Muir Woods, Mill Valley, CA, 1908
Phineas leaned back against one of the giant redwood trees, watched the small patches of blue sky peeking out from between the treetops, and waited for Jeff to come back from a walk. They had set up the campsite in silence and as soon as it was done, Jeff had disappeared into the woods. Bogg could tell his mind was elsewhere and wanted to give the boy some time and space to think, but he was worried. He had never seen Jeffrey like this and didn't know what to do. I should have offered him a break at headquarters, he thought. Something less permanent than leaving. Susan would be happy to have him visit for a while. At the same time he knew time off would only postpone Jeff's decision; it wouldn't eliminate the need to decide. He sighed, stood up, and started gathering sticks for a fire.
About an hour later, the fire now blazing, Jeff returned with bark stuck in his curls and a haunted look in his eyes. It hurt Phineas to see Jeff in this much pain. "Kid, can we talk for a minute?" he asked quietly. Jeff nodded but didn't speak. "I just want you to know you're not the only one who's... who's ever considered leaving before. Not everyone can do this job. It takes a special person." He looked at the boy who had come to mean so much to him over the past few years. "I want you to know, I'll support whatever decision you make, but I also want you to know you can talk to me. You don't have to go through this alone."
"You never wanted to quit," Jeffrey said. The tone coming from the teen's mouth was accusatory. "You always seem just fine with whatever it is we have do, have to face..."
"Actually, I did," Phineas said, cutting across Jeff's words. "I'm surprised you don't remember. You were there. You stopped me."
Jeff's eyes widened, then grew unfocused as he searched his memory. "Mabel," he whispered. "You were serious about that?" Phineas nodded. "I thought... I know I told you not to, that it would mess up history, but I guess I didn't think you really meant it."
"You were twelve. I don't think you really understood." Bogg could vividly remember how lost he had felt after leaving Mabel, making believe he was toying with her affections, that he was just like the other men who had hurt her. "You couldn't see how reluctant I was to go back to Boston and watch Bell get the telephone to work. I had to sit in a room for six hours with the man who was engaged to marry the woman I loved." He grimaced. "I could've spilled that acid on him myself, but I didn't. I knew you'd be disappointed in me." Jeff stared at him. "You told me, 'We've got the most important job in history.' It hurt, but it finally got through."
"You remember what I said?" Jeff sounded as if he couldn't believe it.
"It made an impact," Bogg replied. "I just want you to know I understand a little of what you're going through right now." He looked at Jeff with compassion in his blue eyes.
Jeff lowered his gaze to the ground. "Thanks." Phineas heard him sigh. "I think I'm going to walk around a little more." He nodded, watched Jeff walk away, and sat back down under the tree.
When evening fell, Jeff returned to the camp site for the night after having spent the day wandering. He never went too far from camp and checked in at regular intervals but never stayed too long. Each time he returned, Phineas could feel Jeff watching him, thinking and considering. The next day was a repeat of the first. Phineas did some maintenance work on the omni, then started on minor repairs to his boots and clothes. He took a few short walks but made sure he was never far from camp in case Jeffrey needed him.
On their second night, Jeff joined him at the fire and sat down. "What made you choose here?" he asked Bogg quietly.
"I was with John Muir when he convinced William Kent to donate the land for the park," Phineas answered. "I've always found it a good place to come when I need to think." Jeff nodded his agreement. Phineas waited, hoping Jeff would continue talking. After a few minutes in silence, Jeff asked, "Did you want to come here then?" Phineas didn't have to ask when he meant.
"Yeah, but I couldn't. I was responsible for you." He picked up a stick and started poking at the fire. "I didn't think you'd understand why I didn't want to see Bell again. Then we had to make sure the Eisenhowers were all right, and after that I found I didn't need to. Seeing the baby's birth was enough to put me back on track."
"Bogg, I..." Jeffrey shifted uncomfortably from side to side. "You don't have to answer this if you don't want, but do you still miss her?"
Phineas closed his eyes. Behind them he could see Mabel in his mind, her long hair and beautiful smile, her shaking shoulders when she turned her back on him the last time. He could hear her laugh and her voice as she told him she couldn't fall in love with Bell because she already loved him. "Yes," he said, opening his eyes and staring into the fire. "Part of me always will." He shifted his gaze to Jeffrey. "Is that why this was so hard for you?" he asked as gently as he could. "Did you fall in love with Rebecca?"
Jeff shook his head. "Not like that," he answered. "She was the first person around my age we've encountered in a while, the first one I had time to get close to." Jeffrey picked up a small rock and rolled it around in his right hand. "We travel around so much, we never get to know anyone that well."
