Time Line Twisted

time travel

Image: BBC News

The Third Hunter and Ellison Time Travel Adventure and a direct sequel to In Search of the Time Traveler.

“I have a bad feeling about this, Josue.”

“Stop that! This is serious. This isn’t when we are supposed to be.”

Josue Hunter and Wyatt Ellison thought they were finally closing in on Heloise Amanda Westcott, the mysterious and elusive time traveler first detected in 1885 England. They’d found H.G. Wells, author of the famous novel “The Time Machine” and confederate of Westcott in Texas in 1940, and persuaded him to reveal the place and time they could locate her.

Wells wrote it down on a pad of paper with the letterhead of the hotel in which he’d been staying. Friday, 15 August 1994, 8150 Olive Avenue, Huntington Beach, California.

“Checking the unitool.” Hunter’s all-purpose utility device was disguised as a wrist watch. He set it to review the most recent log of their trip back in time.

“Damn.”

“The address is right, but…” Ellison knew it was distinctly cooler than mid-August, plus, instead of arriving in the early morning, the sun was just setting in the west. They couldn’t have been more than a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean.

“…but the date is Friday, October 21st, 2016. I know we’re working without the precise calculations made possible by the Event Indicator, but the Approximation Effect should, at most, bring us in earlier or later by only a few days to a few months.”

“But it’s been twenty-two years, Josue. Why?”

“Only one way to find out.”

The Wayback Machine had deposited them on the sidewalk directly in front of their destination, the suburban home of Heloise Westcott, but that was her address in 1994. She could be living anywhere by now.

Hunter was walking up to the front door and Ellison had to run to catch up.

“Josue, maybe we should…”

Before Wyatt could finish his sentence, and as Josue was about to ring the doorbell, the front door swung open. A distinguished looking woman of middle-age made a brief visual appraisal of them. “Come in, gentlemen. I’ve been expecting you.”

As the two time travelers entered, Hunter addressed her. “Heloise Amanda Westcott, I presume.” He offered his hand and she took it.

“I was once called that, long ago, Mr…Hunter is it?” Hunter nodded.

“Then you must be Mr. Wyatt Ellison.”

“Charmed.” He briefly shook her hand. He really was charmed, at least at that moment. Discovering her Time Machine had been like a childhood dream come true.  He had a million questions about it.

“Please come with me, gentlemen. I believe we’ll be more comfortable in the family room.”

They walked through the entry way and passed the formal living and dining area to the family room at the back of the house’s first floor. A man of similar age to Ms. Westcott was sitting in an easy chair next to an unlit fireplace. See them enter, he stood.

“May I present my husband, Mr. Daniel Taylor.”

They exchanged pleasantries and then Ms. Westcott, or rather Mrs. Taylor as she was now called, ushered them to the sofa. She took a seat oppose them, and Mr. Taylor resumed his easy chair.

“I’m now called Amanda Taylor, so you may address me as such.”

“Very well, Ms. Taylor. You know why we’re here.”

“Yes, Mr. Hunter. In fact I know more of your purpose than my friend the late Mr. Wells was aware of.”

“How’s that?” Ellison leaned forward facing Amanda while occasionally stealing a glance at her husband. The fellow was following the conversation but otherwise might not have been in the room at all.

“I know you are both professional Historians from the future. I know your job is to detect and prevent temporal anomalies in order to preserve the time line as you understand it. I know you believe I represent the most significant time anomaly you have ever encountered, and I know the both of you are absolutely dead wrong.”

“Look, Ms. Taylor. You’ve been zooming up and down the time line willy-nilly saying and doing who knows what, and probably making all kinds of changes, such as removing your husband from the London Blitz in 1940 without so much as a by your leave…”

“You can stop now, Mr. Hunter.” Daniel Taylor began to rise from his chair as he stared malevolently at Josue.

“It’s quite alright, Daniel.” Amanda waved her husband back down. “I know why they are concerned, and from their perspective, they have every right to believe I’m a threat.”

She turned back to Hunter and Ellison. “Will you give me a chance to tell my side of the story?”

Hunter sat back. “By all means. I’m dying to hear it.”

Actually, it was Ellison who was dying to hear it. How had Westcott…Taylor invented a time machine in the late 19th century, where and when had she visited, and what had she done?

“As you have surmised, Herbert, that is, Mr. Wells was a confederate of mine. Actually, he was a good deal more. Early in 1885, he was my lover. He was some few years younger than I, but there was an immediate attraction.”

Ellison blinked in surprise. That one hadn’t made it into the history books.

