The sun was already setting when Ness and Paula arrived in Winters.
"C'mon, Paula, can't you PLEASE just tell me what's going on?" Ness asked, as he and Paula walked through the snow towards Dr. Andonuts' lab.
"No. We have to do this as quickly as possible, the sooner the better. No time for explanations." Paula said. She reached the lab and knocked on the door.
"Yes?" a voice said. The door was pulled somewhat ajar, then it was flung open. Dr. Andounts stood in the doorway. The lab behind him was now free of assistants. "Why, hello again! To what do I owe this visit?"
"Hello, Doctor." Paula said, smiling, "May we come in?"
"Of course, of course!" Dr. Andonuts stepped aside to let them through the doorway, "My assistants have gotten off work early, I needed to do some private work. But it can wait for a few moments. What can I do for you?"
"I'll get right to the point," said Paula, "We need to use your new Phase Distorter. It's an emergency."
The doctor's face fell a bit. He rubbed his beard absentmindedly and started murmuring to himself. "Dear, dear, dear..." he said quietly, as if he didn't have the heart to say it out loud, "Hasn't been tested... Shouldn't risk..."
During the moment of pondering, Ness took the opportunity to look around the lab. It was easier to see things now that he was inside instead of peeking through the window, but not much seemed different.
And then his eyes fell on the large machine.
That's it! he thought. The new Phase Distorter! It really did look an awful lot like its predecessor... It was round and standing on four short legs, but no black swirl this time and no 'nose', it was simply a round metal sphere.
"Doctor," Paula was saying, "I know it hasn't been tested, but we need to use it. It's necessary to our cause. And if..." she paused, "If it is what we think it is, there's no need to worry. It will work."
Dr. Andonuts rubbed his chin some more, then finally sighed. "Very well, very well." he consented, "I suppose the four of you are up to your old adventures again..." he walked over to the Phase Distorter, "Aren't you a little old to be doing things like that?"
"Aren't you too old to be handling things like this?" Paula said, running a hand down the smooth metal.
"Ah. Touche." the Doctor said, turning a knob. The front of the Phase Distorter began to ripple like a pond. "Go on in," he said to Paula and Ness, "The controls aren't that different from the last one."
"After you," Paula said to Ness. He walked over to it and stepped in.
"Thank you, Doctor," Paula said. She got in, but then stuck her head back out, "And don't worry. We'll be gone as soon as we leave." she disappeared into the rippling metal.
Inside the Phase Distorter, Ness was flopped down on a cushioned chair that protruded from the wall, and having a look around. It looked very much like the sort of thing you would find in an old science fiction movie. Lights and buttons everywhere, and a main control panel. He watched Paula step in, stick her head back out, say a few words to the doctor, and come back in. She began to press buttons on the control panel. Finally she pulled a lever back, and the Phase Distorter began to vibrate.
"Here we go!" Paula shouted, but Ness didn't hear her. They were already zooming back through time...
"He's alive." Paula said. She stood up and took a few steps backwards, standing in between Jeff and Poo, "I think it's like the Talking Rock said... He's in 'his world'." She looked down at Ness, who had collapsed in the middle of the Sanctuary, "I wonder what it's like."
"I hate to admit, I am in envy of him." Poo said, looking up at the tiny volcano, "Not many get a chance to see what he is seeing at this moment. A world made of their own thoughts and dreams."
"I guess we can only wait now." Paula sat down on the ground and rested her chin on one hand.
Suddenly, they heard a noise. "What's that?" Paula asked, leaping to her feet.
"Look!" Jeff pointed over towards the edge of the cliff, where something had begun to materialize... The three of them stepped back, ready to attack if it was dangerous.
The thing finished appearing, and the front of it began to ripple. Out stepped a woman with blonde hair. Paula let out a little gasp and took another step backwards.
"Who is that?" Jeff wondered aloud.
"It's... me." Paula whispered, incredulously.
"What?" Jeff asked.
The woman looked up and smiled.
"Oh my God, it's me..." Paula said again.
"How do you know?" Jeff asked.
Paula turned to him, "We share the same brainwav-" she stopped when she heard the woman saying it with her. She faced front and covered her mouth with her hands.
Suddenly, someone else stepped out of the thing. A man with black hair and brown eyes.
"And you're Ness..." Paula said, pointing at him.
"Huh?" he asked.
"That's Ness all right." said Jeff.
"Hey-!" the man said, straightening.
"What are you doing here?" Paula asked slowly, as if she were talking to members of an alien race.
The older Paula's eyes drifted to the hand of the boy who was lying unconscious on the ground, "We need the Sound Stone," she said, looking back at her younger self.
"The Sound Stone?" Young Paula asked, looking at Young Ness, "What for?"
"Well, it's kind of a long story," Paula replied, "But let's just say that your troubles aren't quite over."
"Wonderful." Paula said sarcastically, "But we won't be needing the Sound Stone anymore?"
"No." Older Paula shook her head, "We, however, do. May we take it?"
"Hmmm..." Paula said, looking at the Sound Stone.
"I believe you should be trusting of them, Paula." said Poo, "I too sense that they are true in their saying."
Young Paula bit her lip. "Well, if you think so, Poo..." she thought a moment longer. "Sure." she sighed, "I guess so."
Older Paula turned to Older Ness, "Would you do the honors?" she asked.
Ness stepped cautiously forward and kneeled next to his younger self. He reached out with one hand and grasped the Sound Stone. Immediately, something like a small electric shock ran up his arm. The Sound Stone came loose from Young Ness' hand.
Older Paula looked at her young counterpart as she walked back to the Phase Distorter, "I know you don't fully trust us now," she said, "But someday you will." she stepped into the Phase Distorter.
Ness stood as well and walked over to the machine. "Oh, and Jeff..." he said, pointing an index finger at the boy with glasses, "Stay away from my girl." With that, he stepped in.
"So," he said after a short pause. He had stopped after stepping into the Phase Distorter and was looking at the Sound Stone in his hand, "Are those kids gonna grow up and go back in time, and then the kids they visit are gonna grow up and go back in time, and the kids they visit..." he put his free hand to his forehead, "I mean, how many of us are there?"
"It's best not to think about it." Paula said. She reached one hand out of the Phase Distorter. "PSI Memory Beta." she said softly, as Ness sat down again in the chair. Then Paula pushed a few buttons, pushed the lever forward, and they were off.
Young Paula, Jeff, and Poo stood in a daze for one moment. Then, suddenly, Jeff saw something, "What's that?" he asked, pointing.
Paula and Poo looked just in time to see the Phase Distorter disappear.