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Memoria

by Stephen A. Roddewig 6 months ago in Sci Fi · updated 9 days ago
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The alternative ending to a book that hasn't been written (yet)

Photo by Vitold Muratov on Wikimedia Commons

Alternative Author's Note: "Memoria" is the alternative ending to Book 3 of the Echoes series by Marissa Lete. However, Book 3 has yet to be written as of this publish date, thus the subtitle above. As I help her proof Book 2 for publishing, I had already had an idea for the ending of this story that involved three layers of plot devices and a historical focus that I was fairly certain would not make it into the series. So I said, "Hey, I'm a writer. I'll write the fake ending to a book that doesn't even exist yet myself."

Ironically, the only other attempt at fan fiction I've ever done is my (failed) effort to write Book 9 of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series when I thought author Kathryn Lasky had finished after the Coryn arc (which is still my favorite two books in the series, by the way). So 10-year-old Stephen said, "If she won't write anymore books, then I will." At least this time I actually kept my word. All that kid in 4th Grade had to do was write a 70,000-word novel. How hard could that be?

Finally, I want to emphasize that Marissa herself has seen "Memoria" and gave me permission to publish it here, which I feel like is pretty rare as far as fan fiction goes. So now it's out in the wild where anyone can enjoy it. And if anything in Book 3 from the title on down even remotely resembles an element in this story, we'll all know who deserves a cut of the royalties.

Memoria

Take your time, hurry up

Choice is yours, don't be late

- Nirvana

I cling to Maverick’s broad shoulders as we tumble down between the silvery blue streams that represent the bonds of the universe. Space and time, I remind myself. I’m looking at the essence of space and time.

It all just seems like phosphorescence. Like the green glow of plankton in the wake of a boat that I’d seen in nature documentaries. It’s the only thing that dispels the sensation of being sucked into a black hole.

But now the black hole is turning gray.

Gray reveals a single point of white in its center. That point radiates out, and now the white is burning away the blue streams. White surrounds us.

And then it’s over.

My feet are on solid ground, and Maverick is standing next to me. Despite the feeling of both falling and weightlessness that comes with every leap, I’m always amazed by how little effects there are once we’ve reached the new point.

“You can probably let go now,” Maverick says, smiling down at me.

“Right.” I release my arms from his shoulders, feeling only slight heat in my cheeks. “I was just… disoriented.”

“Uh huh.” The slight heat grows hotter. Maverick and I have both talked about how unbelievably easy these transitions are.

I look around, trying to escape the subject. “Where are we?”

We are standing on a wide catwalk. It gently slopes up to either side, and the whole room curves away into the darkness. Above us are massive brown tanks of some sort, and dim lightbulbs buzz from one railing on the catwalk. I can see other walkways crisscrossing the interior at right angles. They run atop a network of steel girders that appear to be holding the wall in place. A wall that follows the gentle curve beneath our feet and to all sides. Amid the sharp smell of all the metal surrounding us, I detect another odor. Garlic.

There’s a drone above the buzzing of the lighting. Like old plane engines running slowly. Then the room shifts, and I can see the wall ripple along the left side.

It’s not a wall. It’s a skin.

And we’re not in a room-

“We’re in a blimp,” Maverick says.

“Actually, it’s a zeppelin, Mr. Schall.”

The voice is like being doused with ice water. We both spin around to find Alice walking out of the darkness. Beside her is a man in a brown tweed suit that neither of us recognize. But the .38 Special revolver in his hands is enough of an introduction.

“What could you possibly be planning to do here, you witch?” Maverick growls.

She smiles at his epithet. “Isn’t it obvious? Check the date on those now useless phones of yours.”

She hasn’t attacked us yet, but even so, Maverick nods to me. I pull out my iPhone while he keeps his eyes centered on Alice.

True to her word, my phone shows no signal. Even so, it still displays a date.

“May 6?” I look up at her to elaborate.

Alice rolls her eyes. “And the year.”

I have to open up my Calendar app.

1937.” I take a step backward.

