Category: Synaesthesia


Epilogue: Synaesthesia

John Quinlan as chrononaut Jack Kennealy

Ruby bounced her great-grandbaby on her knee, watching and waiting with the rest of her extended family.  She stopped bouncing, and held the baby away from her for just a moment, reaching for a spit cloth. She found it just in time.

The baby’s mother was on the mezzanine, waiting for her husband to come home. Grandpa Jack had been kicked off the mezzanine, not literally, but figuratively. He was agitated. He knew this long distance jaunte was to save his own sorry ass, and no amount of reassurance from Ruby could assuage his guilt. Kurou had even said his goodbyes to his family before jaunting, not knowing whether he’d be able to return, or if he did, whether he’d return as a “babbling rutabaga” as he so profoundly put it.

Two pops signaled the return of two chrononauts, and Ruby watched as each reapparated in the tanks on the far right, welcomed home by their own individual teams of support personnel.

Kurou’s tank was silent.

Two more pops, and two more chrononauts returned. The stabilizers were back. They needed assistance getting out of their tanks; they seemed exhausted and spent.

Four navigators popped in, laughing hysterically. One actually began to laugh while still in the gel, and started choking before her team pulled her out.

One more pop, one more chrononaut, and then nothing.

She didn’t understand why time should matter on the receiving end, but it did. The difficult thing was, they could never quite figure out why some came back sooner than others. They had learned how to stack their jaunters, sending them further afield with a team of supporters.

The point man was always last to return.

Knowing that didn’t make it any easier. The baby cooed in her arms. He had no idea that his father was incorporeal, somewhere, somewhen. He only knew that he was loved beyond measure.

Simultaneous pops reassured her, and she breathed a sigh of relief to see Poppy and Robin pop out of their tanks together. They even climbed out with very little help.

Ruby smiled as they gave her a thumbs up. So, Kurou had come back with them… but where was he?

When was he?

How was he?

A full med team was poised in the recovery room, waiting for him.

Pullers were poised at the top of his tank, ready to reach in and grab him as soon as he materialized.

Ten more minutes passed. Robin and Poppy came out of the recovery room, their eyes focused on their brother’s tank.

And then it happened. A pop, a hand reaching up to grab the top of the tank, slipping away only to be grabbed by a strong friend who pulled him up and out.

But the flurry of activity paused, and for a moment Ruby thought she was having one of those odd moments when she is acutely aware of everything in one particular instant. But Kurou’s team backed away slightly, hovering over him, but not touching.

He was seated on the mezzanine floor, which made it difficult for her to see, but she could tell he was going through his post-jaunte mind clearing exercises.

The team stood by, and Ruby knew they wanted nothing more than to rush him into the recovery room and let the med team have their way with him.

But not her Kurou, her Cuckoo.

He was home.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

Chapter Twelve: The Garden

Chapter Thirteen: Carnal

Chapter Fourteen: Cuckoo Incorporated

Chapter Fifteen: Lingering

Chapter Sixteen: Will-o-the-Wisp

Chapter Seventeen: Rescue

Chapter Eighteen: Over the River and Through the Woods

Epilogue

Here is an interesting link to an article about synaesthesia, and its genetic component.

To those of you who’ve read the whole story, I truly hope you enjoyed it. I plan to do another serial here on the blog in late January. I’m not sure what it will be, but it will be completely different!

A big thanks to John Quinlan, who provided the inspiration for and images of Kennealy, and to MissRiva, who provided the inspiration and images of Ruby. I think it’s adorable that, during the writing of this story, John and his wife had a little baby girl, and Riva and her husband found out they’re pregnant!

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-bA


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John Quinlan as Kennealy, MissRiva as Ruby, Helen Mirren as Helen, John DeChancie as Atticus

Atticus watched as Ruby discorporated in the tank before the countdown even reached “two.”

“What happened?” He wasn’t the only one to ask.

“That shouldn’t be possible.”

“She jaunted herself?”

Helen grabbed his arm. In thirty years of marriage, he’d never seen her truly afraid. Not like this. He patted her hand, wishing he could reassure her in some way, but knowing that nothing he could say would reassure her. None of them knew what would happen.

Not even Kurou. Atticus regarded the young man, not with suspicion, but with a kind of awe. Somehow, he knew. He knew the man was telling the truth, that he was their great-grandson, and also Ruby and Kennealy’s grandson. That meant… their new grandson would grow up to marry Ruby and Kennealy’s daughter. He wondered if it was fate, or if their own timeline would somehow turn out differently.

Children did tend to have minds of their own.

Miranda’s team set a record for getting the tank ready. There were shouted discussions about whether the tank should be set for Kennealy or Ruby, or somehow adjusted for both. Atticus wasn’t sure what they ended up doing, but a few seconds after the tank was declared ready there was a loud popping sound and the temporal goo in the tank overflowed violently. The two chrononauts were entwined, Ruby with her hands on Kennealy’s back, his arms completely circling her. Two of the lab assistants dropped to their stomachs on the mezzanine level, reaching into the tank to haul the two of them out.

Kennealy thrashed as they pried Ruby from him. She was unconscious. “No!” he shouted, wrestling with the lab assistants. “Ruby!” They crashed against the railing, and one assistant was kicked into the tank headfirst. The assistant grappling with Kennealy let him go, and went to rescue his co-worker.

Kennealy lunged after Ruby, who was stretched out on the floor of the mezzanine. He shoved one of the medics away from Ruby, then suddenly collapsed directly on top of her.

“Great googlie mooglies, he’s strong!” Miranda exclaimed, holding the injector that had rendered him unconscious.

Eventually, the medics got both the chrononauts into the recovery room. When Kennealy came to, he looked at his restraints sheepishly. He looked over at Ruby, who was still unconscious. “Is she all right?” He wasn’t worried. Atticus could tell that Kennealy knew she was stable, and resting.

“She’s exhausted, but otherwise seems to be all right.” Atticus answered.

“Did I hurt anybody?” the young chrononaut answered sheepishly.

“Well, Miranda has one lab assistant with a lungful of temporal gel, and several with some nasty bruises. For a minute there, I thought you were going to tumble right off the edge, taking them all with you.”

“I can’t explain it. It just had to get to her… she was drowning. I don’t even remember arriving in the tank.”

“So the disorientation…”

“Exponential. It was… frightening. Do they know what happened?”

“You didn’t take your exit.” Interrupted Kurou.

Atticus watched as Kennealy stared at the stranger, figuring out who he was. Like his grandparents, he was tattooed. On his right shoulder was a cross, formed by the absent place between the manes of two lions. On his left shoulder was a cuckoo bird.

Kennealy’s eyes were not focused on the tattoos, but on the man’s face. Although Kurou was technically Kennealy’s grandson, Kurou was about ten years older than Kennealy.

“You…” Kennealy said, and Kurou recoiled, as if wondering what the man was about to do. “You were trying to get me to let go… to leave.” Kurou nodded, and Kennealy continued. “That’s why the others were saying move on. They knew I would want to stay with Ruby.”

“We’ve always known that this happened. It’s been a goal of the chrononaut program for decades now to get one of us to be able to travel this far back.”

“And you’re a distance jaunter, aren’t you?” Kennealy said with a grandfather’s pride. Atticus wasn’t sure yet if Kennealy had figured out his relationship to the cuckoo, but there was definitely a connection there.

“I have a lot of support. We work better as a team. And it helps to find familiar platforms and anchors along the way.”

“We’ve only just learned about platforms… but what do you mean by anchors?” Atticus asked.

“Well, think of the time stream as water. A platform moves along in time with the flow. A platform is also interactive, and can be used in various ways.” Atticus and Kennealy both nodded vigorously. This made sense with their own experiences as chrononaut and platform. “An anchor is usually an inanimate object or machine. It’s something that simply exists in time instead of moving with it.”

“Like the clock…” said Kennealy.

“Yes. The clock, and other machines like it. It takes a certain kind of energy for us to be able to use it, and although we know that elektriks usually work well, we don’t fully understand why some elektriks work well and others do not.”

Atticus noticed that Miranda and several of her team were listening carefully, recording everything as was the norm in the recovery lab. Kurou could tell them so much…

“The surprise I found when I did come back was how many other chrononauts were here already! Travellers whom I expect have yet to be born, even in my own time.”

