Any other characters are the sole creation and property of Shaun Hately.
This fanfic forms part of my series of fanfics, entitled A More Perfect Union, and the bulk of the story takes place shortly after the events of Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present in that series. The exception is the Prologue which takes at an earlier time. In terms of continuity with the television series, the story takes place sometime after the events of The Living Stones (ie after the new series had finished), but the prologue occurs between the time of the Original Series and the New Series. Many of the events of other fanfics in A More Perfect Union are referred to in this story and it may be helpful to have read them - this is especially true of The Lesser of Two Evils.
Some text is taken from The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare. This is well out of Copyright.
Profound thanks are owed to Beth Epstein and Jackie Clark who beta-read this fic for me.
Comment and criticism (good and bad) on this story is welcome. e-mail me with comments at email@example.com.
16th October 1990
The tramp moved through the morning crowd heading towards his normal scavenging grounds. He found it very simple to move even through the densest crowds, his rank odour ensured people gave him a wide berth. Even those who might be blessed with an inability to smell him rapidly moved away when they heard his incoherent mutterings, his constant talk of revenge. Some pitied him, others were disgusted. He knew this. He could tell what they were thinking. And again he swore revenge against those he blamed for his plight. Those who had condemned him to poverty and a life of hardship.
He moved into the alleyway behind the Chinese restaurant to scavenge for whatever scraps of food he could find. Competition - he had a rival this morning, a cat sat atop one of the bins looking down at him with interest.
He bent down and picked up a beer bottle that lay on the ground near his feet, and rising, he hurled it at the cat with an unerring, almost mechanistic accuracy. The cat was saved by its feline grace and dexterity as it leapt away. Its eyes flashed in anger.
The tramp stopped. Those eyes really had seemed to flash for a moment. And now they almost smouldered as he gazed at them. He hadn't seen a cat like that in a very long time. He moved towards it, slowly, trying to get a close look. But apparently the cat had had enough of his behaviour, and it turned and darted away, heading in the direction of the river, towards the nearly completed building there that already dominated the London skyline.
'It's just a cat. That's all it is. I must not allow myself to become unfocused and chase shadows. I must remain strong, I must remain intact. I will have my revenge. I have to wait for that.' The man began his scavenging. Lean pickings this morning, but enough that he would be able to get the energy he needed to survive another day. Survival was what he was condemned to now. For the moment it was enough. Everyday he survived, he was sure, brought him a day closer to his moment of vengeance.
So focused on this sweet thought, he didn't immediately notice the large car that turned into the alley. He heard it as it got close, and stood aside as the luxury car drove slowly passed him. It stopped, the rear passengers window next to him, rolling down as he watched.
From inside the car, a mostly-white haired man, with a thin, mean, and regal face looked out at him with a thin, almost smile, on that face. The tramp stepped back as he realised who he was seeing. A face from the past, and from his future. The man in the car looked him up and down, as if appraising what he saw. On the seat next to him, the cat did likewise. Finally the man spoke.
"You know who I am?"
The thoughts raced through the tramp's brain. He did know who the man was, though he was unsure how he could possibly be here and now. There were a thousand questions - but they could wait. The tramp knew that this was his path out of the gutter. This was his way of escaping his punishment. This was his path to retribution.
"Yes, Master. I know who you are."
The tramp moved rapidly around to the other side of the car, and climbed in through the passenger door. And the car moved on.
3rd February 1996
"Now what news on the Rialto?"
The actor's voice boomed out across the stage, marking the beginning of the third act. There was a good-sized audience in front of the stage, all of whom seemed to be enjoying the play immensely.
This enjoyment was shared by four people - two men, two women, who were sitting in one of the boxes overlooking the stage. One of them might have been familiar to those sitting below, being the fairly prominent self-made millionaire, Sir Christopher Harding. The other three were non-entities to the world at large.
Sir Christopher knew better. He knew that the three sitting next to him were both the source of his wealth and a large part of the future of mankind. John, Elizabeth, and Carol. The three oldest members of a new species of human that would one day take over as the dominant life form on the planet Earth.
None of these three lived on Earth any longer - at least, they hadn't for nearly two decades and all were now considering their futures carefully. They had two fundamental choices. Return to Earth, and take up the responsibility of leading their species into the future - or leave Earth in the hands of a new generation, and return to equally important responsibilities out among the stars. It had been the subject of more than one discussion over the last month. Chris had found himself in the middle of many of them. He had needed to bring the older Tomorrow People up to date on how the world had changed while they were gone, and had also deployed his resources - resources that, after all, had come to him because he had been left in control of John's considerable business holdings - to gather information about the state of the world today.
