Classes continued for Andy, but with each passing day and week he slowly began to feel less and less certain about ever seeing his sister again, and more and more worried about what she was going through. His sister had seemed fine enough, if unhappy, when he visited her in his dream. However, he hadn’t seen her in a dream since and he wasn’t sure how much trouble she would have gotten in after he freed her of her bindings.
The bottom line was that Andy felt as though time was running out.
Andy still hadn’t broached the topic further with his aunt, other than the occasional mention. She seemed focused on his teaching. When she wasn’t tutoring or testing him, she insisted he get out and familiarize himself with Fallsborough. Andy was sure that she was doing what she could to plan their time travel rescue, but he wasn’t sure what she was doing because she rarely let him stay behind.
Even when she did, such as letting him spend some time on the computer, she was usually buried in a book and not terribly communicative.
Andy shoved his hands in his pockets as he strolled down the street leading up to his aunt’s house, Rose Avenue. There were some roses outside of his aunt’s cabin that she kept, but he wasn’t sure whether or not that was why the street got its name.
Since meeting Henry, Andy had also made friends with a short youth a couple years older than him with crazy brown hair named Cooper and a girl named Sandy. Andy couldn’t say he’d ever talked to a Cooper or Sandy before. Both names seemed sort of old-fashioned, but neither of them seemed bothered by it.
Sandy was as tall as Henry, maybe a bit taller. She could have been named for her hair, which was a nice blonde color. She had it bobbed around her chin. She was somewhat broad with strong arms and legs, Andy wasn’t sure he wanted to wrestle her. But her blue eyes were kind and she had a sunny smile.
She was a bit shy, which Andy understood completely, but it made it difficult to get to know her. Instead, he’d spent awhile with her the day before unloading all of his concerns and worries. Afterward he had been a little anxious about having said too much. He said as much to his aunt.
“You do need to be careful,” she said. “We very likely do have enemies among us. But you do have to be willing to make friends and you can’t go around mistrusting everyone. Especially kids of your age. Just be… judicious in the information you share.”
Cooper seemed as crazy as his hair. He struck Andy as very smart, but also a bit weird. He was obsessive about the things he loved, which included some card games, and an older video game where one built space armies to do battle and conquer with.
Andy tried to get his aunt to let him install the game, but she stated he would need his own computer for that.
The comment was straight-forward and logical, but it caused Andy to wonder what would happen when they rescued his sister and his father. He wanted things to go back the way they were, but everything he’d been told suggested that his entire life would change, their life would change.
Would they be moving to Fallsborough permanently? What would that mean for his old friends, his and Dani’s friends. Andy wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Worse was understanding that he didn’t really have any control over whether or not it happened. He was suddenly filled with an intense longing for home. It came and went in waves while he had been here with his aunt, but now the feeling was almost unbearable.
He would have cried there and then if he wasn’t afraid of someone else seeing him like that.
Instead, Andy kicked rocks and made his way down to the lake shore to stare out over the water. There was someone in a row boat making their way across the lake as the sun was beginning to set. It made the lake dark, almost inky black, but the boat cut a clear figure as it glided through the water.
For a fleeting moment, Andy wanted to be on that boat, headed away from everything and everyone. To run away from his aunt, or his missing sister and his missing father. He wanted to run away from being a chosen, someone who was predestined to do great things. It was all too much and none of it was fair.
It all came back to time. Too much time and not enough.
Apart from the rest of the world, the town felt isolated in a bit of a time bubble. There was plenty of time to learn all of the fantastic abilities and powers that came with being who he was. But all the time in the world didn’t matter if he had to do it alone. His sister had fallen out of time, fallen out of it into the year of 1952. It felt increasingly like he was running out of time for her. How long until her captors used her for their nefarious purposes, or moved her to another spot… or another time.
Andy drew his hand through the water and watched it swirl around his fingers. He still hadn’t been able to summon his spirit. He knew he was supposed to special, that he was supposed be good at this, but what if he wasn’t? What if Andy was broken, if he wasn’t capable of doing the things he was predicted to do. Prophecy was notoriously fickle, and it wasn’t fool proof. Perhaps Andy was just that, a fool.
