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And The Thunder Rolls

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Late April 2016 


"May today be the beginning of a long and wonderful life together - and may they be as happy together as we are happy for them, now and forever." Mark thought for a moment, then sighed, setting his pencil and paper down on the beach beside him. The beach was virtually empty right now thanks to a freak cold snap and the early hour - perfect for a little quiet time. 


As much fun as Trevor's bachelor party had been, it had reminded him that he needed to make sure he had a good wedding toast in mind before the party rather than after it. I don't want to just wing it for Erin and Trevor's big day - but it's so hard to think of what to say instead of just making it up as I go along! He was starting to think the best thing to do would be to sketch out his ideas then just make up the words to go with them once he was up there in front of everybody. 


And then the sea opened up. Well, not really - but suddenly the shallow surf in front of him rose up in a tower shaped roughly like a man's body, then the water fell away and a figure strode out, smiling at Mark as she walked out onto the sand to join him. He was pretty sure this was a she, anyway, from the shape of the body underneath what looked like an impeccably tailored tuxedo - but the man's outfit and very short black hair were a clue in the other direction. Shaking his head and deciding that gender was maybe not the thing to worry about now, Mark gave a friendly wave. "Hello! I don't think we've met! Do you want to sit down?" 


"Certainly," said the figure, sitting down and folding athletic, well-toned legs underneath a trimly fit body, evidently heedless of what the sand might do to those impeccably tailored slacks. The water had done no damage to the outfit, though, with nary a trace of moisture on those clothes. the new arrival looked him over, a faint smile on what really was a very pretty face. "You're looking well, Father." 


Mark actually dropped his pencil at those words, before reaching down and scooping it up again off his lap as he continued the conversation. "I...Clara?" He inquired, giving this person a fixed stare. This didn't look anything like the extra-dimensional daughter he'd had with Erin in a very different life - short, with dark hair and tan skin, this person looked more like the hypothetical kid he might have with..."Nina," he murmured out loud. 


His future child laughed. "No, I'm-well, I'd better not tell you! I learned from Troy about the problem with letting your parents know your name before you're born. My friends call me Gale. This is April 2016, isn't it? Just before Aunt Erin and Uncle Trevor's wedding?" As they talked, Gale ran a gloved hand through the beach and looked down at the sand that adhered to the white fabric with fascination. "And this must be the beach by the old house." Gale nodded up the bluff, where Mark and Nina's house (for now) rested along with the other cottages in their little seaside development. 


"Yes..." Mark cocked his head. "Are you here for the wedding? I can probably get you a good seat, and-oh man, wait till I tell everyone you're here! Everyone's going to be so excited to know about the future!" He was ready to bound to his feet, run into the house to where Nina was sleeping off her hangover after the bachelorette party, and tell her that their child was there on the bbeach.  


"No, no!" said Gale, shaking that gloved hand urgently. "No one can know I was here. You never told anyone, you never even told _me_, until it was time for me to come back here. Sit down, Father, sit down." Reluctantly, Mark did so, his curiosity still writ large on his face, and Gale spoke. "I'm here to tell you that the next few weeks will be...difficult ones. The world will survive it, as it always has, but there will be a...crisis, for a time. And no, I can't tell you what it will be," Gale went on, that musical voice ringing sharp, "because that would create a new timeline - and spoil the purpose for why I came back." 

"Which was?" As he spoke, Mark's pencil was moving over his notebook - already sketching the outlines of his child's face, body, and costume on the spring morning beach.


"You must make sure that Uncle Trevor and Aunt Erin have no interruptions on their honeymoon. They must go to Australia and have a perfectly lovely time there - and you must make sure their time is lovely. That does not mean you should visit them, either," Gale added, pointing a finger at him. "You must make sure that no one interferes with their destiny. I have a - personal stake in the matter." 


"...all right," said Mark, thinking about Gale's words, and how he could put them into action. "I'll make sure nothing ruins their honeymoon - even if there are problems in the world. Are you sure you can't tell me?" he asked, an unaccustomed note of sharpness in his voice. "Are people going to die, and you know about it?" 

"Yes," said Gale, giving him a level look. "And there will be others in the future that will so die. You and Mother taught me something about destiny. About how one must shape one's own fate, even if all the world stands against you. The world and its history stand against me here. I cannot change the world without undoing the one I came to protect - but I can protect that one." 


Mark thought suddenly of the pocket universe on his office desk in Geneva - of the world frozen in a strange imitation of the late 1970s - and of how that world was made. "I understand. Even with all our power, we can't change everything because it doesn't suit us - but if we're lucky, we can change the things that really matter to us." To his surprise, Gale stared at him as if stricken, and suddenly looked away, pulling a handkerchief from the left breast pocket and dabbing at those big dark eyes. "Oh, geez! Are you okay, I'm sorry, I just thought of that." 


Gale reached down and touched him for the first time, squeezing his hand with strong fingers through those white cloth gloves. "No. No, Father, it's all right. I'm sorry." When Gale looked back, the tears were gone - as if they'd never been on that high-cheekboned face. Gale smiled and stood up, the sand from the beach falling away freely from those still-immaculate clothes. "I need to be going back. The machine couldn't open a doorway to here forever - and they'll be expecting me on the other end. I have some explaining to do, I think." 


Mark, on his feet, watched as Gale headed for the water again - with a gesture, another shining column of foam rose up in welcome at the immaculate traveler's approach. "Who'll be expecting you? Is it the time police? Because I bet I can take them if they're going to cause you trouble-" 


"Not the time police!" said Gale, turning, arm half-in and half-out of the standing water. Evidently his offspring couldn't resist one last hint, because he caught a smile on Gale's face as his scion stepped all the way into the welcoming water. "Typhoon!" And with that, the water collapsed - and Mark Lucas was alone on the beach. 

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