Emmet drove just a little above the speed limit. He did not recall ever doing so before for two reasons. First, he was a safe driver who rarely went above the speed limit. Second, he had no reason to recall such a thing, since he was thinking instead of an entirely different matter- one of much greater importance. His thoughts, which were normally orderly and least a bit pragmatic, instead repeated themselves annoyingly and reached not even one conclusion. Why didn't I set an alarm, he wondered. I'm hungry. How could I have napped all the way through dinner? Of all the days to sleep too long. What if I'm too late? Will they still let me in? I could miss the most important moment of my life!

He soon grew sick of the infuriatingly useless clamor in his head. It's really too late to do anything anyways, he told himself, so I might as well stop worrying. I could even go so far as to be excited. I'm not going to be late.

After what seemed much longer than the seven minutes it normally took him to get to work, but was, in fact, a bit shorter, Emmet arrived at a dull cinderblock building with a few minutes to spare. He would have preferred to have a quarter of an hour to spare, but at least he got a bit more sleep. He showed his identification and invitation to a man stationed outside of the laboratory door. He took a seat near the back of the room. His legs wouldn't keep still, and, being preoccupied, he did not attempt to control them.

The laboratory in which Emmet sat had been build especially for this occasion. It was a plain rectangular room. The floor was smooth concrete, painted white, as were the walls and ceiling. There were about forty folding chairs set up in neat rows in one half of the room. In the center of the other half stood a pillar to hold up the pride and joy of every person in the room. Investors dressed in large, stiff suits tapped their toes and looked constantly at their solid gold watches. They were not concerned with the time. Rather, they were considering what it would be like to have a solid gold watch for every day of the week. A few of them also wondered if they would have to sell their watches if the test went wrong and their investment prooved fruitless. Meanwhile, the scientists crossed their fingers and looked at the machine on the pedestal, daring to imagine what it would be like to be one of the filthy rich investors and trying not to think of how much work they would have to do if the test failed.

Carl, Emmet's boss for the last twelve years and supervisor of the entire project, walked up to the front of the room and asked for the audience's attention. The humble laboratory was awfully plain for something as grand as a speech, but today was quite special, just as Carl was saying.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have all been essential to the realization of the dream we are about to test. I thank you all for your generous financial support, your investment of time and talent, and your outstanding dedication. Today we are ready to find out if we have succeeded in our audacious goals. Very few, even now, believe it possible to travel through time at will, but we have made it not only possible, but even probable. We are about to see just how much we have accomplished!" A brief but heartfelt round of applause followed these words. Emmet clapped vigorously. How distracted I've been, he thought. How easily I think about everyday things like success and failure rather than my fantastic goal. We've built a time machine!

Carl stepped forward and pulled the Plexiglas cover off the machine on the pedestal. "When I press the button," he said confidently, "the time machine will vanish. The clock will start counting. When it reaches sixty, the time machine will reappear, having gone one minute into the future." He pressed the button, and, as he said, the machine vanished. Some people sighed with relief, glad that it had gotten as far as it had. Most gasped quietly and held their breath.

Fifty-eight seconds to go. The clock was as accurate as the clock built into the time machine itself, though this one showed only whole seconds.

Ten seconds gone. If Emmet had not seen the inner workings of that clock himself, he could have sworn that it was running slow.

Forty seconds to go. What if it didn't return? Emmet spent the following moments contemplating with dread what would happen if it never came back. The equipment alone was worth a fortune. Scientists had been working on it for the last one hundred and fifty years. The total of their wages was not even comparable to the cost of the machine. The fact that the machine had disappeared made it invaluable. The notion that it had probably traveled in time improved its worth even further. Never in history had so much time, money, and effort gone into an endeavor, and now it had vanished, possibly forever. If it didn't come back, the foundation would spend the next decade fending off lawsuits from infuriated, bereft investors. The very men and women who were sitting amongst Emmet's colleagues were either imagining what new vehicles, mansions, or even islands they would buy, or else thinking of ways to circumvent bankruptcy by suing the foundation.

Forty seconds gone, twenty to go. Emmet tried to think of something a little happier. He tried to imagine himself on an island, sipping a cool drink and watching the waves chase after the sand, but all he could envision was sunburn.

Ten more seconds!

Fifty-one, declared the clock. Fifty-two. Emmet stopped thinking altogether. Fifty-three. Fifty-four. Carl cursed himself for choosing sixty suspenseful seconds, rather than thirty, or perhaps fifteen. Fifty-five. Fifty-six. Fifty-seven. Fifty-eight. Fifty-nine... Sixty!


Chapter One

Uleesia glared at the door of her parts and repair shop, sitting quite comfortably behind the counter and fixing a toaster in her lap without so much as glancing at it. The moment Hector comes in, she thought, he will be blown away by the sheer force of my displeasure. Hector was late, and today he was a good deal later than usual. Typically he stumbled out of bed and into the shop at 8:45, hours after Uleesia awoke and ten minutes late. It was nine o' clock, and he still had not come. No doubt his alarm clock had not gone off.

Hector was Uleesia's unwanted apprentice. He worked for her at no charge. The tax he took of her time and patience more than made up for that, though. If Uleesia had a choice in the matter, she would have no apprentice at all. Failing that, she would have a superbly talented apprentice with a great personality. Instead, she had Hector. He had a lousy personality, an average attitude, and mild aptitude in mechanics. He didn't even show up on time.

Uleesia did not have a choice in the matter. Her house was positioned right against the largest scrap yard in the world. One morning every week she wandered through it's metal mountains for an hour or two with a rusty old wagon, piling pound after pound of scrap metal and useful parts into it. Some she resold in her shop and some she used to repair things. When the owner of the scrap yard caught wind of her activity, he did not think, "Aw, isn't that nice." He did not come ask her to stop. He did not threaten legal action. No, he figured she owed him a favor. That's the kind of man he was.

He pondered for a while, then came to her shop and walked right up to her desk. "Hi. My name is Gustav. I'm your neighbor, of sorts. You see, I own the scrap yard here." He reached out his hand. Emenai gulped and shook it, fearing that he wanted her to quit pillaging in his scrap yard, despite the fact that she barely scratched the surface. She bought the house specifically because of the scrap yard, and if she couldn't take advantage of it she'd have to move. "This is my son, Hector," said Gustav, pushing forward a pale teenager who seemed to be distracted by an unseen annoyance. "Hector is very interested in mechanics. He is looking for experience. He would very much like to have experience in a place like this." As he spoke, it became clear that he wanted Uleesia to take on Hector as an intern and that "No," was not an option. The next day, Hector showed up at 8:35 in the morning. There was no way Uleesia could get rid of him.

Today he arrived at a quarter past nine. Uleesia's gaze was at its fiercest yet, but it was lost on him. He was midway through a yawn when he opened the door. "Sorry, my alarm-

Get to work," snapped Uleesia, "and don't go home until you're done." Her harsh words slid of him like oil off of Teflon. He didn't even seem to hear. He sat down on the floor next to the stack of junk Uleesia left for him to repair.

What am I supposed to do with this microwave?" he asked. "It looks nothing like the ones you showed me last week.

Figure it out." It looked exactly like last week's microwaves, just easier. He just hadn't been paying any attention. Hector groaned and sighed simultaneously. No doubt he was rolling his shut eyes.

Uleesia stood up and left, imagining a truck running into Hector on his way back home or an appliance electrocuting him. Bells on the door jangled as she almost but not quite slammed it shut. She walked around the house to the back door of the garage, which was her workshop, and picked up her wagon. As always, she was wearing a gray shirt, steel-toed leather boots, and worn but sturdy overalls. She put on a pair of thick gloves and began wandering through the scrap yard. Her eyes swept masterfully over the junk. Before long her wagon was overflowing. She headed back home, taking a different path to cover more ground. She continued to pick things up, balancing them carefully on everything else or carrying them in her arms.