He slapped his hand against the water, splashing himself with water unintentionally. He spit water out of his mouth and wiped his face.
“What if we don’t get to her in time?” Andy asked his aunt little.
“Mmm. Doubts are natural. I suppose we’ve kept you in the dark long enough that you feel like nothing is being done.” She responded. “But you’ve been patient long enough. It’s time.”
Andy blinked. She was letting him in.
“Some of my friends will be coming over later tonight to go over the plan.”
“And what can I do?” Andy asked.
“I think you know.” His aunt said, leveling a gaze at him. “You are your own worst enemy in this. Your emotions are clouding your focus. Remember Rule #3: Rule your emotions, don’t let them rule you.“
Andy nodded and rubbed his eyes. He headed back to his bed to sit and meditate. He had to control his emotions. Focus on his breathing. Andy tried to empty his thoughts, which was a difficult enough prospect on the best of days, but the stress of the meeting tonight, and the weeks without success were weighing heavily on him.
Even though he was certain his aunt wouldn’t stop him, Andy snuck out of his room through the bedroom window.
Evening was settling fast on Fallsborough, and Andy noted that most of the houses had their lights on. In spite of that fact, the roads were still eerily quiet. Most people were in their homes, and were most likely having dinner. Since Fallsborough wasn’t on the way to anywhere, there was no one passing through town.
There were only a few businesses in town, including a small grocery, and a diner restaurant which was open for all three meals, and had an ice cream stand during the summer. There was a mechanics shop which also sold bikes as well as motorized off-road vehicles. All told there were maybe a dozen or so businesses with actual commercial properties, but most of them were closed by the day’s end.
The grocer’s was still open though, its lights were cheerily shining through its large glass store front. Andy decided to head inside.
“Hey there, kid.” Said Mike, the older teen who always seemed to be working there.
Usually, Mr. Harrison was there during the day, but was home by the time evening fell and that seemed to be true today as well.
“Hi,” Andy replied, then dove through the aisles of the store.
He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, he only had a couple of dollars in his pocket to begin with. In spite of his aimless wandering, it became evident that Andy was glancing around for others, other people. He seemed intent on locating someone other than himself or Mike, but there wasn’t anyone else. The town was close to full, but it was strangely ghost town-like.
After about five minutes of this, Andy could see the doors leading into the store open and he made his way to the front. He heard a girl’s voice chatting with Mike, clearly engaging the older teen where Andy had just tried to rush past him. As he got closer, Andy felt there was something familiar about the voice, but he couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was.
As he came to the end of the baking goods isle, the visitor appeared in view.
She looked like a girl his own age with reddish brown hair tied into pigtails on either side of her head. The girl was wearing a floral summer dress with white tights. From behind she seemed even more familiar and Andy had a sneaking suspicion… but it wasn’t until he came up beside her and she turned to face him that those suspicions were verified.
“Andy.” Taylor gave him a sad, but friendly smile and immediately hugged him.
“I’m so sorry about everything,” she said, then dropped her voice to a whisper, “my parents wouldn’t let me talk to you because they didn’t want me distracting you from your tasks.”
Andy hugged her fiercely, then stepped back to look her up and down, as if worried that she wasn’t really there.
“When did you, um, get here?” Andy asked.
“A couple of days ago. It was a bit strange, really. All my life we’ve been coming here for most of the summer, but now we’re here in the fall and it seems like we’re going to be here awhile.”
Andy nodded, but he was only half listening. He realized that this must have meant that Taylor was similar to him, and yet she’d hidden it from him and from Dani for years. There was a semi sense of betrayal, but it was immediately balanced by empathy: how difficult must it have been for her to hide those things? Secrecy seemed to be part of the baggage of being what they were. However, another question occurred to him as well: did she know what we were and not say anything?
He supposed that the prophecy might have been kept secret, especially given the peril it put him and Dani in. Still, it was hard to keep something big like that entirely quiet. And for all he knew, it was something that was taught to every kid of their lineage, those Alterrans who were technically not from Earth.
