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All The Time in the World

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BZZZZZRRRTTTT

With a puff of smoke and the smell of ionized gas, a stranger dressed all in white popped into view in an alley. The figure was decked out in something similar to an astronaut’s spacesuit - except much less unwieldy and with a smaller helmet. It shimmered and released wisps of smoke as the wearer stood stock still.  Finally, an arm slowly reached up and tapped a button on the side of the helmet, which retracted into the back of the suit. A confused face emerged.  Bright blue eyes darted around, taking in the environment. A cloth tight head covering still rested on the person’s head making her look like a futuristic Olympic swimmer. She took several deep breaths and made a face. “Ugh, pollution.” She surveyed the scene again. Not seeing anyone paying any attention to her, she pulled the head stocking off her head, revealing beautiful red hair.  Then she slipped the suit off. Taking a bag out of one of the many pouches on the suit, she then folded up the clothing and put into the bag - which she hid behind one of the good numbers of cardboard boxes lining the alley. She checked her data pad, which looked like an iPad, and looked back around the area. “I don’t know if this is the right location…,” she mumbled to herself. She slowly emerged from the alley and got a better look around.  People milled around the public square, stopping to look into the windows of shops. Some sat on benches; others reclined on blankets in the large green area on the large roundabout. The woman glanced down at her era- appropriate clothing, making sure she blended in. The t-shirt and jeans looked enough like everyone else for her to feel confident she wouldn’t draw unwanted attention. Then she stepped out onto the sidewalk and began walking. She peered down at her data pad, but it still was having difficulty providing accurate information. Glancing up at the sun, she guessed that it was mid-afternoon. She had time to get to her destination. If she was in the right place. She spotted a small cafe off to the right and headed that way, figuring it was the best place to get her bearing. 

Walking into the building, she spotted several people sitting at tables and on couches. A large counter spread out in front of her. One side displayed baked goods. A young woman in a black shirt and hat stood behind a data pad. The sounds of whirring and clanking rose from behind the counter. An unfamiliar burning smell filled the place. She cautiously approached the counter and sized up the woman standing behind it. She had black hair pulled into a ponytail. She had a sleeve of tattoos covering her right arm. Rings rested on most of her fingers. She had a displeased look on her face. She waited for the woman to speak.  When the newcomer didn’t say anything, the woman behind the counter asked, “Can I help you?” 

The redhaired woman looked up at the list of items on the wall, not recognizing most of the things written there. “Ummm,I’m not sure…. What exactly is this place?”

The young woman behind the counter snorted in laughter. “Are you kidding me?”  The redhead shook her head. The innocent genuine face revealed that she was not kidding. “Ma’am, this is a Starbucks.”

The redhead quirked her eyebrow and wrinkled up her face in confusion. “Starbucks?!? Like named after the character in Battlestar Galactica?” 

“I don’t know,” the black haired woman answered with a snotty voice. “Starbucks like the massive coffee shop that you find all over the world.” At the subsequent silence, she continued, “Are you going to order something?” 

“Ummmm, yes. I will have one of those coffees,” the redhead said with hesitation.

“What kind of coffee?” 

“Kind?” 

“Look, lady,” the black haired woman snipped. “I don't know if this is some kind of joke or what. There are like, fifty kinds of coffee up there.” She gestured to the menu board. “What kind do you want?” 

The redhead looked at the menu. “Ummm, I don’t …. What do you think I should get?”

The woman behind the counter rolled her eyes. Another voice next to the redhead spoke up. “Hayley, make her a grande mocha frapp.” The sudden arrival of the newcomer made the redhead jump. She sized up the person next to her.  She was short with brown wavy hair that came partway down her back. She had navy blue eyes that were highlighted by dark eye makeup. She was wearing ripped skinny jeans, a black t-shirt, and a black corduroy blazer. She smiled, and the redhead smiled in return.

“That will be be $6.50,” Hayley announced. 

With embarrassment, the redhead looked up at her. “I don’t have any money.” 

“Of course not,” Hayley grumbled. 

“Put it on this,” the brunette said, handing a gold card over the counter. “And can I get another Americano?”

