125 Loose Ends Unravelling

When I was about ten, it really annoyed me that I couldn’t see over the tops of the front seats when we went for a drive, so I did what I thought was the most obvious thing: I removed the parts of the seat that made them higher than I thought they needed to be and tossed them in the trunk. Mom and Dad didn’t agree with my solution. Dad said that the tops were called headrests and that without them people got whiplash, which is what happens when your head is going along in one direction and suddenly starts going in a different direction because of an unexpected stop. I’d never actually experienced it, but I had a feeling I knew what it was like, just about now.

How could Dad have suddenly found Professor Davis? And why now, just as I’d pretty much decided that I was ready to have him vanish from my life completely? When I’d finalized decided that I wanted to just find a way to live this life that I was in, why suddenly tell me that there might be a way out of it?

I don’t know what was showing on my face, but it can’t have been good, because Jeremy put his hand on my shoulder and asked in a concerned voice, “What is it? Marsh, what’s happened?”

Guiltily, I hid the front of my phone against my shoulder and gasped, “just a bit of a surprise, that’s all.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.

I squeezed my eyes shut in exasperation and worked really hard to make my voice calm. Placing a finger on his lips, I told him, “Jeremy… I’m crazy about you, but you’re trying too hard. This is something I need to deal with on my own.” Then he flinched back, looking every bit like a little boy whose mother had scolded him for putting jam on the cat, so I rested my head on his chest and let him put his arms around me, as if he needed reassurance that I wasn’t too angry with him.

“Is breakfast still OK?” he asked.

“I think… I think need to take a rain check, if you don’t mind?”

I felt his chest tense, but after a moment, he relaxed, stroked my hair and said, “OK. Another time, then.”

I nodded, and he walked me back to his room so I could grab my things. Our good-bye kiss outside the door to his dorm lingered, as though both of us were afraid that “another time, then” was just a lie that we had silently agreed to believe.

As soon as I was out of site of his dorm, I pulled out my phone and called Dad. “Hey, Marsh,” he answered. “I’m just running out the door. I’ll call you when I get to the office. What’s a good time for you?”

“Uh… my first class isn’t until 9:00, but can you at least–”

“Great! I’ll call you before then,” he said, hanging up before I could even ask how he had done it.” And I knew perfectly well that there was no point in calling him back and insisting that he tell me now; he never used his cellphone while driving, unless it was a real emergency. His daughter’s curiosity wouldn’t count.

I continued walking to my room, and suddenly stopped with a jolt. “His daughter,” I had thought. Was that the first time I’d ever actually thought of myself that way? Not as his son, transformed into a girl by mad scientists, but as his daughter? I really wasn’t sure what to make of it, but boy did it sound strange.

My roommates had already left for breakfast when I got to the dorm, so I dropped off my books and hurried to the dining hall, making my excuses for being late. Nobody said anything, although I was pretty sure that if I had been wearing the same clothing today that I had yesterday, somebody would have noticed. Silently, I thanked Jeremy for his foresight and Terry for her discretion.

I did have the feeling that Jay was staring at me for some reason, but whenever I glanced over, his eyes were focused on the pancakes he was eating, so I might have been just imagining things.

The conversation as the group of us walked back to the dorm was pretty safe as well; clearly, either only my roommates knew where I’d spent the night, or nobody cared – and the idea that none of the other girls would care where virginal Marsha Steen had spent the night didn’t make a lot of sense. But the studied non-interest vanished once the three of us were back in our room.

“I’m kind of impressed with your boyfriend,” Lee Ann said, closing the door behind us. “I’m just not sure what to think of you, right now.”

“Nothing happened,” I explained, possibly a bit more defensively than absolutely necessary. “And why would it matter if it had? I followed your advice. I’ve been on the Pill for a few weeks; what’s the big deal?”

“The big deal, Marsh,” Terry explained, “is that you told us that you remember nothing of… well, knowing the two of us before midterm break.”

“I don’t!” I insisted. “Well, I sort of knew Lee Ann in my old life, but–”

“But you somehow knew how Terry had reacted last Founder’s Day,” Lee Ann stated.

“What?!” I exclaimed. “Of course I don’t rememb–” then suddenly, I did remember. I remembered breakfast the previous day, and talking about Terry’s enthusiasm upon learning the news. My jaw dropped. “How could I possibly…?” I whispered, dropping onto the couch at the realization. I shook my head to clear it. “My memory of Founder’s Day last year was waking up because Chris Ba–” I coughed as I realized I’d been about to say my male freshman year roommate’s name. “–Booch,” I corrected myself. “My roommate was shaking me awake to tell me I could sleep in.”

