Que and my mom had literally just said goodbye to me from one side of the portal seconds before they watched me careen back out kissing a stolen historical figure. I went to detainment for a few hours, while my mother had to fill paperwork and work out bail. Finally, when the sun had nestled into the western sky, we rode to our house in complete and utter awkward silence.
“So…” Que was the first to break. “What happened?”
I rested my fist on my cheek and stared out the window. “I got too close,” I said.
Going home felt depressing. Everything felt depressing. The hyper sterile smell all around me, the convenience of every little machine that would ruin my mother’s entire day if it didn’t work properly.
I missed Liverpool. My heart ached for Liverpool. Not that I could travel with my pending legal troubles. But it wouldn’t have been the same anyway because my heart didn’t ache for just Liverpool, I also desperately pined for 1958. The cows in the roads and the starry skies. I downloaded a 50s world explorer app onto my VR set, but I couldn’t bring myself to play it. Because really, the heartache wasn’t just Liverpool and it wasn’t just 1958.
I became more of a hermit than I was before. Which is really saying something. You’d think someone who was probably facing a lot of jail time would want to do something other than lay in bed in their little room. But I couldn’t think of a single other thing to do. Everything reminded me of John. Everything. Even laughter. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life anymore if I still had one. Be single forever and become a cat lady?
Nope. Couldn’t do that. Cats were John’s favorite animal.
I waited anxiously, like I did every day, until 4pm when the news stream would hit my IND. I had it set that as soon as it became available it would automatically start playing.
Big block letters under the newscast read “Beatles Update”. And it was always the same footage. The video of the four of them confused and scared outside the steps of the time travel building. They never used anything new. I hated that footage. Especially, George. The video reminded me of how young he was and how beat up they must have gotten from the car chase.
This time they showed footage of hundreds of angry picketers.
“This all started, after a leaked IND footage sparked community outrage, whether or not figures from other timelines deserve the same human rights that we do. Now that these four musicians have crossed that portal successfully, that’s put a lot of pressure on the time council to change the way things are done.”
“Hundreds of protestors sit at the council building today, demanding that time relocation be implemented in the place of eliminations,” a woman news reporter added. “The inquisition continues forward with questioning on Friday. The council remains firm that eliminations are ethical, but the people are saying it’s time for a revolution.”
“Well, we all want to change the world, Mary.”
Mary chuckled. “That’s a good one.”
A knock echoed from my bedroom door.
“Honey? Someone’s here to see you.”
The way my mom whispered made my heart pound in my throat. He found me? I threw the blanket off myself and leapt to my closet. With shaking hands, I picked through my clothes. No, no, no. It had to be perfect. I mean, this was the only chance to impress him in modern, fitted clothes. It had to be good. Great.
I couldn’t find anything perfect, and I knew I was taking too long because my mother buzzed me on my IND.
Okay, alright okay. I threw on one of my favorite tops, brushed through my curls with my fingers and then jolted downstairs.
In the front room, Dr. Greggs sat cross-legged on the couch.
“Oh,” I said, not able to hide my disappointment.
“Emmeline,” he greeted me. “I have some good news.”
“Good,” I said, huffing onto the couch with a sigh. “I need some good news right now.”
“This is huge,” he said with a smile. “I mean, this inquisition is turning into a real deal. Ever since you did what you did, the whole world is tuned in. Everyone has opinions.”
I pressed my lips flat. That was his good news?
“Well, just because it has people talking doesn’t mean it’s going to change anything overnight,” I said. “And even if it did, I’ll probably still have to spend the rest of my life in prison.”
“Well, that might not be true,” he said, his smile broadening. “I spoke with someone involved in the background of the inquisition. They said that if they do find time travel law to be faulty, they won’t be able to prosecute past travelers. Which means, they will have to exonerate all past travelers for what they’ve done in alternate timelines. Including you. You’ve done nothing illegal in this timeline.”
I stared at him a little dumbfounded. “That is good news,” I said.
“I’m telling you. It’s a big deal,” he said. “As your mentor, I’ll be helping to defend your mission at the trial.”