“Big deal,” Mavericks says, his fists clenching tighter. “We already know time travel exists. That’s how we followed you.”

“Oh, the youth give so little care to studying history where we come from, Mr. Hoover,” Alice remarks to her accomplice.

“A damn shame.” Hoover shakes his head.

May 6, 1937. Hoover. Something about this seems familiar, but I can only grasp at the strings. Like the echoes.

And I’m hearing the echoes of a voyage from the previous year, making all of this harder to sort out.

“Well, let me skip right to the reveal, then.” Alice takes a step forward. “We’re on the Hindenburg. LZ 129. Getting the picture now?”

The Hindenburg. The airship that burned from the inside out. I feel the shockwaves radiating from my spine.

“Those brown tanks above us,” I whisper to Maverick. “They’re not tanks, they’re gas cells. Filled with hydrogen.”

“The same exact gas that will burst into flames in ten minutes time.” Alice has overheard me. “A horrific tragedy that will spell the end of the dirigible era and be a true black eye to its German backers.”

“So that’s it, then?” I spit at Alice. “You lured us here so you can trap us and kill us in the disaster?”

“Oh, no, sweet Laura.” Her voice almost sounds sincere. Almost. “Believe me, I had no idea you’d even found a way to follow me here. But in any case, I have no intention of destroying this zeppelin. I’m here to save it.”

Both Maverick and I are stunned into silence, so she continues. “In now less than ten minutes, a Jewish saboteur will emerge from his hiding place in the belly of the blimp and set fire to one of the gas cells. He has been trained to time his action with when Hindenburg drops her grounding line to discharge the static shock that has been accrued from five days of air resistance along her aluminum skin. The ship will burst into flames as she comes into land, and no one will ever be able to rule out an accident.”

Alice shakes her head before continuing. “Considering the brutalities already inflicted on the Jewish people by the Nazis, I cannot blame his organization for wanting to strike back. And destroying the jewel of Germany’s zeppelin fleet is one major blow to their desired image as a nation of science and industry. Too bad this man does not understand just how volatile hydrogen is. He would be the first one to die in the tragedy.”

“So why save the blimp?” I hurl back at her. “To help the Nazis?”

“Heavens no,” Alice says, throwing her hands up. “They are monsters in their own right. But with some prodding from me, the Hindenburg will not just be an averted tragedy.” A smile creeps up the sides of her face. “It will be a nexus point.”

The irony of Alice calling someone else a monster is too much to not point out. But as I open my mouth, Maverick speaks first. “She’s creating a new timeline, Laura.”

“Precisely, Mr. Schall. You always were the smarter of you two.”

Maverick puts his hand on my shoulder before I can spit at her. “She’s just trying to knock you off balance,” he whispers.

“In this new version of events,” Alice continues, nodding to her compatriot, who still has his revolver aimed at us, “J. Edgar Hoover will stop the saboteur and save ninety-seven lives. Already the Director of the FBI, he will now be a national hero.”

“So what?”

“Patience, Laura, patience.” She smiles. “You should consider yourself lucky I’m risking our new timeline by staying here to explain this all to you.”

As she mentions this, Hoover checks his pocket watch.

“With his new acclaim and sterling past reputation as the head of the FBI, Hoover will be perfectly positioned to challenge FDR for the presidency in 1940. And given his popularity and the fact that FDR is breaking precedent by running for a third term, Hoover will win.

“Hoover will use his national mandate and stance as a law-and-order candidate to convince the American public that we cannot hide while Europe plunges into war. We must police the world – so to speak. He will start an immediate rearmament of America’s military and funnel weapons to the British. He will also secretly promise a lavish amount of money to the U.S.S.R. if they break their non-aggression pact and invade German-occupied Poland.

“Stalin will not be able to resist this offer, and his advisors already believe war with Germany is inevitable. So, he will take the deal and send the Red Army across the border. At the same time, word of this deal will leak to Germany, a clear violation of America’s thinly veiled neutrality and all the justification Hitler needs to declare war on the U.S. Japan and Italy will follow suit, plunging the world into the fire of World War 2 much earlier than planned. And much earlier than America is ready to do so.”

