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4.

“So it’s pretty primitive,” said George Gervais of Visgor. They were standing around in the room that was slated to be George’s work room, which was about five meters square with no windows and three doors. Several crates stood together like beleaguered allies in the middle of the room; right beside the door that went out into the hall, a curtained booth had been put up, seemingly out of random brooms and mops; and along the far wall, the one without any doors in it, a sort of cabinet had a sort of workbench on top of it. One of its cabinet doors was open, and a set of four or five crystals glowed dimly inside, connected by gleaming strands of glass thread.

George pulled a board the size of his forearm out of a drawer in the cabinet. It was connected to the crystals by a triple strand of glass thread. It had dozens of buttons and dials on it. He set some of the dials, then flicked some switches, and then he pressed two buttons, a white one and a green one. The crystals glowed a little more, the glass thread pulsed a little.

He was looking up in the air in front of them. He twiddled a dial, then another.

Strands began to come into focus. In the air in front of them, colored curves glowed in three dimensions plus, somehow, one or more additional ones.

“Time traces,” said George, adjusting. For just a moment the background focused: a sea of trillions of strands of existence, stretched along their natural grain. Then he focused again, and the background disappeared and there were dozens of bright, fragile curves across space and time.

“Nice, George,” said Annelise.

“Each of these is someone time traveling,” said Lilah. “How does your machine even do that?”

“It ain’t easy,” said George. “You have to be able to see someone’s entire life as a 4D object in time space, right? Then a time travel looks like someone sliced your life straight across at one time, and put the future half at some other time. It sounds kind of gory, but that’s basically what you do, and it actually works. Because you can actually see the translation zone, the kind of reflection or refraction between the 3D face where you left on your time journey and the 3D face where you arrived. Time travelers leave these curves where that slice translates across time space. See?”

“Well, I get it,” said Annelise.

“So, um,” said Lilah, “what are we looking at exactly?”

He dialed a little, and the view perceptibly shifted and rotated. They could see certain points that were knots of connecting curves. “This,” said George, indicating a knot in the slowly shifting fabric of the bright pathways. “That’s us. Right here. There’s a lot of stuff going in and out, and you know, I can pick out where most of you guys came from. But it doesn’t find everything, and some things are just plain hidden from setups like mine.”

“Like, is that my trace?” asked Lilah. “Why am I pink?”

“Annelise here is green and Rob is blue. It’s sort of random.”

“Which one is Lucy?” asked Lilah.

“I don’t know. Couple of ways to find out. Easiest would be if any of you guys could imprint a mental image of your, um, Lucy.”

“Have Rob do it,” said Annelise. “No, seriously.”

“Sure,” said Rob. “Lay it on me.”

George fumbled around in one of his tool bags, and found a rectangular clear crystal. He tossed it to Rob. Annelise got out her wand and grinned at Rob. “I got this,” she said.

“What do I do?”

“Put the crystal to your forehead,” said Annelise. “Think about Lucy. Think of her saying something.” She moved her wand forward till its tip was a centimeter from the crystal Rob held. “Ar yg dro shin,” she said.

“Did it go?” asked Rob, looking at the crystal.

“Gimme,” said George. Rob tossed it to him and he connected it with two bendable tubes to a tank-like apparatus that somehow connected to the crystals in the cabinet.

A faint purple curve was suddenly highlighted. George adjusted a dial and it turned bright red. “That’s her,” he said. “That’s your Lucy.” They all went and had a good look at that scarlet strand.

“This must be Llanduvar, then,” said Rob. “But where was she before Llanduvar?”

Indeed, the only thing that color of red in the entire weird display was that one strand. She never left the city nexus, where they were all now gathered looking at her strand, and she never arrived at Llanduvar.

“Well,” said Lilah, “it would’ve been too simple if we could just follow her trace.”

“Let me work on this,” said George. “Maybe I can shift some numbers around and get a better picture.”

“Sure,” said Lilah, wondering why her pink pathway seemed to go back only as far as her jump with Marius into the city: it was as if that moment was the beginning of her career. It would, she thought, have been too simple if she could just follow her trace back to wherever she’d been, and whoever had nearly killed her and blown out her memory. But she really, really had a few things to say to that person.

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