You Get What You Paid For

"Cartonius? Can you hear me?"

(This is most unwise, Arianna.)

"It looks like I'm going to be in this causality loop for some time. I need to keep in touch with the others."

(If you're worried about your mother—)

"No. She's already lived through this once. Currently living through it, considering my present circumstances. She doesn't need me to bring it up again."

(Then why have you jeopardized temporal purity by contacting me?)

"I can only sense so much from this current loop. I need to know if other anchors are materializing in my present…the future. I need to know if they'll be all right."

(Oh, my dear Arianna…I would pay far more attention to the structure of your present causality loop. You can't begin to imagine the places it's going to take you.)

Alex dreamt.

This time around, she knew the scene unfolding before her was a vision and not merely a dream. Once again, she saw events from outside her perspective. An observer from a distance. It seemed an odd way to behold a vision, but the power of chronometric Foresight came in a variety of flavors.

Alex saw herself, perhaps a few years down the road. There were aging lines to her face, and what looked like a new scar. But her dark hair wasn't yet touched with gray. The Alex she saw still had the energy and grace of younger years.

A little girl with lighter hair danced about the vision of Alex's feet. She looked to be four or five, and bore an acute similarity to her father. The fairer hair; the green eyes. It was a wonder she hadn't inherited any of her mother's more dominant genes.

The Alex she watched in vision scooped up the child, who squealed with delight in her mother's arms. It was only the two of them, and they walked along a small path in green grass towards an older house. But it was a nice house, with a front porch and toys on the front lawn. The signs of life when a young child lives at home. Alex didn't recognize it or the quiet country neighborhood, but she had a feeling she would come to know it well.

The vision faded like a golden summer sunset, and Alex found herself weeping as she turned over awake. It wasn't the first time in recent days these visions left her with tears. But these were good tears.

Alex sat up, yawning in the darkness of early morning. The glow of her dream and vision lingered in her heart, feeling her with fuzzies that made everything feel right in the world. This wasn't her bed, and this wasn't her world. But that was okay. Her vision alluded to a better time past all present ugliness. And if that wasn't hopeful, Alex didn't know what was.

The earliest rays of morning light shown through a boarded up window. The little apartment complex was under jurisdiction with the local militia. It was somewhere safe to stay while her daughter and Alise scouted the next Gate. Surprisingly, the people here were grateful to see them—expectant even. News of Cadence's freedom traveled fast through the Gates. Each new world brought a little more hope to Alex's spirits.

They weren't back to Real Space yet, but she had only good news to bring when they got there. She hoped the Epochal Guard had better news out of Stormfall. The Second Time War was coming, but they would be ready for it. All worlds would be ready for it.

Glancing down, Alex flipped on her wristwatch bio-feed. It glowed pale blue in the dark, the graphic lazily going through various health facts about her body. Having woken partway through a sleep cycle, it appeared aimed at lulling her back into sleep. There was a message about the importance of a full night's sleep for the work day. Alex also couldn't help noticing the last status report near the end of the bio-feed.

A positive pregnancy check.

Well, they were right on schedule, weren't they? It only almost destroyed her getting there in the first place. Comparatively, the next nine months would be a breeze. Alex knew she would revise that assessment as she was further along, but right now the thought of carrying a child felt so much simpler than what she did to get to this point.

Alex reached down, wrapping her hand protectively around her belly. It would take time, but soon there would be a little bump to let her know that a daughter was on her way.

"You've caused me a lot of grief," Alex whispered in the night. She looked down. "I hope you know that, Arianna. You made me give up my virtue for you. I'm going to teach you a few things about God and what he expects from good girls. Maybe you'll think twice the next time we send you back to us before we were your parents.

"Maybe you'll keep me from breaking my best friend's marriage fidelity. How am I going to explain this to Morgan? Is she technically your step-mom? How will we work out custody? All of this to bring you into existence."

Alex sighed, growing quiet. She looked around the small group of sleeping figures. Some Seminary Gangers, others descendants of Seminary Gangers: all of them trying to get one peaceful night's sleep before the storm. A storm that would rage across the decades, forcing the baby girl growing inside Alex to make a journey back to their time.

Not only to help fight a war, but to ensure her very birth.

Alex glanced at her belly once more. "You better help us win this war."


To be concluded in The Epochal Chronicles III: Children of Time