“Chris Booch?” echoed Lee Ann. “I don’t think I know her.” Thank goodness for androgynous first names!

I shrugged, trying calm myself. I had suspected something like this could be happening – this was just proof. “Terry running down the halls isn’t my memory, guys… I seem to be having her memories leaking into mine. The old Marsha Steen’s memories, I mean.”

Lee Ann sounded really skeptical. “Really?”

“I promise you,” I said. “You said yourselves that I was acting oddly. I don’t have a lot of her memories, but I do have this one. And I think Celeste – that girl who wanted me to alter those old dresses – was another.” I didn’t mention the Girl Scout meeting, but now it seemed likely that that was a Marsha memory as well.

“Sounds pretty convenient.”

“Maybe – as long as I’m not forgetting my own memories in their place. That’s my fear; I don’t want to forget being me.” And what was I going to do if I lost their trust?

The two of them looked at each other, and then Lee Ann said, “I want to believe you, Marsh. I think at some point, you’re going to need to tell us a lot more of this old life of yours.” And convince us that it’s real, she didn’t say, but I knew she had to be thinking it.

If you did change back, a small voice in my head suggested, you wouldn’t ever have to tell. It wasn’t so tempting, anymore, though – all it did was make me feel even worse. At any rate, they stopped pressing me, and we all headed to our rooms to get ready for class, although how I was supposed to focus on Organic Chemistry at the moment was beyond me.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the ringtone I had assigned to Dad’s office phone, and answered it eagerly. “I’m all ears, Dad,” I said.

He chuckled. “Sometimes it helps to have somebody not quite as close to the matter. I have an email address, a phone number, and a mailing address.”

“That’s amazing!” I exclaimed. “How?”

“Well, I called your friend Luke, and he said he had no more information than he’d told you beyond the nature of his interview with the experimenters, and he insisted that they were ‘good guys,’ but he did tell me something you hadn’t mentioned.”


“Professor Davis’s first name – Rolf. It turns out not to be all that common a combination of names, and when I found a Professor Rolf Davis in the Physics department at Rocky Lake University in Oregon, I was pretty sure I had the right guy.”

I felt like banging my head on my desk. Now that I thought about it, Luke had been on a first name basis with the people who had done this to us. Why hadn’t Vicky or I thought of that?

“So I had my secretary call the physics department,” Dad went on, “and they told her that he was on an extended leave, doing research… at Piques College! And they gave her his contact information there. Check your email; I’ve sent it to you.”

“So Piques tried a cover-up and forgot to tell his old university,” I realized.

“Exactly! Now, I’m sure some of these won’t be very useful – the address seems to be in your Physics Building – but they’d have arranged to forward his correspondence, don’t you think?”

Of course, that didn’t mean that he would actually answer, but… “Dad, thank you so very much,” I gushed. “This is a great breakthrough, and we never could have done it without you.”

“You’re very welcome, Princess,” he said. “Good luck.”

As he hung up, I smiled to myself. So he did still think of me that way, even if he thought he shouldn’t. The question now was, what to do next?

I started by calling Vicky while walking to class, telling her that we had new information, and asking her to arrange a meeting with Martin and Eric. I knew that her Friday schedule wasn’t as full as mine, so she’d have the time. “And how did things go with Kevin?” I asked.

“Depressingly easily,” she told me. “I broke up with him over the phone, and he just laughed in a superior way and said, ‘your loss – I’ll have another girl in my bed by Sunday. I guess you’re gonna be sleeping alone for a long time.’ I just hope you’re right about this, Marsh.”

When saw Geoff that morning in Orgo, I told him that she had actually done it, and he nodded. I think he might have seemed a bit interested this time. But after the lecture was over, I stopped to think. Shouldn’t knowing that we now actually had a way to get in touch with Professor Davis have made me hesitant in fixing the two of them up? What if I did have to change back, now? Surely I’d want her not to be dating another guy?

I got to Vicky’s room for our meeting that afternoon, and found myself the first one there. Her roommates were out, but we still went into her bedroom for privacy. “So what’s this new information?” she asked after I had taken off my coat.

I grinned. “Come on, Vix. You know me. I want to do this in the most dramatic fashion, in front of everybody.”

