Lucifer's Last Laugh

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Chapter 29: Solomon’s Tale

Passion-love does not exist nowadays. Especially not

in marriage. But how else can I describe my feelings

for Laura? To say that I worship her is to sound too

Victorian, suggesting nothing of the erotic

playfulness that exists between us. To say that I am

obsessed with her is to sound too 21st century with

its penchant for the pathological, suggesting only the

dimly-lit pathways of passion and none of love’s

bright sunlit uplands.

We don’t have a healthy marriage. I am much too

love-sick for that. And so, I believe, is Laura.

How did we meet? I had just started working at the

Wells Institute as a researcher, the junior member of

the three person team historical division. Thumbing

through holocopies of 15th century notarial records,

sipping absent-mindedly my third cup of kirr, I wasn’t

aware of Laura standing in the entrance of my cubicle.

Later she told me that she had stood there for at

least five minutes trying to think of something

Wildean or Weldonian to say, which turned out to be:

“Hey, Buster, let’s see your legs.”

I spun around, almost knocking over my kirr. I saw a

six-foot-two brunette with emerald eyes towering over

me. Seated, I felt like a pygmy in the presence of an

Amazon princess. Visions of H. Rider Haggard stories

danced in my head.

Laura grinned engagingly. “That’s, OK, pal. Take it

easy. I just wanted to see what a Renaissance man

looks like. She gave me an appraising glance from my

curly blonde top-knot to my lavender-painted toenails.

“Not bad. You’re short. But then men were short in the

Renaissance weren’t they?”

She laughed, winked, turned around, wiggled her

beauteous buff behind and vanished.

After I had regained my powers of respiration and

ratiocination, I staggered down the hall to Hudson’s

cubicle. Hudson is a Medievalist but otherwise not a

bad gal.

“A vision of purity, goodness, and unbridled sexuality

just materialized in my cube,” I began rhapsodically.

“Tall broad? Green eyes?”

I nodded.

“Laura Starcross. Physicist. Her equations led to the

Tempora, you know.” (As you have guessed, Hudson is

known for being laconic.)

I blink uncomprehendingly (indeed whenever I blink, so

as not to mess up my eyeshadow, it tends to be

uncomprehending). “What’s the Tempora?”

Hudson squinted her ferret-like little eyes and

grunted (albeit laconically) in disgust. “Where have

you been for the last two light clicks, Solomon J.

Mohammed? The Tempora is the most recent update on

the old Chronos system. You know, as in time machine?

What do you think the Wells Institute is all about?

Who do you think it’s named after?”

Truthfully I didn’t know. It was a job, which in the

22nd century with its accursed present-mindedness, its

focus on the transitory, the impermanent, the

evanescent, was all that any fledgling historian could

conceivably care about. Thus I had never inquired into

the purpose of the Wells Institute and no one had

bothered to inform me. I suppose they foolishly

thought I knew.

But the fact Laura was a physicist dismayed me.

Physicists are at the top of the United Neverland’s

scale of social rankings (the same scale that lumps

historians along with street sweepers and sociologists

into the second from the bottom category of “other

diversions for the simple minded.”

Hudson leaned back in her chair and leered. “That’s

right, buddy. A physicist. Not for you.”

But (uncharacteristically) Hudson was wrong. Laura

most definitely was for me. That same day she asked me

out, took me to her apartment, ripped off my camisole

and practically (it is hard to do impractically) raped

me. Sometime around midnight she proposed.

“Look, Buster, you turn me on. We’ll get married


I opened my mouth to protest.

“Shut up,” Laura whispered sweetly. “I make more than

enough to support the both of us. But if you want to

keep on working, that’s OK by me. One thing, though,

I’m an ante-lib traditionalist and I don’t go for the

new style of men dressing like 21st century women.

Here’s six hundred credits. Go buy yourself some pants

and a gallon of nail polish remover.”

Laura and I lived in a one-room apartment and a

transport of ecstasy (indeed the latest model) for two

years, three months and nine days. I did the washing

and most of the cooking and Laura rewarded me with

affection and acrobatics. Despite the fact that her

work was highly classified and beyond my

comprehension, she never condescended to me. On

occasion she let slip a few hints about the Wells

Institute’s progress on Tempora. Evidently a

breakthrough was nearing on future time; the past time

components were evidently working like appropriately

antiquated clockwork.

