One morning in early October, Becky went into the city to have lunch with several of the women she used to work with. As she exited the elevator pods after lunch and headed for the tubes, she literally ran into Will and Pam.
"I'm sorry, ma...Becky!"
"Hi, Will. Hi, Pam. How are you both?"
"Actually," Will said, "we're on our way to the district justice. We're getting married this afternoon."
"Congratulations! I'm really happy for both of you."
"All three of us," Pam corrected. "I'm due in early January."
More from habit than recent practice, Becky shrieked with glee and threw her arms around Pam's neck.
"I can't believe you're going to be a mom! That's fantastic. Do you know if it's a boy or girl yet?"
"We haven't looked at the file yet," Pam said, glancing at Will with a contented smile.
Becky looked from one to another. "Am I forgiven yet?" she asked with a grin.
For his answer, Will hugged her affectionately and gave her a brotherly kiss on the lips. Pam simply nodded as she wrapped her arms around her soon-to-be husband.
"So how are you and...I never did find out his name," Will commented. "Have you two gotten married?"
"No. We're still together. And I suppose someday we'll get married. But it all seems kind of a waste of time."
"What do you mean?"
"Computer files eventually deteriorate. But the love Alec and I feel is timeless. A file stating we're legally married doesn't change how much we love each other."
"Sounds like he's not willing to make the commitment to me," Will said with a frown.
"Not at all. We've been committed to each other for more than a hundred and fifty years."
When both Pam and Will looked at her in confusion, she briefly explained her dreams and the discovery of the cause. Their expressions told her neither one believed her. As a train pulled into the station, they excused themselves, saying they had to make it to the justice's office before four. Bidding them best wishes, Becky waved as they stepped into one of the front cars. Within seconds, the train was up to cruising speed. But it hadn't gone more than two hundred yards from the station when the impossible happened— it collided head on with a train coming in the opposite direction.
The resulting explosion was funneled down the narrow tubes and forced its way into the station with a vengeance. Doors were blown off their tracks and people were tossed about like rag dolls. Becky felt herself being lifted by some invisible hand and thrown against the far wall. As she slid to the ground stunned, the station began filling with thick black smoke as the automatic suppression system doused the electrical fire. At the first sign of the smoke, huge fans in the ceiling began sucking it from the room while a second set of fans located at floor level turned on, forcing clean air into the room and pushing the smoke up to the ceiling fans.
But Becky wasn't aware of any of that. Her mind started racing at the initial explosion and she found herself back in nineteen sixty-eight. Reflexes she had developed at the sound of loud noises kicked in and she soon rolled onto the floor on her stomach and covered her head with her arms and hands. When no further explosions occurred, she jumped to her feet and immediately began assessing the injuries of those closest to her. Giving orders to those who were able to carry them out, in very short time she had the able-bodied helping those in need of assistance out of the immediate area.
As soon as she was sure the station was being efficiently evacuated, she jumped into the narrow groove in the concrete where the magnetic rails lay and quickly ran to the last car. Opening the rear emergency door, she again took a quick assessment of the damage. Issuing orders to the passengers who had remained calm, within a minute or two, she had the worst injuries— a broken wrist and several deep lacerations— being tended to by the uninjured. Moving to the next car, she repeated the entire procedure. Having someone to give orders seemed to be comforting to the passengers, as well as being able to do something and not simply sit by helplessly.
Her journey toward the front of the train was a slow one since the number and severity of injuries increased as she moved forward. She knew she should have started from the front, where the injuries were sure to be the most devastating, but she couldn't simply walk past the people in obvious pain without doing something to ease it. When she finally got to the first car, she was suddenly reminded of where she was— Will sat on the floor holding an unconscious and bleeding Pam in his arms. But then the instinct kicked right back in and she knelt beside him. Placing her fingers over Pam's neck, she felt for a pulse and was relieved to find a very weak one. The paleness of her face told Becky a lot of blood had been lost and she soon thought she found the cause-- the impact had sent a six inch piece of the plastic window flying through the air like a dagger that had impaled itself in Pam's chest. Becky knew a lung had been punctured because of the sucking sound each time Pam drew a shallow breath. And the blood seeping from the wound was frothing.
