Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Days Yet to Pass: Part Ten
It took five days to make the necessary adjustments to the machine to send Chloe to the past. Chloe spent most of that time with her little sisters or alone in her room with May. She saw Elise a few more times, but the Cybunny mostly wanted to be left alone with her pain. Buzz was around, but he mostly kept to himself when no one needed him. Kristy was called away twice on business relating to her attack on the Citadel. Although Chloe tried to avoid hearing anything about it, Iniquitous was apparently ecstatic with the success and planning a similar assault on the Lost Desert. Kristy was trying to delay him, not wanting to be involved in any more actions against the Resistance now that the machine was almost ready to wipe out the world as it was.
On the fifth day, Veronica came to see her. Chloe opened her bedroom door at the knock and was surprised to find her there.
“Hello, Veronica. The machine ready?” Chloe asked, surprised to see her out of the lab.
“Not yet, but Yanli thinks she'll have it ready by the end of the day. I've done all I can to help her. Now, the only thing I can do is prepare you to go back. When you go back, only your mind will go back, and only for a very short period of time. Your body will stay here, and you'll take control of your past self. Her mind will go dormant for the short time you're in her body, giving you control. Once there, you'll need to submit an anonymous report with the information I have here. You're going to have to memorize this, because you can only take your mind back with you,” Veronica explained as she handed Chloe a sheet of paper.
Chloe read the information on the paper. It was already written in the form of a tip.
“You need to type it in exactly like it says on the paper. That way you don't put anything of yourself into it, something that might be noticed by others who know you and your writing or speaking style. When your past self regains control, she won't know what happened. She won't even know she was gone, so having a tip clearly written by her would cause trouble down the line,” Veronica explained. “Do you want me to help you memorize it? I'm fairly well versed in memorization techniques. We tried to keep as much information in our heads, in the early days, so as to leave as small a paper trail as possible.”
“I suppose,” Chloe said, seeing no reason to turn down the help.
After about three hours of reading and reciting, Chloe had it down. She could practically see the page before her when she closed her eyes. Veronica had been very helpful after all, and Chloe had found the time they had spent working on it not unpleasant. Veronica of the future was such a different person from the enemy of her time.
“You know, Veronica, you're not half bad when you're good. Pity you were all bad in my time,” Chloe commented.
Veronica sat back in her chair, closing her eyes to rest them. “Are you familiar with the concept of parallel universes?”
“Who isn't nowadays?” Chloe replied. “There are enough sci-fi stories dealing with those now, or were, I suppose. Why do you ask.”
“You know we're almost the same age, don't you? Or, we were in your time. I like to imagine that in a parallel universe I devoted my life to good, became a Defender like you did, and we were allies and friends. Do you think such a thing could have been possible if I had made different choices?” Veronica explained.
“With your brains and determination, you would have made a great Defender,” Chloe admitted. “And, yeah, I think if that had happened, we would have been friends. I'm not brainy like you, and I think we would have been competitive, but I think it would have been good-natured, one that pushed us both to excel. It's a pity it couldn't come to pass.”
Veronica nodded, looking sadder than Chloe had yet seen her.
“When you go back, if this works, please stop me,” Veronica pleaded, her eyelashes becoming wet. “Sow the seeds of doubt in my mind about my relationship with Iniquitous. If I begin to believe that I'm not an equal partner, that will enrage me. I may not accept it easily, but if you can break the loyalty I had for him, you might be able to turn me. If you can do that, I'll either help the Defenders in taking him down, or we'll tear each other apart, and we'll both get what we deserved. Either way, both of us will be stopped from causing this future. I know it won't be you, as you are now, in that past, but if somehow you can influence that Chloe merely by having been there, help her to understand that.”
Chloe shook her head. “I know I won't remember any of this if we are successful, but I don't have to. I understand what you mean; I know I'll feel what I learned in my soul. I'll find a way, a future in which I get to bring you home to Vicki. I think that's why my mom saved you, what she was trying to do, to say to me when she saved you.”
Veronica opened her eyes and gave her a sad smile. “That would mean a lot to me. Being able to see her again, to say I'm sorry. I doubt Kristy told you the whole story behind it, but she secretly searched for Vicki for years. She was trying to fulfill Judge Hog's promise to look after her when you all were lost. It was the last thing she felt she could do to honor their sacrifice. I held out hope for a time; I never thought anything would happen to my mother. I never wanted her to get hurt… or worse. I would give anything to have been able to say sorry to her. Hopefully the younger Veronica will be able to think and feel that way, too.”
“I guess all we can do now is find out when we become different people in a different future.”***
Chloe stood in Yanli's lab, amused. It was exactly like the playroom after Yanli had spent the day there, total disarray. How Yanli worked in those conditions, she didn't know, but it was Yanli. She only cleaned up after herself with extreme effort on the behalf of others to keep her focused. Except for her bedroom, which was always pristine, a holdover of the wonder of having her own personal bedroom after an early childhood spent in the pound.
Kristy and Buzz were also there, waiting expectantly as Yanli ramblingly explained how with a combination of science and magic the machine could send Chloe's consciousness back in time for a brief period of time and make changes to the past that would bind due to the magic elements of it.
“And, if successful, what happens to us?” Buzz asked when she finished.
“We as we are now just disappear. This future just vanishes out of existence. No one will ever know that this happened. I don't know what the future will become; it could happen all over again somehow, or a better future could come to pass. Regardless, it will simply cease,” Veronica explained.
“Good,” Buzz said, turning to look at the machine. “No one needs to remember this.”
“But, what if Chloe's changes only delay this future, or it still comes to pass because Iniquitous finds another way to destroy the Defenders? Is there no way we can leave something to help that future to go back again and try again?” Kristy asked.
“No,” Yanli said, shaking her head. “Everything but Chloe's message will be gone and unknowable. She wouldn't have time to leave more than the message she memorized from Veronica. Also, if this future can't be avoided, then we should accept that with grace. We've got one shot at this; everything that happens after is in the hands of our past selves. We just have to hope we all become better people in that new world.”
“All right, let's do this,” Chloe said, finally reaching the breaking point in her impatience to get it over with.
Yanli gave her a thumbs up and pointed to a chair. “Sit down, close your eyes, and Veronica is going to start counting. When her voice fades completely, open your eyes. You'll be in the past. Work as fast as you can; you won't have long.”
“Got it,” Chloe said as she sat down in the chair.
Kristy hugged her one last time and whispered in her ear, “Go save the world one more time, my little superhero.”
Chloe nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat. Kristy smiled, a true, loving smile, and then rejoined Buzz by the wall.
She shut her eyes and Veronica started to count. She could hear the machine starting up as well, but she focused her concentration on the numbers, waiting for them to stop. Veronica had reached thirty when her voice became distorted. Chloe kept her eyes shut tight, waiting until the voice faded entirely. The last number she heard was forty-two. Then there was silence.
Chloe opened her eyes.
To be continued…