“I know,” she responded. “That’s why I told the boys to come fifteen minutes later than I told you. Come on, Marsh. They’re helping us – you and I are the main interested parties, here.”


“Don’t ‘Vicky’ me. I have a right. I want to know what this is all about, and maybe – just maybe – I want to talk you into not quite telling them everything.”

“Why wouldn’t I tell them everything?”

“I don’t know, do I, since you haven’t told me what this secret is!

I shook my head. I couldn’t just sit here for a quarter of an hour and not discuss it. I could lose graciously. “OK. Here it is, then. Dad did a bit of research for me and came up with a phone number, and an office address, and an email address for Professor Rolf Davis!”


“Incredible, huh?”

“So what happened when you called him?” she asked breathlessly.

“Well, I haven’t, yet.”

“Why not?!” she shrieked.

“Whoa, Vicky, slow down. I haven’t called because I haven’t figured out what to say. I thought I should get ideas from everybody, first.”

“Really? Are you sure that’s the reason?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, hearing something a bit dangerous in her tone.

“Well, Geoff called me this afternoon and asked me if I wanted to hang out with him. He said you’d put him up to it.”

“Well, I just figured–”

“So now I’m wondering why you would do that, if you knew about this phone number stuff.” Her gaze suddenly seemed to pierce through me. “It’s as though you’ve already made your choice. Do you want to stay a girl, Marshall? Are you picking Jeremy over me?”

I tried to laugh off her suggestion. “Vicky, you know what I want.”

“Do I?” Her voice started pitching up again. “A few months ago, you were desperate to change back. You hated being a girl. You said you were hoping to get back together with me.”


“And now you’re actually fixing me up with another guy?! I mean, how is that supposed to make me feel, Marsh? I’m used to the idea of thinking of other girls as my rivals, potentially. I’ve seen guys who I thought were mine, suddenly flirting with somebody else who might be a bit prettier, or cuter, or whatever. But how am I supposed to deal with the idea that you’re interested in another man instead of me?”

I found myself backing up, reacting to her just the way I would have if I were still male – used to the idea that fighting was done by physical dominance and hindered by the internalized rule that you didn’t do that with girls. But then I caught myself and realized something. I’m not a boy. I shook my head to clear it. There was no reason for me to react this way.

I stopped backing up, put my hands on my hips and stared up at her. “You just need to accept it, Vicky. I have no idea what’s going to happen. There’s no particular reason to say that I’ll change back, or that I even want to any more.”

That stopped her. She blinked at me. “What? What did you say?”

“Do you want to be a boy, Vicky?”

“What? No, of course not! I mean, I like boys, but I wouldn’t want to be one.”

“So why should I want to be one?”

“What? But… I mean, you are a boy…”

“Oh, Vicky,” I said, taking her hands in mine. “Look at me. Do I really look like a boy? I… for all I know, I do need to change back, but it’s not because I want to. It’s taken me all this time to realize that I’m comfortable this way – I remember being a boy, and I remember liking being a boy, only… it’s getting harder and harder to remember why. If I choose to change back now, it’ll be because no matter what I feel like, I’ll always have this horrible secret that I’m afraid to tell, or because it feels dishonest to be a girl. Or because… well, there are some problems, but mostly because I don’t know what else Davis and company might be able to do – and if we can talk to them, maybe we can find out or stop them or something. But I’m not a boy stuck in a girl’s body – my brain and body and even a lot of my habits now, are just as female as you.

“I… mentioned you to Geoff because… even if we’re not attracted to each other, I still love you and want you to be happy. I think you’d be a lot happier with somebody like Geoff than with a creep like Kevin. And if I do change back… well, I guess I have to take the chance that you might prefer him to me by then. It feels as though there’s two parts to me. Marshall loves you, Vicky. That we’ve been able to be as close as we have these past few months proves to me that it’s more than just lust. It’s love. But at the same time, that part of me that’s Marsha… loves Jeremy. And I really hope you can accept that.”

She sat down on the bed, hard, her face a mixture of confusion, jealousy, and shock. She was staring, not at the floor, nor at me. “I don’t know how you do this, Marsh,” she said, her voice squeaking in the middle. “Just when I think I have things figured out, you hand me something I can’t quite grasp. I don’t see how I’m supposed to accept this. It’s like you keep forcing me to try to be a better and more understanding person – do you have any idea how uncomfortable that is for me?”

“But you can do it.”