But tonight - at least this part of tonight - was not for business. It was for pleasure, and Chris was enjoying it, far more than he'd expected. Today was Elizabeth's birthday, and Chris had pulled some strings and arranged for this box, at this play. The Tomorrow People had told him of the Trig, and of the wonders of the Galactic Federation - but they'd also told him of the things they had missed while being away. And one thing Elizabeth had missed had been the theatre.
Chris realised his attention was wandering, more than a little. Considering the favours he had called in, and the amount of money he'd spent on the tickets, that probably wasn't wise. There'd be time for thinking and talking, at dinner. He had some information John had wanted - so the dinner would have a business aspect. But for now, it was time to enjoy the play. He turned his attention back to Renaissance Venice, and to the words of the actors.
"I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? - fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same mean, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"
Up in the box, John was enjoying the play immensely. His life was - had always been - one of duty and responsibility. He had lead the Tomorrow People on Earth in the old days, while still only a boy. He had lead them on the Trig as well, representing the interests of the Earth and other emerging worlds, as Timus had forced much needed reforms on the Federation. The reforms didn't yet go far enough, but they were a start.
He'd moved to academia, expecting to find a less pressured environment, but then come to realise that it didn't matter where he was or what he was doing, he would always feel under pressure. John knew that far more of it came from within himself, than had ever been imposed upon him from the outside. And now, once again, he found himself working as an Ambassador, in a leadership role among the Tomorrow People back on earth - possibly only temporarily. But for the moment it was very real. And time to relax was a limited commodity.
Even as he watched the play, he didn't stop thinking about his duties and responsibilities. This was a good play for inspiring thoughts in those areas - Shylock's current speech for example, was very analogous to the Tomorrow People's own situation. In Shakespeare's time, in Shakespeare's words, the difference was between Jew and Christian - something regarded back then - well, regarded even today - as something very real, very important by many people. But as the speech said - as common sense indicated - a Jew and a Christian weren't that different. The message was that despite differences, there was still a fundamental commonality among human beings. It was something the Saps seemed to be learning over the past century - and it was something the Tomorrow People, including himself, needed to remember as well. Human beings could be different from each other - but they were still all human.
Of course, The Merchant of Venice was a very long way from being a perfect analogy about the commonality of man - but any analogy could break down if you took it too far. That was something else to remember.
The play moved on, and John's turned his attention back to it. There'd be time at dinner to discuss more important issues.
Dinner was almost complete.
"Well, you certainly know how to live, Sir Christopher."
"And it's all thanks to your lovely money, Your Excellency... ah, you don't want it back, do you?"
John smiled, "No, I'd have very little use for it back on the Trig, and you seem to have handled it very well. I finally got around to looking at those reports your accountants gave me. I'm impressed."
"I hope I've put it to good use."
Liz spoke up, "I'm most interested to know what your people have managed to find out in connection with the matters we asked you to have investigated."
"We don't want to rush you, Chris," said Carol. "But the others have already returned to the Trig, and we really need to decide, once and for all, if we're going back soon ourselves. We need to know if the children can handle matters without us."
"They've done a good enough job up until now, Carol." John put down his spoon with a satisfied look on his face. He wasn't sure what satisfied him more - the extremely well prepared food he had just enjoyed in very comfortable surrounding, or the fact that the young Tomorrow People seemed to be doing so well. "And Adam is older than either of us were when you went off to Overmind, and started helping to run the entire galaxy."
"I know - but it is hard to remember that sometimes."
Chris took out some folders and passed them around the table, "Hopefully these reports will help put your mind at rest. I had Ginge supervising the investigation to try and limit the number of people exposed to knowledge of the Tomorrow People. You'll want to read over the reports for yourselves, but his assessment - and mine - is that these kids have done a pretty good job over the last few years."
"Are there any problems?" asked Liz, opening her folder.
"Adam and Lisa are both carrying around a bit of emotional baggage. You'll have to ask Ian Cawston if you want more information about that, and I'm not sure what he'll tell you because I think he's counseling them. And the investigations aren't quite complete, we're still running down information about Sam Rees' operations. They were huge - offices on every continent. Seems to like tall buildings as well. He always bases his operations in the tallest buildings he can find. He's got an office in the tallest building on every continent except Antarctica."
"Do any of them have pyramids on top?"
"Yeah, actually, the one in Frankfurt does. I've got people watching all of the buildings, but that one is getting special attention. We're not the only ones looking either. A lot of his creditors are wondering what happened to Mr Rees. In any event, you've got the reports, and if you want my opinion, there's no special reason to worry about leaving Adam in charge down here." Carol closed her folder and looked at her watch.