Uleesia's eyes broke their systematic search for a moment, distracted by a chunk of dirty white among the gray and dull brown. She uncovered a solid white box with rounded edges. It was about the size of a backpack and twelve times as heavy. She rearranged her findings to fit it precariously into her wagon. She came home with higher spirits and a new project.

Uleesia was born to be a neat and organized woman, but it didn't take her long to overcome that limitation. Her interest in all things mechanical somehow forced her garage into a disorderly state of messiness. By the door there stood a pile of things she had not yet sorted, to which she added the contents of her wagon. A counter against one wall held jumbled array of tools, nails, and wires. The shelves surrounding her workspace held items categorized loosely by their primary material. Beneath the shelf for steel there stood an electric heater, which Uleesia turned up all the way. She sat down beside it, cleared a space on the counter, and set down the white box.

Opening it alone took two hours, not including interruptions to help or shout at Hector. She tried everything, but it was glued tightly together and Uleesia finally had to resign herself to the use of acid. She painstakingly applied it to the seams with a paintbrush, taking care to damage as little of the device as was possible. She left it for a snack and when she returned the acid had dissolved the glue enough to pull the case apart. To her immense relief, there was an inner case that could be unscrewed and removed, so nothing vital had been damaged. She removed it quickly and looked in wonder at the wires and circuits before her.

Uleesia had spent most of her life in the twenty-seventh century, and she was quite familiar with it's technology. This, however, was beyond anything she had ever seen or heard of before. The entire thing was stuffed with minuscule boxes and impossibly thin wires. For any technology to take up that much space, it would have to be very, very old or very, very complicated. Uleesia decided it was the latter. Beyond that, she knew nothing about it.

The only thing she recognized was a fan. Still, where its motor should have been there was only a tiny cylinder, no bigger than the end of a shoelace. It wasn't nearly big enough to power a metal fan the size of a CD. She spotted a pair of broken wires and pressed them together with wet fingers. The fan began spinning, reaching full speed in only a second. It blew a stack of papers off a table nearly five feet away.

Uleesia turned the machine over and over, trying to think of what it was. She pulled it's entangled wires apart gently, as if combing a little girl's hair. She dug into it carefully, but found nothing familiar. She didn't realize how long she had been staring at it until she heard Hector leave the shop. Alarmed, she set it down and scrambled to do what she had meant to complete for the day.

After a few hours, she set aside her work again. She returned to the puzzling machine and pored over it through the night.

Over the next several months, Uleesia developed the habit of working on the machine while she watched the morning news. She had practically memorized it, by sight and by touch, but she barely knew a thing about what it was for. She stroked it as she watched a newscaster tell the world that it was the fourth anniversary of Ivan Collamore's assassination. She never even got the chance to vote for him. She wondered what the world would be like if he had lived. Maybe the economy would be better and she'd have a nicer house and a better job. Maybe there would be less corruption in her country. That was just one more thing that Collamore had promised. She couldn't imagine what anyone could have had against him, but there must have been something, or else he would still be around. As it was, Uleesia was stuck fixing appliances, wishing another person would come along with lots of promises.

She turned off the news and looked down once more at the machine in her lap. Sick of the lack of progress she had made on it and in her life in general, she took it to her workshop and started dismantling it to an even deeper level than she had before. She put it all under a big magnifying glass. She decided that even if she couldn't figure out what it was all for, she could at least patent some of it. This week, she decided, I am going to figure out how the fan works. Next week, I'll figure out how to get a patent. The week after that, I'll start writing things up. By next year I'll have a contract with a big company that wants to use my fans.

She did not figure out how the fan worked, but she did discover something new. The little cylinder was not, in fact, the motor for the fan. It had an even smaller little thing inside that was labeled, as she read under her magnifying glass, as radioactive. According to international legislation established a few hundred years ago, radioactive devices could only be manufactured in specially approved cases, like atomic clocks and other items that really needed it. A fan wouldn't pass at all, since it could be powered just as well by anything. Emenai followed the wires from the cylinder, trying to find something that could be a clock. She traced them past a multitude of wires and boxes, through the center of the machine and almost to the opposite side.

They led to a flat black panel. She tapped it. A very small display revealed twenty-seven bright green numbers with intermittent colons. She tapped it again and all but the first nine numbers blinked out and changed. 02622:08:19:13:35:42:1147754074. It was the date and the time, down to the tiniest fraction of a second. She tapped it twice and a voice from the machine read off the time. Wow. It's late. Uleesia picked up the machine to put in a moisture-free box for the night until she could reseal all the compartments she had opened during the day. She set it down and blinked at it with tired eyes. The clock, which had updated itself whenever she accidentally touched it, now said, "Recalibrating." She did not think she had touched it, and it had never said that anyways. After a moment it displayed the time once again. She picked it up and once again it said, "Recalibrating." Why? she wondered, but sleepiness crowded out her thoughts and she retired to her surprisingly comfortable bed.

That night, just before she closed her eyes, something fell into place. She knew what the machine was for. She tried to deny it. She tried to keep her hopes down, but one thought penetrated her reasoning and kept her awake all night. What if it can travel in time?

It's not possible. There simply is no way. But the technology might have come from the future. It must have! That doesn't make it any more possible, though. I must have it wrong. What else could it be for, though? It has an extraordinary clock. It even recalibrates itself based on it's speed and location. No doubt it does that because of relativity. And the technology can't be from the past or present. What was it doing in a scrap yard, though? If it can travel through time, what's it doing with among all that junk? Maybe it didn't work. Even then, no one would throw it away. They must have lost it. How do you loose something that valuable? Maybe it went to the wrong place without them. Maybe someone threw it away deliberately? Is it safe? What if I could travel in time?

Chapter Two

Uleesia walked back and forth in her workshop for hours. She was too excited and too terrified to work. She counted the minutes until Hector would leave. Forty-seven. How could she deal with her anticipation for that long? She went outside, but came back in again. She sat down but stood up again. She forced herself to run around the neighborhood, but it did little to ease her nerves.

Part of her was thrilled. Ever since she had decided she could travel in time, she had looked forward to this day. She was going to go tminutes into the future. After that, she could do anything. She could make herself rich or famous. She already had a record of stock history for the last century in her pocket. She could live on an island or in the past. She would commission a skyscraper. She could even prevent wars.

Another part of her knew that her hopes were too high. The machine probably wouldn't do a thing, and she would not be able to make it work in a million years. If it did work, that was even worse. It would tear her apart. She could cause a paradox and destroy the whole universe, though she felt like a pretentious snob for even thinking she had that power. Her doubts had kept her working on the machine for months after she figured out how to control it. Her patience waned, however, and at last she set a date. Now she had only to wait for Hector's departure. What if he comes back tomorrow, she wondered, and finds me dead. After all, there must be a reason why this machine was thrown away. She shook the notion from her head and sat down uneasily on the floor.

Hector did eventually leave. Uleesia opened the box with the machine in it. She double-checked the coordinates of her destination on a panel much like the clock display. If all went well, she would disappear and arrive exactly where she was, plus or minus a millimeter, in three minutes. She stared at the machine, and then put it on her lap. Closing her eyes and silencing her thoughts, she pressed the button.

The next instant, Uleesia felt the temperature go up. She felt something moist beneath her. The time machine was still with her. The world before her closed eyes was brighter than it had been. Something had gone very wrong. She opened her eyes.

There was short, young wheat growing as far as she could see in any direction. She stood up and brushed soil off her pants. After a minute of staring mutely at nothing in particular, her brain kicked in again. I am not in my workshop. Why? Where am I? How do I get back? Am I in the present? Past? Future?

She grabbed a screwdriver from her pocket and opened the time machine. This could be the year sixty billion, she thought. I could have just gotten a hundred new viruses and parasites. I might be totally unable to reach civilization. What if I can't fix my time machine? She located the clock and anxiously looked at the date. Six years! She had traveled six years and five months into the past. A smile overwhelmed her face and she became light-headed with relief. It wasn't what she had been planning, but at least she knew she wasn't about to be eaten by a dinosaur.