“Here? I understand that this being the beginning… but is there also a correlation to physical space? Wouldn’t chrononauts want to explore the entire world? Why come back here?” Atticus asked.

“It’s a worn path.” He smiled that punchy smile chrononauts often got immediately following a jaunte. “Over the river and through the woods.”

“…to grandmother’s house you go.” Ruby chimed in.

“Ruby!” Kennealy exclaimed, and tried to get up and go to her. The restraints kept him in place. “Um… Miranda? Are these still necessary?”

Miranda hurried to release him and he went to Ruby’s side. Atticus couldn’t hear what the young chrononauts were saying, but there was a lot of cooing and soft words.

Helen came to his side. “So… are we going to have a houseguest for a while? A great grandson living in the guest room?”

Atticus considered that. What was to happen to Kurou? Could he even go home? Time travel was only into the past. The machine had no ability to fling someone into the future. The future did not yet exist.

He looked at the young man with new regard. Kurou was watching Ruby and Kennealy, an odd expression on his face, like he was witnessing something sweet, but embarrassed at the same time.

“Kurou, can you get back? Do chrononauts from your time regularly incorporate into times other than their own?”

“No, oh, no. I mean, it’s happened a few times before, but it’s never good. One chrononaut ended up stuck in the new time, and her own timeline never happened. She went a bit nuts at that, knowing that everything familiar to her would never exist.” He took a deep breath. “I do know of one who successfully exited in the past, and re-entered the stream to return to his own time…”

He paused, as if worried about who might overhear, about the worry he might cause. “But he was hopelessly scrambled. He couldn’t even form a coherent sentence.”

“You could stay here…” Helen offered.

“I have to go back.” His voice rose in pitch several levels. “I have a family. It’s… surreal being back here, at the beginning of it all, seeing my ancestors…”

Atticus laughed at being referred to as an “ancestor” and Helen snickered.

Kurou blushed and tried to apologize, but Helen shushed him. “It’s all right. It’s true, after all. I’m just finally getting used to the idea of being a grandmother, and now I find out I’m going to have jaunting great-grandchildren, coming back in time and visiting me in my garden.”

“I wish I could tell you all about them… how great they all are… how you find ways to communicate with them. In the garden.”

“But you have to go back. Soon.” Atticus understood. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt the urgency, from elsewhere. He blinked, and everyone was in a different place.

“Atticus? Can you hear me?” Helen was leaning over him, a look of concern on her beautiful face.

“Munchkins?” he asked, feeling punchy. He had no idea why he should feel punchy. He wasn’t a chrononaut, he wasn’t jaunting…

Kurou laughed. “You call us Munchkins. I take it that’s the first time you’ve blanked?”

“It’s the first time I can recall… though honestly, the more I think about it, the more it explains the times when I’ve been sitting at my desk, pondering a problem, and it seems as if time has simply flown by.” Atticus said. “I suspect I’ve blanked at least a few times before, but never for too long.”

“Ruby blanked too.” Helen explained.

“My team. They’re waiting for me to get back in the stream. Hopefully, with their help, I can get back.”

The next twenty minutes were a blur. Kurou went into itineris to prepare for the jaunte. It was strange, knowing that he was going to discorporate, and they wouldn’t find out for many decades whether or not he made it back to his own time. Atticus was already a grandfather… would he live to see his great-great grandchildren?

He followed his great-grandson into itineris, along with Helen, Kennealy, and Ruby. Kurou kept a running monologue of information flowing, imparting as much knowledge as he could while he had the chance. He even included lottery numbers, a bit of famous trivia all of the “Munchkins” had memorized. “But they’re not always the same… it’s hard to explain, and we don’t even understand it fully. If the first set of numbers I gave you pops up, it’s usually followed by what we call scenario one. The second set, the other scenario. But nothing is set in stone. There’s always flexibility, and just because one little detail is different doesn’t mean there’s a paradox. Stepping on one butterfly won’t necessarily cause a chain reaction of events…” Kurou took a deep breath. “…and then again, it might. It’s fluid, and flexible.”

Odd thoughts occurred to Atticus as he listened to his great-grandson’s lecture. He tried to make mental notes about it to compare with Kennealy later. Maybe, between the two of them, they could make some sense of it all. At the very least, they could document as much as possible for the research team to pick apart and refer to.

The tank was ready.

The cukoo was ready.

He sat on the edge, taking a few deep breaths before immersing himself in the temporal gel.

The countdown reached zero, and the time machine flung him back into the stream, just one hour, just enough to get his bearings…

…and hopefully find his way home.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

Chapter Twelve: The Garden

Chapter Thirteen: Carnal

Chapter Fourteen: Cuckoo Incorporated

Chapter Fifteen: Lingering

Chapter Sixteen: Will-o-the-Wisp

Chapter Seventeen: Rescue

Chapter Eighteen: Over the River and Through the Woods

Epilogue

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-bw

John Quinlan as Kennealy, MissRiva as Ruby

Ruby heard a familiar voice that was new to her ears. She found herself on a bed in the temporal lab’s recovery room, a medic hovering over her, and Helen nearby.

Something had happened…

She knew him. He was the one with the messy face. Even as an adult, he always seemed to be in need of a napkin.

It was exasperating.

She wiped the goo from his cheek. “You’re thirty-nine years old. You really should be able to clean your face better.”

“Leniency, please! I just incorporated into the wrong time. I was unconscious up to a few minutes ago. Blame the girl who was supposed to clean me up.”

Kurou belonged in the temporal lab. That was what he did, who he was. But why was everyone else looking at him like he was an enigma?

She couldn’t think straight. The girls were flitting at the edge of her mind, wanting to take over and have more interaction, but choosing instead to stay away, less interactive, but allowing Ruby to communicate with everyone and maintain possession of her own senses.

Where was her husband?

He isn’t my husband yet. This isn’t that time.

And something was wrong. It wasn’t just that Kurou was unfamiliar to them, he was a complete stranger.

In the wrong time.

Is that even possible?

It was bad. She knew it was bad for him to incorporate in the wrong time, she just didn’t know why.

Ruby ran down the stairs to the lower part of the lab, and placed her hands on the outside of the tank, willing her lover to come home to her.

Nothing happened.

She must have blanked again, because all of a sudden everyone else was around her, even Kurou who was leaning heavily on one of the lab assistants.

It was the girls’ fault. They were agitated, and frustrated that, in this time period, there was no way for them to communicate with the corporeal world. They had gone over the river and through the woods in vain.

Get him.

The words were clear. The need was clear. She had to go get him.

“How long would it take to change the tank to outgoing?” she asked loudly, trying to sound clear and firm.

Everyone froze, staring at her, but Miranda answered. “Only a few minutes, since it hasn’t been used as a return yet. Why?”

Ruby started stripping. Fortunately, her underwear was natural fiber. She wouldn’t need to jaunte naked. “I’m going to go get him.”

A chorus of protests was silenced by Kurou’s voice. “If anyone can save him, it’s Ruby. His soulmate.” All eyes were on the interloper. Ruby realized they didn’t trust him; they didn’t fully believe who he was.

Atticus looked at her, then at Kurou. “You are my great-grandson.” He said with conviction, even a paternal pride. “Do you know how this ends? Are today’s events in your history books?”

Kurou looked strained. “I… I wish I could say. Yes… yes they are… but my own memories are doing a strange dance right now. It’s like there are multiple futures available, and my own is just one of them.”

Miranda added “We can’t jaunt to the future, only the past. The past exists, it happened… the future does not exist until we make it so.”

“If Grandpa Jack Will-o-the-Wisps now, I’m not sure what will happen to me.” Kurou said. “I don’t think I’ll cease to exist, but I’ll be stuck as a non-entity… a man without a time.”

Ruby climbed the ladder that was the quickest way to the mezzanine level. She dipped her feet in the tank. It was still set for him… not quite as warm as she liked.

She froze there, sitting on the edge of the tank, hearing Miranda say that it was ready, and they could start the countdown whenever she gave the word. This time, her freezing had nothing to do with the visitors. It was fear, pure and simple. This was the machine that scrambled her. This was the machine that took her lover and flung him into the non-corporeal past, perhaps never to return.

