by Cascade and Alicia McKenzie
"What, precisely," Tanya said in a voice that was, if anything, TOO level, "is supposed to be the POINT of all this?"
Rachel dragged her gaze away from the pool, showing Sam and Dana--well, doing something that they really shouldn't be eavesdropping on. I feel like such a voyeur, she thought, trying to ignore the heat rising in her cheeks. "I--um, I think I'd like to know the same thing."
Their guide arched an eyebrow, eloquently, and said nothing. Instead, he walked over to where the three 'Fates', stood, and ran a thoughtful hand along the threads that the three were handling. "Part of the lesson," he finally said, almost laconically. "I trust you were paying attention?"
"To what?" Tanya asked angrily, rising and brushing off her clothes impatiently. "I'm getting really tired of this," she snapped. "You bring us here, show us all of this--"
A wedding, Rachel thought, only half-listening to Tanya's ranting. Why would Someone or Something take this much time and effort to show them a wedding? Not just the wedding, part of her pointed out meticulously. No, there'd been a lot more than 'I do's' in what they'd seen.
They'd seen the context, the state of things at the time the wedding had taken place. Rachel's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. There had been something very--symmetrical about everything they'd seen. As if Sam and Dana's wedding had been a magnet, drawing people back to the center, bringing together the whole far-flung 'family' of the X. Like something meant to be--
"Things fall apart," their guide suddenly murmured, interrupting Tanya's tirade. "The center does not hold."
"What?" Rachel said in wary surprise, as she looked up at him, this English gentleman who looked so out of place in this outlandishly surreal setting. "You're a Yeats fan, now?"
"Poetry is one of the few true beauties your species has created," he said with perfect aplomb.
Your species? Rachel stiffened, her mind awhirl with the implications. He winced, and gave her a somewhat apologetic smile.
"I apologize for being so enigmatic," he said, still running his hand along the threads. Almost caressing them, Rachel thought absurdly. The Fates wove on, oblivious. "I'm afraid the truth would be far too much for both of you--"
"Oh, the 'for our own good' routine again?" Tanya demanded, her whole posture screaming hostility.
"More than you know, my dear lady. More than you can ever dream." His hand closed around one shining silver thread, his grip tightening, and Rachel suddenly shivered, her heart pounding wildly. He smiled faintly at her, and then released the thread, coming back over to the pool. "Fate's such a delicate thing, really," he said softly, kneeling down beside her. Rachel glanced at Tanya, silently begging her to join them. Her friend, arms folded across the chest, huffed and relented. "What was, what is, what will be--"
His voice was almost hypnotic. Rachel found she couldn't blink. The pool was shifting, showing an image not of the people and places she so terribly missed, but a reflection of the wild timestream itself.
"You wouldn't think so, would you? You wouldn't think that anything could change the course of the river of all realities. One timeline, one life--not much when you look at it from this perspective, is it?"
Something in the timestream was changing. A ripple, barely noticeable in the turbulence.
"But there is such a delicate balance within this mighty torrent, my dear ladies. Whole worlds can hang on the fall of a coin--or less."
The ripple was stronger. Still tiny, in comparison to the rest of the timestream, but definitely noticeable.
"Even the tiniest ripple, the slightest change, can cause a cascade of alterations. A greater change, such as the one you see here--a deliberate, radical, cross-time disruption of the balance, can be even more catastrophic."
"Catastrophic?" Tanya suddenly asked. "What do you mean?"
"Catastrophes come in all shapes and sizes, my dear. A world could fall into a final, deadly war that destroys all life on its surface. A sparrow could fall. Both can do equal damage if they happen at the wrong time."
"And what is this?" Rachel murmured worriedly, leaning closer, her eyes locked on the ripple.
"A visitor," the guide said very softly. "A refugee from one timeline, fleeing to another--moving across time, breaching barriers that were not mean to be broken from outside. An Event of such magnitude that the timeline we were just watching, that timeline full of hope and promise, has just hit a radical branch point. Do you see?" He traced a finger from the ripple towards a different section of the timeline, and a white-hot line of fire sprang up in its wake.
It hit the second point he indicated, and suddenly there was a whirlpool within the timestream, an area of tremendous distortion, as if someone had reached out and stirred that one spot violently.
A hurricane, its malevolent shape building with each passing second. Rachel felt herself being drawn down into it, helpless to pull free.
to be continued...
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