Uleesia began to walk through field after field of fresh crops. For a few miles, she stared at her surroundings. She had only been to a Designated Agriculture Zone on field trips, and she had never been able to walk in it or touch the plants. As her legs tired and her bliss faded, she began to study her information on the stock market. After several more miles (her time machine provided her coordinates) she had completely memorized the most profitable stocks of the next month and desperately wanted something to drink. She still saw no sign of human population.

As the sun moved shyly toward the horizon, Uleesia explored her options. The most tempting was to sleep then and there. Her internal clock told her it was long past her bedtime. She ruled that option out, however, because she knew she would regret it later when she awoke sorer and colder than she already was. She could use the time machine. She knew better than to push her luck, though. If it did not work the first time, there was no reason for it to work now. The next option was to call someone. Because she was off the Network, she would have to know the communications address of the person she wanted to call. That ruled out everyone but herself and the police.

Calling herself was quite an amusing idea. She knew, however, that it would do her no good. She knew that if someone called her, claiming to be Uleesia and asking for a ride, her reaction would not involve finding the strange stranger and giving her a hand. It would involve hanging up and reporting the call to the authorities. They would review it a few years later and say, "Hmm. Interesting. This call is confusing. It seems that she called herself and then reported it. Next.

Calling the police was the one remaining option. The trouble was that Uleesia did not have an acceptable excuse to give them once they arrived. She sat down and tried to think of one. Ten hours later, she woke up to the chirping of birds. She groaned and stretched out her legs. She took off her shoe and activated the emergency signal. A few minutes later, a police craft arrived.

What's wrong? What are you doing here?" asked the police officer in the driver's seat. He looked a bit tired. The passenger seemed like more of a morning person, but probably only because of the cup of hot coffee in his hands.

I need a ride home.

What are you doing here?" asked the driver. The passenger pushed a button to open a door for Uleesia. She climbed into the vehicle.

I live in the eighth sector of square seventeen.

There are only sixteen squares."
Really? Are you sure?

Where do you live?

Oh! Oh my. I live in Somuelepar.

Somuelepar? How did you get from there to here without a vehicle?

Uleesia pondered over her response for a while, then said, "I'm not quite sure. I'll give you folks a call when I've worked out the details." The driver rolled his eyes and started briefing the passenger on his plans for the day. Five minutes later, they were on Uleesia's block. She thanked the officers and walked up to her door. She pulled out her key, but then thought better of it. Instead, she entered through the shop door.

There, behind the desk, sat another Uleesia. She looked up from the computer she was mending and stared for several seconds. "Can I help you?

Hi. I'm Uleesia.

Really." The Uleesia behind the counter looked skeptical. It was probably a prank. One of her friends must have met someone who looked like her, dressed her up in overalls and a grey T-shirt, and told her to come to the shop as Uleesia.

Really." She pulled out her identification card and gave it to Uleesia. "I'm you.

Uleesia looked at the card, smiled, and laughed. "Was this Victor's idea?

Nope. Mine. I really am you. Ask me anything.

Who was your preschool teacher?

I never went to preschool, as you should know," replied Uleesia smugly. Her twin looked amused.

Where is my birthmark?

Uleesia did not answer. Instead, she turned her arm and showed her younger self, who couldn't quite believe her eyes. She looked down at her own arm and back at Uleesia's. "Wow. How did you... What?

It's an interesting story, and I'm afraid I've just spoiled the ending." Uleesia sat down and began to repair an oven, to further demonstrate her identity. "I found a machine in the scrapyard. I didn't know what it was for, but I figured it out after a while. I figured out how it worked. It took me months of tampering before I got myself to actually try it. I was going to go three minutes into the future. I ended up here. Rather, I ended up in this year, one day ago, in a Designated Agriculture Zone. I got a lift here from the police.

Time machine?

I knew you'd like that part.

Time travel has been proven impossible at least five different ways.

Uleesia reinstalled the screws she had just removed from the oven. "It's better now. It would have taken you an hour to repair, but I already knew what was wrong with it. I repaired this exact stove six years ago. Don't ask me how, but time travel is possible.

No, it isn't!

I know, I know. It happened, though, so it must be.

It's impossible. You can't travel faster than light. You would end up with an infinite mass and time would slow to zero. Relativity.

Yes, I know about relativity. I'm you, remember? And as far as I could tell, I didn't travel faster than the speed of light. I would be dead.

Exactly. It's not possible.

But it is." Uleesia pulled the time machine out of her backpack. "I have to fix it before I can do anything with it, though. For that, I'll need to use your workshop. If you'll put up with me for the next month or two, I can be of great assistance to you. I can fix things, I can teach you stuff, and I can make you filthy rich." She pulled out her stock record and handed it to Uleesia.

Uleesia took the stock market record an examined it carefully. She turned to the stove and inspected the repairs. She grabbed Uleesia's arm and compared their birthmarks. She sat down and stared at Uleesia's face for several minutes. Then she walked up to Uleesia and pulled at her hair, in case it was a wig. She checked the roots for a different color. She rubbed at the birthmark to see if it was makeup. "One more thing," she said. "What's my Citizen's ID?

Anyone could find that out. Why not ask for something only you know?

Just say it." Uleesia obeyed. Her skeptical twin nodded when she was finished and said, "It wasn't the numbers, but the emphasis. You stressed the right syllables and paused in all the right places. You can stay and use the workshop. I can't believe this. It's incredible!

Uleesia and Uleesia got along amicably for the next week. One gradually bought all the most profitable stocks while the other read absolutely everything she could on relativity, time travel, obscure theories, and paradoxes. When nothing helpful came up, she broadened her search to include physics in general. She bounced ideas off Uleesia and sometimes contacted professors to discus her situation. (She pretended it was hypothetical. Professors, she learned, loved hypothetical situations.) None of their solutions proved useful. The only lead Uleesia had were the words, "Pulse range exceeded" in the travel log. Before she tried traveling through time, it had said that only once. Now there were two iterations. Uleesia returned to the machine. As she explored it, she explained what she knew about each part to her younger self.

The younger Uleesia learned to to trust the older Uleesia. The information she had provided on stocks was completely accurate, but she had more to offer than money. She knew about history. "Who's going to win the election?

That's up to you.

What do you mean?

Who you you want to win?

Collamore, of course. As if you didn't know.

Collamore will be assassinated next month, on July 15, just after noon. We know about it, and we can prevent it.

Uleesia's jaw dropped. "Who would assassinate Colllamore? Can we really stop it? Won't that change the course of history? Anyways, what would we do to stop an assassination attempt?

Yes, changing the course of history is the point. All we would have to do is call in with an anonymous tip.

Why anonymous? Well, I guess we wouldn't want to make them suspicious. Go ahead. Make the call. We can save his life!

That would change how your stocks work out. Things won't be the same. Hopefully, though, people will be better off.

And we still have another month. I've made several million dollars off stocks already, and my portfolio is worth much more than that. It's not really necessary to keep trading. We should do something with the money. Lets start by getting a new house. The sky's the limit.

Uleesia and Uleesia spent many happy hours looking at luxurious mansions and deeming them inadequate. They continued researching fixes for the time machine, but with less enthusiasm. When the day came for Collamore's would-be assassination, the younger Uleesia was at home selling the last of her stocks and the older Uleesia was finalizing the purchase of a very large house. While she was speaking to the owner, his wife burst into the room. "Richard, you'll never believe it. Someone tried to kill Ivan Collamore! They almost succeeded, too. Apparently someone from Collamore's personal security team uncovered the plot just in time. Turn on the news.

The screen showed Ivan's car stopped feet away from an exploded bridge and surrounded by people. Why did he even go that way? He knew what was going to happen. I gave the exact time and location. The picture changed to show a reporter. She was speaking to a man named Joseph Simmons. "Do you have any suspects in custody?

