Chapter 1: Three - Fair
“Myka.” Pete’s face was uncharacteristically somber and worried. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Myka didn’t reply. They’d rehashed this enough times already that she already knew what Pete’s next words were going to be:
“Artie’s gonna freak if he catches us.” What wasn’t added was the silent accusation: It doesn’t matter if he fires you; you’re going to be dead in a month. But he’ll fire me. But he didn’t say it, because even Pete had tact sometimes.
It wasn’t fair of her, asking him for help with this. Up to this point in her life, Myka had always been strictly fair in all her dealings. She had always been fair with Pete, with Artie – and with H.G.
Even now, she was still trying to be fair to H.G.
Betraying Artie, she could rationalize to herself. It had been deeply unfair of Artie and Mrs. Frederic to tear her so brutally away from the life and career she’d made for herself. Not that she didn’t love the Warehouse and her work, but here at the end of it all she could grant herself some selfishness.
But asking this of Pete, taking advantage of the something-more-than-brotherly feelings on his part, letting him risk his career and the rest of his life – that was the height of unfairness, and Myka still couldn’t quite believe she was doing it.
“Artie won’t catch us,” she said. She’d made sure the energy draw to power H.G.’s time machine wouldn’t trip the alarms this time; she’d done that by smuggling it out of the Warehouse. “Claudia’s the real danger.” And Claudia would never suspect until it was too late.
It wasn’t fair to Pete, but nothing about this whole situation was fair. Ovarian cancer wasn’t fair. Dying without ever having had a long-term relationship wasn’t fair.
Seeing the woman she loved, happy and content with someone else – no, that definitely was not fair.
But what could Myka offer H.G.? Once, companionship in endless wonder – and that hadn’t been enough. Now, two months of watching her die. Myka wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone, and H.G. had had enough tragedy in her life.
No, she was almost glad Helena had found Nate and Adelaide. It would spare her the pain of watching a friend whither and die.
But cancer focused the mind like nothing else. With only a few short months of life left, Myka had realized a few things.
She’d realized that playing fair had been a strategy based more on fear than on any innate altruism on her part. Nobody ever got close to the girl who was strictly fair about everything; people tended to like people who asked favors of them. Myka, who hated feeling indebted to anyone, never asked favors.
Cancer had made her realize she’d been given a loving family here at the Warehouse, and that had made things comfortable enough that she’d never felt any need for a partner. She’d always been proud of being self-sufficient, so not having a partner wasn’t the problem.
The problem was that somewhere around the time they took out Sykes, she’d fallen in love with H.G. Wells. The problem was that H.G. hadn’t fallen in love with her. And now – and it wasn’t fair – H.G. was happy with a wonderful man, with a wonderful child, with a wonderful life.
Myka wasn’t so selfish as to go disturb that happiness, not even to brighten what little time remained. She was selfish enough to do this, though.
“Hand me the headpiece,” she said, sitting in the chair and lying back. She’d already set the date on the time machine: April 7, 1895. Shortly before Christina’s death, but after H.G. had joined Warehouse 12.
She had asked Pete to accompany her to London with the excuse that she was receiving an experimental treatment. Really she was in London because of the time machine.
Cancer had made Myka aware of what she would and would not do. She would not steal H.G.’s happiness.
What she would do, the thing that she still couldn’t quite believe she felt deeply enough to do, was this: she would steal a piece of somebody’s life.
Twenty-two hours and nineteen minutes of it, to be precise.
Myka had no way of knowing whose life it was she’d steal. She was relieved to find it was a woman. Wearing a male body would have been… disconcerting.
She was less pleased to find that the woman in question wore a corset.
Still, she was quite fortunate. She was in the body of a young, rather attractive woman of a social class acceptable to go calling on H.G. Wells. Miss Marianne Wilkes, the calling cards on the bureau read.
Whether H.G. Wells would accept her calling card – whether H.G. Wells would like her – these were things Myka was trying not to think about.
She should have done more research, though. It was a whole new world out there in the streets of 1895 London, and the bulk of Myka’s knowledge about it came from reading novels. She was decent at undercover work, but not like this! She’d never trained to go undercover in a different time.
She stood before the mirror and made herself breathe, long calming breaths that flattened the panic worming its way into her heart. What did she have to lose, after all? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the saying went.
Imminent death came with a lot of platitudes, she was finding.
H.G. was happy, back in the twenty-first century. She was in love. Myka didn’t know if H.G. was in love here, now. It was silly to think she could get Helena to fall in love with her in twenty-two hours – twenty-one and a bit, now – when two years hadn’t done it back home, but she had to try. She’d settle for a kiss, if nothing else. Oh, who was she kidding? She’d settle for that flash of mischief in H.G.’s eyes that said she was pleased or interested.
It was perhaps quite shocking for a young lady to walk a whole three blocks on her own in Victorian London, but Myka didn’t know how to hail a hansom cab, or even how to recognize a hansom cab. She was just glad she hadn’t run into anyone else in the house; that would have been awkward.
She knocked at the home of Charles and Helena Wells, smoothing her skirts nervously and wishing she could loosen the corset. At least it did show off Marianne’s breasts to advantage. It was a new experience to be so well-endowed. Nobody was looking, and yet she felt people must be staring.
The footman who answered the door did not stare, but Charles Wells did. Foolishly, Myka had asked for H.G. Wells – and the world knew that Charles was the famous writer and philosopher, whose book The Time Machine had been released earlier that year to great acclaim.
“I’m afraid there’s been a mistake,” she said, uncomfortably aware of the way his eyes kept creeping back to her cleavage and then leaping away. “I was looking for your sister.”
“Helena?” Charles looked surprised.
What if H.G. wasn’t here? What if she were abroad, or on assignment for Warehouse 12, or –
“It’s about a scientific matter,” Myka said.
“Oh! Oh, I see. Well, you’d best come in, then.” Then he frowned. “She’s in the laboratory. She doesn’t usually receive callers…”
“She’ll want to speak with me,” Myka said with all the breezy confidence she could muster. And she breathed a sigh of relief when Helena came in, looking rather annoyed at being interrupted.
God, she was beautiful. Younger than the Helena Myka knew, of course, but just as cool and elegant.
Myka realized she was waiting for the crinkle-eyed smile that H.G. normally greeted her with. She was more than a little discomfited by the cool challenge in the other woman’s eyes. She’d thought about, obsessed about how to greet Helena in their first meeting – and now she found that every single word had flown out of her brain.
Once upon a time, many years in the future, Myka had been tempted by her heart’s desire in Egypt. And what had dazzled her so – recognition for her work? When she could have been tempted by this gorgeous woman? Myka wanted to slap her past self upside the head for taking so long to see what was right there in front of her.
She hadn’t seen it until it was too late, and that was why she was here. “Miss Wells,” she said firmly, “I’m here about your time machine.”
“I haven’t got a time machine,” Helena said again, stone-faced. “It’s just a story. Ask Charles, he’s the one who wrote it.”
Myka had poured over H.G.’s notes and files. The time machine had gone through several iterations, and not until the summer of 1895 did Helena make the breakthrough that let it be truly utilized. Myka wouldn’t take the breakthrough from her – but she would put her on the right track.
“Everything I’ve heard tells me you’re the scientific genius in this family,” Myka said, ignoring Charles’s squawk of indignation. She met Helena’s gaze and held it. “You’ve got a prototype at the very least. If it’s anything like the one in your brother’s book, I’d like to help. I have a few ideas.”
A gleam of interest shone in Helena’s eyes. “Have you a scientific background?” she asked, looking intrigued in spite of herself.
Myka laughed. “You have no idea.”
If Myka had been asked how she first came to respect H.G. Wells, she would have said, “She dazzled me with science.” Now, she found herself with the unique opportunity to be able to do the same to H.G.
Myka had never been so happy to be an information sponge. Her knowledge of circuitry, basic though it was in 2013, was years ahead of Helena’s time. But they didn’t just speak of circuitry and engines; they spoke of chemistry, and politics, and gestalt theory, and the brand-new realm of paleontology. They chatted far into the night, and H.G. had their dinner sent down to the library.
Helena was working for the Warehouse, Myka knew she was, but she was very good at ducking any questions that strayed in that direction.
Myka wondered if there was a secret code that time-traveling Warehouse agents could give the Caretaker in the new time they were in. Artie hadn’t authorized her and Pete’s expedition into the 1960s, so she had no way of knowing.
“There’s a theory,” she said to H.G., wondering if perhaps she should have consulted Artie after all, “that a time machine can’t go any farther back then when it was invented.”
“Farther back then when it was invented, or when it becomes operational?” Helena asked, a little too speculatively for Myka’s tastes. So that Helena didn’t spend too much time thinking about Myka and time machines, Myka made sure to talk about Mr. Arthur Conan Doyle’s spiritualism in intrigued tones. Helena made haste to debunk such notions.
Helena brought the subject up again, though. “Conservation of matter, you mean? But that presupposes that the time machine moves with you.”