An awkward silence had begun to spread between them.
“Um, so what did you come to the store for?” Andy asked.
“Oh, just need to pick up a few things for dinner.”
“I can walk with you.”
“I’d like that.” She said, offering him a smile.
For a minute it was like he was back home after all. Sure, the mostly empty store was a bit weird, and he didn’t usually go grocery shopping with his friends. But he and Taylor mostly fell back into conversation as if nothing had happened in between then and when they last talked. He even managed to get her to laugh at a joke.
“So, wait, are you going to school here too?” Andy asked as they got to the checkout.
“They’re still setting that up.” It was Mike that answered, as he checked out Taylor’s items.
“It’s a bit weird, really.” Taylor added. “I mean, we did classes here in the summer, but now they have to set things up for full schooling. Since most of us won’t be going back home any time soon. Since this will be… ”
She didn’t finish her statement, but Andy’s mind finished it for her, permanent. It occurred to him that it wasn’t only his life or his family’s life that was changing. A lot of families were converging on the town out of season. There was an expectation that this stay would be long term, if not permanent. Andy wasn’t sure what the adults were being told, but he assumed they knew something of what was going on.
As they exited the store, Taylor handed him a loaf of bread. “I figured you should bring something back so it doesn’t look like you went out for nothing.” She said with a grin.
Andy headed back to his aunt’s cabin with his thoughts racing. He would never have guessed that Taylor was like him. Perhaps there were others that he knew who were also Alterrans like him. Hamas, Mabas, or perhaps the rarest, Palas, just like him.
Whatever, whoever they were, perhaps there were others that he knew.
However, when Andy opened the door to his aunt’s house, he found it full of people he didn’t know. The only one he did know was his aunt. A couple of the individuals he’d seen around town, but their names were unknown.
There were three men and two women other than his aunt there. His aunt looked up as he entered, her expression as inscrutable as ever.
“Welcome back,” she said, not mentioning the fact that he snuck out of his room.
“These are my friends. We have Ron, George, and Peter.” She gestured to each of the men in turn.
Each of them nodded to Andy. The first one was a tall, gaunt-looking man with short-cropped dark brown hair. He wore thin glasses and had stubble in place of a beard. The second one she mentioned was of a more average build with a close beard of brown hair, but short blonde hair on his head. The third man had longer hair, down to his shoulders, and it was a red in color. He had a bushy beard and seemed a bit lanky as well, thin.
“Then we have Pam,” she gestured, “and Kim.”
Pam was a thicker sort of woman with long blonde hair and brown eyes. Kim had green eyes and red wavy hair that fell down her back. Both women smiled at Andy when their names were mentioned.
“We were just talking about you… and your sister.” His aunt said, taking the bread he offered as he walked up to her and then sat down.
It was then that he noticed the bottle. It was a long-necked bottle like an old soda bottle, but the label was cleaned off and the bottle was full of a clear, water-like liquid.
“Mmm, I see you’ve noticed the potion. Yes, that will help us use your abilities to jump back in time. Should be enough there for a trip there and a trip back. Not all of us will be going with you. Just Kim, myself, and Peter.” His aunt gestured to the three adults, “the rest will be staying behind to manage things and make sure chaos doesn’t erupt in our absence.”
It was a lot to take in. Andy wasn’t sure what to say. All of a sudden he could feel it, could feel like, finally, something was going to happen. The reassurance swept away his self doubt and his questions like a tidal wave washing ashore.
“W- when?” Andy croaked, he shut his eyes as if that could stop the tears from coming.
“Tonight, if possible.” His aunt said. “There are a few matters to attend to, but it’s past time.”
Andy wasn’t sure he heard much else after that. The adults were talking to one another, quickly, and yet in hushed whispers. Eventually he found himself in his room again, staring at the picture of the Baerex an artist had rendered in a book. It was his companion, and it was what would allow him to travel through time to rescue his sister, but he still couldn’t call it forward. As it was, he would need help just to use the magic. And once they got there, he was fairly certain he would be less than useless. Unable to summon up any magic, the adults would have to protect him, while also fighting his battles for him.