We believe the assassination attempt was planned by a group of violent anarchists. We have seven of them in jail and are presently searching for more. There could be any number of people behind the plot.

Is it true that Mr. Collamore awarded you a million dollars for uncovering the plot and saving his life?

He has been very generous.

Thank you." The picture changed. It now showed seven people of varying ages being directed to jail cells. Some were shouting, some were crying. One was already seated in the corner of the cell, hugging her knees and glaring at the camera. The camera zoomed in as the reporter said, "This woman is believed to be the original conspirator. She has not yet said anything in her own defense, but keeps insisting that the others are all innocent." It was Uleesia.

Richard and his wife looked at the Uleesia on the screen and back at the Uleesia in their living room with mild surprise. "She looks just like you!

I have to go." Uleesia left without another word.

Chapter 3

Uleesia drove past her house. It was surrounded by reporters and police. There was yellow tape around the perimeter of the yard. She headed past the scrap yard she normally used and toward a smaller, older, and safer scrap yard on the outskirts of the city. She hadn't scavenged there in years. A tiny shudder rippled across her shoulders and down her back when she thought of the forty minutes it would take her to get there. Anyone might recognize her. Admittedly, she was six years older than the Uleesia they had seen in the news, but she hadn't changed much in that time. Furthermore, she was driving the truck that was missing from Uleesia's house. She flinched inwardly every time someone turned a head in her direction.

She was certain that Uleesia would not be tried fairly. There was too much panic about the attempt to take Ivan's life. The government must have traced her call back to Uleesia's home. They must have wondered how Uleesia knew so much. But why had they arrested her if they believed she was the one who saved Ivan's life? Even if they though she was involved in some way, why would they have given credit to Joseph Simmons? What chance would Uleesia stand once they found the chemicals and explosives she used for repairs? How would she explain why she knew about the assassination?

If only she had never made that call! She had thought herself righteous at the time, but now Uleesia was in jail, and she was running away rather than helping. She could do nothing. If she confessed to making the call, they still wouldn't release Uleesia, and she would wind up in jail for identity fraud. She couldn't stand as a witness for Uleesia, because her story was not even slightly believable. They wouldn't let her in court in the first place without identification. She was powerless to help unless she could fix her time machine.

Uleesia was not even sure she could fix it. After months of studying the machine, she still had no idea how it worked. It must have come from the far future. The technology was more advanced than anything Uleesia had believed possible, much less repairable. Her strongest hope was that she would be able to make it work by doing something to its surroundings, rather than fixing one of a billion possible errors in the mechanism. She would begin with the pulse range.

Uleesia arrived at the scrap yard. She walked in and surveyed the mounds of rejected parts efficiently. She picked up the first sharp thing she saw- a pair of rusty shears. She returned to her truck, stationed herself in front of the rear-view mirror, and chopped her hair to shoulder length. Without bothering to inspect her new haircut from all angles, she returned to the scrap yard and started picking up junk at random. A large piece of corrugated metal. A broken cup. A box full of batteries. As she walked, she listed off names in her head, trying to decide on her new identity. She wanted to dissociate herself as much as possible from the convicted Uleesia.

The day grew older, colder, and grayer. Uleesia had pieced together a new name for herself from the initials of Marks & Norris, Inc, the label on a piece of scrap. She decided to call herself Emenai. She started a fire with a discarded, nearly burnt out lighter and tossed in her identification card. She pulled old family photos out of her wallet and burned all but one, a picture of herself from six years ago. She hid it in her truck.

Around four, Emenai stopped gathering new things and started working with what she had collected. Using a block of iron as an ad hoc hammer, she nailed together the sheet of corrugated metal and a few file cabinets to create a work table. She affixed a piece of plastic to a broken drum to create a chair. She added a footstool and a small stand. Every surface was angled slightly to prevent the collection of rainwater. Finally, she constructed a box to hold the time machine.

She sat and surveyed her surroundings, ignoring her growling stomach. The sky was overcast. The dirt beneath her feet was barely visible between the nuts and bolts and small, sharp pieces of iron. Shoulder-height mounds encircled her. Besides a small and distant corner of her rusted red pickup truck, everything she saw was gray. She set to work clearing more space around her little setup, picking up useful things as she went.

After a few more hours of work, she admitted to herself that she would have to eat. That meant she would have to steal food. There was no use in putting it off and causing herself misery. Besides that, she wanted a break from her labor. She got in her car and drove away from the city, into the Designated Agriculture Zones. She looked around furtively, then hid herself in a corn field, collecting armfuls of ripe corn heads. She brought them back to her truck and returned for more to delay her next trip. She walked through the field until she saw an irrigation pipe, then followed it until she found an opening. She turned the valve and collected water in containers she had brought specifically for the purpose. She brought it back to her car and stowed it below the seats.

Emenai lived in this manner for weeks. Every day she grew more impatient for a warm bed and a good meal. She became more and more desperate to fix the time machine and get out. She once risked driving near Uleesia's house, but it was still surrounded by yellow tape and there was a police car parked in front of it. Even if there were no one present, Emenai knew that her neighbors would notify the police if they suspected someone was living there. So much had changed in the past weeks.

Emenai could now see why Joseph Simmons had been awarded a million dollars. He was Ivan's ideal citizen, what he wanted to encourage in everyone. Joseph worked for Ivan, he informed on the assassin, and he acted like Ivan's puppet. He probably was Ivan's puppet. He obviously knew the whole thing was an act. He was probably paid a thousand dollars to tell everyone he had been given a million. People saw his example and began to inform on their own acquaintances. Meanwhile, Uleesia sat in jail because Emenai made the call that Joseph claimed for himself. If she even was given a trial, it would not go well.

A trial was no longer a guarantee. Anyone arrested under suspicion of treason, rebellion, anarchy, or terrorism was simply thrown into jail. A month or two later, they got five or ten minutes to defend themselves in front of a 'judge,' and then they were sent away to some cold, empty wasteland.

Though Emenai knew nothing of what happened to prisoners after they were arrested, she had begun to get a feel for Ivan's idea of what the government should be. There were posters to be seen everywhere with warnings against discontent and unrest. Rebellious acts, including everything from plotting murder to defacing government property, were punishable by death. She did not hear the rumors that spread slowly and quietly in the cities. People said that Ivan was making new laws. They said he was censoring things. They said he was behind the death of no less than twelve government officials. Theirs was the first accidental plane crash in two hundred years.

Most people, however, were in full support of Ivan's steadily growing power. They still believed in him wholeheartedly and stood behind all his words and actions. He told them that anarchists were a threat to national safety and stability, so they hated anyone who didn't love the government just as it was. They cheered as they watched prisoners thrown mercilessly into jail. They considered it a personal triumph if one of Ivan's opponents was convicted and sentenced to the full extent of the law, which they had worked hard to extend as much as possible.

The latest creation of Ivan's advocates was a "Stronger, better police force." Ivan was now the head of an elite division of officers called the Peace Enforcement Police Division. No one pointed out too loudly that peace enforcement should be the job of not just the enforcers, but of the police as a whole. No one wanted to be on an enforcer's bad side.

Emenai had already seen one of the Enforcement. He caught her attention because he was wearing a suit. Not only was he wearing a suit, but it looked expensive enough that he ought to have been mugged about five times within the past hour. He had not been. Emenai sat behind a pile of scrap metal and watched him walk purposefully to a teen drawing in the dirt outside a bar. The enforcer pointed at something on the wall, which Emenai knew to be a "No loitering" sign. The boy stood up and started taking little steps backwards as the enforcer approached him. Emenai could hear the menacing tone in his voice and imagined he was threatening a life of prison, or possibly paralysis. The boy's head turned back and forth again and again. He backed into a wall. The enforcer walked up to him and punched him in the stomach, hard. Even before the boy caught his breath he scrambled up and ran away at top speed, almost tripping in his haste. When the enforcer started to pursue him, he thrust his hand into his pocket and threw down his wallet, along with everything else that happened to be in his pocket. The enforcer seemed to change his mind about pulverizing the boy. He picked up the wallet and walked away in search of someone else to exhort.

