Grace Anne is back from France, after a brush with death, and Ariel is suffering deeply.
To some degree, all the characters in the story up to this point have been involved in the disruption of what should be a peaceful life for Grace Anne and Ariel.
This chapter exposes what Grace Anne and Ariel need to do to balance out the scales.
To some degree, all the characters in the story up to this point have been involved in the disruption of what should be a peaceful life for Grace Anne and Ariel.
This chapter exposes what Grace Anne and Ariel need to do to balance out the scales. [Ariel] "Grace Anne, take your time recuperating. As I said before, you have been through a terrible ordeal! Your health and safety are my highest concern. I'll drop you off here at the hospital and go straight to Dr. Manson's office. Professor Crowley is here and he'll know what to do to get me working properly again." [Crowley] "Ariel! Thank you for coming all the way out here. Now tell me what is going on with you."
[Ariel] "Professor Crowley, I believe there is a problem with my network pathways. I am receiving garbled transmissions and Dr. Manson hasn't been responding to the messages I've left for him. I've gathered all the items he asked me to find, so it's strange he doesn't seem interested in my progress." [Crowley] "What did he have you doing?"
[Ariel] "He wanted me to find palladium and adamant. Then he wanted me to make nectar using only life fruits. I lost track of him about that time..."
[Crowley] "Life fruit nectar, you say? Hmmm. Well, this is hearsay of course, but I was told the man went mad. He thought he had discovered a way to build a Fountain of Youth! He must have been using you outside the facility while he locked himself up inside. All this happened long before I arrived, but that's the story I've been told." [Ariel] "He went mad?! That's shocking. I didn't notice any signs of it!"
[Crowley] "Of course you didn't, my dear. Someone can look perfectly normal on the outside, but you never know what crazy ideas may be hiding under the surface. People can be totally unreliable, as I know well. Let's focus on you, though. After our last conversation, I wrote a couple of programs that may be able to diagnose and repair your network files." [Crowley] "I've loaded some files on my smarter-phone and will beam them directly to you. Did you enable the processes as I asked?"
[Ariel] "In all the excitement with Grace Anne's illness, I totally forgot. Just a moment, please..... Very well, I'm prepared to receive the files."
[Crowley] "Now, that should do the trick. I hope your owner will be alright."
[Ariel] "I left her at the hospital before coming here. I hope the doctors there can be as helpful to her as you have been to me. I still feel bad about Dr. Manson, though." [Crowley] "You shouldn't worry about Dr. Manson. I'm sure he's doing as well as can be expected, no matter where he is. The organization sent a wonderful replacement for him, and here she comes. I'm glad you will get to meet her." [Crowley] "Dr. Warner, I'd like to introduce you to my prototype simborg, Ariel."
[Warner] "It's good to see you, at last. I suppose Professor Crowley got you all lined out?"
[Ariel] "I believe so. He beamed some new files..."
[Crowley] "Yes, and now you need to go home and process those updates. Please come back tonight and we will talk more." [Warner] "Well, Professor, what's the prognosis? Will we be able to transmit data to her directly now instead of sending emails or using traditional internet sources?"
[Crowley] "Oh yes, I am quite certain she will be able to decipher the data we are transmitting now. I'll spend tonight testing her, and make any changes needed while she's here. She also fell for the supposed reason Dr. Manson pulled a disappearing trick."
[Warner] "You had better be right, for your sake!"
Dr. Warner had never sounded so cold to Professor Crowley before. For an instant, an image of a quonset hut stuck out on a deserted beach, surrounded by squished ants, flashed into his mind.... Grace Anne walked out of the hospital just as the sun was beginning to set. Hospital rules required her to turn off her cell phone while inside, and when she turned it back on, she had a text message from Ariel.
Apparently Professor Crowley and the new Dr. Warner needed Ariel to stay overnight at the science facility to work out some kinks in her programming. That was just fine with her. After her scene with Ariel earlier today, all she wanted to do was go home and go to bed.