"That's a relief to hear. Because while it's been nice to visit the old planet again, there's a lot of work piling up for me on the Trig. Overmind doesn't stop for anything. I'll want to head back in a day or so - maybe even tomorrow."
John looked at her. "That soon?"
"John... I've been away even longer than you have. Earth really isn't my home anymore. It's been nice to visit and, of course, I'll come back anytime I'm needed. Just like we all will. But I think we can be comfortable leaving the day to day handling of alien invasions and the machinations of evil scientists to these new kids." She yawned and stretched and then she stood. "But I think I'll walk back to the Lab. I would like to see a bit more of London before I go home."
John stood as well. "That sounds like an excellent idea. If you wait a minute, I'll join you."
"I'll be outside."
Carol walked down the steps into the street. Into the cold crisp air of London at night. The pollution was noticeable, but not as bad as she'd feared it might be. The city still had a charm, but she'd seen sights that fewer than twenty other humans had any idea existed. And she had a family on the Trig. It was time to go home.
"Pssst." A noise came from the street corner. She turned to look and standing there in the glow of the street light by some bushes was a teenaged boy. Well, a boy - but she knew he was well out of his teens. She ran over.
"Peter? What are you..."
"I need to talk to you, Carol."
"John and Liz are in..."
"I know where they are. I need to talk to you. Nine o'clock tomorrow morning. Kensington Gardens - near the statue of Peter Pan. Come alone. Don't tell John."
"Tomorrow." His hand moved to his wrist and he vanished just as Carol heard the door open and John and Liz emerge from the house.
4th February 1996
Carol looked at her watch. Only half past eight - she was early. She'd left the Lab, telling the others that she wanted to do a little more sight seeing before returning to the Trig. She wondered why Peter might want to see her. And found the fact that he didn't want John to know what was happening somewhat disturbing. She looked at the bronze statue and it seemed rather appropriate. A boy named Peter who apparently never grew older.
"Hello Carol." She turned and saw him approaching.
"Hello Peter - it looks like we are both early."
"Yes, I hoped you might be. It's too cold to just stand around here. Let's walk."
"All right... but why did you want to see me?"
Peter was silent as they began to head south along the Long Water path. "Carol, do you remember Rabowski?"
"And you remember what happened to him?"
"Yes... he died. He was killed on Mercury when he headed down the time lanes?" Carol pursed her lips tightly as she remembered. Peter nodded and grimaced.
"That's what I thought until recently. But I was wrong."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm still not sure exactly what happened. All I know is that somehow he seems to have survived."
Carol stopped and grabbed Peter's shoulder.
"Do you mean..."
"Yes, Carol. We didn't kill him. Not even accidentally. And there might even be a chance to save him. But I need your help."
"Why not tell John?"
Peter began walking again. "There's a problem. I've sort of been forbidden to try and rescue Rabowski. My mission isn't sanctioned - and I'm not sure how John would react to that."
"Oh." Carol understood immediately, she wasn't exactly sure how she was reacting either.
"I need your help, Carol. I've spent years thinking I might have accidentally killed someone, and now I have a chance to fix that."
"I understand... but I must admit, I'm just a little bit confused. How could he have survived?"
"We're heading to the Planetarium. I can show you there."
"All right." Carol frowned. "But Peter, I have to ask. You know why I'm here on Earth?"
"Yes, the 'new' Tomorrow People."
"Well, John, told me that you... made him let Adam's mother die. How could you do that and then be so concerned about someone like Rabowski?"
"I did what I had to do, Carol. I can't tell you much - but it's my job to preserve the correct path of history, and for history to turn out the right way, Helen Newman had to die. Where she did. When she did. But Rabowski... he doesn't need to die. If we rescue him, he'll spend the rest of his life in a Time Trap. He deserves that. But he doesn't need to die. Come on. Time is of the essence."
"Thanks for coming, John."
"I had to."
Adam stood looking down at his mother's final resting place. The Cemetery was closed at this time of evening, but locked gates were no block to those who could teleport. And the privacy was welcome.
"No, you didn't have to. I know you did what you needed to do. I just hope that someday you can tell me why she had to die."
"I wish I could." 'With all my heart and soul, Adam. I wish I could tell you what I know - even though it really isn't that much. Peter didn't tell me much. And I swore that what he did tell me would remain a secret.'
"You were at the funeral." Adam said it in a very matter-of-fact way.
"You were there. Since we mind merged, I've been bringing back more memories from then. And I remember you sitting there at the back of the church."
"Adam... yes, I was there. You're right. But are you sure it's wise for you to be bringing up these memories now? If they've been suppressed...."
"Professor Cawston says it's a good idea. It's time for me to face it, John."