After this incident, Emenai began to research Ivan. Her truck, as old as it was, at least had Network access. She sat down and unfolded an old, nearly burnt out screen from the dashboard, taking care not to snap it. She spent the next three hours reading between the lines of Ivan's proposed legislation, chasing after traces of critical commentaries that seemed to have been removed by a hacker, and pulling at her hair. There was some criticism of Ivan, but anything that looked relevant or promising, anything beyond "Ivan's a loser," wouldn't load. Most of it had been hacked away by the same means, and she was unable to find any of it entirely. She had to form her own conclusions.

The Enforcement, it seemed, was limited just as much as the rest of the police, but they didn't bother asking permission before searching a house, arresting a person, or using force because they knew Ivan would grant it. What Ivan called a "select group" was actually expanding into a force almost the size of the army. Police and soldiers could join after only two weeks of training, and civilians after five or six. Thousands of police officers transferred daily, and unemployment had dropped by two percent already. If every enforcer was as selfish as the one Emenai had seen, there was no hope for the nation.

To remove Ivan from office was impossible. He had the majority and the Enforcement. If his majority dwindled, he'd just replace it with more Enforcement. He was always careful to make things legal before doing them, so there was no way to kick him out for breaking the law. Some day, though, he would step out of line. Some day the people would rise against him. Uleesia envisioned a mass of angry people throwing themselves up against the Enforcement. They wouldn't stand a chance.

Uleesia did not want to think about it. She turned back to her work. She was meticulously searching through the time machine for anything that could create a pulse of any kind. She knew everything that was in it, but she rarely knew what each part was for. After a few days, she found it through sheer luck. A little box had the words, "Range: 12m," printed on it. Twelve meters. Inside it said, "Caution: Strong electric charge." She decided not to touch it.

How could it have exceeded its range? Was it unstable when she used it? Had it collected too much charge? Did it need to have parameters? She tried to think of ways to reduce the electric pulse or confine it within twelve meters. Nothing came to mind, but she was certain there was a solution. She called everyone she knew who knew something about science.

Hello? This is Emenai. I want to ask you about an electric pulse that's giving me difficulties. Do you have a minute, Professor Howl?

Uleesia? Uleesia, is that you?" asked the proffesor through a thick accent.

No. No, I am Emenai. I was your student once.

No. I never had a student who is called Emenai. You are Uleesia. I know who my students have been. Why you are not in jail? What do you call for?

I wanted to ask you about a machine I'm working on. I don't understand it. It says that it has exceeded the pulse range. I don't even know how the pulse works. I need a way to keep it within twelve meters, though.

You will use a Faraday cage, or maybe you will keep inside a magnetic field. Why you are not in jail?

I'm not Uleesia. I am Emenai. What's a Faraday cage? How would I set up a magnetic field like that?

Emenai. Why you are not in jail?

Thanks for your help. Goodbye." Emenai hung up. None of her other professors had recognized her voice. None of them had doubted that they had once had a student named Emenai. What if Howl contacted the Enforcement? If they traced her call back to the scrap yard, they would know it was her. Emenai toppled over her makeshift desk and threw junk on it. She could already hear sirens. She ran to her truck and tried to think of somewhere to hide. Nowhere came to mind. She turned around to see no less than three enforcement vehicles in the distance.

Emenai took off at a normal speed at first. She turned down the first road she could. The enforcement followed close behind. She sped up, quickly reaching top speed. There was no question of who the Enforcers were after. She looked in horror at their fast-approaching cars in her mirror. They were close enough that she could see them leaning forward in their seats. She looked back up just in time to see that she was about to drive off the road. She swerved and kept driving. The enforcement had come up to he sides of her car. One was behind her and another was trying to pass in front of her. Then they would start to decelerate and she would be trapped between them.

Chapter Four

In spite of her situation, Emenai was almost glad the Enforcers were chasing her. It meant that they did not think she was dead, which meant that Uleesia must still be alive. When she thought about it, Emenai knew it should not have mattered if Uleeisa was dead or alive, since she intended to stop the whole situation from ever happening. Still, she knew that it did matter, if for no other reason than that she wanted Uleesia alive. She took a deep breath and turned to look at the time machine in her passenger seat. It wasn't safe. Going with the Enforcers might even be safer, but she knew she had to use it. If she was captured, she would never be able to fix the mess she had made of the world and Uleesia would be at Ivan's mercy for the rest of her life. Emenai would be no better off. If the Enforcers got the time machine, Emenai could not even begin to imagine what Ivan would try.

The Enforcers gradually started to decelerate, but Emenai pushed on at full speed to buy herself time. The driver in front of her was not confident that stopping would be safe, so he sped up again. Emenai looked over the settings on the time machine. She had programmed it to got to the Designated Agriculture Zone where she had first landed accidentally, at around the same time. She tried not to think of things that could go wrong. The first time she used it had been bad enough. This time she knew it was broken and might do anything. Just then she heard a tremendous bang and her whole truck shook. Her back tire had been shot. She swerved off the road so the car behind her would not run into her. The Enforcer had not been bright enough to slow down before popping her tire. She stopped the car as quickly as possible, shut her eyes, and activated the time machine, hoping desperately that it would actually work after she had tampered with it so much.

A split second after she pressed the button, Emenai realized she should have prepared herself to fall down when her seat disappeared. Her seat, however, did not disappear. She opened her eyes. Before she had time to realize what had happened, Uleesia appeared a few yards in front of her. They were in the Designated Agriculture Zone. Emenai jumped out of the truck and shouted, "Wait!

Uleesia jumped around to face her. "Whoa." Emenai walked toward her and sat down.

I'm you, Uleesia. Here's the thing, though. You're in the past, but I'm older than you.


Give me a minute. I just escaped a pack of blood-thirsty Enforcers. Police, that is. I'm dizzy. I didn't know that truck could go two hundred miles an hour." She lowered herself all the way to the ground and breathed deeply for a few minutes. Her head was aching and her vision blacked out almost entirely. Eventually some blood returned to her head. Her heart slowed and her sight returned. Meanwhile, Uleesia looked at the date and tried to figure out what had happened.

Why did you have to escape the police?

All sorts of stuff went wrong. I'll get there. I'm starting at the beginning, though. First of all, I need to know if you're the same me I think you are. Tell me about what you've just done. Was this your first time testing the time machine? Have you ever seen another of us?

This is the first time. I didn't come to the right place, though. I meant to go a few minutes into the future, not six years into the past. You're the only other me I've seen.

Alright. Here's what happened after I landed here, like you just did. I freaked out for a bit, then went to my own house. I met Uleesia and told her about the time machine. I tried to fix the time machine. Obviously it was somehow broken, since it took me here. I saved Ivan Collamore's life with an anonymous tip. He rewarded someone else for it and arrested me, saying I was the primary conspirator behind the assassination attempt. He arrested the wrong me, though. He arrested Uleesia. I hid and changed my name. I'm Emenai now. Ivan turned out to be... not so great. He was well along his way to becoming a dictator, and not a nice one. He sent his Enforcers after me. I guess they thought Uleesia escaped or something when they heard I was around. I had to try using the time machine, and here I am. I'm here to tell you never to save Ivan's life, for Uleesia's sake and for everyone else he imprisoned and killed.

Wow. Thanks for the heads up. What do I do now, then? Did you figure out how to fix the time machine?

No, but I have some more ideas. It worked just now. There was something about a Faraday cage or a magnetic field. I'll figure something out." They went back to the truck and found that the tires were all gone. There were no shreds of rubber clinging to the wheels. The time machine must have decided to leave them behind.