“What?” I shook my head. “But you’ll lose your job!”
“We’ll see about that.” He flashed me a mischievous grin.
I crossed my arms over my knees. “Greggs, how are they? How is John?”
“To my knowledge, they’re doing well. I’m sure they’re shellshocked right now, trying to understand and adjust to everything.”
I nodded and pursed my trembling lips. I felt like I was going to break down and sob any minute. But I didn’t know exactly why. Greggs must have been able to see my inconsolable inner turmoil because he got to his feet to leave.
“Thank you,” I barely got out.
“He’ll be there on Friday,” Greggs added. “They’ll all be there.”
He gave me a quick nod before he left me, my stomach knotted and my knees shaking
Friday came and I hadn’t slept the night before. I got up and dressed. This time, I was not going to think about John as much. I wore the same professional suit that I wore to my presentation with the council. I wanted to look like a traveler and a historian that had carefully calculated the first-ever time relocation, not like a little girl who fell in love with a rock star and kidnapped him into the future. Which, yeah, I was definitely the latter, but I just didn’t want to look it at least.
The car ride there was horrible and long. My mother was even more quiet and pensive than when she accompanied me to the portal. Que made unhelpful jokes from the back seat. I tried to push John out of my mind, but I had to keep pushing him out of my mind every thirty seconds.
When we arrived at the courthouse, hundreds of curious onlookers and news drones were there to greet us. I put on my best poker face. I didn’t want everyone to see how scared I was. But I also didn’t want to come off as cocky and arrogant. I probably looked dumb instead, but that’s what I was anyway.
Everything was a blur. People shouting questions at me. A few scattered cheers. Laughs too. I walked with Dr. Greggs into the giant court-style room where the questioning and trial were to be held. The entrance to the room was guarded by a security android.
As I took my seat, I saw the peppered grey on the back of Thorne’s head. We made eye contact and I turned away in fury. Weird seeing the man who shot a gun at you several times, sitting calmly and civilly in the same room as you.
Mom gave me a squeeze on the shoulder and sat behind me with Que. A decent size audience of reporters and time travelers had assembled.
Judge McCoy took her seat. Her dark skin stretched tight with anti-aging mods. She didn’t look at me. Or anyone. All business, staring at the screen on her desk.
I kept wringing my hands in my lap. What had I been thinking? Sure, maybe I had saved John, Paul, George, and Ringo. But going rogue like that? I sure didn’t give alternate missions a good name.
“Be seated,” Judge McCoy commanded from her high desk.
I flashed an uneasy frown at Greggs who patted my knee under the table, his hands were clammy with stress sweat though, I could tell.
“This is a complicated case with a lot to go over, so I’ll make this easy on everyone,” Judge McCoy said, tenting her fingers. “I am looking for the answer to one question only… Was Emmeline Mor’s mission a success or not?”
Oh, Galactica. I buried my face in my fingers. Across the way, Dr. Thompson exchanged smirks with his snooty-tooty lawyer.
“The council claims that eliminations are necessary as they are the most effective form of time alteration,” Judge McCoy said. “But if Mor’s mission was successful, that would invalidate that claim and thereby become a violation of the Comprehensive Human Rights Act.”
The prosecutor next to Thompson stood from his seat.
“I couldn’t agree with you more, Judge McCoy,” he said in a smarmy voice. “Emmeline Mor’s mission was indeed a disaster. A timeline that a quick elimination could have easily altered without the thousands of consequences inflicted by this farce. And to accurately demonstrate these consequences, I would like to present a timelines expert, Mr. Forlin. Mr. Forlin has reviewed the footage and the damages done by Ms. Mor and compiled a list for this inquisition.”
Mr. Forlin, a man with a face too small for his head, sauntered to the stand. Everyone sat at attention as he activated his IND and began to read his prepared statement.
“Damage to the Brighton fair, closed the grounds for the rest of the week,” Forlin read. “Minor repairs to the Queensway Tunnel, caused hundreds of people to be late to work.”
I sank into my seat.
Forlin went on. “One disappearance of a meat truck, caused the driver to quit his job and pursue his dream as a florist.”
Greggs gave me his typical top of the eye stare.
“The police officer that witnessed the disappearance of the truck, quit his job and became…” Forlin swiped his screen. “A delivery driver for the aforementioned meat company.”
Que raised a brow at me from behind.
“After Lennon made a phone call to the school regarding an internship, Professor Barrell was dismissed due to sexual misconduct on campus. He was not supposed to be caught.”
I tugged anxiously at the ends of my hair.
“Ms. Mor left a plate of cheese behind a potted plant, which caused Mimi Smith to hire a cleaner,” Forlin said. “This cleaner was supposed to hit a stray cat on the other side of town and the cat lived.”
“Well, who cares about that?” My mom’s voice whispered loudly.
“I have 753 other changes directly involving Ms. Mor… Each one of those changes has several dozen impacts as well.”
The judge asked Greggs if he wanted to add anything. He shook his head. The council’s expert lumbered off the stand and sauntered to the audience.
I hung my head, but Dr. Greggs gave me a reassuring smile.
“Your honor, would it be possible to call in our expert witnesses now?” he asked.
The judge scratched at the corner of her mouth and then nodded to the security android at the back of the room. “Alright. You can send them in now.”
There was an immediate commotion from the hallway. Gasps and cheers. The entire courtroom swiveled in their seats toward the doors. The android opened the entrance and in walked an entourage of more security bots, followed by four young boys. Camera flashes lit the entire scene like a strobe light. I practically swallowed my own tongue.
It was the most bizarre thing to see the four of them all modernized and decked out with body mods. They looked good. He looked good. He looked perfect. My heart was doing double time trying to pump blood to my brain. We made eye contact as he passed and I felt paralyzed. He gave me a little closed mouth smile and waggled his fingers. I stiffened and slid as low under the desk as I could go.
The prosecutor and Dr. Thompson shared a hushed side conversation before the lawyer approached the four kids squished into the stand.
The prosecutor held the opening of his jacket and pulled his mouth to one side as if he thought this was the biggest waste of time.
“Has the kidnapping changed your life?” he asked.
George leaned into the microphone. “Yes.”
The courtroom burst into stifled giggles. A weighted tension lifted in the room. Except for the prosecutor whose expression soured.
“Yes, of course, it has,” he mumbled to himself. “But how? I mean negatively. Do you miss your family?”
“As opposed to what?” John asked. “Touring the world and never seeing them?”
“Or being six feet under and never seeing them,” Ringo added.
“Yes,” the prosecutor said through gritted teeth. “But your family is mourning you, terribly aren’t they?”
“Not mine, I’m sure Mimi’s finally glad to be rid of me,” John said. A few more laughs sounded from the audience. “It’s happened to me before. I’ve been taken away from me family to a new home. So I’m probably a bit more used to it than the rest of the lads.”
The prosecutor clutched his jacket a little tighter. “Doesn’t that make you unhappy, angry for what Ms. Mor did?”
“No, not at all!” Ringo said.
“She saved my life,” Paul said. “She saved all our lives!”
I could feel my shoulders relaxing. I was so glad they felt that way. Pursing his lips, the prosecutor stepped directly in front of Lennon.
“John, you proposed to Emmeline,” he said. “But then you left her to audition? What happened? Didn’t you swear away your music to her?”
“We never auditioned,” John said. “We were too busy trying not to get shot.”
“Ms. Mor told you about the fame and success you would have had, isn’t that right?”
“That’s right,” he said, imitating the prosecutor’s voice.
“Didn’t that entice you? Motivate you?”
“For what? Not dyin’?”
“I mean that if she hadn’t kidnapped you, would you have continued on and pursued the life she described to you?”
“Yes,” he admitted. “But I would have anyway, with or without her.”
The prosecutor gave Judge McCoy a curt nod. “I rest,” he said and returned to his seat.
Greggs took his place.
“What do you think of the year 2109?” he asked the boys.
“It’s great,” Paul said. “Very nice. Thanks. World cleans up nice.”