The next text message was from her childhood friend, Bao in China. His flight left earlier today. It would be so good to see a friendly face after everything she had been through lately. A few days of mindless relaxation was a welcomed change. Grace Anne wrestled herself free from the silk sheets that had bunched up around her as she tossed and turned throughout the night.
"What time is it? I feel like I've laid in this bed for hours, but haven't slept a wink. I may as well get up and get dressed. Some coffee sounds good.
"I'll make arrangements for Bao and I to stay over at that resort town up the coast and we can reminisce about the good old days. Hopefully he'll be receptive to new ideas." [Grace Anne] "Bao, you're early! The house is a mess and I must look a fright!"
[Bao] "Now that's something I'd pay to see; Grace Anne Browning's house in a mess. But you are right about one thing. You do look a fright!"
[Grace Anne] "Stop teasing me! I just got out of the shower and am getting ready to have breakfast. Are you hungry?"
[Bao] "I'm ravenous, but after those mud pies you fed me as a kid, I'm not so sure I want to eat your cooking."
[Grace Anne] "Shut up and drag your sorry butt in here!" [Bao] "All jokes aside, G, you look good. How are you feeling? Come give me a hug."
[Grace Anne] "I forgot you always called me G. You look good yourself. I have a great adventure planned for us. Do you remember all the adventures we went on as kids?"
[Bao] "Of course I do, but those used to end up as messy as the mud pies we made. Are you sure you're up for another adventure now?" [Grace Anne] "I'm always up for an adventure with you. Now what to eat? How about waffles? I'm an expert at popping frozen waffles in the toaster!"
[Bao] "Try not to burn the house down. G, I think I may have been wrong about you. This place looks like a warehouse for an ancient history museum. Where did all this junk come from?"
[Grace Anne] "Some of it was Mother and Daddy's, and Uncle Byron and Aunt Jo collected the rest. Having it around reminds me of them."
[Bao] "Maybe it's time to make some new memories."
[Grace Anne] "I'll take you up on that! After breakfast, change into your traveling clothes and we'll head up the coast. I'm dying to see Oberon Hills! It's a resort town, and I'm thinking of buying a house there." [Bao] "Buying a new house sounds like a good idea. Just promise me one thing; you'll have all this stuff packed up and put into storage.... except for the wine racks. Those you can move with you."
[Grace Anne] "A man who has decided to join the Order of Monks is advising me on my wine collection? What a hoot!"
[Bao] "I wasn't suggesting you send it home with me, but it's the only old stuff in here I want you to take with you when you move. Promise me, G."
[Grace Anne] "Deal! I don't think my relic collection would look right at Moss Cottage anyway. Hurry up and eat; I'm going to change clothes." [Grace Anne] "You grab the bags while I bring the car around. What are you wearing anyway? I told you to put on your travelin' rags; that outfit looks pretty formal to me."
[Bao] "You worry about driving and I'll worry about my clothes. It just so happens these are my most comfortable pants! Besides, one of us has to look presentable when we get to your resort town."
[Grace Anne] "I look like a normal traveler. You look like a porter in a 5-Star hotel."
[Bao] "Shut up, G, and get the car." [Grace Anne] "I've booked us in at a lodge in Oberon Hills. They say it's lovely. As soon as we get settled in, we can change and have some lunch. I want to spend the whole day taking in the town."
[Bao] "Change clothes again? How much did you pack, G? I barely got the trunk lid down. I'm perfectly fine in what I'm wearing."
[Grace Anne] "I'm not spending the whole day feeling like I'm being escorting around by an attendant from Four Seasons! If we have to, I'll buy you some jeans when we get there!"
[Bao] "Shut up, G." [Grace Anne] "There you are! I was beginning to think you got lost. Now that outfit suits you. It even looks like you combed your hair."
[Bao] "Okay, I give! Enough with the way I look. Speaking of looks, this place is amazing. It kind of reminds me of home. The lake down there is similar to the one we used to swim in. Do you remember it?"
[Grace Anne] "Of course I remember it. I always beat you to the other side! Those were great days!"
