Part 1-1: Recollections
I stared for a moment. "I'm sorry - what did you say?"
"Danny Hebert," he said, just a little defensively. "It's my name."
"Oh," I said weakly.
Shit, I thought. It's really him.I knew that bewildered look too well, even half upside down and without my glasses. This was too much to deal with, all at once. I closed my eyes for just a second, tried to clear my spinning thoughts.
When I opened them again, the cabin was dark and my only companions were the thrumming of the engines and the smell of sea salt.
I'd had concussions before; the symptoms were not unfamiliar to me. Which helped make the transition, the sense of lost time, a little less jarring. But not much.
It took me a few moments to realise that the blankets had been drawn up to my chin. That must have been Danny – Dad.
I could just see him doing that, I really could. Even twenty years younger, my Dad was still a gentle, caring man. Only ...and here my stomach gave a lurch totally unconnected with the movement of the boat... only this wasn't a caring gesture to his daughter. He doesn't know me. He's just being nice to the girl whose life he saved.
Which drew attention to the other elephant in the room. This wasn't a joke. Phir Sē really did send me back twenty years.
Okay, how do I deal with this?
I took a deep breath. One step at a time. I'm a time traveller with no way back, and a minor to boot. I have exactly zero documentation here and now. No official existence. This could be a problem.
Gingerly, I reached up, felt the back of my head. There was a bandage that went right around my skull, with a thick pad back there. It was tender, but not overly painful. But the impact had been enough to give me what I hoped was a relatively mild concussion.
Which could give me an out, if I play this right.
However, I did have my other hole card. My powers. Control of insects, which, at this moment, extended to simple marine life.
Cautiously, I extended my powers. I didn't want anyone seeing something strange.
Puzzled, I frowned; I wasn't picking up any bugs on the boat at all. That's weird. Had they disinfected it before they set off? It didn't seem likely.
And then I saw a fly buzzing across the cabin, zig-zagging with the motion of the boat. I focused my attention on it. Nothing. It didn't alter course, and I couldn't sense it.
What the fuck?
And then the realisation hit me.
When Phir Sē sent me back in time, he had also cut me off from my powers. They were gone. I had no access to them.
How the fuck do I deal with this?
I was still trying to figure that one out when I fell asleep again.
This time, however, I didn't simply have a moment of missed time.
This time, I dreamed.
Lisa and I sat atop the square-sided chunk of rock that had killed her in reality, our legs dangling over the side. Below our feet was a mound of rubble; I did not want to see what it concealed.
We were holding hands, just as we had done ... before. Before she died.
This is a dream, I said. You died. My voice echoed hollowly in my head.
She gave me that irritating vulpine grin of hers. "Well, duh," she agreed readily. "This isn't really happening. It's just your subconscious working things out for itself."
Yeah well ... I said awkwardly. I miss you so goddamn much.
She squeezed my hand. "I know," she said. "And I appreciate it."
There's a logical flaw there somewhere ... I said slowly.
"Silly Taylor," she said fondly. "Logic doesn't belong in dreams." She reached up to her throat with her free hand, and worked the bloodstained bandage off of it.
I looked curiously at her. There wasn't a mark on her throat, now. What was the bandage for? I asked.
"Oh," she said off-handedly. "You remember the guy Cody from what I was telling you about the Travellers?"
I nodded. Vaguely, I replied.
"Yeah," she said. "Well, he fucked up and they basically sold him to Accord. Accord sold him on to the Yàngbǎn. He was pissed about that, so he went and wounded Chevalier pretty badly, and killed Accord. Crushed my windpipe, so I had to give myself a tracheotomy."
She gave me her fox-like grin. "No fun, let me tell you. For a moment there, I thought he was going to kill me anyway. Then he left. They found me, gave me field surgery, so I could breathe normally. And then Behemoth did his thing and the place fell down anyway."