“For that matter, it presupposes that your body moves at all,” Myka said. “Why not just send a person’s consciousness? Seems less dangerous.”
The look on H.G.’s face was worth all the work getting here: a mix of the excited little girl with a brilliant idea, with the flat-out cautious skepticism of the trained scientist. And with that, Myka was given access to the prototype.
Myka couldn’t help it; she loved geeking out over scientific theories, and she loved geeking out with Helena, and she loved Helena. She was only supposed to ask leading questions, but she’d never realized how fascinating the nature of time could be! She was giving too much away, and she couldn’t really be surprised when she looked up to find H.G.’s Tesla pointed at her.
“This won’t kill you,” Helena said sweetly, “but it will hurt a lot. Now, who are you really, and what is it you want?”
Myka was hit with an overwhelming fondness. H.G. had aimed a weapon at her so many times over the years that it was almost foreplay.
Still, she was sensible enough to put up her hands. “I gave you my real name,” she said, which was not quite a lie.
Keeping the Tesla trained on her, H.G. reached for a drawer, and brought out –
George Washington’s axe? What was that doing on this side of the Atlantic? And why on earth wasn’t it at Warehouse 12 if it was here?
“Do you know what this is?” H.G. asked.
Myka did know. George Washington’s axe objected to any untruth. When held in the hand of the questioner, the axe would cut you down like a cherry tree at a lie. Well, bits of you, anyway. They’d barely gotten Pete to Florence Nightingale’s nightgown in time when it chopped off one of his fingers. And here she’d thought she was getting somewhere with H.G.
She grimaced. If Marianne were innocent, the axe would be harmless when she said no. Myka would compromise herself if she said yes. Instead she said, “It’s an axe.” The truth, but not strictly an answer to the question.
“It’s a very dangerous axe,” H.G. agreed. “It takes off pieces of people who try to lie to me.” Her eyes were pure ice. “I went to lot of trouble to track it down, and it was to go into… storage… tonight. Instead, you showed up – with an intimate knowledge of just how to charm your way into my laboratory. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
“It is,” Myka said, praying that that wouldn’t qualify as a lie. “It is a coincidence. Put down the – the gun and I’ll tell you why I’m here.”
H.G. hesitated, then put away the Tesla. “Hands where I can see them,” she barked when Myka started to lower them.
Truth, Myka had to tell the truth. But not the whole truth. The axe would accept a partial truth.
“I came here to see you,” she said. “I came here because I had to see – ” Helena was just looking puzzled, and Myka had already ruined her chances, so she might as well risk everything. “I came here because I wanted to do this.” And she stepped forward and pressed her lips to H.G.’s.
It would have been nice if that were the end of the story. Fade to black, and Myka could have gone home to the twentieth century with the memory of having kissed the woman she loved, and perhaps held onto that as she died.
Instead, Helena froze. Myka froze too, not willing to venture further where she wasn’t welcome. When Helena wrenched away and stumbled backward, eyes wide with shock, Myka wished she had listened to Pete. Thank God I don’t have to live very long with the memory of her rejecting me.
H.G.’s mouth worked, but at first she seemed too indignant for any words to come out. “You – you – ” she eventually managed to splutter. “…But you’re a woman!”
Myka’s forehead creased. “Yes?” she agreed cautiously. “I thought that wasn’t a problem for you.”
Even with dismay and anger written all over her face, H.G. still managed to look elegant. It wasn’t fair. “How could it not be a problem?” she demanded. “Whoever heard of two women kissing?”
…Oh. Myka felt a sinking in the pit of her stomach. Was it possible she’d gone back too far? Had Helena never had a female dalliance before?
Was it possible that Helena didn’t know she liked women yet?
Myka swallowed. “Whoever heard of a time machine that actually works?” she whispered. “‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Now, will you put down the axe?”
She could see H.G. turning the hypothesis over in her scientific brain. Examine the question from all angles. An assumption to be tested: what proof did she have that all desire must be between a man and a woman? What facts supported the hypothesis – what facts did not? H.G. was no naïf; she would have heard at least of the scandalous Teleny, rumored to be written by the celebrated Oscar Wilde. Why couldn’t two women…?
Helena dropped the axe onto the table with a heavy clunk. She and Myka both heaved a sigh of relief. Helena had never much liked deadly weapons, Myka remembered. Except for those of the mass destruction variety.
Helana’s eyes had gone flat and hard. “If you think I’m flattered, you’d best rethink your strategy,” she said. “Many men have desired my body. I often find it more annoying than charming.”
Oh, dear. There were so many things that Myka wanted to say: that she had fallen in love with history’s most brilliant scientific mind just as much as she’d fallen in love with the beauty of its body; that the broken-hearted idealist who had thought it kinder to kill the entire world rather than leave it to play out its pain had first stirred the beginnings of that love; that it wasn’t until she saw Helena giving her heart to Nate and Adelaide that Myka had been able to recognize what she longed for.
“I had an axe pointed at me,” she said instead, because time machines weren’t fair and she couldn’t tell Helena any of those things without being marked as mad. “I would have been happy to talk electrical engineering and temporal causality, but you forced my hand.”
H.G. narrowed her eyes. “I still have little enough reason to trust you,” she said. “You’ve not given me anything about you. Tell me – ” and she picked up the axe again, “are you here for the Warehouse?”
Myka smiled. This she could answer truthfully. “No,” she said, and the axe didn’t move. Then she added, “What warehouse? Is it where you keep your time machine?”
This time, Helena packed the axe away. “No,” she said ruefully, a half-apologetic smile on her face. “The time machine is still mostly theoretical, I’m afraid.” She looked at Myka with frank curiosity. “You believed me when I said the axe could tell if you lied.”
Myka had already worked out an explanation for this. “One of your inventions?” she asked. “A lie detector – it’s brilliant. How does it measure lies? Does one’s voice change when one lies?”
“Something like that,” H.G. said, her usual calm descending like a mask over her face. “It appears I owe you an apology.”
“I take it that several people have tried to steal your inventions?”
Helena sighed. “They always send beautiful young men. A change in their methodology would have been quite welcome. It gets boring, really, having to dispose of them.”
Myka wasn’t sure whether she meant alive or dead – and wasn’t sure she wanted to know. “I will endeavor not to be a bore,” she said, daring.
Helena’s beautiful laughter caught them both by surprise. Myka couldn’t have stopped herself from grinning if she’d tried. To her surprise, Helena beamed back.
“Now we’ve got that unpleasantness out of the way,” Helena said, “would you like to see the real prototype?”
Even with all the clockwork surrounding them in H.G.’s secret underground laboratory, Myka still lost track of the time. When she saw that she had less than half an hour to restore Marianne to her rightful place, she couldn’t help her gasp of dismay.
“I have to go!” she said. “Pete – my family will be worried.”
Helena raised one graceful eyebrow. “It’s six in the morning. Are you telling me they’ve been worried all night?”
Not sure what else to do, Myka nodded. They’d talked and worked on the time machine until dawn.
H.G. sighed. “Soon it will get about that in addition to my unladylike pursuits, I’m corrupting the moral of respectable young women by keeping them out to all hours of the day and night.” Her eyes sparkled with humor, though, so Myka didn’t worry.
“You can tell them that this particular young lady was more interested in corrupting your morals,” she teased before she could think better of it.
Helena paused. They had been friendly all night, Myka unwilling to press a suit where it was unwelcome. But she was used to joking and flirting with Helena, and a few times she had forgotten.
“When can you come again?” Helena asked, and Myka’s stomach tightened painfully. Because this was it, and Helena would not see her again for over a hundred years.
She felt H.G.’s hand against her cheek and looked up into the beloved face. Helena looked concerned.
“Not for a while,” Myka said, hating that she had to lie to this woman. “My family – my health – it’s complicated.”
Helena took both of Myka’s hands in hers. “Could I convince you to come back sooner if I did this?” she asked, and leaned forward.
Myka’s first kiss, back when she was fourteen, had been a disappointment. The boy at science camp had as little idea as she did what to do, but had gathered from movies that people making out ought to shove their tongues in each other’s mouths. It had taken Myka several relationships to realize that she needed to set the tone of the kind of kissing she liked right from the very beginning if she was going to enjoy it. This turned first kisses into a bit of a battlefield, where she had to concentrate on establishing depth and length before she could let herself relax and enjoy it.
This kiss was completely different. It was hesitant at first, as if Helena were unsure of her welcome, but it didn’t try to hurry straight to jump into bed together kisses. Instead, it promised that it would take the time to get to know her.
Only it couldn’t, could it? Because Myka had to go, like Cinderella rushing away from the ball, and while Helena was kissing her hello, Myka should be kissing her goodbye.
It wasn’t fair.
When she couldn’t bear how wonderful it was anymore, Myka wrenched way. She looked into Helena’s gorgeous, wonderful eyes. “You are the most amazing woman I’ve ever met,” she whispered.
Helena smiled. “And you’re the most intriguing. Tell me, though – when will I see you again?”
