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An Alternate Destiny...

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  • Dan Swanson
    Ted was working in his laboratory, 3 days after the death of Vic Valor. He was trying to take his mind off of recent events by studying the applications of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2004
      Ted was working in his laboratory, 3 days after the death of Vic
      Valor. He was trying to take his mind off of recent events by
      studying the applications of the newly-invented transistor technology.
      It looked like transistors could be substituted for tubes in a lot of
      applications and Ted was quite excited about the new technology.

      But his mind kept wandering back to recent events. He was
      particularly fascinated by the convergence of events that lead to
      Valor's death. Finally, in exasperation, he tossed aside the
      transistor training materials he was trying to read. He had just
      reread the same paragraph three times, and he didn't remember what it
      said! His subconscious had something important to say, and he wasn't
      going to get any work done until he figured out what it was.

      Once again, for perhaps the three thousandth time, he replayed the
      recent past in the theater of his mind.

      Many years ago, Doris had received a message from a future version of
      herself, and she and Ted had used the information in that message to
      change their own future. But it seemed as if there was some greater
      force at work, because Ted's death scene, which future Doris had
      described to 'our' Doris, had been almost exactly duplicated, although
      with Valor's death substituted for Ted's. Perhaps a hero was destined
      to die that day and no efforts by mere humans could change that
      destiny. Something about that event was important, something Ted
      hadn't considered yet. What could it be?

      Ted had awakened to find himself trapped in the beam of the
      Destructo-Ray, a half-mile high and falling fast! He had no memory of
      how he had come to be there. Fortunately, he had been wearing the
      Valor battle suit, and had discovered how to make it fly before he
      crashed to Earth. He used every power of the battle suit to escape
      from the D-Ray, but Valor's powers failed him. It looked like the
      D-Ray was going to kill him, just as it had killed the other Starman..

      But 'our' Ted had an advantage that neither Valor or the other Starman
      had. After hearing Doris describe the D-Ray, Ted had retired to his
      laboratory and studied the problem. He had eventually figured out how
      to use the Gravity Rod to protect himself from the D-Ray. So when he
      realized that he was indeed in the D-Ray trap, he already knew how to
      escape.

      Wait! That was it! Ted had used one of Starman's powers to escape
      from that death trap, not one of Valor's powers. Which meant that the
      other Ted could have saved himself as well, if he had been able to
      think of the right method in time! Or, Ted realized, if someone else
      could suggest it to him… in time!

      'Other Doris' had communicated with his Doris telepathically through
      time, somehow using Doris' gravity Rod to help transmit and receive
      thoughts. Ted had theorized that the extraordinarily strong emotions
      other Doris had felt after the memorial service for other Ted had made
      the communication possible. Certainly other Ted must have been
      experiencing extraordinarily strong emotions in the last few seconds
      of his life. Could Ted use his Gravity Rod to send a message to other
      Ted during that emotionally-charged instant in time? It was worth
      taking a chance!

      It would have to be a short message. The D-Ray had caused other Ted's
      G-Rod to explode only seconds after it had trapped him. Supposedly
      that explosion had killed other Ted, but his body had never been
      found. This gave Ted hope that his idea really had a chance to succeed.

      He would need Doris to help as well. He would have to contact 'other
      Ted' at exactly the right time, and then Doris would have to contact
      'other Doris', and even if both contacts were successful, there was no
      guarantee that other Ted would be saved..

      Ted and Doris worked out a plan. Doris and she was anxious to help.
      She had been in the mind of 'other Doris' immediately after Ted's
      memorial service, and she had experienced the anguish and grief of her
      other self. If they could do something to help her, Doris was anxious
      to try!

      "Oh, Ted, can we really help her? She was me, and I still feel her
      pain every day! Nobody should have to lose a husband like that!
      Without even a body to bury…"

      "I don't know, honey. I'm not even sure her universe exits any
      longer. If may have ended the moment you changed our futures. There
      is a theory that says a new universe is created every time a decision
      is made, but we have no way of knowing it it's true or not.