“The affair was brief, but it was long enough for me to take him into my confidence regarding my research and the prototype.”

“The Time Machine. It’s a wonderful piece of engineering.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ellison. But to continue, Herbert was skeptical when I first showed it to him, who wouldn’t be? That is, until I gave him a demonstration.”

“You mean…”

“Yes, Mr. Hunter. I took H.G. Wells forward in time, let him have a look around, and then we returned to 1885.”

“Oh crap.”

“Rest assured, Mr. Hunter. We went forward just enough so he could see his ‘Time Machine’ novel had been published. We changed nothing. He would have written it in any case.”

No wonder H.G. Wells had been so difficult to visit. He was a time anomaly because he was a time traveler.

“Your first trip. You stopped in 1905, then 1925, and then 1940.”

To look up my old friend, Mr. Ellison. Herbert was the only person in the world who knew about time travel. I told him right before my first journey of when and where I would, how you say, look him up. He was prepared for each visit, that is, until August 31st of 1940. That’s when I met Daniel.”

“You see, I was a struggling young writer and H.G. considered me a promising talent so he agreed to tutor me. I’d been working as a junior correspondent at the London Gazette but I longed for a career in literature.”

“I met Daniel the third day of my visit. Herbert had purchased the appropriate attire and I so wanted a longer look at the future than I had allowed myself up to that point. I met Daniel during a social call and he volunteered to take me sightseeing.”

“That’s how you could stay a week in 1940 and not seem out-of-place.”

“Quite, Mr. Ellison.”

Amanda paused as if remembering a painful event.

“Daniel was working late at the Gazette the first night of the Blitz. He had agreed to meet me at Herbert’s afterward. He never arrived.

By then, I had already fallen in love with him, but I couldn’t stay then. I didn’t know what the future held, and I couldn’t risk the Time Machine being destroyed.

“So you went forward, again.”

“Correct, Mr. Hunter. By small increments at first, past the point poor Herbert had passed away. Then my leaps forward became more bold. Would you be surprised to discover I visited your time, and more than once?”

“I had been wondering.” Ellison also wondered if her Time Machine was in the Antiquities Store at the Institute in their present, did Amanda visit their time such that two versions of the device existed on the same date?

“The record of the first trip said the furthest ahead you went was 8885. Why stop there?”

“I don’t know if I should tell you since it is your future as well.”

“You’re not a Historian, Ms. Taylor. You don’t have the same responsibilities and we need to know what happened.”

“No you don’t, Mr. Hunter. You are responsible for the preservation of the time line from your present to the distant past. You have no duty to a future that, from your point of view, has yet to occur, nor do I have a duty to disclose that knowledge to you.”

“Okay, we’ll skip that for the moment.” Ellison motioned to Hunter to settle down. Hunter had a tendency to act in a threatening manner when interrogating, which was definitely not helpful here.

“Why did you leave the log of your initial journey intact but delete all the rest of them?”

“Posterity, I suppose, Mr. Ellison. I knew one day my Time Machine would be found and I wanted to preserve some record of my travels.”

“But why delete the rest of them?”

“Because I didn’t want a record of the new life I would be creating. You see, gentlemen, women with intellect and talent such as mine were an extreme rarity in the late 19th century, not that women of that age couldn’t be intelligent, but we were greatly discouraged from being accomplished.”

“So you felt you’d be more at home in a future era.”

“Precisely, Mr. Ellison. I found, from my perspective, a good balance in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. However, I couldn’t have a home alone, so I decided to rescue Daniel. Are you checking my story, Mr. Hunter?”

While Amanda had been speaking, Hunter tied in his unitool to the Wayback Machine, and then to the central library.

“Daniel Patrick Taylor, twenty-two year old correspondent for the London Gazette disappeared the evening of Saturday, September 7th, 1940 after leaving his offices. Presumed killed during the first night of the Blitz. His body was never recovered.”

Hunter looked up from the unitool strapped to his left wrist. “You rescued him. You saved his life.”

“I checked the newspapers and other records, Mr. Hunter. If I hadn’t saved my poor husband, he truly would have died that night. My removing him from 1940 changed nothing.”

“But making a life here, starting on August 15th, 1994 sure has. I see by the photos on the mantle that you have three lovely offspring.”

“Yes, Mr. Hunter. They’re out for the evening.” Daniel spoke up this time. “Dinner and a movie I believe.”

“A woman born in 1860 and, at age twenty-five, travels forward from 1885 to 1940, saves the life of a man born in 1918, then they travel forward to 1994, marry, have three children, and you don’t think anything’s been changed?”

“We are very happy here.”

