"What's going on?" Eliza asked Kair and Kare the moment they arrived today for school.
The twins had not even had a chance to think an unusual thought, so I was not sure what she was going on about. Sure the twins did not look the same as when they had left us Friday afternoon, but they never came back right away in their timeline, so I was not sure why my sister would find it so odd that they had aged a little. And Eliza had been on her best behavior lately, because her grounding was almost up and she did not want to get in trouble again; what could make her over react like this?
"Nothing," the twins lied in unison. They were trying to hide their thoughts from me and my dad, but they let some facts slip through.
It had been years for both of them since they were last here, even though it was only three days ago for us. They had promised their dad that they would attention school regularly and they had been keeping that promise up until now. Of course their definition of "regularly" was different than the definition the rest of us held, but they had been here for every single day of school since that very first day.
Their first day of school was the only one that the rest of us would call regular, because it was the only day in which Kair and Kare had stayed for the entire day in one session. On their second day of school and every day thereafter, they arrived at the vans on time and attended their first three classes, but left during snack. There was always another set of twins waiting in the wings for them to leave so that they could replace themselves, meaning that for us in this timeline, their presence seemed seamless.
But snack was not the only seam in the school day of the youngest two Whitlock children, because they also left after lunch. They would go from snack to their fourth and fifth period classes, before staying throughout the lunch hour, but as soon as the end of lunch bell rang, they were gone again. A third set of themselves would replace the second set in order to finish out the day and make it back home with the rest of us, before they would return to their own time period.
Kair and Kare had explained that they were only permitted to be with us for about three hours each day, which was why they left and came back every three hours: their time was up and they had to go home. They had their own lives to live and this was just a hobby for them, which their parents allowed them to indulge in as long as they were home on time every day. So in order to fill one entire school day, they would use three days' worth of spare time.
That means that three days pass for Kare and Kair for every one day that passes for us. True, they tended to cluster their visits in a row, so that from the start of our week to the end, less than a month would pass for them, but there were long gaps in between the months of attendance. On average they tended to let about a year pass before they would spend another month with us and finish another week of school.
With the slow rate of growth of vampire children compared to human children, these gaps in time actually meant that the twins appeared to be aging at a more human pace than the rest of us. The rest of us still looked exactly the same as the day school started, without so much as a millimeter of new hair growth, much less any maturation in bone or facial structure. And so Uncle Jasper let their attendance slide, even though the twins were not keeping exactly to the bargain he had proposed.
It would be normal if a year or maybe even two had passed between when Kair and Kare left on Friday and when they came back this morning, but it was obvious from their thoughts that a much longer period of time had passed. I did not know exactly how long they had been gone, but I could tell that they no longer recognized us immediately at our younger ages. They were used to us being over a thousand years older than them and grown adults, not their equals.
Kare and Kair were trying to concentrate on what they had been up to in school the last time they were here. They had projects due in English class, which they had finished and left in their rooms upstairs in the Whitlock house. They had never lived there before, but they both had rooms and they would leave some of their things there, so that they would not have to carry them back and forth through time.
Backpacks and homework were always left over the weekend, because they did not want them aging, getting lost, or being damaged during the extended periods of time that they were gone. They always came a little early on Monday mornings so that they would have time to get their things before meeting us down at the vans. And if they had weekend homework or a project due the following week, they would make an extra trip back Friday afternoon after school to do it. Last Friday the project had been rather long and so they had had to come back twice after school and had stayed later in the day than they ever had before.
Was that why they had taken so long to come back? They had to work extra hard last week and wanted a break? Maybe they were sick of school entirely and had decided to quit, only they never got around to telling their parents? Were they coming back now to set matters right and announce their departure? No, that could not be right, because they wanted to get to their bags and get to school. There was an urgency about getting to school that had never been there before.