Frankly I didn’t much care. My life with Laura was the

only thing that mattered. Once in a double click I

experienced a slight thrill of anticipation at the

prospect of actually visiting the past instead of

merely poring through holocopies of its decaying

detritus and I gave no thought whatsoever to the

future. I must admit that my intellectual interests

had been submerged, nay, disannulled by my

passion-love for Laura.

When the long anticipated breakthrough to future time

occurred I expected Laura to be ecstatic. Instead, she

was underjoyed, worried, almost haggard looking. Our

passionate couplings dropped to below ten a day. I

finally mustered the courage to ask her what was


“Not much, Sol. Just the future.” I knew immediately

that something was terribly amiss. Laura almost never

called me Sol.

I did not have sufficient courage to pursue the matter

but a few days later she sat me down on the fruiton

and gently took my hands in hers. “ I couldn’t tell

you before but tomorrow the whole world will know and

in three weeks there’s going to be a United Neverlands


“On what”

“The future of humanity. She stood up, went over to

the bar and poured herself a stiff single-malt

slurpee. “Buster, I don’t want to worry your pretty

little head with technicalities so let me give it to

you straight and simple. As you know, the Wells

Institute has been working on the Tempora for

seventeen years. Many people have contributed.

Scientists of all persuasions, technocrats,

bureaucrats, sociocrats and just plain crats.”

Laura gulped down half of her slurpee and immediately

sashayed back to the bar for a refill. I gazed at her

in utter adoration, trying to focus on the dire words

issuing from her lovely lips. “Sure,” she said, “the

past is fun. It’s nice to see how the Earth actually

looked during the Pleistocene or how Raphael combed

his hair or to eavesdrop on the intimate conversations

of Alexander or Marie Antoinette. But the past really

isn’t very complex or very important compared to the

future. You know why, Buster?”

“Because it’s already happened?”

Laura smiled approvingly and for a moment seemed like

her old self. “You said a mouthful, sweetie. Exactly.

The past has already happened. It’s fixed,

unchangeable. Sure I suppose with access to the

Tempora, historian guys like you could spend a few

thousand lifetimes clearing up all the things we don’t

know or understand about history like who really shot

Kennedy or knifed Spumoni but when you get right down

to it, we’ve only got one past. Now the future, that’s

another bundle of barracudas.”

“You mean there is more than one future?”

“Seven to be exact and in six of them humanity is

extinguished. I mean totally expunged, extirpated,

obliterated. You got me?”

Laura chuckled and grimaced simultaneously. “You

wouldn’t believe the seventh, Buster. Pure Utopia.

Peace on Earth. Universal plenty. The whole magilla.”

I smiled and settled back on the fruiton. “It’s

simple, then. We choose Future Seven.”

Laura gave me a pitying look. “What’s that leaking

from your lid, Buster? Axle grease? If it were that

simple do you think I’d be sitting here drinking

hundred and fifty proof slurpees like it was mater’s

milk? The odds against getting from our present to

Future Seven have been reliably calculated at twelve

trillion to one.”

“Why not seven to one? No, wait, six to one?”

Laura stared up at our sky-ceiling with obviously

forced patience. “Jesus Jumping Jehosophat, don’t they

teach historians probability theory?” She slowly

lowered her head and spoke in carefully measured

tones. “Each future has its own degree of probable

occurrence. Number One is eighty per cent probable. In

One a megalomaniac from Ventura announces that he is

the anti-Christ. Another megalomaniac from Sausalito

with strong ties to kooky Oregon sects claims she’s

Christ. Followers of the two battle it out with the

finest nukes available. Result: total devastation.

Humankind is kaput.”

I mentally chewed over this unpalatable prognosis for

a moment, then said, “Isn’t there some way we could

prevent either or both of these wackos from being


“They’re already born.”

“But couldn’t we lock them up or, if it came to it,

just knock them off?”

“Sure but if we’re successful, we get Future Two in

which seven million Frenchmen spontaneously go

apeshit, take over the United Neverlands Space Cartel

and create a machine that knocks the Earth out of

orbit. Result: Fresh frozen Frogs and everybody else

well chilled.”

“And to anticipate your next question, if we

incarcerate all the flaky French in seven million

separate rubber rooms, we get Future Three, a real

dilly. In that one, the director of the Wells

Institute transports Adolf Hitler from his burning

bunker to the present. Hitler becomes the head of all

motion picture production worldwide and reels out

sophisticated Aryan superiority propaganda. In

retaliation, Israel nukes Hollywood, fascist Brazil

nukes Israel, Zionist Idaho nukes Brazil, and so on.