“I didn’t come here for a history lesson,” I shout at her.

“This isn’t history, Laura. This is a new future being written before your eyes. One where anomalies are not just safe, but the dominant force in the world order.”

“How?” I ask.

“As the underprepared Red Army butts its head against the Wehrmacht whose forces are split between France and Poland, the war in Europe will devolve into stalemate. Meanwhile, the Japanese will accelerate their plan to conquer the overseas colonies in Asia and carve a swath of destruction across the Pacific against a U.S. Navy even less prepared than the one caught at Pearl Harbor in the ‘true’ timeline.”

My mind is connecting the dots. “And then the anomalies emerge.”

“Yes! The Japanese invasion of Hawaii is repulsed when a group of elite U.S. soldiers, men and women, are released against them.” Alice opens her white lab jacket, revealing rows of syringes. “With their collective powers of mind control, teleportation, enhanced healing, and – my personal favorite – lightning, they will cut out the heart of the Japanese fleet. The Imperial Navy will fire on their own ships, ammunition will explode with no explanation, entire crews will be electrocuted on the metal decks of their ships, and command decks will be empty except for ashes, their helms locked on collision courses with other vessels.”

Hoover speaks up. “And I’ll make sure every Jane and Dick back home knows that it was these supermen,” Alive narrows her eyes at him, “and women that saved the day.”

“Meanwhile,” she continues, “a second team of anomalies is ferried across the English Channel, where they tear through the ‘Atlantic Wall’ Germany is just starting to build and charge across occupied France. Within weeks, Berlin falls, and then they turn their sights on America’s former allies, the communists. By the end of World War 2, America will be the only superpower left standing, and half the world will be under our thumb. The other half will be powerless to resist us.”

Alice crosses her arms and smiles. “Anomalies will go from heroes to protectors, more necessary than ever to maintain America’s precarious hold on its empire spread across every ocean and three separate continents. And from there, new anomalies whose powers aren’t known will infiltrate every facet of government until we are the power holders. If anyone tries to stop our rise, they will be removed. We will have created a safe haven for anomalies that spans an entire planet.”

“Wait…” Hoover turns his head. “That wasn’t part of our arrangement.”

“Oh, right, I forget myself.” Alice smiles. Her hand shoots out, grabbing Hoover’s wrist. He goes limp for a moment, and then resumes his previous stance pointing the gun at us. She has erased the last piece of her plan from his mind.

“You can’t possibly know that this will all play out as you’ve said,” I say.

Alice shrugs. “There is always the chance for slight variations, but in my previous experiments to create a self-sustaining timeline, I have seen many of these events play out.”

“What happened to those ones?” Maverick asks.

“Time is a fickle thing, Mr. Schall. Like a river, it does not respond well to artificial alterations. It may still flow, but its nature has changed. And sometimes the change is so great that the water loses momentum and stops – or piles up like a reservoir behind a dam.”

“Enough with the goddamn metaphors.”

“To summarize,” she emphasizes, clearly displeased with his abruptness, “my alterations were too great in previous attempts. The timeline would either revert back to its previous state if I tried alterations in the early history of the Earth – the greater the length of time, the larger margin of error it can tolerate. Evolution foiled me many times. Or, if I tried alterations after the emergence of humanity, the river would not flow forever. Eventually, the contrasts between what should be and what was would become too great, too unnatural. Those with the consciousness to perceive this unbalance would be driven mad by the dichotomy. Most of these attempts ended in humanity collapsing in on itself, killing the anomalies and everyone else.”

I shake my head. “You’re insane. What makes you think this time will be any different?”

“This time, I’ve done my research. This time, I have selected the perfect nexus point to change the course of the river without blocking any of it. At least, until the anomalies can take over, at which point we’ll be digging a new channel into parts unknown. Saving the Hindenburg is a subtle nudge involving only a few dozen lives and nobody of massive influence.”

She touches Hoover’s wrist again to ensure he doesn’t remember this part of the scheme, either.

“So, what’ll it be?” he asks after recovering a few seconds later. “Shoot them and get back to the plan?”

