Rubbing her face in frustration, Cat steps to the side to think.  She then crosses her arms and taps her foot.  “Pop bop, doo-wop.  Cha cha, la la la.”  I’m not sure if the humming is supposed to help Duplica, but I’m sure loving it.  Making one more attempt, the teacher suggests, “While it was disrespectful the way you talked to me, I want to show you I’m not such a hardheaded individual all the time.  We will talk to the others and take a vote.  If they feel as uncomfortable about the trip, we will think of something else.  Okay?”

    As she begins to walk away, Duplica feels her arm being forcefully yanked.  She’s had enough and turns in rage to see the student who’s about to get herself sent home.  “Let go, Tiffany.  Now!”

    “No, Duplica,” says the defiant Tiffany Stulmuch, “this is a decision that no one else will make for you.  This is a chosen crossroads for you, and you alone, Catherine Rug.  Will you listen to me and avoid the next era, or will you defy my warning and get your children killed?”

    Resisting the urge for physical retaliation, Cat tries to remain as calm as possible while asking, “And what is so important about the angels that you’re risking detention to keep us away from there?”

    The child’s eyes fill with rage at the mention of this era and simply responds, “Your life.”

    Duplica pulls away in anger and marches away.  “We’re going on the trip.  You’re going home, and I guarantee you…you won’t enjoy the ride there.”

    “Ya wanna’ know why you’re the only one who can make this choice, Catherine Antonia Sky?”

    This use of Cat’s full maiden name is disturbing enough, but the voice that says it is not the voice of the Tiffany Stulmuch that came on this trip.  Turning back to address this last question, Duplica soon discovers what she is truly up against.

    “Hello, my old friend.  You see, if I asked you to skip the next era and you said yes, I’d be cool.  If you said no, I’d destroy you, which I’m doing now.  Don’t you see the risk I’d be taking by having the whole group to deal with at once?”  I think it’s obvious, if you didn’t catch it by now, that these two walked much farther away than just three inches to the left of the class.

    Cat has three questions for Tiffany.  “Who are you?  How do you know me?  What are you doing on my field trip?”

    Tiffany laughs a laugh that Catherine has only heard once.  It’s a laugh that’s…hard to describe…hard to forget.

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