Emenai had a few hundred dollars in her pocket from her days of affluence before Uleesia was arrested. She called a cab and found a place to stay. The next morning, they invested most of the remaining money in stocks. After a little research, they found what was wrong with the time machine, why it did not take the truck's tires, and how to fix it. After spending months working on the device, they were a bit frustrated to find such a simple solution, but still ecstatic. They found that a Feraday cage was nothing more than a metal enclosure. It was how the machine determined what to take with it. It sent out a pulse to search for the nearest metal parameters. When there were no parameters, it would do its best to find out what to take with sonar and some complicated algorithms. After it worked those things out, though, it returned to the wrong spot in its program and mixed up the destination's coordinates.

Emenai had looked at the machine's programming. It looked very complicated. She suspected it was based on ternary, rather than binary, logic. It made her head spin just thinking about it. She knew better than to try fixing the code. Instead, she built herself a metal cage. "Uleesia," she asked, "Where do you want to go?

Everywhere. Starting with the Roaring Twenties.

Awesome. And then the future.

When do we leave?

Tomorrow. Do your research.

Is the time machine ready? I'm going to test it. If it works, I'll withdraw the money from my bank account, go back in time an hour and withdraw it then, go back another hour and withdraw it again, etc. As far as I can tell, all the money will still exist right in my pocket, just like both of us and both of our time machines exist.

Don't mess with anything. Try to be inconspicuous. When you're done, deposit some money in our present to make it like it never changed. I'll find some appropriate 1920's attire." Emenai worried a little that Uleesia would try to do something, but it was only a trip to the bank. She turned back to her computer and scrolled through a catalog of 1920's costumes. They were quite amusing. Who's idea was it to twist and weave cotton, then cut it up and stick it back together with more twisted cotton? As if that were not enough, most had beads, sequins, and feathers. Uleesia reappeared with a grin all over her face and a case full of money. Emenai selected twelve of the ludicrous dresses and ordered them all. "They'll be here before tomorrow. Now we just need some currency. We can buy some gold and exchange it for money there.

Good thinking. I'll go get some. I'll pick up the dresses too. We can go as soon as we've put them on." She climbed into the cage and told the time machine to take her to the future. She reappeared a moment later surrounded by dresses and holding a few gold bars. She held up one of the dresses and asked, "Did they really wear these? This looks so dorky.

Just put one on. Anyways, not all of them are that bad." They laughed hysterically as they tried on each of the dresses. Then they styled one another's hair and practiced different accents. They were still giggling uncontrollably when they arrived in 1928.

Their destination was St. Louis, Missouri. They had been looking forward to seeing and living in the culture for a while, learning to be a part of it. The first thing they noticed, though, was the air. "Whoa. This smells so weird. What is it?

I don't know," replied Uleesia. "It's probably pollution. They won't start spreading it out evenly for another five hundred years. Look at those smokestacks!

Cool. Should we go inside? No, I want to go shopping. First we have to get some money." They grabbed their gold, which they had been careful to place in such a way that it would not confuse the time machine's parameters, but would still be included on the journey. They hid away the cage and time machines beneath a bush and headed toward the city.

Excuse me, sir," Uleesia asked in her best imitation of a 1920's Northern American accent, "Could you direct me to a bank?

I sure could. Walk down two blocks in that direction and turn left on 15th.

Thanks." They went in the direction he had indicated and started arguing about the meaning of the word "block.

We've passed it already. Blocks weren't the same back then... now. Each of those buildings was a block. I think it's slang or something.

But there was no road to turn down there. No, a block is probably marked off somewhere. Lets just keep walking.

Do you think our dresses are wrong? He was looking at us peculiarly.

Maybe that's just because of my accent. Maybe it's because we look identical.

Perhaps. Hey, look! It says fifteen! I think we turn here.

We can try, anyways." They did try, and they did locate the bank. They went directly to a teller and asked, "Do you exchange money for gold?

Well, not typically. You see, we can't take your jewelry or heirlooms. We do keep gold bars in the vault, though. Perhaps a jeweler could help you.

Uleesia pulled a bar of gold out of her handbag and set it on the counter. "Is this right?

The teller's eyes lit up and he said "Yes!" with just a bit too much enthusiasm. He poked at it with a pocket knife and weighed it. "Yes, I can buy this from you." He offered them a sum of money right out of his back pocket.

Emenai narrowed her eyes, and Uleesia exclaimed, "What do you take us for? We know the value of what we have, and we intend to sell it to the bank, not a slimy crook such as yourself. This is worth over twenty dollars per Troy ounce and you're handing me a fistful of tens? Unacceptable. If you cannot pay me eight thousand dollars for the bar, I'm sure your manager can.

No need to go to the manager! I can pay it." He scurried away and came back with the money, not making eye contact at all. He bought Emenai's bar of gold as well. They left the bank and went to the nearest shop. Although they knew the value of the gold, they did not know the value of anything they tried to buy. Nevertheless, long experience in bartering had taught them the skills they needed to get fair deals on all their extravagant purchases. They bought hats, pastries, and three different types of radios. They wandered around the town, seeing what it had to offer and pointing unabashedly whenever something interested them.

When they tired of walking, they went into a restaurant and ordered the most expensive things on the menu. Lobsters, they discovered, were difficult to eat. They tasted good, though, in a way quite foreign to them. They talked in hushed voices for the entire time about all the things they had seen. They were astounded by it all.

That night they took a room in a magnificent hotel. The walls were marble, the ceiling guilded, the stairways elegantly curved, and the beds unbelievably comfortable. Before falling asleep, they deconstructed the radios and figured out in just under ten minutes exactly how they worked. They slept soundly and did not wake up until well after ten o' clock the next morning.

Lets stay here a while, Emenai. I like it.

I agree. I want to get to know some of the people.

They don't really seem like real people. It seems kind of superficial when you know you're only visiting.

No, they're real. It's not as if they're all preforming an elaborate drama for us to stay in. They're living their lives without even a clue as to who we are. Why should they care? They have lives of their own.

Lets get some breakfast. I love the food here. I've never tasted stuff with so much flavor before.

Agreed" They went downstairs and ate pancakes. They discovered that syrup was revoltingly sweet, but strawberries were marvelous in every way. They left the hotel and wandered around downtown until they found a store with strawberries. The bought a basket full of strawberries and a loaf of good bread, then set off in search of a good spot for a picnic.

As they wandered down the banks of the Mississippi, they felt they could stand to live there forever. To them, St. Louis was a quaint and charming village. The houses were all different shapes and the factories were owned by just anyone. The streets were filled with people walking and talking. No one sat in a gray home doing the same thing every day. They walked to jobs all over the city. At night, they did not go home and sleep. They went to parties or speakeasies. They entertained friends or turned on their radios to listen to nonsensical fiction. It seemed like a beautiful way to live.

How do you suppose things changed so much?" asked Uleesia. "It seems so perfect here.

It does. Nothing is perfect, though. If we stay here long enough, we'll get used to the way things are and we'll begin to see what's wrong under the surface.

Yeah, probably. It'll still be beautiful, though.

Will we stay?

I don't think we can when there's so much to see. We can go anywhere, Emenai. There's no way we can stay here when the whole world is before us.

What good is that if we can't stop to enjoy it a bit?

We will enjoy it. Aren't you enjoying yourself now?

Is that what we'll do, then? Wander around enjoying stuff for the rest of our lives? I wonder if we could ever tire of that. Probably not.

It seems kind of insubstantial, though, when you put it that way. Superficial. We can do more than that, though.

What are you saying?

We don't just have to sit though things. We can change them. We can make a world that everyone can enjoy.

I don't know." Emenai felt uneasy. "Is it okay to change things like that? What if we messed stuff up?

Then we would have to fix it. I'm just saying that when we're bored of sitting around and enjoying stuff, like these devine strawberries, we can do something worthwhile.