[Bao] "They certainly were. You were the best swimmer in our whole village. Was that something you learned from your dad?" [Grace Anne] "No, I had swimming coaches. And diving coaches. And gymnastics coaches. I was quite the little athlete. Mother and Daddy wanted me to have a well-rounded education."
[Bao] "I never met your parents. Your aunt and uncle raised you, didn't they? You didn't ever talk about your parents."
[Grace Anne] "I was too young; it was a sore subject for me. Uncle Byron was Daddy's brother. He and Aunt Jo took me in after Mother and Daddy died. I left school, and all that other stuff, behind me and traveled with my aunt and uncle. They hired tutors to travel around with us. I don't think they ever wanted me to be left alone again."
[Bao] "Why? What happened?" [Grace Anne] "Bao, I told you! It's a sore subject for me! I don't want to talk about it!"
[Bao] "G, it was a sore subject for you when you were 10. You have grown up since then. I think it would be good for you to talk to someone about it... "
[Grace Anne] "Not now! I came up here to relax and have a good time with my best friend. Don't spoil it for me!" [Bao] "It's kind of important we talk about it, G. I'm glad to hear you still think of me as your best friend. I love you to death. But I'm telling you, there are some things I HAVE to talk to you about."
[Grace Anne] "I feel a headache coming on. I always do when I think about that time, that accident."
[Bao] "Maybe there's a reason for that. Let's go eat some lunch and get you some medicine for your head. We can roam around the town and unwind. You talk to me; I'll talk to you. It's one of the reasons I'm here." [Grace Anne] "We've been walking for hours and my legs are killing me! I need to sit down."
[Bao] "How's your headache? Better?"
[Grace Anne] "Yes, but if I tell you I'm getting sick again, can we skip the discussion of my past?"
[Bao] "No. There are things I need to tell you, but I can't put it all in perspective unless you fill in some of the blanks. It's important, G." [Bao] "This looks like a good spot. Aah. It does feel good to get off my feet."
[Grace Anne] "It's so peaceful here. I have just decided. I'm definitely buying that cottage. I can really leave the past behind me."
[Bao] "Yes. Close the books on all that pain. Let me help you, G. Tell me about the life of Grace Anne Browning before she was the ten year old brat I met in China." [Grace Anne] "Grace Anne Browning was the perfect daughter of Garrett and Lois Browning, and certainly not a brat. My parents were great people. They had high expectations of what I could be when I grew up. I took my first swimming lessons before I could walk, and started gymnastics lessons while still in diapers. My name was on the enrollment list of a good school as soon as I was born."
[Bao] "Sounds pretty stressful.... nothing at all like the kid I met in China."
[Grace Anne] "It wasn't stressful back then. As a matter of fact, I loved it. I became a strong swimmer and a really good gymnast. As a matter of fact, it was my gymnastics training that convinced my swim coach I would be a good diver. Much of the physical discipline required to be a good gymnast were the same as those of a clean diver. I began diving on the low board when I was five." [Grace Anne] "When it was time to start school, Mother and Daddy were able to start traveling again. They thought of themselves as amateur archaeologists. I boarded at the school during term, and continued swimming and gymnastics lessons after class every day. By the time I was seven, I was old enough to take part in junior competitions. My best friend at school, Flora, had taken lessons with me since she was tiny, too, so it felt like heaven."
[Bao] "When you say boarder... "
[Grace Anne] "I mean I lived on school grounds. Flora's parents lived in the city, so she wasn't a boarder. I got to spend weekends with her family, when we weren't at competition. My first crush was her older brother Miles." [Bao] "I thought I was your first crush!"
[Grace Anne] "Do you want to hear this story or not? You were my first REAL crush, but Miles was so reckless and daring. He was into x-sports, you know? Skateboarding, BMX bike races, snowboards, all that risky stuff. He was the complete opposite of Flora and me. We were praised for our discipline, but Mr. Cooper was never very happy about Miles' choices.
