Jumpman, Rule #2: Don't Even Think About It (JumpMan Rule Series)by James Valentine, Raquel Jaramillo
Rule #1 was broken, but luckily disaster has been averted (at least for now), and Jules, Gen, and Theo are back. Their first adventure found them whisking through Time, talking to coats, and just managing to save Theo's life. It turns out that was just a warm-up. In the second chapter of the mind-bending JumpMan series, Jules and Gen (finally) go on a date,
Rule #1 was broken, but luckily disaster has been averted (at least for now), and Jules, Gen, and Theo are back. Their first adventure found them whisking through Time, talking to coats, and just managing to save Theo's life. It turns out that was just a warm-up. In the second chapter of the mind-bending JumpMan series, Jules and Gen (finally) go on a date, Theo turns out to be the biggest celebrity anyone in the year Fifteen Billion and Seventy-Three has ever seen, and we meet a peculiar and very irritating old man who insists that the entire history of the world is about to be overturned -- and that only Jules and Gen can save it. And that's just the beginning. There are sinister forces at work, and Rule #1 is not just going to be broken, it's going to be smashed apart.
It's funny, it's thrilling, it'll blow your mind. But what else would you expect from the acclaimed and internationally bestselling author James Valentine?
WARNING: Improper use of the TimeMaster JumpMan may result in random time travel to unexplored and dangerous points in history.
Amie Rose Rotruck
Read an Excerpt
JumpMan Rule #2Don't Even Think About It
By James Valentine
Simon & Schuster Children's PublishingCopyright © 2005 James Valentine
All right reserved.
Chapter One: Time Out
Chapter One: Time Out
Present Now Friday night -- early Mil 3
Friday night -- early Mil 3
Jules hadn't known you could sweat so much from the palms of your hands.
Under your arms, on top of your head, sure, but this was like someone had just installed a sprinkler system beneath his fingers. Could he wipe them again? But where? Couldn't wipe them on his clothes and he'd already wiped them twice on the movie theater seat. Do it again and Gen'd be sure to notice. But here they were a third of the way into the movie and he hadn't even tried to hold her hand.
Why don't I just forget about it and enjoy the movie? Jules thought.
-- I wish you would, sighed his brain. Do you want to know what's happened so far?
-- Shut up, brain. Either help me decide what to do here or shut up.
-- I'd love to help but you keep changing your mind.
-- You're my mind! You stop changing.
-- No, I'm your brain. You're your mind. What makes you think your mind's in your brain?
-- Can you stop my hands from sweating?
-- Ah, an involuntary physical reaction while undergoing extreme stress. Sorry,not my department. Blame evolution.
-- Brain. Go away.
-- Just take it.
-- Take what?
-- Her hand.
-- Just take it?
-- There is no right time. Just do it. See what happens.
Jules looked up at the screen. Then he leaned back a little in his chair and peered out of the corner of his eye at Gen. It had taken a lot of hard work to get to this point. Three months they'd been locked up, treated like they'd been caught smoking, stealing, and skipping school all at once. Gen had been banished from her attic bedroom and forced to return to sharing with her little sister, Cynthia. Jules had been under a strict regimen devised by his dad, Tony, who'd enrolled him in martial arts, piano lessons, and extra math tutoring every night after school so he was never mooching around at home. Tony also had Jules on a strict macrobiotic diet and had forced him to drink wheatgrass juice every morning. Three months of straight home from school and homework checked and early nights. Now finally they'd been allowed a night out but it hadn't been easy to arrange.
His dad had been washing bean sprouts and listening to talk radio discussing public education when Jules had put the question to him. Could he take Gen to the movies on Friday night? Tony had turned around with a frightened look on his face, thrust a handful of wet bean sprouts at Jules, and then gone immediately to his study to check several books and to call Jules's mother, Angela.
When Gen had asked her mum, Katherine had leaped up from the couch right in the middle of watching her favorite TV show, which to Gen appeared to be about four old women complaining about not being able to find a boyfriend anywhere on the planet. "It's starting again. They're planning something," Katherine had screamed. "Let me spell this out. En. Oh. Double You. Ay. Why. NO WAY! I have not been through three months of intense therapy and PowerRelaxation to have you two start all this again."
Gen had raised her eyebrows and backed out of the room, thinking to herself that the therapy and the PowerRelaxation were obviously not enough. Then she went up to the attic room to ask her dad.
After six phone calls back and forth between the two families; after promising to forfeit all future privileges (including phone calls, television, and any foods containing sugar or artificial sweeteners or numbered chemical additives); and after a late attempt by Katherine to insist they take Cynthia to see Lilo and Stitch Three, permission was finally granted.
That's when Jules's hands had started to sweat.
They sweated as he tried to decide which shirt to wear.
-- This one? he'd inquired of his brain.