"What about a war? Who dies this time?" Eliza asked immediately. She would often ask her questions out loud so that the person she was reading would self-navigate to the memory she wanted to see; it was a technique that she had learned to help her sort through lifetime memories more quickly. Cooperation made it easier, but she did not need her subject to cooperate, and it seemed she was not going to get it today, because both twins were fighting her.
"No one dies," Kare said. In her mind, she knew that this was the truth, although there was some fear that death could be coming in the future, which was why Alice and Jasper were sending their girls to the past.
"It's not a war; there's not even a battle. It's just a standoff, like the Cold War with the humans," Kair said, looking at her father and pleading with him to understand the history reference he had told her in the future.
Uncle Jasper always saw us from the house to the vans in the morning and waited there with Ashley until we left; now he was slowly walking towards his youngest two children and putting himself between them and Eliza. He was planning on protecting them if Eliza made a single move closer to his babies and he did not care what the girls knew and were not telling us, just as long as they were safe right now.
Kair let her mind wander to the events of the standoff that had occurred so far and I decided to transfer them into her father's head, so that he could know what was going on too. Her thoughts showed nothing more than a bunch of posturing over land and vague threats to the other sides. This was a three sided standoff between vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters, because with the vampires becoming more organized and subsequently more powerful, the other two types of mythological creatures on the planet felt threatened.
"What's going on here? If the kids are going to school today, we need to get going already," Uncle Emmett interrupted.
"Kare and Kair aren't going," Uncle Jasper proclaimed looking his daughters in the eye and thinking that he was going to get some answers from them before they went to school.
"We'll all just stay home sick," Scryan announced. He had not brought his backpack, because he had not seen himself going to school today, although he still was not sure why or what was going on. He had not even known it would have to do with Kair and Kare until just now.
"They can't all stay home sick; that's too many kids to all come down sick on the same day. The Whitlock kids can be sick, but the rest have to go," my dad announced.
"No, I want answers. There's more to this than they're saying and without me around, you won't know what that is," Eliza insisted.
'I've been living with the Whitlocks, so I get to stay too,' I projected to my dad.
"Masen can't stay if I'm staying and I have to stay," Eliza protested.
'When we were going over human health you said that human sickness is contagious, so that it appears in pockets and often the whole family will be sick at the same time. If all of the Whitlock kids are sick, then I would be too, so I have to stay. Eliza on the other hand, can go to school,' I projected to Dad.
'Enough you two! You can both stay home, just as long as neither of you gets within fifty feet of the other,' Dad thought to us.
Eliza and I were standing only ten feet away from each other, so I scooted back another ten feet and she jumped back and up into a tree, adding another twenty feet to the distance between us. "There, I moved, but he didn't move his share," Eliza complained.
'I'm not the one who hit me in the middle of human school,' I projected to my dad. 'Make her go back the last ten feet.'
"That's not fair, because I already went back twice as much as him," Eliza argued.
'It's not fair that she beats me up and makes fun of me when I talk,' I retorted, again through my dad.
'If you two keep this up you're both going to school,' Dad thought. He was also thinking that we were both right and that we both needed to move back another ten feet. He was serious, about sending us to school, so I scooted back another ten feet.
"Fine," Eliza grumbled and jumped to another tree that was nine feet further back. There was not a tree that was exactly ten feet, so I let the one foot slide.
"Thank you. Eliza and Masen will be staying home as well. Emmett, go ahead and take Aiden, Adriel, Lily, and Violet to school," Dad told his brother.
"Fine, but you better tell me what's going on when I get back," Uncle Emmett replied, waving his four kids into his van, grumbling internally all the while. He had work he had to do today, so he would not be able to come back until after he picked the kids up. And since my dad was staying here with us, Uncle Emmett would probably have to picked up the slack and do my dad's work too, which he was not happy about.
Everyone waited silently while the Hale and Cullen kids climbed into the van thinking about how unfair it was that everyone else got to stay home and they had to go to school. But as soon as the van was out of hearing range, Uncle Jasper spoke up. "Let's go back to my place and discuss this calmly," he said, making a rational approach seem like a really good idea.
