Looking up from his computer Duncan motioned Anne to take a seat. "What have you found?"
She handed him a picture. "This is a picture of the woodworking shop taken by Ryan with his 3D imager." The picture showed a well cared-for building surrounded by a manicured lawn. She hands him another picture along with a couple of newspaper articles. "I found this picture in the archives, taken around the same time as Ryan's. Duncan stared at the picture, not believing his eyes. This picture of the woodworking shop showed a smiling Ethan and Ryan with their arms around each other. The sign above the door read 'Evans-Edwards Woodworking.' The newspaper articles talked about Ethan Evans taking on a partner, both in his personal life and in his business. This person was a new person in town named Ryan Edwards.
At a loss for words, Duncan could only respond with "Okay" as he was handed yet another picture and newspaper article. This time, the picture showed the shop boarded up, grass and weeds overgrown, sign reading Evans Woodworking. The newspaper article this time cited the disappearance of Ethan, Chris and Alicia. No explanation was given as to the disappearance. The three Evans' were never found.
"This was found in a different archive, also from the same time frame. The question is; which of these archive pictures shows the correct history?"
"If I could turn back time, I'd find out which was the correct history, but with a temporal causality loop in play, there's no way to be certain. We could make things worse if we go back to the wrong history. There's actually no way to determine the correct time coordinates," Duncan mumbled to himself as he looked over the three pictures.
"What are you babbling about?" Anne wanted to know.
“I was just thinking out loud. We have to figure out which is the right history somehow. If we go back to the wrong history to fix the timeline alteration, it could have serious repercussions. There are times I wish that those damned travellators were never invented, and this is one of those times,” Duncan said, exasperated.
Anne rose from her chair. “I’m sure you will figure it out. After all, we have all the time we need. I’ll do some more digging and see if I can find out more information that will help you. Wait a minute. I just thought of something. Is there any way Liam can run simulations on the different scenarios to see what happens with the timeline? Maybe that’ll help.”
Duncan’s face lit up with a huge smile as he said, “Anne, that’s a great idea. If it works, you are so getting a bonus. Perhaps even a promotion if I can talk the head honchos into it. This is the most serious and problematic timeline alteration we’ve ever experienced. Everyone is giving it there all. Well almost everybody.” His voice trailed off.
“I take it Ryan isn’t doing so well?”
Duncan took in a deep breath and let it out slowly as he responded, “He’s been on countless missions, all successful, but I’ve never seen one affect him like this one has. He’s dealing with some shit and I don’t know how to help him.”
“Have you talked with him?”
“Many times. I understand his problem. I just don’t know how to help him with it. He’s head-over-heals in love with a guy in the past, and from what I understand, the feeling is mutual.”
“Ouch! No wonder he’s so down. Isn’t there anything we can to do help him?” Anne asked with hope in her voice.
“I don’t know,” Duncan admitted reluctantly.
It was late at night when Ryan snuck into the control room. Using his access code he overrode the security alarms, set the travellator temporal and geographic coordinates then, looking around to make sure no one saw him; he stepped into the travellator and dematerialized. Almost instantaneously, he rematerialized in a familiar surrounding. Knocking on the door in front of him, he held is breath hoping a familiar face would open it. He was not disappointed.
“Ryan? What are you doing here? I thought it was dangerous for us to see each other?”
Ryan swept Ethan up into his arms, kissing him soundly, a kiss that was returned reluctantly at first, then with increasing passion. “Danger be damned! I needed to see you.”
Breathless from the kiss, Ethan asked, “What about your boss? Aren’t you breaking some kind of temporal prime directive or something?”
“I don’t care. I love you. I need you.”
Looking deep into Ryan’s eyes, Ethan said softly, “I need you too.” Taking Ryan by the hand, he closed the door and led him up to his bedroom.
The next morning Liam burst into Duncan’s office. “We have a problem! Ryan’s gone back into the past,” he said, worriedly.
“What the hell? Where and when has he gone? How did he leave without setting off the alarms?” Duncan demanded.
“He used his access code to bypass the alarms, and I’ll give you one guess where and when he went.”
“Ethan’s,” he whispered.
Liam nodded. “He set the temporal coordinates to approximately a half-hour after Ethan and Chris returned. The only reason I know he left is because the travellator was still active. The automatic shutdown sequence was never activated.”
“Get Connor in here ASAP. I want him to follow Ryan and bring that fool back. God only knows what he’s done to the timeline with this stunt.”
“That’s the curious thing about all this. There has been a partial timeline…”