“Sure, Beca,” Hayley answered, rolling her eyes again. 

“Here, come over here,” Beca said to the redhead, putting her hand gently on the woman’s back. She guided her to a table where there was already a laptop set up. She gestured to the other chair.  Once both women were seated, the brunette spoke up, Moby Dick.”

“Excuse me?” the redhead asked, completely confused. 

“Starbucks … it is named after the character in Moby Dick ,” Beca explained.  

“Aaaaah, gotcha,” the redhead said, nodding. 

The brunette scanned the redhead and asked, “So are you a big AC/DC fan?” 

More bewilderment crossed the redhead’s face. “Electricity? I’m sorry … what?”

The brunette laughed at pointed at the shirt the other woman was wearing. “AC/DC shirt. It’s a rock band.” The redhead looked down at the shirt like she hadn’t seen in before. “You don’t know who that is, do you?”  The woman shook her head.

“Beca! And … the other woman.” Hayley called from the counter.

“I’ll be right back,” Beca announced. She walked up to the counter and grabbed their two drinks, along with a straw.  She placed a cup filled with icy brown sludge in it and whipped cream on top in front of the woman and handed her the straw. “That goes in there,” she said with a smirk. 

The redhead looked at the straw and then slid it into the cup. Then she took a big slurp of the drink. Her eyes rolled back and she groaned. “Oh my God …” 

“Yeeeaaaaah, I thought you would be a mocha kind of girl,” Beca commented with a grin. “Be careful, though. If you drink it too fast you’ll get ..” The woman grabbed her head and hissed. “A brain freeze.”

“Urrrgh,” the woman grunted in pain. “What the hell?”

“Cover your nose and mouth with your hand,” Beca advised. “Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.” When the woman looked up with questions on her face, Beca added, “Trust me. It is how to get rid of it.” After doing that a few times, the pain subsided and the woman dropped her hand. 

“Thanks,” she said bashfully.

They sat quietly for a few moments. “So, what’s your story, Red?” Beca asked. The redhead looked startled at the question. “Fine, can we start with your name?” 

“Chloe,” the woman replied. 

“Hi Chloe,” Beca said with a smile.  She extended her hand in greeting. “My name is Beca.”

They shook hands and then sat quietly. Chloe took a careful sip of her drink. 

“Sooooo,” Beca began. “I’m just going to hazard a guess. You don’t know what Starbucks is, but you know about Battlestar Galactica and Moby Dick. You don’t know what coffee is. You don’t carry money. You don’t know AC/DC. I would say you’re an Amish on Rumpspringa, but you have an iPad. So, you’re either an alien or a time traveller.” The brunette finished with a smile.

Chloe’s eye flew open wide and her mouth dropped open. “How did…” She snapped her mouth shut. 

Now Beca stared at the other woman in surprise. “Uhhhh … you … think you’re … a time traveller?” At the guilty look on Chloe’s face, Beca ran her hand over her face. “Oh, man, why are all the pretty ones crazy?” she mumbled to herself. 

“I’m not crazy,” Chloe protested. “I really am a time traveller. I live in 2350.”

“Hahaha!” Beca laughed. “Did Jesse put you up to this?” She started looking around the store. “Where is he? Is he hiding somewhere?” 

“Who is Jesse,” Chloe asked seriously. “Is that another band?” 

“No,” Beca answered with a wrinkled brow. “He … is a friend of mine. He didn’t hire you to mess with me?”

“No,” Chloe responded with frustration. “Nobody hired me to mess with you.  I don’t even know who you are.” 

“I told you, I’m Beh-cah,” the brunette repeated slowly. “Beca Mitchell.” 

“Wait,” Chloe answered brightly. “Beca Mitchell … the musician?”

“Yeah, right!” Beca laughed. “You know Beca Mitchell, but you don’t know AC/DC? Bullshit.”

“Well this … AC/DC may not be as famous as you…” Chloe explained innocently. “Your music is VERY popular … timeless … like Sinatra … and uh, Adele … and Blue Ivy Carter.” 

“Beyonce’s and Jay-Z’s kid?!?” Beca asked incredulously.