-- What? Are you going to a church?
-- This is better.
-- If you don't want to have any friends.
-- Got it. This is perfect.
-- Have you smelled that one?
They sweated as he debated whether to shave.
-- It's been a week.
-- You'll get a rash and you'll slice open that pimple. It'll look worse.
They sweated as he sat through school on Friday, information blowing straight through his unfocused head, his brain trying desperately to catch what it could. They sweated as he ate lunch, watching Gen huddle with her friends Sonja, Kyeela, and Bonnie (who together formed the Four-headed Monster, the four girls who consumed everything around them and spat it back out as gossip and giggles). And as he tried to do his homework as promised, cleaned up as ordered, and watched the hands on the kitchen clock creep like tired old men around to seven, his palms poured out a slippery, treacherous sweat that stained his books and sent dinner plates clattering onto the floor.
And now here they were still, soggy lumps on the end of his arms about to betray him again.
-- Thanks, hands.
-- I'll pass it on, promised his brain.
And then in one confident, smooth movement he moved his right hand across his pants, wiping off the sweat, and slipped it under Gen's, which was resting on the armrest between them. Their fingers interlocked. Gen sat up a little straighter and stared fixedly at the screen.
-- Excellent! applauded his brain. Well done! Now, can we watch the movie?
-- Sure! What's it about?
Tuesday morning. early Fifteenth Billennium
At the same time, but three thousand years in the future and on a different day, Theodore Pine Four stood to the side of an enormous soundstage.
Next to him fussed Honeydew Meloni. She'd once been Vice Cheeo, Publicity, TimeMaster Corporation -- makers of JumpMan, JumpMan Pro, and all the essential TimeJumping Accessories. Then a little glitch at the launch of the new JumpMan Pro three months earlier had been blamed on her. Now she was fourteen-year-old Theo's personal assistant.
Theo was poking about at his hair and gesturing impatiently. Honeydew dived into an unwieldy bag that was weighing down her right shoulder and pulled out a small mirror. Theo tugged at some hair over his forehead, and when he had it arranged to his satisfaction, he gave Honeydew a half nod. She dived into the bag again and pulled out a small jar labeled "Molecule Follicle Gel."
Unscrewing the lid, Theo scooped a little out, then rubbed it through his hair. He focused his concentration until his hair started to change color. For a moment it was all autumn tones, a dry crackly brown with some very tasteful streaks of russet and a tip or two of gold. Then it went a deep rich blue, shot through with silver streaks, then swirled like a lollipop before finally turning a bright vibrant lemon all over with just a hint of iridescent white at the tips.
Straightening up, Theo looked inquiringly at Honeydew. She nodded enthusiastically and gave him the two fingers -- not pointing up but like a V on its side -- which meant yip, Oak Eye, totally boid, you are looking ruly.
Theo agreed with her, particularly after his specially designed HyperCoat subtly adjusted itself to the temperature and the lights, modifying its color and shape to best contrast with the set and to allow for any developments in fashion that may have occurred since Theo's last public appearance about forty-five minutes earlier. Everyone in Fifteen Billion and Seventy-three had a Coat that could adjust itself to the weather and to fashion. Everyone's Coat was also full of Nanobots and NanoComputers, which could monitor body function and provide complete communications to and from any other Coat on the Two Planets. But no one had a Coat quite as cool as Theo's latest model HyperCoat. It didn't follow fashion -- it created fashion.
Theo could barely turn his attention away from himself to concentrate on what was happening out in the center of the vast auditorium.
Hurrah Banter, the show's host, was getting to the end of her opening spiel. "The Mayor of Marsville has been having a lot of trouble this week. Been punting a lot of lolla Moonside, and now he's scratching his braincase and wondering why his votes are falling like craterfrog upside!"
The crowd wuhwuhwuhed with deep appreciation and leaned forward together to catch the punchline.
"If he wants the vote to go up, he's gonna have to punt himself Moonside faster than a DustSifter's Snog!"
The crowd exploded. It was a great joke, but like all the greatest jokes, pretty much time-specific. You had to be there.
Theo and Honeydew laughed as well. Then Theo took a few deep breaths, because he knew what would be next.
"Anyway, you didn't ClickDown this little show to hear me spattle on. Wherever you are on the Two Planets, the Moon, and the asteroids; whenever you might be, whether you're just back from yesterday or you don't know what's happened to tomorrow; and if you're just back from a big Jump -- hey, it's still Fifteen Billion and Seventy-three, you zip? If you're watching us live or Clicking us Down in the middle of next week, stand by tonight for GrooveBunch -- their hit song has been shaking the wax in a lot of ears, and everyone says they could be the next big thing for at least twelve hours. We'll also meet the author of The History of the Cat and find out why he thinks they should never be ReGened, but first..."