Alice shakes her head. “That would cause too many questions to be asked. Besides, there’s always the chance Mr. Schall and Ms. Jones will see reason. What we are doing will serve them just as it will serve our mutual interests.”

As usual, Alice claims to be trying to save the anomalies. But what she has planned goes far beyond saving them. She will expose us to the entire world and make us the enemies of humanity, and we either end up oppressors or hunted down. This is no future.

“All you will end up achieving is death and destruction on a mass scale.” I step forward. “You’re going to create a future where neither Maverick, you, or I am born, and then the experiment will be completely out of your hands.”

“Ah, the old time travel paradox.” Alice chuckles. “I understand this is all a bit new to you, Laura. Why were you born at all if I’ve already tried this a dozen times?”

My eyes widen. “Because you’re splitting the timelines.”

“Precisely. You can still go back to your timeline. To your home. And now you’ve ‘beaten’ me. I will no longer menace you or your friends. We will exist in parallel worlds. Plus, the ACA will never be able to find me.” She opens her hands to us in a disarming gesture. “I’d like to think I’ve given you an easy choice here. You simply leave now, and we never see each other again.”

“But… but all the lives you’ll destroy.”

“Come, now, isn’t that argument a bit theoretical? The people of this world will be no more alive or dead than Schrodinger’s cat. They will only ‘exist’ because of the split. Their true selves have already existed in your timeline.”

I feel my throat tighten. “They’re just more test subjects for you.”

“I have already created twelve different splits after humans emerge from the savannah, and they have each ended in disaster. Millions are already dead, and yet there are no aftershocks. Nothing reaching across the cosmic dimensions to affect your world. We all exist in a vacuum. We all die in a vacuum.”

“You’re playing God.”

Alice sighs. “Enough of this. You obviously won’t see reason, and time is growing short. Mr. Hoover, you are needed in the aft section. Just as we discussed.”

He nods beneath his fedora. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

“Now, then,” Alice says as he walks off. “What am I to do with the both of you? I have all the powers of your friends and more, and one of you hears the past while the other can erase memories. A power Laura showed me how to defeat, by the way. So go ahead. I can’t wait to see what you two can possibly come up with.”

She’s right. We’re at a complete disadvantage. Unless…

“Maverick,” I whisper. “Do you still have that handgun?”

“Sure,” he grunts. “But she can heal herself. We both know that.”

“It’s not her you’re going to shoot.” I nod to the gas cell above our heads.

His eyes widen. “That might kill us. Not to mention everyone else on board.”

“But it’s what history needs to happen. It’s how we can stop her before she causes the split.” I think back to the bald man. “And we’ve already had to kill. Besides, what else can we do? Alice holds all the cards, like she said.”

“Okay… okay.” He nods. “Better do this quickly, then.”

Alice raises an eyebrow as he reaches for the gun in his jacket. “Bold. I thought the moral quandaries we were discussing earlier would still apply. But I guess a little murder is fine?” Maverick cocks the gun. “Very well then, allow me to speed this little standoff along.”

The black mist extends from either side of her and lunges toward us.

“Now, Maverick,” I shout. “Before it’s too late!”

But the gun is shaking in his hand. “D-dad? What are you doing here?”

Alice is projecting an illusion of Maverick’s father in front of the gun, I realize. I reach for the gun to shoot the gas cell myself, but the blackness swallows the space between us. I extend my arm, hoping I can still grab the gun through the static. I only grasp empty air.

He might still be pointing the pistol in the right direction if I can convince him to shoot. I shout, but no noise leaves my mouth. This is different from before. She’s controlling the sound of the illusion, too. There’s nothing. Nothing but darkness and silence.

Then a flash rips through the veil. A gunshot, I realize. A gunshot at us. Sound begins to trickle back into the vacuum.

“…the hell are you doing?” Alice’s voice turns from a whisper to a screech.

“No need to get yourself all worked up, ma’am.” Hoover replies. “I’ve already dealt with the saboteur, and now I can shoot these two.”