“Soon,” Myka said, because she would never be able to deny Helena anything. She escaped before she could promise anything even more foolish.
Chapter 2: Two - Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Pete was not happy to hear that she wanted to go back. “You’re here for treatment,” he said. “And besides – how can you know that you’ll possess the same body again? For that matter, it’s not fair to keep stealing this Marianne’s life.”
“It’s not fair that my own life is disappearing before my eyes,” Myka snapped. It was dreadfully selfish, but in the face of eternity, what did selfishness matter? She had no strong belief in an afterlife. Everything she’d always believed in was proving insubstantial. After a lifetime of scrupulously paying off all her debts immediately and living within her means, she had even started spending freely with her credit cards. Expensive restaurants and massages made no difference in the scheme of things – but they were nice. If she couldn’t have meaning in her life, nice things were an adequate substitute until such time as she shuffled off this mortal coil.
“Come on, Pete,” she wheedled. “I’d do it for you.” She wasn’t sure if this was true of the Myka she used to be, before the diagnosis, but she would do it in an instant now.
But first came treatment. Ten hours hooked up to machines, and she was so drained she could barely walk by the end. Pete installed her in the luxurious hotel room that would be paid for by forgiveness of debt upon death, and Myka slept for two days. She woke only to eat the culinary specialties Pete was scouring the city for.
On the third day she told him, “I might as well recuperate in the time machine,” and he looked unhappy but agreed.
Myka arrived in Marianne’s body at seven o’clock in the morning. This way, she could lie down in Marianne’s bed at the end of the twenty-two hours and Marianne would awake there without knowledge that her body had been stolen for a day.
Invasion of the body snatchers, she thought grimly. Was it too early to go calling on H.G.? Nevermind; H.G. was hardly one to insist on propriety.
Still, she wasn’t entirely sure of her welcome when she sent in her card at H.G.’s address. She’d pointed the time machine to a month after her previous visit, fearing disrupting Marianne’s life too drastically.
A harried-looking maid showed her into the library and informed her that Miss Helena would be down just as soon as the young hellion was under control, and would she be joining them for breakfast?
“I wouldn’t want to presume,” Myka said, then added, “but I hope so.”
She could hear slamming doors and running feet from the floor overhead, and a child’s laughter rang out. A pretty little dark-haired girl of about five clattered down the stairs and darted into the library with a giggle, coming up short when she saw Myka.
“Christina, I presume?” Myka inquired. She had to grin when she saw the look on the girl’s face; clearly she had foiled the girl’s plan to hide in the library. “I’m My – Marianne Wilkes,” she said, holding her hand out to shake. It was only at the look on Christina’s face that she remembered that ladies did not shake hands. “I’m a friend of your mother’s.”
“Christina?” Helena’s voice got louder as she came down the stairs. “Where are you, you little scamp? You know very well you have lessons in less than an hour!”
“In here, Mama,” the child called, clearly resigning herself to her fate. “There’s a Miss Wilkes to see you.”
“What?!” Helena appeared in the doorway, looking uncharacteristically rumpled. Her face lit up on seeing Myka in the way it used to back home, and Myka felt as if someone had reached into her chest and squeezed her heart. Then Helena, with an obvious effort, schooled her features and advanced to take Myka’s hand in her own.
Myka felt fire spider underneath her skin at the touch, and barely suppressed a gasp.
“My dear Marianne,” Helena said, “how nice to see you again.” Her eyes sparkled; clearly she could see the effect she was having on Myka.
“The pleasure is all mine, Helena,” Myka managed, and realized she was still clasping Helena’s hand. She dropped it like a hot poker, her face heating.
Damn it, Marianne was a blusher. So not fair. Helena smirked.
“I see you’ve met my very own rapscallion,” Helena said, turning an indulgent gaze on her daughter. “Christina, have you made your curtsy to Miss Wilkes?”
“No, Mama,” the child muttered, and performed a reluctant curtsey.
“If you want to eat before lessons, you’d best go put on your frock,” Helena told her, just a hint of steel at the back of her voice. Myka realized that the plain white dress the girl was wearing must be her shift – no more than her underthings. How very improper – this was definitely H.G.’s daughter.
The girl made a face. “Yes, Mama,” she grumbled, and loped off.
“You can join us in the laboratory after lessons,” Helena called after her.
Any other British mama would have apologized for her child’s gross breach of manners, but H.G. did not. She beamed like the proud mother she was. “She’s the cleverest child I’ve ever met. I’m afraid she runs me ragged.” She smiled and lowered her eyelids, that pleased little smile that Myka knew so well, but somehow – somehow here, now, it was more.
Myka swallowed. She shouldn’t be envious of a child – but Christina was clearly the light of H.G.’s life in a way Myka herself would never be.
She felt guilty even for having the thought. Not only was she stealing Marianne’s time, she was also stealing Christina’s. Could she warn Helena of the disaster to come?
She didn’t see how. The timeline had been set years ago, and Myka couldn’t change it. And if she did warn Helena, would Helena just feel more guilty when the inevitable happened?
“Are you well, Marianne?”
Myka started. She felt her cheeks flaming and she stammered an apology.
“You don’t have children of your own, do you?” Helena said gently.
“No.” Myka had always thought there would be time in the future to decide. And now there was no time, and no future. She dragged herself back to the present moment with an effort. “No, I’m not able to have children.” Even if she miraculously started responding to the treatment, her ovaries had been removed in the first surgery.
“I’m sorry.” Helena took her hand, looking uncharacteristically unsure of herself.
Myka scolded herself for wasting precious moments of time moping. She threaded her fingers between Helena’s and squeezed her hand. “Thank you,” she said. She did matter enough to H.G. that her friend would grieve her death – a hundred and twenty-five years in the future.
“Shall we go down to the laboratory?” she suggested. For some reason, being in the library with all these books seemed to be making her morose. It reminded her too much of her parents’ bookstore.
She hadn’t told them yet. It had been bad enough telling Artie. She hadn’t told the rest of the Warehouse staff, either.
“I’ve a better idea,” H.G. said, squeezing her hand. “It’s a lovely day out – let’s go for a ride.”
It being H.G., Myka almost expected that she meant bareback or something equally outrageous, but they went out in a perfectly nice phaeton drawn by two glossy brown mares. H.G. did insist on driving herself, over Charles’s token protest, and after a whirlwind of streets like something out of a novel, Myka found they were driving in a familiar park.
She smiled. It was Hyde Park. She’s been there the day before she started treatment. Helena was right; it was a lovely spring day. Even though the haze of London’s industrial pollution, the sun felt wonderful on her face.
“You haven’t been out much,” Helena said, almost a question, as they rattled down a long boulevard lined by flowers.
Myka shook her head. “I’ve been ill.”
Helena nodded. “Your father said so, but I thought perhaps he disapproved of me and was lying to keep me away.”
Myka blinked. Her father didn’t know – “You tried to visit me?” Oh, damn.
“Of course.” Helena slipped her a conspiratorial look. “I don’t kiss just anyone, you know. I had hoped…” Her voice trailed off.
“I’m sorry,” Myka whispered. It was pure luck she hadn’t been found out.
Helena shook off the matter with an impatient motion. “You’re here now,” she declared. “And as I can’t kiss you in public, I shall have to keep your attention in other ways.” She grinned mischievously at Myka.
Myka felt Helena’s fingers thread through hers again, hidden safely under their skirts.
Oh. Yes, this was what she had come back for: Helena’s dazzling smile on a spring morning, and the way her eyes crinkled up affectionately. Myka felt her heart swell and her eyes fill with tears.
“I’m glad I was able to come,” she said. Marianne must be a crier, for certainly Myka would never dare to be so emotional in public.
“So am I.”
Myka knew she needed to direct the conversation to something lighter, but she allowed herself to bask in the moment for just a little bit longer.
And then she distracted Helena with a question about changes made to the time machine prototype, and together they slid gleefully into the sort of conversation you could only have with someone whose mind works along the same lines as yours – but with enough variety that each of them broke upon new ideas every few minutes, offered up to share like the rare delicacies they were. Myka had missed this, the intellectual dance of trying to keep up with one of the world’s most brilliant minds. And hidden in the folds of their skirts, she could not forget that Helena’s hand clasped hers intimately. She had never been so turned on, physically and intellectually, in her life.
“You are very beautiful, you know,” Helena told her as they drove back to the Wells’ townhouse.
It was on the tip of Myka’s tongue to say “I love you” when she realized that Helena was offering the compliment to Marianne, not Myka. It brought her up short. For a few beautiful hours, she had forgotten completely about Marianne, about cancer, about time travel as anything other than a fascinating intellectual concept.
She had let the silence go on for too long. “I’ve never met anyone as beautiful as you,” she said at last, which was true.
Helena’s eyes on her were curious, and Myka knew from experience that H.G. was tenacious once she got her mind into something. Myka couldn’t keep being morose. She didn’t have the time.
Luncheon was a family affair with Charles and Christina. Myka ate ravenously; back in the 21st century the treatment had affected how food tasted. It was a treat for it all to taste how it was supposed to taste.