Was he mad at himself, though? Or mad at the adults who had stunted his ability to learn of the powers he had in a failed effort to protect him? Andy wasn’t sure how to sort out those feelings and it made him sick to his stomach to realize he wasn’t sure who to blame.
When it was finally time, they came in to find Any slouched and sleeping. The book he had been looking at was slipping off the bed, but was in the process of, rather than having actually slipped off.
“Wha- what?” Andy said when he was jostled awake, “oh, I was jus- just reading.”
“Well, you don’t need to worry about sleep. You’ll be getting some in just a bit.” Kimberly said with a smile. She patted his head, which Andy was uncertain how he felt about.
It turned out that just a bit was at least an hour later. They finally had Andy lying down on the bed when they brought the bottle with the potion. It had a strange, thick, viscous quality to it, but it tasted oddly like nothing. It was ice-cold as it went down his throat, and Andy recalled Dani describing it that way.
Andy’s eyes were closed as he measured his breathing. In and out. In and out. He felt his body getting stiffer, and then his muscles relaxed and he fell asleep.
At first there was only darkness, the comforting warmth of nothing. There was a dissociation from the moment and then something like a jerk as though he was being pulled through. Then it felt like he was falling. Falling… falling… falling… and then he slammed into a bed and woke up.
The room was well-appointed. A large full-sized bed with rich sheets and comforters. When Andy sat up and looked around, he saw no one. For a moment, Andy wondered if he’d ended up in the wrong place, permanently separated from everyone that could help him. Then the door to the room opened and his aunt and Kim entered.
“Peter’s getting a ride situation,” his aunt said, smiling at Andy.
She and Kim were both a vision of the 50s in dresses that seemed drawn perfectly from the time. Kim’s dress had alternating white and green stripes. His aunt was in a navy blue dress with white polka dots. The outfit they had for him consisted of a red and white striped polo and khaki dress pants. When they left the room, Peter dressed quickly.
“Where are we? Did we get the right time?” Andy asked when he stepped out into the living room area.
“Yes, it’s 1952. We’re about 100 miles from Topeka Falls in Ranchville.” Kim said in response, putting a hand on her shoulder. “We’ll be there in a couple of hours, as long as things go well.”
However, it was at least an hour before they left. It turned out there was a lot to plan in their rescue mission. His aunt and her friends were looking at maps, writing down instructions and discussing things–all without his input. It didn’t surprise him, of course, what was he expected to do when he couldn’t even connect with his spirit animal?
The drive there was even more boring than Andy might have guessed. It was cornfields on cornfields and bales of high in tight round cylinders. But the roads were interesting. All of the cars were old, classics, except in the current moment they were modern and shiny new. Andy picked at his pants, his fingers playing along the pleats.
What’s Dani doing? What’s she thinking? He wondered, looking out the window at nothing. What sort of ridiculous getup do they have her in now?
But only time would give the answers. And it turned out that things weren’t nearly as fast in the past as they were in the times Andy was used to.
They did eventually arrive in Topeka Falls. The town was small enough that it was centered primarily around the main drag through town. There’s not too many places to have to explore here, Andy thought. For a moment he let himself have hope that they could find Dani quickly and be gone. However, the initial pass through town was deceptive. It turned out that Topeka Falls had 5,200 residents and there were enough homes spread out over its massive mileage that Andy realized they could end up searching for weeks.
Lunch was at a local diner in town. The adults were using it as a chance to gather information as well as eat. The waitress was a true gossip type, and seemed to revel in all of the questions she was asked. Andy picked at a burger and fries. Normally a meal he would be all over, he couldn’t stop thinking about how close they were to Dani, and yet she only felt further away.
The diner trip wasn’t a waste, however. It turned out that there was a newer couple who moved in together in Lincoln Ave. It seemed they’d made a bit of a splash when they come into the scene, but had become quite reclusive in the past few weeks. All agreed that this seemed to fit the bill best.
But even then there was no plan to rush in and rescue Dani. Instead, they began by casing the house where that couple lived. There was at least one window with a set of bars outside of it. This seemed to sell them on their theory and they settled down across the street to stake it out. All day the car in that house’s driveway stayed there.
