a tale in weekly parts
You can see the full story so far at this link.
Almost before Albert had left, he was back again.
“Aloysius!” Madge yelled as the children cringed, “Get back down here. NOW.”
Al all but fell down the stairs, having over an unbelievably short period of time found a new respect for his wife, and a willingness, nay eagerness, to accede to her every request with an unexpected alacrity.
“What is it, love?” he asked.
“It’s Albert,” she replied.
“What about him?”
“Albert, you idiot.”
“I’m looking. What should I see?”
“He hasn’t gone. He just, what is it you call it, shimmered.”
“Madge,” Albert said, in the tone of a high court judge addressing a serial miscreant, “I have been away and found the information you want. I also found some other information that causes us to reformulate our approach to the conundrum under consideration.”
Madge folded her arms and tapped her foot on the floor. All she needed to complete the picture was a pinny, rollers in her hair, a net to cover them and, of course, a rolling pin. “Is that little speech available in English?” she demanded.
“What we were planning won’t work,” Albert said, “there are complications. Can we all sit down calmly and talk about it?”
Madge, Al and Albert seated themselves at the table. Alice and Alex hadn’t moved from their seats. Truth be told, they were so stunned by their mother’s transformation from a mouse into a dragon that it was as though their bottoms had been glued to the chairs.
“Well?” Madge asked.
Albert cleared his throat and began. “For reasons that are too complex to go into now, it won’t be possible for Alice and Alex to do what needs to be done to prevent the outcome we seek to avoid.”
“Albert,” Madge said, “we’re not stupid people. Tell us what these reasons are, and how you plan to get around them.”
“As you wish, Madge. Between now and the time we need to take action, there are a number of vortices in the time lines—”
“Vortices; is that like eddies?”
“No, Mum,” Alex responded, “Eddies are—”
“Very much like eddies, Madge,” Albert said then, turning to Alex and speaking in a whisper, “Small E.” Alex nodded in comprehension. Madge shivered, recalling her brush with the Eddies.
“So what do these vortices do?”
“They are a normal part of the stuff of time, Madge,” Albert said, “They happen all the time, and almost always precede a totally unexpected event.”
“Oh, anything that runs counter to general expectations. You’ve probably seen many of them without realising it. Like when a free and fair election throws up a result that was generally thought to be impossible; one that gives power to someone who should never be in that position. It almost invariably ushers in a destabilisation, locally or more widespread, and often results in wars. Think back over the past centuries of your history and see how often the conflicts have been caused by the wrong person being in power.”
“Are you saying now, that it’s these vortices that will cause the war?”
“No, but they will stop Alice and Alex from reaching the time they need to get to.”
“They’re not strong enough to cut through the vortices.”
“Then who is?”
“At this time, no-one. I’ve canvassed all the bitek constructs and hybrids I can find, and I’ve consulted with the Eddies – that’s why I was gone so long – and the general agreement is that it will need a third generation hybrid to break through.”
Madge appeared, for the first time that day, lost for words. Al seized the opportunity to join the conversation.
“Third generation?” he asked.
“Yes,” Albert started to explain, “As you know, I am pure bitek. You are the product of my union with your mother, so a first generation hybrid.”
“So, if I’m F1; that’s the term we use for first generation hybrid plants; how am I fertile?”
“I’ll let you into a secret, Al. You aren’t a plant; not in the horticultural sense, anyway. So, you’re F1, to use your term, but you are weak. Your offspring, we’ll call them F2, Alice and Alex are strong. We thought, at first, that it was just a generational skip such as happens with some inherited traits, but now there’s another theory. The current thinking is that the bitek nano-entities are passed on through the sperm of a male hybrid, that they take the strength of the ‘father’ as their start point and develop from there.”
“Are you saying that my children will be stronger than I am?” Alex asked.
“We believe so.”
“What about me?” Alice asked, “How will I pass on my bitek?”
“We don’t know that you will. We haven’t fully tested the theory yet, Alice. We’d need to study some of your eggs for the presence of nano-entities.”
“Do it,” she said grimly.
Alice and Albert shimmered. Alice had a smile on her face.
“Well,” Albert said, “it seems likely that what I said about Alex applies to Alice, too.”
“How do you know my sperm carries nano-entities?” Alex asked.
“You remember our last trip?”
“Yes. Weird one, that.”
“You had some strange dreams, didn’t you?”
“Then,” Albert said.
Alice looked at Alex, then turned to Albert, with a mischievous look on her face. “If Alex’s sperm mixed with a normal woman would produce a stronger child; and if my eggs, fertilised by a normal man would, too; what if Alex’s sperm were to fertilise my eggs?”
Madge almost dropped her cup, until she realised she wasn’t holding one. “Alice Grahamson; you can get your thought out of your mind straight away. That is just plain wrong, it’s—”
“Incest, I know,” Alice said, “It’s not going to happen, obviously, I mean… look at him… do you seriously think I would … Ewwww. No, just theoretically, you know.”
“Or,” Alex added, “with a different F1 male, one who doesn’t have the misfortune of being your brother. And perhaps Albert could find me a fetching young F1 female, too.”
“I’ll go off and run some models. You guys need to talk this through among yourselves. I’ll be back in a couple of days with my results, and we’ll see what’s the best thing to do.”
Albert phased out, leaving Alice and Alex looking at each other.
“On Terra,” Alex said, “we have second cousins.”
“So we do,” Alice replied coquettishly.