Hurrah paused. She had to. There were thirty thousand people in this room and they all seemed to be screaming.
She held her hands out in a vain attempt to quiet them down. "I know, I know. I think he's great too..."
The crowd started stomping on the floor. It was like a thunderstorm had come indoors.
"Oak Eye, I won't keep you waiting any longer. Here he is, Theodore Pine Four, TimeJumper Numero Uno..."
Theo breathed in, counted to ten, and then walked out from behind the curtain. The wuhwuhwuhing and the stomping sounded like an ancient airforce taking off. Thirty thousand people were in rapture at once.
Theo moved toward the center and then stopped, allowing everyone to see his great-looking Coat, his signature purple shoes, and this hour's hair design. He raised a hand, and with a slight nod of the head he managed to convey gratitude and an acknowledgment that he was worth it. He smiled warmly, humbly, and assuredly.
His eyes swept the room and he nodded again, waved, and then seemed to pick out someone about seventy rows back. He grinned at them, then formed his hands into a little mock pistol and shot them as he winked. He laughed, then moved toward Hurrah Banter, mouthing "hi" as he shrugged and gestured to the crowd as if to say, What can I do?
Hurrah was a strikingly beautiful woman with cascades of hair that glowed pink and soft mauve and with a cheeky stripe of gold that flashed behind her ears occasionally. The garment she was wearing appeared to float around her body rather than be attached to it in any way.
She smiled at Theo as though he were her oldest friend in the world, and they touched fingertips, then brushed cheeks. Theo said something in her ear that made her laugh. She pressed her hand on his arm as she guided him into the chair. Both of them gave the impression that if they weren't here now, they'd be having dinner together with other very fabulous and well-dressed people before catching the MarsPod to go ski the Ice Valleys of Olympus Mons.
Eventually everyone quieted down. Then the silence buzzed with expectation.
"Theo -- you're looking great. Love the hair. It's really ruly."
"Thanks, Hurrah. Turn it."
"Oh, Theo, this?" Hurrah patted her thick luxuriant locks, which would have kept Arctic mammals warm. "Thank you, but I don't think half the planet's going to be scoping down my look tomorrow."
This got a big laugh and some warm applause.
"Anyway..." Hurrah took control of the show. "Here it is, three months since you escaped from Mil 3, where a gang of TimeHackers using a primitive JumpMan kidnapped you and were threatening to let you fall apart unless you showed them how the new JumpMan Pro really worked. You didn't and -- thanks to Quincy Carter One -- you were rescued. Now you're still the biggest StarLicker in the system. No one has ever lasted three whole months as a celebrity -- how are you dealing with it all?"
Theodore Pine was dealing with it like he'd been born to it. It's true that he'd been famous longer than anyone else. Pop bands were considered huge if their song was a hit for three days. Stars of ClickDown shows or writers of ClickBooks -- everyone wanted them for a day or two. But three months and everyone still exploding with excitement wherever he went -- it had never happened before.
"How am I dealing with it, Hurrah?" Theo looked out at the crowd, who'd gone silent and were staring at him, some with their mouths open, some with their eyes glistening with tears. Four girls in the front row were wearing matching tops, each printed with a single letter, a T, an H, an E, and an O. Except in their excitement they now spelled T, H, O, E. Theo grinned at them and winked, then turned back to Hurrah, who was leaning forward, a gorgeous, sympathetic smile on her face, her liquid eyes inviting an intimate response.
Theo grinned at her as well. "Hey, I take it one opening night at a time, you know?" Laughter swelled around him. "Deal with it, Hurrah? What's to deal with? How do you like the Coat? You know I've got my own line of hair gel now? I'm in the TimeMaster Academy. I think the worst thing I have to deal with is still having to cut my own toenails!"
As Theo expected, applause followed from the laughter. He was discovering that what people wanted from a StarLicker was that they be a StarLicker -- it seemed the more he got into it and enjoyed it, the happier everyone was.
Hurrah's smile deepened into one of gratitude. Every time the boy came on, the ClickDown ratings rose 10, 20 percent. It was amazing.
They chatted on, and then Hurrah wound it up. "Wip, Theo, I could talk to you all night. But don't you have to go and get ready for something?"
Theo grinned. "Just a little something."
"C'mon, what's Quincy launching this time?" Hurrah leaned forward eagerly.
Theo shrugged apologetically. "Hurrah, even I don't know." And he shrugged again. Hey, this has been a blast, he seemed to be saying. Let's do it again soon!
Hurrah signed off and Theo stood up to go.
The audience rose and applauded, as though he'd done something miraculous. Music started up and the screens around the soundstage filled with ads for TimeMaster and HyperCoats and TempoBars.
As Theo walked off, Honeydew stepped in and grabbed him by the arm. Hurrah, who'd seemed like his oldest best friend a few minutes ago, ignored him, closing her eyes to let the Cosmetabot do her face again.