"Anyway. Within a couple of years, I had to decide which sport I was going to commit myself to. I needed to focus on gymnastics early if I was ever going to excel, and diving was taking up too much of my time. Mother and Daddy said it was up to me to choose; it wouldn't matter to them, so long as I was happy. That just made it so much more important to do the right thing; I didn't want to disappoint them.
"In the end, I chose gymnastics. I was nine years old when the diving coach officially moved me to the alternate squad. Flora chose to continue diving and quit the gymnastics team completely." " ..... "
[Bao] "Well, what happened next?"
[Grace Anne] "I'm done talking. It's late, I'm tired, and I don't want to talk about it anymore."
[Bao] "Okay, but if you don't mind, I'd like to go sit on the swings over there. The night is still warm and we could just hang out for a little while longer."
[Grace Anne] "I used to love playing on the swings. I felt like I could touch the sky when I was swinging. It's one of the best memories I've kept of being a little girl." [Bao] "This is so much fun. I don't think I had ever seen a swing set until that summer your aunt and uncle brought me home with you guys."
[Grace Anne] "I remember that summer. We chased butterflies and laid out on the lawn looking up at the stars. Tell me something about your childhood."
[Bao] "When we go back up to the lodge, let's sit out on the deck. Looking out at the stars from there, I'll tell you more about me."
[Grace Anne] "Swinging up high makes me think about the first day I mounted the high diving platform. It was kind of scary to look down from that height into water so deep you couldn't see the bottom of the pool. I was never particularly fond of heights." [Bao] "If it was so scary, why did you love it so much?"
[Grace Anne] "Once you concentrated on the dive itself, you wished the platform was a few meters higher so you could get all your rotations in. It became a matter of mechanics, not heights. I can't really explain it....
"I was in a diving competition when Mother and Daddy died. It's so ironic; I wasn't even supposed to be there. I was just an alternate on the team by then. I had chosen gymnastics over diving... It's my fault they died." [Bao] "I know G. You weren't supposed to be diving that weekend. Your parents weren't supposed to be rushing home to see you in competition. They were never supposed to be on that plane when it crashed. None of it was supposed to happen."
[Grace Anne] "But it was still my fault.... "
[Bao] "Let's leave the rest of the story for daylight. I'd like to tell you a story about me, now. Let's go back up to the lodge." [Bao] "My head was always in the clouds, or in the sky. I was always fascinated by it. While the other boys were memorizing the locations of the planets and constellations, I was thinking about what lay beyond the visible formations in the night sky. I wasn't like the others, and kind of got singled out from the rest of the boys my age.
"I think that was when the Order first became interested in me. I remember Shi Fu trying to answer my questions about how everything fit together."
[Grace Anne] "I never met anyone named Shi Fu while I was in China."
[Bao, laughing] "No I suppose not. Shi Fu is another word for Teacher in the Order of Monks."
[Grace Anne] "Well, I had become a silly-headed little girl by the time I first visited China. I wouldn't have been interested in any teachers by then." Settling himself and Grace Anne on the deck chairs, Bao began to explain things:
[Bao] "You see, G, many believe the cosmos was created inside a great heat. Different people have different ideas of where or from whom that heat began, but the universe is generally accepted to have sprung from one single event. I was taught that as the universe formed itself into the shape we see now, the cosmos cooled, and as it cooled it shrank slightly. Cracks, cosmic strings as many learned people call them, formed while the cosmos cooled.
"Although it seems so vast, the cosmic balance is extremely difficult to maintain. The Order of Monks, and many other groups like them, have taken up the task of keeping all things in balance. They protect the cosmic strings. But, sometimes events occur that throw off that balance; then, steps must be taken to maintain stability. Even the smallest of things, something as insignificant as crushing a butterfly on one side of the world, is said to cause catastrophic events on the other side. Things like earthquakes, tsunamis, destruction and chaos. The untimely deaths of certain people can alter the shape of what comes after. Reality itself can be altered....." [Grace Anne] "Good grief, Bao. You really ARE meant to join the Order. All you just said sounded like it was coming from another source, something deep within you. It leaves me with goosebumps.... "
[Bao] "Sorry, I was rambling. The more I learn, the less I feel like I know. It all has meaning, though. Much more than you realize. Much more than you may be able to accept. But for now, lets get some sleep. Your eyes are glazed over."
