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The more I thought about what Jill said about everyone coming back with us as long as they stay out of my view, the more I thought about other possible options. Along those lines, I decided to find a third Fire Escape that might land us earlier even if we had to travel farther so we could factor in the standard longer-than-expected wait time for a ride-share driver. I ended up finding one and it ended up paying off. KJ, Kate, and I were able to pop out of the Fire Escape, get a Lyft and get on our way.
Our driver was pretty enthusiastic. I don’t remember his name (it was Kate’s Lyft account) but when we got stuck in traffic and told him we were in a rush, he managed to get us there just barely in time. As we screeched to a halt in front of the coffee house, I didn’t even think about old me (previous me?) outside watching the event happen, I just needed to focus on getting Manchester out of there.
I took a deep breathe and stepped out of the car. Without a thought I stepped forward, onto the side walk. Almost too controlled, I stepped up to and then through the front door of the coffee house. As I walked, I saw the last of the shadow disappear. I felt there was something weirdly awkward and unnatural about my walk. I realized that every move I was making was being watched by someone in the future–it was being watched by me in the future. I suddenly felt most of my muscles stiffen–at least they felt stiff, but I was still able to walk. I did feel like I was about to trip over my own feet and face plant on the floor.
I didn’t, but that’s what it felt like. It was as though foreknowledge of exactly how this was supposed to go was somehow forcing my body to do everything the way I’d seen it. By the time I’d considered all this I’d been standing at the woman’s table for a few seconds. She only just looked away from Tedesko’s body to me. She looked understandably concerned.
That was when I realized that I had to actually talk to this woman. I had no idea what to say. I wanted to be persuasive but not obnoxious. I certainly didn’t want her to think I was coming onto her. I knew none of my concerns were relevant because I knew no matter what I said, she came with me because we’d seen it in the hologram, so, I just blurted something out that made as much sense as I could manage without thinking about it.
“Mary Manchester, I’m here to rescue you. Uhhhhm, come with me if you want to, uh, not die, please.”
She looked at me with fear in her eyes and nodded.