John turned his head away for a second blinking. And saw someone walking towards them. He was about to warn Adam that there was someone else around when he realised who it was.
The boy stopped a few yards away.
"What are you doing here?" It was a blunt question but perhaps now Adam would get some of the answers he was seeking that John couldn't provide.
Adam had looked back as the other two spoke. He moved next to John. "Are you going to introduce us?"
"Yes. Adam - this is Peter. Peter, meet Adam Newman."
Peter stepped forward, extending his hand. "It is the greatest honour to meet you, Adam."
Peter turned back to John. "John, we need to talk. Adam, will you excuse us for a moment?"
Peter and John walked away from the gravestones into the shadows beside a pagoda.
"I'll come straight to the point, John. I was meant to meet Carol a few minutes ago in London. She didn't turn up. She seems to be missing."
"What? Why were you meeting Carol?"
"I'll explain that when we get back to the Lab. But time - quite literally - is of the essence here."
"What about Adam?" They both looked over at the boy - the young man - gazing down at a grave.
"I suppose he had better come as well. We're going to need all the help we can get."
"All right - but I hope later, perhaps, you can talk to him about his mother."
"About his mother?"
"That's her grave over there. And Adam wants some answers - and I can't give them to him."
"Why would you think I can?"
"Because you were there. You stopped me from saving her. You let her die."
Peter looked straight into John's eyes. "John, I haven't got the slightest clue what you are talking about."
John stared back at Peter. Then he span around to look at Adam, who was standing next to his mother's grave oblivious to what had just been said.
"Peter - I think we have a major problem here."
John, Peter, and Adam appeared on the jaunting pad. Liz, Jade, and Ami were sitting around TIM talking and looked up as they arrived.
"Peter!" exclaimed Liz.
"Liz, start calling everyone in. Carol is missing. Jade, can you jaunt out and get Professor Cawston. Take a matter transporter. Ami, do the same to get Chris Harding. And see if Megabyte can find his father. We need all the help we can get." As John spoke, he moved to the charger that contained the Tomorrow People's stun guns and started drawing them out, placing them between TIMs domes.
TIMs voice filled the Lab. "John, we must inform the Federation. Carol is a member of Overmind. If she is missing, this has galactic implications."
Peter spoke more quietly. "Galactic and temporal, TIM. By the authority of the Eternal Order of Guardians, Earth is sealed, condition ultima. That means no transmissions..."
"I am aware of what it means, Peter. I remember from the last time you took such action."
"I've never done it before, TIM."
"You most certainly have."
"Period 04:07 18th October 1992 until 13:29 20th October 1992."
Adam looked over at the older Tomorrow People. "18th October '92? That's when Mum died... that's when you were here, John."
"And you were here as well, Peter," said Elizabeth, "John told me what happened with Mrs Newman."
"I wasn't here. Believe me, we keep track of these things." Jade and Ami returned with Professor Cawston and Sir Christopher, as John, Elizabeth, Peter, and Adam all stared at each other. They stepped off the platform into the growing silence.
"Let's sit down, shall we," said Professor Cawston.
They all took seats and waited for the others to join them.
Megabyte appeared with his father next, with Lisa and Kevin arriving a minute or so later. When all were seated, Adam spoke in a totally calm voice.
"What, exactly, happened with my mother?"
John looked at Peter, "Peter, three and a half years ago I returned to Earth briefly. I was present at an accident which killed Adam's mother. I remember you being there as well."
"John, I wasn't there."
"You're a time traveler, Peter," Elizabeth looked at him. "Could you be going to be there in the future? I mean, could you... could this be something that hasn't happened for you yet?"
"No, Elizabeth. We're very careful. If that had happened, I would have left a message for myself before I came here today - I would have remembered this meeting and not knowing and would have made sure I knew." He saw the expression on their faces. "Just trust me, on this. I know how it works."
"TIM, did you record Peter's presence here in the Lab in 1992?"
"Only initially, John."
Everybody turned to the view screen. It showed the Lab, half lit. Suddenly on the jaunting pad, a figure faded into view. Peter stepped from the pad.
"Computer. By the authority of the Eternal Order of Guardians, the planet known as Earth is declared sealed, condition ultima. There are to be no transmissions made or acknowledged, there is to be no transport between this solar system and any other until further notice."
"Peter, I must ask..."
The boy on the screen reached down on TIM's side to a switch, and the transmission ended.
"That wasn't me," said Peter. "I'm not sure what is going on here, but I guarantee you that if the Order had sealed Earth with an ultima order, I'd know about it. We don't do that often."
"All right. So what did happen?" Adam stood. "I want to know what is going on here, right now."