Even if you fix it with the time machine, it's not like it never happened.

That's the beauty of it. It is like it never happened. We're the only one's who'll remember it. It won't affect the future. It's no more substantial than a nightmare.

But what if the people in your nightmares actually existed? You can't make them suffer and just forget about it like that.

Why not? It never happened. Anyways, the goal is to make people suffer less. I think that's worth any amount of imaginary suffering.

What about those 'imaginary' sufferers? Do you think its okay to just..." Emenai paused. She thought of all the suffering she had caused by saving Ivan. Had all those people been totally irrelevant? Was it okay that she had ended their existence? Or did they continue to exist in some unobtainable universe? She didn't like either option, but she posed the question anyways. "Is it really okay just to make those people stop existing?

If they're suffering, then isn't it better to go back a step and try again?

You lose things when you go back. Like Uleesia. I got to know her when I went back in time. That Uleesia is gone now. We could have visited her precursor when you and I first met in the Designated Agriculture Zone, but that Uleesia will never become the Uleesia I knew. And what about children who were born after I saved Ivan? Not all of them will be born now. People will make different decisions. I saved them from what Ivan did, but I probably ended some really good things too. For all I know, that world could have been better in the long run. I just couldn't deal with it. I stopped it. Was I right to?

Sure. Why not? It's not like you killed them or something. You just made sure they never happened.

I still feel bad about it. It doesn't seem right that I should be able to decide if someone should exist or not.

Maybe they still do exist. Maybe it's just in some alternate universe, where they keep on living without you.

That would be even worse. Then I wouldn't have fixed anything by coming to stop you. Then I would have left Uleesia in Ivan's hands.

It's not your problem anymore. They may exist, they may not. Either way, there's nothing you can do about it.

But I caused all that. I still feel wretched because of it, and now you're saying you want to try.

I want to make the world better. You just want to eat strawberries for the rest of your life.

I'm you, remember, but with more experience in this. Just trust that you would feel the same if you had the same experience. Don't try it. You don't want this.

Uleesia relented and said, "I wish you wouldn't feel so guilty about all this. Even if you did do something wrong, it's too late to do anything about it.

I'll try." They finished their picnic and discussed their next destination. "I'd like to visit the far future. I want to see what they invent.

How far?

A hundred years after our native time." It was an exciting prospect. Riskier, perhaps, than visiting the 1920's, but worthwhile. They gathered their things and prepared to leave.

Author's Note: I haven't written the next few chapters yet. During the omitted chapters, Emenai and Uleesia visit the future. They meet older versions of themselves and character development ensues. Uleesia (the younger one) wants to bring medicine from the future to the past, but Emenai (the younger one) tells her that could lead to any number of horrible things, which she describes in detail. Uleesia says that it's wrong of them not to bring back the medicine. She says it would make things better, but if it did make things worse, they could go back and undo their action. Uleesia still feels guilty about having done that when she saved Collamore and insists that it's wrong to fix things that way because it means overwriting a multitude of people and events. They get in a big argument and Uleesia uses her time machine to disappear. Poof!

Later Still

Emenai paced back and forth, wondering what Uleesia was up to. Her best assumption was that Uleesia had gone off to pout for a while and eventually decided to apologize, but not until Emenai had time to cool off. She would probably go forward an hour and set things right then.

Emenai did indeed see Uleesia about an hour later. She heard a knock at the door and opened it for Uleesia. She looked awful, as if she hadn't slept or showered in days. Uleesia looked at Emenai for a silent moment, her face flat. She shuddered and the next moment Uleesia's eyes were filled with tears and she was hugging Emenai. It didn't take Emenai long to see that the crisis was something more than their argument. She tried again and again to calm Uleesia, who still had not said a word.

What's the matter, Uleesia? What's wrong?

Hugging her knees and trying to control her voice, Uleesia replied, "I saw the most awful things. I shouldn't have stayed. I should have left. I feel horrible."
Where were you? What happened? Are you alright?

Uleesia tried to answer, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. "I have to go." She punched a few buttons on her time machine and disappeared. A moment later she reappeared with clean clothes, wet hair, and a solemn expression. "I went back. I saw people killing each other. They were savage and revolting." She took a deep breath. "I saw them kill one another.

What are you talking about? When?

I don't know." Understandably enough, Uleesia did not seem to have complete control of her emotions. Emenai tried to think of something less distressing to ask.

Are you okay? Are you hurt?

I'm okay." She did not seem to be physically hurt, but Uleesia was clearly uneasy. After a few minutes of silence, she said, "I went back in time and I tried to stop the Reaulian Civil War. I did stop it. I went into the future and saw that it had never happened. Everything was worse. Everything was dreadful. So I fixed it. I stopped myself from trying to fix it the way I did. Nothing worked out like it should have. I need to find a better way of fixing it. I need to try again.

NO!" shouted Emenai with a force that surprised even her. She apologized for her outburst, but after a minute's thoughts, said, "What were you thinking? Don't you see what you could have done? What you probably did do? You can't just fix that!

I had to! Don't you see what good we can do? We alone have what it would take to fix the world. It's our responsibility!" Uleesia's justifications were her only defense against an overwhelming guilt. She searched vainly for a hint of agreement in Emenai's face. She found none.

You aren't fixing it. Look what you've done!

You don't even know what happened. It never happened! I haven't done anything. It never even happened!

What did you do? What happened in that future?" Emenai's voice was low and menacing.

It was dreadful," moaned Uleesia. Emenai saw that she looked truly pitiful, but she kept careful watch of the sympathy that tried to sneak into her. "Everyone was so horrible," Uleesia continued. "Everyone!" She shuddered. "They ripped each other to bits. They were revolting. I think it was a war. I stayed for a whole month, but nothing got better.

You started a war?" Emenai abandoned her seat and met Uleesia's eyes with merciless fury. It was understandable, perhaps, that things had gone wrong. Uleesia probably couldn't have predicted a war. Still, the way she spoke about it, however, was unacceptable. She seemed to pity herself for seeing it more than the people who experienced it.

It's gone now. It's gone. Gone!

How can you say that? People died, Uleesia! Hundreds of thousands of people died because you wanted to help them. You wanted to fix them. You wanted to feel good about yourself. You killed all those people, Uleesia, and now you want to try it again! It's revolting!

They're not dead, Emenai! They were never alive. They never existed. They never died, and they aren't dead.

You saw them. You saw them dying!

But they aren't even real." Uleesia stepped back against the wall.

No, because you decided that they shouldn't be. You decided that because you couldn't fix them, you would sit around for a while as they died, and then erase them from the universe entirely. Are you saying it's your choice if they should exist or not?

I'm doing all this to help them!

You're doing it so you'll feel like a hero. You aren't even sorry for what you did!" Emenai knew this was not true. She could see that Uleesia regretted every second of the future she had made. That did not stop her anger, though. She spoke viciously, trying to yank repentance out of Uleesia's conflicted soul.

Uleesia had indeed been sorry. With Emenai's words, however, every strain of remorse in her face was abruptly replaced with outrage. "How could you even say that? If I were only looking out for myself, I wouldn't have endured what I did. I wouldn't have put myself in so much danger.

What danger? You watched people destroy one another, all the while knowing that you were perfectly safe. I bet you even had your machine set to take you to a hospital sometime in the far future, just in case you broke a bone. Those people were dying! You don't have a single scratch on your body!

You weren't there. You can't know.

But those people died. You killed them, and now you feel sorry for yourself.

How can you say I killed them? Those men and women bought their weapons with money from their own pockets. I never gave them their hatred. I never gave them their ammunition, their violence, their inhumanity. They took it for themselves. It's not my fault! When I changed history, I did it to give them a second chance. I gave them the opportunity to make themselves better!

Better? You saw firsthand what happens when you try to change things. How can you still say it's for the best?

Because I fixed it. Those people didn't live and they didn't die. I never changed anything.

