(When we last left our story, Marty Reasoner was trying to come to grips with problems in time, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky had given up on coming to grips with anything, and possible new GM Mike McBea still hasn’t gotten his mint. Together they are rumbling back to a point in the past… a point way less past than it should have been.)
Reasoner shook his head. “Dammit.”
Ledecky smiled and turned to a point slightly over Reasoner’s shoulder. “Well, how will our intrepid heroes solve this crisis? Stay tuned!”
McBea stared at him, then leaned slightly to whisper to Reasoner, “Is he… breaking an imaginary fourth wall?”
“Well, folks back home are going to want to know! And I’m sure they’re going to wonder why we’re time traveling in a story that said specifically that there was no time traveling!”
“All right,” said Reasoner, “look – once we’re all back at our proper spots in spacetime, events will unfold sequentially and technically there will be no time travel. And further – oh god now I’m doing exposition! This is serious.”
“Jon may have to take the long way home,” McBea said.
“He can’t,” Reasoner said. “Follow me.” As the two men went back up to the cockpit, Reasoner quickly told McBea about Capuano and Weight. “And if this telescoping affects us on the way back as well – damn, who knows when we’ll be back?” He blew out his breath in frustration. “Cappy could be done for already – or worse.”
“He knew the risks,” McBea said. “We all do.”
“We took a bunch of other trips and this didn’t happen at all,” Reasoner grumbled.
“That suggests outside intervention,” McBea said thoughtfully.
Reasoner shot him a shocked look.
“Dun Dun DUNNNNNNN!” cried Ledecky, making the others jump. They hadn’t observed him following. “A mysterious adversary emerges! Who will it be? Can you figure it out?”
Reasoner opened his mouth to protest again but McBea stopped him. “Just – let it go. This may be the only way his brain can handle it.”
“Well – he is right about one thing. You have to figure it out.”
McBea just shrugged. “Solving a five-dimensional whodunit somehow doesn’t seem like an unusual job for the General Manager of the New York Islanders.”
Reasoner checked the dashboard. “Oh geez – Jon, you’d better sit down quick,” he said, and grabbed the controls. The lights outside the canopy began to return, slowly running from deep violet through the whole spectrum before settling to a bright yellow, while within the passengers felt a steady increase in G-force as the Zamboni accelerated to once more move forward with the normal pace of time. Ledecky was a little slow to react, but mercifully he wound up falling back into the wall instead of down the stairs. There he stuck, pinned neatly as if he were on a tilt-a-whirl at Coney Island.
The Zamboni coasted to a stop. Outside, it was a gorgeous sunny day. Reasoner toggled a switch and the canopy slid open, and McBea helped Ledecky back upright. Then the three men climbed down.
Before they could walk the short distance back to the lot behind the Barclays Center, they saw a man come out from underneath the overpass. It was Stan Fischler. “You guys are late,” he said.
“I’ll fill you in next year,” Reasoner said. “It’s a crazy deal.”
“I’ll bring the Coronas,” Maven said.
“We don’t have time for Jon to do the introductions,” McBea said.
“The current-day Jon is handling it.”
“There’s a current-day me?” Ledecky began to giggle. “Can I meet me?”
“NO!” the others yelled. Reasoner all but shoved Ledecky back into the cockpit of the Zamboni. “Let’s get the hell out of here before anything else happens!”
“So I guess I still have the job?” called McBea.
“Are you kidding?” said future Ledecky. “Of course you do! I’m hooked, I’ve got to see how this turns out!” He paused a moment, and then asked Reasoner, “Do you think they can get Anthony Hopkins to play me in the movie?”
“Good-bye, guys,” said Reasoner wearily.
As the canopy slid back shut, they heard Ledecky say, “OOH – Pacino for Scott Malkin! I’ve got goosebumps!” McBea and Fischler took a few quick steps back from the Zamboni. The machine shrank back away from them while the far horizon seemed to loom forward for a moment, and the two men leaned so as not to be pulled forward into time. Then it darted backwards and out of sight with a short pop.
Together they turned back towards the Barclays Center, as the sound of the traffic faded back in. “So how did you not get back when you left? What day did they leave from?”
“They miss the playoffs again?”
“By a country mile.”
Fischler shook his head sadly. “You realize it’s been weeks here, right?”
“Yup. Exactly 50 days. But that’s nothing.” They got to a service door in the arena, and McBea held the door for Fischler. “Something happened when they pulled me forward.”
“What do you mean?” Fischler asked.
“Well, I felt a bump along the way. I didn’t know if that was normal so I called up to Marty to ask, but I never got an answer. And I couldn’t get out from below decks. I was just stuck. I won’t lie, it crossed my mind that it might have been a giant hoax after all and I was getting kidnapped. I couldn’t imagine how on earth I’d explain to the cops that I was lured away by people who claimed to have a time machine, and that I believed them.”
“So what did you do, Mike?”
“Only thing I could do. I vegged out on the Internet.”
“Eh, it was research. I found out some things watching game footage. It was brutal how the season went sideways. Then, as we got closer to arriving, things moved faster and faster, like watching a game simulation.”
“That’s not how the Zamboni is supposed to work,” Maven said. “Did it malfunction? Did you notice a loss of power or anything?”
“Nothing other than the bump,” McBea said softly. By now they had reached the last quiet hallway; around the corner the press conference had already started. They could hear a much more composed-sounding Jon Ledecky talking about taking the proper time to vet all the candidates and not simply rush to appoint somebody new. “I jotted down some notes, hopefully Marty will fix the math and figure it out.”
Fischler quickly peeked around the corner. Garth Snow looked exactly as he will have looked in eight months, as if he’d been a waxwork set in place to remain unmoved for the next eight months. Beside him sat Doug Weight, nodding along. Nothing seemed amiss.
“I guess they shifted Garth to some advisory spot,” Fischler said.
“They’d have to,” McBea said. “I haven’t been here for seven weeks. Somebody has to mind the store.”
“What are you going to do with Dougie?” asked Fischler softly.
“Nothing,” McBea said. “Right now he’s the guy who went 24-12-4 and nearly saved the 2017 season. It makes no sense to replace him… and certainly not this late into the offseason.”
“That makes it more difficult for you.”
“This is nothing, Maven,” McBea said. “How am I going to explain being gone seven weeks to my family? Hell, man, I missed my anniversary! There should be a missing persons case and a reality TV show about it by now.”
“Well, there isn’t,” said Fischler. “We do know our business, after all. Let’s hope you can handle yours.” Ledecky was finished and everyone was looking over. He’d obviously just been introduced. “Good luck.”
McBea sighed, wishing that he’d heard more of the speech – he would have liked to know more about his own background and qualifications in this timeline. Oh well, I’ll just Google myself, he thought, and stepped forward.
TO BE CONTINUED