Working efficiently, Becky used another piece of the plastic to cut a section from the seat and several strips from Pam's shirt. The strips were carefully wrapped around the small end that was still protruding from her chest. Taking the thick, waterproof fabric, she placed it over the wound and ordered Will to hold it there tightly, being careful not to push directly on the shrapnel. Almost immediately, she was rewarded with a noticeable easing in Pam's breathing. Although still very ashen, a little color was starting to seep back into her lips. Becky directed her attention to the next injured passenger, only to be called back by a screaming Will. When she turned around, she saw Pam's body had gone rigid, her back arched and her head thrown back. Then Becky noticed the large pool of blood that had appeared under Pam's hips.
"She's in labor, Will," she explained as Pam's body collapsed.
"Not yet! The baby's not due for another three months!" he wailed.
"Not anymore. It's due today."
Tossing decorum out the window, she stripped Pam of the confining clothing on the lower half of her body and positioned herself between the still unconscious woman's legs. Knowing the baby would be small, she realized she probably didn't have much time before the actual arrival. But she was shocked when she could actually see Pam's body push the baby into the birth canal during the next few contractions, which came less than thirty seconds apart. Just before the tiny baby slid into the world, Becky realized she had nothing in which to wrap the child. She quickly slipped out of her shirt and barely caught the child as he made his debut, crying weakly.
As Will stared in fascination, Becky had to sharply remind him not to loosen the pressure around the wound. While Becky tended to the infant, several uniformed persons entered the car and began removing the injured passengers. Pam was soon loaded into an ambulance car and transported to the closest hospital. Becky and the baby followed in the next car.
Both Pam and the baby were soon being treated while Will and Becky waited in the corridor outside. Once the need for immediate action was gone, she collapsed in an exhausted heap on a nearby chair. A young doctor offered her a shirt— she hadn't even remembered hers was gone.
After several minutes, she placed a call home to Alec. But all the outgoing circuits were busy, so she left a message to be sent to him as soon as possible. Then she went in search of Will, finding him standing in the hall outside the operating room where Pam had been taken for surgery. She walked up behind him and slid her arms around his waist. Turning, he enfolded her in his arms and started to sob. She waited until he'd released most of his fear and tension.
"Thanks, I needed that," he said.
"No problem. Don't worry, Will, they'll be all right."
"I wish I was as sure as you. She looked like she was already dead. And he was so small!"
"But she's not dead. And small things grow."
He suddenly grabbed her arms and held her at arms length. "How did you know what to do?"
"I didn't. Rita did."
"Who the hell is Rita?"
"The woman I used to be in a previous life. She was a nurse in Viet Nam and apparently had to deal with all kinds of similar situations when they were bombed. I know you don't believe me, but if you remember correctly, I hate the sight of blood. I'd have fainted if Rita hadn't virtually taken over my body."
"I don't know if I buy that, but whatever it was, thank you, Becky, from the bottom of my heart. I know they'd both be dead if it weren't for you."
"You don't have to thank me, Will. I'm glad I was some help."
"Always the master of understatement," Will laughed. "Do you have any idea of what you did today?"
"Not really. Like I said, Rita was in control a lot of the time. It was her conscious knowledge that helped those people."
"Those people and a lot of others are calling you a heroine! The vid-news says the police are looking for you to thank you. They did some interviews with the rescue teams who said the area looked like it had been bombed. But when they arrived there, there was order where they expected chaos. They're crediting an unknown woman who took control of the situation."
"But I didn't really do it! At least, I don't have the conscious knowledge of how to do what Rita did. And to try to explain that to people is going to be tough....But maybe that's what we're supposed to do."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't mean to sound cold, but look at how scared you are about what might happen to Pam and the baby. You look on death as the end to everything and fear it. I see it more as a...a sort of vacation, I guess. I know that Alec and I will be together again. Our love doesn't die with our bodies and when we come back again, that love will still be there. It might not hit us as hard as it did this time, but we'll feel it before we even realize what we're feeling."
"You don't care if he dies?"
"I'd miss the physical aspects of our relationship, but the emotional connection and the spiritual connection would still be there."
"Well, since I'm in the physical plane right now, I'd like to continue the physical aspects too."
"So do I! But losing them now is not losing them forever."
"But there's no proof reincarnation exists!"
"Not to sound like a braggart, but I think Alec and I are proof enough."
"Nothing you've told me can't be explained by an unscrupulous dream analyst or hypnotherapist."
"But I was having the dreams before I went to any of those! You were the one who told me about the dreams! And who wanted me to go to an analyst or therapist."
Will simply stared at her for a long time. "You're going to knock the world for one hell of a loop. Are you ready for that?"
