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Friday, Dec 15, 2017
Worlds Of Lesbian Fiction

New Gaia

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New Gaia - Chapter 2 - Starting Over

Tony's large bulk was huddled over her mother's computer in the spacious office her mother used to impress people with her twenty-first century technological know-how. The computer was state-of-the-art with an oversized flat screen monitor, massive hard drive, copious amounts of memory, cutting edge software, and on and on. Tony looked like he was in love.

Gabrielle leaned in the doorway and grinned.

"Gotten your fix finally?"

Tony looked up and smiled. He looked high.

"Oh yeah," he replied, the glazed look in his eyes making Gabrielle laugh out loud.

No one would have ever accused Tony of being a computer geek with his dark hair and handsome features. He looked like your average high school football hero. But the only records he'd ever set were on a keyboard for words per minute.

"Well, I'm glad you're happy," she said. Then she remembered what she wanted to talk to him about. "Tony? I got a few questions for you."

"What's up?" he said, turning to face her.

Gabrielle entered the room and pulled a chair over from her mother's second desk, the one with the printer/scanner/copier/fax machine resting on it, and sat down next to him.

"You remember when we talked about how we got sent back, that there was a tear in the fabric of space-time and when the lightning hit so close to us, it pushed us through the tear, and you said a similar occurrence could push us back through to send us home," she said expectantly.

"Yeah, and it looks like I was right. I mean, we're here, aren't we?" he said smugly.

Sometimes his arrogance was a bit much to take, but Gabrielle had to admit that his confidence was well deserved.

"Yeah, we are. Do you think that it was just by chance that we got sent so far back?"

She knew what his answer would be, but she needed to let him go through the entire process to get him to the point she wanted him at.

"No, definitely not. I think the fabric of space-time is weaker in the area of your backyard. Not sure why or what could cause that, but the amount of time that was displaced was probably due to the amount of electricity that was discharged by the bolt of lightning. If there had been a lesser discharge of current from the lightning, we probably wouldn't have gotten pushed through nearly so far," he said, and leaned back in his chair, thoughtful.

"Do you think you could come up with an equation to determine how much electricity would be needed to push a certain amount of mass through the space-time barrier to a particular point in time? Based on what has happened so far?" she asked casually, as she mentally crossed her fingers.

Tony frowned in concentration.

"Well, that could be tricky," he said. "There were no instruments measuring either of the lightning bolts that caused the two displacements. And the masses were different for each displacement."

'We came back with less people than we left with,' Gabrielle thought, saddened by the reminder of lost friends.

"I think the only reason we ended up back where we started is that there may have been some kind of resonance that was imprinted on us from the first time and it naturally dragged us back to our starting point. But that's just theory and speculation," Tony continued, completely oblivious to his companion's suddenly melancholy expression.

"Well, what if you experimented a little, sending things through," she said, bringing her thoughts back to the present.

"There would be no way to track where the objects ended up. Well, wait, that's not necessarily true." Gabrielle could almost see the wheels spinning in Tony's head, as his mind grappled with the problem. "There would be feedback waves from the displacement that could be measured. I could probably write a program to extrapolate from a basic set of equations..." Tony trailed off, lost in his thought processes.

Gabrielle smiled.

"So, you think it's doable. A group of people could go back to a chosen point in time, if they wanted to," she stated, waiting for Tony's confirmation.

Tony shook his head a little to clear it of the calculations he was running in his mind.

"Um, yeah, I mean, I don't think they could pin down a particular day or time or anything, but something within a few years could probably be worked out. Why? What do you have in mind? You can't seriously want to go back to living with the dinosaurs," he said, disbelief showing clearly on his face.

"No, not the dinosaurs. But what about ten thousand years ago? The Native Americans were already on this continent, and there were no bombs, no pollution—"

"And no computers, no Internet, no hospitals, wild animals at every turn wanting to eat you for dinner. I don't think so," he said, and sat back in his chair, a cross between triumph and disgust radiating from his body language.

