With Daphne at the mall, and the Shaggy Scooby eating combo at the local pizza joint, Fred decided the moment is right to talk to Velma. For the last three weeks, Velma had been walking around in a funk. Now, it was not uncommon for Velms to get rather focused on some of her research projects, and she was rather obsessive about the current one, but still, she had been uncharacteristically depressed lately. Velma, like everyone else, had a natural rhythm of emotions that all of them were very used to. Something had broken that rhythm. Freddy descended the stairs to her basement lab expecting Velma to be hard at work on her latest gizmo. Instead, he found her staring at what looked like a TV set. There was no audio, just a screen full of snow.
"Velma?", he asked. Usually, this would cause her to spin around and greet him. Today, she only responded with a groan. Fred waited quietly for her to acknowledge him. Slowly, she turned around. Her eyes had tears in them. Freddy was shocked!
"Some.. err.. type of white noise experiment?", he asked. She did not respond. He could see that it was not a matter of her being rude, but that she was about to burst into a full blown crying fit, and she was trying to avoid it. Her hand slowly moved to her face and she mopped up tears with a very damp tissue.
"Give... Give me a second Fred.", she requested.
There was a very large reclining chair by the wall. He moved over to it and sat down. A minute passed. Then two. After what seemed to be an eternity, Velma moved off of her seat and sat down on a second recliner that faced the one Fred was in. Even with all this time passing, Fred still had no idea how to open this conversation up. Something was very wrong here and he did not have a clue what it could be. Finally, he decided on a strategy. He would say nothing and wait for her to speak.
"White noise.", she said. "It might as well be. I wish it was just noise, I could ignore it."
Fred looked about the room. There was a very large "thing" near the workbench, with very large power cables going to it. "No wonder our electric bill has been so high lately!", he thought to himself. He tried to dismiss the thought and focus back on Velma. His strategy was failing. She had spoken, and now it was his turn and he was still clueless as to what his response should be. He remembered watching a show once, where the therapist kept repeating the lines the patient had said.
"It might as well be? I wish it was just noise?", he said. It worked! She looked like she was about to speak.
"Did you ever wonder what will become of us?", she asked.
A lump formed in Fred's throat. Was Velma that depressed that she was thinking about death? Maybe he was out of his league. Maybe she needed professional help. They say genius is very close to insanity. Had she crossed the line? No way, this was Velma! There had to be some logical answer to this. He took a deep breath.
"Velma, for the last few weeks I have been noticing you sliding into a deeper and deeper depression. I don't know what to do. Is there something going on that we can help with? I'm at a real loss. Please, just tell me..."
Velma stared blankly into space for a few minutes. "Of course!", she said as a slight smile wisped across her face and then disappeared. "Jinkies, I gave you a mystery to solve without even noticing, and the mystery was me!"
Freddy was dumbfounded. Totally lost. What on earth was she talking about?
"I should have known better then to try to hide my feelings around here! Still, I don't have all the answers, and I did not want to freak everyone out." She paused and then continued. "Fred, for now, I am going to entrust you with some information that even I am not sure of. I want to show you something."
Velma walked over to the large contraption that was sitting by her bench. "It's a tachyon accelerator.", she said.
Fred knew he had heard about this sometime in the past, but could not place it and didn't want to seem dumb. "Ah..humm.", he said.
"Do you remember my Uncle Henry and what he was working on?"
Fred's face lit up. It was coming back to him. "He had made that time machine! But, I thought it would never work again? Something about crossing something to something..."
Velma took pity on him and continued her explanation. "Yes, he had built a ten million dollar one shot that we figured out could never travel again as it would collide with itself and.. well.... The government stopped his funding, end of story."
Fred had some very fond memories about that adventure, and the ring he had given Daphne. He let his mind travel back for a second or two, but was cut short as Velma continued.
"I had been thinking about the technology he used. I know building another one would not work, but maybe I could use the theory and make something that could give us a peek at what's around the corner... We could solve a mystery by looking ahead! Or so I thought.... ", her voice trailed off, and she got that look on her face again.
"What went wrong?", Fred asked.
"It didn't work. At least not how I thought it would. I can get some grainy images, but they don't extend past this room. Only a flicker here and there. No audio, so I can't hear what happened....."