“I don’t know that!” She looked up at me and I saw the tears streaming down her face. “I just want to go back to the way we were. It was so much easier. Even being afraid I was going to lose you, I knew who I was. You let me be who I was. Why are you making me grow and change? I thought boys just accepted their partners and wanted them never to change. It’s girls who are always trying to change their part…” She broke off and I saw her expression change to surprise. “Oh my gosh…”

I reached for her to comfort her, and in the worst timing of the afternoon, we heard a knock at the door. “I’ll get it,” I said. “You fix your makeup, or whatever you’re supposed to say.” I managed a smile of chagrin. “I’m still not really good at this.”

I opened the door to find Martin and Eric and waved them in.

“I was going to apologize for being early,” Martin said, “only I see you still beat us here. What’s the news?”

“Come into Vicky’s bedroom, and I’ll explain,” I said.

“Am I missing something?” I heard Eric whisper humorously to Martin. “I mean, we do seem to keep getting invited into the girls’ bedrooms…” I was pleased to see Martin elbow him into silence.

When we got back to Vicky, she was sitting on the bed, placidly, with no sign of tearing on her cheeks. I really wish I knew how she’d done that; I could see it coming in handy. “OK, guys,” I announced. “The news itself is simple. The hard part is: what do we do about it?” I left a dramatic pause before pulling a sheet of paper from my purse. “I have here Professor Davis’s mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number.”

I waited for the boys to react before continuing. “Now we actually still have a problem. As I think we’ve mentioned, Luke says he doesn’t want to speak with students, and maybe not with anybody about the experiment, so just getting a message to him isn’t enough. We have to get him to respond.

“Any ideas?”


  1. von says:

    Poor Jeremy.

    And phone numbers can be reverse engineered.

  2. April says:

    I don’t think that “reverse engineered” means what you think it means.

  3. von says:


    I was just grabbing a term. U got what I meant, no? U can take a phone number and figure out it’s location… especially a land line, trickier with a cell phone.

    Where’s Rockford when you need him?

  4. von says:


    “Incredibly, huh?”

    Incredibl*e* no?

  5. April says:

    That was nominally true, when phone numbers were tied to their exchange code and to a geographical location. An exchange, covering 10k numbers, can be a pretty large area. With the advent of local number portability, being able to tie a phone number to even a general location is getting more and more difficult.

    That is unless you know somebody the carrier. If you know somebody at the carrier, then all bets are off. Incidentally, if I wanted my privacy, I would simply tie my phone number to a PO Box. Or at least that’s how I would do it, if I was a shady professor from out of town.

  6. TJ says:

    I feel this was a good step on Marsh’s part with Vicky. How it turns out later we shall see, but I was really impressed with Marsh here.

  7. von says:

    >>That is unless you know somebody the carrier.

    Or some other techy. One lack in this whole book, probably because of the direction Russ wanted to take it, is their total lack of roping in a techy ‘gang’… people that know people that can do *that*…. the kind of thing you get from ‘Burn Notice’.

    Even that aside, there are lot’s of low tech ways to get this done…

    My question is, how can he do that and keep it ‘this kind’ of book??

  8. April says:

    Yes, because every college pre-med sophomore at a small college in Pennsylvania knows and can afford a Michael Westen. 😛 The only way Marsha could afford even a private investigator would be if her father paid for it, and he only knew about it recently.

  9. scotts13 says:

    (Snerk) I have friends at the phone company, and in the private detective industry. Post office and bounty hunters, too. It’s never taken me more than 10 minutes to get the rundown on someone, given ONE valid piece of information. I prefer not to know the details of how. And, I’ve never met a single college professor who seemed the type to effectively cover his tracks.

    In other news, my face is permanently stuck to my palm on behalf of the idiotic “Strangers.” I’d noted we hadn’t heard Davis’ first name, but assumed it was an oversight on the author’s part, not the characters. A plot point? Really?

    I’m less impressed than TJ with Marsha’s sudden burst of honesty. It seems incredibly ill-timed, even hurtful – when she effectively “has the iceberg warning right in her hand”. Far better to have stayed with “Geoff is in case I can’t change back” for a little longer. Small though her intellectual contribution might be, better to have Vicky listening rather than simpering through the meeting.

  10. TJ says:

    O well Scott it how it works, someone impress and someone not. both can be right though 🙂

  11. Don says:

    Gotta agree with Scott here – with this new info reigniting the possibility of being able to go back, Marsh would have been better off for now to say to Vicki, “Geoff and Jeremy are just me hedging my bets in case I truly don’t have a choice…”

  12. April says:

    I agree with Scott and Don that that’s the optimal, logical thing to do. But, Marsha is a hormone-addled human being who just found out a shocking bit of news a few hours ago. Hormone-addled! 😀

  13. Don says:

    Be honest – hormone-addled female… 😉

  14. scotts13 says:

    Tsk, tsk. Marsh’s gender is slightly more complicated than average. And who says males can’t be hormone addled?

  15. Don says:

    “Marsh’s gender is slightly more complicated than average.” – looks like Scott wins the “Understatement of the Week” award 😉

  16. Estarlio says:

    No-one who uses his old phone-number, name, etc has any real interest in disappearing. She has the contact information he went to her school with; whether it still points to anything is another matter entirely.

  17. von says:

    Nah, things are absurdely simple from this point on. He has the proffessors name etc., and that would easily lead (websites anyone?) to his picture, which could lead to all sorts of interesing ways of finding him. The question, if the story is honest, from here on is not ‘if’ Marsh can find this guy, but how, when, why… and what to do when they find him.

    As I think it was Scott has pointed out any future changes might be just ‘rolling the dice’ (altho, for various technobabble reasons I doubt it) so the question might be much more just shutting them down and going on to live their lives.

    Now, if the gov’t gets ahold of what happened, that is a far, far more serious matter. Whatever happened here it is powerful stuff and any govt would love to get their hands on it.

  18. von says:

    Gotta agree with Scott here – with this new info reigniting the possibility of being able to go back, Marsh would have been better off for now to say to Vicki, “Geoff and Jeremy are just me hedging my bets in case I truly don’t have a choice…”

    Wow, I disagree. I agree with the female-hormone-addled comments, but y’all seem to be taking this as far to black and white. Without knowing the exact nature of the technobabble, Marsh’s options are, at the current moment, very wide open.

    Indeed, the possibility seriously exists on at least a dozen planes of reality, that Marsha still exists… and perhaps has gotten the ‘Marshall’ alternate being engaged… to Vicki, LeeAnne, or the mysterious Grace. Who knows?

    One very real possibility is that Marsh et. al. could confront Davis et. al., and… not change back. Or only change some of them back (whatever happened to that other guy who was all deppressed about the whole thing? Is he happy yet?).

  19. von says:

    >>When I’d finalized decided

    Interesting grammar her. I think I like it 😉

  20. scotts13 says:

    >> Wow, I disagree. (snip) y’all seem to be taking this as far to black and white. Without knowing the exact nature of the technobabble, Marsh’s options are, at the current moment, very wide open.

    I’m completely failing to follow your logic here. It seems you’re saying because Marsh has potentially limitless options, she SHOULD be making definitive and limiting statements to Vicky? That CAN’T be right. Shutting down Vicky the way she just did only makes sense if Marsh, absolutely, irrevocably can’t change the status quo – and for some reason has to do it this moment.

    Granted, I’ve met personalities who might do something like that – burn potentially useful bridges, hurt themselves and the people they care about – to lock themselves a course of action they’ve hastily chosen. But they’re pathological. Marsh may be stupid, but I don’t think she’s mentally ill.

  21. Russ says:

    OK, folks – I am open to making changes here, if you agree that it is flat wrong. Here’s the situation as I understand it:

    1. Luke mentioned Prof. Davis’s first name and Marsh and Vicky didn’t notice (nor, apparently did any readers) because they were overwhelmed by the idea that their path to him (Luke) was no longer available. I could certainly change this in the rewrite so that they would have the presence of mind to realize it, maybe later – but this way Dad gets to be a bit of a hero, and we have some nice anguish in the middle. But… that doesn’t mean that they have found him, yet – just info that his home university had. Discussion on this point is more than welcome.

    2. Why didn’t Marsh say that proposing to fix up Geoff and Vicky was a “just in case” thing? Well, either Vicky has the option to date Geoff now or it’s held until Marsh is sure that there is no way back – that preserves Marsh’s options. But it also leaves Vicky in the lurch. Marsh doing it now is an act of love towards Vicky – putting Vicky’s happiness ahead of her own.

    Discussion on these points is more than welcome. If you think I should change the story, persuade me. I do have some flexibility on these points.

  22. von says:

    1. Except for the slap at the readers I agree with one.
    2. I think even more is going on with Geoff and Jeremy but then, I’m a hopeless romantic.

    And I don’t see Marsh cutting the Marshall/Vicki relationship down… but then, since that is exactly the way I played it in my version, you can see how I would think that, eh? To my mind there is the Marsh-Jeremy relationship, the Marsha-Dirk relationship, and the Marshall-Vicky relationship. These are all, as far as we know, still ‘options’. Encouraging Vicky to ‘try’ Geoff does not seem, to my mind, to shut anything down. If he decides that Jeremy-Marsh is a relationship he wants to keep, then he can try for that.

    >>Marsh doing it now is an act of love towards Vicky – putting Vicky’s happiness ahead of her own.

    Oh, Gag.

  23. scotts13 says:

    When you put it that way, Russ – what would I have you change, as a story, instead of just criticizing the characters as “real people”:

    I completely missed the initial use of the first name, AND failed when going back to look for it. The head slapping routine is a nice bit of business, so I’d preserve that – simply remove the earlier mention. There are several college professors I deal with on a frequent basis – but I’d have to look up their first names in my phonebook. Generally, they prefer the title in conversation.

    As far as Vicky, I’d drop the entire sequence for the time being, starting just before “You just need to accept it, Vicky.” Insert a much smaller section reiterating the “living with what we have now, FOR now” theme – and commenting that some choices may have to be made after they see what the latest revelation brings.

    I don’t have a regurgitative reaction to the conversation as an act of kindness, per se; but the timing is SO incredibly bad, and that level of altruism is unusual for Marsh. It actually comes off more as though Marsha is getting annoyed at Vicky’s whining, and petulantly says this now just to shut her up.

  24. April says:

    It’s back in Chapter 119, Scott. 🙂

    I agree that Vicky and Marsha are just human, but I can’t help think to myself:
    1) They just spent 119 chapters searching for even the tiniest clue
    2) Back in chapter 53, they specifically mentioned web searches, and lamented that Davis was such a common name
    3) Even if Vicky and Marsha were perhaps too emotionally invested to notice, you’d think that maybe Ian would have noticed

    I just find it hard to believe that after such an intense, lengthy search that they wouldn’t have noticed having such an important piece of new information. But, I’m willing to concede to their humanness, when it comes to making mistakes.

    @Scott: How can Marsha /not/ be annoyed by Vicky’s whining at this point?! She’s practically superhuman at this point. Even I would have smacked some sense into her by this point! 😛

    As far as Marsha/Vicky go, what would I have done differently? I probably would have held off on telling Geoff, until after I had told Vicky the news. That way, I could ask her if she still wanted me to hook her up, and give her the choice of dating him or not. She had already broken up with Kevin, so the only real feasible options are to either match her up with Geoff (while still dating Jeremy) or string her along (while still dating Jeremy). By telling Geoff, it did kind of take away her options.

  25. Russ says:

    I just find it hard to believe that after such an intense, lengthy search that they wouldn’t have noticed having such an important piece of new information. But, I’m willing to concede to their humanness, when it comes to making mistakes.

    I agree, and I’ve thought of a much better way to do this. It will mean rewriting a fair bit of this chapter, and a couple lines of two earlier ones, but I think it will be much cleaner if the prof’s first name is not known to Luke. While in my experience, Grad students do use professors’ first names, test subjects like Luke would not. But there is another way for Marsh’s Dad to suggest that they track him down, given a different piece of information Luke mentioned. I would have saved the change for the revision, but I realized that this can improve the path to the ending.

  26. von says:

    I don’t have a regurgitative reaction to the conversation as an act of kindness,

    It wasn’t the ‘act of kindness’ it was:

    a) The expression itself was cloying.

    b) It wasn’t true. Let’s break down the possibilities into three: Marsh, Marsha, and Marshall:

    Marsh: For some reason Marsh is unable or unwilling to make any changes; and Marsh gets to keep his memories and identities. In that case, keeping the Jeremy/Marsh thing going and getting the Geoff/Vicky thing going are both positives.

    Marsha: If, for some reason, something happens and we have the return of Marsha… for example all of ‘her’ memories returning and overwriting or overwhelming the “Marsh’ and/or “Marshall” memories, then Marsh may very well be happy with Jeremy and Vicky will definitely be happier with Geoff than what’s his face.