This machine could keep her too… she might choose to chase Will-o-the-Wisps forever with her true love, if the only alternative was to live without him.

“Give me a t minus two, Miranda.” She asked, hoping her voice sounded as confident as she wanted it to. She could hear the ongoing debate between everybody in the room about whether or not she should be allowed to go, but so far no one was actually stopping her. She breathed deeply, preparing to be airless for about a minute before she jaunted and air no longer mattered.

With one minute to go, she lowered her body into the tank, dipping her head under briefly to coat herself, then taking a few last breaths. With thirty seconds left, she immersed herself, folding in her limbs to make herself as streamlined as possible, not touching the sides of the tank.

She heard the countdown “Seven… Six… Five…” and she grew impatient. She jaunted before they could announce “two.”

She remembered loving the freedom of being non-corporeal. Then she realized…

How far afield did they send me?

She tried to get her bearings, but there were no landmarks. She floated with the current, trying to remember how to navigate.

I never did figure out how to navigate. I stayed with the flow till the spheres lined up, and I exited.

Something was coming towards her. Two somethings… a sunburst, and…

Robin. She knew Robin. Robin would help her.

They flanked her, and the current changed. It was as if they formed a rudder, steering the three of them somewhere.

Then she saw the clock.

It was so much more real in this place! As if the non-corporeal realm was it’s natural state. They flew directly at the face, towards the little door. She had the sensation that she was about to crash into it, then she realized that the clock was much larger than she was accustomed to.

At the last second, her guides veered off, sending her tumbling through the little door all alone.

She drifted in darkness. It was warm and comfortable.

It was wet.

She could sense the water, and that’s where she found him.

She would have known him even without the symbol… he was a tribal sunburst, like the tattoo around his navel.

He was playing with the water.

She drifted around him, splashing like a novice swimmer who only knew how to doggy paddle. He didn’t seem to be aware of her. All of his attention was on the water, and on the corporeal version of her.

She watched, transfixed, smelling and feeling and sensing intimately, lost in the scramble of inputs but wanting more. They left the water, and she felt something solid under her feet. A platform she could stand on.

It was slippery, and not quite flat, but she clung to it. It felt like surfing. The sensations were overpowering, and she barely managed to hang onto her platform as it drifted with her through time.

She understood now why her lover wanted to stay. Every touch was so much more intense, the experience so much more complete. It was intoxicating.

She rode wave after wave, shooting the curl on her surfboard. There was no shore in sight, no harbor of refuge. Drowning was a real danger.

She felt her platform soften, becoming more malleable, and she slipped into it.

It was comfortable, safe, and warm.

It was him.

She looked out through his eyes, and saw her own face looking back. She remembered that moment, and the disquiet she’d felt at feeling his reluctance, and seeing herself. Now she understood why she had seen herself in his eyes after they’d made love, right as he was half asleep.

The tribal sunburst was gone. Frantically, she looked for him, and realized he was swimming, stroking back in time. She had no idea how to do that. She leapt off the platform, hoping to launch herself hard enough to catch up with him, but found herself falling back into the stream, being carried along with it. She found the platform under her feet again, and realized Kennealy was asleep. She could use him when he surrendered consciousness; she could ride him.

The robin and the orange sunburst flew at her, scooping her up and carrying her back against the current. She went limp, trying to be a complacent passenger, knowing they were helping her.

They flew at the clock again, and once more she tumbled through the door.

He kissed her.

It was a moment, an anchor in time. It was a surrender of spirit and emotion, a realization that they were meant to be.

Ruby tumbled with the current, feeling him both corporeal and in the stream with her. This time he seemed to notice her, but he didn’t know what to make of her. She wondered what representation she had when she was non-corporeal. A ruby? Like her name?

She tailed him, learning to paddle around. She tried to grab him, but there was nothing to grab. But it was easier to follow him than it was to struggle in the current alone.

She tried to put her feet on his platform, but his mind was solidly concentrating on the corporeal realm. He was unavailable to her non-corporeal self.

She felt helpless, unable to do anything more than follow him around, and then she realized that there was not just one, but multiple sunbursts around. How many times had he returned to this moment?

She held onto herself through the wetness and the warmth, angst and exhaustion taking their toll on her. When they reached the time that he began to fall asleep, he started stroking back again.

I will not lose him.

She was determined. She saw Robin and the sunburst coming towards her, but she turned back to her lover, and followed. If she stayed close enough, she could follow in his wake, though it took all her energy to do so.

“Jack!” she realized she could speak, and he paused, flowing with the stream instead of stroking back to that first kiss. They were in the shower, and she felt the rush of sensation threatening to throw her off balance.

“Jack!” she yelled again, and he turned to her. A wave overtook her; the corporeal version of herself coming to her first crushing climax, and she slipped.

“Jack!” she screamed, and tumbled into the current again, slipping away from him.

She fell backwards, watching as he slipped further and further away.

Then the sunburst grew huge, chasing her, enveloping her. Far stronger than the two girls who had carried her before, he took her with the current, even faster than the flow of time. She barely caught sight of the spheres as they reached the exit.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

Chapter Twelve: The Garden

Chapter Thirteen: Carnal

Chapter Fourteen: Cuckoo Incorporated

Chapter Fifteen: Lingering

Chapter Sixteen:Will-O-the-Wisp

Chapter Seventeen: Rescue

Chapter Eighteen: Over the River and Through the Woods

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-bt

John Quinlan as Kennealy, MissRiva as Ruby, Helen Mirren as Helen, John DeChancie as Atticus

Helen had never actually watched a jaunte before. She wondered whether the tension she felt was normal, or if it was heightened due to the distress call.

“…since discovering the relationships with the platforms, we’ve learned so much…” Miranda was explaining. Prattling nervously, actually, though the scientist didn’t seem to realize just how nervous she was. As a trained Psychiatrist, Helen could recognize the signs. Excessive talking being one nervous habit that both Miranda and Atticus shared. “…and the lab is ready to receive at any time now, although he won’t actually arrive for five more–”

She was interrupted by a bubbling and popping from the tank. Helen had been watching the clock, and she knew that Kennealy was not expected to return for five more minutes yet. In fact Miranda was just saying that there were still five minutes left. Yet there he was, masculine muscles and tattoos, incorporating in the tank of goo before her eyes.

He pulled himself up, and she knew something was wrong even before he slipped and fell back in.

It wasn’t Kennealy.

The researchers pulled him up, but his body was limp, a dead weight in their hands. People were rushing everywhere, up to the mezzanine to help those handling him, or rushing to examine the data and see what went wrong.

Helen looked to Ruby. The young woman was absent, completely frozen. Helen gently put an arm around her, searching her eyes for a sign of something, either reassurance or distress. Ruby would not even blink.

“Help me with her!” she grabbed a lab assistant and together they lowered Ruby to the floor. Helen carefully closed her eyes as a med tech rushed in to take over. Helen watched, calming herself as she realized her heart rate was sky rocketing. She had promised Kennealy she would watch over Ruby until he returned.

“She’s all right; the same as she is whenever she blacks out, just far less responsive than usual.” The med tech explained. “Let’s get her up to the recovery area.”

Helen handed over Ruby’s care to the techs who were familiar with Ruby and knew how to care for her, and she stepped into a niche where she could be close and still see what was happening. The unexplained visitor was still unconscious, stretched out on a recovery bed. Miranda and her assistants stood around him, examining him and trying to figure out what had happened.

“Make sure the tank is set to receive again! We have to be ready in case Kennealy…” her words were drowned out by the chaos around her, but her team still turned to do her bidding.

“Should we restrain him?”

“Who is he?”

“He’s regaining consciousness.”

Helen watched as the researchers stood poised over the man’s bed.

He groaned. “This is the recovery lab?” he asked.

“Yes. You’re in the recovery room of the temporal lab.” Miranda answered.

“What is today’s date?”

“September 16, 2436” Miranda replied again, watching him carefully.

The man turned to Atticus, and looked surprised. “You’re Atticus Bester.”

“Yes. You know me?”