Damn, I said. Okay. I have a problem. You're the smartest person in the room. I've lost my powers. How do I go from here? What do I do? How do I fix this?
"Oh, Taylor," she whispered. "Weren't you listening? I already told you how."
I blinked as sand stung my eye. You knew this was going to happen? I asked.
She grinned again. "Didn't I tell you? I know so much more than I did before."
That's not an answer, I replied. The wind was whipping up, sand obscuring the sun.
"I know," she said softly. Her voice was getting very faint.
What's happening? I asked in alarm.
She looked at me, her eyes large and sad. "You're waking up. Kiss before I go?"
I leaned over and kissed her. Her lips tasted of dust and blood.
I opened my eyes with a gasp, sat half-upright in bed.
A stranger, a woman sat back with a start. She held a stethoscope in one hand.
"Christ," she said. "You gave me a fright. Do you always come awake like that?"
"Who are you?" I asked warily, evading the question. "Where's the boy?"
"The boy - oh, you mean young Hebert.". She smiled. "He's helping out on deck. Oh sorry, my name's Nina. Nina Veder. I'm what passes for the ship's doctor.". A conspiratorial grin. "Just an EMT, but I volunteered, so here I am."
Veder? As in Greg Veder?
I searched her features. As far as I could tell without my glasses, they were good-natured, open, friendly. She looked to be in her early thirties.
She blinked a little at my intense scrutiny. "What?"
I let my eyes drop away. "I ... thought for a moment that you looked familiar. That I might know you. I don't. Sorry.". Extracting my arm from under the covers, I scrubbed at my eyes with the back of my hand. "I think I need glasses or something. Or is blurry vision a side effect of whatever happened to me?"
She frowned. "You don't remember?"
I shook my head. "I'm sorry. I've been trying really hard, to remember anything at all, and all I've been getting out of it is a headache."
"Stop trying," she said at once. "Don't force it. Danny - the Hebert boy - told me you said your name was Taylor. Do you remember doing that?"
I nodded. I couldn't very well deny it. "That's about all I am sure of."
She nodded in return. "Well, here we have a bit of a puzzle. You undoubtedly came out of the water. But none of the yachts have any 'Taylor' listed as a crew member. Or anyone with Taylor as a surname, for that matter."
She frowned. "What's more, everyone else we pulled from the water was fully dressed. You were in your underwear, and you have bruises and cuts – on you that you didn't get from being in the water."
She gave me a searching look. "Do you remember anything about what happened to you?"
I shook my head. "I'm sorry," I said. I was being sincere; Nina Veder was a nice person, no matter what I might think of her distant relative Greg. She didn't deserve to be lied to.
But in order to secure the survival of the human race, I decided coldly. I would lie and cheat and kill if I had to. Lisa deserved a second chance; so did Brian, Alec, Aisha and Rachel.
Me? I was on my second chance.
Even if I didn't have my powers any more. I'd have to make this work somehow. The world was more or less depending on me.
Moments later, the cabin became remarkably crowded with the entry of two more people. One was Danny; immediately preceding him was a large, heavy-set man with a salt-and-pepper beard. I squinted; without my glasses, it was hard to tell, but …
"I'm George Hebert, master of the Ocean Road," announced the bearded man. He had the sort of personality that fills even a large room; in this cramped cabin, his presence was almost overpowering. And I knew him also; not as well as I knew Danny, but I did know him.
"So you're the little thing Danny-boy pulled from the ocean," he said directly to me.
Danny's parents had had him relatively late in life; George, my grandfather, was forty-two when Danny was born, and his wife Dorothy ("call me Dot") was thirty-eight.
I nodded. "Uh – yes, sir," I replied meekly.
George Hebert had suffered a stroke and died when I was about ten. His wife had survived him by six months before quietly passing away in her sleep. I had met them a few times, but not often and not for long; George had never approved of Mom, and so relations had been strained.
"So what the fuck," he said bluntly, "were you doing in the water in your fucking skivvies, not even a fucking life jacket? Were you trying to commit suicide or something?"