    Marshall: If Marsh turns back into Marshall then, with everyone remembering him as Marshall the whole time, there should be no Jeremy/Marsh left, and Vicky (assuming she remembers the incident at all) will be thankful to Marshall for all he did as Marsh, and will almost certainly see Geoff as a distant ‘second best’ (and why Marshall would want Vicky is beyond me anyway).

    So, the way I see it, this was pure self-interest 🙂

  27. BMeph says:

    Holy cow, up for almost two whole days, and no one points out…
    >> “As soon as I was out of site of his dorm,”

    Now, you may have just meant “out of his dorm,” but I suspect that you just meant “sight” instead of “site”. I’m not going to jump to any conclusions, because that would be bad… ;þ

    On another note, I’m a little sad how Marsh’s life is just so full these days, that his favorite cousin, Tyler, still being vaporized, isn’t even a blip on her radar. I don’t expect a grand gesture of “I’ll set things back to how they used to be, to rescue my favorite cousin,” but thinking of him once, sometime after the two/three days of shock at discovering his absence would have been nice. Ah well, I guess that’s why they invented “out of sight (site? ;), out of mind,” rite?

  28. scotts13 says:

    If things are as they were presented (and I don’t assume they are) the chances of resurrecting Tyler are vanishingly small. Besides, no one but Marsh misses him. One can assume she’ll wait for more information before mourning/taking action. Some people are very good at putting things they can’t change out of their minds.

  29. von says:

    Besides, no one but Marsh misses him.

    Scott, Scott.. is that really all the value you place on the life of an imaginary character that has never actually existed?

    Seriously though, why would Russ have invented this never-been-born-cousin if he wanted us all to just ignore his non-existence? He is supposed to be important, and you need to give his non-existence the importance it deserves!

  30. scotts13 says:

    >> Scott, Scott.. is that really all the value you place on the life of an imaginary character that has never actually existed?

    Yeah, kinda. I’ve made a hobby of time travel in fiction, movies, even a bit of current actual theory. According to the story, the past was manipulated so that Tyler was never born – just like untold billions of other gametes that never found fruition. He didn’t start existing and then stop; he never was. He’s only a fantasy of a slightly addled college student; not important to anyone else, even himself.

    Story-wise, I view him as set dressing – a fun little demonstration of the inevitable consequences of time travel (this theory of time travel, anyway – I’ve got plenty). Of course it’s possible Russ may MAKE him important in the story later on, but as of now… unlikely.

  31. von says:

    He’s only a fantasy of a slightly addled college student;

    Are you calling Russ a slightly addled college student??

    As you know I am a big proponent of the butterfly effect theory, so I believe that billions of gametes would have failed in this change itself, and billions of others succeeded.

    However it is an interesting dismissal of the entire moral question. A person takes an action which turns an entire cadre of existing people into non-existing people. Is that actually, morally, different from taking existing alive people and turning them into existing dead people?

  32. scotts13 says:

    >> Is that actually, morally, different from taking existing alive people and turning them into existing dead people?

    Absolutely. There’s (to me at least) a huge difference between crashing a plane and deciding not to build it. One is destruction of an actuality, the other is simply selecting a different possibility. Now, DELIBERATELY manipulating realty to eliminate a specific person or group is kind of naughty; but as an inadvertent consequence of actions otherwise without malice… as stated, it only matters to this one person. It averages out.

    Sorry for the digression folks. Any further moral discussion I’ll take off-line. OK, von?

  33. TJ says:

    I kinda assume Tyler may be used as a should i roll the dice again. What if this time, Tina not born, or other such things.

  34. von says:

    Any further moral discussion I’ll take off-line. OK, Von?

    Scott, Scott. This particular ‘moral discussion’ is incredibly vital to the story tension. If everyone else feels like you do (and, BTW, this is not the first book/movie to use this tension) then it is a useless story tension. He wakes up and his previous best friend is dead, his best girl has polio and is paralyzed, his mother is a drunk because his father left a few years ago… and because these all happened through the medium of a history change instead of happening ‘for real’ and there is no tension?

    I am not, here, attempting to discuss real morality. Time travel isn’t real, so that’s neither here nor there. But, story tension wise, if Russ can’t make you care about this cousin then he has a hole in his story. IMO we are supposed to be ‘feeling’ for the missing cousin the same way we ‘feel’ for a (pretend) kidnapped kid in a movie. We know the real kid (ie the actor) is sipping coke in some villa and watching his profits roll in… but we feel (and are supposed to feel) tense over the pretend kid all taped up, alone, etc. in some shack in the woods.

  35. scotts13 says:

    I guess it’s just me; maybe I don’t like my cousins enough. I’m not having trouble with the abstraction of real life vs. fictional prose; I just don’t see the tension. There’s a lot of ways history could have gone “better.” While endlessly tampering with things to get a better outcome is a popular SF theme, it’s never been believable to me. (Actually, it doesn’t work so well in fiction either…) And any urgency, as in the kidnap scenario you posit, is completely spurious. Tyler wouldn’t exist any “less” if Marsh waited a few decades to restore his personal timeline.

  36. April says:

    von, von. Starting a response this way comes off as kind of condescending.

    Anyways, I kind of think of the moral dilemma of Tyler in a different way: I think of it as me becoming a vegetarian. See, if I become a vegetarian now, that will probably save me from eating a couple cows, a few pigs, and probably a few hundred poultry over my lifetime. So, the question becomes: is it more moral for me to not eat meat, causing these several hundred animals to not ever be born, or is it more moral for me to continue to eat meat, causing both these animals’ birth and their eventual death?

    When I map that dilemma to a situation that is plausible in “real life”, I can help but think that it’s less moral to cause the death of someone than it is to prevent their existence. In the former, people are aware of the loss, people are hurt, and the person who is killed is hurt. In the latter, nobody, not even the person or animal in question, is aware or hurt by their lack of existence.

    As far as the story tension goes, I guess I always view Tyler’s non-existence as a plot device to get Marsha to have a Heroic BSOD in front of her parents. At this point though, there is little point to Marsha’s continuing to mourn for a relatively distant cousin. There’s nothing she can currently do about it. And depending on how The Machine works, any number of things could happen if Marsh rolled the dice again: Tyler could come back the same, could come back different, some other person (say, Tina) could cease to exist, or be changed. Or some entirely new person could spring into existence. As far as the universe is setup thus far, Marsha has no control about how any of these things will shake out.

  37. von says:

    So you two are saying that while, for Marsh, this is a ‘should I or shouldn’t I’ tension, it isn’t for you, and you don’t think it should be for the other readers?

  38. April says:

    I never say how other viewers should see things. I only speak for myself: it’s the polite thing to do.

  39. von says:

    I never say how other viewers should see things. I only speak for myself: it’s the polite thing to do.

    Ah, well, you see, as a fellow author I tend to always think in terms of readers. Even when I speak for myself it is ‘one reader’. I only consider my comments helpful to Russ if they are, well, helpful to Russ. Thus my question as to whether for ‘the average reader’ or ‘the average reader of a book like this’ you would tend to think that they would feel a tension about this kind of thing? If you were writing a book, and included a scene like this, would you be trying to raise the ‘should I’ tension, or just giving Marsh an excuse for an emotional breakdown?

  40. April says:

    I suppose it would depend on the context. In this case, it could be either, depending on where I wanted the book to go in the long-term.

  41. scotts13 says:

    >> So you two are saying that while, for Marsh, this is a ‘should I or shouldn’t I’ tension, it isn’t for you, and you don’t think it should be for the other readers?

    While I, of course, assume the rest of the world aspires to have attitudes as enlightened as mine, I’ve long ago given up expecting them to. After all, they don’t have the advantage of my Martian birth.

    (Did you stay with that one long enough for your gag reflex, von? (GRIN)

    Seriously, I’ve already expressed my opinion. Marsh MAY want to take Tyler into account in her future decisions; I, personally, wouldn’t give it a second thought; and my GUESS would be that a significant but minority percentage of readers would have an emotional (“OMG, Tyler!”), rather than reasoned, response.

    Aside from that, I concur completely with April’s 11:14 AM response.

  42. Estarlio says:

    >> Nah, things are absurdely simple from this point on. He has the proffessors name etc., and that would easily lead (websites anyone?) to his picture, which could lead to all sorts of interesing ways of finding him.<<

    I don't really see how. Apart from anything else if it was that simple I think there would be far fewer people on wanted/missing people lists.

  43. Joseph says:

    Overall I am enjoying the progress of this book, and unlike some of your readers, am willing to ignore small plot holes for the benefit of the “big picture”, if you get what I am saying there. I commend you on your unwillingness to go with so many of the negative tropes often associated with TG stories. For me this keeps the story fresh and entertaining. I just finished this part after several hours of reading the entire thing, and I must say, I want more.

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