Amber watched her father from across the beachside skatepark. His dark-toned skin glistened in the noonday sun as he slowed his skateboard to a crawl. His black curled hair threatened to dry under the summer heat. He grabbed his near empty Starbucks cup and slurped the last remaining dregs of a warm, frozen drink.
A couple walked along the beach on the edge of the park. Their hands joined. They didn’t detect the small gang of boys and girls skating towards them.
Amber’s hands tensed up, and she wanted to call out to them, to her father. But she couldn’t. She didn’t dare. Butterfly effect, and all that.
The couple screamed as the skaters circled them and one of them grabbed a purse. The group taunted the couple as the bandit sprinted off. Her father kicked his skateboard into motion and chased after the mugger.
Amber swallowed back tears. “It’s all part of the test. It’s all part of the test,” she told herself. She reached out her arm to call out, but she pulled it back and trembled.
Her whole life, Mom had talked about this day. About how her father had visited the skatepark after he found out he would be a dad. About how he never returned home.
She stared, frozen, as he grabbed the thief and yanked him back. While her father kicked the skateboard off the pavement, the robber reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. She saw the gleam of metal before he plunged the blade into her father’s breast.
He wilted onto the ground, and the thief snatched his skateboard and fled the scene.
Amber ran to his side and lifted his head into her lap. She had only a moment.
“Father,” she whisper-cried.
His eyes blinked at her as his chest heaved.
“I want you to know, everything turns out all right. I’m born eight months from now, and thanks to your bravery, Mom and I live comfortable lives.”
Amber continued to talk, unaware of when his eyes closed and he breathed his last. For twenty years, she had wanted to tell him everything. A few seconds wasn’t enough time.
Amber stood up as a crowd gathered and slinked away. When she was certain no one was looking, she turned a dial on her wristwatch and teleported back to the home-base.
Her legs were like jelly as she stepped forward out of the light of the multi-verse machine.
I could have saved him.
Her eyes fell on the facilitator, Doug, as he walked towards her. His clipboard-like data pad glowed and reflected off his spectacles. A green tinge covered the lower half of his face.
“Overall, a sloppy performance,” Doug said. His voice was matter-of-fact. “You were too close to the action. You near exposed yourself. And you interacted with the subject.”
Amber nodded her agreement with his assessment. “Does this mean-?”
“Do not interrupt,” he continued. “The expectation was not perfection. Otherwise, we would not have sent you to this specific day and time. As a human of Earth-3, your emotions are your greatest weakness. You skirted the rules of operation but did not break a single one. This despite your knowing this was the one chance to change your past. As such, you have passed the final assessment. Congratulations, Cadet Jackson, you are now a member of Multiverse Police Force.”
Amber saluted the facilitator.
Minutes later, she returned to her quarters and collapsed onto a bed of guilt.
I sure hope it was worth it.