Soon Theo was outside the soundstage doors and away from the thousands of adoring fans.
"Quick. There's no way we can be late," said a slightly worried-looking Honeydew, bustling him into a Pod.
Because even in Theo's daily schedule of fabulous events, the Launch was going to be big. Everyone on the Two Planets, including Theo and Honeydew, wanted to know what Quincy Carter One, Cheeo of TimeMaster Corporation and virtual boss of Earth, had planned this time. Quincy had said, "Nothing will ever be the same again." It wasn't a promise you made lightly in a world that can TimeJump.
Friday night s early Mil 3
Jules leaned forward. How do you know if a girl wants to kiss you?
-- You don't, said his brain.
-- So what if she doesn't want to kiss me?
-- That you'll know.
Jules was standing on the porch of Gen's house. Gen's face was about half an inch away from his.
Everything had gone perfectly. The handholding had been a huge success: Gen's hand had stayed in his for about twenty minutes until, with a gentle smile, she'd finally let go.
After the film they'd walked quietly back to the train station, somehow falling into step in perfect rhythm and with a kind of swaying movement that meant they knocked against each other a lot. They'd talked about the last three months, how over the top their parents had been, how bizarre the whole thing was, how it was all starting to seem like some kind of dream. Were they really visited by Theodore Pine Four? Had Gen really gone to watch a Pyramid being built? Had Jules been to the future and then back to the Big Bang itself? They laughed at the way they were now really interested in history and were reading lots of books. Jules had started to tell Gen the story about how some archaeologists digging through the ruins of ancient Pompeii had discovered a pair of modern sneakers under a bed, and Gen had finished it off. She'd read it in the paper as well. There was great debate as to whether it was a prank and how anyone could have put a pair of shoes in a room that hadn't seen the light of day for two thousand years. Jules had wished they could just keep on walking and talking like this forever.
But they'd had to catch the train and get back home.
And now here they were, standing together on Gen's front porch with five minutes to spare, and it was time to say good night.
-- She's not moving, Jules said to his brain.
-- That's good.
-- I'm going to do it all wrong.
-- Probably. But look, I'm your brain, right? I've watched you learn a lot of things. I remember trying to get your chubby little fingers to pick up blocks. And then toilet training --
-- Yeah, okay, can we go over this some other time? I think it's about to happen.
Jules had a moment of panic, worse than he'd felt when he'd been lost in the future or when he was being chased by Neanderthals in the past.
-- What do I do? Does she know what to do?
-- Maybe. You'll need to tilt your head to one side.
-- The nose. You have to make some room for the nose.
-- Which side? Left?
-- Sure. Tilt your head to the left.
-- No, right. I'm going to go right.
-- Okay. Right.
-- I'm not sure.
-- DO IT NOW!
Jules went left. Gen turned her head a little to her left as well. He was staring into her eye. Gen smiled at him, looked down, back into his eyes, and then just moved her head forward a little, closing her eyes as she did.
Jules could feel the heat of her face, and a soft, warm smell wafted up his nostrils that made him feel lightheaded and powerful all at once.
Opening his mouth and licking his lips -- he screamed.
Gen leaped back, like he'd bitten her on the nose. Then she screamed as well.
Standing next to them was a thin, bony man with a long, weathered face. His eyes were intense and they flicked back and forth from Gen to Jules like a lizard choosing which fly to eat for breakfast. His clothes looked like he'd been wearing them for weeks. And he was standing just a little too close for comfort.
"Sorry," he said, scratching a bit and looking nervously about. "This is not a good time. I'll go away and come back earlier."
"You! I know you." Gen was still screaming. Then her voice dropped to a hiss. "You're that guy. Franklin!"
Franklin? thought Jules. Who's Franklin? How did he just appear like that? And why, instead of experiencing my first real live kiss with a real live girl, am I being interrupted by him? And why does Gen know who he is? And why does he smell bad? And why --
But Jules stopped asking himself questions because the strange, skinny, smelly guy was asking him one. "Who are you? Go home. I need to talk to her."
"Can you keep your voice down?" ordered Gen. "What are you doing here, Franklin? And why do you TimeJumpers always appear so suddenly?"
"How else are we going to appear?" shrugged Franklin. "Bit hard to make an appointment from three thousand years in the future."
"You're a TimeJumper!" said Jules. "From Fifteen Billion and Seventy-three?"
Franklin grabbed him by the arm and put his face up close to his. "Who are you? How do you know so much?"
"Owww!" Franklin's long, bony fingers and nails were digging into Jules's arm. "I'm, I'm Jules. I've Jumped. Who are you? Are you a friend of Theo's?"
At the mention of Theo's name, Franklin dropped Jules's arm and cast more nervous glances about. He scuttled out into the darkness and then back into the pool of light on the porch.
