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Seeing someone for the first time in years.
.. Why, she wondered, did humans see patterns everywhere? Why? And what pattern did Amanda's death fit into?
Then the thought hit her: he had chosen not to protect Amanda? Why? Had she been so peripheral to the future? Or had her death - now, today, this afternoon - preserved some pre-established order?
Then yet another thought slammed into her: what if Amanda's trip to the ship had severely altered a timeline? What if her immediate death had become the only way to realign a presumed natural order of time?
Then, another leap of insight. What if...when she'd uprooted Amanda, brought her west from Philadelphia, what if she had altered...but wait...how could she ever know anything like that was true? She couldn't, not with any certainty. If time was a river, how many tributaries could be generated by just one person? By just one person in the course of a single day? How many 'what ifs' could there be?
'For all intents and purposes, an infinite number.'
Because if just one person confronted an almost infinite number of momentous choices in the course of a lifetime, the permutations would literally be very nearly infinite. One would never know - unless they could somehow see into the future, or somehow measure the results of one choice against another.
What crushed her in that moment, what made her feel completely insignificant was the thought that Ben and Trevor - and all the people like them she assumed were already working here - had just that ability. If so, there's was an Olympian vantage, one not so different than what the ancients thought characterized the gods.
She opened her eyes, looked out the window, saw the outskirts of Albuquerque as they emerged from the thunderstorm. The rain-soaked two-lane blacktop was nearly deserted now, and she had seen only a few trucks headed to Santa Fe so far, while up ahead Albuquerque's lights were winking on as the sun licked the far horizon. They drove through the city in silence, Ben apparently looking at pedestrians out the Ford's window, yet now with his arms crossed over his chest, somehow looking very bored while also projecting an image of pure vulnerability.
'He doesn't belong here, does he?' she asked herself. What must that feel like? To not belong in such a profound way?
They drove out onto the tarmac at the Albuquerque Army Air Force Base, right up to a waiting DC-3, and as soon as they were aboard the aircraft the pilots throttled-up and taxied to the runway. It felt to Claire like only minutes passed before they were airborne, headed east over the Sandia Mountains - and into an infinite night.
More FBI agents met their aircraft at the airport, and the small convoy made the short drive across the Potomac in silence. Even more agents were waiting at the White House, where both she and Ben were searched before being escorted to Harry Hopkins' office. She recognized Dean Acheson as they walked into the cramped office, and she saw smoldering malice in the diplomat's peregrine eyes, then she saw Hopkins was in the room too. And he did not look in the least happy.
"The blue spheres," Acheson said, pointing at Levy without preamble. "What are they?"
Ben stared at both Hopkins and Acheson for a moment, then shrugged. "In essence, while each mimics a plasma, what you've witnessed is but a small electromagnetic field that resides around a single sub-atomic particle. Power is applied to the field and that regulates the size of the sphere."
"And why would you do that, Mr Levy?"
"Because the resulting sphere can be manipulated."
"You mean Time, don't you, sir? You can manipulate time?"
"No, sir. Not me, personally."
"Your people, then."
"That is a true statement, Mr. Acheson."
"Are you human?"
"Where are you from?"
"Don't lie to me, you son of a bitch."
"I am not, sir. Of that, you may be sure."
"Alright...one more time. Where did you come from?"
"Where did I come from? You mean..."
"You know exactly what I mean," Acheson snarled.
"'Where' isn't the correct question, sir.