"But we could change things. We could keep the world from making the mistakes it did the first time around. And we could bring the knowledge to make computers with us. Sure, we wouldn't have the means to build them right away, but it wouldn't be out of our reach," she said passionately.

"You're really serious. You want to go back," Tony said, shocked.

"Yeah, I'm serious. I'm not saying you'd have to come with me, or anyone else for that matter, though I don't think I'd go alone, but I do need you to figure out how to do it. And I don't think I'm alone in this," she said quietly.

Gabrielle had a feeling that a lot of her friends, though happy to be back with civilization, would be interested in going back to a simpler time.

'As long as there's no dinosaurs,' she smiled to herself.

"Well, I think you're nuts, but I'll do it. It'll be a nice challenge to my mathematical skills. At least we already know it's feasible. I'll just have to figure out the details," he said, and turned back to the computer.

He was already calling up a program and searching for a disk to save his notes on.

"If anyone can do it, you can," Gabrielle said, knowing a little ego stroking always went a long way with the computational genius.

She stood and put her chair back in front of the other desk, stopping before completely exiting the room.

"I'm calling a meeting of everyone to be held in the main living room at two o'clock. You might want to set the alarm on the PC to remind you."

Tony looked up.

"No problem. I'll be there. I don't relish the idea of being suspected in the murders of twenty-two people," he said, looking meaningfully at Gabrielle.

She knew he was waiting for her to divulge her plan for getting them off the hook. Unfortunately, she hadn't come up with one yet.

"Me neither," she said, and strode off down the hallway.

She ran into a lot of recently awakened people and bid them a good morning, getting similar greetings in response, which greatly relieved her. Gabrielle knew they were all going to be facing some serious cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was a little worried about how everyone was handling being back. She also knew that a suggestion to see a therapist to handle nightmares or panic attacks just wouldn't work. How exactly do you explain that you're afraid to sleep because a Tyrannosaurus Rex attacked your camp in the middle of the night three months ago and you watched one of your friends get ripped apart?

Gabrielle shook her head to clear the image from her mind.

'I definitely do not need to go there right now,' she admonished herself.

She looked for a clock and found one, reading the time. It was still several hours before her scheduled meeting. She thought about talking with everyone individually to see who might be interested in going back with her, as opposed to springing her plan all at once on the entire group. She decided getting it all out on the table at one time would probably be a better way to go.

She wandered out the backdoor and sat beneath one of her favorite childhood climbing trees. That is, until her mother molded her into the perfect little lady. Gabrielle cringed at who she used to be. She realized part of the reason she wanted to return to the past was so that she could keep this new person she had become. She was afraid if she remained in this time, she would return to her old ways.

'And I can't allow that,' she decided.

Gabrielle felt Tristan walk up behind her and he sat down next to her.

"You know, you've got the whole group buzzing," he said.

Gabrielle turned to look at him, a puzzled expression on her face.

"What do you mean?"

"Roseanne overheard your conversation with Tony."

"You mean she was spying on me," Gabrielle said, though the smile on her lips took the bite out of her voice.

"Yeah, you know what a gossip she is," he replied. "So, is it true? You want to go back?"

"Yeah, it's true. But not back to where we were. I want to go back about ten thousand years. I remember reading about how early man crossed the ice bridge to populate the 'New World' and that's where the Indians came from. I mean, Native Americans. Everything I've ever read about them has shown them to be a great people that were just a little too technologically challenged to be able to defend themselves against the European invaders," she said.

"Hey, I've got British ancestors," Tristan said, pretending to be offended.

"So do I. Where do you think I get the blond hair from? But think about what the world could be like if the leading world power was based on thousands of generations of tolerance, acceptance, and a reverence for life that could be backed up with technologically advanced weapons when necessary. What if when Columbus stepped off his boat, he found an advanced civilization that was perfectly willing to open trade negotiations with his own country, but could kick his country's ass if they threatened so much as a single tree?"

"There's no way you could be sure that civilization would progress the way you want it to," Tristan warned. "And who's to say they couldn't steal the technology and use it against our descendants? I'm assuming that's what you're talking about. You want us to go back and build our own colony, right?"

