Jennifer has been chosen Homecoming Queen, and – far more surprising – Alex has been chosen Homecoming King! They’ve taken the floor for their royal dance. Meanwhile, Roger has retrieved the backpack, but Todd’s chasing after him (followed by Ms. Pfeifer and Roger-from-the-future). Roger tried to escape on the cheerleader float, but Todd pursued on the Model U.N. float, and tossed a flag over Roger’s head, blinding him.
9:20 p.m. on October 3rd, 1987. The homecoming dance in the Magnolia High School gym.
Jennifer beams as she and Alex sway to Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Tiny squares of light wash across her face from the mirror ball. The other kids are arrayed around the edges of the dance floor, watching.
“Tonight was perfect, Alex,” Jennifer says. Thanks for convincing me I could be Queen.”
“Yeah, it was great.” And he means it. But her earlier conversation is still haunting him. “Listen, about the science fair—”
She cuts him off, an annoyed look intruding on her joyful expression. “Let it go, Alex. I can’t go to Senior Skip Day solo. It would be humiliating. I’m not smart like you. Being popular is all I have.”
And that’s when it hits Alex. Jennifer is like Chase.
Before he can formulate a reply, a loud CRASH draws everyone’s attention to the double doors.
The cheerleaders’ homecoming float bounces into the gym. Roger is at the wheel, tugging at a green flag that’s wrapped around his face.
Kids scream and scatter.
Alex and Jennifer stare in shock as the Model U.N. float careens into the gym behind the cheerleader float. Todd is driving that one and laughing maniacally.
The cheerleader float veers onto the dance floor and Alex pulls Jennifer toward the wall, shouting, “We’ve got to get out of here.” But a second later a wave of people crashes into them and Alex loses Jennifer in the chaos.
Meanwhile, Roger finally gets the flag off his head and hurls it aside. He looks around at the kids running in panic around him, stunned to discover he’s inside the gym. He cranks the wheel, trying to avoid running anyone over.
Alex scans the crowd for Jennifer – and instead spots Ms. Pfeifer and Roger-from-the-future run in. So that’s who went through the time portal ahead of them! Old Roger looks around the gym in dismay. “It’s all happening again the same way!”
Alex hears a screech of tires on the gym floor and turns just in time to see the cheerleader float crash through the refreshment table – sending punch, plastic cups, and cheap cookies flying.
And now a lot happens in a matter of seconds:
The cheerleader float SKIDS in a puddle of punch – slews sideways – overturns—
Roger tumbles out – the A-Team backpack flies out of the tractor, bouncing and across the gym floor—
The giant papier-mâché mosquito launches into the air – flies over the crowd like the bug it represents – SLAMS into Heidi just as she runs in to investigate the turmoil, knocking her to the ground.
The backpack skitters to a rest at Alex’s feet. It has split open – the MP3 player pokes out.
But don’t forget about Todd – his Model UN float is barreling toward the wreck of the cheerleader float.
Todd jams the wheel hard left – the Model UN float veers—
Right toward Alex and the backpack—
Roger sits up. “Alex! Save the device!”
Alex looks down at the MP3 player – and then up at Heidi, squirming under the mosquito, her book sprawled open nearby. She doesn’t deserve what Roger is going to do to her. The MP3 player is her invention, not his.
So Alex steps aside, as—
The Model UN float’s front wheel CRUNCHES over the backpack – the MP3 player SHATTERS—
Roger raises his fists to the sky, shouting, “NOOOO!”
For good measure the back wheels crunch the pieces of the MP3 player into even smaller bits.
Todd hits the brakes on the Model UN float – it jackknifes and slides into the photo booth. Todd falls out, sprawling onto the tropical beach backdrop. Todd Burton, the photographer, snaps a picture of the dazed football player.
Roger scrambles over, kneels in the dust of the MP3 player. He looks up at Alex. “What did you do? Why didn’t you save it?!”
“Because Heidi doesn’t deserve what you were going to do to her.”
“Traitor,” Roger hisses.
“Roger, you don’t need that camera. You can make your own success.”
“I now have two archenemies.”
Yesterday – yesterday in 1987, that is – Roger’s condemnation would have crushed Alex. They’ve been best friends since fifth grade. But Alex can see now that Roger’s hatred of Heidi is motivated only by jealousy. She is smarter than Roger and he can’t deal with that, and as a result he blames her for all his failures. But she doesn’t deserve his blame. She doesn’t deserve his revenge.