Staring at them, he muttered and tapped his teeth. Then he beckoned them into a huddle, and casting another glance over his shoulder, he said, "Know where I can get a little TimeHacking action? Hip me to it, huh? Maybe you know someone who knows someone?" This was accompanied by lots of winks and nods and fingers on the side of the nose.
Jules hadn't heard of TimeHacking. But he had heard of TimeJumping, and last time he'd done it there'd been a JumpMan, a hovering silver sphere with a red remote. Franklin didn't seem to have one.
"Where's your JumpMan?" Jules asked.
"JumpMan?" Franklin all but spat. "What, you think I'd use one of Quincy's little toys?" And he pulled back a filthy sleeve to reveal a sleek panel as thick as a biscuit and molded to his arm.
Jules looked at Franklin's device in amazement. Like Theo's JumpMan, it didn't have much on it -- just a screen and a couple of buttons. But somehow in there was enough computing power to send a person or two anywhere and anywhen there was a decent JumpSite. From the Big Bang till yesterday. Fifteen billion years of history to explore. No wonder JumpMans were popular. From where Franklin and Theo had come, three thousand years in the future, a future where they calculated the date from the beginning of time, every kid had one. Come the weekend, no one was home -- they were all having a fantastic time watching a Maori War Party go into action, or Marching with Napoleon to Moscow, or -- for the more refined -- watching Mozart Compose or perhaps enjoying a Day with Da Vinci. And they all did it with TimeMaster JumpMans.
Jules took a closer look. On the screen of Franklin's JumpMan he could read Gen's address and the date. It seemed like Franklin had meant to come here.
"This is a JumpMan, my friend, if you must use that term," Franklin said with a sneer. "I wanted to call them a Temporal Tempter but, as usual, Quincy got his way. Oh no, this," and Franklin tapped the device on his arm, "is not one of those pathetic, overwired coconuts Quincy has turned into a fashion accessory and flogged off to the kids. This uses my own Franklin Nixon ChronoMatic Lock Sequencer, Pre- and Post-Particle Oscillating Search Transfer System, and it calculates not just the distance from the Big Bang but also the distance from the next Universe Renewal Cycle, giving you WhenLock Accuracy that is beyond anything copycat Quincy has ever come up with. The Quantum Computers in this little wizz -- "
"Franklin," Gen interrupted. "That's fascinating, but the last time I saw you, you were trying to grab one of those overwired coconuts off Theo and me! Which would have left us stranded forever at the Great Pyramid. And then you just disappeared. What are you doing here? What do you want? And can you keep it down a bit? Do you want everyone to hear you?"
Franklin shrugged. "Oh, yip, yip, sorry about that. I was a bit desperate. There's only so much sand and sun worship you can stand. You want to know what happened? Quincy Carter One's what happened. He Jumped me out. Now he wants to get rid of me again. But let's get down to it. I need to move a little Time about. Hack it. Sack it. Piggyback it. Know what I'm saying?"
Jules and Gen had no idea what he was saying. They both just wanted him to say it a little more quietly.
Then Franklin bent forward and peered into their faces. "So what happened to you?" he demanded.
Gen stepped back. "Franklin! What is going on? I've got no idea what you're talking about. What are you doing here? You don't make any sense and I want you to leave. You're going to get us into trouble! Go on, just JumpOff or Back or Hack or whatever you do. I don't know that I want anything to do with TimeJumping again. All it's done so far is ruin my life."
Good for you Gen, thought Jules. Let's get rid of him. Wasn't this the same as last time? As soon as he got close to Gen, bang! Someone from Fifteen Billion and Seventy-three dropped by to ruin everything. Couldn't Franklin come back tomorrow? Or not at all?
"All right, all right." Franklin backed off a little. "Just take a quick peeky boo at this, Oak Eye?"
Franklin smoothed an area on the front of his Coat. Franklin's Coat was so ragged and filthy, Jules hadn't realized it was a Coat like the one Theo had worn. Now Franklin rubbed some dirt off the front panel, and a screen appeared, accompanied by a soft fanfare. Jules was impressed. The quality of the graphics and sound was very good.
"Welcome to HyperCoat AV Presentations," Franklin's Coat said in a full, creamy voice. "Please select from the following options. To view anything experienced in the last three hours, please say 'Three Hours' -- "
"Yip, zip it, Coat," barked Franklin. "The Theo stuff, just play the Theo stuff."
"I'm sorry," replied the Coat. "Did you say the Leo stuff? For Astrology, just say your star sign -- "
"Aaaargggh! It was easier with papyrus and bits of sharp metal! These Coats! They do everything except what you want them to do! Theo, Theo, Theo, get me the Theo grabs I clicked into five minutes ago, you useless piece of rag."
