Turning back to Marcus, she said, “He’s close to death, but not there. I can bring him back by reversing time.”
That didn’t surprise me. It fit with everything else. If she could slow people or speed up herself, why couldn’t she move backward in time? Then another thought struck me, “You could have brought back Maru or Alanna.”
She shook her head. “No. Well, I could have, but it’s not simple. Both of them died before I could do anything. People knew they were dead. When people die, it affects everyone they matter to. That sets events in motion that spread and can’t be easily stopped. Bringing someone back in that situation stops or changes everything that stated, pushing the future in new directions. One of my people would notice and I don’t know who or whether it would be Live faction, the Destroy faction, or both.”
Her eyes wide, she continued. “Less powerful races would think that I was a miracle worker, but they already think that after I live among them. What I fear is my people noticing that the future changed and that the cause exists outside of time. That shouldn’t be true with Marcus. He hasn’t died and no one knows but you and I. My people still might notice, but with almost no one knowing, it’s so much less likely.”
As she said the last line, she almost sounded like Tikki again.
Her eyes drifted back toward Marcus and then back to me. “I’m not going to tell him until people stop trying to kill us. It’s hard enough to survive without being distracted by heartbreak too. I don’t want to see him die again.”
Standing there in the tunnel, darkness around us and dead bodies on the ground, I took her point. I didn’t want him to be distracted either. On the other hand, “But you will tell him, right? This can’t hang in the air unsaid. I’ll tell him if you don’t, but not until the fighting’s over. I think I agree with you there.”
She took a breath and nodded. “I’ll tell him. I don’t have any choice. We’re not even the same species. As soon as I was fully myself again, I’d find him too limited and I’d grow bored. I wouldn’t want to hurt him, but I know I would. I can’t make him into one of us even though all of you have the greatest potential for that that I’ve seen so far.”
She looked me up and down. “When we talked in my store, I told you that you glowed. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were one of our young—which is one more reason to end this. I don’t know how so much of us got into your DNA. The Abominators experiments weren’t enough to explain this. And Lee, if he’s behind this, I don’t know how he managed it. It’s not all him, and he’d only be interested in contributing DNA the easy way.”
In the silence that followed that statement, I decided to ask a question that could destroy the Earth if I asked it of the wrong being, “You know who Lee is?”
She laughed, and she didn’t sound like Tikki. Tikki’s laugh had a high, but not irritatingly high, pitch to it. To me, she’d sounded innocent and optimistic and hopeful all at once. This laugh had some of that, but deeper notes among the light. Beyond that, I felt that it existed on levels beyond sound, levels that I couldn’t name or describe, but I knew they were there.
“Yes,” she said when she finished. “Lee isn’t really his name, but I’m sure you know that. Lee fought for the Destroy faction until he left, taking their greatest weapon with him. I designed that weapon. I’d only stayed to spy for the Live faction and to see if I couldn’t convince him that he’d chosen the wrong side. The battle where he first used my weapon convinced me that I couldn’t stay any longer. He remained and I despaired that anything would change his mind. Later, he left on his own and I never knew where he went.”
Deciding not to mention Earth for all the good that would do, I said, “I don’t know for sure, but it sounds like a lot of different places.”
She laughed again. “I’ve heard stories of the chase from our spies. He hasn’t changed. Now, give me a moment.”
Turning toward Marcus, she closed her eyes and the distortion surrounding him changed, emitting a dim glow as the rocky surface of Marcus’ chest turned from rocky, but with smooth edges to defined, rocky muscles and Marcus’ costume came back together undamaged. An echo of the energy blast that hit him flowed away from his chest, dissipating in the air in front of him.
Then the distortion around him ended and he lay on the ground opening his eyes and taking a deep breath.
At almost the same time, Tikki opened her eyes, bending down to hug him. He hugged her back, asking, “Are you okay? When I took that last shot, I thought I was dead.”
“I’m fine,” she said. “I was worried about you. I thought you might be dead, and I tried moving time backward to make the damage go away and I think it worked.”
“Wow,” he said, and kissed her, shifting back into his normal form as he did. She kissed him back and I thought I saw tears at the corners of her eyes.
As much as I thought that she should tell him the truth, I couldn’t blame her. Loving someone and being loved in return had to be better than being an ancient being fighting against former friends who hoped to destroy all other intelligent life.
Saying nothing and scanning the area behind us, I let them enjoy the moment.