“I believe her parents were famous musicians in their time, yes,” Chloe answered. “But she is quite wonderful.”

“Hahaha,” Beca started laughing. “You’re nuts! Seriously, who sent you here?” 

“Stacie Conrad …” Chloe answered with all honesty.. “She is the scientist developing this technology. I work with her, and I volunteered for the mission.” 

“Oh you did?” Beca asked with faux seriousness. “And what was this mission?”

“It was just a test run of the system - well, a HUMAN test run. We had already sent back inanimate objects and animals, but those tests are tough to judge full effectiveness.  They have to be very controlled because, well, the animals can’t trigger a return…” Chloe rambled. 

“You mean in the future the animals aren’t advanced enough to run scientific experiment,” Beca asked with exaggerated shock. “I would have thought that would be possible.” 

“Well, sure, some of the monkeys could be trained to do that, but it is hard to get ahold of monkeys…” Chloe started explaining.

“Of course,” Beca interrupted. “It would be hard to get ahold of monkeys. They aren’t sold on every street corner.”

“Right,” Chloe answered. “Especially after the Simian Protection Act of 2247…” She looked up at Beca’s incredulous face. “You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?” she asked with a frown. 

“Noooooo,” Beca replied. “I’m not making fun of you. I completely believe all of this … fantasy you’ve come up with.”

“Nevermind,” Chloe grumbled in frustration and stood up. “I’ll leave you to your … coffee and music. Can you just point me in the direction of somewhere that I can access a computer.” 

“Ummm,” Beca began, feeling back for hurting Chloe’s feelings. The redhead was completely crazy, but she was very kind. “This is a computer,” she said, pointing at her laptop. “Can’t you send whatever you need to send on your little … iPad thing?”

“No,” Chloe huffed. “I can’t. It isn’t working right. The trip seems to have caused it to malfunction.” She held up the screen, which just had icons and boxes on it. “Plus I didn’t think you would let me use your computer, since you think I’m crazy.”

“No, you … you can use it,” Beca said. She closed her music software and turned the laptop around to face Chloe’s seat. She watched as the redhead started confidently clicking and navigating her actions.   “What, uh, what are you doing?”

“You don’t need to humor me, Beca,” Chloe answered grumpily. 

“I’m not.  Well, maybe I am. I don’t know.” Beca rambled. “I was just curious.”

“If you MUST know, I am posting a message for Stacie to find, letting her know that I made it here,” she explained. 

“Oh, like when Doc and Marty sent the telegram from the 1800s?” Beca asked. She realized that she probably should be glad that her friend Jesse had forced her to watch that trilogy, but she was never going to admit it. 

Chloe looked up curiously. “Yeaaahhh … actually just like that.” The redhead focused again on the computer, chewing on her lip as she worked.  Her iPad started flashing.

“Uh, your … iPad thing is flashing,” Beca informed her, pointing at the device. 

“It isn’t an iPad,” Chloe remarked offhandedly. “It is a subspace quantum data interface.” She looked up at Beca’s crinkled forehead, “But it is like our version of an iPad.” 

“Can I look at it?” Beca asked.

“Why would you want to look at a crazy person’s iPad?” Chloe questioned without looking up from the screen. 

Beca shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe it will help me to realize you aren’t actually nuts.”

“Knock yourself out,” Chloe agreed, extending her arm to the brunette.

“Don’t we have to worry about that … Butterfly Effect … or whatever?” 

“That going into the past and changing one thing could irrevocably alter the future?” Chloe asked.

“Yeah, that thing.” 

“It’s impossible to not interact with the past with time travel,” Chloe explained. “Just my very appearance, even if I immediately went right back, would change the trajectories of air molecules. The change may be on the micro level, but it would still have repercussions.” 

“So, then isn’t time travel inherently dangerous?” Beca asked, feeling like she was getting far too involved with this discussion that she didn't even believe in.  Unless she was starting to.

“Yup,” Chloe said, popping the “p” sound. “And it can really cook your noodle if you think too much about it.”