The man laughed. “I will.” The joke seemed in keeping with the odd sense of humor all chrononauts had immediately post-jaunte. “Congratulations, by the way.”

“Congratulations?”

“On the birth of your first grandson.”

Helen nearly fell backwards upon hearing those words. How did this man know that their first grandson had been born that morning?

Ruby grabbed her elbow, and used it to help her stand up. Helen glanced back and saw that some insightful lab assistant had run to the supply closet in the platform lab and brought back a mantle clock of the same type as Ruby’s new grandfather clock. It was chiming, and wouldn’t stop, but no-one seemed to want to silence it. Ruby turned back to it, looking mildly perturbed, and placed a pillow over it to muffle the sound.

The researchers automatically made room for her as she approached the bed.

“Sweetheart, it’s not Kennealy…” Helen said, afraid the woman might panic…

“I know. It’s Kurou.” Ruby approached the bed and Helen went around to the other side, to stand with her husband. They watched as she sat on the bed next to him. Her lips were tight, and Helen had the odd thought that Ruby was about to say “And what do you think you’re doing, young man?”

But she didn’t. Instead, Ruby made a tsk sound, licked her thumb, and used her spit to clean a bit of goo off his cheek. “You’re thirty-nine years old. You really should be able to clean your face better.”

“Leniency, please! I just incorporated into the wrong time. I was unconscious up to a few minutes ago. Blame the girl who was supposed to clean me up.” Just as he had recognized Atticus, he seemed to be familiar with Ruby as well.

They all looked towards the foot of the bed, where a very young lab assistant was suddenly frozen, poised with a small hand vac she was using to clean the temporal gel off his body. “What?” she asked, but they turned their attention back to Kurou.

“Your name is Kurou?” Atticus asked. “You’re the cuckoo.”

“Yes, and yes. My name is Kurou, and when I’m jaunting, I usually incorporate as some aspect of a cuckoo bird.”

“How did you know our grandson was born today?” Helen asked. This young man didn’t seem threatening. He was an enigma.

Kurou laughed. “Because…” he looked them both directly, then stated clearly. “That baby is my father.”

Helen couldn’t think of how she could possibly respond to such a claim, but Atticus took over. “Your father? You mean you’re from the future? And you said you’ve incorporated in the wrong time… why?”

“It was certainly not on purpose. I was trying to get Jack to let go.”

“Jack? You mean Kennealy? Let go of what? Of you?” Atticus rapid-fired the questions at him before he could respond.

“Jack Kennealy. It wasn’t me he was holding onto…”

“It was me.” Ruby finished for him. “He doesn’t want to leave me.”

Helen looked from one face to the other, confused. “I don’t understand… how can he be reluctant to leave you? Wouldn’t he be eager to come back to you?”

Ruby’s face turned beet red. “He… doesn’t want to leave… last night. He’s staying in last night.”

A little light went on in Helen’s mind, and she understood. Kennealy had two known platforms. With Atticus, it was all work, all math and research. With Ruby, it was exploring, and finding out what next to investigate.

And it was emotion. She’d seen the attachments formed between the chrononaut and his platforms. Atticus was positively pouty if he didn’t get to spend enough time with Kennealy. And Ruby was Kennealy’s lover; a relationship that had been rapidly blossoming since the day the two of them met.

“Do you know why you ended up incorporating here and now?” Helen asked. She had several questions in mind, but unlike her husband, she planned to ask them one at a time.

“It is only a theory, because it happens so rarely. But when the exit opened and we approached, he stroked back. He didn’t want to leave. I tried knocking some sense into him, but it takes a pretty heavy hit to affect Grandpa Jack at all, especially when we’re both non-corporeal.”

“Grandpa Jack?” Atticus exclaimed.

Kurou smiled. “Yes. He’s my grandfather. My mother’s father.”

Helen smiled at the thought, even though she was still worried for the young chrononaut. But… if he didn’t somehow come out of this alive, wouldn’t that mean he would never have a daughter or grandson? Wouldn’t that cause a paradox? Unless his one night with Ruby…

“Is Kennealy all right? Will he come out as soon as the gate is open again?” Helen asked.

“How soon will the tank be ready to receive?” Miranda asked one of her assistants.

“Ten more minutes… maybe as few as eight.”

“Can Kennealy survive non-corporeal for that long?” Miranda asked Kurou.

“He’ll be all right as long as he maintains a sense of self,” he answered.

“A sense of self? Is there a danger of him… losing himself?” Helen asked.

Kurou took a deep breath before answering. “In the past seventy years, a handful of chrononauts have been lost during a jaunte. Sometimes, we don’t know what went wrong. With a few of them, other chrononauts jaunting with them reported observing them… wandering off. We call it death by Will-o-the-Wisp.”

“They’re not dead.” Ruby stated.

“That’s very true. We don’t know what happened to them. Perhaps they’re happy, out there somewhere, enjoying an existence we can’t possibly comprehend. We just don’t know.”

Ruby looked directly at Helen. “Irony.”

“Irony?”

“Jack might not come back to me, because he doesn’t want to leave me. I’m his Will-o-the-wisp.”

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

Chapter Twelve: The Garden

Chapter Thirteen: Carnal

Chapter Fourteen: Cuckoo Incorporated

Chapter Fifteen: Lingering

Chapter Sixteen: Will-O-The-Wisp

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-bp

John Quinlan as Jack Kennealy

Kennealy playfully flicked a glob of goo at Atticus, his good ole’ stable platform. He wondered if any of the machines would be able to measure the tension he felt in the room. It was certainly palpable. He knew they were worried about him, but all he felt was a thrill of anticipation.

He’d hardly left Ruby’s side since they’d made love, an act they had repeated several times over the course of the day. (Once in the supply closet of the new lab, but he wasn’t about to share that information with anyone.) They were both unreasonably giddy, happy with the rightness of it all. It was like something that should have been finally was.

She seemed to be learning to shoo away her visitors when they were not wanted. It was easier when she was near the clock, but there were other instruments with similar power sources in the supply closet, and they were not interrupted when they were near.

After lowering himself into the tank, a stab of guilt washed over him. He wanted to jump out, but he had less than a minute. He realized that, in all their time together, he had never told Ruby he loved her. She seemed to know, and the words seemed superfluous, yet he wanted to say them, to make them his own. He mouthed them to her, and she mouthed them back right before the machine flung him three days into the past.

Kennealy swam. That was the best analogy he could think of. The current was moving as usual, taking him with it. But with a little effort he could maneuver himself around.

He performed the usual explorations, recording the taste/emotions and sound/displacements as best he could in his own mind. Someday, they would have to design some kind of recording device he could take with him instead of sending him off with nothing but his skivvies.

And then he saw the clock. Strangely, it looked much the same in the non-corporeal realm as it did when his body and eyes were intact. There were songbirds flying to and from it as if it were a bird airport. Some birds perched on the top, others found resting places in various other nooks of the decorative façade.

He was still far enough away to view the clock as a whole. He looked down, and saw what looked like water swirling around the base. Out of nowhere, a snake was swept in by the current. The birds glanced down curiously, but seemed to pay it no mind. The reptile curled itself around a niche in the base, and seemed to rest.

Kennealy closed his eyes, but he still saw the clock. This time it was not birds, but lights and spiral patterns flying to and fro. He opened his eyes again and watched the birds. They did not seem to match up; there were more birds than lights, and none were in the same positions.

“Hello…” he said tentatively. He looked for the robin or the cuckoo, but found neither. A few of the others chirped at him, and it did seem like a friendly greeting.

He approached the clock carefully, and it turned out to be much larger than he’d realized. It was as if he himself was the same size as the birds.

As he got closer, he felt the current pulling him past. But he grabbed onto the corner of one decorative piece, hauled himself into a niche in the woodwork and made himself comfortable. He looked up, and a couple of sparrows looked back down at him. “Please, tell me about the clock. Tell me about yourselves.”

The two sparrows took turns tweeting at him, as if they really did understand and were doing what he asked, but he couldn’t understand a word. They didn’t seem to mind that he didn’t understand, they continued to lecture him anyway.

“Is everything all right? Do you know who sent the distress call?”