"I don't know. I don't even know if Alec wants to have anything to do with this. It would probably mean leaving his outdoors, which would be like sentencing him to prison....But why should we live in fear of dying when there's really nothing to be afraid of? There's got to be a reason for all of this happening. Not just the wreck, but you and I, and Pam and how Alec and I met and everything else that's ever happened that we thought was just strange circumstance or simple luck."
"Maybe you're right. But right now, I can't think of anything except what's going on in this room and the one down the hall."
Becky managed to get home without anyone discovering she had been the unknown woman in the station that day. She related her experiences to Alec, who didn't say anything for a long time. Then sighing deeply, he took her in his arms.
"Why not us? Alec, someone has to make the first step. Someone has to unlock the door so others can pass through. Why shouldn't we be the ones who were handed the keys this time? Just because we're the ones making the history doesn't make it any less valid or real or important."
"Do you know how hard it's going to be to convince people we're telling the truth? Like Will said, there's nothing that can't be explained by trickery or lies. Or even just plain research."
"When you have a tough case to diagnose, do you just give up because it's going to take a lot of work?"
"But we're talking about people's attitudes and beliefs here! Who's to say we even have the right to try to change their beliefs?"
"I'm not trying to convert anyone. I'm trying to educate them. If they choose to ignore what they've been taught, then so be it. My responsibility lies not in preaching, but in teaching."
"What if they don't want to learn?"
"That's fine too. But I have to give them the opportunity to learn. If I don't, then it's my 'fault' if they don't learn because I withheld the information."
"And what if I don't want any part of this?"
"Then I'll do it alone. I know this is something I'm supposed to do. Just like I knew you were going to be my lover the second I laid eyes on you."
"Just because you're supposed to do it doesn't mean you have to. That's what free will is all about. You do have a choice."
"About as much choice as I had about loving you," she replied tenderly kissing him.
"No fair," he whispered when their lips parted. Sighing deeply, he asked, "When do we leave? And where are we going? And what are we going to do when we get there?"
"I don't know any of those answers. But I do know when the time is right, we'll know it's time to leave and we'll know where we're going and what to do when we get there....I feel like we're just following a plan we made a long time ago."
"That's predestination. We can't have free will if everything's predestined."
"Maybe it's not predestination. Maybe it is simply planning. We can decide we're going to plan our vacation to South America, right down to the time we leave the hotel every morning. But we always have the free will to change our plans. For instance, I planned to start dinner in five minutes, but I'm using my free will to change those plans."
"What are you going to do instead?" Alec asked with a knowing grin.
"Who knows? There's something to be said for spontaneity too."
Early Twenty-Fourth Century
As the clouds suddenly dumped their cargo of rain, the two young men ran for the nearest cover— the old bicycle path bridge in the park. The small stream flowing under it soon overflowed its banks and they had to crawl so far up the hill that they could no longer sit up without banging their head on the underside of the bridge.
Suddenly, without warning, another body dove underneath the protective arch. But the new arrival had been totally unprepared for the new width of the stream and promptly dove head first into the rapidly flowing water.
Almost instinctively, one of the men grabbed for the newcomer and ending up with a handful of hair. Even then, the current would have pulled them both downstream if the second man hadn't grabbed his friend's belt and held on to the bridge itself. When they were finally able to see who they rescued, they were both surprised to see a woman squatting on the ground beside them.
"Thank you," she said between fits of coughing. "Thank you so much."
The first young man, still panting from the exertion and the adrenaline, smiled warmly at her. "No problem. Are you all right?"
"I think so. Nothing feels broken....My name is Ronnie Brodrick, by the way. Are both of you all right?"
"We're fine," the first young man explained. "We've been through a lot worse. Being topside has its disadvantages. It's nice to meet you, Ronnie. Is that short for Veronica?"
"No. My father wanted a boy, but my mother wanted to do it the old-fashioned way and take a chance on my gender. I was supposed to be Ronald, Jr."
"Oh....I'm sorry— I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Walt Averly. This is my best friend for the last twenty years, Aaron Libowitz. Do you come here often?" he asked as he held out his hand.
She laughed as she shook Walt's hand. "Actually, I've never been here in my life. I just got here from Sacramento and was walking through the city to try to get a feel for my new home." Then she extended her hand to Aaron.
When their hands touched, sparks jumped from her hand to his. Their eyes met and locked, and Aaron slowly smiled. "Hello, Ronnie, it's nice to meet you. Are you sure we haven't met somewhere before?"