The shooter ran for the door.
Both doppelgängers from the future took off after him.
Lilandra ran to Fowler. She put his head in her lap and clutched him. “You stupid fool. You weren’t supposed to get hurt,” she said.
James, now fully awake, ran after his doppelgängers. He didn’t have to follow them far, though, as the two future doubles had caught the shooter and were dragging him back.
“Let me go,” the shooter said.
“Who are you?” one of the doubles asked.
“I’m you,” the shooter said.
“Yes, but when?” the other double asked.
“Your future,” the shooter said. “And your past.”
“You came forward?” James asked.
“What do you think?” the shooter asked. James and his doubles let out a collective sigh.
“There’s no loop to close when you go into the future,” the second double said.
“He can’t be stable,” James said.
As he spoke, the shooter disappeared in hexagonal sections. The shooter waved a gloved hand at his future selves. “The perfect crime,” he said as he vanished.
“So why run?” the second double asked.
“Lilandra’s unpredictable.” James said. “Maybe he was afraid she’d fight back, shoot the original.”
“Maybe he wanted us out of the room,” the first double said.
“Why?” James asked.
“Maybe he, maybe we still love her.”
They walked back into the lab, but Lilandra and Fowler
had left. A trail of blood indicated that they had exited through the back door.
“Should we follow them?” James asked. “What if they go to the police?” The pistol was gone.
“The shooter wore gloves,” the second double said. “No prints.”
“The only physical evidence points to Lilandra,” the first duplicate said.
James nodded. “How did he know to come here, to come now?”
“Stop taking the easy route,” the first double said, “Think, Cole, think.”
James cast his eyes around the room searching for inspiration.
“He was a copy from a past me… errr… us,” the second double said.
All James could find to inspire him were Fowler’s inane, inspirational cat posters.
“Who was from the future…” the first double said.
Copy after copy of almost identical cat posters.
“A copy of a copy,” James said. “That’s why he dissipated so quickly.”
“Same thing with one in the closet,” the first double said. “A copy of me.”
There was a long pause. Finally, one of the doppelgängers said, “It pays to have a monster in your past.”
“Or two,” said the other, looking at James.
The three of them hooked the time machine back together and looked up “recursive deletion.” With three of them working it took little time.
James brought up the times he had recorded on his watch. He set the machine for the first recorded time, nodded at the first double as he stepped onto the platform, and hit the button. The first double disappeared hexagonally.
James set the time machine for the second recorded time. The second double followed his slightly older self into oblivion.
James stepped out of the machine and was about to dismantle it, when he stopped. He set the dial to two years prior. There was a monster somewhere in his past. He stepped inside and hit the button.
Then he dismantled the time machine. He destroyed any unique parts and made sure the file erasure was complete. When he was certain Fowler and Lilandra couldn’t replicate it, he headed for home.
The light refocused and Lilly seemed to close on it. It wasn’t easy, or fast, or without monotony, but the purple light seemed to be closer now than it had ever been. A lot closer.
To Be Continued…