Gabrielle nodded.

"Something like that. Tony says it could be done. We could go back to a particular time, say within a few years or so of a chosen date. We know this time travel thing isn't like in that Terminator movie, where only living tissue could be sent through or whatever, since we were all clothed when we arrived back then. We could bring stuff with us," she said.

"Have you thought about what you're really proposing to do here? You're talking about changing the past, which will change the present. If we did this, everything we know now will no longer exist. Well, unless we die before we can make an impact on the past," Tristan joked.

Gabrielle turned a wry smile on him, then her expression changed to reflect her mind's sudden comprehension of what her best friend had just implied.

"Wait, you said 'we.' You mean, you'd come with me?" she asked.

Tristan turned solemn.

"Gabrielle, we've been best friends since I first met you. Now that John's gone, there's really nothing to tie me here. You know how my parents feel about my 'lifestyle choices' and my brother won't even speak to me. The last thing he said to me was being 'half-gay' was just as bad as being a 'full faggot.' Wish I knew where he came up with the term 'half-gay' for bisexuality. You're lucky, though. Your mom thinks lesbians are 'chic,'" Tristan grinned, but then immediately frowned, as a new thought entered his mind. "Have you thought about that? About leaving your mom? Oh man, I just had a thought. With us changing the past, won't that create some kind of paradox? I mean, our parents probably won't even be born, so how could we?"

Gabrielle smiled. Tristan was already acting as if their going back to the past was a done deal.

"I don't know. I could ask Tony about it. But to answer your question about my mom... You know we've never been close. She's always wanted me to be something I'm not. And unfortunately, I went along with it. I even deluded myself into thinking that I was really living life. Do you know what my plans were before we got tossed back to the dinosaurs? I was going to sleep my way across Europe, then come back and work for Bruce, or whoever my mother happened to be sleeping with at the time. That was my big life plan. Pretty pathetic, huh?" she asked.

"No. Hell, girl, I would've been cheering you on a year ago, you know that. We've all changed because of what we went through back there," Tristan said, as he reached his arm around to hug Gabrielle to his side. "But I think you've surprised me more than anyone. You got us through that hell. You saved us all."

"No, not all. I didn't save everyone," she said, the last part coming out in a whisper, as her throat closed up and the tears finally came.

Tristan held her close and cried with her, thinking about his own losses. Somehow, he had already made the decision to go without consciously thinking about it, and the thought of having lost so many of his friends hardened his resolve to follow Gabrielle back in time and create a better world, as if that would keep their deaths from having been in vain, though the two events really had nothing to do with one another.

It was a long time before Gabrielle's sobs abated enough to let her breathe normally. She had sunk into Tristan's lap and he had gently stroked her head like she was his pet cat, while the guilt and grief had poured out of her soul through her eyes, turning his tan pants leg a darker brown where her tears came to rest. Finally, she sat up and a small smile graced her lips.

"I think I need a tissue."

Tristan laughed.

"And I need a change of clothes," he said.

Gabrielle looked down to see a large wet spot on his thigh from her tears. She blushed a little and then Tristan stood, offering a hand up. She took it and they walked back into the house. After drying her eyes and receiving a lot of curious, yet sympathetic, looks, Gabrielle went to the laundry room to check on how things were going. A fight was brewing and she quickly intervened.

"He deliberately shrunk my bra," Stephanie cried, waving around said undergarment.

"I did not! My jeans shrunk, too," Paul said defensively.

He crossed his arms against his chest and stared at the young woman, silently defying her to argue his logical defense.

Gabrielle could see that Stephanie was about to explode and smoothly stepped in.

"What's going on here?" she asked.

It was the best opening she could come up with on such short notice. They both tried to speak at once and Gabrielle held up her hand to silence them both.

"One at a time. Paul?"

Paul smiled at being chosen first and Stephanie glowered at him.

"I was doing a load of laundry, you know, just tryin' to help out and stuff, but the dryer shrunk everything," he said.