“Not yet.” Said the sparrows. It was a chirp, a tweet, but he understood the words. Whether they meant “We don’t know yet” or “It’s not time yet” he couldn’t tell.

The sparrows flew away. Kennealy watched the other birds, but they didn’t seem to notice him.

He felt a tug at his heartstrings. It was a definite pull, and an emotional one. Something told him it was not Ruby, but it was female. He looked around, but the birds all seemed to be gone. He closed his eyes, and saw the swirls. An orange sunburst told him “Don’t stay!”

The words were a smell. He was accustomed to such odd idiosyncrasies. He took the advice, falling backwards off the edge of the clock.

Free-fall was fun. He had learned to identify the sensation of free-fall with the fact of moving in time at the same rate as the physical world. He found Atticus, and spent some time with his platform, going through the exercises they had talked about, and hoping to gain a greater understanding of how the non-corporeal chrononaut was interacting with the corporeal world.

He exhausted the progress he could make with Atticus. Duration was an odd thing; he couldn’t tell how long he’d been in the stream. He had learned to stroke backwards, to take a second or third look at something. He could even freeze at a particular moment, and look at a tangle from multiple angles.

Abandoning his stable platform, he found himself on the clock again. He fell directly onto the face, grabbing the hour hand and holding on until he found his balance. Once he was oriented again, he soared to Ruby.

The sense of pure joy that engulfed him when he found her was overwhelming. He remembered how they had spent most of the last day, and swam with the current. He wanted to reach that first moment.

He found himself in a feathery traffic jam. He wasn’t the only one going to Ruby. She was like the clock, but different.

They flocked to her.

The cuckoo fell into a parallel flight pattern to him. Suddenly he found himself on the clock again, but he understood that it was a different point in the clock’s existence. He was sitting on the base, and the cuckoo was perched next to him. Size was irrelevant. Somehow he felt like they were the same size and the relative size of man to songbird at the same time. Sometimes he was the same size as the clock. Sometimes he was the same size as the bird.

“Move on!” the bird tweeted. Not words, but a clear meaning.

“Did you send the distress call?” Kennealy asked, wading off the clock while still holding on.

Words this time, and for a moment the bird was his mirror image. “I will if you don’t move on!”

Kennealy moved on. He finally felt like he was learning to navigate, but hadn’t yet learned the rules of the road. Was stopping bad? Why did they keep telling him to keep moving?

He spiraled into Ruby, and she welcomed him. He found just the right moment, and lived it over and over. He experienced their first kiss from every angle, careful not to take over her mind, careful to be sure he was just in the background of her consciousness.

He found the water, and it felt like something he could hold in his hands and manipulate. He’d done so before, and Ruby had told him he did it while they made love in the shower.

Kennealy free-fell, moving in concert with real time. It was easier to interact while he was free-falling. It was easier to get his bearings while he was on the clock. And there was even more he could do when he was with one of his platforms.

The birds were far away, but he could feel them just at the edge. He glanced back to the clock, seeing the cuckoo, the robin, and the orange starburst waiting for him.

He turned his attention back to Ruby. He stroked back again and again, going deeper into the feelings and intimate movements between them.

“JACK!” yelled the trio, and he was momentarily shaken from his wife.

His wife?

Yes, she would be his wife.

He stroked back to her. The time in the supply closet. Then back to the night before, and the shower. He wanted to stay with her; he wanted to relive the experience with her over and over.

He wanted to drown in the sensations.

He wanted to drown in her.

The cuckoo flew by his head, smacking him with an almost physical sensation.

Momentarily disoriented, he looked up, and saw that the spheres were aligned. He wondered how long they’d been that way…

Not that it mattered. Time didn’t matter when he was non-corporeal. He could stay with Ruby…

Smack!

The cuckoo crashed against his chest, then tumbled away. It recovered, and flew to the spheres, then back to him. Kennealy shooed the bird away.

He wanted to go back to Ruby.

He had to go back to Ruby.

He needed to stay with Ruby.

He wanted to drown.

Drowning was bliss.

The cuckoo flew at him one last time, but he dove into Ruby, drowning in her essence and evading the annoying creature.

He held onto her, cherished her, loved her…

And his exit came and went.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

Chapter Twelve: The Garden

Chapter Thirteen: Carnal

Chapter Fourteen: Cuckoo Incorporated

Chapter Fifteen: Lingering

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-bj

Atticus was consumed with the sensation of impending… something. It wasn’t doom, but it was… something. He found it frustrating that he couldn’t express himself. He’d begun studying synaesthesia, learning how people with the condition interpreted the world around them. An entire new branch of the temporal lab had been opened for the study and training of platforms, those people who inadvertantly provided a haven or anchor to the jaunting chrononauts.

Of course, so far, no one actually decided to become a platform. Atticus himself had not even met Kennealy yet when he became the chrononaut’s platform. Neither had Ruby. One goal the new branch had was determining how the connection was made between the platform and chrononaut, and why. Next, they would see if they could create and control those connections.

Atticus definitely felt a connection with the young man. It was an incredible, thrilling sensation, to be able to communicate with so few words and know exactly what that the other person meant.

Helen chuckled next to him. “I believe the two of them have finally become lovers.” She whispered to him. Atticus looked up. Sure enough, Kennealy and Ruby seemed to be a bit more touchy-feely than usual. Ruby was more of an emotional platform; Kennealy was able to experience much more freedom with her than with Atticus. With Atticus, Kennealy had stability. He could get his bearings before Ruby sent him spiraling off on some adventure.

At times, Atticus wished he could jaunte. He wanted to experience it for himself. He was certain it would help him with his understanding of synaesthesia if he could only do it once. But the jaunt required a much younger, stronger body, and Atticus was a grandfather.

Actually, he had officially become a grandfather only a few hours earlier, when their daughter called from the coast to tell them about their newborn grandson. Helen was going to fly out later that day to be with them.

Helen had insisted on coming in to watch Kennealy’s jaunte. The previous afternoon, the core team had sat down with all the chrononauts, all the platforms they’d been able to identify, and anyone who had reported those “strange moments of synchronicity” that might just be contact with a chrononaut.

The cuckoo was still a mystery.

Although they had left Ruby’s clock in her apartment, a pair of researchers had been by to measure and study it, and other similar devices were being incorporated into the new platform study area. They had already had some success, finding that certain energies seemed to be more easily manipulated by the chrononauts. They just had to figure out a language so they could communicate.

Helen had felt terribly guilty about putting the poor little wounded cuckoo in a cage, but the Drs. Knapp promised they would take excellent care of the little bird. Upon examination, there was nothing unusual about it at all.

The biggest worry was the supposed call of alarm. The repeated S.O.S. was more than a coincidence, but they had no idea what to make of it. It seemed too much to believe someone was simply telling them that a little bird was about to crash into Helen’s door.

Kennealy had put everyone’s minds to rest. He was certain he could ascertain what the trouble was when he jaunted. A three day field was a bit of a stretch for him, but he had done two day jauntes with no problems at all.

Helen poked him in the ribs again. Kennealy and Ruby were being cute, and it made her smile. He couldn’t help but smile too; he’d seen pictures of how happy his daughter was with her husband and new baby. Maybe the two young scientists were on the same path.

Ruby was having a bad day. She was in and out frequently, usually only finishing half a sentence before zoning off somewhere. She seemed to like the platform lab. Some of the toys they had brought in seemed to work almost like bait for the unidentified visitors. Frequently, Ruby would come back to cognizance and immediately one of the devices would light up, as if the visitor had left her and gone to it. They even had a movie player of the same type Atticus and Helen had at their home, and it was left on playing The Wizard of Oz in a continuous loop.

When it was close to the time for the jaunte, Kennealy went into itineris to prepare. Ruby, ever by his side, went with him. Atticus and Helen followed.

If there was any lingering doubt as to the nature of the chrononaut’s relationship with the prettier of his platforms, it was all blown away by the searing kiss the two of them shared before he walked out to the temporal lab. The small audience gathered at the lower level of the lab, where they could watch Kennealy lower himself into the tank.

Suddenly, Atticus knew exactly what the term “palpable tension” meant. He felt stretched, like he’d left his wallet back in the other room but couldn’t go back to get it because he absolutely could not miss what was going to happen in the temporal lab. He patted his pocket and, sure enough, his wallet was gone.