“I had it under control, you chauvinistic-”

“But not anymore,” I shout. My voice further degrades the black static, and now I can see Alice wrestling with Hoover for the gun.

“If you keep shooting, you’ll cause exactly what we’re trying to prevent,” she growls at him.

I catch sight of Maverick’s shoulders as the blackness turns transparent. He shakes his head.

“Sorry, Laura, I let it happen again.”

“He didn’t shoot you, did he?”

“No. You?”

I pat my torso just to be sure. “All good here. Now shoot the gas cell before Alice traps us again.”

“Right.”

Hoover and Alice stop struggling as the gunshot echoes down the zeppelin’s belly. I turn, watching as a hole widens in the brown skin of the gas cell. A fraction of a second later, flames ring the opening. The scent of garlic floods around us, followed quickly by the acrid stench of burning. Both our faces are bathed in heat as the cell combusts.

No,” Alice shrieks. She places her foot against Hoover’s stomach and wrenches the revolver from his hands while he’s stunned by sight of the flames.

Above, the fire is spreading to the other gas cells, and the temperature is rising in the hold. But Alice takes a moment to compose herself, unbothered by the disaster unfolding.

“All you’ve done is set me back, you know,” she says to Maverick and me. “I’ll just find another jump point and run this scenario again. The only real tragedy is I’ll have to repeat all the steps to convince this pig of a man to go along with my plan. But at least now I can let off a little steam without consequence.”

She turns and points the revolver at the side of Hoover’s head.

Before I can think, my hands rise. I channel all my focus onto the single point at the tip of the revolver and feel the vibrations traveling up my arms.

Alice pulls the trigger. The gunpowder ignites, but the bullet only slides out of the barrel and tumbles to the ground. Her and Hoover both stare down at the ground, dumbfounded.

But Maverick has already pieced it together. “Why?” he asks me.

“We need him alive to keep this timeline intact,” I speak even as I’m shifting my focus from the gun.

Alice’s head twitches, and then the revolver clatters on the catwalk as she raises both hands toward her head. To her ears. But nothing can block the sonic waves I’m projecting. She collapses to her knees, screaming as blood dribbles between her fingers.

Hoover lunges for the gun, and Maverick runs forward at the same time, tackling him. Sweat is streaming down my neck, partially from my concentration. But it’s more from the heat with every thudding heartbeat. Supercharged air is ripping holes in the outer skin of the zeppelin to my left. But I can’t let up. My echoes are the only thing keeping Alice down.

Then the airship lurches as more gas combusts. We’re losing lift.

Hoover and Maverick are rolling on the catwalk. I see Hoover gain the upper hand and break my vice to aim a burst of sound. I concentrate all my energy into one fingertip and aim for one point on the back of his head. Hoover’s black hair part, and then he slumps on top of Maverick.

Released, Alice grabs the catwalk railing to try and raise herself, but her arms are shaking too much.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Maverick says.

Somehow, he’s found handcuffs, and now he’s cuffed her wrist to the railing.

“Where?” I ask as I scramble toward him. I might have said more, but the air in the room is thin and sooty. The fire is using up the oxygen, I realize.

Maverick nods to the unconscious Hoover. “In his jacket.”

“How?” Alice gasps, looking up at me.

The airship is now starting to tilt the other direction, but I can’t resist a moment of satisfaction.

“The echoes aren’t omniscience, they’re soundwaves preserved in another spectrum. Turns out my ability is being able to interact with them. To hear them and to direct them.”

“That’s impossible,” Alice says, shaking her head against the ringing in her ears. “I made you hear the future.

“Apparently these soundwaves can travel across time.” I shrug. “Too bad you’ll never get to study this, huh?” I turn to Maverick. “Let’s go.”

His eyes widen slightly, but I shake my head. There’s no time. The tilt of the airship is increasing with each second.

“I can heal, you know,” Alice spits.

“But can you heal from ashes?” I smirk at her. “I doubt it.”

Amid the heat and disorientation as the zeppelin tilts further toward the stern, I notice a new sensation. A swirling in my stomach. We’re dropping.