[Grace Anne] "They may look glazed over, but it's from wonder, not sleepiness. I'd love to stay out here longer and listen more."
[Bao] "Tomorrow. During the daylight." [Bao] "Get some sleep, my dariling G. I hope you rest well. I think tomorrow will be a very good day."
[Grace Anne] "I may not be able to sleep at all, now. Such ideas--my mind is whirling."
[Bao] "Sleep. It will help your mind understand everything I've told you tonight."
Bao turned away from Grace Anne, his beloved G, and hoped all would be well tomorrow. Grace Anne slipped between the warm flannel sheets anticipating a good night's rest. The first she would have had in weeks.
It was not meant to be. Instead of flying through Bao's midnight sky, she felt the press of something unexplainable. The words of things needing to be done, the wrongness of her life as a child, invaded her dreams.
Strangely, she felt a level of comfort throughout the speculations she dreamed of. An awakening to the belief she was not alone. Help would be there when she needed it. She was strong again. Bao slept in a cocoon of stars. The fragile G of his childhood had opened up, and begun a discussion of the worst days of her life. She had listened with interest to his description of an obscurity she would have run away from as a child.
He had been given a task he did not relish. He didn't feel worthy enough. He didn't feel knowledgeable enough. He didn't feel detached enough.
He didn't want to expose his delicate flower to the uglier side of life that sprang into being because of a mistake she had made as a child. Grace Anne had always been like a fairy to him. Something strange and new. Something needing protection.
He didn't know that across the hall, a warrior was being awakened inside the fragile flower he believed G to be. In the morning he would see a whole new G. The one she should have been had her life proceeded along the path it was meant to. Bao and Grace Anne had just sat down in front of the breakfast buffet served by the lodge when Grace Anne's phone buzzed. She had gotten a new text message.
[Grace Anne] "Stay where you are, little piggy, and finish your breakfast. I need to check this out."
[Bao] "Shut up, G, and answer your phone." [Grace Anne] "It's from Ariel. How odd. She was supposed to be staying at the science facility for some repairs. Apparently, there is too much news to send in a text message so she's sending a file to my email.
"No, no, Bao. There's no need for you get up. You just stay near the food in case someone tries to steal the silverware so you can pull one of your kung fu moves on them."
[Bao, through a full mouth] "Shut up, G." Grace Anne booted up her laptop on a nearby table and opened the file Ariel had sent. The farther she read, the stiffer her shoulders became. By the time she finished reading the lengthy document, she was practically shaking with anger.
Bao was busy with his second piece of coffeecake when Grace Anne slammed her laptop shut, flew out of her chair, and stomped past him into the lodge. Bao jumped up and ran after her as Grace Anne stormed out of the front doors of the lodge and across the front lawn.
[Bao] "What is the matter with you, G?! I almost choked on a hunk of cake back there!"
[Grace Anne] "I'm tired of the jokes, Bao! No more! I needed some air and the sound of your snuffling through your plate like a trough was too much! Leave me alone!" [Grace Anne] "No! Wait a minute! Get back here! What do you want with me?! What was all that soul searching about last night?! And don't even think you can lie to me! Ariel has told me what is really going on! Right now, I trust her a lot more than I trust you!
"She was being used! I was being used! Now, everyone is still trying to get us to do things for them! What do you want?!" [Bao] "G, calm down. Take a breath and just calm down. I'll tell you everything I know. The main reason I'm here is to talk to you, explain things to you, tell you things you may not want to hear. I was trying to ease you into it...."
[Grace Anne] "Well you don't have to ease me into anything now. Be straight with me. What did your Order send you to get from me? Or do to me?"
[Bao] "Let's go inside and sit down. This may be easier for both of us if we're sitting down." [Bao] "This is going to be hard, so I'm going to stop asking you general questions, and be blunt. If I say anything you don't understand, interrupt me."