      "And even if I can reach the other Ted, there's no guarantee he'll be
      able to save himself. He didn't have much time, and he may not
      believe it's really me. So let's not get our hopes up too high!
      We'll give our best effort. But even if we both succeed, we may never
      know it. It might take really unique conditions to communicate between
      universes, and we may never experience the same set of conditions again!"

      "Oh, Ted, I don't care! I've always felt so helpless whenever I think
      about 'other Doris'. Even if we never know, at least I'll know that
      we tried!"

      "That's my girl!" Ted gave her a hug. "Are you ready? Let's do it!"

      They had planned their actions carefully, and rehearsed them several
      times. Ted could see no theoretical reasons why they couldn't try
      several times, but his intuition suggested that they would have the
      best chance of success on the first attempt. Ted was used to trusting
      his intuition and working out the theory later. His intuition was
      usually right.

      They decided not to attempt to introduce major changes into the other
      universal history that they already knew. Valor's death seemed to
      indicate that some historical events had an inertia of their own, and
      they didn't want to fight that inertia. They hoped they could
      introduce only a very small change that would lead to the desired
      results, without altering what they already knew about the history of
      the other universe.

      Ted went first. He needed to contact other Starman as he was trying
      to escape from the D-Ray. He had no idea how to do this, but Doris
      gave him some hints she remembered from the mind of other Doris. He
      concentrated on the Gravity Rod, and then tried to replay the death
      scene in his mind.

      Ted visualized the episode as Doris had described it to him. Instead
      of seeing Valor trapped in the Destructo-Ray, Ted substituted Starman.
      Nothing happened. He tried again. This time, rather than 'watching'
      the scene from without, Ted attempted to see it from other Starman's
      point of view. Still nothing.

      It still didn't feel real to him. So he tried yet again. This time
      he tried to 'live' the event. He imagined the air blowing past his
      face as he flew over the lights of the night-shrouded Opal City. He
      enjoyed the feeling of power and confidence he always had when using
      the G-Rod. He was looking to getting home to Doris after a long
      night. Yes, this felt real! He was reliving an experience he had
      never actually had. He was other Ted, and for the moment, at least,
      he had no worries.

      Other Ted was totally taken by surprise when he was enveloped by the
      ultra-bright Destructo-Ray enveloped him. He had not expected it!
      But, whispered another part of him, of course he had! He tried
      frantically to escape, using every power at his disposal. All along,
      there was a little voice at the back of his mind, screaming at him.
      He was too frantic to pay attention. Our Ted despaired. He should
      have realized just how single-minded he could be, in any of his
      incarnations. He needed more power, to make other Ted pay attention
      to him before it was too late!

      He realized his G-Rod was about to explode. He had to get as far from
      the city as possible, so he blasted skywards!

      Our Ted tried to use all the power in his Gravity Rod to amplify his
      mental voice. "No! Ted, a Gravity Lens! A gravity lens can save
      you!" our Ted screamed in the mind of other Ted. "Gravity bends
      light. A GRAVITY LENS!" and suddenly our Ted was back in his own
      body! He had no idea if other Ted had understood his warning in time
      to save himself.

      Ted was incredibly exhausted. He hadn't realized that trying to
      project his thoughts into other Ted's mind, across time and between
      universes, would require such mental effort, even when assisted by the
      G-Rod. He felt incredibly relieved. Even if he never found out other
      Ted's fate, our Ted knew that by his efforts, at least other Ted had
      had a fighting chance!

      Now it was Doris' turn! This was going to be extra hard on Doris, who
      would be joining minds with other Doris, who was still dealing with
      the terrible pain of grief and loss.

      Doris remembered Ted's memorial service, as seen through they eyes of
      other Doris. She remembered other Doris taking up the G-Rod
      immediately after the service, and straining to contact their younger
      self. She remembered the entire cross-time conversation with other
      Doris. But it was just memories; it wasn't real, certainly not real
      enough.

      Even 'just memories' were intensely painful. Reliving the
      conversation between other Doris and younger Doris caused such
      emotional pain that she burst into tears. She didn't want to go
      through that again! But she had to! And because she had to, she did.

