Andre looked up from his book, where he reclined on the ottoman reading a History of the Blue City of Delevara. He felt a penton wash, and sat up. Zinnia Rose was standing in the middle of the room, still, but now she was slowly rotating in place, not floating on the air, just dancing in a circle, muttering. She stopped and threw some purplish ash.
Zinnia turned away, then turned back to look at the door to the hall. The door opened. Annelise came in, looking nervous. Rob followed her.
As Rob was shutting the door, Lilah pushed it open, coming in behind him. “You call us back?” she asked Zinnia as George made sure the door was securely sealed.
“I did,” said Zinnia, smiling. “I was starting to feel shock waves.”
“Really,” said George.
“Well, I don’t know what that could have been,” said Lilah. “We were just in a spell battle with my ex-boyfriend. He threw Hard Death at me. George canceled it. So I blew up that bleephead’s wand. It’s the second one of his I’ve broken.”
“You saw Elio,” said Annelise.
“I think we missed the chance to express our full hatred of one another. We pretty much started right in with spells. And that didn’t last long.”
“But we didn’t find out anything, said George.
Lilah thought a moment, shook her head and said, “Nope, not a thing. You guys?”
“Oh, we found out plenty,” said Annelise. She looked at Rob, who waved a hand. “So first of all,” she went on, “we’re having trouble latching onto anything. I could see at least three traces, but they were all out of reach somehow, and the whole thing was in flux—!”
“It’s your equipment,” said George.
“If we’d had your Box,” said Annelise, “we could have focused on one thing. But if we’d had your box, we wouldn’t have been able to pivot like we did, either. So I’m using one of my crystal doohickeys, and I can see this trace that seems to fade into someplace else, so we follow that, it seemed like the kind of thing that you’d see coming out of a paradox—!”
“I hate that word,” said George. “There are no time travel paradoxes. Just time travel problems.”
“Anyway, George. Anyway, guess where we wound up?”
“Endweith,” said George.
“Groria,” said Lilah.
“Yes! Groria,” said Annelise. “How did you know?”
“Lucky guess. Where in Groria?”
“South end of North Land,” said Rob. “Rion, Semvov area. Like, fourteenth century after the Wall of Time.”
“Yeah,” said Annelise. “They were all growing up there in Rion. It was what would have happened if they hadn’t had to move.”
“So it was just subjunctive time,” said George.
“Yeah. You could say that.”
“Was I happy?” asked Andre. He smiled a little.
“You seemed happy. You were, like, ten or eleven.”
“That was a great age,” said Andre. “Was my sister there?”
Annelise grinned. “She was cute as a button. Reminded me of me. What’s her name?”
“I called her Jayjay. I guess I couldn’t say her name properly when I was little.”
Rob cleared his throat. Annelise glanced at him, then said, “Okay. So we knew that wasn’t the place. So back to the crystal.”
“And then you found Andre in Olvar,” asked Lilah.
“Yes. We found Andre in Olvar. Alive. And older than three.”
“I can’t get over that I was killed in the cradle,” said Andre. “Somehow it seems fitting.”
“No, it doesn’t. Andre.” Annelise gave him a reproachful look.
“So, interesting thing,” said Rob. “Two interesting things.”
“Oh good,” said Lilah.
“One. You know which Andre was turned down at Endweith, and which Andre went back and seduced Lucy into running off with him? The same one, that’s which.”
After a moment, Lilah said, “Okay, that actually makes sense. He got turned down, you got turned down, Andre, you went back in time and had a go with the younger Lucy. Before she was actually married and settled down.”
“Yes,” said Andre, as if it was only just occurring to him. “Yes. I had to try. But is this a crime? Is this what you were looking for?”
“No, actually,” said Lilah. “Time travel isn’t a crime. And you didn’t, say, drug her or use a spell on her to make her go with you.”
“Ah, ha. No. As if I even could. She was always the stronger one. Even at 21.”
“I mean,” said Rob, “you committed murder, but it was at the bank robbery and you probably think those people deserved it because they were pawns of big money or the security apparatus.”
“I probably did, yes,” said Andre.
“Okay, so, number two,” Lilah prompted.
“Yeah,” said Rob. “There were a couple of other traces of Andre around the back parts of the timestreams. We went to look at them and guess what we were knee deep in just when Zinnia undid whatever it was she did.”
“I Recalled the Declaration,” said Zinnia. “Just in time, too, I think.”
“I think you’re right,” said Rob. “And I take back all my doubting thoughts. We had just found ourselves in a section of the universe that was pretty much overwhelmed with—!”
“Those wormy things,” said Lilah.
“You got it,” said Annelise.