She began to cry again. Now Fred was worried! Not so much about Velma, but a grave concern about all of them. "What did you see?", he asked.
"I'm not sure. I've been watching this thing for weeks. Sometimes three days will go by, then I'll see a half a second, it's getting better..... But what I see really worries me."
A chill was running down his spine. Again he asked, "What did you see?"
"I see us meeting down here. Not the happy gang we were, but four very sad people. Um, three sad people and a dog, I should say."
"But there's four of us?? And Scooby..", Fred replied. "Who is missing?"
Velma grasped his hand and led him over to the bench. She typed something into the keyboard, and when she hit enter there was a large wurring noise... The lights dimmed from the extreme electrical load. Velma stared at the screen. "Watch closely", she said. There was some faint image in the background. It looked like people moving around but he couldn't see who. POP! With a loud snap, and the odor of something burning, the image went away. Velma calmly walked over to a rack of equipment and pulled out a burning circuit board. She plugged in another one with a motion that told Fred she had done this a dozen times before. Soon the wurring started again. "Watch very closely..", she repeated herself. "We may not get anything....."
But there was something appearing! He could make out an image of himself. He didn't look any older then he did now. And there was Scooby! Yes, the blob of white had to be Scooby by the way it was moving! He looked closer... That baggy sweater! That had to be Velma! Something was over to the side eating.. Yes, Shaggy!
POP! It all went away, and the air again was filled with smoke.
"That's the last D to A converter board I have", Velma said in a quiet voice. "I have to pick some up this afternoon."
Both remained quiet for a while. Then Velma continued. "I see all of us. We are all very sad. But I never see Daphne. Since Daphne's dad financed us, and we still appear to be here, it can't be that she quit. Something happens to her in the very near future. I just don't know what. I have been watching this thing for weeks now, hoping to get a clue. I tape recorded much of it, but there's nothing there except sadness."
"How soon? Can we change it?"
"Velma shook her head. Remember Uncle Henry? Remember how the controls had no numbers on them? There's just no way to calibrate things. I could only guess that it is days, or weeks. This thing is too small to push a temporal disturbance that would be larger then that. As for the second half of your question, I don't know the answer to that either. I would guess the view is of an undisturbed timeline, but I knew about it and that didn't change anything. Something happens that is out of our control!"
"Hello?" Fred and Velma both jump! Daphne is at the top of the stairs calling down to them. Fred looks in a panic! "Velma, what do we tell her??"
Velma shakes her head. "Nothing for now, we need some more information."
Fred looks back to her, "How am I going to do that !!! We have to go upstairs, and I have to act like nothing is wrong??"
"Yep, that's about it Fred.", Velma replies. "It's not easy."
Daphne has laid out what looks to be the better part of a department store on the living room furniture. Repeatedly, she picks up various tops and holds them up to herself, asking Freddy what he thinks of them. Freddy desperately tries to look happy and encourages her in her mini fashion show. Velma, having made it back from the parts distributor, watches the two of them. Her heart goes out to Fred, who is trying so hard to be normal while knowing such a horrible fact. Shaggy and Scooby are working their way through the three pizzas they brought home after Tony's Piza had to close due to oven failure. Velma clears her throat. "Guys, if you don't mind, I've got a little more work to do.."
"Oh Velma!", Daphne responds, "You need to take some time off from your project! You are getting so overtired lately that you've lost all your spark!"
Shaggy laughs, "Like judging by all that smoke, and the dimming lights, I think Velma's got plenty of sparks going!" "Ra, Right!", Scooby adds.
"No, I'm sure Velma's project is very important.", Fred adds. He can't help but hope that Velma will find one more piece to this puzzle before it's too late. Velma gives him a reassuring nod, and heads down the stairs. She hears the laughter in the room above her, and takes her glasses off to wipe her eyes. "It's like morning someone before they are gone." she thinks to herself. "I've got to find an answer."
With her new supply of converter boards, Velma starts to work. The lights dim, the screen flickers, and again she tried to make sense of the images she is seeing. As the first board fries, she rocks back in her seat and closes her eyes.