Gabrielle turned to Stephanie.

"Your turn," she said.

Stephanie stood a little taller and then thrust the worn piece of underwear in Gabrielle's direction.

"He ruined it! If he didn't know how to work a dryer, he shouldn't have been messing with it. It's just ruined," she said.

She was near tears and Gabrielle suddenly realized this had nothing to do with a laundry mishap. In a flash of insight, Gabrielle understood where the near hysteria was coming from. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around the young woman and pressed her head into her shoulder.

"It's all right. It's gonna be okay. I know it was important to you. It was everything you had," she cooed into the girl's ear.

Stephanie's shoulders began to shake and her legs buckled, as the sobs were wrenched from her chest. Gabrielle held onto her and followed her to the floor. She looked up and saw comprehension dawning on Paul's face, as well as the faces of everyone else present.

He knelt down and gently pulled Stephanie into his arms.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," he whispered, and she buried her face deeper into his chest.

Gabrielle stood up and squeezed Paul's shoulder, before gesturing to everyone to leave them in peace for a little while. Tristan came up behind her and nudged her in the side.

"How did you know?" he asked.

"I don't know. I just did. I knew she couldn't be that upset over something so easily replaced. And then I realized that, until last night, nothing could be easily replaced, and then I knew." She stopped just outside the entrance to the kitchen. "Everyone's still a little shell-shocked. I think it's gonna be a while before it sinks in that we're back," she said quietly.

Tristan looked at her thoughtfully.

"And you plan on announcing that you wanna go back. Maybe you should wait a little while," he suggested.

"No. I know what you're saying, but I think it's better that people decide now, while it's still fresh in everyone's mind exactly what non-civilization is like. I mean we won't be encountering dinosaurs at every turn, but it's not going to be a walk in the park. In fact, this will probably be even more difficult simply because we'll know we're never coming back," she finished.

Tristan nodded and followed her as they stepped into the kitchen. Luis was back at the center island with his sister and they were making sandwiches in assembly line fashion.

Luis looked up and grinned.

"Heya, Chief," he greeted her and then went back to his task.

"Want some help?" she asked.

Gloria looked up at the mention of help and smiled.

"Sure. Grab some platters and start stacking. That pile is PB and J, that one is ham and cheese, and that one is tuna salad," Gloria said, as she pointed to the accumulation of sandwiches taking up a quarter of the counter space.

"No problem," Gabrielle replied.

Tristan helped her divvy up the individual sandwiches and place them on platters according to what was in between the slices of bread. It only took a few minutes and then they helped the brother and sister team come up with a few more varieties to appease the masses.

In less than half an hour, the kitchen started filling up with hungry people and the sandwiches began to disappear. Gabrielle noticed the dishes piling up in the sink, most of them still left over from the morning meal, and called for everyone's attention.

"All right, let's make this simple. When you're done with your meal, you can either wash a dish, wash a couple utensils, dry a dish, dry some utensils, or put away a stack of clean dishes or utensils. Or you can wash or dry a cup or put away a stack of cups. If, when you're done with your meal, there are no dishes left to clean or put away, wipe down the countertop or something," Gabrielle proposed.

"That sounds like a lot of hassle to me. Why not just designate someone to be dishwasher?" someone called out from the large group of people crowding the kitchen.

"You volunteering?" Gabrielle shot back and grinned when they laughed and shook their head.

"Well, why can't we just use the dishwasher?" someone else suggested sarcastically, and several people snickered.

"Because it's obvious the dishwasher can't fit that many dishes, since there are still dishes piled up from this morning. And I'm pretty sure I remember hearing Lisa complain about standing over a sink washing out the pots and pans that didn't fit in the washer. She said it hurt her back. I think this way will be easier on everyone and is a lot more fair," Gabrielle concluded.

The people Gabrielle could see nodded their heads in agreement and she got a round of 'yeses' and 'sures' as everyone consented to her suggestion. There were soon three lines formed at the sink: one for washing, one for drying, and one for taking the clean dishes to the cupboards. In only a few minutes, the large pile of dishes was reduced to nothing and the kitchen had been cleared of everyone not still eating. The pattern was repeated half an hour later when the next wave finished their lunches, and again, half an hour after that.