My dad nodded and the two adults led us back to the Whitlock house. Uncle Jasper motioned for his six kids to take their seats on the couches and I went to join them, because I of course had a spot too, but my dad stopped me with his thoughts. 'Masen, you're in the dining room. Eliza, you're on the stairs. I still want you two separated.'
The dining room was on one side of the large living room and the stairs were on the other, so once we were in position, Eliza and I were as far apart as it was physically possible to get in this house and still be part of the conversation occurring in the living room. Well Eliza could have gone up another two steps, but I did not say anything, because my dad's patience was already wearing thin.
"Now, what's going on?" Uncle Jasper asked Kair and Kare, making them want to tell him the truth.
"It's nothing really," Kair started.
"You and Mom are just over reacting," Kare continued.
"What are we over reacting to?" Uncle Jasper asked when that was all his girls said out loud. The thoughts of both girls had flashed back to the posturing between the werewolves, vampires, and shifters, but Uncle Jasper was not a mind-reader and all three of the mind-readers present kept their mouths shut and just listened. We were on the periphery of this conversation and if any of us interfered, Uncle Jasper would kick us out, because these were his children and he was in charge.
"Both the shifters and the werewolves are mad that vampires are becoming more powerful and organized and we're taking up too much land with all of the eggs we've been having," Kare said.
"They don't like the vampire population explosion, but the werewolf and shifter populations have also exploded, so the three species are starting to come into conflict, because of overcrowding," Kair added.
Kair was thinking about how the hybrids, including my sister, had caused the shifter population explosion, while the removal of the Volturi caused the werewolf population explosion. The Volturi had been actively hunting the werewolves down and keeping their population small, but Grandpa Carlisle and Aiden refused to do the same, because the werewolves were people too. Her Scryan even had a werewolf friend, having finally met the woman who had helped defeat Caius during the Cullen Volturi war.
"Has anyone died on any side?" Uncle Jasper asked, thinking that this was a way to judge how critical the potential threat was. Both girls shook their heads and Uncle Jasper let out a relieved sigh.
"That's not entirely true. They've met themselves from the future and their future selves said that a vampire dies right before Aiden figures out the solution," Eliza said from the stairs.
Uncle Jasper looked at his girls and silently urged them to tell the truth, having changed his mind about interference from the mind-readers. There was a fine line between being helpful and being annoying and we were now back on the helpful side of the line.
"Well that's what we told ourselves, but we don't know who it was," Kair replied.
"And we do know that it's not anyone in the family or the extended family. It was some nomad off in China or something. She should've never gotten so close to werewolf country anyway," Kare added.
"Alright, so no one has died in your time and your future selves say that only one nomad dies before it's over and peace returns?" Uncle Jasper asked.
Both girls nodded, but Eliza had a question. "Why is it that you've never met your adult selves? You always come to us as preteens, this is the oldest you've been yet, and you're only slightly older when you told yourselves the news of the war. Do you two even survive to adulthood?" she asked.
"Well, do you?" Uncle Jasper asked. He was very emotionally invested in the answer to this question and I could tell that for him, everything hinged on this one answer.
"We think so," Kare answered.
"Our older selves told us that we do," Kair added.
"But your older selves had never seen the two of you as adults either," Eliza replied.
"No, not that we know of," both girls admitted simultaneously.
"So it's possible that you both die right after you come and tell yourselves that everything will be alright and that Aiden has found a solution?" Eliza asked.
"No, Scryan would've seen that," Kair answered.
"The other us told us that Scryan saw it all working out and that no one in the family dies," Kare added.
"They also said that they wouldn't be coming back to see you anymore. They said that this part of the past was going to be off limits to them after the solution, which was why your adult selves didn't come to us on the island to tell us the solution to the war with the Volturi. Now that sounds to me like two time-travelers trying to make their past selves feel better about a gaping hole in your traveling. They've also warned you not to go into the future beyond a certain date, because it's not safe then. I think you die, know you're going to die, and visit yourselves one last time so that you don't feel bad while we all await our slaughter," Eliza concluded.