“Are you glad you’re here?”
The boys burst into a Liverpudlian chorus of “yeah”, “of course,” “it’s great”.
Greggs gestured to Thompson and the council lawyer. “These people are suggesting it would have been better for them if you had died. But where do you stand on the issue?”
“About 5’11,” John quipped.
More laughter rang through the courtroom, even Judge McCoy couldn’t hold in her chuckle.
“Oh, he’s really cute, isn’t he?” My mom’s voice again from the peanut gallery. I blushed hard. Greggs grinned ear to ear at the audience’s reaction.
“And you’re all alive? Your hearts are beating?” he asked them.
“You can call a doctor to testify for that,” John said.
“You’re four very real people, aren’t you?” Greggs asked.
“As far as I know, no one’s told me otherwise,” John said. “But then no one’s told you otherwise either have they?”
“You could be a hologram or a robot for all we know,” George added. More raucous laughter followed. The prosecutor clenched his jaw.
“I think we’d all like to hear this from your perspective,” Greggs rested his arms on the stand. “Wouldn’t you like to have basic human rights like ‘not be murdered’?”
“Why don’t you ask the other me that got popped off in the late 19th century?” John asked. “Seems to me that’s what the other me was all about when he was alive. Maybe if you had listened to me about peace then, you wouldn’t have to be listening to me now.”
A silence fell over the courtroom.
“Thank you,” Greggs said to Judge McCoy and sat beside me.
As the boys were led off the stand and everyone watched them in complete awe, the prosecutor called from his spot, “We’ll ask Dr. Thorne to testify now.”
Everything inside of me froze in complete dread. This was the end of the line. I was going to prison. Travelers would continue murdering people in the name of “science”. And nothing would change for the better. I mentally prepared myself for Thorne’s testimony and for everything I was about to lose. At least I had saved a few lives along the way. I would never regret that.
Dr. Thorne, the council’s star witness, got to the stand and cleared his throat.
“After the subject went over the cliff into the portal, I stayed for the next five decades, studying the effects of a Beatles-less world from 1958-2008,” he said, his hands dropping to his lap. “Though most of my studies focused on changes in music style and composition, there were many significant cultural changes as well. During that time, I studied those involved in the counterculture movement, otherwise known as “hippies”. I spent time with them… got to know them. And got to know their ideals and philosophies… Turns out… fifty years is a long time for a person to reflect on their past actions and values…”
I furrowed my brow in confusion. Greggs had a similar reaction next to me.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to read this statement,” Thorne opened an old parchment paper from his coat pocket. “During her stay, Emmeline Mor has violated more than seventeen laws and rules, compromised our identities, endangered the portal structure. However…”
Dr. Thompson flared his nostrils.
“In the absence of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard “Ringo” Starkey… the impact on the world was significant. Nearly immeasurable, though I did the best I could.” He looked up from his paper.“Her mission was successful. This timeline was altered without a single assassination.”
There was a collective audible gasp followed by scattered murmurs. My jaw dropped. Never in a million alternate timelines would I have imagined that Thorne would testify on my behalf. Not long ago he had shot me point blank in the chest.
I turned to Greggs, “Why would he do that?” I asked flabbergasted.
A stunned Greggs shook his head. “He violated laws as well, he must have betrayed the council for his own exoneration.”
Thorne took his seat behind the fuming council’s lawyer. But there was something about his expression, the lifted brow, and crinkles at the side of his eyes. It seemed softer to me.
“Either way it’s over,” Greggs said in relief.
“Objection your honor.” The prosecutor stood, his chair scraping against the floor. “It’s preposterous to declare that the mission was successful when no components of the mission were actually completed! This timeline was meant to be altered because Mr. Lennon fell in love and gave up music. Not because he was kidnapped and dragged into a new century! Did he fall in love with her? No. Therefore it is not a success.”
“There was a proposal!” Greggs scoffed.
“Oh sure, a proposal that Ms. Mor coerced,” he said leaning his weight on the table. “A proposal that he clearly had no intent to follow through on.”
