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.



The next morning, I awoke in Mendips and stared at the ceiling for a good, long while. Would I still have to come back to this room after I was married? Or would we run away together and skip the country. Everything had happened so fast and we hadn’t made any real plans. Now we would have to figure things out under the watchful eye of trigger-finger Thorne.

I pulled the covers off and swung my legs over the bed. Anxiety filled every inch of me, but there was nothing left to do besides get ready for my elopement with John Lennon. 

I picked through my 1950s clothes. Everything was so ugly and dumpy. The only one I could think of was the one red dress that I had already worn for John several dozen times. I ached for this gown I had in 2109. Custom fitted iridescent fabric, body tight all the way to the knees and then puddled into this gorgeous train. It even had these LED-infused sequins that sparkled off and on in the dark. Wearing that to the 1958 registrar’s office would have absolutely blown John’s mind to little bits.

The thought of him never seeing me in that gown made me feel so disappointed and heavy that I slung that red dress over my head and didn’t even bother to smooth it.

Under my clothes in my suitcase were stacks of time-appropriate cash. I didn’t know where we were running off to after the elopement, so I took each stack and stuffed them into my purse. Best to have too much than not enough.

Worry lines and dark circles splotched my reflection in the mirror. Not at all how I had imagined my “big day”. Or my “future groom”. I had a funny little spark inside of me. A tickle of happiness. I really did love that boy. And now that he was in on the secret, everything would be alright, wouldn’t it?

I clenched my purse a little tighter, hoping that John was going to be able to keep up the act for the rest of his life.

The happiness flickered off and my stomach churned. What was I doing? Committing fifty years of my life to staying here? Living as an eternal teenager, watching my husband grow old and die without me? I would be wearing weird pointy bras for another fifteen years or something. Ugh. I missed my iridescent dress. I missed that dress.

I miss drinking a paper can of Shorty-Hash. I miss the ceramic cat that used to sit on my desk. I miss feeling clean. What happens if one of my body modifications breaks? What if Thorne decides things aren’t working as well as he thought and he comes around to kill John? Would he always be in danger? What would happen to Paul and George? Would Ringo be okay?

I left my room. Each step was a reality into 1958. How could I spend fifty years here building a whole life with John and then poof back to the future expected to start an entirely new life?

I knocked on his door. My chest in knots.


Silence. No time for a groom to sleep in on his wedding day. I checked my shoulder for Mimi and opened the door.


My face dropped. He was gone. I stared at his room in disbelief. We were supposed to be heading to the registrar’s office right then. Maybe things hadn’t gone like I had hoped. Maybe Thorne knew all along. 

Then I saw on his bed a second empty spot. Where his Gallotone Champion Acoustic usually sat. Missing. Ice ran through my veins.

I tore down the stairs, frightening the gray cat off his usual step. I dashed from room to room searching for my fiancée until finally, I found Mimi cross-legged in the front room with a cup of tea.

“Do you know where John is?” I asked frantically.

She gave me a disapproving eye. “I thought you would know,” she said.

I relaxed. Her coldness reflected all the disapproving of a guardian with a teenager about to get married. “Is he getting the license?” I guessed.

Her disapproving eye blinked into confusion. “He left an hour ago with that McCartney boy. Going to some silly audition in town.”

I think every ounce of blood drained from the top of my head to my feet. “What?” I asked hoarsely.

“He didn’t get my permission of course,” she huffed. “I’d have told him not to waste his valuable time.”

I couldn’t respond. My knees went weak. Thorne had promised he would be watching every moment of the day. He had just seen John essentially leave me at the alter for the very thing I told him not to do. But why? I didn’t understand. I thought I had explained everything so well. And now he was going to get shot. My John was going to die.

I stumbled out the front door. I was closer to The Cavern than Thorne. I could beat him there.

I hardly looked at the stranger’s car I jumped into.

“Take me to The Cavern downtown! As quick as you can go!” I yelled.

“Now hold on a minute young lady,” said the driver, a bristle-mustached man in a black hat.  I turned my purse and let the cash rain into his lap. He cleared his throat. “The Cavern you said, alright.”