“We’re out of time,” I say to Maverick. “Grab Hoover and let’s find a way out of here.”

He nods. “Alice said there was a grounding line. That means there’s a way off.”

“Right.”

As soon as I speak, the catwalk lurches. We all fall forward and start to slide down the metal walkway. Except Alice as her wrist catches against the handcuff.

“You can’t do this,” she screeches after us. “I’m the only hope the anomalies have.”

But it’s too late to release her even if we wanted to. The angle of the airship is increasing as Hindenburg’s hydrogen burns away. I remembered the pictures in the textbooks of the flames broiling from the back of the zeppelin first. Right where we’re sliding toward, I realize with a gasp. There’s an orange glow in front of us. Like an oven.

Then another sound. The sound of metal screeching.

Ahead, the catwalk levels out. It’s hit the ground. But as it settles, the burning frame above it teeters.

I scramble to my feet, searching for a way out. There’s nothing, except-

“Maverick” I shout, coughing on smoke.

He looks to where I’m pointing and nods.

Together, we hoist Hoover over the railing and drop him between the girders. Then I step on the railing and leap.

The air rushes past my ears, and then I smack into the grass of the field. Maverick drops through the hole in the aluminum and thuds into the ground next to me. We crawl from beneath the exterior skin of the zeppelin until we can crouch.

Above us, the sound of creaking metal reminds us the burning top of Hindenburg could collapse on us at any second. But we can’t run yet. Maverick and I both grab an arm of the limp Hoover and sprint away from the airship. It’s easier now that the air isn’t full of soot, but dragging a full-grown man makes my legs burn.

When we can run no further, Maverick and I drop Hoover’s arms. We turn, watching as the last of Hindenburg’s skin burns away, leaving only a smoldering frame of red-hot metal folding in on itself.

“We… we did the right thing, didn’t we?” Maverick asks next to me.

“History already decided Hindenburg would crash.” I shake my head. “We did what we had to do.” I shrug as I turn back toward Hoover. “And who knows. Maybe more people survived this time. There were survivors in the original disaster, you know.”

I point to Hoover. “Now, erase his memories of Alice and all of this so we can get out of here before someone sees us.”

Maverick nods, kneeling down to touch Hoover’s wrist. After what feels like an eternity, he stands back up, smiling.

“You know, he’s going to wonder how he ended up unconscious in a field next to a burned zeppelin.”

“He’s the Director of the FBI. He’ll think of something.”

We take one more look at the smoke swirling over the wreckage before I pull out the time onyx. “Too bad, I should have thought to grab Alice’s before we left.”

Maverick shoots me a look.

“To keep anyone else from finding it,” I say, throwing up my hands at his unspoken accusation. “God knows I’ve had enough with time travel.”

Maverick eyes darken. “Let’s just hope it burned up with the rest of her.” He rolls his shoulders. “Now, I don’t know about you, but I could use a shower.”

I smile, putting my ash-covered arms around his waist. “Count me in.”

~~~

Master Crewman Samuel Decker holds his hand out against the heat of the burned metal in front of him. Even twenty feet away, he can feel it singeing his eyebrows. He moves a piece of aluminum skin that somehow didn’t burn from on top of the figure. He had spotted a possible survivor and ran closer to the remains of the Hindenburg against the pleas of the groundcrew.

“Jesus Christ,” he breathes. The body is completely scorched. Another fatality to add to the growing list.

Then the blackened hand grabs his ankle.

Jesus H. Christ,” he yelps, scrambling backward.

“Save me…” the burned lips gasp. “There’s still time…”

Samuel cradles the survivor in his arms, flinching as charred skin flakes off onto his shirt. Her lips move again. Samuel is too busy running toward the triage area on the airfield to notice or listen.

“There’s always time.”

Sci Fi

About the author

Stephen A. Roddewig

Award-winning storyteller from Virginia (USA). My work has been featured in Abyss & Apex, ArtAscent, and Bourgeon, as well as the A to Z of Horror: N is for Nautical anthology. When not writing, I enjoy collecting records and running races.

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