"And because we were sick, there was time," Bogg finished. "Then we had to leave her, and when we got back everything was different. She had changed." He saw Jeff press his lips tightly together, as if he were trying to hold something in. "Then in Columbus, you found out she had lived a whole life you didn't know about and didn't include you."
Jeff dropped the rock. "Why did it have to be us?," he asked, his voice subdued. "Someone else could have made sure that medal wasn't stolen."
"Honest answer? I don't know," Bogg said. "If I had to guess, I'd say we were sent because the name Henry Heller would mean something to us. It would explain why the omni didn't turn green until after the ceremony." He chose his words carefully. "I think someone was giving us a gift, letting us know what Rebecca accomplished in her life."
"A gift?" Jeff's voice had an angry edge to it that Bogg recognized as grief. "What was the point of us saving her in 1970 if she was just going to die anyway? And worse, die in a time where she didn't belong?"
Bogg poked at the fire again, hoping a delay in answering would give Jeff time to calm down. "Jeff, everybody dies. We went to Isaac's funeral, what, a year ago?" He pushed two of the burning logs closer together. "You weren't this upset then."
"Of course not!" Jeff was shouting now. "I wasn't personally responsible for Isaac's death!"
"Jeffrey, no," Bogg remonstrated. "You heard what she said. 'I would have died in that fire.' We saved her. We got her out. We..." His voice died away as a sudden thought rushed through his mind.
"We what?" Jeff growled.
Bogg's voice dropped almost to a whisper. "We plucked her. She was going to die, and we plucked her." Jeff had to lean forward to catch what Phineas was saying. "We took her from her time and brought her into the past." Phineas looked up at Jeff. "Just like I plucked you from 1982. Just like I was plucked from my ship in that storm." In the firelight, Phineas watched puzzlement replace the anger in Jeff's face.
"You mean we were supposed to be there?" Jeff asked. "Are you saying Rebecca was supposed to be a Voyager?"
"No," Bogg said. "We would have ended up at headquarters in that case. She was the right age to enter the academy. As far as I know, you're the only Voyager-elect who didn't get sent right to HQ." He stopped to think for a moment. "I think we were sent to her. I think she was meant to be in Clarion and have a son who would impact history."
"That's insane," Jeff retorted. "We were supposed to create a time paradox so some guy could be born to fight in a Civil War battle the Union didn't even win?" Jeff stood up. "How can you even possibly believe that she was supposed to be there?"
Bogg could see the boy was almost in tears and tried to frame his answer so as not to upset Jeffrey further. "Because the alternative is that there isn't a reason for what we do. If things aren't meant to happen, then we aren't needed to make sure they do." Bogg brought his hand up to his face and rubbed his chin. "I've been doing this job a long time, and I've never been sent somewhere I haven't needed to be. Boston, Sydney, Africa, a certain apartment in New York City. I have to believe there's a purpose in what we do. Otherwise, I couldn't do it."
Jeffrey didn't look convinced. "But what is the purpose, Bogg? Right now, I'm having a real hard time finding one."
"Everyone needs to find their own, kid. For me, it's helping people." Phineas let out a long breath. "Look, Jeff, what would be worse? Getting to know Rebecca then leaving her to die in a fire and never knowing what happened to her? Or finding out she died after having lived out her life in a different time line?" Jeff sat back down slowly as if stunned. "Being taken from 1970 might have made Rebecca's life hard, but we helped her have a life – a husband who loved her and a son who made a difference. We can feel sad we weren't part of that life, but the important thing is we know we helped. Both history and her." Phineas stood up and looked over to where Jeff was sitting. "It's been a long day. I'm going to turn in." Jeff just stared into the fire. "Are you all right?"
Jeffrey shrugged. "I'm going to sit here for a bit," he said.
"Just stay close," Phineas said. "I'd rather you didn't go wandering around at night." Jeff nodded but didn't lift his eyes from the fire.
When Phineas awoke the next morning, he found Jeffrey in the same spot by the now-dying fire. "Kid, were you there all night?" he asked.
Jeff looked exhausted. "I was thinking about what you said," he replied. "About Mabel. About Rebecca. About helping people."
"And?" Phineas crossed the camp site and sat next to the teenager.
"And it's hard," came Jeff's response. "It's hard not to think about what I want and what I feel. Bogg, for a few days I had a normal life. I made a friend; I wasn't being shot at or having to rescue someone. It was kind of nice." He rubbed his eyes. "Up until now just about everything we've done has been sort of easy because I knew what was supposed to happen."
"Except the Titanic," said Bogg. "I seem to recall that not being easy for you."