Conversation with Charles was light. Myka had reread of his books shortly after meeting H.G. She hadn’t thought of publication date at the time, but occasionally an eidetic memory came in handy. Charles was definitely a novelist, with little care for the rigors of science when it came to the science fiction genre he was founding; his sister took care of that angle.
Christina was studying maths and philosophy, which seemed like it ought to be beyond a five-year-old, but was perfectly natural at this table. Myka again thought back to her history of mathematics courses in college and carefully did not mention any concepts that hadn’t been discovered yet.
“You read Latin?” she demanded when Christina piped up about a recent mathematical paper. “You’re only five!”
“Mama helps,” Christina told her. “She says it’s good practice for learning French next year.”
Myka froze. “French? But surely German would be better for philosophy and maths, wouldn’t it?” This child would be dead in less than a year, and Helena would be destroyed…
“Mama says German when I’m ten. She says I need polishing first.”
The time machine was a curse just as much as it was a boon, Myka reflected. She knew she couldn’t affect the timeline – Helena had tried so hard; no feeble attempts at a warning would make a difference, not when all-out force had not – but it was wrong. Christina should go on to surpass her mother.
It was not fair.
When she came back to herself from her musings, Helena was pouring her more tea and shooting her a concerned glance.
Live in the moment, she reminded herself. All the books on death and dying had recommended that. It was the only way to make use of the time she had left.
“How long can you stay?” Helena asked when luncheon was over.
With an effort, Myka concentrated on bringing all of her energies here, to this place and time. “As long as you’ll have me,” she said. Then, uncertain, “But don’t let me impose if – ”
“Don’t talk rubbish,” Helena said briskly, taking her hand and leading her down to the laboratory. “You can stay as long as you’d like.”
Myka shivered, feeling fire lace up her arm from where their fingers touched. It made her go momentarily weak-kneed.
She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and tugged at H.G.’s hand until the other woman turned to face her. Myka kissed her, gentle like coming home, then turning passionate as a roaring hearth in wintertime.
It was better than last time. Myka wasn’t sure how, but it was. The gentle movement of Helena’s mouth against her own was the most glorious perfection she could have dreamed of, and then Myka found herself in a comforting embrace that soothed, somehow, the rabbiting fear that hadn’t shut up ever since she heard her diagnosis.
The world narrowed to just the two of them, just the melting heat in her belly and in Helena’s magical kisses, better than any drug Myka could have imagined. Perfection.
“God, you’re beautiful,” she murmured.
Helena laughed, delighted, and drew her into the laboratory.
Endless wonder, Myka thought, following.
There was a bouquet of tea roses wrapped in paper lying on the big worktable. Helena offered it to her almost shyly. Myka’s cheeks hurt from the force of her smile. The roses smelled heavenly; she’d read recently that roses had been bred over the 20th century more to withstand amateur gardeners rather than for smell or even color. Some things really were better in the past.
She ignored the persistent thought that it was the Helena of her own past – the one back in 2013 – who was the Helena she loved. This woman hadn’t had a chance to grow into the one Myka loved – and she’d only do so by way of loss and heartbreak. If Myka could have spared her that she would. But then perhaps she would never have fallen in love with Helena in the first place, if she were a different person. It was the time-traveler’s paradox, only in reverse.
When Myka also found a box of chocolates on the worktable, she had to laugh. “Taking me for a drive, flowers, chocolates,” she said. “Are you…?”
“Cliché, perhaps, but I wasn’t sure how else to court you,” H.G. said, her eyes crinkling up as she smiled. “Is there something that’s customary when there’s no gentleman involved?”
Myka had no idea – either in Victorian England or in the modern day. Second date is a UHaul, her lesbian friends has joked – but beyond that, Myka’s experience with women amounted to a handful of dates in college that went nowhere.
Hiking, playing poker, and Pablo Nerudo poetry – but those were twentieth-century things. “The classics are wonderful,” Myka assured her, breathing in the scent of the tea roses.
They settled in to work.
Late in the afternoon, they were interrupted by Christina clattering down the stairs, followed by her uncle. Helena proudly showed off their progress on the time machine, in language they would understand. Myka noticed that it was Charles, not Christina, who was in danger of not being able to follow the technical details. Christina, who clearly worshiped her mother, did not balk at the impossibility of the feat. Charles on the other hand clearly thought that it was a wild goose chase.
H.G., when she set out to do something, attacked it with a single-mindedness that Myka could only envy. She had worked tirelessly for the past month, drafting the designs for the modified prototype. It wasn’t until midnight, after they’d hashed out every last facet of the plans, that Helena turned her single-minded focus on Myka.
“Will your family be worried?” she asked.
Her family? Oh – Helena meant Marianne’s family.
“It doesn’t matter. So long as I’m home before sunrise, it will be fine.”
Helena looked troubled. “I know your health is not good…”
“I’d really rather not talk about it,” Myka said. “Let’s use what time I do have before – ” She stopped, frustrated.
“Let’s use the time we have to have some fun?” Helena suggested, a brow arched suggestively. She took Myka’s hands in hers. “I can think of half a dozen things I’d rather do than talk.”
Myka had only a moment to freeze and panic before Helena’s arms were around her again, Helena’s soft lips were against hers, Helena had enveloped her in a glow of lovely, piquant heat. Myka felt her knees go weak under the onslaught of Helena’s kisses, and told herself sternly that she was not going to do anything so cliché as to lose her balance just because H.G. was doing incredible things with her tongue against Myka’s neck. She was relieved when Helena eased her back onto the heavy drafting table.
For a few lovely moments, Myka just held on and let herself enjoy: the slide of Helena’s lips against hers, the elegant hands framing her face, the exquisite pleasure of Helena’s tongue along the shell of her ear.
When she realized that H.G. had found the fastening buttons that had given her such trouble this morning when she’d put on Marianne’s dress, Myka sat up indignantly. “We are not going to have sex on a drafting table!” she squawked.
Helena’s eyes went very, very wide, and Myka cursed herself for saying it out loud like that. She could have calmly suggested a move upstairs.
“…Are we going to have sex, then?” Helena asked, sounding almost – nervous?
Oh, crap. Myka had slipped back into thinking Helena was more experienced than she was.
“I, uh, I thought that was the general direction we were headed?” Myka said cautiously.
H.G.’s eyes flashed. “I would never presume – ” she began hotly, but then she stopped, and started to chuckle. “I didn’t presume so far,” she said more gently. “But if you’re amenable, I’ve a very nice bed upstairs.” She arched a challenging eyebrow at Myka.
Myka gulped, but accepted the outstretched hand, and they made their way upstairs in between kisses.
Something of the bone-deep satisfaction still remained when Myka was back in the 21st century.
Sex might not be the same as love, but the affection had been genuine. Helena would never love her, but the next best thing was enough. With memories such as these, Myka would not feel so lonely staring down death.
She didn’t tell Peter, but her smile spoke volumes. She packed away the time machine; she had gotten what she wanted.
A few days later, during a good spell, she called up Claudia. “Say I wanted to find out about someone who lived in London in the 1890s,” she said.
“Name?” Claudia’s voice was brisk and no-nonsense, as usual. “I’ll query the usual databases. Are you two on a case?”
“Personal interest,” Myka said. “I’m looking into genealogy for a friend.”
“You have a friend?!” Claudia asked, sounding excited. “Oooh, tell me everything!” Then she must have realized how that sounded, for she backtracked quickly. “Not that I think you don’t have friends!” she exclaimed. “Of course you have friends. Lots of… damn it. Just give me the name.”
“Marianne Wilkes,” Myka said, stifling a laugh. “Lived on Howard Street in London in 1895.”
“It’ll take a while to query the world genealogy databases,” Claudia said. “I’ll call in about an hour – no, wait, I’m getting something on our internal databases.”
“What?” Myka asked, alarmed. “No, that can’t be. She’s got nothing to do with the Warehouse.”
“Hmm…” Claudia said. “It’s a reference to the paper files. Looks like I’ll be calling you after all; it’s a hike getting out to that sector of the Warehouse and the files are never in good order. Catch you soon.”
An hour later, Claudia commed her over the Farnsworth with the file. “Looks like your Marianne was related to the Warehouse, somehow,” she said. “The file was created by one H.G. Wells. Are you sure this isn’t work-related?”
“I didn’t think it was,” Myka lied. “What’s the file say?”
“Hmm… Marianne Wilkes was committed to a sanatorium in 1897 after years of poor mental health. H.G. paid for it, so they must have known each other. You should give Helena a call.”
Claudia made a non-committal noise. That was always dangerous, coming from Claudia.
“Claudia, just tell me!” Myka said, impatient.
Instead, Claudia texted her an image of the file. Myka skimmed through it, finding out rather more than she’d wanted to know about Marianne’s family and how badly they’d handled her sickness…
And there, at the bottom: Marianne Wilkes was present for the first successful test of H.G. Wells’s time machine on September 22, 1985.
