Even Past the End of Our Lives

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"Yes, Malcolm?"

"I want you to know," Malcolm said, standing in Jonathan's Ready Room, "I spoke with Daniels today."

"Oh. Is he on the ship?"

"Not yet. I think tomorrow."

"I see. Do you know what it's about?" Jonathan asked.

"It has to do with that wave, sir."


Dinner ended, and Lili brought out the Boston cream pie with two candles in it, "It's not only Empy's birthday," she said, "It's also Rick's. In fact, his was only a few days ago."

"Well, sorta," Rick admitted, "It's, um, February third."

"Then it's still closer than Empy's," Joss said.

"But they can both still celebrate together," Doug said.

They sang, and the candles were blown out.

"I don't have a present for you," Rick said to Marie Patrice.

"It's okay," she said seriously, patting his hand which made him laugh, "It's your birfday, too, so you don't need to give any presents."

"That's a reasonable explanation," Norri said, "Why the Boston cream pie?"

"It's where the Red Sox play!" Joss exclaimed.

"Well, they play all over New England. And one of these days," Lili paused for a second, realizing it might not happen at all, "we'll take you to your first game. And it'll be in the original Fenway Park, not in one of the satellite parks, like in New Hampshire and Providence. But – "she smiled a little, "my father's family was from Massachusetts. It's an Indian word. It means, 'Place where they don't pronounce their Rs'," she joked.

"Can we have tofflin juice?" Joss asked.

"No, you may not. None after noon, remember?" Doug said.

"What's tofflin juice?" Melissa asked.

"It's local. The plant grows fast and tall – almost a half a meter a day under the right conditions," Lili explained, "And its leaves can be ground into flour. But the sap is, well, the human body reacts to it the same way we react to caffeine. So any of it tonight and they'll be dancing 'til dawn."

"Ah. Well then none for you," Melissa said, addressing Tommy.

As if in response to her, he called out, "Ba!"

"Hey! That's new!" Melissa grinned from ear to ear, "Ball? You think he said ball?"

"It might be baby," Rick offered.

"It could be barometric pressure," Doug joked, "My son the meteorologist."

Once the pie had been served, Lili beckoned Doug and they walked outside. The four stars of the Lafa System had set, and the night was cool but comfortable as the stars came out. He put an arm around her, "Look, there's Lafa I," he said, pointing to a large orb.

"That one's easy," she said, "Can you find Lafa IV?"

"The reddish one? There?"

"Yep. That planet doesn't have a true night," she said, "It's within the orbits of the two littler stars, Fep and Ub. So once Lo and Abic have set, Fep and Ub dominate the night sky. It looks all red and orangey and a bit sinister."

"You'll miss it here, won't you?"

"I will. I hope we don't have to stay away too long. I was thinking, Doug, what the hell am I gonna tell my business partner? The restaurant will have to abruptly close, never to reopen. And then if we're successful, I'd've set the events in motion. It wouldn't be impossible to take it back, but I'd rather not have to."

Rick came over, "Hope I'm not intruding. We can do it this way. I have to send you from a transporter pad in my ship. We can set it up, just write notes for Norri and Melissa to send or read. And we'll tell them not to send or read anything until my ship leaves. That will happen when I send you – I'll just send you and depart. That will set in motion what will be the alternate timeline. But for your return, you'll come into the ship and then will just walk out of it, a few minutes later. Delete the messages and you're fine."

"Okay," Doug said.

"I'll start writing," Lili said, "And think of what to say to the kids."

"I can do the same thing," Doug said, "And we'll just say good-night to them tonight like always. And then leave afterwards."

"I don't love it, but it seems most logical," she said.

Back in the house, she typed furiously. First, she wrote a letter to Treve, her business partner, giving him half of her share of the business but retaining the other half for the children's support. A note to Joss's school, lying, explaining they had been called away and the children would be attending school on Ceres instead. Then a note to Yimar, the babysitter, thanking her for everything and telling her that they would be moving suddenly. And then the children. She sighed. She reached into the top drawer of her bureau, amid the lingerie, and found the little turquoise square of fabric that the key had been wrapped in.

She then went over to Tommy's things, "Hope you don't mind me borrowing these," she said. She took a blue crayon and a piece of paper. Malcolm, you give the best gifts, she thought to herself.

She began to write.

Dear Joss and Marie Patrice,

We love you more than you will probably ever realize.

But we must go, and it's because we love you that we have to do this. I wish it did not have to be so. We will be back, and we will not even spend a second not thinking about you and missing you.

You will both go and live with Melissa, and Norri, and Tommy. And there may be another brother coming. We're not sure. Please mind Norri and Melissa as you would your father and me. They will take care of you, but you need to make it as easy for them as possible. Please try not to fight too much.

Marie Patrice, this turquoise cloth was part of a present from Malcolm. He will be around as much as he can. Please, both of you listen to him as you would your father.

Joss, take care of everyone. When Malcolm isn't around, you are the man of the house. I am counting on you and I know you can do this.

Our love for you goes on forever, even past the end of our lives. Remember that.



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