Jeff looked up and gave him a wan smile. "Yeah. Except the Titanic." He swallowed and moved his gaze back to the fire. "This time, once we got out of Denver, I didn't know what was supposed to happen. There was no 'thing' that needed to be fixed, nothing that seemed like an emergency. I got to just be a teenager." Jeffrey sighed. "I liked it."
Phineas took a deep breath. "Okay, so I guess we'll need to find somewhere with other kids your age."
"What?" Jeff started, turning his head to look at Phineas. "What do mean find somewhere?"
"Kid, you don't have be gentle with me," Phineas replied. "You've obviously made your decision. If this is what you need, then I'll find the best place for you to be until it's time for the academy."
"Wait, no. Bogg, that's not what I meant," Jeff spluttered, his face turning red. "I don't want... I mean I don't need..."
"Just listen to me!" Jeff shouted. "I don't want you to leave me somewhere!"
"You want to quit?" Phineas could hear how cold his voice sounded as he asked Jeff the question. The temperature matched the coldness stealing through his heart.
"What is it with you trying to get rid of me?" Jeff shouted again. "You try to leave me in Pittsburgh. You and Olivia go down on the Titanic. You disappear from Maui. Am I that terrible to have around?"
It took Bogg a few seconds to realize what Jeff was telling him. "But you... you said... After the last few days, I thought..." He stopped, feeling completely overwhelmed by the relief flowing though him. "Jeff, are you sure?"
"I'm sure," Jeff replied, giving Bogg the first real smile he had seen on Jeffrey's face since landing in Lawrence. "I liked being just a teenager. I won't lie to you, I considered both choices. Hard. There was only one problem with both of them." Jeff put a hand on Bogg's arm. "Neither one involved you." Jeff's voice was rough with emotion. "I figure there aren't a lot of people who would put up with what I've put you through the last few days, and I should probably stick with the one who does."
Bogg reached out and pulled Jeff into a hug. "You had me scared there, kid," he finally said.
"I had myself scared, too," Jeff responded, stepping back. "Now, I just need some sleep." He yawned and rubbed his eyes.
"You do look pretty awful," Phineas teased him.
"I look awful?" Jeff laughed. "You should have seen the look on your face when I..." An enormous yawn overtook him, stopping him from finishing the sentence. Phineas guided him to some blankets and helped him lay down. Just as Jeff's eyes were closing he turned to his friend. "Hey, Bogg, when I get up, can we go back to Hawaii? I want to..." His voice trailed off as sleep overtook him. Phineas covered him with a blanket and sat down to wait.
Chapter 1: Katherine Anne Porter was a survivor of the Spanish Flu. While it's easy to find out the names of victims of the flu, it's much more difficult to find out who had it and survived. Many sources of information list anyone notable who lived through the time period as a survivor without actually indicating if the person got sick.
Chapter 2: Most rabbis will perform funeral services for anyone, even those who are not members of their congregation. It is considered a mitzvah. Rebecca's rabbi was a bit more cranky than most. Also, there aren't actually any Jewish cemetaries in Lawrence, MA. Shiva is where the immediate family of the deceased have calling hours at home. Other relatives and friends of the family stop in, generally bringing food, and a short prayer service is said.
Chapter 3: Thanks to everyone who pointed out that Tylenol wasn't commonly in use in homes in 1970.
Chapter 4: Lawrence did in fact have a serious arson problem for many years. For the purposes of this story the worst of it was moved from the middle to late 1970s to a few years earlier. When I was growing up in the area, it was an uncommon day when we didn't hear sirens heading towards Essex Street. All Jewish holidays run from sundown to sundown, so Shabbat starts on Friday night and ends on Saturday night.
Chapter 5: Clarion, PA wasn't actually incorporated as a town until 1841, although there were settlers in the area, so it isn't unreasonable to assume the name was in use before that time. Bogg's collecting firewood is significant as religious Jews don't do any work on the Sabbath, so if the firewood was getting low, Frau Heller wouldn't have been able to gather more until after sundown on Saturday. Working to save a life, however, is allowed.
Chapter 7: The information about Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt is true. He was in fact booked on the Titanic, and there were eyewitness accounts to his actions on the Lusitania. The details can be viewed online at The Lusitania Resource (enter Alfred Vanderbilt in the search box).
Chapter 8: In traditional Jewish wedding ceremonies, the woman's ring is placed on the index finger of her right hand.
Chapter 9: While Henry Heller is a real medal of honor recipient, his siblings were made up for the story. Rebecca would have had to do some fast talking to get one of her son's named after Jeffrey as Ashkenazi Jews do not name children after people who are still alive. The citation for Henry Heller's medal of honor can be found online at The Jewish Virtual Library (click search and enter Henry Heller).
Thanks to everyone who read my story. Special thanks to those who wrote reviews. I'm already plotting out the next one.