He pulled in a great gasp, desperate for air. It knocked me out.
Her body was warm, but she wasn’t breathing.
Memories of CPR diagrams flashed through his head. He opened the sleeping bag wide and heedless of the cool air on his skin. The cell phones were in the Jeep. Step one was always to call 9-1-1, but he couldn’t think clearly enough to deal with that.
He tilted her head back and lifted her chin. Still no breathing. He breathed into her mouth twice, quickly.
With his hand in the center of her chest, he pushed down a couple of inches, counting.
After a thirty count, he breathed into her again a couple of times.
He was halfway through the second compression count when she slapped weakly at his hands.
“Big heavy man. Back off.”
He collapsed beside her.
She leaned her head his way. “Am I dead?”
She nodded. “Good.”
They rested, side by side for a minute or two. He draped the cover back over them. When the silence dragged on, he checked her breathing again. She responded to his touch, but didn’t wake up.
She shifted position again, but kept her eyes closed.
He got to his feet and snagged his jeans out of the Jeep. He located his phone and called Charlie.
“Where are you?” a worried voice demanded. “Are you okay?”
“The thing happened. Nearly got the both of us, but I recovered and gave her CPR. She spoke, but I think she’s still in shock. I need help.”
“Okay. She’s alive?”
“Yes. Alive and she griped at me for the CPR.”
“Deliberately lost. Can you locate my cell?”
“Not quickly. Not without hacking the system.”
“Okay. Pull up a map.”
He talked Charlie to the exit he’d taken and the general direction he’d followed.
“Okay, I see your campsite on the map. It’s marked.”
“Good. Sandra there with you?”
“Yes, how did you know? Never mind. What do you want?”
“Tell her to bring some extra clothes for Teri. Something comfortable. She left with just the thing she had on in school.”
He dressed the rest of the way and went back to sit with her.
It took over an hour, but Charlie pulled up in a SUV. He and Sandra got out.
Sam led them to where she slept. “It was like a massive electrical shock. I think she’s okay, but she’s having to adapt to what it did to her. See if you can wake her. Gently.”
Charlie knelt down beside her. “Teri? It’s Charlie. It’s time to wake up now.” She reacted. “Come on Teri. Don’t be lazy. You’re already late for school.”
“Go ’way. Naked.”
He chuckled, and stood up. “Sandy. Maybe you should try.”
He walked a few paces away with Sam.
“You were right all along. Aliens.”
Sam struggled for words.
“It was a space probe. They dumped it off in the cometary belt a long, long, long time ago. It eventually entered the inner Solar System and came in as a meteor. Only, one that was designed to download information into the first life form with a brain it could find. That was Teri and me.”
“So they loaded you with info?”
Sam nodded. “Sort of. Only they were working blind. Their sensors knew there we had developed brains, but brains would still need to be modified to handle the download.”
Charlie nodded slowly, taking it in.
Sam continued. “So the zap sent a ripple back through time to the moment when our brains were most adaptable and it made the alterations then, so that when the info dump arrived, the brain would be compatible.
“The zap was designed for just one brain, but since we were practically glued together, it got the both of us.”
Charlie was gazing at the horizon, unfocused. “And so when Teri’s zap got all the way back to the womb, where we were in close contact, it altered me as well.”
Sam added cautiously, “But there was a flaw. Or maybe just a design limitation. When the zap attempted to jump to the host...”
“It killed our mothers.”
They looked back at the girls and then turned back. Sandy was helping Teri get dressed.
“I told you I wouldn’t let you die.”
The four of them sat in a cozy booth at a rural pancake house.
Teri was still a bit groggy. “I couldn’t let myself believe. The visions. They stopped at this point.” She leaned against him again.
“The prophetic visions weren’t part of your skills. They were just a side effect of the zap moving back in time. It dragged memories, emotionally significant memories, back to an earlier part of your life. It did the same for me. Your other talents, like reading auras and sensing events that happened remotely, like my drive to the mountain, those are still active. They’re probably even better, after the direct download.”
Charlie muttered, “You seem pretty sure about all this.”
Sam tapped his forehead. “Massive memory storage meet massive data download. I’ve got tons of new data.”
“What kind of data?”
“An alien civilization’s technology, for one.”
Sam looked around at the nearly empty diner. “Hand me a piece of paper.”
Charlie produced a pocket notebook and ripped out a blank sheet.
Sam carefully folded a half-dozen creases and then rolled the paper into a tube. Pushing at the ends, it collapsed to nearly nothing. Sam looked around again, and then tugged the ends apart. The paper exploded in a flash of light, leaving nothing.
Sandra was wide eyed.
“What was that?”
“Fractal folding on a fibrous substrate. It folded all the way down to the molecule level. When I pulled it apart, the cellulose strands started moving faster than sound and were ruptured. Just one of thousands of things.”
She shook her head. “I can’t get my head around the whole twisted time concept. You there at the right spot at that campsite, just by chance, adapted since birth to handle the download, just because you were there?”
Teri added, “And don’t forget that Sam and I were there at that exact spot because we’d fallen in love from the echos of the very love had caused us to be drawn together in the first place. There’s a word I use a lot. Destiny.”
Sandra looked nervously at Charlie. “Why are you all letting me in on this stuff?”
Sam smiled. “My upgrade gave me some aura sensing ability as well. I could see what Charlie and Teri had both seen long before. You have a good soul.”
Teri leaned across the table. “Sandra, we need you. Our DNA is still human, but our minds are altered. You’re the only 100% human we have. You’re our anchor. You have to keep us grounded.”
Charlie took her hand. “That’s their reason. I need you to keep me from singing in public.”
She giggled at a private memory. She started turning red.
Teri and Sam exchanged a puzzled look. What had Charlie been up to?
Charlie turned back to Sam, trying to get back on topic. “Technology was ‘one thing’?”
“There are plans for a communication device. The math is beyond me.”
“Beyond you maybe.”
He nodded. “But it appears to be able to communicate across interstellar distances instantaneously. I think there’s a community out there. We’ve been handed an invitation to join the conversation.”
“I could only believe that from aliens who could send a pluripotent zap back through time.”
“Right. But it looks big and probably very expensive.”
“We’d need to pull a Google-like business startup. Use some of the alien technology to make a few billion dollars and fund the communicator project as an in-house project.”
Charlie nodded. They could do that.
“Are you really okay?” Sam asked, after Charlie and Sandra had gone back to the SUV.
She nodded. “I was ‘upgraded’ too. It’ll take me a while to get back on an even keel.” She grinned. “But expect to be amazed and astonished.”
“I already am.” He kissed her hand. “Now if we can just manage a wedding ceremony without parents exploding. That might be harder than forming a billion dollar corporation.”
“We can manage. I just hope Sandra can cope. We’re probably the most dangerous people on the planet right now, without her.”
Sam sighed. “Yeah, I know. You saw what I did with the paper? That’s trivial. With just a few items...” He picked up a salt shaker and put a spoon beside it. “I could make a trigger that could set the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere reacting with each other. “I’d need a piece of silver.” He looked around to see of anyone was wearing any jewelry.
She took both his hands in hers. “But we don’t need to do that.”
The salt shaker lifted itself off the table and set itself in the condiments tray. The spoon slid itself back to the side of the table.
He smiled. “No. Not at all.” He leaned over to kiss her. “Yes, we do need a keeper, don’t we.”
Teri interrupted the kiss. “Oh look!” She pushed aside the drapery.
Out in the parking lot, Charlie was down on one knee, holding Sandra’s hand.
“Looks like we’re all on the right course.”