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"You only get to do this once"

06 September 201002:28PMfiction

[Previously]_ _

-there was a crackle and a scream and the universe twisted at right angles to itself-

The cube plinked softly to itself, cooling from a white heat

"We shouldn't be here, Joe.", Stan said to me.

"Yeah, I know. I saw Back to the Future. Paradox bad, non-interference good. I get that."

"No, I mean we really, really should not be here. I had to override every safety routi-"

"Oh, shut it for just five minutes."

Stan probably had a point though. I mean, it was his field. He knew the science. It's just that I didn't particularly need to, not right now. Seriously, once you get Stan started on something, he will never, ever shut up.

"Fine", said Stan, "But remeber what I said. You only get to do this once. Once, and we never come here again."

That I understood. One shot, round over, no retries. That in itself put me a bit on edge. Every other place we'd been, we had as many attempts as we liked. I'd blinked at JFK's assassination, so we saw that twice. We'd seen ourselves at the moon landing six times. And watched The Beatles' last concert from every angle. But this was one thing I could only ever see once. Better make it worth it then.

I nodded at Stan, and ran for the hospital- -crackle, scream, twist-

Stan blinked into existence in front of me. I looked back. Stan was there too, as pale as a computer science graduate, which I suppose technically he was. I looked forwards again, to Other Stan.

"I changed my mind, Joe. Nobody has the right to see what you want to. Even knowing when and where we are could let you change so much-" -cracklescreamtwist-

-and a third Stan winked into existence in front of Other Stan and threw a punch at his face.

"Don't tell him! Jeezus! What he doesn't know, can't hurt us. As you were, Joe."

Other Stan glared at Third Stan with a look which could destroy a small planetoid.

"That. Is not. Your decision. To make." said Other Stan

"You made it my decision when you tried to change what happens here today." replied Third Stan. He looked at me. "Go. If you still want to, that is." I backed away.

"What happened to only being able to do this once?" I asked.

"That only applies to you. So go, you'll miss it." said Other Stan.

"And another thing," I said, "Weren't you trying to stop me a second ago?"

This time it was Third Stan who replied. "Stankind have a rule. Past selves always defer to future selves, in the context of our own causal nexus, and as reckoned by our own memories of multiple-presence events". A rule. Of course he did. This was Stan we were talking about, and he had rules for everything

I turned away from the Stans, and shook my head as I walked the rest of the way across the carpark. The revolving door hissed. I crossed the hospital foyer to the ancient rickety lift, hit the button for the fourth floor, and waited. The waiting in the lift is always the worst part. Always.

Ping.

I crossed the ward. Room 715. There was a door, with a chart on it, and a familiar but decrepit form lying on sterile mint-green sheets hooked into more machines than you could count. And then, all at once, every single one went off, beeping and chiming and flashing. I turned away, and ran for the elevator as everyone on the floor converged on Room 715, Ward 4, Joe Smith. -cracklescreamtwist-

Stan stood beside me again. "Did you make it?"

"I couldn't-", I started, then closed my mouth

"That's okay. I couldn't watch mine either. It's better that way."

I looked at Stan Four. He shrugged.

"You know, I think some things..." That had to be the first time I'd ever heard Stan lost for words. He looked me straight in the eye, and said,

"I think some things you don't get to do at all."


So, a couple of things: Firstly, this is the first time I've ever tried a sequel, mostly to see if I could pull it off. Looking back at the original, I'm not entirely sure I did. I don't think I quite did it justice. Maybe this will just ruin the original forever, like sequels often do. I have to say though, I do think it's a pretty cool way to time-travel, which is mostly why I wanted to use it again. Secondly, I really need to stop this godsawful habit of never editing things before I post them online. Editing is a Good Thing, which I really need to do sometime. Still. Criticism both welcome and needed.

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