"Sit down, Adam." Adam glared at John, but sat down when Professor Cawston touched his arm. "Adam... when your parents' crashed their car back in 1992, I was already moving to help them when you got out of the car. I was stopped by Peter - at least I thought it was Peter. He told me that I mustn't interfere. That I had to let matters take their own course."
"So you let her die?"
"I thought I had to... Peter, or whoever it was, told me...."
"That's enough, John." Peter spoke sharply. "We haven't got time for this now."
"This is my mother's life we're talking about!"
Peter raised a finger. "I am sorry, Adam. I really am. But your mother is dead. However it happened, it's happened. I'm here on a mission, Adam. A mission that cannot wait."
Megabyte raised a hand. "Um, hi... aren't you a time traveler?"
"You're Marmaduke Damon, aren't you?"
"Only when I have to be."
"Yes, I am a time traveler, Marmaduke - and your next question is going to be why a time traveler has to work under time constraints. A lot of the time we don't. But sometimes, and this is such a time, there's divergences in history - time disturbances. And when we're working to fix those we have time constraints," He turned back to Adam. "Adam - you're a Tomorrow Person. You probably know, better than I do, what that means in this time and in this place. We have responsibilities, Adam. We have to...."
"I've got it, Peter." Adam nodded firmly. "Save the speech. You're right. We're on. Tell us what is happening."
"All right. Actually, this explains some things I'd wondered about. The Order has been picking up some signs of a minor time disturbance since October 1992. Minor ones are not at all unusual. They are generally relics of the times just after time travel became commonplace, before we started controlling things. We keep a look out on them but we don't worry too much about them.
"Very recently, we suddenly detected signs of a truly massive disturbance due to take place on Earth, sometime in the next twenty four hours. I was sent to deal with it. It seemed to be linked in some way to the October 1992 disturbance. It was like a weakness forming in the space-time fabric then and now it's started ripping. When I arrived yesterday and began doing some research. I quickly realised how big this was, and went looking for help. I was lurking outside in the bushes last night while you were at dinner, John and Elizabeth. I managed to waylay Carol outside and ask for her help."
"Why Carol?" asked John.
"Because... well, because she's Overmind. I'm supposed to keep my contacts with people as limited as possible in this time zone. As a senior Federation official, I thought she'd be the best choice to make initial contact with. After I'd spoken to her, we might have decided to get the rest of you involved."
"And now she's missing, you've come for our help to rescue her?" John tone was clipped and neutral.
"Well, yes, and no. Yes, I want your help, so I'd have come anyway. But I have a horrible feeling that I have made things much, much worse."
"In what way?"
"I said this was a major disturbance, well, it is. Something - or someone - is trying to change Earth history. They are trying to turn Earth into a fully quarantined planet, not just a normal closed world - but a world that will never be allowed to open. I had no idea how they were going to do it, but I think I know now."
Elizabeth stood and picked up one of the stun guns and began buckling it around her waist. "The Overmind Protocols?"
"What are they?" asked Chris.
"Carol is a member of Overmind - it's a bit like the United Nations, I suppose. And it has rules. And one of those rules is that if a member of Overmind is murdered, the world it happens on is quarantined forever. Overmind is very protective of its prerogatives."
"That's a bit harsh, isn't it?" said Chris, in a tone of outrage.
"Murder is rare in the civilized galaxy, Chris. We only deal with those like ourselves who can't kill. A planet uncivilized enough to kill a member of Overmind is something the Federation is quite prepared to write off. Besides, normally a member of Overmind wouldn't be on such a planet."
General Damon had sat listening, without comment. He wasn't exactly sure why he'd been summoned, and had slipped in without asking for details. He wasn't exactly sure that what he'd heard was something he was meant to know about. But though he didn't know a lot about what was going on, he did know a lot about investigations.
"Right, Peter. Carol is missing. I've got that. When was she last seen?"
"I saw her last night. We were meant to meet in Kensington Gardens at nine this morning, but she wasn't there when I arrived."
"What time was that?"
"Nine, of course," he said with precision.
"Whereabouts in Kensington Gardens?"
"Near the statue of Peter Pan."
"That makes it pretty easy. Can I use a phone?" He glanced down at the biotronic computer. "And TIM, I assume you can handle sending a fax of a photo of Carol somewhere?"
"Of course," replied the ever-calm voice.
"I'll give you the number in a minute."
Twenty minutes later, a large photo of the statue of Peter Pan with Carol and Peter standing next to it was being displayed on the Lab's main view screen.
"How did you get those photos?"