“The long and short of it, Buster Dear, is that

anything we do to prevent one future gets into another

that is just as bad. Except for utopian Future Seven.

And we don’t have the faintest idea of how to get

there from here.”

I mull this over until an idea flashes into my

pathetic pea brain. “Why not just examine Future

Seven’s past? Figure what happened there and make sure

it happens in our present.”

“Buster,” Laura said resignedly, “Don’t you think

we’ve thought of that? For days the best scientific

minds in the United Neverlands have been going over

Seven’s past with a superfine digital toothbrush and

with the complete cooperation of Future Seven

personnel. Trouble is, whatever gets us to Seven are

microevents that we have no way of identifying. Up to

now we’ve been talking macro: nuclear holocausts, mass

hysteria, turning the Earth into a cosmic Frisbee,

etc. but how can you identify microchanges? They could

be anything. A shuttle leaves a few seconds late.

Hudson gets a nose job. How can we tell? The number of

micro differences in Seven’s past compared to our

present and immediate future is literally infinite.

There are too many unknowns to construct soluble


Silence descended on our cozy little apartment. I

began to sob. “Tell me, Laura, how long do we have?

Which future gives us the most time to be together?”

She shrugged and stroked my hair. “For some reason we

can’t figure out it makes absolutely no difference. In

all six likely futures humankind has exactly eleven

years, two weeks, three days, four hours and, “she

glances at her fingernail timepiece, “fifty-three


I was desolate. Only a little more than eleven years

and my life with Laura would be at an end. The

extinction of all of humanity seemed negligible

compared to the annihilation of our love.

I refused to accept this absurd fate. A strange

sensation of stiffening traveled up my spine. I stood

and, mounting a foot stool, grabbed Laura by her

delectable broad shoulders. “You said the best

scientific minds have been investigating Future

Seven’s past. . . .”

She nodded.


“Oh physicists, biochemists, telecomp engineers, the

odd sociobiologist.”

“No historians?”

Laura gives me a surprised look then said patiently.

“Buster, historians investigate the past. This is the


“No it isn’t,” I almost shouted, “it’s the past of the

future! Don’t you see? None of your so-called

scientists are trained to see the right things, the

subtle chains of seemingly unrelated events that

constitute history. But I am trained to do just that.

Give me a crack at Future Seven, Laura.”

She shook her head doubtfully. “I don’t think so, The

Tempora crew won’t like it. You know scientists feel

about historians. Also, how will your colleagues in

the History Section, Hudson and Fink, feel about this?

Won’t they want to participate?”

I snorted scornfully. “A Medievalist and an

Americanist. What do they know? Look, I’ve never

talked to you much about my specialty. You being a

physicist, it was hardly seemly but the Renaissance

was a very complicated and interesting period.

Renaissance humanists developed intricate occult

theories about how the universe works. They believed

that everything that happens, no matter how trivial or

insignificant, is somehow related to everything else:

‘As above, so below, as without, so within.’”

“Buster, you’re babbling.”

“Sorry, but you’ve got to believe me. I have an eye

for the insignificant, a talent for the trivial. Send

me to Future Seven and I guarantee results.”

Laura looked at me thoughtfully. “You’ve never lied to

me, Buster, and with all that’s at stake I can’t

believe that you would lie to me now. I will convince

the Tempora High Command to give you a chance if it is

the last thing I do.”

It almost was. I found it a melancholy marvelment the

way petty professional jealousies persisted even in an

at atmosphere of absolute crisis. The remotest

rumination, the merest mentation, the slightest

suggestion that a historian might succeed at a task

despaired of by scientific genius caused eight members

of the Tempora High Command to vomit and then resign.

(Two others resigned and then vomited.)

To make matters worse, I am a man. Without Laura’s

firm backing, the Wells Institute director would

doubtless have collapsed in a giggle-fit, patted me

on the rump and told me to take some time off and read

a good cookbook.

As it turned out I left for Future Seven on the very

day of the United Neverlands Resolution on Humanity’s

Future, which gave the Wells Institute extraordinary

powers to do whatever it took that might provide

humankind a future longer than eleven years and


Laura and I bade a tender farewell.

“Buster,” she said, wrapping me in a muscular embrace,

“no matter what happens. . .”

“”I know,” I gasped, “my dearest, I know.”