Andy was getting restless. It seemed that they were doing more waiting and watching than was necessary. They were certain Dani was in the house, and yet they hunkered down and gave in to what Andy saw as stalling.
Evening fell and found them still watching the house from their car. The lights were on in the house and there were shadows that gave them a vague impression of what was going on inside. To be honest, there didn’t seem to be much suspicious activity from what they could see. The most suspicious aspect of the house were the bars outside the window, but there were plenty of excuses for that one.
“Do we strike tonight?” Kim asked, looking to Andy’s aunt.
“Not sure. I’d like more time to develop things, but I’m also worried about spooking them.” So they spent the rest of the night in the car. Andy remembered pressing his cheek against the window, but didn’t catch himself falling asleep.
“Wake up, kid.” It was Kim shaking his shoulder and gesturing to the house. “We might just be going in after all. Lights are all out.”
Eagerly, Andy sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes as best he could. Sure enough, the lights were out. Andy had no way of checking the time, but he figured it was likely midnight. The lights on almost all of the houses were off.
“What’s the plan?” Andy asked.
Peter chuckled a little and stroked his beard. “Of course you’ll be staying in the car.”
Of course I will. Andy thought bitterly. Even if he had little to offer in the breach, it was still his twin that they were saving. He should have been able to play even a little part. Instead, he was going to sit there like an obedient child and let the adults do their thing.
Andy’s vision flickered then and, for a moment, he was in a frilly room, huddled up in his bed. Or, not his bed. It was definitely a girl’s room and he had to wonder if he was looking through Dani’s eyes again.
Then he was creeping down the hallway, obscured by the total darkness. In the living room, near the house entrance, the young couple was crouched down The adults would be walking into a trap!
Andy tried to shake his head and return back to himself. However, when he looked around, he realized that all of the adults head left the car and were making their way across the street toward the house.
No. Andy thought, I can’t let them spring that trip.
Hurriedly he opened the door and then stumbled as he exited the car and went to warn them.
“Stop! Wait! Listen!” Andy got himself upright and sprang toward them.
While Kim and his aunt creeped along the sides of the house, Peter was taking up the front entrance, so he was the first one Andy ran into.
“You should be in the car, kid.” Peter said, he gave a friendly smile, but there was concern in his eyes.
“You don’t under-” Andy began, but Peter cut him off.
“This is dangerous. You could be hurt, or worse-“
“That’s just it!” Andy said, interrupting Peter and straining not to shout, “it’s a trap. You need to know. It’s a trap, I had a vision.”
That caused Peter to pause. “You’re sure?”
Peter took out a walkie-talkie, which would have looked very futuristic for the time period. Andy wasn’t sure when it was invented, though he had a feeling they existed in the 50s, but the one that Peter had was made of sleek plastic and had a number of dials and buttons.
“Wolf here.” Peter radioed. “Call mission off. Call mission off.”
There was a long pause after he radioed and Andy worried that he’d received the vision too late. What were they going to do if his aunt and Kim got ambushed. Maybe Peter would still be able to get them back to the modern time, but would they have to run back without Dani or their father?
After what Andy could have sworn was minutes, but was probably more like thirty seconds, there was a reply.
“This is Hawk. Wolf, did you say to call the mission off? Please clarify.”
“Tortoise here.” Kim replied, “same question.”
“Wolf here. Yes, calling off mission. Calling off mission.”
Peter herded Andy back to the car and both his aunt and Kim were there only moments later.
“What’s going on?” Andy’s aunt asked, looking from Peter to Andy with a frown.
Peter opened his mouth as if he were going to explain, then he saw the frown and glanced at Andy. “Perhaps you better explain, kid.”
So Andy explained the vision that he had and his aunt glanced over at the house. The lights were still on and there was no movement. She sighed and nodded after a moment.
“This is going to be more difficult than we thought.” She said, “and we’re fortunate they didn’t call the police.”
“We need more time.” Kim said.
Andy’s aunt sighed, “time is the one thing we don’t have to spare.”