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Past, Present & Yet To Come was the second short story in the The Lucy Wilson Mysteries series Christmas Special anthology.

It featured three different versions of Lucy Wilson from three different points in her lifetime: the school-age Lucy usually featured in the series, an adult "Major Lucy Lethbridge-Stewart" working for Umbrella alongside Hobo, and "the Crone," a 388-year-old future Lucy who had spent three hundred years trapped in the Interface. Interestingly, the end of the story did not leave them behind as alternative futures, instead leaving them to stand as Lucy's set fate.

Plot[edit | edit source]

In the Boneyard, where heroes come to die at the end of the universe, the Crone wakes up as the time loop of Christmas Eve resets once again. Examining herself in her bathroom mirror, she reflects on her plan to escape from the Boneyard and return to the universe. As she does so, she notices a boy in the mirror behind her. Whirling around, she threatens him with her staff, only for him to recognise her as his friend Lucy.

Elsewhere in Time, Major Lucy Lethbridge-Stewart and Hobo, now adult agents of Umbrella, who have been friends for over a decade, climb up into an alien ship. When they start observing the ship flying overhead, they witness it rearranging itself, seemingly evolving to avoid being pinned down and understood. After discussing their future, Lucy successfully breaks into the ship, followed by Hobo.

In the Boneyard, Hobo and the Crone step out of the Crone's room into the vast atrium to find the spaceship used by Hobo to get here, which he explains he "borrowed". The Crone is put off by the fact that it resembles a Punch and Judy box, but Hobo's desperation and the fact that the spirits — having noticed his presence — try to eject him into the Black Void, convince her that he is genuine and not a trick played on her by the spirits. She summons Mad Old Jackson, a Giant who helps them rout the spirits.

Major Lucy and Hobo, "meanwhile", make their way into one of the ship's corridors through a ventilation shaft. The grating disappears behind them as soon as they're out of the shaft, and the ship ripples and changes again; Hobo notices that it seems to be becoming more advanced with every transformation.

Hobo and the Crone land in Ogmore-by-Sea, where the Crone recognises the name immediately as somewhere she's been before. She asks Hobo to tell her more about the ongoing situation.

As more waves keep going through the alien ship, Hobo and Lucy agree that it's not actually defending itself as they'd originally assumed, but merely evolving at an accelerated rate. To test it out, Lucy plucks a bomb from the wall and triggers it, only for it to vanish as another wave of "evolution" ripples across the ship. However, shadows dancing on the walls begin peeling themselves off said walls and advancing towards them. Lucy offers her hand to the foremost of the shadow-beings in greeting, but, when she explains he significance of the gesture, the nonplussed alien states that "this protocol" is "suboptimal". As another ripple runs through the ship, the shadow-being begins to appear more material and explains that they and their sheep are constantly "optimising", which sometimes has "consequences".

As they walk through Ogmore, Hobo explains to the Crone that the inhabitants of the city keep disappearing, not just vanishing but ceasing ever to existed as far as anyone saved for Hobo is concerned. He states that the last person to disappear was Lucy Wilson, hence his faith in the fact that the Crone is really Lucy.

As the alien ship prepares to land, the shadow-creature, having learned handshakes from Lucy, offers its hand to Lucy. Hobo, however, has scanned the being and warns Lucy not to touch it: he explains that it's not a regular alien, but like a living black hole, meaning it cannot interact with regular matter. Before he can explain any more, the creature touches a finger to Hobo's chest, causing him to ripple into nothingness. A furious Lucy asks the shadow-creature what happened, and it explains that "it optimised" in the most efficient way: by removing Hobo from the situation rather than attempting to account for his existence and actions. The creature then prepares to do the same thing to Major Lucy.

In Ogmore-by-the-Sea, Hobo and the Crone walk into a shop and walk in on a young Lucy Wilson being threatened by the shadow-creature. The Crone saves her younger self and Hobo from the creature and then reveals that she has known perfectly well who she was and who Hobo was, all along, but was pretending because she "had [her] reasons".

The Lucy who got touched by the shadow-creature on the spaceship materialises finds herself looking through the Interface at a strange but homely-looking locale. In her liminal state of non-being, she meets another shadow-creature, looking more real and three-dimensional than its kin did in the "real world". The shadow-creature shows her the "optimised" Hobo, who is older and sadder, but has a family of five. An outraged Lucy asks how long and how widely the shadow-creatures have been doing this; they explain that they have been "optimising" people and elements of the universe forever, and will continue to do so until the process has engulfed all of reality. After touching the Interface, Lucy finds herself fully on the other side, in the Black Void, being able to keep her integrity thanks to her Time Ring. She realises that the shadow-creatures are themselves strangers to normal reality, and that the purpose of their "optimising" is to make the universe perfect for them. She angrily pushes the one she'd been talking to all the way back through the Interface into the "real world", causing to start to dissolve.