Like Dad, he had apparently had a bit of a temper. Unlike Dad, he was not afraid to show it.
I lowered my eyes. "I don't know," I said softly. "I can't remember."
He grabbed my shoulders and shook me – actually shook me. My teeth rattled in my head.
"Can't remember? You stupid little idiot! Because of you, my only son jumped overboard in a howling storm to save your sorry ass. Both of you could have fucking drowned, because you couldn't take basic fucking precautions!"
"Captain!" snapped Nina Veder. "Leave her alone! She's got some sort of amnesia, and you're not helping!"She grabbed his wrists and pulled his hands off me, then pushed him by main force back toward the entryway. He seemed taken aback; this was probably the only thing that allowed her to move him at all.
Danny stepped in closer. "Sorry about Dad," he said quietly. "He's a bit … high-strung."
I mustered a grateful smile for him, but mainly I was trying to listen in on the conversation that Nina was having with Danny's father. She was trying to keep her voice down, but the cabin was not large.
"She's got unusual injuries," she was explaining in an undertone. "She can't remember anything before being pulled on board. I think she may have been abducted, kept on one of the yachts …" Still taking, she pushed him out the door.
Danny smiled back at me. "How are you feeling?" he asked. "Your head all right? You caught it a terrific bump back there."
I shrugged. "I'm getting better." Of its own accord, my hand crept from under the covers and grasped his. "I want to thank you for saving my life."
He gulped and squeezed my hand, his face turning red.
"I'm just glad I was there at the right time," he mumbled.
"So am I," I replied fervently. "So am I."
He sat by my bed, and held my hand as if it were his most precious possession.
"So where are you from?" he asked, at length.
I shook my head. "I don't know," I said. "Nina – Ms Veder – seems to think I've got some sort of amnesia from that bump on the head. All I know is my name, and that's about it."
"Oh Christ," he said, looking stricken. "I'm so sorry, Taylor."
I smiled at him. "Don't worry about it, Danny. I'm sure it will all come good. Actually, you can help me with something there. What's the date today?"
I had a halfway suspicion that I knew. Danny's next words confirmed it.
"Nineteenth of October, why?"
I made my face a blank. "I thought it might help me remember something, anything."
"Did it?" he asked eagerly.
I shook my head; his face fell. "Sorry, Danny. But thanks for trying." I smiled again. "And at least I know something now that I didn't before."
I knew a lot that I hadn't known earlier. I knew the date, and I knew the year.
Wednesday, October eighteen, nineteen eighty-nine. A large regatta of ocean-going racing yachts had been hit by an unseasonal storm ranging in off the Atlantic. Within minutes, most were damaged and foundering. Rescue boats had put out from Brockton Bay and other communities along the coast; due to the short notice, they had been woefully undercrewed, taking any volunteers who could perform essential duties.
George Hebert had captained one of these boats, the one I was on now. I had not known, though, that Danny had volunteered to go out with his boat on this specific occasion.
Most of the yachts had sunk without a trace; quite a few of the crews had gone down with them. The survivors had told of utter chaos on the water, of collisions and near misses as they tried to keep way on so as not to broach and go under.
I could well believe it, now. It was into that hell that Phir Sē had dropped me. And I would have died there, had it not been for the Ocean Road, and the heroism of Danny Hebert.
I had a great deal to think about. But at least now I knew where I was starting from.
I have a lot of planning to do.
By the time the Ocean Road neared the coast, I felt well enough to get out on deck. Danny was the only person on board who was anywhere near my size, so I wore a pair of his trousers with the belt pulled in to the last notch, and a pullover that would have made me a good-sized tent.
The rest of the survivors that had been pulled on board the Ocean Road were men and women of mature age, and they eyed me with puzzlement, obviously having no idea where I came into the situation. I preferred not to let the matter come up, sticking as close to Danny as I could, to discourage questions.