Bao squared his shoulders and began what he hoped would be a version of the truth his sweet little G could fathom. Unfortunately for Bao, Ariel had said in just a few lines of text more than Bao knew himself. [Bao] "Your parents' death was a mistake, on a cosmic level. From the top: your parents were searching for a lost tomb in Egypt, but it wasn't your typical burial site. They were looking for the hidden tomb buried thousands of years ago by ancient priests dedicated to scientific pursuits.
"They built wondrous, magical, mystical technologies. They hid themselves within the ranks of the architects and priests responsible for erecting the pyramids. No one even suspected they existed, or knew exactly what they had built and buried beneath the sands.
"I don't think even your parents knew what they were chasing, just rumors based on conjecture based on myths. They found the secret burial site and were just beginning to excavate it when they received a telegram from you. They shut everything down, closed everything up, hid the site as quickly as they could, and booked the first flight out of Egypt to watch you dive." [Bao] "The plane that your parents were on was destined to crash, but your parents were NOT supposed to be on it. Your parents were supposed to finish excavating that site, find those ancient scientific treasures and then your father was supposed to become the new protector of that ancient wisdom.
"He would have permitted scientists to examine his Egyptian finds, but under strict circumstances. The items themselves were to be kept under constant guard and never be used, just researched." [Bao] "Your father was destined to become a patron of scientists all over the world. He would have created scholarships, grants, endowments, facilities, all in the name of advancing scientific research.
"Because of him, fantastic breakthroughs should have been discovered to benefit mankind. Instead, he died, and all the good that should have come from that Egyptian technology was lost.
"Instead of your parents ushering in a new age of scientific discovery, the dig site was closed and your parents never returned to finish their work. It is said a machine will be used to fix that error." [Grace Anne] "So the dig site remains hidden, and I'm supposed to go find it instead of my parents?"
[Bao] "No. The dig site was discovered earlier this year, but not by a group of philanthropists. The group who found all this ancient technology has put it to use, but not for the 'benefit' of mankind. They are an evil organization who will stop at nothing to control the world and only evil will come of their actions." [Grace Anne] "Now this is where I tell you part of the story. Ariel is building a time machine. She has been receiving transmissions for, I don't know how long, containing the specifications, but has been unable to understand the message.
"The man who created her made some programming changes yesterday, and suddenly the transmissions became clear and decipherable to her. If what you say is true, I'm supposed to use the time machine so I can find Mother and Daddy's dig site before the bad guys. Right?" [Bao] "It's not just the dig site that must be saved; it's your parents. Remember, they have their own destiny in supporting scientific research. It is the belief of the Order that the hole in time left when your parents died was taken over by evil."
[Grace Anne] "Nature abhors a vacuum."
[Bao] "Exactly. Without your parents, many modern advances in science will not be discovered. Or even worse, technological advancements to the detriment of mankind could be the outcome. We just don't know how far-reaching the effect of the deaths of your parents may go.
"You have to go back and change your mind about diving that day." [Grace Anne] "I can't."
[Bao] "G! You have to! Haven't you understood anything I've said?"
[Grace Anne] "Yes, and I'm telling you it won't work. I can poke so many holes in your plan, it will race around the room like a deflating balloon. You and your people may understand the cosmos and know people's destinies, but you don't know anything about how my world worked when I was ten.
"I lived INSIDE that school. The 35 year old me, traveling back in time, wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the 10 year old me. I would be a stranger, and couldn't even get through the front gate. Security at the athletic compound was even tighter than the security at school. I simply cannot succeed in that plan." [Grace Anne] "This is all about cause and effect, right? I wasn't supposed to dive in that competition, right? Well, you are right about that much. I wasn't supposed to dive; I was an alternate. I was an 'effect,' not the cause.
"Do you remember my mentioning Flora and Miles? When I chose gymnastics, Flora chose to be a diver. Miles was always jealous of the way his parents doted on Flora, a REAL athlete. He convinced Flora to skip practice one day and go to the skateboard park with him.
