the machine through the tunnel. The faster you’re going, the less manual steering the system will allow, so be very sure to have it pointing in the correct direction as you start. Any questions?”
Oliver said, “Where do we put our bags?”
The rest of the team laughed, not because it was said to be funny but because it seemed like the least consequential thing to worry about. Jared opened the door to one of the machines and pointed to the side.
“You should have room enough on the left side for your bags. Make sure you fasten them securely.”
Everybody packed his or her bags inside. Except for Oliver, they all had only a small bag, which had little more than a builder, Oliver, though, had a huge bag. He had trouble getting it to fit, so Aaron took Oliver’s builder and put in his own bag. With the extra room, Oliver was able to fasten the bag into the cramped space.
Jared suggested, “In case anything goes wrong, let’s send Sarah and Oliver first.”
Alarmed, Oliver replied, “I don’t like the sound of that!”
“I mean if you have trouble using them.”
Oliver relaxed, “Oh. I’ll go first then.”
Aaron seemed to start to say something but then shook his head as if telling himself it was not important.
Oliver hugged and kissed each of his kids. When he got to Toby he said, “You’re going to be the man of the house while I’m gone. Are you up for the challenge?”
Toby said, “Yes.”
“Look after your sister and brother.”
Oliver smiled and hugged Toby again. Next, Oliver hugged his wife. He whispered in her ear, “I love you. I’ll be back.”
“You’d better,” she whispered back.
Then, after a kiss, Oliver headed to his time machine. He had trouble climbing in. His shirt pushed up, and the metal edge of the door scraped him. Oliver yelped from the pain it caused. After he was inside he said, “The practice one is easier to get into.”
In a ‘what did you expect’ tone Jared said, “The practice one doesn’t have an oversized bag stuffed in it.”
Oliver just grinned foolishly in reply.
Zoe, who had left Jada and Marvin at their home to see the launch, said, “You should let me look at that scrape.”
Oliver said, “Nah, Doc, I’ll be fine.”
Zoe added, “Listen, when you guys are out there, be careful about getting colds.”
“Why?” Aaron asked.
“Well, if you’ve noticed, most of us haven’t had many colds since we got here. Our immune systems may have gotten lazy because they aren’t exposed to anything new.”
After Zoe’s warning, they prepared Oliver for the launch. Jared asked, “Are you ready?”
“I guess,” Oliver replied.
“You should be all set.”
Oliver nodded, then after giving a short wave said, “Here goes.” He closed the door and everybody stepped back. The jets sounded in the rear; the flames burst through the holes. The ball started rolling slowly, and clumsily, at first. It looked like he was having trouble steering. Once it was under control, it sped up and quickly disappeared down the bay.
All of the people in the crowd who had not seen the time machine used before were in complete awe. Zoe’s jaw actually dropped.
With the machine gone, Sarah asked smartly, “Why did we send the newbie first?” Specifically she meant Oliver was the only one in the team who had not seen the time machine in use before. “I mean, that was pretty bad driving.”
Wearing his wickedest smile Aaron said to Sarah, “You know, I almost asked him if he was sure he wanted to go first. Well, now that it’s your turn, let’s see if you can show him up!”
With a determined smile his wife replied, “Fine, I’ll show all you men up!”
“Even Jared?” Aaron asked.
Sarah turned to Jared and said, “Especially Jared.”
Jared raised his hands signaling he wanted no part of this lovers’ quarrel.
Sarah packed her bag into her time machine. She gave Keith a hug and kiss on the cheeks. Next, she hugged Carmen. Finally, she hugged her husband and said, “See you on the other side.”
Sarah was thinner than Oliver was, thinner in an athletic and feminine toned way. She was not a bodybuilding hulk, but her body was fit, trim, and firm. She was one of the few colonists who regularly exercised. She was the only one to regularly use the track. Sometimes she would get bored with the track and run around the ranch and harvesting section. She wanted to try doing laps around the entire colony but decided against it because most of the areas where she would have to run would have a harsh concrete floor that would be bad for her feet and knees.
Sarah fit inside easily; in fact, even with her height she made the time machine seem roomy. She said through the door, “Look, no scrapes. I’m already starting off better than Oliver!”
Aaron lightly teased her saying, “Don’t let your head get too big in there. You haven’t even buckled yourself in!”
Once Sarah got comfortable, she said a final goodbye and closed the door. After everybody backed up, the machine launched. While the driving was better than Oliver’s was, everybody doubted it was as good as Jared’s driving. Nobody could really remember that well how it looked when Jared had given the demonstration the year they left for Switzerland.
Jared said, “Well, my turn I guess.” He shook Keith’s hand and said, “Take care of her,” referring to Carmen.
Keith chuckled and said in reply, “I’ll try!”
Next, Jared hugged Carmen and said to her, “Wish me luck.”
“You don’t need luck,” she replied.
He almost contradicted her, but decided it was best to leave on a high note. He gave a wave to the rest of the crowd, “Bye, Everyone!”
Jared quickly got into his machine and launched it. With Jared gone, Aaron stalled for a few minutes just in case the time he left would effect the time he arrived. When he was finally confident it was as safe as it could be, he hugged Keith and Carmen. He said to Samuel, “Take care of this place.”
Samuel nodded his head in a very abbreviated type of bowing gesture.
Aaron picked up his bag and walked down the bay, turning to wave when he was half-way to his machine. As Aaron walked off, Keith, who at this point was standing beside Carmen with his arm behind her back and softly holding her waist, said to her, “You think they’ll be OK?”
“Yes,” she said with no doubt in her voice.
“How about us, will we be OK?”
“Definitely,” she said and then she pulled him to her and kissed him on the lips. As they kissed, Aaron’s machine launched, disappearing down the bay.
Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford