Just like that, they were back. Ivy felt such a strong sense of relief at seeing the familiar, dull gray walls of Adao’s basement workshop, that she wanted to leap in the air and weep with joy. They were home! No more Crazytown robots. No more weird blue-eyed clone Ivy. No more desertified Hiver Park with its dried-up river and disturbing lack of snow.
“Are you thinking the same thing I’m thinking?” asked Adao.
“Um…” Ivy doubted it. The first thing she wanted to do was meet with J.T. and tell him what she had learned. This time machine business was dangerous. If the government didn’t intervene and shut it down right now, then…she shuddered.
“We have to help them,” Adao was saying.
“Huh? Help who?” Ivy blinked.
“The others, of course!” said Adao. “Virginia and Grayson. I know that you think that fate is somehow written in stone, and that nothing we do now can change the future. But I refuse to believe that.” He shook his head. “We saw how unhappy everyone was. We have a chance to make it better.”
Adao sighed. “Look, I get it. The robot marriage thing was bizarre. But…I kind of get it, too.” He turned away from Ivy. “You get rejected enough by real people, and…well, I just get it, that’s all.”
Ivy didn’t know what to say. She felt bad for not returning Adao’s feelings for her. But that was something she couldn’t change. “Maybe there’s someone out there for you – someone real,” she told him. “Just spend a little less time down here in your basement, and out in the real world, and who knows?”
“Sure. Who knows?” Adao didn’t sound very convinced.
Ivy, as always, put her work first. She contacted J.T. and asked him to meet her as soon as possible. “I know what Adao Rocha-Morinho has been doing all this time,” she told him.
Ivy smiled wryly. “Oohh, maybe he’s figured out how to build a time machine!”
J.T. laughed with her. “Good one. Okay, seriously, though. What is it?”
Ivy shook her head. “I’m afraid the DHS will be terribly disappointed,” she said. “See – Adao is a genius with computers. But all he’s been doing is building artificial human life forms.”
“Not bombs. Just robots that he’s programming to do domestic work. He’s been working on them for the past six years, it seems. I know.” She heaved a dramatic sigh. “More hard-earned tax dollars, allocated toward the wrong project.”
The next evening, Ivy sought out Virginia. She tracked her down in a seedy local bar, where Virginia had performed earlier that afternoon. “I got booed,” she said to Ivy, her eyes welling with tears. “Actually booed. Can you believe it? I was singing My Heart Will Go On, and doing it so well, too!” She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand, smearing her mascara and reminding Ivy of the future Virginia, drugged out and destitute, sobbing in her kitchen.
“Can we talk after I’ve had a shot or two?” asked Virginia, turning toward the bar.
“No!” Ivy held out a hand to stop her. “I mean – just wait, okay? I’m…worried about you.” Without sharing anything about her trip to the future with Adao, Ivy explained how she was concerned about Virginia’s state of mind, and about how much Virginia had been drinking lately. “I think that you have been self-medicating with alcohol. But what you really need is medication.” She has thought that Virginia would take offense, but to Ivy’s surprise, that did not happen.
“You’re right,” said Virginia. “You’re so right! There is something wrong with me, I know it!” She grabbed Ivy’s arm. “Will you help me?”