Chapter 3: One - Past Pluperfect
Pete’s lips went thin and white, and he stomped out of the hotel suite when she showed him the file.
“It’s killing you!” he yelled half an hour later when she’d gotten up the energy to go find him. “She’s killing you, with that damn machine.”
“Pete, I’m dying,” Myka reminded him. “Fast or slow, the time machine is just speeding up the inevitable.”
“You should be here, with the people who love you,” he said – and looked stricken a moment later.
“Oh, Pete…” With the last of her energy, she put her arms around him.
He had to carry her back to her room, but when she awoke from her nap she found that he’d unpacked the time machine and set the date and time.
H.G.’s smile when Charles let her into the laboratory was pure joy.
“You came!” she cried. “I didn’t think you would.”
“I’ve been ill,” Myka apologized, which was perfectly true on one level at least, if not a little misleading. “But I couldn’t miss the big day.”
Helena beamed at her and pulled her into a messy kiss. “The first voyage into the past!” she said, her eyes sparkling. “I made another headpiece just in case.”
“For me?” Myka asked, taking the same headpiece that, in 2013, Pete had settled on her head a few minutes ago. “I didn’t… I thought I was here to witness, not to travel through time with you.”
“How can you witness without coming with me?” H.G.’s grin was almost manic; Myka was definitely getting some mad scientist vibes, and she wondered when Helena had last slept. “I could be making it all up, if I don’t have you there to verify it.”
Myka snorted. “A madwoman as your witness? No one will take you seriously.”
Helena’s face clouded. She put down the headpiece and took Myka’s hands in hers. “Don’t,” she said, a furrowed brow marring her perfect features. “I told you just last week, we’ll find the best doctors in the world and you’ll get better.”
Myka felt her eyes prick with tears. It was what Artie had said when she told him about the cancer. (Pete had said, “We’ll find an artifact for you, I don’t care what anyone says,” and had searched for months. Artie knew better.) Helena must have tried to befriend poor Marianne.
H.G. winced. “I don’t suppose you remember that,” she said, just a hint of despair in her voice.
All Myka could do was shake her head.
H.G. rallied. “No matter. You’re here now, and you’re going to take part in my most important invention yet!”
Myka took up the headpiece and wondered what Marianne would think. “How do you know it works?” she asked.
Helena winked at her. “Because in a few weeks I’ll cheat and take a little trip into the past, and tell the me of last week that today is the date it all comes true.”
Myka’s mouth dropped open. “You what? You experimented on yourself with no one here to look after you?!” A mad scientist indeed; H.G. and Marianne were well-matched.
“I didn’t. My future self did, and she knew that it was possible because her future self told her, and if you think about it too much your head will start to spin, so don’t,” Helena advised. “Charles will be here, at least. And he’ll be here today as well. I’ll lay even money that he won’t believe me, so that’s why I need another witness. He may not believe me, but he’s not willing to try it, either.”
“I should hope not!” Myka said. “Or else who would bring us back?”
“I wonder how long we can stay?” Helena mused. “Charles wants us only to stay an hour. The future me stayed for two, but she left – she inhabited Christina, it was very queer – just when she was beginning to tell me the most interesting things.”
Myka suddenly wondered if she would be putting Marianne in danger by time traveling while already time traveling. What if, in 2013, she died? What if the headpiece couldn’t take the confusion?
When Rebecca St. Clair died using the time machine, her younger self had suffered no ill effects, so Myka reasoned that if this killed her, Marianne would be very confused but basically okay. She held on to this thought as Helena fitted the headpiece. It was odd to think that she might just… stop. Wink out of existence. It didn’t make any more sense the closer she got to it than it had the first time she’d wrestled with the thought of her own death.
But at least she had proof that Marianne would live longer; Claudia’s file was very clear on the subject.
Myka felt a sudden, intense flash of jealousy of Marianne: she got to stay here with Helena, who would continue to visit in the hopes of seeing her old friend and lover… But Myka didn’t have enough time left to waste on jealousy. Instead, she reached for Helena and pulled her into a long, luxurious kiss. “I missed you,” she said, though it had only been a few days. For her – not for Helena. Helena hadn’t seen her for months. Not the “real” her; just Marianne.
This is so wrong, stealing her body, Myka thought again. She knew all the dirty statistics on how the mentally ill were taken advantage of, and here she was doing the same – and secretly relieved that she’d gotten such a convenient alibi into the deal. Her pre-cancer self would be appalled.
Time travel changes you. I guess we’re all time travelers, just normally in a straight line, she thought – and wondered where the thought had come from.
No matter. These few precious hours were all she had left, and she would follow Helena to the ends of the earth – the ends of time to spend them with her. “Where – when are we going?” she asked.
Helena smiled. “Wheresoever my lady desires,” she said.
But Myka couldn’t stop worrying. If she died, in 2013… “What if I have an… episode… while we’re traveling? You’ll be trapped in time with someone who doesn’t know who you are and doesn’t know what’s happening.”
“I’d have said something – my future self would have – if there were any danger of that,” Helena said, confident in the face of a monumental leap of faith. She clasped Myka’s hand. “I want to share this with you, my dear.”
Myka let herself be held close, breathing in the reassuring scent of the woman she loved. It didn’t matter that back in 2013 Helena didn’t love her; it didn’t even matter that what they had here was too new to be called love. This was what Myka had left, and she would not let her overanalytical mind get in the way of enjoying it.
“I love you,” she said, because it was true and so easy to say when she wasn’t going to have to deal with the consequences.
Helena looked briefly startled, but kissed her with a smile. She started to say something, but Myka put a finger over her mouth to stop her. She didn’t want to hear something she wouldn’t be able to believe.
“Past or future?” she asked instead. “Can we go to the past? You mentioned that the time machine might not be able to go further back than its conception.”
“Shall we find out?” Helena asked, eyes gleaming with excitement. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“We could blink out of existence in time?” Myka suggested. She knew Helena wouldn’t; that timeline was fixed. And Myka herself was scheduled to shuffle off this mortal coil anytime now. Still, she felt like she should reign in Helena’s reckless enthusiasm a little.
“Impossible,” Helena said. “I already told you, I met my future self. The worst that could happen is that we just don’t go anywhere. Charles will laugh a bit, but we’ll try the future instead.”
No – Myka definitely did not want Helena to go forward in time. Who knows what she might find out?
“Is there a time you’ve always wanted to visit?” Helena asked. “Here in London, I mean; the next project will have to be some sort of matter transporter or teleportation device.”
And God help the poor soul who had to test out that one! Myka didn’t know whether or not to hope H.G. was working on such a thing in the future. She’d seen Star Trek, and the scene with the mutilated bodies in the transporter had rather put her off the whole idea.
“The 1887 World Fair?” Helena suggested. “My entry was rather good, if I do say so myself.”
“I’ve always rather wanted to see a Shakespeare play in the original Globe theater,” Myka said. She’s rather stay far away from anything particularly exciting like a war or plague, and she’d been to most of touristy London with Pete. And prehistory or dinosaurs were just asking for trouble on a first venture out.
Helena opened the door of her laboratory and called up the stairs for Charles. Upon being told that a trip to the Globe was on offer, he reversed his original position and adamantly demanded that he be allowed to try this time travel thing. Helena assured him that if the first voyage was a success, she’d take him the first chance they got.
Helena turned to Myka. “Which play? Charles is a bit obsessed with the Bard; he’ll be able to find the dates and times.”
Tragedies were out; Myka didn’t have patience for such things even from Shakespeare just now. A love story would fit the bill… with a happy ending. “One of the better comedies,” she said. “Much Ado About Nothing or As You Like It.”
“Five hours,” Helena told Charles when the play was chosen and the date set. “That should give us enough time to get there and see the play, and if we get in trouble, we can survive anything for five hours.”
Well, at least Helena had thought about the fact that there could be danger, Myka thought.
Helena looked at her, her eyes sparkling with that touch of fun that Myka adored.
“Ready to go where no man has gone before?” she asked.
Myka blinked. How did Helena pick up a Star Trek reference in 1895? It must be a coincidence.
“Nor woman,” she replied, taking the headpiece and seating herself in the reclining chair.
Pete put aside the magazine he’d been staring at blankly for over an hour. Myka’s breathing had changed.
As he had a dozen times while she went off traveling with H.G., he took her pulse. Instead of the reassuring steady beat of the last time he’d checked, now it was thready and irregular.
She should be in a hospital, or at least in hospice. But she’d told him, and he supposed it was true, that it was her right to choose her end.
He held her hand between both of his, no longer searching for a pulse he was afraid he wouldn’t find. Somehow it was better not to know than to admit to himself that she could be gone. Her chest still rose and fell almost imperceptibly, and he held onto her hand as if it could save him from going over a cliff.
Finally he took out his Farnsworth and called Artie. It was time to tell the rest of the team.
Myka didn’t miss Marianne’s corset, but she wasn’t sure her new clothing was any better. There was too much of it. How could she be expected to move?