Not that Alex has treated Heidi particularly well himself, tonight.
He looks over to where Heidi is still struggling to wriggle out from under the papier-mâché mosquito. She’s on her stomach and can’t seem to get good leverage on it. All the other kids are either staring dumbfounded at the aftermath of the float wreckage or running around pointlessly in search of safety or a lost date.
Alex strides over to Heidi. He rolls the mosquito off her. “Are you all right?” he asks.
“Uh huh,” she mumbles.
He offers her a hand, helps her to her feet.
She wobbles, and he grabs her shoulders to steady her.
As she catches her breath, Alex becomes aware of their closeness. And of how long Heidi’s eyelashes are. How has he not noticed that before? Or how full her lips are?
And then a high-pitched screech cuts through the pandemonium: “EVERYBODY STOP!”
And everybody does. The gym goes silent. All eyes turn toward…
Jennifer. She stands seething in the middle of the dance floor. “I am not going to let my victory dance be ruined by you bunch of... of spazzes!
She points at the DJ. His turntable needle bounces at the end of the last record. “Play something!”
The DJ looks around, uncertain.
“I said PLAY SOMETHING!” Jennifer howls. “I’m Homecoming Queen, damn it, and I command you to play a song!”
The DJ puts on Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”
Jennifer points at Alex. “Alex! Come here! Come. Here.”
Alex doesn’t dare disobey. He creeps to her. She puts her hands around his neck, smiling like a crazy person. He puts his hands on her hips.
* * *
Meanwhile, Heidi makes her way to the broken double doors. She takes deep breaths of the cool night air to clear her head.
Ms. Pfeifer approaches. “Heidi? Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Heidi says. She looks back into the gym, at the overturned floats, the pool of red punch, the paper cups and flags from the Model U.N. float scattered across the dance floor – the dance floor where Alex and Jennifer dance in a spotlight while the other students mill about in shock. “Clean up is gonna be harsh, though.
Ms. Pfeifer frowns. “No kidding. What a disaster.”
“Maybe the school should put in security pillars so this can’t happen again,” Heidi says.
* * *
Meanwhile, Roger crawls across the floor of the gym, gathering up as many pieces of the MP3 player as he can find. The circuit board is shattered – and some of the components have come off it. But worst of all, the memory chip is split in half, and he can only find one half. Then he spots the other half – in a puddle of punch. Roger picks up the cracked half-chip and shakes it off. Maybe he can dry it, reattach it to the other half…
“Don’t bother, it’s ruined.” His older self squats down beside him. “Sorry, man. I remember how much tonight sucked.”
Roger looks at his future self in dismay. “I thought you had everything worked out. You knew this would happen.”
Old Roger shrugs. “I thought I would do it differently than I did last time, but I didn’t realize how Susan – Ms. Pfeifer – would make me feel. I’ve never been with a woman like that. She’s amazing.”
“I had it. I had the future in my hands. I was finally going to beat Heidi.”
“Look, piece of advice from someone who’s been there? Stop worrying so much about Heidi. Live your life.”
Something dons on Teenage Roger. “Wait. You’re stuck here now. And you know the future. You can tell me what stocks to buy to get rich!”
Old Roger looks toward Ms. Pfeifer. “Yeah... but if you get rich, then I might not come back here and hook up with Susan.”
“But you said we’re miserable in the future.”
“But that future is my past now. My future is looking up.”
“Fine,” Roger growls. “I don’t need you, I can figure it out myself. I know Apple gets huge. I’ll invest in that Uber company when it comes around.”
Old Roger nods. “Yeah, I tried that. Lost my investment when Apple went through a rough patch in the nineties. So I built up my portfolio again, then lost everything when the dot com bubble burst. Built a new portfolio. Lost everything in the housing bubble. Turns out the stock market’s more complicated than it looks. Anyway, good luck.” He stands up and walks toward Ms. P.
“No!” Roger shouts. “Come back! Oh, why am I such a dick?”
* * *
Meanwhile, back on the dance floor…
Jennifer has begun to calm down as she and Alex dance. “I’m sorry for yelling at you, Alex. But I’ve dreamed of being Homecoming Queen since I was in third grade. And my dreams never involved a parade float chase. Now, let’s talk about what you’re wearing to Senior Skip Day.”
Alex takes a deep breath. “Jennifer... I’m not going to Senior Skip Day with you.”
