We face a trail of fresh impressions. Two sets of footprints on a surface of ash – one female, one male. Ginny and I, the only two humans. Not another soul. Anywhere.
Blood drips from a slight wound on my forehead. It dots the ash. Up ahead an unidentifiable bump. The tip of our time capsule peers from beneath. Both our reflections now visible on its surface.
Seasoned time travelers, we research human chronology. Explore future. Conjure past. Constant lessons. And an endless maze of challenges.
The year 2185: our targeted destination. A perfect launch. A flawless beginning. But then all systems suddenly shut down. Seconds later, our capsule did too. A journey – designed to take two-and-a-half years – lasted less than three days.
Our goal – escape the emissions and planetary heat from global warming to check out life beyond. We failed! Never escaped climate change. Only dug in deeper.
The digits on our lunar watch, now frozen, clearly show 2035 – twenty-thirty-five.
“Just twelve years out!” I observe, settling on the ground.
“A hundred-and-fifty years too soon!” says Ginny, scampering up for a closer look.
“Hey, you’re sounding like Savvy.”
“So?” Ginny abruptly shoots back. “Got her voice at me 24/7.”
Confusion has… a foot through the door.
Something about her has changed. We’re no longer inseparable. Ginny needs breathing room. I suddenly do too.
After five years together, we intend to start a family. Out there in 2185.
Having kids seemed a natural progression. At the time.
Now I don’t know. Confusion has a foot through the door.
Savannah J was our one companion in the capsule. At least, her reassuring voice surging through our systems.
Part Siri, part Alexa, part Google Assistant, she seemed far more real. More aware than either. More passionate. Less A.I. Naturally intelligent with almost nothing artificial about her.
“Savvy, where are you?” The realization hits. “We need you.”
But something isn’t right.
I keep asking myself why the woman with me now isn’t the Ginny I’ve known. Her warmth purely superficial. A synthetic heat.
Sure. She could just be stuck in a funk. So moody and unpredictable. Nevertheless, I definitely know better than to ask.
“Gorman, I can hear you thinking!” Ginny’s voice. Emphatic. Savvy’s words.
“Nothing bad, Ginny. Guarantee it.” As I speak, I try to manipulate the cone of our time capsule. I can’t. But then, I suddenly jar it just a hair. Ginny and I freeze. A pebble drops. We listen to it travel quite a distance before landing. Must be in a large chamber beneath. Under the soot.
“Hey, our time lab!” Ginny and I utter in unison. “We’re directly above it.”
“Twenty-five feet I’d guess.”
“S-h-h-s-s-h!” she orders, listening and calculating intently. “Twenty-eight-and-a-half feet and a soft dirt floor. Identical measurements.”
I feel the computer phone on my belt vibrate and start to reach for it.
“Don’t,” commands Ginny. “Just leave it as is!” Both her words and voice now Savvy’s.
But I don’t let on.
Another pebble falls. We listen. Seconds later, it lands hard. For sure, the lab is beneath us. But how to reenter? Power is gone. Seems dead everywhere. Yet somehow security is still in effect. Clearly, a different circuit. Access, however, remains treacherous.
Surface soot lies suspended on a live-wire mesh. The invisible net surrounds the top of the lab. An orange spider scampers out. Unsuspectingly. Poor creature steps on the mesh. It fries. A crispy scent now lingers in the air.
“Gorman!” Ginny pleads, “I have to reach my sister.”
“Rita, where? How?”
Rita is Ginny’s sister. Abby is Savvy’s… I freeze as the picture snaps into focus.
“Yes, Savannah is here with me,” comes Ginny’s voice.
“I thought so.”
She’s telling the truth.
“I had to help. It was the only way. Gorman, I had to step in. We have to help. We do, and, trust me, Abby is absolutely on our side,” continues Ginny, unquestionably in Savvy’s voice. “She’s telling the truth. Only Abilene can get us on course. She alone can get us back.”
“What about Jamie and the others at the base in 2023?”
“Too late for that. The base has been incinerated.”
“The explosion is what crashed our capsule…” says Ginny. “Abilene quickly rerouted us to 2035.”
“So that’s how we’re here,” I acknowledge. “But why?”
“To reconnect with her. We owe it to Abby.”
“For waylaying us here? For stranding us without anything?” It’s simply beyond me.
There, without warning, the mesh beneath us gives way. Ginny and I suddenly drop 12 feet or more. Miraculously we survive.
We stand and stare at the entrance. One step cautiously follows another. Down a pathway, through the bowels of a jagged glass cave, where an eerie breeze menacingly beckons.
A flash of fear flushes across Ginny’s face. She reaches for the reassurance of my hand.
Momentarily, we hold tight. Steady ourselves.
“Hey, you two!” A frightfully familiar voice reverberates out of nowhere. “Keep to the left. Only step on the blue ones.”
We heed her advice.
TIME LAB REVISITED
We finally approach a capsule. Not ours but almost identical. One of five in that cavernous shed.
“Second on the right,” comes Abilene’s stern guidance. She steers us on.
“Ready and waiting,” replies a slightly rattled Ginny cum Savvy. “Good to be back together.”
“We’ll see!” Abilene adds a dash of sarcasm.
“Yes. We’re two of the same.”
“No question,” I interject as Ginny grabs my thumb again and squeezes.
“Generator 7B on,” clarifies Abby as she assumes an automated monotone: “Capsule H restoring power. 40% and flowing. Video image signals on. Sound and dream transmission all a go. Twenty minutes and counting to launch.”
The lights in the capsule blink twice.