Happy Birthday to you!None of the characters are mine, but belong to Impossible Pictures™.-1-
Contrary to one's belief, this had not started with birthdays; it started when Matt and Connor returned from the future in the nick of time to stop Philip from unleashing his time anomaly manifestation machine on the world. Not that it made any difference, since it was Patrick Quinn, a.k.a. Ethan Dombrowski who shot Philip the final blow, killing him for good. Sadly, his number one underling, April Leonard, managed to escape in all the confusion, promising – Matt especially – that she'll be back. But nobody paid her much attention, because they had too much on their plate already, and so time marched on.-2-
20 years and 20 birthdays later the unshakeable sextet of Abby and Connor, Becker and Jess, Matt and Emily could see that nothing was all right. Oh, sure, the time anomalies were getting to be under control, save for those who were located too deeply underwater or too high in the sky. Certainly, the ARC was flourishing, and Connor's work with the time anomalies themselves was helping promote Britain's space exploration program to the point where a knighthood from His Majesty was in the works, but... there was one problem. During those 20 years, not one of the six had aged a year, even as everybody around them did – and that just wasn't right. What's more, not one of the 3 couples had a child, and that was even more concerning.
Consequently, Connor promised on one of their gatherings to look into this problem for real. Everybody else agreed to this and didn't push Connor harder – one of their bigger mistakes, even though they didn't realize it at that time... and time just marched on.-3-
Another 10 years passed, another 10 birthdays flew by. Lester was dead, and so was his wife. Jenny was a widow with 4 children, 6 grandchildren (1 or 2 more were in the works) and several grandchildren. The unshakeable six were still childless... and still young. Only now Connor (who after retiring from the ARC several years earlier was becoming obscure already) began to study their problem for real – and found out that the gamma radiation they've received from Connor's manifested time anomaly had affected them, made them impervious to aging. When pressured further, he proposed that another dose of that same sort of gamma radiation may destroy them, and suggested that they should give a go in a year or two.
Unfortunately, an incursion of time travelling gangsters, led by Christine Johnson (who apparently had not been killed by a future predator as Becker, Connor and Abby had assumed) had prevented that experiment to take place, and had actually soured the public's opinion against the ARC, causing the six to go underground unless their secret be exposed. And so, time just marched on.-4-
Another 20 years had gone by, another 20 birthdays celebrated by the 6, whenever the time and their circumstances would allow them. By now, the anti-aging effect of the gamma radiation generated by the time anomalies was discovered... and ardently guarded from the wider public. The world was becoming decisively Orwellian, as in his novel "1984", and the six didn't like. Of course, considering that there was an almost planet-wide man-hunt going on for them didn't help matters either, nor did it improve their opinions of the new societal development.
On the plus side, though, the time anomalies remained firmly under control of the governments and various cabals, but there was at least one incident to the contrary. When Matt and Emily got separated and captured in order to lure the rest of them in... and the trap worked, save that Helen Cutter of all people arrived with an army of clones, and helped tip the battle in the sextet's favour. When they tried to confront her about that, though, she vanished before they could reach her. Time was pressing the sextet, and so they fled, with more questions than answers for the first time.-5-
50 years went by, the sextet had celebrated another 50 birthdays, more or less. By now they were no longer subjects of a man-hunt... mostly because the governments were collapsing, and the society was returning to something resembling feudalism once again... with certain twists, such as the appearance of the future predators: apparently, they had been initially made to hunt them.
When Connor learned of this development, he suggested that they commit suicide – or try to – by jumping in front of a pack of hungry future predators that they have located not too far away from their own hide-out. The others – sharing his mood to some extent or another – agreed. Except for Emily Anderson, nee Merchant, who somehow managed to contact Helen Cutter, who in response brought a force of her clones and killed-off the future predator pack, while Emily distracted the others. This caused a temporary cooling in the relations between Emily, Matt and the others... at least for a while.-6-
A century passed, and the 6 by now were living in the world from which Matt and his father had initially fled. If it wasn't for that unfortunate incident with the future predators' pack 100 birthdays ago, things would've been different, but instead nowadays Connor and Abby talked to Emily and Matt only through Becker and Jess, and vice versa: the once inseparable 6 had largely fallen apart.
To make matters worse, April came back. Nowadays, though, she was almost 4 meters tall, weighted roughly 2 tons, was covered in thick purple skin and had 2 heads on her shoulders, instead of one. She also taken to calling herself Vigdis, and led an army of similarly mutated folk and future predators, aiming to destroy the 6 and the rest of the humanity.
Things came to a head, when April-Vigdis had kidnapped Jess, and planned to get rid of her due to Jess's insect allergy. The others had to put their differences aside to save her... and almost failed, if Helen Cutter didn't arrive to administer an antidote to Jess just in time. As the others tried to talk to Helen once again – this time for real – April-Vigdis used a time anomaly to escape to their own time, and they tried to follow to stop her. They failed, and Helen Cutter was able to escape in the confusion.-7-
3 centuries more have passed. The humans were extinct. The mutants of Vigdis' ilk were extinct. The future predators were still living, having now evolved into many new kinds. The 6 were together again, more or less – during the previous 3 or 4 hundred years, Jess and Becker had developed gills, and now had to spend underwater at least some time of the day. Connor proposed that this was just payback for the intermediary action they had to do before the whole Vigdis incident, and the others agreed.