We took off. I calculated how many precious minutes we were ahead of Thorne. Not more than five or six. Why had John done this? Did he have it in his mind the whole time to ditch the wedding? My heart would have been broken if it weren’t beating like wild out of my chest. Please, Galactica, don’t die. John, please don’t die.

Before the car could roll to a complete stop, I swung the door opened and bailed, then dashed through a crowd of young men tuning their instruments and smoking cigarettes.

“Hey, you can’t go in there,” one of them said to me as I thrust through the door of The Cavern.

Inside was nothing but a set of concrete narrow steps leading into the dark club. I scurried down them one foot after another, skipping as many steps as I could. Then I skid around the corner.

The main room was a giant and dank cellar with a great domed ceiling and a small stage raised only a couple of feet off the ground. The entire place was so muggy and hot that even the greyish bricks were sweating. One table had been set up in the audience and sat two men with greasy comb overs writing on papers and clearing their throats. 

“Be with you in a moment, lads,” one said.

I spun around the room until I saw the Quarrymen, leaning against the wall with their guitars at their sides. John had on an upturned leather jacket and his thick-rimmed glasses, when he saw me, he narrowed his eyes and turned away. 

I shook my head in disbelief.

“John!” I hissed as I walked up to him.

He flickered his eyes at me with that heavy dipping brow. His mouth a flat little line.

“What are you doing?” I asked through my teeth.

“What does it look like?” he asked dryly.

“Excuse us,” I said to Paul and George, grabbing John by the elbow and pulling him to a secluded corner. “Are you kidding me? What is going on with you? We’re supposed to be getting married right now.”

He crossed his arms tight.

“Couldn’t sleep last night,” he said shortly. “Everything got me to thinking. Really thinking.”

He was speaking in harsh little jabs. Not the kind of nice little voice you would have for your doting bride on your fake but also maybe real wedding day.

“I don’t understand—”

“You know everything about me. And my life, right? Front to back,” he said, arms still crossed tight.

“John.” I shook my head and gestured that my IND was recording. He glared at me with narrow brown eyes.

“Did you know that my mum was going to get killed by the off-duty policeman?”

Good, holy Galactica. I stood there as dumb as ever, trying to put two words together.

“Did you know?” he pressed again.

I rubbed my lips together, thinking of what to say. Nothing I could think of would sufficiently appease both John and Thorne. If I played dumb, John would explode. And he was very good at exploding. Although, if I explained things to John over my IND, Thorne would be livid and there would be no hope of talking him out of the kill.

John’s honey brown eyes were shimmery. I hated when they shimmered like that. I had lied too many times to him already.

“I tried to save her,” I said.

Those shimmery eyes flashed with anger.

“See?” he said. “Because all this time, I thought I had this nice little imaginary friend named God that I could blame. Or the policeman. Or even myself. But instead, I find out, that someone knew that this horrific thing was going to happen. And yet, it happened. That’s a crock of shit right there.”

“I really did try to save her,” I said, the words clawing out of my throat. “I tried! But Thorne wouldn’t let me go. He said he would have killed you if I went!”

“So, let him then,” he said, through angry tears. “You should have… you should have let him.”

He wiped his nose with the sleeve from his leather jacket and tried to walk away, but I stood in his path.

“He pulled a gun on me!” I said, my voice was high-pitched and strained. “I used my technology to call the house, but it was so weak. Mimi didn’t hear the phone ringing until Julia had already left.”

“It’s a lie.”

“I swear!”

“Why should I believe anything you say? Hmm? You’ve done nothing but lie to me from the beginning.”

“This isn’t a lie!” I said. “He’s going to shoot you if you step on that stage!”

“We’re ready,” the same man from before called from the table.

John shoulder-checked me as he moved for the stage. I grabbed ahold of his arm, keeping him back.

“Wait, no! Don’t!” I yelled as he pulled from my grasp. I stomped my foot.

Then to my horror, he hopped onto the stage to join Paul and George.

“No drummer?” the club owner asked.

“Don’t need one,” John said slipping under his guitar strap. “Yet.”

I clawed down my face. I had to stop this audition from happening. I had to get these kids to safety somehow.

“Alright then…” The owner checked the sheet on his clipboard. “The Quarrymen?”

“The name’s outdated,” John announced rolling his sleeve. “We’re going by The Beatles from now on. Gotta feeling about that name,” he added while giving me a dirty glare from behind his glasses.

Paul and George both gave each other an incredulous look but seemed like they were too focused on the audition to debate the name change.

My IND hiccupped. I blurted a cuss word under my breath.

 “Alright, lads, whenever you’re ready.”

 With a nod the three put their fingers to their guitars and began playing In Spite of All the Danger.

I had to do something, and I had to do something quick. A power chord ran from the stage to the back of the room. I squinted to find the outlet or power source. Maybe one of those old-timey boxes where you could flip a switch. The underground cellar club was too dark. I felt along the wall with my hands, frantically tracing the bricks hoping to find where that dang power chord ended. My shin knocked into a bucket with a sharp pain. I looked down to see a pail full of rags and old squeeze bottles. PCMX cleaner. I stopped in my tracks. That was a close one.

 Loud and angry footsteps echoed from the staircase.

“John!” I screamed, but to no avail, the game was up.

 “Stay right where you are!” Thorne barked.

He flashed his gun around the room. The two club owners at the table stood and threw their hands in the air.

Paul and George both dove to each corner beside the stage. John didn’t, he hugged his guitar to his chest with a pale expression. I would have said, ‘I told you so’ if I wasn’t so horrified or sick.

What could I do? I couldn’t overpower him; he had the body armor same as me. No cop would be able to stop him. It was happening, right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.

I felt helpless and angry. Angry at Thorne for being so set on termination. If only we were in the year 2109, he’d have no power to gun people down like this.

Suddenly there was a light from the entrance stairwell. A young kid with a pair of drumsticks hopped into the doorway.

“Have Rory and the Hurricanes already auditioned?” Ringo asked, then as soon as he saw Thorne with the gun his eyes bulged. “Sorry, wrong room,” he whispered and backed away.

I closed my eyes and slapped my forehead. Are you kidding me? Of all the worst possible timings ever.

“You!” Thorne pointed his gun in Ringo’s direction. “Get over here.”

Ringo clutched his drumsticks and slowly walked toward the stage with the others. Well, now he had all four of them.

Thorne turned his gun at the owners. “You two. Leave. I have no need to disrupt your timelines.”

The chairs pitched and squealed as the owners fled The Cavern with their hands above their heads. I bent down and carefully plucked one of the squeeze bottles from the bucket.

“All of you,” Thorne barked at them. “On stage. In a line.”

I leapt in front of Thorne’s gun. The cold barrel pressed hard into my chest.

“Em, don’t!” John screamed from the stage.

“Move!” Thorne shouted at me and tried to push past me, but I grabbed the gun by the barrel and held it in place, nestled into the body armor on my chest.

“No,” I said firmly. “I couldn’t save Julia, but I can save the boys.”

Thorne curled his upper lip in fury. “You’re rogue,” he said.

“You’re right.”

I pulled the bottle of cleaner from behind my back and squirted four or five good shots right into his eyes.


POP. The gun went off right into my chest. The bullet clinked onto the ground between my feet. The armor had stopped it, but it still hurt. Like when Que and I used to play Astro Shooters with those rubber balls that would 3D print on demand. Galactica. It felt just like that.

I stumbled, dizzy from the PCMX. The gun clattered to the floor, followed by the loud thump of Thorne’s body.

I braced myself for the hard floor, but instead found myself in a pair of warm arms.

“Em, hold on, hold on!”

I shook my head trying not to inhale any more of the PCMX. I could see Thorne twitching and reaching for the gun.

“Get out of here, we have to get out of here,” I said as loudly as I could muster.

As well as I can remember, the boys helped me up the stairs and out of the building. The dank Cavern faded but the adrenaline carried me through. When I awoke, I was half lying on the pavement, half in John’s lap. His hand was rattling my chin. The other boys circled around and leaned in.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I reassured them by pulling the neck of my shirt so they could see the welt of the bullet that had not penetrated me.

John’s face relaxed in complete relief. “I thought I lost you,” he said with a wavery voice.

I grabbed him by the opening of his leather jacket and pulled him in close. “I told you so.” There. Now I could say it.

“I’m sorry, Em. I didn’t—” He ran a hand through his hair so panicky he almost knocked his glasses off. “I’ll marry you! I won’t touch another guitar again, I swear!”

The other boys exchanged confused and uneasy glances.

I swallowed painfully. “It’s too late,” I said.

“What do we do?” George asked. “Should we go for a policeman?”

I sat up on the sidewalk. The Cavern was four or five buildings away, where we had left Thorne’s twitching body.

“He’s like me. He can’t be killed,” I said, rubbing the purple welt on my chest. “And I can’t hide you forever. He’ll spend the next fifty years hunting you down.”

I cupped my chin with my fingers. There was only one place I could take them that would stop Thorne from trying to kill them. One place that would secure a timeline without The Beatles. It’s true, I was rogue. Nothing was off the table. Including this.

I had to take all four of them through the portal.

“The only way you can all be truly safe is if I take you back home,” I said.

“Well, who’s to say he won’t follow us straight to America?” Paul asked.

“No,” I said. I raised my brow at John. “All the way home.”

His mouth parted in shock. “How?” he asked.

Then I saw it. The unmistakable grey hood of a meat truck puttering down the street. The driver stopped to unload boxes from the back. The car idled with the keys still in the ignition. My eyes widened. I knew those headlights. I knew that front grill. I had seen it before.

“That’s how,” I said, pointing to the truck.


Well, if I thought I had wrecked the mission before, I had no idea how much worse things could get. I had gone from plan A to plan B to plan F. But the timeline had split. There was no denying that. And there was no going back.

The screen of my IND retracted and shut off.

“John,” I said.

He backed away from me, crawling on the ground. As freaked out as ever. Which, I mean, yeah. Who wouldn’t be? There was no earthly explanation for a video to be projecting from someone’s body in the year 1958.

“What are you, Em?” he finally got out. “You’re not human.”

I shushed him. “John, look I—”

If I told him the truth, for once, I might be able to help him. This might be the only way to truly get him to hang up his guitar. But I had to do it quick before Thorne noticed my camera off.

“It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m going to tell you the truth. The entire truth. The song that I played for you, the one about this place, Strawberry Fields Forever? … It’s not my song. It’s your song. You wrote it… In 1967… John, I’m from the future.”

John stared at me, motionless from the ground. I grimaced and held my hands by my sides.

“You’re bloody crackers!” John sprang off the ground to run away.

“Wait, listen to me!” I said. “I’m trying to save your life.”

I reactivated my IND and the garden lit up with a soft blue glow. I opened a small clip, The Beatles playing live on the Ed Sullivan show. When John heard his own voice he stopped and turned, ultimately entranced by the technology presented before him. There he was on the screen. Older, but still him. I knew from the look on his face that he had no choice other than believe me.

“Tell me everything,” he said.

I gave him the quickest run-down of Beatles history that I possibly could. Going through every major success and album that I could think of. It was a lot. A lot. And I didn’t have a whole lot of time to explain everything.

I pulled up a few pictures to show him. Ending with the Bed-In for Peace with Yoko. The same image that had given me the idea for the mission in the first place. John leaned forward examining every detail of it.

“You’d think after that many albums I could afford more than granny specs from the National Health,” he said his face close to the screen. He pointed to Yoko. “And who do I marry then?”

“Yoko Ono. You really loved her.” I scrunched my brows together. “I mean, you will love her… I mean you would have loved her.”

“But get a load of future me, Em! Look at them whiskers!” He put his hands on his knees, his nose practically touching the holograph. “If this is my honeymoon, how old am I when I finally get married? Fifty?”

“Um,” I shut off my projection. “Sometimes it’s best not to know too much about your own future.”

John slapped his knees and stood. “Alright, fine, I’m not that interested in me self anyway. Tell me more about the future! I want to know about it all. Is everyone a walking television set, or just you? Are you more machine than human?”

“It’s a little device that was installed when I was a young child,” I said making it as brief as possible. “I have other devices and body modifications too. Everyone has things like this in the future.”

“What else is there?” he asked, his eyes shining. “Have we made contact with things and beings from other planets? Have we finally ended war?”

“Okay, hold on,” I said, calming him down. “I don’t have a lot of time and I need to explain why I’ve been sent here.”

“I have a million and more questions.”

“I know,” I said. “But tonight, I have to leave it at The Beatles.”

“I can’t believe it! The Beatles! Six number one songs in a single year?” he said, excitedly and spun a full circle on his heels. “Masters of the British Empire! Ha! I’d like to hear what dear Mimi has to say about that one. Look where my guitar gets me then. You were wrong about that one! Weren’t you, Mimi?”

“John,” I tried to cut in, but he was floating away on cloud nine.

“To think of that! Us? Kids from Liverpool of all places! And we did this!” He put his fingers to his lips, a wild gleam in his eye. “How much money do we make from all that success? I bet we’re close to millionaires, am I right?”

  “Uh, well…” I chuckled.

“Do we become millionaires, Em?”

I took a breath in. Not sure if I wanted to let him know or not. He froze waiting for my reply.

“You are worth more money than The Queen herself,” I said.

John’s smile dropped. In fact, he dropped. Right onto the grass, in shock.

“But you can’t have it, John. You have to give it all up.”

“What? Why?” he asked softly.

“I’ve been sent back in time to create an alternate timeline without your band,” I said. “If you don’t give it up on your own, you’ll be killed.”

I explained to him that he was now in an alternate universe, created to study the absence of his impact. I told him that if he couldn’t leave his band he would be killed for the study. Then I briefly touched on David Mark Chapman and how he would only live twenty more years if he pursued music.

He sat still and quiet for a while. It felt like an eternity. I knew that my camera was still off, and Thorne would begin tracking me any minute.

“That’s why you were trying so hard to get me to forget about music,” he finally said. “Is that why you were trying to start a romance as well?”

My heart stung. My eyes were still puffy from bawling earlier and I couldn’t believe they had any tears left to clog my ducts.

“Yes,” I said. “I was sent to wed you away from your music career.”

“Well, that explains a lot.” He nodded to himself. “None of the feelings were real then? Not even at Brighton? Just a wee little bit?”

“A wee lot little bit,” I said, my throat constricting. “I wasn’t trying to fall for you, but I did. I really couldn’t help myself.”

“Me neither,” he said with a slight chuckle.

I shut my eyes, too afraid to say what had to be said. “The only way to stop my mentor from coming after you is if you marry me.”


“I know it’s boring and it’s not a life with music. But whatever! It could be great! We could fake it together and you would live past forty! And you know, we could do whatever we wanted! We could travel to Aruba or anywhere in the world. It doesn’t even have to be real. We could fake through it—”

“I’ll do it,” he said.

My IND jabbed me with a buzzing hiccup. Dread washed over me. He was coming to kill John.

“Listen, we can make it out of this okay, but we have to act fast!” I said taking him by the elbow and moving him to a darker spot in the field. “When I activate my camera, you have to propose to me. And make it sound convincing enough to stop Thorne! Tell me that you’re going to give up music forever. Then we have to part ways. Don’t be around me until I know you’re safe. I have a tracking device on me, so I don’t want you anywhere near me.”

“I don’t…” John stammered.

“Okay, I’m going to count to three and turn on my camera,” I said.

“Wait, hold on, hold on, hold on, on, on!” He grabbed my wrists. “How am I supposed to ‘make this sound convincing’? I can’t do that. I can’t act at all!”

“Nice try,” I said. “You’ve been in six motion picture movies. Now hold still, I’m going to count to three.”

He ran a hand through his hair. “I’m dead nervous,” he said to himself.

I held up three fingers. “One… Two…”

I pointed at him. Which made him laugh right at the same time I activated the camera. I gave him a stink eye. This isn’t a joke John, this is a bullet through your brain.

“Em, can I ask you something?” He still trailed a giggle although the tips of his fingers were trembling as he brought them to his chest.

What is it, John?” I could tell that my acting was no good either. My voice was all high and wispy. I held my breath and hoped that this would be believable enough.

“Let’s get married, Em.”

There was this awkward pause in the field. Crickets chirped. John leaned his head forward as if he were prompting me for my next line on stage.

“That’s not a question,” I said.

“True,” he said with an eye roll. “But if it were to be a question. What would your answer be?”

“I would say yes,” I said and smiled at him. “If, of course, you agree to give up your band.”

“Whatever you want, Em. I’ll get a bank job and turn thirty-five tomorrow if you’d like. Buckle down and be a Brummer striving for the rest of my life.”

“Don’t be sarcastic,” I said through gritted teeth. Pointing at where my IND was actively recording him.

“I’m not,” he said, fully in character now. “We’ll marry as soon as we can. I’ll get the things together. Tomorrow at ten o’clock. We’ll go down to the register office.”

My eyes bulged. Tomorrow? He was really playing the whole nine yards.

“Great,” I squeaked. “10 o’clock tomorrow.”

My leg muscles twitched, preparing to run far away from John so that Thorne wouldn’t have a way to track him.

“And Em,” he called after me before I could leave. I turned to face him in the dark field. “I’m real on that, if you are,” he said in a low soft voice.

Little electric currents ran into my fingertips. I searched his face for hidden meaning, but all he gave me was a quick little nod of his head. I returned the nod and then flew on my heels to find Thorne. I had to get to him before he got to John, or that would be the end of everything.

I quickly scaled the red iron fence. The scratches that I had gotten before were nothing compared to the careless bumps and bruises that were now forming on my knees and shins.

Where could I find Thorne? There had to be a way I could reverse track him. I was just about to activate my IND when a voice boomed through the dark alley.

 “I wouldn’t use that in public, if I were you,” Thorne said as he moved toward me wearing a dark trench coat. “You should know better to be more careful. John could have seen you using it at any time.”

  My heart leapt. He hadn’t figured us out.

“And I shouldn’t have to remind you about turning your camera off.” Thorne towered over me. “Once is a terrible mistake. Twice is a terrible offense. Your camera was off more than three times as long as it should have been.”

“I turned it off because John came to the field,” I said, trying to hide the quaver in my voice. “After he apologized, we ended up, you know… wanting privacy.”

“That’s a dangerous situation. We’ve been through this,” he said. “I’ll have to write a report on this once we’ve terminated the subject and sent you home—”

“John proposed.”

Thorne was unamused by the exciting news. “Why’s that?”

 “He was so sorry about what happened. He vowed to give up his music for me. Surely, you felt the timeline split.” I gulped. “The mission was a success. We elope tomorrow morning.”

“And that’s what you want?” he asked, his face unmoving. “You want to be married to an abusive and unsuccessful man, spending the next fifty years discouraging him from his one true passion?”

“Well, jeez, when you put it like that…” I mumbled.

“What about McCartney?” he asked sharply. “You said he was a threat.”

He was a threat. Musically of course. His songwriting talent unmatched now that John was out of the way. Plus, not to mention that he would probably start a new band with George.

“Don’t worry about Paul,” I said, worrying about Paul. “They won’t be able to audition tomorrow and Paul will give it up once John is gone.”

“This is what you really want.” Thorne pressed, like the annoyed father pushing his own agenda onto a stubborn child.

“Yes,” I said, my whole chest tightening. “I want to marry John. I want to go forward with the mission I came here to do.”

Thorne’s mouth tightened. He scratched at his bristly chin.             

“Fine,” he huffed. “You’ll marry tomorrow. But you will not at any point turn your camera off again. I’ll be watching.”

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