Beca had been tapped away at the device Chloe had handed her.  It worked very similar to an iPad, so she seemed to be able to navigate it relatively well. She saw a music note and tapped on it - unable to ignore the siren call of her favorite thing. A fairly familiar interface popped up showing a massive music library. She saw albums entitled Standards of the 20th Century, Hits of the 21st Century, Essentials of the 22nd Century. When she tapped on the Artists tab, she saw some people she recognized. But there also were hundreds she did not. She tapped on Adele, which brought up almost twenty albums. Some were compilations and live albums. But the full catalog of her albums listed also: 19, 21, 25, 30, 35, 42, 46, 52, 55, 60, and 70. Beca shook her head at that. On a whim, she went back to the B list. Sure enough, there was Blue Ivy Carter listed. A beautiful black woman popped up, complete with a dozen albums. Unable to help herself, Beca scrolled back to Beca Mitchell.  She was floored to see her face looking back at her along with ten albums. She dropped the device and stared at Chloe, her heart pounding out of her chest. 

The redhead was looking at her with a small smile. “Still think I’m crazy?” 

“You … you could have … this could all be … no way, nooooo way,” Beca stammered. She leapt up from her seat and stumbled backwards, tripping over her bag. 

“You’re okay,” Chloe reassured her. “This is normal.” 

“I’m gonna be sick,” Beca gasped with panic. She looked around and then dashed outside, where she proceeded to heave onto the sidewalk. She soon felt a hand rubbing softly on her back. She looked up to see a napkin extended to her.  She grabbed it and wiped her mouth, then looked back up at Chloe. The redhead had a very compassionate look on her face. 

“That is normal too,” she said, still rubbing Beca’s shoulder. “It is a lot to process.”

“How? ….” 

“Maybe we could go and talk somewhere … more private?” Chloe suggested.

Beca looked up and saw a cluster of people staring at her from inside the Starbucks and on the sidewalk. “Yeah, good idea.” She went back in and retrieved her stuff. Then she left and started walking, Chloe trailing a few feet behind. Beca turned back to look at her. “Well, come on. No use being hesitant now.” 

They ended up at Beca’s apartment. It was smaller than Chloe imagined - actually having very little idea of what an apartment in 2022 Los Angeles looked like. It felt … homey, though. Quite unlike the sterile life pods that were all the rage in Chloe’s world. She appreciated the personalization of pictures and different colored furniture, curtains, blankets, carpet. “This is a really nice place,” she observed. 

“It’s a shithole,” Beca said with a laugh. “What do you guys live in?” 

“Ummmm … very sterile places. They all look the same. Very small. They are really just used for rest periods,” Chloe explained.

“That sounds lame,” Beca said.

“Yes, many things from our time are … lame,” Chloe remarked with a frown. Beca gestured to the sofa, where Chloe took a seat. Beca dropped into the armchair next to it. 

“I obviously have a ton of questions,” she announced. “Are you okay with me acting like a first grader?” 

“Sure,” Chloe answered and nodded.

“So you don’t have coffee?”

“No it was outlawed in 2215 for its addictive qualities. All addictive substances were outlawed at that point. Nothing with caffeine, nicotine, refined sugars, alcohol, drugs.”

“Ugh, I hate the future already,” Beca commented with a scowl. 

“So the human race still exists?”

“Yes” 

“How did they pull that off? I’m pretty sure it is on the way to extinction.”

“It came close,” Chloe admitted. “But they finally got things straightened out.”

“Does America exist?” 

“No. There is just … Earth. No countries or anything.”

“Just like Imagine,” Beca mumbled to herself.

“Yes, in some ways.” Beca looked up in surprise. “John Lennon is one of those timeless artists,” Chloe explained. 

“Ah.” Beca thought for a moment. “So are there like killer robots or aliens or something?”

Chloe pursed her lips and wrinkled her forehead. “Why … would there … be those things?”

“Well in movies when someone time travels, they are trying to undo something that a robot did, or protect some revolutionary, or undo a snap.” 

“No, none of those things.”

“So, why then?” 

“Just for the love of discovery, I guess,” Chloe answered. 

“Why did you volunteer?” 

