Albert and Jarvis part 74

a tale in weekly parts

You can see the full story so far at this link.

Episode 74

“Work?” Al asked, “What work?”

Can you hear me, Dad?” Alice asked her father telepathically. Al didn’t respond. She continued aloud, “We’ll talk about it later, Dad; okay?”

“If you’re trying to keep secrets from me, I’d rather you didn’t,” Madge said.

“It’s not a question of keeping secrets from you, Mum. We’re trying to protect you.”

“From what?”

“From things that will worry you when you don’t need to be worried.”

“Things like what?”

“If we told you that,” Alice said, “we’d not be protecting you. You’d start worrying.”

“What’s she saying, Al? Why is she trying to keep me in the dark?”

“Don’t ask me,” Al replied, “I don’t know yet what they’re talking about, either.”

While Al was speaking to Madge, Alex and Alice phased out and talked at length about the pros and cons of bringing their mother into the picture.

I think Dad’s brought her up to speed on what we are and what we do, Sis,” Alex said.

True, but if she gets wind that we have to prevent a war that will wipe out all life on earth?

She’s likely to flip. If not because she’ll think it’ll be dangerous for us, then because of the effect if we don’t succeed.”

Okay, I have a plan. Let’s phase back.”

“Did you kids just shimmer again?” Al asked.

“Just a bit,” Alice said, “Listen, we’re ready to tell you what’s going on.”

“Good,” Madge said, “It’ll make a nice change for me to know what you kids are up to.”

Al sensed something. “Are you kids uncomfortable talking about whatever it is you’re planning to do?” he asked.

“Out here in the open, yes,” Alex replied.

“Okay, lets talk over dinner. Home or restaurant?”

“If it’s at home, you’ll have to wait for me to cook something,” Madge interrupted.

“Restaurant it is, then,” Al said, “no point making your mother cook up in a hurry. Any preference?”

“Can I choose?” Madge asked.

“Of course.”

“I fancy trying that Lebanese restaurant on the new estate.”

The new estate was about twenty minutes’ hike from the beach at a brisk pace. The family walked in silence, the parents in their own thoughts; the children deep in unheard conversation. Alice explained her plan to Alex, and during the journey the two discussed, refined and finally agreed on their course of action. Inside the restaurant, Al asked for a quiet table, explaining that there was to be a delicate family discussion.

The family made small talk until the main course arrived; then Alice took centre stage.

“Albert wants us to help him with an experiment,” she said.

“Experiment?” Madge asked.

“Yeah. You know about the theory that says that a small action can precipitate a large result. The example often given is a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil resulting in a tornado in Texas, but there are examples everywhere – some simple, some mind-bogglingly complex.”

“So what’s he want you to do?”

“I’m just getting to that, Mum. Albert wants us to take a very small action, then he’ll follow it through to see if the long-term effect is what he expects it to be.”

“In fact, Sis,” Alex interrupted, “I think it’s the other way around. I think he’s going to define the effect, then work out what trigger action will cause the effect.”

“How will he do that?” Al asked.

“He’s Albert, Dad,” Alice replied. “How he does things is often a mystery to us all. I think, though, that he needs to visit at various points in time and gauge progress.”

“I can see how he can do that by following the line from beginning to end, but not from end to beginning.”

“Albert has told us several times, his relationship with time is casual, not causal. One of his favourite sayings is ‘time is an allusion’.”

“Don’t you mean illusion?”

“No. An illusion is a questionable perception; an allusion is more of an indirect reference, an aside.”

“Now,” Madge said, “I realise why I have so much trouble understanding Albert.”

“I think that’s the plan, Mum,” Alice said.