Gabrielle left, after washing a dish with the first wave of lunch-goers, and wandered through her mother's mansion. It had always been her mother's home, not hers. Even though she had grown up in the almost castle-like house, she had never felt at home here. She thought part of the reason was all the time she had spent away at private boarding schools, but she knew there was more to it than that.

Over the past year, Gabrielle had come to the conclusion that 'home' was wherever your family was, and since she had never really felt like she belonged to her mother, had never really felt any connection to her whatsoever, she could never call this place 'home.' She was interrupted out of her unhappy musings by Gregory.

"Hey, you gonna practice today?" he asked.

Gregory was a tall man with pitch-black hair and a finely muscled body. He moved with the smooth grace of someone who controlled his body completely, never expending more energy for a movement than was necessary.

It took her a moment to realize what he was referring to.

"What time is it?" she asked.

He looked at his watch, one of the few items that had survived their jaunt to the past.

"Ten 'til one. We've got an hour 'til your meeting."

Gabrielle nodded.

"All right, sure. Let me go find a pair of sweats," she requested, and he nodded in agreement.

"I'll be out back," he said, and he turned to go to the backyard while she went off in search of more flexible clothing.

A few minutes later, she joined him, along with over a dozen other people, and they began warming up. She did a few dozen jumping jacks and then began practicing a few kicks to work in some dynamic stretches before doing the more routine static stretches. After a few minutes, Gregory called for their attention.

"All right, let's get that blood pumping," he said, and he ran them through kicking and punching drills for almost half an hour. Finally, he called a halt and paired them off with one another. He took Gabrielle as his own sparring partner and called out to his students in a mix of English and Korean.

"Face each other."

Everyone faced their opponents.

"Attention!"

Everyone brought their feet together and slapped their flat hands against the sides of their thighs.

"Bow!"

Everyone bowed at the waist to the person standing in front of them, reciting the respectful greeting of 'taekwon' that Gregory had taught them in the beginning.

"Free sparring position."

Everyone fell back into a loose ready position.

"Courtesies."

They all reached out to touch their leading fists to their sparring partner's and then prepared for the next command, bouncing on the balls of their feet. Gabrielle's lips drew back into a feral grin.

"Begin!" came the order, and the backyard became a mass of chaos, as everyone jumped to the attack.

After nearly a year of practicing their techniques, everyone knew to land only light blows while battling each other, but anyone sparring with Gregory was allowed to go all out. Being a fifth degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Taekwon-Do, if he got hurt, it was his own damn fault. They had never used sparring equipment, that being a luxury they didn't possess in the prehistoric past, so they had all learned to take it easy from the very beginning. No one would suffer more than a casual bruise from the practice blows.

Gabrielle let herself go. She loved sparring with Gregory. However, as long as he was in teaching mode, she only referred to him as Sabum Nim (Master Instructor). She knew she probably would have cracked under the pressure of being responsible for her friends' survival, if it hadn't been for Gregory and his offer to teach Taekwon-Do to whomever wished to learn.

During class time, she was no longer in charge. All the responsibility fell away from her and was placed neatly on Sabum Nim's shoulders. It was a relief to be able to cut loose and not feel like she had to save everybody. And, she admitted, it was a great outlet for her anger at being forced into taking care of everybody. It wasn't something she thought about very much in the moment that everything was happening, but she knew the resentment built up in her on a daily basis and being allowed to punch and kick another human being with abandon was oddly refreshing.

She dodged a turning kick to her head and spun around, landing a back kick into Sabum Nim's stomach. Well, his arm actually, since he'd blocked the kick, but the contact was nice and solid. He countered with a diagonal kick and she blocked it, immediately following up with a right backfist to his face and a quick left reverse punch to his midsection. He danced out of the way and then spun on his front foot, stopping his sidekick a mere centimeter from her nose. She grinned at him, as he snapped his foot back to the ground.