Jules wished Franklin would hurry up. But still, here was someone from the future who had a Coat with video. It was worth a look. He just didn't want to get caught, because this time, they wouldn't be grounded. This time, they'd be sent to boarding schools far away, run by obscure religious orders who believed in cold showers and regular beatings as a way of keeping young people in check.
"Umm, Gen," Jules ventured, thinking to suggest that Franklin might come back at a more convenient time.
But Gen wasn't listening. She was watching Theo on the Hurrah Banter Show on the screen on Franklin's Coat. Jules took a closer look. There was the back of Theo's gorgeous designer HyperCoat, complete with a huge handstitched TimeMaster logo. There were thousands of people, and you could sense the enormous excitement Theo generated as he walked into the room. Jules was amazed at how confident and experienced Theo appeared. He did all the things talk show guests always do and seemed to be doing it very naturally, like he'd been doing it forever. His hair looked amazing, and he was chatting with the host like they were old friends. Jules leaned forward a little to hear what they were saying.
Hurrah was talking. "...three months since you escaped from Mil 3, where a gang of TimeHackers using a primitive JumpMan kidnapped you and were threatening to let you fall apart unless you showed them how the new JumpMan Pro really worked. You didn't and -- thanks to Quincy Carter One -- you were rescued..."
"What did she just say?" blurted Gen.
"She said you were a ruthless gang of TimeHackers," said Franklin.
"We didn't kidnap him!" said Gen indignantly. "He just turned up in my bedroom and then he couldn't go home."
"I knew you weren't TimeHackers," said Franklin. "Why does everyone believe that story? Look where we are -- it's Mil 3. Giddy clones, is that a lightbulb?" Franklin squinted up at the light over the porch. "Zip, you probably know Edison, right? Zif you're going to be TimeHacking. You don't even know what Time is. Nip, worse, you don't even know what time it is!"
He snorted. "It's Mil 3," he yelled. "Go inside the house. There'll be little clocks blinking everywhere and they'll all have different times on them!"
How does he know that, thought Jules, thinking of the clocks in his own kitchen. The one on the oven hadn't moved at all since it became a home for cockroaches, the one in the microwave was set on summer time, and the one in the radio was seven minutes slow. His watch was usually kind of close....
"Zif they could have kidnapped Theo!" Franklin was chuckling and dancing about a little.
Gen was still watching Theo on the screen. "Are they making out he's some kind of hero or something?" She looked up at Franklin. "What's going on? Is Theo all right?"
"Huh, is Theo all right?" repeated Franklin. "He's more popular than breathing. The entire Two Planets have gone pineapple about him. He's on everything, he's selling everything, they've got ads on the back of Pods for TheoBars -- you can't ClickDown a BulSheet that doesn't have a story on him. Never seen anything like it. He's Lindbergh."
"He's what?" asked Jules.
"Lindbergh -- first solo flight across the Atlantic. You gotta Jump on Lindy one day. It's great. He flies this little plane out of St. Louis in America, all on his own. You can sit right there with him. He's so calm. He's a nobody. And then when he touches down in Paris, the world goes double pineapple. Everyone wants a piece of him. You've never heard of him?"
Both Jules and Gen shook their heads.
"Huh. And I thought we'd lost history in Billennium Fifteen. At least we've got the excuse that we were stuck on Mars for three millennia. You guys, you throw history away like it happened yesterday. Like it doesn't matter."
Jules was reminded of what Theo had told them about his Now, the world of Fifteen Billion and Seventy-three. Everyone lived on Mars after being evacuated from Earth. And they'd only just started to come back to Earth to repopulate it. TimeJumping had been developed to help people rediscover the history of the planet that humans hadn't lived on for three thousand years. Instead it had turned into the biggest leisure activity for kids anyone had ever seen.
Franklin shook his head sadly. "Anyway, Theo is famous. He's the biggest StarLicker we've ever seen."
"Yip, StarLicker. You know, famous, a celebrity. They rise so high, they can lick the stars. Wanna see some more?"
Jules started to say no, not that it hadn't been great to catch up with what Theo was doing, but it was getting late and maybe he really should be thinking about going home.
But Gen said, louder, "Yeah, what else have you got? How come he's lying about everything too? Does he ever mention us at all?"
Franklin had been scrolling through recordings as Gen spoke. "Nip, ooh, except for this."
Franklin ordered the Coat to show them more of Theo, and after the Coat turned itself into a snowsuit, showed them a clip of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and measured Franklin's cholesterol and blood pressure, which actually rose while it was being taken, it finally did.
There was a close-up shot of Theo. He looked moody and kind of handsome. His hair was sepia blue, and he was answering questions in an extremely serious way. The close-up widened and revealed that he was sitting up in the front of a lecture hall full of students. They were slouched down in their chairs as students do, and they were doing their best to look as though they didn't care, but they were all listening with rapt attention.