Emenai could hardly believe what her twin was saying. How could she be so insensitive? She might have understood if Uleesia made the same naïve choice she had when she changed time, but these were entirely different circumstances. Uleesia should have known better after Emenai's warnings. Unlike Emenai, she could have fixed things as soon as they began to turn sour, since her time machine was fully functional. Instead, she stayed to watch the events of the hideous scenario unfold. She wouldn't even admit to having done anything wrong.

Emenai marveled at how different she was from her other self. When she first began to see differences in personality, she thought it was just because Uleesia hadn't experienced what she had. However, now that Uleesia had ruined a universe to an even greater degree than Emenai had, she showed none of the remorse that Emenai had shown. If anything, she had come out more stubborn than ever.

Emenai realized that she no longer thought of Uleesia as her former self. Her former self would have felt very differently after seeing the horrors Uleesia had seen. Uleesia, however, never quite thought of it as reality. She was safe all along, so it didn't affect her. Because she had had Emenai to disagree with, she developed a stronger opinion. This opinion proved strong enough to stand through experiences that Emenai's former self could never have imagined.

Emenai felt that she no longer understood Uleesia. Though she heard and comprehended every word from her mouth, Emenai could not muster an ounce of sympathy for Uleesia's ideas. She couldn't believe the way Uleesia spoke of death like it was irrelevant. She couldn't imagine trying to repeat her actions with the risk of the same consequences. What could she do to convince Uleesia to stop destroying people? Her passionate arguments had not swayed Uleesia in the least.

They argued and they argued. The more they fought each other, the more disgusted each became with the other. Emenai was disgusted with the idea that death could be covered up, whereas Uleesia was astounded that Emenai did not want to improve the world. Each thought of the other as selfish. Each wondered how they had strayed so far from one another.

Why don't we just each do our own thing," said Uleesia after a long day of bickering and sandcastle making on a Jamaican beach.

You know I can't let you just go create and destroy worlds full of people.

You can't stop me.

But you want me on your side. Why else would you be here?

I don't want your help if you'll spend the whole time telling me how morally deficient I am for wanting to help." Uleesia was not really persisting in her argument because she wanted Uleesia to help her or travel with her, but because she had to. She needed someone to tell her she was not a murderer. She had always doubted her vigorous ascertains that she was right to do what she had done, but she could not afford to let them go. If she admitted she was wrong, she did not think she would ever be able to live with herself. It was hard enough already.

We've already discussed this. If you want to help, do it in the present." Emenai did not want to keep arguing either, but she could not condone Uleesia's actions.

That was the present."
You know what I mean by the word.

What's the difference between changing something from the past and something in the present?

How should I know? I don't understand how time works. I do, however, know that there is a difference. Don't tell me you don't see it.

I see it. Going to the past is more effective.

At killing people.

No, at everything. It just makes a bigger difference when you know what to change.

Differences come from subtraction. It's not worth the lives you take.

I don't take lives.

Yes, you do.

Even if I did kill them all, which I didn't, no one will miss them.

Don't you miss them?"
No. They're back now." She wouldn't let herself feel sorrow for the people she created.

Dead, Uleesia. They're dead.

No. How many times?

Too many. I don't want to hear your excuses." They built a marvelously large sandcastle and left it. Uleesia turned to another defense.

We can make the world better. We must make it better!

We can't. Anyways, who are you to decide what's better? Who are you to decide who should exist and who should not?

Emenai, we're the only ones who can do anything." She desperately wanted to go back and try again. She knew it was risky, but maybe she could do something to make up for her mistake. She could prove that she had been right to try. She could finish better than she had started. Perhaps it would even be worth it. Emenai wouldn't listen.

You're gambling with the world. You might hit the jackpot, but you'll lose too much along the way. You could ruin everything. Why not be content with the world like it is? Even if you do fix something, you won't be satisfied. You'll keep trying until you have nothing left. Eventually you will have destroyed so much that not even a perfect world will be enough to make up for it. But you'll keep trying, wishing you had stopped while you were ahead, trying to get back up to where you started.

It's not like that. I start over every time. The past, present, and future are completely different.

But the other worlds still happened, even if you're the only one who remembers. And that memory will make you keep trying. You won't be able to stop.

Emenai, I'm not supposed to stop trying. I'm supposed to make the world better. It might consume my whole life, but isn't it worth it? Or would you have me sit around and do nothing?

Doing nothing would be far better than what you've done.

I know it. But it's not better than what I could do.

What could four of you do? Eight? Sixty-four? Five hundred twelve? You wouldn't just be eating up your life. You would be duplicating yourself every time. Some of them might change. They could be as different from you as you are from me. But most of them would be just as obstinate as you are. They won't become better people. They will become worse and worse because of all the awful worlds they will have seen. Eventually one will be obstinate enough to refuse when you tell her not to change something. Eventually one will stop you. Even if they never try, you won't be able to keep it up. Before long, there will be too many of you.

Not trying would be wrong. I have the power to fix things. The world doesn't have to be a wreck.

The world isn't a wreck. I like it just the way it is, and I don't want you replacing me and everyone else with your bright, beautiful concoctions.

I'm trying to HELP!" Uleesia was livid. She glared red-faced at Emenai, angrily wondering how she could be so obstinate. She opened her mouth to shout again, but thought better of it and jammed her thumb into the button of her time machine. She knew that imagining herself on a warm sunny island to calm down was nothing compared to actually going there. She howled at the silent clouds and stomped her feet in the sand. She found a little tree and ripped off branches until her anger was spent.

Meanwhile, Emenai decided she didn't want to continue the argument immediately. When Uleesia reappeared, Emenai expected her to be more composed and less willing to listen. She would have come up with more arguments and prepared to shout them out until Emenai succumbed. Instead of waiting around for Uleesia's return, she used her own time machine to go to a meadow, where she laid down and tried to imagine what Uleesia must have been thinking.

What makes her think she's right? She probably just feels to guilty to admit she was wrong. If I make her feel more guilty, she'll just be more obstinate. If I tell her she did the right thing, she'll want to try again. Either way she does it. Why doesn't she just leave, then? She wants me to go with her. I won't, though. I can't let her mess with things. She wants something terrible, and I don't know how to convince her she's wrong.

Uleesia woke up with bruises from pounding her fists on the trees of the forest the night before. She still had not returned to her argument with Emenai. Why should I, she wondered. She's not going to see what I'm trying to say. Maybe I should just go on without her. Maybe if I actually fix something with the time machine, she'll see that I'm right. Maybe. Can I really fix anything, though? I have to try. She reached for her time machine. It wasn't there.


Emenai came back to the place where she had argued with Uleesia. Her plan was to listen until Uleesia stopped talking, then lay down all her arguments in full force. Uleesia didn't come, though. Emenai hopped an hour into the future, another hour, and another. Uleesia wasn't there. She went back to the time they had stopped arguing and waited.

Emenai came to the conclusion that Uleesia wasn't coming back. She had gone to "fix" something. Unacceptable. Emenai thought of all the places Uleesia might go. She could be anywhere. Emenai looked down at the travel log on her time machine and wished it would show her where its twin had gone. She felt defeated already.

Conclusion: I haven't finished the story, so it's still missing some important elements. Emenai goes back in time and secretly finds out what Uleesia set her coordinates to before she left. Emenai goes to the island to which Uleesia disappeared and steals her time machine. She takes Uleesia to her favorite point in time and leaves her there. Emenai goes to a completely different point in time and never sees Uleesia again, unless there's a sequel.

Uleesia pulls a large sum of money out of her bank account and founds the company that will one day invent the time machine. "Next time," she says, "it will be different.

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By Qazfan

By Peach

By Qazfan

By Qazfan

By Birchin

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Don't copy them, claim you made them, remove the link, enter them in contests, etc.

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Net Field Connection... Initiated.
Breathe Deep and Go to Sleep

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Hi thar. :D


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