“Helena?” she asked softly. They were in a dwelling, definitely: she could see the remains of a meal in the dim light.
“Marianne?” It was a man’s voice. Myka turned around.
“…Oh!” she said, staring.
Helena grimaced. “That bad?”
“Not bad. Just… odd.” The man was youngish, not bad-looking, but dressed like someone out of a play. Out of a Shakespeare play, almost… Proving that the time machine could go back further than when it was invented, after all.
“I’ll say.” Helena took a few tentative steps. “I like the trousers, but it feels like my legs are all wrong. Like I’ll fall forward.”
“Men have a higher center of gravity.”
“How nice for them.” Helena’s voice was clipped. “I hadn’t really thought about the people whose bodies we’re borrowing. I wonder what happens to them?”
“Let’s hope that they wake up and wonder where those hours went,” Myka said. “It wouldn’t bear thinking of, otherwise.” The only thing worse than stealing parts of Marianne’s life would be trapping her as an impotent witness in her own body. “Do you think you can walk?”
Muscle memory must have done the trick, for Helena had no trouble once she stopped thinking about it.
“And what do I look like?” Myka asked. They must be laborers, but she had no idea what they did. Her calluses felt different.
The young man surveyed her with some interest. “Ravishing,” H.G. declared. Then her eyes lit up with the familiar fire of a new idea. “Oh! I’ve just thought of something. Help me get these trousers off.” She was unlacing her trews.
Helena paused, blinking up at her. “Marianne, I’m the first woman in all of history to have a chance to obtain empirical evidence about male genitalia. I have to try it out!”
Myka burst out laughing. A scientist down to the core! “Later,” she said, dragging Helena toward the front door. “You promised me an intertemporal date, and I’m not putting out until after the play.”
“Putting out what?” H.G. asked, confused, but she followed Myka out into the busy streets of London.
“I’ll help you with your empirical ‘research’ later,” Myka promised, and arm in arm they headed out into the seventeenth century.
It was the best date Myka had ever been on. Everything was so vivid, so vibrant: she had studied this play, knew all the relevant theories, and now she got to see how the original had been staged in real life. After a lifetime of studying and reading, it was like waking up to a new world, a world of Platonic ideals. She was no Shakespearean scholar, but she wanted to punch the air and shout, “Yes!”
Shortly into the second act, she suddenly felt dizzy. They’d only had enough coin in their pockets for standing tickets, so she had to clutch Helena lest she fall. H.G., just as rapt as Myka was in the face of the Bard’s words in the flesh, nonetheless quickly shifted her attention.
“What’s the matter? Are you ill?”
“I…” Another wave of dizziness hit her, and she almost fell. “I think I may be having some sort of attack, back home,” she panted when she’d regained her feet. Helena’s arm was strong around her, supporting her.
Heart attack, perhaps? Ultimate cause of death is always heart failure; proximate cause of death would be the strain of time travel on a body weakened by ovarian cancer and the experimental treatments she’d always known wouldn’t work.
Not yet! she pleaded with the God she couldn’t quite believe in even as she begged him for mercy. Let me see the end. Let me see love triumphant.
After a few minutes, her breath came more naturally, and she didn’t have to lean so heavily on H.G. But still she leaned, relishing the warmth of her love’s body.
“Myka’s dying?” Claudia repeated.
Artie nodded. On the screen, she could see Pete nodding as well.
“Of what?” she demanded. Then she narrowed her eyes. “You both knew and you didn’t tell me?” Her voice promised a slow death to both of them.
“We can do something, can’t we?” Steve asked. “A Warehouse full of miracles; surely there’s one for her?”
“We looked,” Pete said. There were dark circles under his eyes. “Of course we looked; it not allowed but we had to. Everything has a catch. You can’t save a life without taking someone else’s, and Myka wouldn’t let – ” He stopped.
“HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN?” Claudia demanded.
“A few months now…” Artie began, and stopped when he saw her face.
Claudia was not a tall woman, when she got angry she seemed to grow. All three men stepped back when she thundered, “WHY WASN’T I TOLD?”
“She asked – ” Pete began.
“NO!” Claudia snapped, glaring at Artie. “This is my Warehouse, and Myka is one of my agents now. Things have changed, Artie, and you cannot continue to treat me as if I weren’t the Warehouse’s Caretaker! You would never have kept such a thing from Mrs. Frederic.”
“I…” Artie looked confused, but then comprehension dawned. “You’re… you’re right. I should have told you.”
“Don’t let it happen again,” Claudia said with a poise that sent shivers up several spines. It was if she were channeling Mrs. Frederic, only with a distinctly Claudia spin.
She crossed her arms. “Let’s begin at the beginning. I refuse to believe that we have no options at all. I won’t believe it until I see if for myself, and that’s going to take time. Do we have a way to buy that time?”
“No,” said Artie, just as Pete said, “Yes.”
Artie glared at Pete, who crossed his own arms and looked mulish.
Artie turned to Claudia. “We do have ways to buy time, but they’re here in the Warehouse. We wouldn’t get them to London in time. And Myka would never want – ”
“So we don’t ask Myka,” Pete interrupted. He held up a pair of handcuffs.
“I’m guessing those aren’t for sexy funtimes,” said Steve.
“You – you stole Ponce de Leon’s manacles?” Artie spluttered. Then he looked horrified. “You haven’t used them, have you?”
“No, but I will if necessary,” Pete said. “She doesn’t have a lot of time left, and I can give her more.”
“What’s the catch?” Claudia asked.
Artie looked ill. “Pete can give her a day of life.”
“And?” You could hear the toetapping in Claudia’s voice.
“A day of his life.”
“Oh.” All four of them contemplated this. Then Claudia said, “That’s up to you, Pete. No one can ask that of you; it has to be a gift.”
“That’s not all, though,” Artie said. “Each time he does it, it takes a piece of his soul.”
“I don’t know if I even believe in a soul, Artie,” Pete said, but he looked scared.
Steve spoke up. “I hate to point out the obvious, but if time is what we need… can’t we just put her on life support?”
There was a long pause. At the end of it, Claudia said, “Score one for common sense. Pete, get her to a military hospital as soon as you can. Steve and Artie, I want a list of every artifact known that could help, along with the reasons we don’t want to use it. I want the list in two hours. Meanwhile, I need to make a call.”
“I’m not sure we can call that ‘objective’ research,” Myka pointed out, basking in the afterglow in the couple’s small bed. “We had much too much fun for it to science.”
“If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong,” Helena murdered, her fingers combing idly through Myka’s hair.
“What, sex or science?”
“Both.” The smile on the young man’s face was all Helena.
“Perhaps you should combine the two more often,” Myka suggested.
“Is that an invitation?”
“Yes… so long as I’m well.” It wouldn’t do to have Helena coming on to Marianne when she got back home.
Helena rolled onto her side and propped her head up with one hand. “Is it like… two different people, in one body?” she asked. “I talked with a medical doctor, and he says that happens sometimes.”
“I suppose so,” Myka said. “She – I – won’t remember this tomorrow, probably.”
“So you just… die for a while?”
That gave her a pang. “Yes, more or less.”
“Death comes to everyone,” Myka said, as if she hadn’t fought it tooth and nail. “I guess for me it just comes sooner.” She shifted closer and wound her arms around Helena. “I’m glad to be with you, here at the end of all things,” she murmured.
Helena hugged her fiercely. “I won’t let you die,” she said.
Myka took Helena’s face, broad and bearded just now but still beloved, between her two hands. Helena would fight tooth and nail against her daughter’s death – and would then condemn herself to a waking tomb for over a hundred years. Myka hadn’t meant to cause her any pain.
“When love finds you,” she said, swallowing back the tears that threatened to come, “don’t deny yourself on my account. I can’t give you anything more than this, even if I wish I could.”
Helena kissed her again. “We won’t speak of it if it’s going to make you melancholy. Do you think we ought to dress, or let the poor dears think they had so much fun they blacked out?”
“Oh, good Lord,” Myka said, sitting up abruptly. “I didn’t even think about birth control. I hope they want children.” More things to feel guilty for, but she couldn’t undo what she’d already done. If there was a God, she’d be settling her account with him soon enough, and here was another wrong to add to the list. They helped each other dress.
Helena nodded to a knotted web of red and grey threads hanging from the ceiling. “They want children. That’s a fertility charm. Who knows – maybe we helped them out.”
Myka yawned. “Has it been five hours yet? I feel like taking a nap.” She laid down again and closed her eyes – and opened them in Helena’s laboratory.
The doctors at the military hospital followed orders and didn’t take off the headpiece, but they weren’t happy about it. Life support was prepped but not administered, as Myka was still breathing. When that breathing changed, everyone stood by with baited breath, but the heart rate monitor kept up its steady, slow, reassuring blips.
Pete prayed to the God of his childhood for a miracle, so that he wouldn’t have to make the choice between Myka’s life and his own soul.
“How do you feel?” Helena asked anxiously, helping her sit. “Are you… you?”