"So, you know," Theo was saying, "it's great to be here at the TimeMaster Academy for Advanced SiteSearching, and, I mean, I can't tell you guys anything about Entry/Exit Sequence or RLA Techniques, but I can just say this." Theo looked around the hall, pausing like a professional and adopting a deep and sincere look on his face. "You've gotta believe in yourself."
Theo was now nodding as if he'd just imparted something very personal and very real to the students. The footage was beautifully edited, cutting between close-ups of his hands, his fingers running through his hair, and attentive, gorgeous-looking students, and moody close-ups of Theo's face.
Jules's heart sank. He'd always felt like something had happened between Gen and Theo. Now, seeing Gen watch this clip, he wondered how he could compete with someone so well produced.
"When you're out there, and local time is running down," Theo was saying, as some gentle yet inspirational music began in the background, "it's just you and the universe. If you don't believe in yourself, you know, you're not going to find a way back home."
"Oh please, Franklin, what's happened to him?" asked Gen, a pained expression on her face. "He was a big enough tosser when he got here, but at least by the time he left he was nearly normal. No, don't tell me. He's just about to tell them, 'Hey it is true, you can live your dreams.'"
"...live your dreams," echoed Theo on the screen.
Gen made a retching, groaning sound.
Jules grinned happily.
"Zip!" said Franklin. "I want you to hear this."
A girl with fluoro-lime hair stood up to ask a question. "Even though you were, like, kidnapped and all that," she said, "did you form any kind of relationship with them? I mean, the TimeHackers? Could you talk to them and all that?"
Theo swallowed and looked down. The room had gone very still and silent.
"There was a girl. She looked after me. I don't know that I'll ever see her again. Mil 3's a pretty hostile world, but I felt like we connected."
"What was her name?" the green-haired girl asked.
"Genevieve. Genevieve Corrigan," Theo replied quietly.
Franklin stopped the recording. Gen stood very still, and Jules suddenly felt an overwhelming interest in the camellias by the front door.
"So the worst thing that happened to him with the evil TimeHackers here in Mil 3 was he got a crush on you!" Franklin poked a grimy finger at Gen. Then he shook his head ruefully. "There's something very wrong with this. It stinks like rotting valar juice, which doesn't stink that good when it's fresh. You can't just Jump somewhere visible by mistake. None of this was an accident. Maybe it wasn't meant to be Theo, but someone was thinking of coming here."
He slapped his hands together. "Rip! That settles it. I've had a brilliant idea. You're coming back with me!"
"Wh-what?" said Jules, looking up from the camellias.
"Lip, let's go! Let's Jump," said Franklin, grabbing them. "You can really help me. Quincy is planning something. I don't know what. But Quincy does not do anything for fun. He was never fun, he doesn't know how to have fun. If Quincy had your coordinates programmed into the JumpMan Theo used to get here, then all of this has something to do with you. So come on, let's go! Back in my Now, Quincy and Theo are about to make some huge announcement. The entire population's gone triple pineapple. You can take a peek and see what they're up to." He did the lizard thing with his eyes again. "So you want to help, or you just want to smooch on here for a while?"
Jules would have been pretty happy to smooch on, really. In fact, he'd been hoping to get that started when Franklin turned up. But the thought of going back to Theo's Time again was exciting. He didn't really know what Franklin was talking about, but how could he say no to another chance to TimeJump?
Gen was feeling even more conflicted. She'd loved TimeJumping the last time too. But what was Theo going on about? And why did boys either ignore you or go all weird on you? It was so confronting and confusing. And why did Franklin want them to go, anyway? What was he talking about? Was there any reason to trust this strange smelly man who licked his lips and tapped his teeth?
And then, just as Franklin was ordering his JumpMan to respond to Voice command, the front door of the house was flung open.
Until this very moment, Gen's mother was well on the way to recovery. Counseling three times a week had almost convinced her that she could trust herself again. The constant feeling of doubt that nothing was real and that somehow at any moment she would start seeing figures in the room, or see herself on the other side of the room, or see people suddenly disappear -- that feeling was starting to fade. Her therapist was very happy with her progress and suggested that, in a matter of weeks, she would stop believing her daughter might disappear at any moment or that she was keeping aliens with strange hair and even stranger powers in her room. Her therapist had almost convinced her that when Gen said nothing had been going on, she'd been telling the truth, and had helped her realize that her own beliefs could not be real because they were simply impossible. She'd felt terrific while Gen had been out and was only just saying so to Gen's father in the living room. "See?" she'd said. "I can trust her to go out. I'm not worried. She'll come home and everything will be back to normal."
But then, over the noise of the television, she'd thought she'd heard a scream and then other strange sounds. Finally she'd gotten up, walked to the front door, and opened it, and was now standing there looking at her daughter and her friend, Jules, and a skinny, dirty man who was hanging on to their arms.
