January 3, 1913
Harland and Wolff
With the beginning of the new year, I’ve essentially given up hope of being extracted by COSI. Not that this is a terrible thing, but it leaves me with so many questions. I wondered if what kept them from retrieving me. Could they not find me? If they have the ability to find me, what’s preventing them from acting?
Brynne put the finishing touches on her latest journal entry and closed the notebook. There was still a pile of work to be tackled before the end of the day. That is where her thoughts should’ve been focused, rather than ruminating over COSI. Releasing a sigh, she resolved to turn her attention away from her former life to focus on the deck plans of the Britannic that were now splayed across her desk.
But her old life just wouldn’t leave her alone. A flickering light in front of her desk caught her eye. It was a light she recognized and had last witnessed nearly a year ago. She would know it anywhere: it was the light of an opening temporal link, something Brynne had largely given up hope of ever seeing again.
They’d found her after all.
Brynne’s rescuer emerged from the link, and Brynne froze as she saw herself returning her stare. Looking at this woman was like looking in the mirror for Brynne. Her thoughts returned immediately to the imposter she’d searched the decks of Titanic for.
Brynne stood and walked around to the front of her desk. “Who are you?” she asked, a certain hardness in her voice and her body poised for defensive action. If this was the mystery woman she and COSI had been searching for, there was no telling what kind of damage the woman was here to perpetrate now.
“I’m you,” replied the other woman, who wore 21st century clothing. Brynne noted that the garments seemed identical to an outfit in her closet back in D.C.
“You’re an imposter,” Brynne said. She slowly circled the other woman, looking for tell-tale physical signs of the supposed fraud but finding none. “A damned good imposter, but an imposter, still,” Brynne added.
“I’m not an imposter,” the other woman said. “I can understand why you would think that, but it isn’t true.”
“If you’re not an imposter, then how do you explain yourself, the way you look?” Brynne asked.
“I’m you – from a parallel existence,” the woman said. “I was there in 1912 before you. And I left the Titanic right before you arrived.”
Brynne eyed the other woman warily. “If that’s true, that you’re from an alternate existence, how do you even know about me? You should be oblivious to me.”
“It’s a long story.”
“I haven’t got anything but time, in case you haven’t noticed.”
The woman sighed heavily. “Mind if I sit?” She asked, indicating one of the empty chairs in front of Brynne’s desk.
“By all means,” Brynne replied. She waited for the other woman to take a seat before sitting in the remaining seat beside her. She watched the woman, waiting for her to begin her tale.
“I told you I’m from an alternate existence,” the woman began. “It turns out that it’s not completely separate. Our two timelines, our two histories, intersected when you traveled through the link for your second mission.”
“We were having some issues with the links,” Brynne revealed cautiously. She paused before continuing, weighing weather she should say any more. She reasoned that if she wanted to hear anymore from this woman, she would probably have to be more willing to share what she knew and what she’d experienced. “A virus had disabled them, and they thought sending me back through a temporary link might lead help us find out, and possibly catch, whoever was responsible. I remember that the link looked different that time. The color was off. I thought it was because a different type of link.”
“It was different,” the other woman said. “Different in that it linked to a parallel reality rather than to the past of your own reality. Your virus must have messed things up more than you realized.”
“Apparently so,” Brynne said. She was becoming more comfortable with this woman, even though it was strange to be talking to face-to-face with someone who purported to be, well, herself.
“I don’t know how it happened, but we both traveled at the exact same moments.”
Brynne realized now why no one had come for her. If this woman, this other Brynne, had returned in her place, Payton and the others had no way of knowing that she was still in the past. As far as they were concerned, Brynne had returned as planned, and everything had worked out fine.
“So, you came here from the future, then,” Brynne said.
“Yes,” the Other Brynne said, “but not your future. Our histories merged temporarily, but as soon as I returned and you remained in the past, they separated again. I went back to my own reality, and you stayed and changed yours.”
‘So much for my little theory,’ Brynne thought. “So, does my COSI even know I’m still here?”
Other Brynne nodded. “Most likely. They’re probably just waiting for an ideal time to extract you. They can’t do anything that will have a significant impact on the timeline, you know.”
“I know, I know,” Brynne said, waving aside Other Brynne’s concerns. “Everything is beginning to make a lot more sense to me now. Do you know why I came back to 1912 a second time?”
“You said you came back to look for the person responsible for the virus.”
“Yes, but we thought that one of those responsible was someone pretending to be me, someone with my face. I was there looking for someone who looked like me. After completing my first mission, some of the people at headquarters found a photograph, of me supposedly, posing in front of the Gigantic. I knew it couldn’t have been me because I don’t remember taking the picture; and anyway, I couldn’t have since the picture was taken after I returned to the 21st century. They sent me back to find the so-called imposter and a man we think was her accomplice. It was you, wasn’t it?”
Other Brynne, bewildered, shook her head. “Not this time,” she said. “I went back to the future way before Gigantic was launched.”
Brynne hadn’t expected that to be the Other Brynne’s answer, and all she could do was laugh. “I guess that puts me back at square one again,” she said.
“Maybe it is you,” Other Brynne suggested. “You know how paradoxes can make things all muddled. Perhaps the woman in the picture is you from 1913, in this current timeline you’re currently creating. That would explain why you don’t remember it.”
Brynne stood, and her brow furrowed as she considered the prospect for a moment. “I suppose,” she said. She began to slowly pace around the office. She stopped suddenly, realizing that Other Brynne still hadn’t answered a very important question she’s posited earlier. “If you went back to your own timeline at the same time I came through, how did you know about me?”
“After I crossed through the link, I noticed that my watch had picked up some weird readings. It showed evidence of two identical time signatures passing through the link at the same time, each going in the opposite direction. Packard and some of the other scientists at headquarters examined the data, and they came up with the parallel realities theory.”
“If this all happened because of some weird, once-in-a-blue moon phenomenon, how are you back here now?”
Other Brynne shifted in her seat. “I had Packard recreate it for me,” she said. “We couldn’t pick an exact date, but we got the right year. It was a risky move, but we knew that if we aimed for anytime after April 1912, we’d find you somewhere. That left us with a very big window to work with.”
Again, Brynne began to pace slowly. “So, let me get see if I understand this correctly: you’re from a parallel future, and you and I caused our separate universes to become one in the same momentarily when we inadvertently linked at the same time.”
Other Brynne nodded. “That’s right.”
“I’m glad you’ve told me this, but there’s still something I don’t understand,” Brynne said. “Why come all the way back here and risk contaminating the timeline just to tell me this? What’s it to you? It can’t just be for your peace of mind.”
“I came here to help you,” Other Brynne said, finally standing. “Look, you’re part of me. No – you are me, and I couldn’t bear the thought of simply leaving you here to wander through this minefield of an existence without knowing your history here, especially since I’m part of the reason history was changed for you. I was here living this life before you. I experienced everything you’re supposed to remember about your relationship with Andrews.”
“That’s another thing I don’t understand about this whole thing,” Brynne said. “How did you end up marrying him in the first place? What happened to Helen Barbour? Did you break them up?”
“No, that happened before I got here,” Other Brynne said. “I didn’t change anything there, that’s the way it always was – Helen and Thomas separated, and Andrews died a bachelor when the Titanic sank. Isn’t that the way it happened in your history?”
“No,” Brynne replied. “In my history, he was supposed to have been married to Helen. They even had a little daughter together. That’s the way it was supposed to have been. I suppose now that my history is your history. Are you going to tell me about what happened between you and Tom?”
“No,” Other Brynne said. “I’m going to do better than that. I’m going to show you.”