a tale in weekly parts
You can see the full story so far at this link.
The siblings ran up the beach and through the crowds who were leaving the area after the evening’s excitement. By the time they reached the bonfire that was Jarvis, it was clear to them that they had been soundly beaten by their canines. Chav and Ixus were laid on the sand, fully alert, and looking attentively towards Albert, with whom they were deep in conversation.
“Hi, A,” Alice said. Alex tried to get something out, but was too out of breath to form the words… or any words, really.
“Come in and sit down, kids,” Albert said, indicating an opening in the bonfire.
“What about Mum and Dad?” Alex asked.
“We’ll do this out of time,” Albert replied, “they won’t know that you’ve moved from the spot.”
Albert, Alex, Alice and the two dogs entered Jarvis and took seats in the large vestibule. Alice filled Albert in on the subject of her and her brother’s conversation on Inevitabilia, and their understanding of what the Eddies were asking of them.
“But is it possible that we can do something; something small; that can have a profound effect on the future of the planet?”
“We all do just that, many times every day. Every action anyone takes, every decision anyone makes has the potential to change forever the history of mankind. Usually, you have no idea of that, but sometimes… tell her about the virus, Alex.”
“Virus?” Alex asked.
“1615,” Albert replied.
“Oh yes! When we first picked up Jinniskeet (part 13) we managed to bring on board a small virus. Albert bagged it and decided to bury it deep in the desert in seventeenth century South Africa.”
“Why there? Why then?”
“You’d have to ask Albert that. But one timeline showed that the virus spread and multiplied, and by the twenty-first century, it wiped out the human population of earth.”
“But that never happened.”
“It never happened because, in another timeline, Albert sent someone back from 21st century to stop him from dumping it (part 18; It’s about time – and It’s about time, two!). The small act of burying a bag could have brought on the demise of the human race.”
“Listen, girlie,” Jarvis intoned, “Think space travel. What happens if you hit a Lagrange point at just the right angle and speed?”
“That’s easy. You translate to another dimension.”
“And what happens if your calculations are slightly out; perhaps by a gazillionth of a degree that means you hit the point, but not at exactly the right angle or speed?”
“I get it. You pass right through it, as though it weren’t there.”
“Exactly. So a minuscule change in your navigation parameters—”
“Can scupper your plans. But what’s that got to do with preventing nuclear war?”
“Nothing, but it shows how a small thing can have a big effect.”
“Pretty weak analogy, though, Jarvis,” Alex said.
“Whose side are you on?” Jarvis pouted.
“Just looking after big sis,” he replied, which brought a smile from Alice.
“If we’re agreed on that,” Albert said, “can we think about what we can do and when?”
“We don’t even know where to start,” Alex said, “I mean, without knowing anything about the war, who the protagonists are—”
“Will be,” Jarvis corrected, “Hasn’t happened yet.”
“Fine, will be; but we don’t know the who, the when or the why.”
“You go back to your folks; Jarvis and I will study future history. We’ll get back to you, though it might take a while. Get on with your lives, and wait for the call from us. While waiting, keep your minds open to the Eddies.”
Back outside Jarvis, the group saw Al and Madge approaching.
“Told you so, Mother,” Al said, with a grin. Looking at his children, he asked, “What have you been up to?”
“Nothing, Dad,” Alex offered.
“It’s alright, lad, I’m not cross. It’s just that I know you’ve all been away for some time. I’ve no idea how long, where or why, though.”
“We’ve been inside, talking for maybe an hour, Al,” Albert said, “but how could you tell? We’ve come back at exactly the time we left.”
“I first noticed it with Alice, years ago, and with Alex more recently. Maybe there’s a small fraction of a second difference between the time you leave and the time you get back. I see a sort of shimmer. Isn’t that right, love?” he asked, looking at Madge.
“If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard you say the words ‘he bloody shimmered’, I’d be wealthy enough to leave you and live on my own,” Madge replied.
“Aye, lass, ‘appen you would; ‘appen you would.”
“Dad!” the kids chorused reproachfully.
“You’re not from Yorkshire. Putting on that accent is disrespectful to people who are,” Alice said.
“I know, kids. But I always envied them. Yorkshire people have an identity, something that makes them special, what they are; and their accent and dialect are a big part of that. What do we Surrey people have that gives us an identity; sets us apart, makes us—”
“Jarvis and I are off to start our work,” Albert interrupted, “we’ll leave you guys to deal with your geographical identity crises.”
The last few words came from the ether – Albert and Jarvis had gone.