      This time, she knew, she had to project herself into the memories, and
      through them, into the mind of other Doris. No matter how it hurt,
      she had to succeed!

      Suddenly, she was other Doris, watching with horror Starman's demise,
      live, on television. She felt the fading hope, as the frantic search
      for him failed. The pain of making arrangements for the memorial
      service. The staff would have gladly done this for her, but she
      needed to do it for herself. She greeted all the mourners personally,
      thanking them for coming. She was thankful that so many of their
      friends showed up. Dear Albert Einstein had done his best to comfort
      her. She cherished his fragile hug. The extraordinary mourners at
      the service proved what an extraordinary man Ted had been, not that
      she needed any further proof.

      In the middle of the service, inspiration struck! If she could tell a
      younger Doris about Ted's death in the Destructo-Ray, maybe it could
      be prevented. She rushed home to pick up her gravity rod, hoping it
      would let her talk to younger Doris and change history!

      'Our' Doris once again lived through the contact between 'other Doris'
      and 'younger Doris'. When 'other Doris' had broken the connection,
      our Doris started talking. "Doris, don't hang up! Doris, please
      listen to me!"

      To say other Doris was startled would be like saying Superman was
      strong. "Who are you? What do you want?"

      "Doris, I'm you - or maybe an alternate you. And I'm the Doris you
      just warned about Ted's death, but I'm older than she is. You just
      saved her Ted's life - my Ted's life! I may be able to do the same
      for you!"

      "You're a little late, aren't you?" other Doris asked, sarcasm
      dripping from her mental voice. "My Ted is dead!"

      Our Doris pleaded with her. "Doris, he might not be dead! Please
      listen to me. He might still be alive, and waiting for you to save him!"

      The mind of each Doris was joined with the other. Other Doris
      recognized our Doris and saw in her mind that she was hearing the
      truth! She had a chance to save her beloved!

      "Doris, listen! My Ted found a way to live through the Destructo-Ray.
      He created a gravity lens and bent the Ray around him. He tried to
      talk to your Ted, just like you talked to me, and tell him what to do.
      If your Ted had time to create a gravity lens before the G-Rod
      exploded, he might still be alive!

      "If your Ted threw away his G-Rod, being inside the gravity lens would
      protect him from the explosion. But without the G-Rod, he'd be
      trapped inside the lens. He might still be alive, trapped inside a
      gravity lens. And if he is, you are the only one who can save him!"

      Other Doris was stunned. "But it's been a week! Even if he survived
      the explosion, could he still be alive?"

      Doris responded "My Ted told me that time is different inside a
      gravity lens. For your Ted, only a few minutes have passed."

      'If he really made a gravity lens in time! If Doris can't find him,
      how terrible it would be to have her hopes dashed a second time!' our
      Doris added silently to herself. Because their minds were joined,
      other Doris heard those thoughts. But they couldn't quench the hope
      growing like a bonfire in other Doris' mind!

      Other Doris tried to reassure her. "Oh, Doris! Please don't worry!
      It is so wonderful to have hope! I was sure I could never hope again!
      Please, tell me what I need to do to help my Ted?"

      Our Doris replied "That's the easy part! You just need to fly around
      downtown and use your gravity rod to find any gravitational anomalies.
      According to my Ted, the gravity lens would fall slowly once the
      G-Rod was destroyed. It would be attracted to the nearest building,
      and probably stick to an outside wall. It's not likely it reached the
      ground, because you would probably have heard about it already. And
      once you've found it, you can use your own G-Rod to dispel it!"

      "I don't know if you will find him, other Doris, and even if you do,
      my Ted tells me that you might not be able to let us know. But I
      think you'll be successful. Go out and save your Ted!"

      Other Doris "I KNOW I'll be successful. Thanks, other me! You've
      given me back my life and my love! I'll always owe you for this!"

      Our Doris "Don't be silly! Your warning saved my Ted, so we're even!
      Besides, you're me, so I'm only helping you for selfish reasons!"

      Other Doris laughed, her first laugh in over a week! "OK, we're
      even!" She broke the connection, but our Doris could tell she was
      already speeding towards downtown. "Good luck, other Doris!"
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