Helen handed it to him.

The tension did not ease.

He could feel the tension radiating from his wife, and Ruby looked… blank. She was gone again.

John Quinlan as Kennealy

Kennealy could obviously feel it too, but he was doing his best to smile and dissuade their fears. He clicked his tongue, and just as Atticus looked up, Kennealy flicked a little glob of goo at him. Helen laughed, also trying to ease the tension, and she busied herself by wiping the mess off his coat.

As the countdown passed a minute, Kennealy took several deep breaths, then lowered himself into the tank. He folded his large arms in, and crossed his legs so that he was completely suspended in the transitional medium, no part of his body touching the tank walls.

He mouthed “I love you.” To Ruby, who mouthed it back, and then he was gone.

Atticus was becoming accustomed to the routine the researchers performed in changing the settings from outgoing to incoming. Although the planned return was always an hour away, they had streamlined the procedure so that it was always ready after only about twenty minutes.

Helen was playing pat-a-cake with Ruby. Ruby apparently had no idea that she was doing it. But she seemed content enough, and in her most lucid moments, she had reassured her caregivers, her family, and the researchers that she really was all right. She was scrambled. But, for whatever strange reason, she was happy… she had a sense of purpose and rightness about being a platform, not just for Kennealy, but for the unknowns. She insisted they were… though not entirely harmless… they were good. Atticus couldn’t help but be reminded about how his own mother had often referred to him as mostly harmless. Ruby seemed to have that motherly way about her. Perhaps that was what made her a good platform.

One thing Atticus was trying to study and understand was the idea of the field and duration. The machine was set to a field of three days, meaning it was flinging him back in time three days, from where he would gradually catch up to his own time again. It was like a stream of water diverted from the regular flow, carrying them along, but navigable if one knew how. The chrononauts found it very difficult to describe the sense of the duration of their trip. Certainly, it felt like more than the hour they were gone from the corporeal realm. But it was not three days either. Although all the chrononauts came back exhausted and starving, that was to be expected as they usually jaunted on an empty stomach, and it took a lot of energy to maneuver in the non-corporeal realm.

He wondered where Kennealy was at that moment, with ten minutes left before his anticipated return.

He wondered, silently, if the distress call had been Kennealy himself.

It wasn’t.

How did he know that? He had become more adept at identifying when the non-corporeal chrononaut was with him. He was conscientiously making a point to concentrate on his own, older research whenever he sensed Kennealy’s presence. So many of the loose ends had been neatly tied up thanks to the chrononaut’s insights.

The tank bubbled and popped. He felt like he must have been daydreaming, because he could have sworn that he’d glanced at the clock just a moment before, and they still had five minutes to go.

The familiar muscular, tattooed form began to raise himself out of the tank, then slipped and fell back in. Immediately the lab attendants were reaching for him and pulling him out.

It wasn’t Kennealy.

And on his arm was a tattoo… of a cuckoo.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

Chapter Twelve: The Garden

Chapter Thirteen: Carnal

Chapter Fourteen: Cuckoo Incorporated

Chapter Fifteen: Lingering

Chapter Sixteen: Will-o-the-Wisp

Chapter Seventeen: Rescue

Chapter Eighteen: Over the River and Through the Woods

Epilogue

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-ba

John Quinlan as Kennealy, Miss Riva as Ruby

Ruby and Kennealy stood looking at the huge clock. For the right price, the shopkeeper knew somebody who was willing to deliver the thing right away. He’d included a converter so the old tech would have a source of power. Kennealy himself had insisted on poking through the clockworks, making sure there was nothing… weird.

Ruby giggled. “What do you think you’ll find? Elves? Mice?”

Kennealy rolled his eyes at her. “I just want to make sure it’s no more that exactly what it looks like… an old clock.”

Ruby’s scientific mind was still intact, in spite of the scrambling. Her scientific mind told her that although this man wanted her, his sense of honor was preventing him from acting on his emotions.

Her scientific mind also told her that, when he was standing, she’d never be able to kiss him without either a step ladder, or his full cooperation.

She had neither.

But when he was on his knees, poking around inside the clock, he was at a much more vulnerable height. His eyes were about level with her breasts, a fact she knew was definitely to her advantage. She knew he liked her breasts, even though he was very polite and did not stare.

She placed one hand on the clock, and the other on his shoulder. When he turned to look up at her, she leaned over, slowly moving in to place her mouth on his. He had time to resist; he had time to object; but he did neither.

Although he kissed her back, his arms remained where they were. She wanted him to wrap those arms around her, to pull her against his firm masculine form and hold her tight.

They locked eyes. She saw reluctance, and wished she could absolve it as easily as she’d dissipated the stone in his gut. “We’re in love.” She stated softly. It was a fact, a declaration not as information, or a surprise, simply stating the obvious. “We always will be.”

Kennealy took a deep breath. Finally, one hand moved. But instead of pulling her close, he caressed one cheek, a soft and tender touch that seemed impossibly gentle for such a large man. It hurt to be so close to him, but not close enough. “I know.”

Finally, he did pull her close. He laid his head against her chest, and she scratched up and down his shoulders and arms.

An instant later they were on the couch, her on top of him. But he was frozen, his hands on her arms, holding her back. She did not remember getting there.

“You just did it again… who am I with? Ruby? Or someone else?”

“You’re with me. This is always me.”

“Sometimes it’s more than just you…”

“Sometimes it’s me and you, Jack.”

One eyebrow rose in surprise at the use of his given name. She wondered when the last time was that he’d heard anyone but his own parents use it.

He tapped her forehead once. “Am I in there now? Because if I am, it’s terribly rude of me to interrupt…”

She laughed, and moved his arms out of the way so she could kiss him thoroughly. “You were. And you will be…” She wasn’t sure how she knew that. “But it’s OK.”

“Ruby, I can’t… be with you like this, knowing you could black out at any moment. I’d feel like I was taking advantage of you. Violating you…”

Ruby rested her forehead against his mouth. He was being difficult, but at least it was for all the right, noble reasons. “I understand why you feel like that. I understand that you think I’m fragile, but I’m not. I just… I have specific needs.”

Kennealy smiled and she knew he was thinking about what a woman’s needs might be. She smiled suggestively. “Yes. I have needs.” She grinded against his groin suggestively. At least that part of him was willing to cooperate. But she wanted more than his body.

“What should I do if you…”

“Don’t stop! Good grief, do not stop. At least, once we’ve started…”

“I’m not sure how I feel about that, Ruby.”

“I think I can tell them to stay away. I think I can…”

The clock chimed. A little red robin flew out announcing that it was eleven minutes after the hour.

“Not now!” She growled, and the bird flew back into the clock. It did not disappear, as the birds did whenever they chimed the hour, or quarter of an hour. It turned tail in mid-air and went back into the clock. “She’s gone. She’s a sweet little thing, she didn’t mean anything by the intrusion…”

“She?”

“She. I know the robin’s a she. Red, like her grandmother.” She puzzled over her own words. “One of those things I know, even though I don’t understand how I know.”

“Like how you knew where to find the clock?”

“Exactly. The last time I was in those shops was three years ago, and there was a toy store in that space.” Ruby was getting frustrated. The seduction was not going well.

She sat up, straddling his hips, and stripped her shirt off over her head. “Do you remember the water?” He nodded, but closed his eyes. She could tell by the contortions of his face that he liked what she was doing. She began unbuttoning his shirt, and he actually helped her.

Several breathless moments later, she said “I think you need to take me to the water again.”

She remembered every step from the couch to the bathing chamber. At exactly her eighth step, the clock began to chime “Cuck…” but it never even made it to “koo” before turning tail back into the clock.

Clothes were quickly discarded, and she selected the same shower program she’d used the night before, when he’d come to her incorporeal.

She wondered if he’d come to her again. Sure enough, she felt the fluttering of the presence she recognized as her lover at the edges of her subconscious. But it wasn’t active, only present. Floating, remembering.

The hard drive of her brain retained more than enough power to remain cognizant.