"Am I seeing bits of a story, or repeats of the same time frame with minor differences?", Velma ponders. "Fred knows now, yet the images have not changed."
She plugs yet another converter board in and discards the fried one in a now full trashcan. As she turns, she is startled to see Freddy standing there.
"I couldn't keep myself away. Did you find anything out?"
"No Fred! One more view after three weeks of viewing is not going to yield a thing..." Velma stops herself. She realizes that she was being short with Fred out of her own frustration. He deserved better. "I'm sorry, that was not what I meant. I'm just starting to loose hope, and I'm overtired."
"Its OK Velma, you've been at this a long time! I understand." Fred plopped himself in the chair.
Velma came over and sat on the arm of the chair. She tries to be a little more light hearted. "How'd you get away from the fashion show?"
"Oh, Daphne realized she had bought the same dress twice! She was so upset that she headed back to the mall. You know, It took every bit of self control I had NOT to go along with her. I just want to protect her! I Don't know what to do!"
Velma takes Fred's hand and leads him over to the VCR. "I want to show you something. I've recorded several of these image sets and enhanced them." Velma pushes the play button. "Each scene is about 5 seconds long....."
As each image set goes by, Fred sees that each one is different, but the theme of them are all the same. One or two members of the gang are in the room, then the others come down the stairs, all are sad, then the screen goes blank. After about 20 sets, Velma hits the stop button.
"What's it mean?", Freddy asks.
"I am not sure. We are either looking at different snapshots in time, or the same one with slight modifications. If the second theorem is correct, then subtle changes in the future are taking place and the future is flexible. I don't know if the grand scheme is flexible, but it gives me some hope."
Fred looks baffled. "But we know, yet we can't change it! I won't be happy until I see Daphne in one of these pictures!"
Velma smiles. "I know how you feel, but be aware that if she is, one of us may not be."
Fred ponders this new and disturbing information. "We need answers. We need a plan."
Velma smiles, "You know Fred, this isn't one of our usual mysteries. The old need a plan won't work."
Fred is deep in thought. "A different kind of plan.", he says. "You said you were not sure if these images were flexible. What if I grow a mustache? The act of deciding to grow one should change the future slightly. We should be able to look at that screen and see me in a mustache."
Velma looked over at her bench. "I only have four converters left. I bought out what the distributor had, and he can not get anymore for a month. That gives us four glimpses into the future. Still, I like your idea. If we can pin down the things we can change, we might get to the bottom of this."
Velma walked over to the bench, and with a new card installed, brought their view-port to life. As the image faded in, they could see Shaggy eating something, and Scooby running by. Then Velma coming down the stairs. Fred's heart leaped! Where was he.... A few moments passed. Then a pair of feet coming down the stairs.. It was Fred. He began to turn his face toward them... POP! It was over!
Fred smacked the side of his head with his palm. "So close! Did you see anything?"
Velma loaded the tape she had just made into an editor so they could look at every frame. Slowly she advanced it. In slow motion, Fred turned his face. Yes, they could see his face!
"No Mustache!", Fred screamed! "What does that mean? We can't change anything? Something's going to happen to Daphne and there is nothing we can do about it??"
Velma shut the machine down, and walked over to her chair very slowly. She was taking the extra seconds to process what she had just seen. Fred might be right, or...
"Fred, it could also mean that whatever is going to happen, happens before your mustache gets a chance to grow in." Both stood in silence for a few seconds, then both sat down. Velma looked over at the bench. Only three cards were left. Only three chances to figure this mystery out.
It had been a long argument with the store manager. By the time Daphne left, the stores in the mall had closed and there were only a few cars in the parking lot. She could see her car in the distance. For some reason, Daphne had a creepy feeling about all this. The mall looked very different after hours. Her walk would take her by a long dark embankment. She decided to walk further into the parking lot, well out of her way, where there was more light and avoid the embankment. Suddenly, the lights went out! For a second or two, her eyes could not adjust to the darkness. The gray shape had to be her car. She walked towards it. Something moved. Daphne stopped in her tracks, her heart pounding inside her! She was afraid! Again, something moved close by her! As she spun around to look, shear panic took over! She dropped her bags but it was too late!