In Ogmore, Hobo definitively recognises the Crone as Lucy after a moment's wavering. The two resolve to use the Judy and Punch time machine to go travel to wherever the shadow-creatures have taken young-Lucy.

Lucy and the shadow-creature reemerge in the spaceship, where Lucy demands to know why they came to London in the first place. They explain that they came for her — for Lucy Wilson — whom they keep trying to "optimise" at various points in her life, only to fail every time. They add that they have optimised their strategy now, and are demanding that Lucy herself choose to be optimised, which might break their unlucky streak.

To try and convince her, the creature takes Lucy back to the Interface and shows her visions of possible futures. In the first, an older Hobo in a military uniform dies on a battlefield, fighting creatures whose weak points are their eyestalks alongside Major Lucy. In another, the two of them are strapped down and interrogated by four-legged insectoid creatures in white robes; one of the creatures, who speak in broken English, having realised that "humans keep their ideas inside their skull bones", it begins to open up Hobo's skull. In yet another, Hobo and Lucy are trying to evacuate children in an army transport from an advancing army of Robot Yeti whom Hobo apparently "set free". Back in the Interface, the shadow-creature asks Lucy "if she understand," to which she acquiesces. It touches her again.

Eventually, Lucy finds herself once more talking to the shadow-creature on the bridge of the alien thing. It explains that she has, subjectively, been watching scenarios of Hobo's death for over 300 years. In a rasping voice, Lucy tells the creature that she hates it (which she now understands to be one immaterial being rather than a species) and gives it the mocking name of Goldilocks, which Goldilock acknowledges as fitting. She then asks why she remembers all these possible futures even though only one can be real; Goldilocks explains that it is for the same reason she cannot be forcibly optimised. Lucy finally agrees to help them optimise her life, at the condition she get to pick Hobo's fixed fate away from her in the new timeline.

The Crone completes her story to the old Hobo, explaining that after three hundred years of convincing, she became a servant of the "old shady" from the Great Void outside the universe, which sought to "terraform" the universe into a form it can understand, which includes removing the dimension of Time from proceedings. However, it was prevented from tearing down the structure of Time altogether by the existence of "fixed points" which must always happen. It eventually discovered the existence of special individuals who could influence fixed points in Time, including Lucy. The Crone then steals the Judy and Punch box, leaving Hobo in Ogmore.

She returns to the atrium of the Boneyard mere instants after she and Hobo left Mad Old Jackson behind. She asks them how long this instantiation of the time loop seems to be, and explains to him that she designed the Boneyard in the first place, "the perfect prison". As time resets once again, the Crone finds herself back in her bed - with her staff and its Ring intact. She then opens the Rubik's cube on her desk, finding another, time-displaced instance of the same Ring inside. Pressing the two close to each other to feel the paradox energy fighting in-between them, she steps out into the Atrium and summons all the other retired heroes, ordering them to form a circle.

Goldilocks is summoned, and greets Lucy. He compliments her on her solution to the problem of the fixed points: "corralling" them all at the very end of the universe so that they can all be optimised away in one fell swoop. However, she tells Goldilocks that she tricked it, transporting the paradoxical two rings as a way to make herself appear impossible and fake having removed herself from the tapestry of Time to Goldilocks's senses.

Instead, she shows Goldilocks that she designed the Boneyard as a prison for Goldilocks, and also reveals to it its true nature: it is the Black Void itself, timelessly cast out of the universe both at its beginning and its end — by the Crone herself. As the final "tock" of the great clock of the universe resounds, a bright light engulfs the atrium and the Black Void is banished.

Major Lucy and the Crone meet up in a tea room in Ogmore, soon joined their common school-aged younger self as the last guest. The three share information and devise the plan to defeat the Black Void, with the youngest Lucy being cautioned never to tell Hobo the truth of these events.

Characters[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  •  The Crone is 388 years old.
  • The Hobo concurrent with the school-aged Lucy is 14 years old.
  • Stories are not only what sustains the spirits of the Boneyard, but also the fundamental building block of all reality.
  • The Crone has met ghosts on several occasions, and dislikes them, but also refuses to quite believe in them.
  • Time in the Boneyard is time looped, constantly "jumping backwards to the last tick in the fraction of a fraction of a split-moment before the last tock was heard". How long the time between the tick and the tock is varies.
  • The Crone's desk is bare except for an unfinished Rubik’s cube.
  • Major Lucy states that she "would rather fight an entire battalion of Quarks single handed than go back to school".

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • The story was also notable for introducing an antagonist who could be interpreted as a potential identity of the Enemy in the War in Heaven, being a timeless being set on completely rewriting the universe to optimise it to its needs, who had to subvert the structure of Time to do so only to find itself constrained by the "fixed points" that existed, existed in a constant state of flux concerning its appearance and technology level due to constantly rewriting itself, and who could reasonably be described as more a process than a species.

Continuity[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

to be added

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