(Continued from part thirteen)
Shortly we were driving up Lake Shore Drive in the back seat of a taxi. Along the way – quietly, so the driver wouldn’t hear – I told him as much as I could about my previous mission after he left. He listened intently, asking a few questions along the way. And he agreed with me that it seemed to have helped my world. “A worthy first effort,” was his verdict.
From there I explained about my entry to 1978, and especially how it affected me, which seemed to be his primary interest. And as we approached the restaurant on Foster, I told him about the note and the surprise that this visit was mainly for my relaxation. He agreed with whoever was behind the request that some relaxing days would be good for me. “Though you don’t seem to have had them so far,” he added as we climbed out of the cab and walked the few steps to the restaurant.
I was laughing as we entered. He looked at me inquisitively but I waived him off, motioning to him that we should wait till we were seated. He followed me, eagerly, to the table.
“I have some interesting things to tell you,” I said as the lady who sat us walked away.
I picked up from where I had left off, going with the Corwins to Hosanna Tabernacle. Then I went on to being surprised by Lara and Jens, whom I had initially dubbed “the pretty couple.”
“They’re father and daughter, you know.”
It took me a confused moment to convince myself that I was understanding him. “You mean Lara and Jens?”
“I do. They’re older than me by a quite a bit, but they are father and daughter. I met them long ago, then we were temporally separated for what you’d call centuries, and now we’ve been close for a while.”
That phrase, temporally separated (separated by time that is… temporally, not temporarily), rang through me. I was sure it came straight from Relativity Theory.
“You’re talking about the time difference that arises when people take long and fast space voyages, correct?”
He nodded. “Yes, and it’s a serious problem for us. We can travel at fairly close to the speed of light, which makes for wonderful adventures, but when you get back to your family and friends, a few years have passed for you and a century has passed for them.”
“But you don’t die like we do… do you?”
“No, we don’t. Just like you won’t once your environment improves… but we come back so out of sync… new people born, people changing… it’s a great loss. We miss huge sections of lives… developing lives we don’t want to miss.”
For the first time, I felt sorry for Robert, and for all of them.
“And there’s nothing you can do?”
“It’s the structure of the universe,” he said. “Most of us put off long-distance travel for just that reason. If they have a child, for example, nearly everyone will wait until the child is grown, till the grandchildren are grown, and sometimes even the great-grandchildren. We don’t want to miss their lives.”
At that point we ordered and started eating the chips and salsa the waiter had brought. I needed some silence and he may have as well.
* * * * *
The food came, we started eating, and then I began laughing again, almost involuntarily. Robert looked at me with an expression that said, Do you want to explain this?
“It’s just that… after having you blow my mind time after time, I’m about to blow yours.”
At that he erupted into laughter and almost demanded, “What is it?” At the moment his face was that of an eager child.
“My young self found me, and it was just luck that I avoided a full union with him. And I would have, Robert. The pull between us was beyond my power to resist.”
Robert was speechless… dumbfounded. I decided to continue.
“I wanted to avoid him, Robert. I tried to look away. But I couldn’t. Someone stepped in between us to break the connection, but if our eyes had locked, I would have bonded hard with him.”
I waited for Robert to say something, but he seemed utterly entranced. And so I went on.
“He was me, Robert. To turn away from him was impossible, unless I wanted to tear my soul apart on purpose. I couldn’t do it.”
“You felt it that strongly?”
“We never imagined…” he murmured.
“It was a surprise to me, I’ll tell you.”
“So what did you do?”
I recounted the events to him much as I have written above, and tried to let my emotions flow to him as I did. He’s good at reading them. And then I stopped.
“What will you do with him?”
“Well, I’ll wait until it seems like the right time, and then I’ll do whatever makes him better, of course.” I closed the comment with a sly smile. He instantly got my reference – he had said that to me on our last mission – and he laughed. It seemed like the laugh re-organized his emotions, and, strangely, mine.
“You really do have an interesting little planet here.” That was another reference to something he had said to me last time, which made us both smile. “How did he find you?”
“Honestly, Robert, I didn’t think to ask. Suddenly he was there, and finding out how wasn’t at the top of my mind.”
“I imagine not.”
“I really have no plan for him yet, but I will find him, and I’m sure that after we meet we’ll stay together for the rest of my time here.”
He nodded his head. “Yes, I think I’d do the same.”