“That’s not the point, Mr. Taylor. The point is neither of you are supposed to be living in this time, having children, and then more and more descendants moving forward in time. Centuries later, there would be thousands, tens of thousands of people who should never have been born at all.”

Hunter was getting excited again and he thought had a right to be.

“What if I told you two gentlemen that without the changes I’ve made, the time line you are sworn to protect wouldn’t exist.”

“What?” Ellison’s voice cracked with astonishment.

“I don’t suppose you could explain that statement, Ms. Taylor.”

“I can, Mr. Hunter. You see, one of the benefits of time travel is the ability to see ahead, and then go back and act on that knowledge.”

“You made money.”

“A small fortune, Mr. Ellison. Nothing outrageous, just enough to live comfortably. Once Daniel and I settled into our home here, I was determined to preserve our posterity. I am a loving mother, after all.”

“We thought you’d disposed of the Time Machine after settling here.”

“Not right away, Mr. Ellison. I had a job to do first.”

“Such as?”

“Such as, Mr. Hunter, laying the groundwork for the discovery of time travel and the establishment of your Institute.”

“How…?”

“Through our descendants. Our children know, gentlemen, and their children will know, and so on. I’ve checked ahead. They all know, including the ones living in your time, a great many of them as you’ve suggested.”

Ellison stammered, “But..but how? I mean, the principles upon which your device is based are radically different from our time portals.”

“I am a physicist, gentlemen, and having traveled up and down the time line, I amassed a great deal of knowledge, plus I had the brilliant minds of my progeny to assist me, so the knowledge and development of your time portal system didn’t originate solely with me.”

“So this means, everything you did you were supposed to do.”

“Without me Mr. Ellison, there would be no Balancing Point Institute and the time line would have shifted such that you would hardly recognize history.”

Hunter and Ellison looked at each other. Then it occurred to Josue.

“Wait. We were supposed to arrive the morning of August 15th, 1994 but instead we came here. Were we brought here?”

“Exactly. I knew one day the Institute would discover me, my machine, some of what I’d done. I needed to control that discovery and when the disclosure was made. Who do you think controls the Institute?”

“The Council is headed by Amanda…” Ellison let his sentence drift off.

“After I had established everything, created the Institute to make sure a time line favoring my offspring would be protected until the end of civilization, I sent my Time Machine back to Herbert with explicit instructions as to its safe keeping.”

“So that we could discover it in 1966 and use the clues you provided to track you down.”

“Except you weren’t tracking me down, Mr. Hunter. I was extending an invitation. Now my invention is in the one place and time it will never be discovered and misused.”

“My whole life, my entire career has been a sham.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic, Mr. Ellison. In the service of my family, you have been of service to humanity across millennia. You both indeed have served the greater good.”

Hunter spent several moments consulting his unitool. “I can verify some of this remotely, but we’re going to need to do more research at the Institute to be sure.”

“Then I presume it’s time for the both of you to leave.” Daniel stood and Amanda followed suit.

Ellison was still only half paying attention, mentally captured by the knowledge that his entire life’s work had been created due to the manipulation of the time line by a mother protecting all of her future offspring.

“Come on, Wyatt. Let’s go.”

Both men stood.

“I really don’t know what to think about all this.”

“I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to figure it out, Mr. Hunter. Now if you and Mr. Ellison will step into the center of the room.”

As they did so, the familiar hum and ring of light indicating the operation of the Wayback Machine surrounded them…but they hadn’t summoned it.

Josue Hunter and Wyatt Ellison ceased to exist in 2016 and Daniel and Amanda were once more alone.

“Do you think they believed you?”

“They will, Daniel. My story has the benefit of being completely factual.”

“Without being entirely true, darling.”

Amanda walked to her husband of twenty-two years and they embraced. “You know the children will be out for hours.”

“Daniel tilted Amanda’s face up toward his, then he leaned down and gently kissed her lips. “Yes, I know.”

Hand in hand, they went into their bedroom and closed the door.

This is the end of my three-part saga about Hunter and Ellison chasing down the world’s first time traveler, but in writing this story, I’ve potentially spawned many others.

For instance, we haven’t covered how even a brilliant scientist in the late 19th century could possibly have built a functioning time machine. Also, we haven’t addressed everything Westcott-Taylor did on her journeys and the special importance of the year 8885.

Not only that, but the careers of Hunter and Ellison move forward from here. Would you like to see more stories about them?

Part One of this three-part series is Tracks Across Time.

Oh, by now I’m sure you’ve heard of the tragic loss of Carrie Fisher who played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. I included the first line of dialogue in this story in remembrance of her.

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