Three Tempora technicians strapped me into a machine

that resembled a Buck Rogers skyrocket on steroids and

I closed my eyes. Laura had explained that the

“journey” would take less than five minutes. The

Tempora machine projects a holographic image that

communicates with inhabitants of Future Seven but has

no physical reality there. The Tempora traveler’s body

remains in the present. If her body dies during a

visit to the future, the holographic image ceases. In

short, Tempora cannot be used to free humans from

death. It is regrettably not a passport to


I (or rather my holographic projection) opened my/its


“’Mornin’, Solomon,” said Hudson.

To say I was startled would be an understatement. It

was Hudson, unattractively ferret-like as ever.

“What happened,” I moaned involuntarily, “the Tempora

didn’t work?”

She grinned. “Of course it worked. You are now fifteen

years in your future. If you had looked closely you

would have noticed that I have aged since we last saw

one another.”

It was true. A few wisps of grey hair in Hudson’s

sideburns, a couple of thousand more wrinkles around

her eyes and disgustingly pendulous ear lobes.

“The Director thought a familiar face might help ease

the transition,” said Hudson.

Anxiety transfixed me. “Then why wouldn’t she have

assigned Laura?”

Hudson shrugged with what seemed, even at the time,

unaccustomed nonchalance. “Too much of a shock. I

suppose it’s for the same reason he didn’t assign


“You mean I’m here?”

“Sure, you’re downstairs still at the old cube. Put on

a little weight, of course.” Hudson sat at the Tempora

console. “I’m going to release your image so that it

can move around. Just illusion, naturally, but you

will feel as if you are actually in motion. Don’t try

to drink a cup of Java, though. You can’t really do

anything physical.”

As Hudson manipulated the Tempora console controls “I”

stepped out.

“Now for a quick briefing,” she said briskly. “You can

stay here as long as you want. Back in your present

they will keep your body alive with intercranial

feeding if you remain longer than forty-eight hours.

You are to have access to all United Neverlands

records including any classified material. No


“Except,” I observed with asperity. “I can’t

communicate with Laura or with my current self.”

“The shrinks advise against it.”

“But, Hudson, don’t you see,” I said with mounting

excitement, “if I could interview Laura and ‘me’, I

could solve the whole problem.”

“Come again?”

“Look, fifteen years ago I strapped myself into the

Tempora for this voyage, right? I mean you have

records of that event, don’t you? In fact you yourself

probably remember when I departed.”

“Sure,” said Hudson cheerfully. “So what?”

“So what did I say when I returned? If I found the

answer, all that I would need to do is ask myself what

the answer is. Or ask Laura.”

“I gotcha, chum,” Hudson winked. “This is weird, like

playing a holodrama role in surrealist surroundings.

OK, when you returned fifteen years ago, you dictated

a complete record of your visit here, including our

conversation so far but your visit did not include

your having communicated with either Laura or your

current self. Now suppose I let you violate the

shrinks’ prohibitions. You would return to your

present having done something that the record shows

you did not do, which means that you would screw up

any possibility of your present making it to Future


“The hell with the record,” I shouted.

Hudson shook her shaggy head. “You’re not getting the

point, pal. If you do what you are suggesting it means

that your present would differ from Future Seven’s

past. Ipso facto, your present could not possibly lead

to our Future Seven present but rather to some other

present which necessarily means Futures One through

Six in which humanity bids ’bye ’bye.”

I sat my holographic self on a starcalounger and

metaphorically took a deep breath. “I see what you


Hudson stood up. “So no more of that kind of talk,

OK?” She stretched her corpulent arms and legs and

walked across the room to the invisible doorway.

“Lemme know where you want to begin.”

I spent the next three days in the cramped Wells

Institute computer room accompanied by Hudson during

normal working hours and by an uncommunicative United

Neverlands factotum named Simpson the rest of the

time. Fortunately, my holographic projection was

tireless so I managed to pore through an enormous

amount of data in a short time period.

I missed Laura. It was the longest period of time that

we’d ever been separated. But I plodded through United

Neverlands statistical summaries, minibiographies,

holoarticles, and general reference works in the

conviction that I would find the clue enabling Laura

and me to live out our normal lifespans in Future

Seven (to which I had begun referring mentally as

Seventh Heaven.)

The sought for clue, however, did not surface. I

became discouraged. The proverbial needle in the

haystack didn’t begin to compare with the task with

which I was confronted. I could spend eternity looking

for the crucial micro-event and still not find it.