"Why are you squinting?" he asked, as we peered toward the coast.
"My eyes are all blurry," I replied truthfully. "I think I need glasses or something."
"Wait here," he said, and disappeared below. I did as he said; it was nice, to be out in the sunlight, to taste the sea air.
A line from the Bible passed through my mind. Those that go down to the sea in ships …
In a very short time, he reappeared, with something in his hand. "Here," he said. "Try these."
I took them; they were glasses.
"I can't take your glasses," I said. "You need them."
"Spare pair," he told me. "See if they help."
Such was his eagerness to be of assistance, I agreed. When I fitted them over my face, my vision cleared. They weren't perfect, but they were close enough to my prescription that it helped a lot.
I looked at his face, seeing it clearly for the first time. The anxious expression, eager to please.
Paradoxically, now that I could see him more clearly, the less he looked like how I remembered my father; the general lines of resemblance were subsumed in the finer detail, the flushed cheeks, the full head of hair, the puppy-dog look.
"Well?" he asked, after I had not spoken for several moments.
"They're perfect," I said quietly. "Thank you."
Stretching up – I was tall for my age, but then, so was he – I kissed him on the cheek. He blushed crimson.
We looked at each other clearly for the first time. I forgot that he was supposed to grow up to become my father; right at that moment, he was the gawky teenage boy who had risked his life to pull me from the water, who had gifted me with sight once more.
A wordless moment hung between us, stretched.
And then, whoever was in the wheelhouse had obviously spotted us, because a moment later, the foghorn cut loose. We both jumped and laughed. The moment passed, and we turned to look forward over the bow once more.
The storm had blown over, leaving skies clear and blue. Under our feet, the boat moved forward at a fast clip, hitting the waves and cleaving through them in a barrage of spray. Breathing deep of the moisture-laden air, I stood up toward the bow with Danny as he told me about Brockton Bay.
Even allowing for a hometown boy's pride, he painted a glorious picture. Business was booming, there were no gangs to speak of – even Lung was no doubt an intractable child in Japan at the moment – and things were looking up.
I was going over the gradually growing 'to-do' list in my head – adding 'make sure my parents meet at the right time' – when I gradually became aware that there was something missing from the harbour as the Ocean Road made its way into Brockton Bay proper. Something off to the right, to the north, wasn't right.
I had already realised that the Protectorate base in the Bay wouldn't be there - the Protectorate didn't evenexist yet - but this was something else.
It took me a moment or two to figure it out, from this angle. I could see merchant ships, container ships, tied up at dockside, loading or unloading cargoes. Doing business. Steaming out to sea, or coming in to port. And then, like one of those puzzles where you have to hold your eyes just right, it clicked into perspective.
The Boat Graveyard wasn't there. Lord's Port was still in full operation.
All my life, the Graveyard had been a blight, an eyesore, on the city. All those ships, unable to sail away, gradually taking on water, sinking at their moorings. Gradually releasing pollution into the Bay.
And now – it had never been. There was the possibility that it never would be.
Something to think about.
As the Ocean Road neared its berth, I was startled to see a brightly coloured craft chugging its way across the Bay, heading from right to left. It seemed so different from the rest of the water traffic, neither inbound nor outbound.
"What's that?" I asked, pointing.
"Oh," said Danny cheerfully. "That's the ferry. We can go on it later, if you want. It's a fun ride. It's been in continuous operation for …"
I tuned him out. This was the ferry, upon which my father would strive against bureaucratic indifference and stonewalling, year after year, trying to get reinstated. Here, it was in its heyday.
Here was Brockton Bay itself, in its heyday.
The ferry was just a symbol of that, minor but important.
I can see it all, I realised. I can see the way it was, the way it might become.
I can change things.
It was a sobering thought.
But can I change them for the better, or will I change them for the worse?
And what can I actually accomplish without powers?
It was an even more sobering thought.
End of Part 1-1