"No, no one dies," Kare insisted.
"We would've told ourselves if they did. We would've found a way to bring everyone safely to the past, before we would let everyone die," Kair added.
"That's not possible. You can only transport each other," Eliza retorted.
"Well we would've at least saved ourselves by hiding in the past!" Kair exclaimed.
"And we would've told ourselves that we had to do it too," Kare added more calmly, but certain of her statement.
"Isn't that what you're doing now? You're hiding in the past so that you don't get hurt?" Eliza asked.
"Yes, but this is only temporary because Mom and Dad are over reacting," Kair replied.
Uncle Jasper had been listening to this all attentively, but now he put a hand up to silence both sides and asked, "Kair, Kare, do your mom and I only over react for your own safety, or are we hiding all of our children?"
"Just us. The others are adults," Kare answered.
"Even if they're adults, they're still my children and I would hide them too," Uncle Jasper relied.
"They're all really strong and can take care of themselves, so they don't need to be hid," Kare said.
"You over react with us because we're still children. We're weaker and not fully mature and you think that if we did happen to run into a werewolf or a shifter that we would go down as fast as Rosita and Carl. We're strong fighters and we try to tell you that we wouldn't fall that easily, but you freak and tell us to go and not to come back until the date that our older selves said to come back on," Kair said.
"You trust the others to be able to defend themselves if they happen across a stray wolf, but you don't trust us," Kare added.
"Why can't you go straight from when I sent you away, to the future when it's safe again?" Uncle Jasper asked.
"Because then we'd never be in our correct time again and that's uncomfortable," Kair answered.
"We need to be some time else until the correct number of days pass between when you send us away and when we come back. We could spend those days anywhen, but you told us to spend them with you here and now," Kare said.
"Yeah, you want to give your younger self some preparation for dealing with us and our time traveling before you're thrown into raising two time traveling babies," Kair added.
Uncle Jasper thought that this made sense, so he moved onto his next question. "And have you tried going to that date and seeing what happens?"
"No, we don't want to block ourselves out of the date by being there too early," Kare answered.
"Explain?" Uncle Jasper requested.
"Our wormholes have limits to them," Kair started.
"There are only so many wormholes that can physically dock at one spot in space-time at a time," Kare continued.
"We can't go to any one point in time and space more than twice," Kair clarified.
"So if we go now just to check out of curiosity, and we go when we have to be there, then it's full and if something bad happens, then we can't go in the future to fix it," Kare said.
"Dad, you told us not to go to important times and places just for fun or we'll block ourselves out. You yourself had a negative experience with this when you wanted us to help you with something, but we were completely blocked out by our baby-selves already having been there twice," Kair said.
"You also told us not to give away too much information when we time travel, because people aren't always ready for what will come," Kare added.
"That does sound like something I might say," Uncle Jasper said.
Everyone was silent for several minutes while we thought about what had just been said, but it was Eliza who finally broke the silence. "That doesn't seem like good enough proof to me."
"Eliza, you have to put your sentences into context for the rest of us. Not even Masen and I can follow it when you respond to memories not currently being thought about," my dad said. He was speaking out loud for the benefit of Uncle Jasper and the rest of the Whitlock clan.
"Kair and Kare believe their older selves because of proof that they've been offered up. They asked for information on the next death in the family and their older selves knew that they would ask this and had the answer already prepared. They said they had not seen it themselves, but had been visited by an older version of themselves who had been visited by a still older version of themselves, who had been to the future and seen it firsthand. In fact, they say that they visit the scene prematurely twice and block it out, so they can't go back and fix it," Eliza replied. "I don't buy it as sufficient proof, because they could've just made it up in the future and told it to themselves."
"Well, who dies next and when?" Uncle Jasper asked.
"Uncle Edward and Aunt Bella," Kair answered.