"Kensington Gardens. Russian embassy on the west side. US embassy on the east side. Lots of other embassies all around, and a Palace virtually in the gardens. There are a lot of cameras around. You just have to know who to ask to get the feed. That was 8.32 this morning."
"Well, that's not me," said Peter, pointing. "It looks like me, but it isn't me."
"I know - 9am."
Two more pictures appeared. One showed Peter at the statue, another showed Peter and Carol passing by Marble Arch.
"Not conclusive for a time traveler, I guess. But that's what we have. No photos after that."
Elizabeth started looking at possibilities. "So it's someone who can disguise himself as Peter? Someone who would like to harm the Earth and the Tomorrow People? And who knows about Peter. Jedekiah?" The name hung in the silence, heavy and forboding. Peter shook his head, "He's still in the Rehabilitation Centre on Repos Four."
John turned around. "When did he get there?"
"You should know. You put him there."
"No. We didn't. The last we knew, Jedekiah was being thrown out of the Lab to live a life of poverty on the streets of London." Peter pulled out something that looked like a pocket calculator.
"The official history shows that the shape shifter known as Jedekiah was captured by you, Elizabeth, and Stephen in California, after he was responsible for the deaths of the residents of the town of Bitter Creek."
"I'm sure we'd remember that happening, Peter."
"TIM - do you have any record of it?"
"He changed history. He changed history so there are two separate versions of what happened to him. The Order's records are wrong. Oh, this has to be him. This is somebody who knows how to mess with time. Now we just have to find him. Before it's too late."
"There's just no record of him since mid 1990. Prior to that, he was being arrested fairly regularly - vagrancy, petty thefts, and things like that. Since then, nothing." Megabyte was frustrated. Having the resources and skills to hack into Scotland Yards databases was useless if the information you wanted wasn't there.
Elizabeth speculated. "Tax records? Bank accounts?"
"He's hardly likely to have been paying taxes, is he?" said Ami. "I mean, if he's been on the streets."
"Check it anyway, Frank." General Damon had brought in some of his own people to help with the search for the possible whereabouts of the UNSUB Jedekiah. The Tomorrow People weren't exactly happy about this, but the General had agreed to limit things only to those who already knew about the Tomorrow People. It was a disturbingly large group.
Jade teleported back in carrying a pile of books. "Liz said we needed to check all these. I just hope the Queen doesn't check out her library too often!"
Peter gestured to John from the workshop door. John approached him and they passed into the dark and relative quiet beyond.
"I have to apologise John. I haven't told you quite everything." The Time Guardian looked at his feet as he said this. John was struck by how young he seemed, and wondered how you really matured and grew when you never seemed to age beyond adolescence.
"What else is there?"
"When I arrived here yesterday, I already knew that the original time disturbance revolved around the death of Helen Newman. I did some quiet checking -- I couldn't go too close to the event -- but I found out you were there. And you're not in the official records. So I had to wonder if your presence there had something to do with the disturbance. That's why I contacted Carol last night and why I told her not to tell you I was around. After she failed to appear this morning, well I know now you weren't involved in anything. But I didn't want to tell you before, because Adam could hear."
John wondered at this. "Why shouldn't he hear? I mean, I assume there's a reason."
"John - Adam's mother wasn't meant to die in that car. At least, that's not the way history records her death. At the moment, I can't be sure of any of my records, but they say that she survived the crash. Paralysed - just as her husband was. But she lived. An anonymous caller phoned for an ambulance and rendered first aid until help arrived, then disappeared. That's what history says."
"Me?" The conclusion seemed obvious.
"I presume so."
"Can we fix it?"
"John, if we find Jedekiah. If it is Jedekiah... and if we save Carol, so Earth's history continues on the path it should. Then, yes, maybe, we could save Adam's mother. But I don't think that's wise." As he said this, Peter looked straight at John, his eyes bright and his jaw set.
"Because history also records that Adam Newman was torn apart by the fact that he felt responsible for the permanent incapacitation of his parents. And just as he has with his father, he cut off contact with both of them. He vanished. They... lost the will to live. His mother first, and then when she was gone, his father. If we restore history to its correct path - at least I think it's the correct path - well, we give Mrs Newman, three more years, but they'd be three years in which Adam wouldn't be allowed to see his mother because that would change history again. And in the end, she'd be just as dead. Is that better for him?"
"What about the time lanes?"
Peter's answer was curt. "The fact is, John, that Helen Newman isn't important enough to seriously effect the time lanes. At least not anymore. She made her lasting contribution to history about 21 years ago. The disturbance caused on 18th October 1992 will self correct over time. It really already has."
"So what are you telling me?"
