Her mother had always told her not to try and cross her own timelines. It leads to calamities and catastrophes, she'd said. But the Illian girl had done it, and for far less a reason than this, so Diane had decided to try it.
Now, though, as she looked down on the sleeping woman in the grey-walled room, she felt uneasy. This... person was younger than she was. She shivered. I could just leave...
"I know you're there," the apparently not sleeping figure said calmly. "I don't know who you are though, which is... well, interesting is an understatement. I certainly should." She sat up, running a hand through her strawberry-blonde hair to calm it down, and reached for her glasses. "So who are you?"
"Someone your author hasn't thought of yet," Diane said. "Hello-" She stopped, swallowing her last word, and corrected. "Hello, Lou."
"So you know me," Louise said, looking up at her curiously. "Now I am intrigued. I assume you're someone from my future - not a version of me, though, I know what they look like - and that you have something important to say?"
Diane swallowed. It was normal for children - even grown-up children - to think of their parents as stupid. Louise, even in this younger state, was anything but. "There's a crisis," she said. "Some... what's the date?" She glanced up at the ceiling for a second. "Right. Some thirty-three years in your future, the PPC is a complete mess. People like you and, and Narto, and Dafydd and Constance and so on aren't involved, you're all retired. It's down to the next generation. The Illian kids, the Dioxonds, the Hyraxes..."
"And you," Lou finished. "You're very good, daughter, but not that good. I can't say I was planning on marrying Nar, but..." She shrugged, smiling wryly. "Am I allowed to know your name?"
Diane winced. "It's best you don't," she said, trying to salvage the situation. "Time travel... I mean, it'd be dangerous. Jas', Jasmine Illian, she went back to join the Black Cats for... er. You haven't had that yet."
"He's been planning it," Lou said with a shrug. "Didn't mention any Illians yet, but don't worry, I won't tell. You were saying?"
"She changed her name," Diane replied sullenly. "She was there for years and no one knew who she was. Me, I can't even manage five minutes."
"I'm a special sort of person," Lou said blandly, and then added, "and apparently a good mother. You certainly seem to have come out all right." She eyed her future daughter critically. "Mostly, at any rate. So why did you have to come and see me?"
Diane sighed. "Apart from the usual? We need your help. Mum... she can't remember all the things our author - I know he's not exactly an author to you, but it'll do - was planning, so she doesn't know if it's gotten out of control or not. She had a... an accident. She's fine," Diane added hastily, seeing Lou's distress, "but her memory's not what it was, and the author... he's not telling. So we need you to write it down as you go so we can figure it out when we get to our time."
Lou nodded thoughtfully. "It's a good plan. And you want me to... what, pick a hiding place now so you can go back and pick it up immediately?"
"That's right," Diane said, relieved. "Can you?"
"Oh, sure," Lou agreed. "But... one thing, first."
The woman in front of her frowned. "What?"
"You said 'apart from the usual'," Lou pointed out. "What's 'the usual' when it's at home?"
Diane blinked, and blushed. "Oh. Um. It's... there's sort of a tradition, you know? When you go back in time or whatever, you're supposed to... well, you know..."
Lou tilted her head. "Can't say I do," she said. "Do tell."
"... you're supposed to make out with yourself, only I'm not alive yet in this time so I figured it'd be okay to make it you instead."
Lou looked at her levelly, and then laughed softly. "I'm your mother, dear, or going to be. Won't that be a bit... strange, for you?"
Diane blushed furiously. "I don't... I mean, you're not... you're actually quite attractive," she finished lamely. "I mean, now. When you're young."
"Oh, thank you very much," Lou replied with an amused smile. "Well, no time like the present, hmm?" She patted the bed next to her, and Diane sat down nervously. "Did, what was her name, Jasmine manage to track down Constance while she was back here?" Lou asked.
Diane looked around and stifled a laugh. "Actually... that's sort of why I picked this time," she said. "She's with her right now, out on a mission somewhere; I think Steve's going frantic looking for her; Constance, I mean."
Lou laughed softly. "Is it something about the future?" she asked, removing her glasses and rubbing the bridge of her nose with two fingers. "I happen to know Con's already besotted with Dafydd."
Diane blushed. "Well, Jas' never actually said what happened..."
"I suspect very little," Lou commented. She draped an arm across her future daughter's shoulder, feeling the woman from the future tense and then start to relax. "Dear, I don't know what's happened in the future, but right now - and in this timeline - I'm not interested in girls." She raised an eyebrow. "Unlike you, I suppose."
Diane winced. "Not really," she admitted. "I've never... look, it's just tradition, okay?"
Lou shook her head, smiling gently. "Not this time, child," she said. "Run along back home. It'll be buried in the Tomb of the Unknown PPC Agent. Now shoo, I need some sleep."
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