“I feel fine,” Myka assured her, just as a wave of dizziness hit her.
With Charles’s help, Myka was carried upstairs and installed in Helena’s bed. Helena climbed in as well and held her close, murmuring reassurances in her ear.
When the world had stopped spinning, an hour or so later, she dictated a report on the first intertemporal excursion to Helena. Charles listened open-mouthed, not entirely believing.
“Next time, the future,” Helena told them. “And we’ll stay a little longer. I want to find out if there’s an upper limit on the amount of time a transfer of consciousness can stick.”
“What year?” Charles asked.
“Some nice round number like 1900 or 2000,” Helena said. “I read a book by an American recently about how the year 2000 should be a nationalist paradise. It will be interesting to see. If you don’t want to come, Charles, perhaps I’ll take Christina.”
“Maybe we should work up to it,” Myka suggested, afraid that someone who had only ever seen an auto as a novelty at the World’s Fair might not know what to do in streets filled with them. “Ten years at a time, so as to have an idea of how things progress?”
“Good thought,” Helena said. “I don’t want to go so far forward that the language isn’t the same – or heaven forbid it be something like your novel, Charles.”
“And you wouldn’t want to go too far into the past, either,” Charles pointed out. “You might kill your own grandpa by accident and never get born, eh?”
“I wonder if causality can be changed like that?” Helena asked. “Or is time fixed, perhaps? My future self said we can’t change the past. But I think that if we were able to go into the past and make changes, when we got back we wouldn’t know it because we’d have altered the path of time, if you see what I mean?”
The dizzy spells increased throughout the day, so much so that Helena send for a doctor. But the doctor could do nothing.
“Do you think it’s the time machine?” Helena fretted. “Did it do something to make you ill?”
“No,” said Myka firmly, though Helena was probably right that it had exacerbated things. “You’ve caused none of this.” Though of course Helena had caused it, by inventing the time machine in the first place. But blame would help nobody.
Helena sent word to Marianne’s family, so Myka stopped worrying how to make her way “home” when she could barely walk. All evening, Helena stayed by her side. Myka could feel herself fading, and it would have been scary but she couldn’t muster much emotion for anything, even her own death. The last thing Myka was aware of before she went under was of Helena holding her hand and singing her a lullabye.
Chapter 4: Zero - Back to the Future
Adelaide had programmed her ringtone to play the X-Files theme when unrecognized numbered came up. “Emily Lake speaking.”
“H.G. Wells. Long time, no talk.”
“How soon can you be here? The Warehouse needs your help.”
Annoyance warred with eagerness. “More than a year, and you expect me to just drop everything?” she asked. “I’ve a PTA meeting tonight, as it happens.”
“Very important, the PTA,” Claudia agreed, deadpan.
“But I suppose the fate of the world can take higher priority,” Helena said. Nate would be put out, but she’d put that to rights.
“Not the fate of the world, this time. It’s more… personal. I’m wondering if there’s something you can do to help.”
“I can be there in four hours.”
“You can be here in 30 minutes. I’m sending the copter.”
Helena stopped walking. “It’s that serious?”
“What?!” Helena’s heart stood still. She’d talked with Myka just last week!
“I think she may have given us a clue, though. I’m reinstating you as a Warehouse Agent. The paperwork will be on the plane.” And with that, Claudia rang off.
Those shadowy government people I never really explained to you? They need my help. I have to go; lives are on the line. That hadn’t gone over so well. Nate would need more of an explanation. And if she were really an Agent now, Helena would need permission to tell him.
But none of that was important right now – because her mind was taken up entirely with Myka.
“Where is she?” H.G. demanded as soon as she was inside the Warehouse. “Where’s Myka?”
Claudia crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at her; apparently reinstatement didn’t mean forgiveness for past wrongs. “She’s not here.”
“She’s in London,” Steve supplied.
“Tell me what happened.” An artifact? A weapon?
“She has cancer,” Artie said quietly.
Ice formed in the pit of Helena’s stomach. An artifact she could fight against, but cancer…
“She’s on life support. She was receiving experimental treatment. It didn’t work.”
Claudia scowled in Artie’s direction, but addressed Helena. “I am told that there is no artifact that would help her. I don’t believe it. I brought you here for two reasons: one, you know the older artifacts better than any of us, so maybe you know some whose benefits outweigh the costs. Secondly, I’m wondering whether it might be a good idea to put your time machine to use to get the treatment to her faster.”
“Uh.” That was Pete, on Artie’s screen. He looked ashen.
“Yes?” Artie asked. When Pete just gave him a hangdog look, he snapped, “Do you have something to share with the rest of the class, Agent?”
Even though Pete didn’t move, Helena knew he was shuffling his feet. “…Well,” he said eventually, “you can’t use H.G.’s time machine because we have it here.”
There was a lot of shouting and recriminations over the next ten minutes, but Helena heard none of it. She was too busy staring at Myka on the screen, pale as death with life support rasping through her lungs, the damned headpiece on her head.
When she dragged her eyes away, they caught instead on a file on Claudia’s desk. It looked out of place here. It belonged in another Warehouse, an older Warehouse…
Nobody was paying attention to her, so she moved closer. The file was one of the old paper ones that had never been scanned into the database. The handwriting on it was familiar.
Claudia gave her a puzzled look as she reached for it. Helena did her best to stop her hand from trembling.
There, in her own handwriting, faded after more than a century, was the name of a woman Helena had tried her best not to think about for years: Marianne Wilkes.
It came together all in a rush, the puzzle pieces zooming into place now that she had the master picture. She whirled to face the screen.
“Pete! September 22, 1895?”
Pete blanched. “How did you know?”
Marianne had never been the same after that day. Helena had begun to think that the time machine had killed her, for all that there was still a living, breathing woman left behind. Helena had been more cautious, less reckless with it after that, shifting her energy to other endeavors. Her scientific brain told her it was nonsense, but her heart wasn’t in the research. After she couldn’t even use it to save her own daughter, she’d abandoned the time machine altogether.
It all made sense now. The pieces all fit; how had she never seen that? Twenty-two hours tops, complete personality change… If she hadn’t known that Marianne’s family thought her mad, she would have cracked the code ages ago.
“Poor Marianne…” she whispered. The real Marianne Wilkes had never really understood Helena’s interest in her, but she’d done her best. In between her delusions, she was quite rational, and grateful to the woman who’d removed her from her family’s horrific abuse. Marianne had been friendly, and had grieved Christina’s loss with her. And all the time, Helena had been looking for someone else entirely. It was enough to drive someone to madness…
“She wanted to see you,” Pete said. “Before she died. She wanted to…” His voice trailed off.
“I was right here!” Helena burst out. Why hadn’t Myka told her she was ill? Surely she knew that Helena wouldn’t hesitate to come?
But no – Myka had come to her in 1895 for something completely different. Myka had come to her for… love?
Helena sat down, hard, before her legs gave out under her.
Myka was in love with her?
Well, why hadn’t she bloody well said so? Helena had made her interest perfectly clear from the start. Myka had never given her any indication that she was interested in women – or men either, for that matter.
“She didn’t want to – I mean, with your husband and all… She didn’t think you’d…” Pete was flustered.
Nate. Of course Myka would be that stupidly self-sacrificing as to not ask for anything even as she was dying. Helena wanted to shake her.
Claudia’s eyes were narrowed, flicking between Helena and the screen. “Do I understand correctly that Myka was visiting you in a different time?” she asked. Her eyes fell on the file in Helena’s hand.
“Yes,” H.G. said. “I had no idea it was Myka. It was over a hundred years ago.”
Claudia dismissed this. “Unless it’s going to give us a way to save her, that’s all in the past. Right now, we need artifacts that cure the incurable. What can you think of?”
“Rod of Asclepius?” she suggested.
“Destroyed to perfect the polio vaccine,” Artie told her.
“Was that wise?” There were plenty of plagues, and only one Rod.
“A political decision.” His lips thinned. “But no, probably not.”
Steve was looking at a computer screen. “Saint Bernadette’s reliquary sounds promising,” he suggested.
“The Warehouse doesn’t have it,” Artie said. “We leave that stuff to the Catholics; we do the paranormal, they do the metaphysical. Besides, most of it is just faith healing.”
“Hippocrates’s scalpels?” “Pasteur’s cummerbund?” “Elizabeth Blackwell’s lace gloves?”
Around her, conversation buzzed. Every single artifact that had a healing quality had a potentially deadly catch.
Helena already knew this. She’d combed through the entire catalogue, trying to save her daughter.
“What’s the deal with Poncy Lion’s handcuffs?” Claudia asked. “Does it really take a piece of your soul? How do they know?”
Helena froze. Ponce de Leon’s manacles. Yes, of course. The price was death.
“You can give up to three days of your life, but it saps your soul,” Artie explained. “On the third day, however much time you have left is added to the recipient’s lifespan, and you die.”
Helena had looked over the research, back at Warehouse 12. The giver definitely died on the third day, but she wasn’t so sure that soul had anything to do with it. It was a sort of time travel, a transfer of future consciousness from one person to another… The giver became a sort of Fountain of Youth for the recipient.