“He proclaimed his love in the sand dunes,” Greggs argued. “Didn’t you watch the footage?”
“I saw it. So what?” the prosecutor said. “Any boy could say anything to a girl that he’s planning to take to his friend’s bedroom after.”
I twisted in my seat to see Lennon, who looked at me with arched brows.
“This was her mission from the beginning. This was the mission that she herself proposed to the council,” the prosecutor said, making giant sweeping motions toward me. “He did not fall in love and therefore this mission can not be considered a success.”
Judge McCoy rubbed her chin, deep in thought. Then after a moment, she spoke.
“Could John Winston Lennon return to the stand please?”
I bolted upright. Thompson and his lawyer shot each other sideways glances. From the back of the room, John slowly stood and made his way by himself to the front of the room. Photography bots clicked away as he sat on the stand.
“Mr. Lennon,” Judge McCoy said. “From your perspective and experience do you believe that the mission was a success by the council’s given definition?”
John shifted his eyes.
“Well, I ended up here and I don’t think that was supposed to happen,” he said.
I closed my eyes and grimaced.
“Let me clarify my question,” she said. “In the 87 days that Ms. Mor was present in 1958, did you find yourself to have fallen in love with her?”
A tense pause filled the room. I cupped my hands to my nose. The entire audience bowed forward; their ears perked.
John leaned into the microphone.
“Completely and irrevocably, your honor.”
The audience erupted in titters, happy sighs, and relieved words. A bursting smile spread across my face, which John mirrored at me from the stand. Judge McCoy nodded to herself.
“This inquisition finds current time travel practices to dissatisfy the Comprehensive Human Rights Act of 2025 and laws involving time travel are hereby to be reexamined and rewritten. Because of this, this inquisition also finds Emmeline Mor to be innocent of these antiquated laws, and petitions for her acquittal. Thank you.”
The same second we were dismissed, I left everyone behind and ran up to John.
“You’re not mad at me for taking you into the future?” I asked.
“Are you kidding? Look at me I have all the new features! I’m like an upgraded model!” He dipped and bowed, showing off his new mods. “They even put something in that’s made me feel better. I don’t feel so angry anymore.”
“A mood stabilizer,” I nodded. “That’s great, John!”
“There is still so much about this technology that I don’t understand or know how to do.”
“Well, you just aged 200 years,” I said.
John put his hands on his hips. “I’m a wee 169-year-old I’ll have you know. A spring chicken!”
I laughed, bit my lip, and looked away. It was so good to see him, better than I could have imagined.
He bent down to catch my eye. “When this time travel stuff gets sorted,” he said. “I’m gonna petition to go back and get my mum. Bring her back here before her accident.”
Tears welled in my eyes at the thought.
“Will you come with me?” he asked.
I wiped the tear from the corner of my eye. “I’m pretty sure they are never going to let me time travel ever again.”
“So, you’re out of a job?”
“Completely and irrevocably.”
John smiled so big his nose wrinkled.
“Not for you though,” I said tugging at his elbow.
“Signed us fresh out of the portal,” he said.
“Of course they did! That’s like opening a bottomless bank account.”
“We’ve been trying to learn all the songs we’ve already written, but there are hundreds and hundreds of them!” John shrugged. “It’s alright, but Paul and I think we want to write some new things to play as well.”
My eyes widened. “That would be amazing!”
“They’re sending The Beatles on a world tour. Can you imagine that? People want to see these 200-year-old dead guys play music. And you know…” He touched my hand. “I told them I wouldn’t sign or tour nothin’ if I couldn’t pick who gets to be our opening act.”
My voice caught in my throat.
“Since you’re out of a job and all,” he said with a knowing half-smirk.
I sprang on my heels and wrapped my arms around his neck, he caught me and pulled me in close. Camera flashes went off around us like a light show.
“I love you, John Lennon,” I said.
He swept me off my feet, spun me in a tight little circle and carried me over the threshold of the courtroom like an old-fashioned bride.
“Thank you and good night,” he said to the room of laughing journalists and camera bots.
We stepped into the harsh sunlight of the future. Our future.