His lips were everywhere. After weeks of waiting and wanting, it was like a dam bursting with both their needs. When she was silently reveling in what he was doing, she took two fingers and ran them in a small infinity pattern on his shoulder. He understood that it meant she was still with him, simply surrendering to the emotions and sensations their corporeal, carnal bodies were sharing.

She felt his fingers in the water and on her skin. His strong, corporeal hands massaged her muscles while his non-corporeal fingers, coming to them from some future jaunte, tickled her skin. Their previous intimacy was nothing compared to the jolt she felt when he finally filled her, pressing her against the shower wall with her legs wrapped tightly around his hips. He knew her; instinct told him exactly how to touch her. She surrendered, trusting him to take care of her every need.

When they finally made their way to the bed, Ruby was confused by the reluctance she felt from him. However it was no longer coming from her carnal lover, but from his future presence. He finally began to drift off to sleep, his eyes watching her as she leaned over him, searching his eyes and trying to find the source of his reluctance. His eyes would close for a few moments, only to open again and smile at her. The non-corporeal Kennealy was still there, floating in the back of her head somewhere. He had never stayed so long before.

She found the source of the reluctance. He was reluctant to leave. She knew her carnal lover would stay the night, and she wondered if his jaunting self would stay the night as well.

There was something more in his sleepy eyes.

There was someone in his sleepy eyes.

Herself.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

Chapter Twelve: The Garden

Chapter Thirteen: Carnal

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-aT

By The Lilac Breasted Roller (originally posted to Flickr as Bananaquit) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons“Mmm Hmm.  I love you to. Yes…” Helen set her purse in its usual spot, and headed for the bedroom, her link on with her husband’s voice prattling on about being late. It was time to get out of her professor clothes and change into something comfortable for puttering in the garden. “Yes, sweetheart. It’s fine. I’m having dinner with friends tonight, and I’ll see you when we both get home.” Atticus rambled on some more, and Helen heaved a sigh. She loved her mathematician husband dearly, but sometimes he got so wrapped up in what he was doing, he just didn’t know when to stop. “Atticus!” she interrupted, sharply, but with affection. “I’m glad you are making such great progress, but I have things I need to do.” She listened to his last words, then said “I love you too. I’ll see you tonight,” and she ended the call.

It was still early in the afternoon. It had rained a little the night before, and the garden smelled marvelous. Helen told the system to play some music suitable for enjoying the outdoors, and started deadheading all the flowering plants.

The morning glories were doing so well, they had completely covered the old trellis. Marigolds along the sidewalk were equally prolific; Helen favored flowers that reseeded themselves and required little or no maintenance.

A new smell drifted across the breeze, and Helen looked up, wondering if the neighbors were having a barbeque. It was definitely meat she smelled… bacon. An odd choice for a barbeque.

She shrugged, not able to identify the source, but not really caring. She sang along to His Eye is On the Sparrow and was not at all surprised to find a small flock of the tiny birds checking around the rose bushes for seeds and bugs.

After eight songs had played, all featuring songbirds, Helen sat back and pondered. This was probably just a coincidence… they were all songs she liked, and all quite appropriate for puttering in the garden. It was just odd that all of them would be about birds.

The ninth song the system chose to play was Little Yellow. It was about a cuckoo.

The hairs on the back of her neck stood straight up. Atticus was still at work. He always told her about the little moments of synchronicity he experienced when Kennealy jaunted, using him as a platform. But although she had witnessed a few of those moments, it had always happened when Atticus was there. Never without him.

Could this be the non-corporeal Kennealy looking for Atticus? Finding the physical location where Atticus could often be found?

Could it be one of those other time travellers Ruby recognized, but could not identify?

Could this be what so many people through the centuries mistook for a haunting?

Helen was not exactly a scientist, but she had a researcher’s mind. As a professor of Musichiatry, she understood how music and sound influenced the human brain. It made sense that, if there was indeed a non-corporeal chrononaut trying to reach her, that they would do so through music.

“Music” Helen prompted the system, and a light went on signifying that it was ready for a command. “Switch to music with a water theme.”

The system played Lake City, which had no mention of birds whatsoever. But the next three songs all fit the water theme, and somehow included at least one mention of a bird.

The next song was Ruby.

Helen called Atticus. “Have you had any of those strange moments of synchronicity in the last hour or so?”

Atticus sounded excited. “Actually, I was in Miranda’s office just now. You know, she has a collection of old communication devices…” Helen was about to tell her husband to focus on the actual question, but she sensed this was not a side track. “Well, it just occurred to me that we should connect each of them to a power source, and see what happens. About half of them lit up with static. Now, that might be explained in several ways. They are old devices, but some are still in use in various places. Radio signals still exist…” He paused a moment, as if momentarily distracted.

“Then one of Miranda’s research assistants started rummaging around the cabinets, and found a device to measure electromagnetic fields. It lit up like crazy. We’ve recorded the patterns, and we’re running it through several algorithms to see if we can decode an actual message.”

There was a long pause. Especially long for Atticus, who tended to prattle.

“And did you find anything?”

“Only one so far.” Another pause, but shorter. “You know what dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot means?”

Helen took a deep breath, but did not let it out. The system started playing another song, and it wasn’t familiar to her. It sounded like a 1900’s Rock-and-Roll ballad… it was sad, about a lost love.

Where are those happy days, they seem so hard to find

I try to reach for you but you have closed your mind

Whatever happened to our love? I wish I understood

It used to be so nice

It used to be so good

Photo Effects by Lunapic

John Quinlan as Kennealy

Helen stood slowly, looking around her for any other signs. She closed her eyes. There was another smell on the breeze, and it took her a moment to place it.

Poppies.

She wasn’t sure what poppies smelled like, but she was fairly certain no one in the neighborhood was growing them. She was absolutely certain, unreasonably certain, that the smell was poppies.

“S.O.S.” Helen replied. “Save our souls… and old distress call. When does Kennealy jaunte again?”

“His next jaunte is the day after tomorrow. It is planned to be a three day field.”

“What about the other chrononauts?”

“Mike and Nate are only doing three hour jaunts at the moment. They’re not natural synaesthetes, but they are learning. There are two newbies in training who are natural synaesthetes, but they’re far from ready to jaunte. The lab never overlaps jaunte fields, so technically the only non-corporeal time traveller that should exist right now, on this day, is Kennealy.”

“Unless the other chrononaut is from a farther future time, or there is a lab elsewhere doing similar experiments.” Helen mused.

Helen walked into the house, turning off the music with a touch of her finger, letting the clear plexi door close itself.

A small thud from behind her caused her to whirl around, looking back through the door to the garden.

She opened the door to find a tiny mass of yellow feathers flapping feebly on the stones in front of the door.

A cuckoo.

.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

Chapter Twelve: The Garden

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She understood.

He loved her.

He was afraid of her.

She was dangerous.

It was something every man realized at some point. His life was about to be forever changed, and that was a terrifying proposition.

As he fought his own feelings they congealed as a stone in his gut, weighing him down.

She had to do something about that.

Fortunately, like most men, physical intimacy would lead to emotional intimacy, and eventually emotional security. She knew that about him.

Unfortunately for her, Kennealy also had a stubborn streak, and an overdeveloped sense of honor. He was afraid to touch her, because he knew where those touches would lead. She knew it too, but she wasn’t reluctant; she was eager. More than eager, she was almost desperate to consummate their relationship. Without him ever having spoken the words, she knew he loved her. She knew he would always love and cherish her, scrambled brains and all. She felt like she had known him for a lifetime instead of just a few weeks.

She stayed with him while he rested. She had only jaunted a handful of times, but she remembered the sickening disorientation that followed. She played with a piece of putty while the research team performed their experiments and took their readings.

“See? It’s a house.” She held up the putty for him to see, even though he hadn’t opened his eyes yet. Some sense informed her that the disorientation had passed, and he was awake. He opened just one eye, regarding her suspiciously. “And if you turn it this way…” she rotated the small putty sculpture, “…it’s a dog!”

He opened both eyes and took the sculpture from her. “You are very talented. Did you…”

“Just me.” She smiled, and tapped her finger to her forehead. “No visitors.”