She scowls. “Don’t start with that science fair business again. You said you’d do whatever it took—”
“I know. And I’m sorry. You’re amazing, but I need someone who likes me for who I am, not for how much I’m willing to change for them.”
Jennifer’s eyes go wide. “Are you breaking up with me?!”
“I’m sorry.” Alex lets Jennifer go, walks off the floor.
Jennifer balls her hands into her fists, shouts at his back, “You can’t break up with me! I’m popular! I’M POPULAR!!”
Alex strides over to Heidi, who’s packing up the check-in table. He spins her around.
She looks at him, confused. “Alex?”
They lock eyes. She takes an almost involuntary step forward. He takes her in his arms.
And they kiss.
A chill washes down Alex’s spine – his toes tingle – it’s electric.
After they break, Heidi whispers, “Wow.”
“You were right about me before,” he says. “I don’t want to be Homecoming King. I want to read comics and play D&D. I’m sorry I was such a jerk.”
“I think I just forgave you.”
“You worked so hard on this dance. You should get to enjoy it.” He takes her hand, leads her to the dance floor.
“What about Jennifer?” Heidi says, gesturing to where Jennifer is furiously tearing down crepe streamers, balling them up, and stomping on them.
“She’s gonna be fine,” Alex says.
They reach the center of the floor and Alex places his hands on Heidi’s hips. She loops her hands behind his neck. They dance to Cyndi Lauper.
“Everybody’s watching,” Heidi says.
They probably are, but Alex can’t tear his gaze away from her eyes. “Let them watch.” Heidi smiles and lays her head against his shoulder.
After two minutes of pure bliss, the song comes to an end.
“That was fun,” Heidi says, stepping back. “So what now?”
“We live our lives.” Maybe the future will turn out like Alex saw, maybe it won’t. All he knows is that he has learned something important. He has learned what he really wants.
Heidi is looking at him skeptically. “Ooh-Kaay. I meant, like, are we going to go on dates and stuff?”
“Oh. Sure. Do you want to see a movie tomorrow?”
She considers. “I kinda need to work on my project for science fair...”
“I could help,” Alex offers. “I don’t think Roger wants to work with me anymore.”
“Okay, sure. I’m working on a way to record music into a computer file. You could diagram the process for me, since you’re such a good artist.”
“I’d love that.”
“And afterwards… maybe we can make out a little?”
Alex grins. “Rad!”
“See you tomorrow, Alex MacDonald.” She walks away as the DJ plays Joan Jett’s “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got.”
Alex slides his shades on and struts toward the exit. His future looks bright.
9:48 p.m. on October 14th, 2017. Josie’s Self Storage.
Mackenzie watches from across the street as Alex runs out of the front door of the storage facility, pursued by a chubby woman. This night just gets stranger and stranger. First, she caught Chase cheating on her with Sierra – though in hindsight, that doesn’t seem all that strange. But then when her dad was comforting her on the curb outside the school, he suddenly took off after Roger. And not too long after, Alex and Roger went racing down the street. Since her night was already ruined, Mackenzie decided to follow them and see what was going on.
Through the big glass windows of the storage facility lobby, she sees Roger go behind the reception desk and retrieve large bolt cutters. He then heads into the facility. Mackenzie jogs across the street to follow.
She moves through the facility, peeking down each aisle until she spots Roger and Alex. She watches from the shadows at the corner of the unit row as they approach the only unit with an open door. They seem confused by what they see inside. But after a few moments of discussion, they enter.
Mackenzie tiptoes up to the unit and peeks in.
To her shock, there is no sign of Alex and Roger. It doesn’t make any sense. There are no other exits from the unit. But the room is bare other than some kind of homemade contraption with two tall posts attached to an ancient computer. Where could they have gone?
“Alex? Roger?” There is no answer.
Mackenzie creeps into the storage unit and squats beside the computer. The logo says it’s an Apple IIe. She flips the power switch, and a blinking green cursor appears in the old fashioned monitor. She has no idea what to do – or what the strange device could be. I bet Laura could figure it out, she thinks. Laura is a total coder girl. She’d probably know how to use one of these old computers.
Mackenzie’s been meaning to get in touch with her old friend anyway. Solving this mystery could be the perfect excuse to reconnect. Mackenzie pulls out her phone and dials Laura’s number. “Hi,” she says when Laura answers. “I’ve got a little project. Wanna help me figure out what a strange machine does?”