I smile as the room darkens once we re-enter the tunnel.
“What the hell just happened?” Griff asks.
“More importantly,” the engineer asks. “Where are we headed?”
“Back to Chelle Station, please.”
“Okay,” Griff sighs, “now. What the hell just happened?”
“I pulled an old style pick-in-a-poke,” I smile. “Except the pig was the old sphere, the one Christopher had just built, and the poke, well, the poke was a barf bag.”
“I still don’t get it,” Griff frowns.
“I set up the sphere so even the slightest jostle would cause it to activate and send whoever jostled it back into the past, back to right after the first sphere was built.”
“Ah,” Noll joins in, “and so Da Wizzer knocked it inta place when he looked in da bag. And you knew just where he wuz gonna be.”
“Right,” I smile. “Like I said, a simple old pig-in-the-poke.”
“I don’t know if there’s anything simple about any of this,” Griff groans. “But good job, kid.”
The brakes squeak once again, noting our final arrival.
“So, we’re done, right?” Griff asks. “We can go home again?”
“I think so,” I smile. “It might be smart to set something up to make sure The Wizard is stuck back in time, like, you know, a simple Google search or something, but I think we’ve gotten it all closed out.”
“Perfect,” Griff cheers as the train comes to a final stop. The door hisses and opens. “After you, kid,” he smiles.
“Thank you, sir,” I say, stepping onto the platform. I look out upon the white tiled station walls. A feeling of accomplishment crosses my body, until I hear the voice of the one person I hoped to never hear from again.
“You thought you could get rid of me that easily?” The Wizard says. I turn to my right and see him striding up to us angrily.
“Noll!” I scream.
Noll jumps out of the train, his eyes wide with fear for what he might find. He sees The Wizard striding confidently in our direction and blasts toward him.
Happening so fast I can barely make out the specifics, I notice The Wizard lift a hand just as Noll reaches him, and as he touches my brutish friend, Noll falls and convulses violently on the white-tiled floor.
The Wizard grins, steps carelessly over Noll, and continues toward me.
“Griff,” I say fearfully.
“I’m here, kid,” he says, his voice shaking as well.
“I’m here, too,” Tenney adds, sounding as though he’s barely keeping his feet rooted to the ground instead of running the other direction.
“Chelle,” The Wizard sneers. “You thought you had me beaten, didn’t you?”
“Um, yes?” I respond weakly.
The Wizard stops immediately before me, staring me down.
“Look, bub,” Griff says, standing between me and The Wizard. “You’ll have to get through me first.”
“Oh, that won’t be too difficult,” The Wizard says, snapping his fingers.
Griff goes limp, falling to the ground in front of me. I scream out in terror.
Tenney runs without a noise. The Wizard snaps his fingers yet again and Tenney falls to the floor as well.
I drop to my knees, tears streaming down my face.
“Oh, crap, I’m sorry,” I hear coming from behind The Wizard, who has now frozen in place. “I’m so so sorry,” I see Griff appear from behind The Wizard, a worried look on his face as he comes to my side. “I thought it would be funny, I really didn’t think you’d—“
“Get away from me,” I scream, pushing the robot away as I back further down the platform.
“No, Chelle, you don’t understand,” he frowns. “It’s me, Griff.”
“I’ve seen all this before,” I cry out. “What’d you do to the real Griff? Griff?” I scream, hoping my friend will move.
The new Griff holds his hands up and stops advancing on me.
“Chelle, I’m sorry, okay. I obviously wasn’t thinking when I came up with this. Hold on just a second and I can explain everything.”
I stop, curious, but still not trusting anything.
“Great, thanks. Okay, so, look, I’m just going to push a button here on my remote,” he says, nodding his head toward the device located in his left hand.
I say nothing. I have no clue how to respond.
Finally, I nod.
“Okay, perfect,” he says, making a grand gesture of pressing a single button on the black device. Almost instantly, Original-Griff rises to his feet, turns, and looks at me. He gives an awkward smile.
“Griff?” I gasp in confusion.
“Hey, kid,” he responds. “I’m sorry I’ve had to lie to you like this.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I’m a robot.”
“No,” I exhale in fear. “No, it can’t be. You’re Griff, you’re, no, you’re—“
“Don’t worry, kid,” Other-Griff says. “I sent him on the trip with you. It’s all part of the plan.”
“What plan? I don’t understand.”
“It’s me, Chelle, I promise. How can I prove it to you?”
“By letting me out of here and never speaking with me again.”
“How about this? You remember when I first found you, when you were sitting alone at that train station in Washington to get on that train and away from your family?”
“Of course I do.”
“Right, so, there’s something I never told you about that moment. Something which might help make things make more sense.”
“It had better be pretty damned good,” I say weakly.
“I’m a time traveler.”
“I know that,” I shout. “What do you think we’ve been doing this last week, or however the hell long we’ve been doing this for now?”
“No. I mean, I’ve always been a time traveler. When I met you, well, I had already known you for a long time. You might say I’ve known you all my life.”
“Now you’re just talking stupid. You’re over twice my age.”
“Age isn’t really all that important to a time traveler.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying, I’m your son,” he pauses. “Mom.”
I laugh, unable to come up with a verbal response.
“I know. I’m not sure I would believe me either, but it’s true.”
“Right, and who’s your father? The Wizard, I suppose?”
“No, The Wizard was a real threat.”
“So, you’re saying you saw this Wizard guy start causing trouble and you just decided to go back in time and grab the fifteen year old version of your mom to help? Yeah, right.”
“I didn’t know about The Wizard until you did. I brought you back for something completely different, something that, well, something else.”
“Sure, okay, whatever. Do you have any idea how crazy you sound? And who is your dad again? Or are you your own dad and this is one of those really weird time travel stories.”
“No,” he retorts. “Of course not. Dad?” he says, looking at the train.
The train door hisses as it opens and I can make out the silhouette of a large man through the fog. When he steps out, I find myself once again unable to respond.
“Chelle,” the voice of Lance speaks. “Darlin’?”
Go to Chapter Fifty-Seven