The skinny man's Coat started to speak. "Now hear this. Now hear this," broadcast the Coat. "This is a Third Party Detection Alarm. TimePresent intruder. Abort mission, Activate TimeSweep last thirty seconds."
Katherine felt dizzy, like someone in an old movie falling into a spiral. Her brain rejected what she was seeing and hearing.
The man released Jules for one second, slapped a strange-looking device on his arm, and cackled and yelled, "No time like the present!" And everyone on her front porch disappeared.
Katherine stood, mouth open, swaying slightly as she found herself suddenly alone.
And then she felt good. She hadn't gone mad! The therapist was wrong. Her daughter had been lying to her. Genevieve was involved in something bizarre that meant people appeared and disappeared. Katherine was right to be haunted by this feeling and to be constantly checking that things were solid and real, because, as she had just seen, they could disappear at any moment! She couldn't even trust her memory because she knew that soon she would start to forget this moment, but never completely. There would always be a faint sense of it. She would remember it as you might remember a show you saw as a very young child -- just the mood, perhaps one scene. Enough to convince you that it had happened, but not enough to convince others.
Katherine turned and went back inside. She felt truly wonderful, and started to skip and sing a little. Then she stopped. Maybe she didn't exist! Maybe she isn't really here. What is here anyway? Maybe we're not really here, we just perceive ourselves as here and how do we know that what we perceive is in any way accurate? Maybe she only imagines that Genevieve is her daughter? Maybe reality is that she's not. When Genevieve disappears, perhaps that's reality. Oh, these were exciting and wonderful thoughts. If only she could share them! Unsure where her next footstep would take her, Katherine went into what might or might not be her living room.
Her husband, Steven, looked at her and said, "Oh no, Katie. Come on, it's not happening again, is it?"
Past Now Friday morning , early Mil 1
Friday morning , early Mil 1
Lavinia sighed to herself. Latin. Why did she have to sit here learning Latin? Her tutor, Claudius, was short and scratched himself too much. It was hot, and even the dust hanging in the sunlight seemed listless. There was a tiny window high above her, and she wished she could jump up and slip out through it. It wasn't going to happen. She would be here for at least another hour. Stuck on a hard chair, in a stuffy room with Claudius, his thin, piping, annoying voice droning on and on and on.
Some poet who didn't know when to shut up. Endless lines about Rome and its glory. The tiresome journeys of some hero called Aeneas who always won out in the end. It was so boring. Why couldn't it be more exciting? If she and her brothers had to sit here learning Latin, couldn't it be stories about princesses and the princes who fell in love with them? Or stories of the gods -- they were always good. Down they'd come from the mountaintop, change themselves into a horse, and start arguing with the sea. Pow! There'd be a clash of thunder, and someone would be locked into a rock for an age until Zeus himself sat down for a rest on the boulder one afternoon and heard the tiny voice of the imprisoned immortal inside. Crack! The god was free, and then off they'd go all over again. That was fun.
Or tell some jokes -- if there were any jokes in Latin. Didn't seem to be when Claudius was teaching it. The last time they'd laughed during Latin was about a month after Claudius came. Her brothers had released a scorpion in the classroom. It had scuttled up to the front and Claudius had leaped onto the table, screaming like a girl. They'd laughed until their father beat them and sent them to their rooms for the night with no food. Every now and again one of her brothers would catch her eye and make a little scuttling gesture with his fingers in the direction of their fearful teacher, and they would smile as they shared the memory. But even that didn't happen very often anymore.
Lavinia looked around at her four brothers. They hadn't heard a word Claudius had said in three years. They spent the entire time devising plots to fool their father into letting them ride out into the forest. Or planning to run away and join the army. Or just sleep. Her youngest brother claimed he could stare straight at Claudius with his eyes open, even though he was actually sound asleep. Claudius had long ago stopped asking them questions. Now he tended to both ask and answer questions himself. If he'd waited for any of them to answer, they'd just sit there all day. He may as well ask the dust, swirling slowly through the beams of light. Or perhaps he didn't ask them anything anymore because he knew they couldn't answer, and then he would have to admit that he'd taught them nothing and that the finer points of language were lost on them. In fact, it was not only the finer points of Latin that were lost on them but all of the rough and quite plain points as well. And so he plodded on through Virgil, stopping every three words or so to ask himself a little question about a detail of how this language worked.
This has to agree with that. These are plural. That's subjunctive, if indeed it were subjunctive. Lavinia couldn't remember and couldn't care less. Why sit here learning Latin? It was, after all, the language she spoke every day.
Copyright 2003 by James Valentine
Excerpted from JumpMan Rule #2 by James Valentine Copyright © 2005 by James Valentine. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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