"Nice one. Never saw it comin'," she said.

"That's why I'm the black belt and you're the green belt," he replied, grinning back at her.

They continued to trade blows, Gabrielle enjoying the physical activity, while Gregory swelled with pride at watching his best student practice her art. She got flashy a couple of times, performing a fake turning kick with one leg and moving right into a jump front snap kick with the other, to finish with a double punch to his face. He blocked everything and then she faked him out.

He had told her over and over again to watch the shoulders. You could always tell how your opponent was going to move by watching the shoulders. She twitched her shoulders and shifted her hips to go into a reverse back kick, but at the last second, she moved forward and performed a high turning kick with her front leg. It landed half on his shoulder and half on his chest because of his sideways facing stance. He stared at her in shock for a second and then grinned.

"Good one," he complimented.

Gabrielle squealed and jumped up and down several times, completely forgetting about staying on guard during the sparring match.

"I did it! I got you! I actually got you!" she yelled.

Her face beamed with joy. She had never landed a punch or kick without it being blocked by an arm or a leg before. She jumped into his arms and hugged him and he laughed.

Gabrielle pulled back from the embrace and found everyone looking at her.

"What?" she said sheepishly. "None of you guys have ever tagged him," she defended herself.

Several of them shook their heads and laughed, as others congratulated her. Sabum Nim directed everyone to get back to their sparring, but had them switch partners.

Gabrielle faced off against Christina, a yellow belt, and remembered to pull her punches again, since she was no longer facing Sabum Nim. They went back and forth, Gabrielle giving pointers and offering words of encouragement to the woman to help her technique.

"Return to ready stance!" reached the two women's ears, and they stopped their sparring, facing each other.

The ritual orders came and Gabrielle and Christina stood at attention and then bowed to one another.

"Taekwon. Good match," said Gabrielle, touching fists with the other woman after coming up from the bow.

"Taekwon. You too," replied Christina with a grin.

They all lined up in front of Gregory again and warmed down, ending with several minutes of deep relaxed breathing, while lying on their backs on the grass. Then he brought them back to standing positions and ended the class. He motioned for Gabrielle to join him.

"I wanted to talk to you. I think you're ready to move up to blue stripe." He held up his hand as she grinned. "And no, it's not because you tagged me with that kick. You know your forms backwards and forwards and are competent in all the required maneuvers. I know we're back home and we could go to my dojang to present you with your belt, but we've been doing without for the past year..." he trailed off.

"And this has become tradition," she finished for him.

She held out her arm and they shook in the original form of the warrior's greeting, grasping each other's forearms.

The symbolism was not lost on Gabrielle. The handshake of present day had evolved from a need to establish trust between warriors. By grasping the forearm of a warrior, one could discern whether he was hiding a weapon up his sleeve or gauntlet. The use of the old form acknowledged that they were both warriors and trusted one another.

They broke the hold and turned to the house. Gabrielle checked the clock. She barely had fifteen minutes to change clothes and maybe take a shower. She hurried to her bedroom and just rinsed her body in the shower, scrubbing with a soap-filled washcloth to wipe away the sweat that covered her skin. She finished quickly and snagged her jeans from earlier off the bed and put them back on, zipping them up on the way out the door.

She reached the massive living room on the first floor with a few minutes to spare. Looking around, she could see that almost everyone was there. By the time she had made her way through the crowd to the table she had stood on the night before, everyone was assembled. She raised her arms and called for attention. Everyone found places to stand or sit and waited expectantly for her to begin.

"I'm glad you all made it. There are several things I think we need to discuss," Gabrielle began, lowering her voice to a more reasonable speaking level as the conversations in the group stopped. "First off, twenty-two of our friends are no longer with us and even though it's hard to think about, we need to figure out how we're going to explain their disappearance."

She waited as the various murmurs died down again.

