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Cheaper than Therapy, Part 3: the Grand Rewind

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Great singing engines sigh and drive this metal fragment into time...

(When we last left our story, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky was on his way back into the past with Marty Reasoner, in order to save the life of both the New York Islanders and its former coach, Jack Capuano, both of whom were grievously wounded by current coach Doug Weight.)

Together, Marty Reasoner and Jon Ledecky dashed beneath the Sixth Street overpass, past the terminus for a subway line. Beyond was a tangle of construction equipment and parked cars, with the boarded windows of abandoned buildings frowning down from the Atlantic Avenue side. It was all strangely quiet – the normal hum of traffic and people from the area all stilled, as if it wasn’t the middle of a Monday in a busy city neighborhood, amid trendy condos which lined the area opposite.

Somehow, the Zamboni in the middle of the lot was the least bizarre thing Ledecky had seen that morning. It was far sleeker than any Zamboni he had ever seen. It gleamed a deep cherry red in the sunlight, with flecks like silver peeping through the paint, along an impressive length and sweeping up into elegant tailfins at the rear.

Reasoner pressed a button and an alarm chirped. Without speaking, he hopped into the driver’s chair and Ledecky went around to the passenger seat. Reasoner sparked the motor, which made a sound not unlike that of the Ghostbusters’ proton packs. Ledecky squirmed a little.

“That’s not how this usually works, right?”

Reasoner shrugged. “Zambonis usually don’t have cargo space and tailfins, either.” He jabbed at a button and a sleek sheet of something transparent slid over the cabin. “This won’t feel any more normal than it looks, so buckle in,” he said as he spun the wheel and pressed a pedal.

Ledecky had often wondered about movie camera tricks but had never thought about what it would feel like to be inside of one. He felt a sudden leap forward, as if in a launching roller coaster, but the horizon seemed to contract rather than close in. The sunlight faded, washing out the colors of the surrounding neighborhood, which began to loom over them, closing in above as if the Zamboni were inside a fish-eye lens. Ledecky found himself clinging ferociously to a padded bar in front of him.

Everything faded out to a deep purplish-grey. They seemed to plunge forward through fog, ever-accelerating, the canopy now here and there reflecting the light of the instruments. Then there was a sudden lurch that rattled the Zamboni, and the awful feeling of speed without motion faded.

“Nice, huh?” said Reasoner. “It was Maven’s idea to use the rail lines. Here, have a mint.”

“I really couldn’t,” said Ledecky shakily.

Reasoner shrugged again. “Suit yourself. Oh – you can now freely move about the cabin.” He chuckled and popped his own safety belt, and hopped down from the chair. After a beat, he noticed that Ledecky was still frozen in place, so he reached over and unclicked his belt for him. Ledecky idly noticed that Reasoner’s shirt now appeared a pale blue instead of grey. “Well, come on, don’t you want to meet your newest GM?”

“I guess I have to,” Ledecky said. He turned inward and stood. The Zamboni was indeed much longer than standard… much longer than it had any right to be, and certainly much longer than it had appeared sitting in the dirt lot between Atlantic and Pacific Avenues. It seemed rather like they had grabbed a parked subway car from the rail line rather than a motor vehicle. A lit corridor ducked under what might have been a trunk in a regular car – Ledecky could still just make out the outline of the fins outside the canopy – and then turned sharply. Following Reasoner down this hall led him to an open space below, with metal ribbing along the ceiling and running down the walls, which were far further apart than the width of the vehicle.

The space was well-lit and low-roofed, filled with blinking displays, consoles, charts, equipment lockers, and cabinets with labels detailing the supplies stocked within. To one side a man in a suit sat at a tall secretary desk, writing.

The desk was an incongruity among its already-odd surroundings: deep-polished black, with two glass-paneled doors in a cabinet above, and drawers with brass fixtures below. The fold-out surface revealed small drawers and cubbies for supplies. It was strewn with empty boxes and food wrappers.

“I’m back, Mike,” said Reasoner.

“Good,” said the seated man without looking up. “I’m out of mints.”

Reasoner ignored that. “Jon, this is your new General Manager, Mike McBea.”

The man didn’t move at first. Ledecky would have thought it rude but the whole day was so far off the rails at this point, it didn’t seem worth noticing. But the man heaved a deep sigh and then stood smoothly, turning with a smile. “Mr. Ledecky, sir,” he said, offering his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise,” said Ledecky as they shook hands.

“I think I’m ready for my new job,” said McBea, “but there are a couple of things I have to discuss with Marty first, if that’s all right.”

“Of course,” said Ledecky. “I am literally and figuratively a passenger in all this.”