The corners of his mouth turned up slightly, and he put one arm behind his head. She loved it when he did that; it showed his muscles to their best advantage. She moved from her chair to perch on the bed beside him. The researchers were gone, leaving them alone with just the monitors to watch them. She ran her fingers over his bare chest, testing his reactions. What had transpired between them during his jaunte had been… unique. Intimate.

She wanted more.

“Would you take me home?” she asked. “When you’re done here? I can wait.”

He hesitated, and looked around, presumably wondering who was watching over the poor helpless invalid. “Where’s Archie?”

“He’s visiting all the critters in Dr. Knapp’s lab. He left Tomcat here with me in case I need him. Besides, here–” she gestured to the temporal lab’s recovery room, “–is the next safest place for me besides home.”

John Quinlan as Kennealy

He took a breath. She felt his reluctance as a grainy irritation, a synaesthetic side effect she’d grown used to. One by one, she felt the grains grind away until they were a soft, fine sand. He let out his breath. “Sure. I’ll take you home.”

It was just after noon. Kennealy always fasted before a jaunte, so he was starving. By unspoken agreement, they avoided the cafeteria, and headed away from the research building.

“Can we drive up to Estes?” she asked as they drove away. He nodded.

And then they were there. He had stopped in front of a nice little restaurant that had a back deck overlooking a mountain stream. He was regarding her with an expression that indicated more than the usual amusement.

“What did I do this time?” she asked. His smile was infectious, and she couldn’t help but smile back.

He turned the rear view mirror so she could see herself. “Oh, well, isn’t that creative.” She remarked. From her eyes to her temples was an elaborate artwork resembling colorful wings. She glanced down to see the makeup from her purse scattered over the front seat of his car. “Oops…” she saw that he was still smiling. “Sorry about that.”

Kennealy just shook his head. He acknowledged the mess, but didn’t seem worried about it.

Lunch was good, but Ruby was antsy. It wasn’t the odd sensation of placing a bite of food in her mouth and experiencing the taste as sound or emotion, she was growing used to that. It wasn’t sexual impatience… well, maybe just a little bit. She had yet to figure out how to seduce him… but there was something she wanted. Something she could find in the little tourist town.

He didn’t seem to mind following her along the street, looking in the various shop windows.  She turned up a sidestreet. There was a small conglomeration of stores bound together with a walking path, winding up the steep mountain hillside. About halfway up, she found what she’d been looking for.

They both froze when they stepped into the shop and a dozen different cuckoos all chimed at once. They looked to each for a moment, checking that they hadn’t imagined it. It was a clock shop, and the timepieces had all just chimed 2:00 as they walked through the door. Coincidence, perhaps, but a rather convenient one.

MissRiva as Ruby

“Good afternoon. May I help you find anything in particular?” asked a kindly, heavily mustachioed man behind the counter.

“Do you have clocks from the 2300’s?” Ruby asked. She wasn’t sure why she wanted a hundred year old clock, but the number was stuck with her.

“Something that runs on elektriks? Certainly, certainly… are you a collector?”

“No… just… curious.” She said the words slowly as she crept into the shop, taking in everything around her. And she was curious, very curious. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but the cuckoo was definitely in her head. Not taking over, just… lurking.

There were a dozen clocks from the time period she wanted, all very different. Some showcased their inner workings in various ways, with a transparent case or none at all. Others had a plethora of gizmos and gadgets that performed cute little actions.

Eventually Kennealy stopped in front of a huge old grandfather clock. Even at his height, he had to look up at the face. Ruby approached him from behind, wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her cheek against his back. He accepted her as if it was a common thing for them, as if they had always been a couple.

“Wait for it…” she said.

“What?” he asked, turning his head, but not twisting. She felt that he didn’t want her to let go.

“Wait for it…” she said. He turned back to the clock. “Now.”

The door opened and a sparrow flew out. It tweeted it’s specific song for just a few seconds, and then disappeared.

“Huh.” Said Kennealy. “Two-fifteen. Do you like this one?”

“I like this one. But…”

The little door opened again. A cuckoo flew out, chimed it’s unique song, and disappeared.

“Oh, well, it’s never done that before.” Remarked the shopkeeper.

They froze for an undefined quantity of time.

“We’ll take this one.” They said in tandem.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

I used an old picture of John for this chapter, because the pose best fit this part of the story. But I have a brand new photo of him I just had to share with everyone! (With his permission, of course.) John’s been quite busy this week, you see, there’s a new baby in the house!

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John Quinlan with his boys and new baby girl.

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The spheres lined up. Kennealy reached for the light, dove into it, and with a pinching sensation rematerialized in the tank.

Time stretched for just a few moments before he climbed out. He opened his eyes, and saw Ruby. She was standing still, lips slightly parted, one arm across her body, her hand gripping her elbow. But as soon as their eyes met, a jolt went through him. It was an emotional sense, something he couldn’t usually identify while he was corporeal. But she felt it too because she smiled. It was a smile of happiness and relief. Somehow, he knew it was not relief over his safe return. It was because she knew he remembered what had transpired between them.

For him, it had been moments ago. Then again, duration was difficult to sense during a jaunte. How long ago had it been for her? Hours?

He felt strong, reliable hands assist him out of the tank and he realized he was lingering in the fluid, reluctant to feel corporeal again. He wanted to go to Ruby, but nearly fell over as he stepped towards her. The research assistants and medics helped him into the recovery area. They were all accustomed to the disorientation and lack of balance that followed a jaunte.

He fought a headrush of sensations as they helped him onto the bed. He was used to it. It would pass.

He felt a warm softness, a comforting music and pleasant smell nearby. He pushed away the chaos and static and opened his eyes to see what it was.

MissRiva as Ruby

It was Ruby. She was sitting next to the exam bed, holding his hand against her cheek.

He watched her, meeting her eyes, and lingering there. She was innocence. Gentleness. Spontaneity… But she was still dangerous. He felt it deep in the pit of his stomach, like a stone that weighed him down, kept him from moving, took away his freedom.

“Ruby, why are you dangerous?” he asked, before he could censor himself.

She chuckled. “Only dangerous to you.”

He searched her face. Post-jaunte was no time to have this conversation. Then again, perhaps it was the best time. “Only to me? Why are you dangerous to me?”

She let go of him and moved her hand to his abdomen, landing exactly where the stone weight had settled.

The stone shattered. His body floated a meter into the air, then settled gently back down to the bed. Judging by the passive looks on the researcher’s faces, there was no actual levitation. But it had certainly felt that way.

Ruby whispered to him, letting him in on a secret. “We’re in love.”

He knew it was true. His emotional sense may not be as astute when he was corporeal, but he knew he loved Ruby.

But why? His logical senses demanded. He wanted Atticus. He wanted the stable platform, the one that made sense. “Atticus?” he asked.

Ruby pouted, and pushed away just enough to give Kennealy some breathing room.

The scientist quickly approached his bedside.

“Did you hear the formula today? The last part?” Atticus asked, oblivious to the emotional soap opera going on between Kennealy and Ruby.

Damn it, he just wanted a hug!

Ruby squeezed his arm, planting a firm kiss on his bicep.

John Quinlan as Kennealy

Kennealy patted her hand, then looked at Atticus. He took a deep breath to clear his head, then asked for a writing board. Atticus nodded and made enthusiastic noises and gestures while Kennealy spoke and diagramed, imparting everything he could about the insights he’d discovered during the jaunte. Atticus understood, even when the bevy of hovering researchers looked at each other with confounded expressions.

Jaunting was no longer just about time travel. That had been the original intent, but the results had produced so much more. Now there were more questions than answers. They knew humans possessed more than five senses. They still argued over exactly what those were, but for lack of better terminology they named them sense of space, sense of time or duration, sense of emotion…

The sense of emotion was what tied a chrononaut to his platform. It allowed him to function. It also created a certain bond between the platform and application.

Kennealy brought Ruby’s hand to his lips before he even knew what he was doing. Atticus had turned to his assistant, listing off the things they needed to do in order to get the most out of the information Kennealy had brought back.

The bond between them was real. But why did it exist? Was it fate? Destiny? He knew he’d visited both Ruby and Atticus as platforms before he met either of them.

But were his feelings real?

Were they his?

Or had they been manufactured by the complex machinery that launched him through time?

He had to know.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

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