"Unless we can come up with a good explanation, it's quite possible that some idiot will decide we were practicing ritual sacrifices at our so-called party and will bring us up on murder charges. Since I'm pretty open about my Pagan beliefs, and you all know how the media just loves to make Witchcraft into some kind of Satanic worship, it's not that difficult a scenario to envision," she stated. "So. Does anyone have any ideas?"

The murmurs started up again and Gabrielle waited. After a minute, several hands were raised to gain her attention. She pointed at one of the older women who had become a part of her large circle of friends. Irene had gone back to college at age thirty, after her husband and son had been killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. She had started working towards her college degree in business management a year before Gabrielle, but Gabrielle had maximized her class load and caught up with the woman, so they'd graduated at the same time.

"Irene? You have an idea?" Gabrielle signaled for her to address the group.

"Well, anyone who came with a friend, you know, they didn't drive their car here, we could just say they never arrived, if anyone asks about them. I'm not sure what we could do about the ones that drove their cars here," she finished.

Gabrielle nodded.

"We need to come up with a list of who came with who and how many of those that died drove themselves here. I know I told a lot of you to carpool because I planned on getting all of you falling down drunk," she stated, a devilish grin forming on her lips, as she tried to lighten the mood of the rather morbid conversation.

A list was quickly formed of who among those that hadn't survived had driven themselves to the party and who had gotten rides. It turned out the odds were decidedly in their favor, with only five of those who had perished having driven their own cars, and three of those had come alone.

Gabrielle looked over the list, a plan forming in her head.

"All right. Jeremy, Susan, and Colleen all drove by themselves. We need some volunteers to drive their cars back to their apartments. Remember to wear gloves. It would be best if only those who were good friends of them drove the cars. That way, any suspicious hairs or whatever can be attributed to past excursions in the cars. As far as everyone here is concerned, they never made it to the party," she intoned, seeing everyone nod their heads in silent understanding.

"Nicky and Joseph are going to be a little more difficult," Gabrielle continued, and then read off the list in her hand. "They drove Jonathan, Trisha, Margaret, Jose, Gloria, Luis, Tristan, John, Kelly, Mark, and Julia. I think the best way to handle them is to drive their cars to a park or something and then leave them there. It'll help explain where some of the other missing people are. We can just say they left the party early and we don't know where they went."

Gabrielle searched for Tristan and found him.

"Tristan? If it comes up that you were seeing John, don't deny it. Say you had a fight with him because you wanted to stay at the party and he wanted to leave, so he left. You guys that got rides with Nicky and Joe, act all mad that you were left without rides home. Then when it's announced they're missing, you can get all concerned," she directed.

"Anyone who has a problem with acting or lying, just say you don't know. It'll make sense that at such a large party not everyone knows where everyone else is, or even if certain people were ever even here."

She let her gaze flow over everyone in the room.

"I know this is hard. Just remember what the truth is. We were sent back over sixty million years into the past and survived almost a whole year surrounded by triceratops and tee rexes, until we were finally sent forward to our present. Twenty-two of our closest friends died during our stay in the past, killed by dinosaurs, cave-ins, and strange diseases that we were helpless to cure. I don't know about you, but I seriously doubt anyone's gonna buy that explanation. We need to be strong," she concluded softly.

Gabrielle could see the effect her words were having on her friends. Some of them were standing a little taller. Others were wrapping their arms around the shoulders of those closest to them. Each of them was gaining strength and resolve from their shared experiences. Somehow, they would get through this.

Satisfied with the plan for explaining the disappearances of her deceased friends, Gabrielle realized it was time to talk about her idea for going back. As the quiet strength gained from Gabrielle's speech settled into everyone, nervous anticipation began to take over.

Everyone had heard that Gabrielle was thinking about going back in time again. Of course, with each telling, more and more speculation had been interjected into the rumor, until the only thing that anyone could be sure of was that someone had heard something about something.

Gabrielle cleared her throat and began her proposal.

"I know that most of you have heard that I talked to Tony this morning about the possibility of calculating a jump back in time to a specific date. Your first thought was probably that I must be crazy. Who in their right mind would want to go back to that hell we just barely survived? Well, you're right. I have no intention of going back to that time. However, I am considering going back to a more recent time. Recent in comparison to our last trip, anyway," she said cryptically.