Pain filled Peter's eyes. "John... I can't tell Adam this and ask him to make the decision as to whether it's better to give his mother three more years of pain, knowing he can't see her. Somebody has to make that decision here. Somebody has to decide what is best for Adam."
"Surely that is his right?" John had always shouldered responsibilities when needed and done his duty when called. But this wasn't a decision he wanted to make.
"Then you tell him."
"JOHN! Where are you? Jade has found something." Kevin ran into the room.
They returned to the main room of the lab, where Jade was hopping from foot to foot waving a newspaper clipping in her hand. John reached out and took it. It was a short clipping from a newspaper's business section. One sentence had been carefully highlighted using a pink highlighter.
"Following the recent disappearance of Mr Samuel Rees, control of the Rees Foundation has been placed in the hands of the company secretary, Mr Jake Ihid."
"It's an anagram. Jake Ihid, like Sam Rees. Jedikiah."
Kevin groaned. "How obvious can you get?"
"Well, you didn't find it."
"It does seem a little obvious, Jade." said Elizabeth.
Professor Cawston nodded. "If you'd like a psychologist's opinion?"
"Yes?" asked John.
"It's deliberate. He wanted you to find it." Professor Cawston looked straight at John. "He wants you to know who he is."
"But isn't that risky? If we'd found it too soon?"
"Not really - the name Jedekiah didn't become relevant until today."
Sir Christopher had grabbed one of the phones. "Ginge - where's Jake Ihid today? Well, get onto the surveillance teams and find out. I need to know right now... Yeah, I'll wait... Thanks Ginge. Tell them to sit tight." He turned to the others. "Ihid was seen entering Rees Foundation's Australian headquarters about an hour ago. He had a woman with him."
Tomorrow People and Saps alike, they all grabbed up stun guns and jaunted - or traveled under matter transport band - to their destination.
A second later they found themselves in an open plaza.
"Where do we go from here?" asked John.
Chris called out, "The Rialto Towers."
Adam looked around getting his bearings. "This way." He lead them into the street and pointed at the two buildings towering above the surrounding streetscape. A tram rolled past, but with the exception of its passengers, there was no obvious sign of any other people.
"Do we know what floor he's on?" asked John.
Chris responded, "Rees Foundation has Floors 53-55 of the south tower - right up the top."
"All right. Some of us on top, some on the ground, surrounding the sides if we can. I don't suppose we can get a top view."
Adam shook his head. "It's the tallest office block in the country, John. Not without a chopper."
"Who's going up?" asked the General, looking at John.
Adam made the decision, "Lisa, Kevin, Jade, watch the sides. Everyone else head for the roof."
*TIM, matter transportation for the Saps, with me, please.* telepathed John.
On the roof of the Rialto, Jedekiah stood waiting for them. He had adopted a patrician, well dressed business man's persona - and he stood at the edge of the rooftop antenna farm, next to a small gantry suspended over the street a quarter of a kilometre below. Hanging from the gantry was Carol, dazed and semi-conscious. On her head was a device familiar to John and Liz - a silencer band. Jedekiah's hand was on a lever on the gantry.
"Come a step closer and I let her fall," he bellowed aggressively.
All around him people drew stun guns.
"If you shoot me, she falls as well."
Professor Cawston stepped forward. "What do you want, Jedekiah?"
"Revenge. My pound of flesh. Nothing more. And nothing less. Don't try and negotiate with me, Professor. I'm not human. Your knowledge of my mind is sadly lacking."
People circled around trying to find a way to approach Carol and her captor. General Damon climbed up onto the ledge that ran along the edge of the building. A cool wind blew strongly and he hoped the noise might mask his approach.
"If you want revenge, Jedekiah, then take me." Peter moved a step closer. "I'm the one who sent you to Mercury. I'm the one you should hate."
"Oh, you would like that, Peter. It would preserve your time lanes nicely. But I don't want that to happen. I know what is at stake here. I know what you all stand to lose. When an Overmind Ambassador dies on earth - when two Federation Ambassadors, a guardian of time, and all the new breed of Tomorrow People fail to save her - then the Earth is finished. It will be quarantined forever. And that might just satisfy me."
"We won't let that happen," As he spoke, Adam could see General Damon edging closer and closer along the ledge towards Carol and he decided that he needed to draw Jedekiah's attention to himself.
"You couldn't save your mother, Adam. How do you expect to save Carol?"
Adam's eyes narrowed. "You let my mother die."
"I let nature take its course. If you'd been able to control your powers you could have saved her."
Everyone on the rooftop held their breath, as the General edged closer.
The shape shifter noticed their attention and turned. "Oh well done. Nice try," and he released the lever. Everyone lunged, but realised they were too far away - and there wasn't time to jaunt.