Time was running out and I could tell from Hudson’s

increasingly anxious demeanor that my stay was

scheduled to end soon.

On the evening of the third day it came to me that I

was overlooking the obvious. All historians know that

records contain only an infinitesimal portion of facts

about the past. Most things that have happened have

gone unrecorded and it would make sense that the

hypothetical event for which I was searching was in

itself so insignificant as to have escaped even the

most thorough compu-archivists.

How then to find it? There was only one way that I

could come up with and that involved a second truth

that all historians know, which is that, as subjective

products of the human mind, records often lie. They

lie because people lie (or simply remember or record

inaccurately). So when Hudson had told me that Wells

Institute records showed that I had not interviewed

either Laura or my Seventh Heaven self, I had

foolishly accepted that assurance as truth. But of

course it may very well not be. What if, upon

returning to the present, I had lied about what I had

done and with whom I had spoken. Why would I have done

this? Obviously I would have wanted to keep the record

straight. Since the record, according to Hudson,

stated that I had not talked to Laura or the future me

(while actually having done so) changing the record

would have necessarily changed what Hudson had told me

and thus altered both the past and the future.

So my initial impulse had been right: to interview

Laura or the Seventh Heaven me. Naturally I chose

Laura. I wanted to see if the years had treated her

kindly and, more important, to confirm what I felt

certain to be true, that our love had endured and was

as strong and intense as ever.

The taciturn Simpson slept fitfully. I could not leave

the computer room; stepping outside its doors would

cause my holographic projection to dissolve instantly.

But I saw no reason why I couldn’t dial Laura up using

the room’s visispace. We could communicate quite

comfortably this way, hologram to hologram.

I checked through the Wells Institute directory but

there was no listing for her. Had gender customs

changed once again? In my time, wives always received

a separate listing, husbands rarely. Or perhaps Laura

no longer worked for the Wells Institute. But I knew

that I still worked there because Hudson had told me

that I occupied the same lowly position and, indeed,

the same cramped cubicle as before.

Sure enough my name, office and home number and home

address were on the directory disk. I was pleased to

see that we had moved from our apartment to a house.

Laura knew how much I had always wanted one.

I decided to take a chance. The worst that could

happen is that “I”, rather than Laura, would answer

the visicom or perhaps one of our children would pick

it up (I assumed we had children by now). Either way

it would work out. The holographic me would have done

the very same thing fifteen years ago would, in fact,

be expecting my call. If a child answered, the Seventh

Heaven me could explain to her later what my call was

about. If Laura answered, there would be no problem.

She would instantly figure out what was going on, even

if the me from our doomed present hadn’t already told

her years ago. She’s not one of the Earth’s leading

physicists for nothing.

I checked on Simpson, who was now snoring peacefully,

and punched up my home number.

The visispace filled with an unfamiliar image. The

face of a bald fat man stared back at me. It took me a

moment to realize the face as mine, much aged and

exuding melancholy.

He/I spoke first. “I’ve been waiting for your call.”

“So I guessed. You must also know that I want to speak

to Laura.”

He/I nodded sadly. “I’m afraid that is impossible.”

“But why?”

“Because,” he/I said slowly, “Laura is dead. She died

thirteen years ago in a compucar crash.”

I was speechless. My future self waited patiently. “I

know how you feel. I felt the same way when “I” talked

to “me” fifteen years ago. I feel the same way now.

You and I have lost, will lose, the only person who

made life worth living for us. You are fated to

continue on as I have, a broken, empty vessel.” His/my

voice choked with emotion. We sat silently for several

minutes staring forlornly at one another. Then he/I

cleared his/my throat and spoke softly. “Now I must

tell you, as I was told, what you need to know to save

humanity in your present. Never mind the paradox that

the information comes to you from your future self

who, fifteen years ago, received identical info from

that same future self who, fifteen years before that,

etc. The paradox is insoluble. Who was it that said

that in the end, the only thing we experience is


“I don’t remember.”

“I know you don’t,” he/I said gently and drew a deep

breath. “Here it is, quite ridiculous, really. When

you return to your present you must go immediately to

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. At the Fell Street

entrance you will find a small black stone, an onyx.

You can’t miss it because it is engraved with ancient

lettering that has no bearing on anything and that you

need not bother to try and decipher. You and Laura

will then drive to Ocean Beach where you will walk

together along the shore. When you reach a spot

directly opposite Seal Rock (and believe me you will

know without question which spot that is) you will

remove the onyx from your pocket and hurl it into the


I stare at me/him incredulously. “That’s it?”