"I want you all to imagine a time before humans had conquered nearly the entire surface of Mother Gaia. When there was no pollution, no endangered species lists, no threats of nuclear warfare, no holes in the ozone layer. Where animals roamed freely and were hunted only for food and clothing and tools, rather than sport. A time when the entire population of the world was less than that of New York City, rather than in the billions," she stated softly.

Gabrielle could tell the image her words were painting was getting through. She had to let them see the negatives, too, though.

"It's also a time when there are no planes, trains, or cars to take us swiftly across large distances over paved roads. No police or governments to intercede on an individual's behalf against an assailant. No hospitals with X-ray machines and bottled pills to take care of the sick or wounded. No bathrooms or hot running water. No grocery stores or clothing stores. No TVs, radios, movies, CDs, videos, computers, Internet, or cameras. No telephones. No rubber, plastic, or nylon, which means no tennis shoes, Tupperware, or hosiery."

She could tell the new imagery wasn't quite as charming, but she was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone was still interested in what she had to say. She hadn't scared them off yet. She went through the mental list she had been building since first coming up with the idea.

"The people that went to this time would have to learn a lot in order to survive—and thrive—in their new wild environment. Luckily, we have several thousand years of ingenuity to fall back on. We know what works and what doesn't. In the space of a few years, armed with the right information, any group that went to the New World would be able to progress through several thousand years of inventions, without having to deal with all the mistakes that were made the first time around. We could just skip to the proven techniques."

She saw Gregory wave his hand slightly to get her attention. She nodded to him.

"What time period are you thinking of?" he asked.

"Approximately ten thousand years ago. Native Americans would have been in North America for a couple thousand years or so, so we could eventually end up trading with them and maybe sharing our technology with them," she replied.

Several people nodded, obviously liking the idea of a fresh start, but Gabrielle could see that several others were a little alarmed. Trisha spoke, quickly voicing her thoughts.

"You're talking about changing the past. You could end up eradicating history as we know it."

Several people standing close to her murmured their agreement.

"You're right. I'm talking about attempting to create a new world, one that's based on acceptance, tolerance, and a reverence for life," Gabrielle repeated her earlier words to Tristan. "We live in a world that routinely tells us that women are less than men, that gays and lesbians are abominations, that anyone not falling under the category of Caucasian is stupid or prone to violence and crime, that money is more important than love, that sex is love. Children are abused, women are raped, wives are beaten, teenagers are thrown out on the streets, and entire nations go hungry. Our forests are burned to the ground, species become extinct every day, and the ozone layer continues to shrink under the onslaught of toxic fumes from factories and cars. Our world is in deep shit, people. We have fucked it up and our civilization has become too complicated to force change. The economy rules."

Gabrielle stopped her rant and calmed her rapid breathing.

"I'm not saying that it's hopeless. Change occurs every day. Many non-profit organizations have done a lot to make people aware of the environment. Others work hard to make sure that discrimination isn't tolerated in this country.

"What I am saying is that we have a chance to maybe make those kinds of organizations unnecessary. Tristan pointed out to me earlier that there's no way to guarantee what future generations would make of our society, that we could even be wiped out before making an impact on future generations at all. And I'm not blind to the idea that we could quite possibly make things worse by introducing technology earlier than it was originally conceived. I'm not stupid. But I think it's worth the risk. I'm willing to take the chance.

"What I'm asking each of you is, are you interested in taking that chance with me?" she said and looked around at the faces of her friends.

Tristan, Gregory, and nearly two-dozen others began making their way towards Gabrielle. Tristan raised his voice above the growing mumbling that was passing in waves through the large group of people.

"If you want to go, line up over here. If you don't, move to the back wall," he called out over the crowd.

Gabrielle nearly wept at the mass migration headed her way. Trisha looked up at her.

"I think I speak for most everyone when I say I have doubts about all this and I definitely want more info, but... We're with ya, Chief," she said with a smile.


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