General Damon was the closest, still two metres from Carol. He realised that there wasn't enough time to reach her and twisted as he lunged forward so her would go over the side, just after she began to fall.
'Here's where that skydiving comes in handy,' he thought as he focused on the woman below.
Adam charged forward towards Jedekiah. Megabyte began to charge towards where his father had fallen but Professor Cawston grabbed him as he went by.
Adam grabbed his adversary and pushed him up against the ledge. Jedekiah was laughing, raving, ranting. "You've lost, boy. You've all lost."
"I'd kill you if I could!"
Peter stepped forward. "Adam. You can."
"There's two of them!" screamed Kevin.
They watched as Carol and the General headed towards the ground. Carol was falling limply, her speed slightly retarded by air resistance. General Damon, though, dove like a bullet, he'd left the roof after Carol, but halfway down the side of the building he drew level with her. He pulled his matter transporter band from his wrist, wrapped it onto Carol's arm, and hit the emergency button. She vanished.
He was within seconds of the ground now. He could see the street rushing up to meet him...
On the street, Lisa began running, her Tomorrow Person's mind in overdrive calculating speed and distance. She leaped onto the bonnet of a car, and then onto its roof, and then into the air. She began to teleport even before she made contact, wrapping her arms around the General as they both vanished, barely a metre above the ground.
A second later, they plunged into the warm waters of the South Pacific.
Adam had one hand around Jedekiah's neck, another on his chest, pushing him against the ledge. Fear had come into the alien's eyes as Peter spoke.
"Jedekiah isn't alive, Adam. He's a robot. A machine. A shape shifting automaton. You can't kill him. But you can destroy him."
John tried to move forward, but Elizabeth's hand gripped his arm like a vice. *Let him deal with it, John.*
Adam looked at the machine in front of him. The machine that had let his mother die. That had manipulated John into letting her die. That had just sent Carol and Megabyte's father over the edge, perhaps to their deaths. From the corner of his eye, he saw Megabyte slump in Professor Cawston's grasp. His rage grew. The bile rose in his throat. The anger he felt became palpable. Jedekiah spoke in a wavering tone. "Adam... I can help you save your mother. I changed history before. I can help you change it back."
Adam paused. He considered for a moment. Then he spoke, as cold as liquid nitrogen. "Nothing you offer could possibly be worth the price you'd want for it later. What you offer isn't worth having." He paused and he looked into the machine's eyes. "What you are means I can destroy you."
And then he released his grip, and a spark of life came into his voice.
"But who I am means that I won't."
Peter stepped forward and placed a hand on the defeated androids shoulder. "Jedekiah. For your crimes against history, I take you into the custody of the Eternal Order. You will be confined to a time trap for the term of your natural existence." Adam looked at John. *Are they safe?*
*Carol is at the Lab. Lisa and the General are on the island.*
Peter drew a small disc from his pocket and turned to face Adam. "It has been a great honour, Adam. If you need me, I've left a way to contact me with TIM."
Adam then turned to face Elizabeth and John.
"Time to go home."
The six young Tomorrow People stood as John, Liz, and Carol, clad in their AE suits entered the room. John spoke first.
"This is it, then."
"Yes." Adam nodded. He looked calm and composed.
"You know you just have to call the Trig, and there'll always be help available for you. And Chris has all the money you'll ever need. At least I hope you don't manage to spend it all."
"That's good to know, John. And believe me, we'll ask for help if we need it."
Elizabeth smiled. "Good. Because while we have responsibilities out there, we still have them here as well."
"Yes," Carol nodded. "And, of course, we will be asking all of you up to the Trig - you're citizens of the Galactic Federation, just like us, and we do want you to see it."
They climbed up onto the jaunting pad. And Adam looked directly at John.
*John. Did I do the right thing? Was I right not to take Jedekiah's offer to save my mother? Was that the right choice? Why do I think you know more than you are saying?*
John looked back.
*Adam, you're the leader now, and being the leader means that sometimes you have more information than others. And sometimes it's hard to share it. You have to make the decisions. And you have to stand by them. And it isn't always easy. But it has to be done.*
*But was I right? What do you think? Did I make the right choice?*
And as they faded from view, John sent out a final thought. *You made the choice I would have made. That's all I can say.*
The man slowly manoeuvered his wheelchair towards the front door in response to the knock. His movements were stiff and filled with pain, as everything in his life was now. The knock at the door was an annoyance - but at the same time it was a welcome distraction from his completely directionless evening - his completely empty life.
He flicked on the outside lights and opened the door. And stared at the young man facing him through the screen. A calm and smiling face. Smiling except for the tears in his eyes.