“We needed a human, and … I had the least to … give up, I guess,” the redhead explained with a sad look on her face. 

“Were you able to send your message?” 

“Yes,” Chloe said. The sadness still didn’t leave her face, though. 

“So they’ll be able to get you back?” Beca asked, trying to understand what was bringing the redhead down. 

“No,” Chloe said, lowering her head. “It was always a one way trip,” she explained. 

“Wait,” Beca said. “You said they got back the objects and animals, right? Why can’t they bring you back?” 

“It’s hard to explain,” Chloe answered. “Time is fluid, and when we sent those other things we just sent them and yanked them right back. There was no shifting of the timeline. But, when I came, I didn’t get yanked right back. I stood there for a while, waiting, but it didn’t happen. As soon as I moved from that spot, I was pretty much stuck.”

“Why didn’t they pull you back?” Beca asked, feeling anxious for the woman who - until quite recently - she had wanted to disappear back into crazy town. 

“I don’t know,” Chloe shrugged. “Sending a human back takes so much more power than sending a … cup … or a bird. It may be that they didn’t have the power to perform such a power-intensive maneuver. It also could be because the … iPad thing … was damaged in transit, making it impossible to lock on.” 

Beca got up from her seat and moved to the sofa, sitting next to the redhead. She took her hand and offered, “I’m so sorry.”

Chloe looked up with teary eyes. “Thanks. I knew that it was a possibility. That’s why it had to be me. Dr. Conrad has a family. Most of the people there did as well. I … didn’t.  So it made sense to send me.” 

“That was very kind of you,” Beca commented. “They were lucky to have you.” 

“Thanks.” Chloe thought for a moment. “Now I just need to … get used to being in 2022. I’m sure it will be rough for a while, but I’ll find a way. And I’ll keep updating the online journal. So maybe Dr. Conrad will find a way to bring me back at some point.”  The two women sat silently for a few moments. Beca nibbled on her lip as she thought.

“You can stay with me,” Beca blurted. Chloe looked at her questioningly. “No, I mean … you don’t have anywhere to go … and you already told me … and so that won’t cause any more … time disruption … and … I want to help you.”

“Beca,” Chloe replied. “You already helped me. You don’t need burdened with some weirdo invading your space.” 

“I want you to stay,” Beca said more forcefully, surprising herself with her own assuredness. “Look, I don’t know why. I just … I want you to stay. I feel like you should stay. If it doesn’t work out, you can strike out on your own. But what will it hurt for you to at least have somewhere to call … home for a bit while you figure things out.”

Chloe thought it over for a few moments. “Okay,” she hesitantly agreed. “But as soon as you get tired of me, I’ll go. And I’ll work to find my own place and get a job and … well, everything else.” 

Beca nodded. “Sure, we will get to that as it comes. For now, you can at least stay and rest.” 

“Thanks, Beca,” Chloe said with a smile. “I have a feeling we are going to be fast friends.” 


2027

A gentle knocking on the door broke the silence that had filled the modest three bedroom home just outside of Los Angeles. Chloe pushed herself off the sofa, taking a moment to catch her breath. She put a hand on her lower back and waddled towards the door, her protruding stomach leading the way.  

“I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming.” Beca zipped out of her office and raced towards the entryway.  She saw her wife moving that direction and scowled. “Honey, I told you to relax. You’re carrying precious cargo.”

“I can answer my own door, Beca,” Chloe replied with an eyeroll. “Are you expecting anyone?” 

“Nope,” Beca answered. “Are you?” 

“Not that I know of,” Chloe said with a shrug. 

The two women reached the door at about the same time.  The smaller brunette pulled it open. “Can I help you?” Beca asked.

A tall beautiful brunette woman in a tight white outfit resembling a spacesuit stood at the door. She smiled when she caught sight of Chloe. The redhead gasped when she saw the visitor. “Dr. Conrad! What … what are you doing here?”

“Chloe,” Stacie said with a beaming smile. “We finally did it. I’m here to bring you home.” 

The redhead looked at her former boss, and then back at her wife. She rubbed her large belly and smiled.   “But, Stacie, I’m already home.”