"She broke her arm learning to ride the skateboard and wasn't able to dive in the competition. I was called up, as the alternate. It isn't my mind we have to change, it's Flora's." [Bao] "So go back and help Flora change her mind."
[Grace Anne] "I can't do that either."
[Bao] "I thought you said she didn't live inside the school, like you did. Just go to her house and... "
[Grace Anne] "No, it doesn't work that way! I will be a stranger! She won't know me, her parents won't know me, and they would call the cops! I can't change anything.
"For a group of know-it-alls, you guys haven't thought this through very carefully. I can only see one way this will work. The solution is a machine, right? You think it's the time machine? You're wrong. The machine that will set all this straight is Ariel. Sure, she will need to use the time machine she's building to go back 25 years, but it's Ariel that will keep Flora from breaking her arm, not me." [Bao] "How is Ariel going to have access to Flora if you can't?"
[Grace Anne] "Pride. Vanity. Jack Cooper was the most miserly man I've ever met. He wanted to buy a simbot when they first came out. He thought he could essentially buy a slave, but his wife wouldn't let him. Genvieve thought simbots were ugly and didn't want one of those hideous things ruining the looks of her beautiful home!
"If I send Ariel back, let's say before term began, she can present herself as a gift from one of Daddy's companies... to a great friend of the family... always so kind to my daughter... some crap like that. Jack Cooper would jump at the offer. AND Ariel doesn't look like one of those ugly old simbots, so Genvieve would be delighted to own a fancy simborg. No one else in her neighborhood had one." Bao and Grace Anne just looked at each other for a moment.
[Bao] "Wait a minute. Flora's parents might be happy to have Ariel, but what about Flora? Who says Ariel can do anything to change Flora's actions?"
[Grace Anne] "Simple. Flora was a geek. She loved video games and she thought household computers were totally awesome. Just imagine how excited she would be to have a simborg!
"Ariel's programmed to be my best friend. As my best friend, the greatest service she could ever do for me is prevent the death of my parents. By extension, to save my parents, all she has to do is make sure Flora goes to practice EVERY day.
"Flora doesn't break her arm, I don't dive, Mother and Daddy don't have to close up their dig early, and they don't die in a plane crash on their way to watch me dive. Problem solved." [Grace Anne] "So, what do you think of MY solution. You said a machine was supposed to put everything back in its proper place. The time machine is just a vessel; Ariel is the machine that will make everything work.
"Now that we have planned out how to save the world, let's change gears. I'm moving up here; move here with me. You have done your duty for the Order of Monks, prevented the destruction of the world, saved all mankind, etc. and so on.
"My brush with Death taught me many things. I don't believe I was spared simply because I had a flower in my pocket. It probably wasn't any more valuable than a lucky rabbit's foot or a four leaf clover.
"No, things are much clearer to me now than they have ever been in my life. I needed to understand my part in all this. Now I do. I needed to plug up all the holes in your pathetic plan, and I needed to remind you why you decided to join the Order.
"You said it was because I wouldn't marry you and left you no other choice. Well, I've changed my mind. What to you have to say about that?" While we leave Bao to mull over Grace Anne's proposal, it's time to move on to the last part in the Machine saga.
The planning is over; all that's left is the doing. Ariel is going to have her hands full back in Sunset Valley, in more ways than one. Bao claimed the fate of the world is determined by a machine. We now know the Machine is Ariel.
Our last chapter will bring the Machine story full-circle. It started with two characters; Grace Anne and Ariel. It will also end with two characters. All the loose ends will be tied up in Part 7 - Of Endings and Beginnings. Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading another volume in the Machine series. The content in this one was heavier than usual, so feel free to leave a comment if you were dissatisfied...
Again, many thanks to Hellsaint for allowing me to sneak his lovely ladies, the Fates, into a screenshot.
As always, I owe a great deal to you cc creators. I thank you every time I download something you make, but one thank you is never enough.
Well, we're getting close to the finish line. I'm ready, Grace Anne and Ariel are ready, and I imagine all of you are ready to see how it ends.
The Machine, Part 6 - The Unveiling
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