“No you’re not,” replied the man quickly. “I’m the only one here who has to make this trip. And when I get back you can just drop me off and walk away.”

Ledecky visibly slumped.

“What are you talking about, Mike?” asked Reasoner. “We’ve got to fix this!”

“Who’s we, Kemosabe?” McBea said, folding his arms. “You jokers built this contraption.”

Reasoner stared at the man. “Now you just wait a minute,” he snapped.

“We don’t have one,” he replied. He glanced over to Ledecky. “I’m sorry, boss – if you are in fact my boss – this won’t take long.” He fished his phone out of his pocket and handed it over to Reasoner, who took it with a dubious look, while the man turned and picked up the notebook he was writing in. “I am not quite on your level with higher math,” he said, “but I can read.”

Ledecky looked over Reasoner’s shoulder. The screen wasn’t unlocked, so he wasn’t sure what Reasoner would do with the phone. Nor was Reasoner, apparently, who looked up with a quizzical air.

“How long do you think you’ve been gone, Marty?”

Reasoner, taken aback, didn’t answer, so Ledecky looked at his watch. It was about three minutes after Jack Capuano had been shot. But Reasoner looked again at the phone’s display and his eyes shot open wide. “No,” he whispered. “No… no – what did you do? Did you touch anything?!?”

Wordlessly, the man handed over the notebook. Ledecky saw that it was filled with equations similar to those Reasoner had shown him. Reasoner took it to the desk and began frantically flipping through it.

“Now – to continue,” the man said to Ledecky, “you are under no obligation to hire me. You can just leave me in my own time period and deal with things in yours. I’m willing to work with you, and even for you. But you have the power to choose, and not get buffaloed into it by the amateur mad science club here.”

All my tubes and wires and careful notes!

Ledecky worked his mouth silently for a second before anything would come out. “Well… they’ve been through a lot to do this, obviously. I respect that. And it’s not just my team at stake by now.”

“Whose fault do you think all of that could be?” McBea said. “Cause and effect. There’s plenty that could be done, but not all of it is useful, and even less of it is wise. Unintended consequences.”

“That doesn’t mean we can’t fix it!” said Ledecky weakly.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t TRY to fix it,” the man answered.

“So, you mean… burning rink, doom, Tavares in Toronto?”

“Don’t get me wrong. I’d prefer it if the rink wasn’t burned down, and I’m confident we can avoid doom, but as to the rest? There’s only so much that can be done, and most of it usually isn’t so good an idea. But for reasons that MY FRIEND” – he pointed back at Reasoner, who was too busy muttering and doing math to notice – “will explain upon your return trip, we have no time to go into detail.”

Ledecky just shook his head. Everyone has a maximum capacity for insanity, and he had reached his. Any further crazy thing he heard at this point was just going to spill over the sides of his mind and fall away harmlessly.

“My god,” whispered Reasoner, walking over to them in a daze. “How did this happen?”

The man shook his head. “Like I said, I’m not as good with the math, so I’m not sure.”

“That’s OK,” Ledecky said brightly. “I’m sure there’s a simple analogy you’re going to cook up here to explain it to me, and by extension, the audience.”

Reasoner traded glances with McBea, but he seemed a little too dazed to explain, so McBea kept point on the rest of the conversation. “No need for analogies. Our merry band of travelers have had an unexpected problem with this trip. You won’t have noticed this but we are taking rather longer to get back then we did coming forward.”

“Like the Doppler effect!” Ledecky said with a grin.

The man grimaced slightly. “Well… OK, sure, why not. Doppler effect. Great. Look, I’ll give you a bottom line here. The things you take with you from your own time are tuned to that time. Your watch shows how long you’re gone from your time, and will continue to show the correct time it is then.”

Ledecky smiled and nodded. “So your phone does too! Oh, how clever!”

“But this isn’t possible,” Reasoner said stubbornly.

“Well, congrats man,” said McBea, “you did the impossible.”

Ledecky looked at the phone. The clock read an hour later than his, but he supposed that they had simply picked up McBea later in the day. Then he looked at the date. “I thought that it was April. Your phone says August.”

“Yes it does,” said Mike. “I should only have been gone less than an hour at home, but these fine fellows have broken the laws of time.”

“So they didn’t pick you up in August?” Ledecky asked.

“No,” said Reasoner, his face nearly as grey as it was when he was in 2018. “We picked him up on June 25th, the morning after the Entry Draft. Somehow, for every minute we’ve been outside of the Zamboni, a full day was passing in here.”

“Better figure out how it happened too, or free agency will be the least of our problems.”

TO BE CONTINUED