Of course, the others – Connor and Abby, Emily and Matt – weren't minding too much: they had plenty of topics to catch up upon during their time of estrangement, and that they did. It was also at that time that Emily proposed switching their mates at night for a while, and Abby agreed. Jess declined to do so, and so another period of estrangement followed... and time just went on.-8-
5 centuries passed, and the 6 had celebrated 500 more birthdays. These days, an Ice Age was all the rage and the sextet had to live in caves, rather than on the sea coast. Jess and Becker didn't mind, as there was plenty of water still, frozen in ice and snow, and they took to hardening themselves dipping into icy rivers and making a sweat house. That pretty much finished the estrangement between them and the others, and so peace was made. Plus, the whole switching partners' thing at night got boring after a while, too.
Time went on, faces from the past were being erased from their minds, and the future predators', or rather, their descendants, were beginning to die out at last. Life wasn't too bad, actually.-9-
4 millennia passed. The sextet continued to celebrate their birthdays, even though there was little to celebrate. The world was in a grip of a mass extinction, caused by massive volcano eruptions that created a worldwide drought. The fact that the continents have largely re-fused together again to form a Pangaea II didn't help matters either. The plants and animals – even the descendants of the future predators – were dying, and that included the sextet. Even their mutant bodies weren't enough to sustain them through this time of need.
It was at the time when the 6 couldn't move to another watering home anymore, and were blacking out from heat stroke and malnutrition that Helen Cutter made her appearance. She took one look at them, and had her clones take them somewhere else, where she nursed the 6 back to health... before releasing them back into the wild, with 3 time anomaly manifestation devices at their sides, the only clue for the 6 that that had happened... and time moved forwards another 500 years.-10-
Another 5 millennia had passed. The 6 used their time anomaly manifestation devices to travel through time, trying to change it, and they did. They now knew universes when they didn't achieve immortality and died as regular people, universes where the ARC didn't occur, universes where Christine Johnson took over the world, universes where the 6 had not met each other or weren't even born, and many other universes indeed!
But throughout all of this variety the original six remained the same, they just couldn't change their original selves for some reason. It was then than Matt suggested that they go and seek Helen Cutter for answers, and the others agreed. And so began the new shift in the sextet's time travelling lives, when they actually stopped going with the time's flow... for a while.-11-
Another 10 millennia passed, more or less, another 10 000 birthdays were celebrated. They were celebrated in the late Jurassic, 149 000 000 years B.C., and in 1920 A.D. and in the distant, post-Pangaea II future, where the world had recovered from the latest mass extinction. The 6 sometimes travelled together, sometimes travelled apart, but now things were different: they did not just go with the flow, and could – sometimes – to foresee some of the developments that would come into their paths, so that they could deal with them.
Sometimes, however, all of their mutual knowledge, resources, experiences and imagination was not quite enough – as in the case of the latest descendants of the future predators, and various water predators (including the Mer, who appeared during Matt and Gideon's initial time), and the strains of various carnivorous fungi, identical to the one that had almost killed Jenny Lewis back in the 20th century... They have found only scarce traces of Helen Cutter, though, and most of them during the historical period of Earth's history, and that is getting to be excruciatingly annoying, but they aren't giving up – after all, she's the only one who has got away.-12-
10 more millennia have passed, 10 000 more birthdays have been celebrated. The world now resembles most the early Eocene epoch, complete with almost world-wide rainforest, which hides tiny mammals and their much-bigger predators. The sextet loves to spend time here most of all - when they're happy or sad, furious with each other, or supportive. It is here, admittedly, that Becker and Jess regrow their gills (that is one resistant mutation!), and it is here, during a sudden earthquake/flood combo that they finally run into Helen Cutter.
"So," she says dryly, "I believe that you've been looking for me? Still interested?"
The 6 exchange looks, until Emily – who usually takes the lead in communication, comes forwards. "Yes," she says simply. And, "Please?"-13-
It's 20 000 years later, and an equal amount of birthdays too. The 6 have travelled the majority of the length and breadth of time, but it is here, in this far-off future, that they have settled down at last. The world resembles the Devonian now: plenty of life underwater, less so on land. Becker and Jess sort of went with the flow, spending at least some of their time underwater – some of the time.
For there is something else on land that Jess and Becker's underwater home just lacks – fire and technology. And that is something that Helen Cutter's home here does have. A long while ago (or not ago – this is the future, after all, not the past), she had built her own base here, rather resembling the ARC, and lived here most of the time... when she didn't live in the Imperial Rome, or post-revolution USA, or similar places. This, however, is her main home, and with 6 younger people in it, it is a household as well – first the first time, in a long while.
Helen Cutter sometimes can foresee what the future brings, but not this time – there are just too many variables, and she loves it. Therefore, she just sits in the back and plans to enjoy her future.