He/I nodded. “Don’t ask me why. I doubt there’s a why


Simpson, stirred from somnolence, began shouting.

“What’s going on? You can’t use that!”

My/his visispace image vanished.

“Who was that?” queried Simpson.

“An old friend,” I said sadly. “Don’t worry about

repercussions from the powers that be. If you check

your records, you will find that this was supposed to

have happened.”

When Hudson returned for the day shift I told her that

I was ready to return to my present.

“We knew that. The Tempora is all set up for you.”

In contrast to the exuberance with which I had

arrived, I left Future Seven (no longer Seventh Heaven

in my mind) in a dither of despair.

Even Laura’s smiling face peering at me from the rim

of the Tempora console upon my return did not cheer me


“Whatsa matter, Buster? You sure look down.”

I managed a weak grin. “No reason to be. I’ve found

the answer.”

Laura unleashed a war whoop, the Tempora techs crowded

around me, slapping me on the back (several of the

women techs pinched my bottom.) The Wells Institute

director, an elderly blonde, pumped my hands

vigorously and discreetly ran her hands up and down my

thighs. “Great work, boy,” she effused. “Tell us what

to do and by gum we will do it.”

“Sorry, I can’t.”


“I can’t talk to anyone about the solution. That is a

strict condition that the future has imposed on the

past. I’ve got to solve the problem myself and I’ve

got to do it now. I reached out my right hand to

Laura. “You must come with me, my lulu, my ladylove.”

“Sure thing, Buster,” She gave me a suffocatingly

affectionate squeeze. “I’m so proud of you I could

just bust.”

The Director loaned us her compucar and Laura dialed

in the directions to Golden Gate Park. “You know,

Buster,” she said dreamily, “I was really worried

about you. Three and a half days without solid food is

a long time. You wanna stop at a nice Mohican

restaurant on the way?”

“Maybe later. There’s something we must do first.”

At the Fell Street entrance Laura steered the

compucar into a stationary hover and I climbed out. In

the middle of the street squatted the black onyx. I

knelt and picked it up, noting its curiously velvety

feel. Slipping the stone into my pants pocket, I

returned to the compucar. I kissed Laura gently on the

lips. “Let’s take a walk.”

“Sounds good to me,” she grinned infectiously. “Hey,

how’s about a little hanky panky later?” She leered

and with lecherous intent laid hands upon me.

The flight to Ocean Beach took eleven seconds. A fog

bank hunched over the coast. We removed our footwear

and strolled in the cool sand. Laura held me close,

warming against the chill of the ocean breeze. “You

know, Buster,” she said contemplatively, “a week ago I

wouldn’t have believed there was any way out of the

mess we’re in, much less that a historian, much less

you (and you know I love you dearly but you have to

admit that beauty, not brains is your strong point)

could extricate us from it.”

I said nothing. All I could think of was that two

years from now Laura would be dead. Present humanity

would continue on to the bliss of Seventh Heaven, but

Laura would not share in it.

We reached the base of the cliff opposite Seal Rock

and just as my future self had predicted

(retrodicted?) I knew the spot when we came to it.

I removed the onyx from my pocket,

It seemed to weigh a couple of tons.

“The great thing, Buster” Laura was saying, “is that

now we can make plans. Hey, let’s have some kids. I’ve

always wanted a girl to carry on the family name and

wouldn’t a cute little bouncing boy be nice, one who

looks just like you? Say I forgot to ask, did you find

out in Future Seven whether we have kids?”

I shook my head and gazed at the stone. “Too bad. Oh

well, we probably will. We do in the other six

futures, you know, and the kids stay with us right up

to the very end.”

“What?” I stared at her.

“Yeah, I checked into it while you were gone just in

case your Future Seven trip didn’t pan out. In Future

One we have a girl and in Futures Two through Six we

have two girls and two boys although why we would have

wanted to bring children into a world that we knew

full well was going to end soon, I don’t know.”

“Maybe,” I said, “our future selves don’t know what is

going to happen.”

Laura snorts. “Now how is that possible?” She looks at

me with great tenderness. “Since we know everything is

now gonna be hunky dory, Buster, let’s have some kids,


I swept her into my arms. “OK.”

“Oh Buster, I love you so much.” She drew back and

looked at me with shining eyes.

I put the onyx back in my pocket as we walked back,

arm in arm, to the compucar.

“And I love you, darling. You will never know how


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