Back - Part II

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THIS SORT of thing had never been covered by the old etiquette books.

What would Miss Manners have to say about vanquished alien invaders? Meeting your own adult children decades too early? Was Evvie supposed to offer tea? Cookies?


Mark and Evvie had already decided not to call an ambulance; nothing was broken on either Gwennie or herself, and Gwennie's head had stopped bleeding. Evvie's ribs ached and her palms and knees were scraped. They stung every time she took a step or picked something up, but were otherwise ignorable. What the Piersons hadn't agreed on, yet, was the issue of the police.

"I'm calling the cops," Mark said from across the kitchen table. "Mark," Evvie began, but then stopped because she wasn't entirely sure that calling the cops wasn't an excellent idea, now that she'd had a chance to take stock of what had happened.

"No." Basil held out a hand. "We'll take care of it."

"Take care of it how?" Mark demanded. "There's a UFO in the backyard!"

"We'll bury it," the woman who was Evvie's baby offered. Evvie's fingers itched to touch her, but she was occupied with baby Gwennie, and too scared that touch would make it real. "We're way out in the country. You own this land. You won't sell it. It flew in low; the neighbours won't have seen it. I know that for a fact, at least. We'll bury it."

"You reckon it's as simple as that?" Mark shouted, red-faced with impotent fury.

"Simple as that," she said, unaffected by his anger. She was nearly insolent; practiced with his bad moods. "I'll fetch it when I go back." Evvie swallowed once. "Back? Back to the..." she said softly, clutching baby Gwennie close to her chest. She was sucking contentedly on Evvie's knuckle, all right with the world now that she'd been hushed and patched. "Back to the future?" Evvie said the words, didn't quite believe them, even as they came out of her own mouth. People didn't time travel. That was not the way the world worked. Period.

Grown-up Gwennie (Evvie's hair, Mark's eyes, pale like Mark's sister) and Basil exchanged a look filled with raised eyebrows and half-hidden smirks. Had Evvie said something funny?

"Could say that," Basil conceded. He tapped a little more at the surface of his strange notebook. If Evvie craned her neck, she could see that he was making something happen on the screen, like changing the channel on a TV, but by touch and not with a remote. She'd never seen anything like it outside of sci-fi afternoon creature features. "Look, when I first got my hands on their tech, I expected there'd be a locational but not a temporal divide between where we were and where we are." His free hand made chopping motions on were and are. "Then I expected that there would be a return function, but..." He held up a jumble of blackened circuitry and ridiculously small wires. A sleek black shell was half melted around them. "Looks like we'll never know now."

"Is that what the Flasher does? Jesus." The woman groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Dammit, I didn't think of that. And there's no Array, is there? No just calling for a lift. Just us. Here."

Basil, without lifting his shoulder too high, prevented again by a sharp pain that his wince broadcasted, pointed to a small piece of black plastic wedged into the hole of his ear. "Glorified decoration. Story of my bloody life," he said, as if that explained everything.

To the grown-up Gwennie, it did.

"Can you use what's here?" she asked, tapping her own piece of ear-plastic with a blunt fingernail.

They were speaking a different language.

Evvie understood their words, but not the way they were using them. Was this how Evvie's mother felt when she listed to Evvie and her friends conversing? Hell of a generation gap.

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