"But not for more than a hundred thousand years," Kare added.
Both twins were thinking about the scenario that they had told themselves. My parents will be somewhere very far from here at a date too far in the future for the twins to presently reach. My parents are alone, just the two of them, running through a forest and they get ambushed by a rogue coven hoping to usurp power from the DRV. My parents are killed, partly because they are so old that they cannot defend themselves, and Kair and Kare for whatever reason cannot intervene. The DRV quickly destroys the rogue coven in retaliation, but it is too late and my parents are gone.
"Well, it's not exactly old age, but that is pretty close. I never imagined having over a hundred thousand years more to go…" my dad said. He did not like the idea of Mom dying, but it was so far in advance that he was also comforted by this knowledge. He had always worried that something could happen at any moment to change the future and his lifetime with Mom, but being guaranteed a hundred thousand years of life was right up there with his best case scenarios.
"Vampires turn to dust by two hundred thousand years," Allison offered.
"That's at the latest. No vampire has ever actually made it that long and the petrification process has occurred much sooner in sedentary vampires. I've never even found one who had made it to a full hundred thousand years," Jackson added.
"I think I can live with it. It's not literally forever, but for all intents and purposes, it is," Dad replied.
"And they're the first to go, meaning the rest of us live even longer?" Uncle Jasper asked.
"Yes. We don't know the circumstances of any of the other deaths yet, except Vladimir," Kare replied.
"We let it slip to ourselves that Vladimir will be the first vampire ever to die of old age," Kair said.
"Can you imagine Vladimir, with his history, being the first to die a peaceful death?" Kare asked laughing at the irony. Kair joined in. They both liked Vladimir, but it was his war stories that they liked best about him and those stories did not mesh well with his eventual fate.
"Being a father really changed him," Kair said when she stopped laughing.
This last bit of information was news to us, because as far as we were aware, Vladimir's mate had died thousands of years ago and he had never found another. He was one of the few vampires in our extended coven not implanting eggs, because he had no eggs to implant, since he no longer had a mate. But in Kair and Kare's thoughts, he had a new mate.
"I guess it's not hopeless after all," Dad said. "But still, I would never wish the loss of a mate on anyone."
"I told you that before," Allison said. "When I was a baby I told you that it just takes a few thousand years to get over your mate before you can find a new one. Vladimir just needed a little longer than most."
"Okay, so are we all satisfied regarding this future tiff that will eventually be settled? Can I draw this interrogation to a close?" Uncle Jasper asked, wanting to get on with his day.
"No, I'm not. I don't buy it," Eliza answered.
"And what will satisfy you?" Uncle Jasper asked, thinking that the answer was nothing.
"I want Kair and Kare to go into the future five hundred years from their current time, come back, and tell us what they see," Eliza replied.
"No, that's too dangerous. They already said that beyond a certain date isn't safe until their older," Uncle Jasper said.
"They don't have to stay long. They could flash in and flash out…" here Eliza paused, probably shifting through memories, before continuing, "that's an even better idea: they don't even have to leave the safety of their wormhole. All they have to do is navigate their wormhole to the point in time, look out and take note of what they see, and report back. It's completely safe."
"Unless the enemy develops wormhole decimating weapons or anti-wormhole technology. They could break open the wormhole, pull my sisters out, and kill them," Allison replied. "Why don't we send you off to some dangerous unknown, sit here safe and sound, and wait for you to come back?"
"I agree with Allison," Uncle Jasper said.
"We'll do it," Kair said linking hands with Kare.
"We'll be right back," Kare said, thinking about what her past self had told her. 'You can glimpse at the future through a wormhole, but only do it once, because we don't want you blocking our older selves out. And whatever you do, don't leave the safety of the hole.'
And then there was a faint shimmering of infrared light as they stepped into their wormhole together. The wormhole was always infrared when they left and ultraviolet when they arrived; Allison said it had to do with the Doppler affect shifting the frequency of the light waves in the wormhole. I had just enough time to think, 'That's a pretty wormhole,' and then the twins were back with their ultraviolet wormhole.
"We're back," Kare announced.
"This is werewolf country in five hundred years from our own time," Kair revealed.
"Well no wonder you aren't supposed to travel into the future: I don't want you running around and accidently bumping into werewolves!" Uncle Jasper proclaimed.
'Does that mean we lose the war and the werewolves take our land?' Jackson wondered to himself.
"Excellent point 'Son," Eliza said. "It's our land now, so the werewolves must take it from us during that little itty bitty cold war you mentioned." She was being sarcastic.
"Not necessarily: we're fairly close to werewolf country now. If we sign a treaty with the werewolves, odds are we would vacate this land and hand it over to them," Uncle Jasper replied, starting to get upset with Eliza. He did not like that his twins had just risked their lives by steering their wormhole into werewolf country and Eliza was still being so annoying. He normally chose not to manipulate the emotions of others, but he was about to manipulate my sister into shutting up and dropping it.
"I agree. Carlisle has always said that he would concede land to other species before going to war," Dad added. He was hoping that Eliza would drop it on her own and that Uncle Jasper would not have to intervene.
"Whatever," Eliza replied.
"Look, we can't know the future indefinitely with perfect clarity," Scryan of all people said. "I can see the near future and maybe other psychics can see even further. Kair and Kare can give us some information, but it's not limitless." He had kept quiet until now, but he was ready to end this conversation
"Yeah, we know there's gonna be a rough spot in our future in about thirteen hundred years, but I believe my little sisters when they tell us that everything will work out fine. It's way too far in the future for any of us to do anything about it, so why are we arguing about it? I trust that Kair and Kare will come back and give us more information on the problem when we need it," Ashley said, taking up Scryan's argument right where he left off. They did not finish each other's thoughts often, but every once in a while they would be on the same page like this.
"Dad's satisfied, Uncle Edward's happy, and the rest of us should be too. If not, you can leave," Scryan said speaking directly to Eliza. He did not stand up to her very often, but he was not about to let his friend pick on his little sisters any longer.
"Fine, but can I talk to you in private?" Eliza asked Scryan.
He nodded and the pair of them looked to my dad, because Eliza was technically grounded from Scryan for another week. "Alright, I'll allow it, but only due to the special circumstances. Once you two work this little dispute out, then the grounding is back on until next Monday," Dad said.
With that Scryan offered out his arm to Eliza, who took it, and he led her outside into the forest and well beyond hearing range. Mind reading range is quite a bit further, but they went beyond that too; they went until Scryan's thoughts vanished off of my radar completely.
It was too late to go to school, so we all got the day off and had a snowball war, which was Jackson's idea and was really fun. Eliza and Scryan eventually came back. She went home with my dad and Scryan was too busy insinuating himself into the snowball battle to think about the details of what they had discussed, but from what I could tell they had spent the time rehashing the argument and he had eventually won. The subject was dropped and life returned to normal.
Uncle Emmett and the Hale and Cullen kids all wanted to know what had happened when they came home, so we spent the evening recanting the morning's events. And my dad must have told the other adults, because Aunt Alice came home late already knowing; she had spent the afternoon discussing possible options with Grandpa Carlisle, but in the end it was decided that it was just too soon to do anything.
Author's Note: The additional knowledge on Kair and Kare that Scryan and Eliza have in chapter 2 of Jasper's book also comes from this chapter: that's what those two were discussing when they went out into the forest alone.
This chapter sets the stage for the fourth installment in this saga. I don't feel like writing it presently, although I did write a version of it that I didn't like before I started writing this story. But for those of you who want to know how this saga would end if I continued it on, the fourth installment would center on this cold war between the various types of mythological creature when the Cullen kids are all adults and having children of their own. Eventually a vampire is born with the ability to open wormholes through space, so the Cullens and all the vampires who will willingly go, leave for a new planet. That would be the final end of this story with the HEA.