“Pete, you are not allowed to use them,” Claudia said. “We’ll be there in eighteen hours.”
“Pete has the manacles?” Helena asked. She looked at the screen. Pete was looking mulish again.
Artie spoke up. “Steve and Helena and I will be there in eighteen hours, but you won’t, Claudia.”
“What the hell, Artie?”
Artie stood firm. “You know very well that you can’t leave the Warehouse, Claudia. A new Caretaker can’t go more than a few miles for the first five years. You’ve been pretty vocally upset about it ever since you became Caretaker.”
Claudia looked for a moment as if she were about to explode. Helena instinctively took a step back. Instead, the younger woman gritted her teeth and stomped out of the room into her tiny office, presumably to vent some frustration.
“We have eighteen hours to come up with a solution,” Artie told them. Steve and Helena followed him toward to copter.
Eighteen hours later, they had no solution.
Nineteen hours later, they still had no solution, and they had a worse problem: when they showed up with no solution, Pete made his move. While the three of them fretted over their complete lack of ideas, Pete secured one handcuff around his wrist and one around Myka’s. They didn’t even notice until he started shaking.
The transfer went quickly. Pete fell to his knees, gasping and sweaty, but otherwise seemingly unharmed. Myka’s eyelids fluttered.
They looked at Pete in horror.
Predictably, Artie found his voice first. “Why the heck did you do that, Lattimer?” he demanded. “Do you know what the punishment for misuse of an artifact is?”
Pete looked pale but determined. “In three days I’ll be dead. If you don’t want two dead agents, you’ll let me go ahead.”
Artie was working up a good head of steam and Helena was just contemplating stepping out to avoid the screaming when they heard a whisper from the bed. “Pete?”
Myka’s eyes were open.
Pete was by her side in an instant.
“Pete, what happened?” Myka looked around, and her eyes widened. “Helena?” She struggled to sit up, only to let out a moan of pain. “Pete, where am I? When am I?”
Myka had died when her consciousness was in 1895, Helena realized.
“2013,” Steve offered. “You’re in a military hospital.”
Myka looked around suspiciously. “I’m pretty sure I died,” she said in a matter of fact sort of voice.
“Miracles of modern medicine,” Steve said.
“Artifact,” Artie said, and scowled.
With some trouble, Myka did sit up. Her eyes were dilated with pain. “Can’t be. I reviewed the entire catalogue. There’s nothing that could help, not without – ” She stopped.
“Oh, Pete, no,” Myka breathed.
Helena had to excuse herself at this point, because she hated crying in front of people, and she hated to see her friends in pain. Most of all, she hated feeling so completely and utterly powerless in the face of death. The last time she’d been in this situation had ended with her bronzing herself until such time as she could better help her daughter. Bronzing herself or Myka wouldn’t help anything, though.
There was really only one thing she could do, and that was to steal the manacles from Pete. H.G. had started this madness with her time machine, and she would not be responsible for any more deaths. If anyone would be dying in the name of friendship and love, it would be her.
Claudia paced the communications room, her jaw clenched. Mrs. Frederic had been able to pull up a complete mental review of all the artifacts in the Warehouse, and Claudia knew she should be able to do it; she just hadn’t figured out how, yet.
If only the pounding in her ears would quiet down…
Wait, no, that wasn’t right. That was the annoying thing where she kept forgetting where she ended and the Warehouse began – or was it the other way around? The pounding wasn’t in her ears. It was on the door of the Warehouse.
What in holy…
She pulled up a video feed on her computer because it was still way too weird to just pull it up in her mind through her connection with the Warehouse. Maybe one day that would be okay, but for now she’d like to stay mostly human, mmmkay?
A man was pounding on the door of the Warehouse and shouting something. Something about kidnapping. Kidnapping… Helena?
Had Helena kidnapped someone? That wouldn’t be a good start toward reinstating her as a Warehouse agent.
No, he was yelling about Helena having been kidnapped. Ah, that made more sense. The Warehouse supplied the file, and she understood. Helena’s husband, Nate. And the teenager behind him must be Adelaide.
Claudia could have ignored it; could have shut off the feed and gone back to pacing. But she was lonely, and feeling not entirely human, and if Helena was going to be an agent, she would be telling Nate about the Warehouse anyways. And the Warehouse liked Nate, in a way that it didn’t like many people. And wow golly, did the Warehouse have a puppylove crush on Adelaide! Huh, she hadn’t known that the Warehouse had favorites like that.
Claudia made the decision before she could second-guess herself, and let them in.
She had the beginnings of an idea, and she needed help with it.
Helena’s Farnsworth beeped at her. Artie had issued it to her on the flight over, without any of his usual sarcasm. She took it out and saw Claudia’s face on the screen. Behind her, she saw the last person she’d thought to see.
“Agent Wells, I’ve taken the liberty of filling in your husband and stepdaughter about your work with the Warehouse.”
“You’ve what? You’re kidding.”
“I never kid, Agent Wells. It was necessary. I have an idea, and I will need both you and him in order to carry it out. Can you fetch the time machine?”
Helena didn’t know what to say to Myka when she approached to take the machine. Why didn’t you ever tell me? was forefront in her mind.
Myka’s eyes were bright with pain, and she took Helena’s hand without asking. Myka was usually so self-contained and reserved that it surprised her. “I’m sorry,” Myka whispered. “I never meant you to find out.”
Helena realized that she was very angry about that, actually. “You could have said something,” she said, trying to keep the emotion out of her voice.
“I didn’t realize how I felt until after you’d already met Nate,” Myka said. “I just wanted to see you one more time before I died…”
“You’re not going to die,” Helena told her.
“Yes I am,” Myka said calmly. “Helena, you can’t let Pete give me another day of his life. I can’t be the cause of any more deaths. Promise me you’ll stop him.”
“I promise,” H.G. told her, but she wasn’t sure she’d be able to follow through. Like Pete, she couldn’t bear the thought of seeing Myka on life support again.
Almost without thinking about it, she brushed her lips against Myka’s. Myka’s eyes flew open, startled, and H.G. retreated swiftly into the next room, her head reeling.
“I have the time machine,” she said through the Farnsworth. “What are you thinking?”
Claudia frowned at her. “Artie just told me Pete went and did something stupid. Is that true?”
“Depends on your definition of stupid… but yes, he did.”
“That… complicates things. I was going to ask you to bring the time machine here.”
Helena shook her head. “I’m not going to let him kill himself for her. If anyone’s going to give her a day of their life, it’s going to be me.”
Nate broke in. “Emily, for God’s sakes, could someone tell me what’s going on? What do you mean, a day of your life?”
“I’ll explain in a moment, love,” H.G. promised, wondering if there was any explanation that would suffice. She focused on Claudia. “You’ve thought of something?”
“Yes. But it requires me to be there with Myka, and I can’t leave the Warehouse. The doctors tell me she wouldn’t survive being moved, and even with Pete’s stupid sacrifice, she’s in too much pain from systemic organ failure to risk it. But Myka told me once that your time machine is a consciousness transference device.”
Helena understood immediately. “You want to transfer your consciousness to another body, a body that can leave the Warehouse. That way you can come here.” She gnawed on her lip. “Steve could bring you the time machine, but it’s another eighteen hour flight. And then for you to get back here… We’ll definitely have to use the manacles again. And what will you do when you do get here?”
“Leave that to me. I don’t know if it will work, but I’ve got to try. Myka’s family.”
Claudia only had a brother, H.G. remembered, and now that she couldn’t leave the Warehouse the people around her were even more important than they’d been before.
“Could we build another time machine, do you think?” said a girlish voice offscreen.
Helena couldn’t keep the horror off her face. “Adelaide? What are you doing at the Warehouse?”
Adelaide came on screen and rolled her eyes in that annoying teenage way she’d perfected lately. “We came looking for you, of course. This place is so cool! How come you stopped working here? If I were here, I’d never leave.”
Helena smiled in spite of herself. “Relations with management became strained.”
“Due to sabotage and lies,” Claudia muttered.
“No really, could we build another time machine?” Adelaide sounded excited. “Claudia showed me the blueprints, but I can tell you left some stuff off. In case it fell into the wrong hands, I guess. But if we could do it, it might save some time, and we could save your friend from whatever it is that Claudia keeps saying is so stupid.”
H.G. paused. If it had been Claudia asking, or even Nate, she would have said no; they were brilliant in their own ways but they didn’t have the technical brain for it. But with Adelaide there…
“Yes,” she decided. “I’m going to need something better than the Farnsworth for communication, and you’re going to need to listen to every word I say. It took me years to make that damn machine, and if we mess it up somebody could get seriously hurt. Are you willing to risk it?”
Adelaide looked scared, but she nodded. “Tell me what I need to do.”
It took the four of them eight hours and forty-seven minutes, two bloodied fingers, nine trips into the Warehouse, a sprained wrist, and five commandeered artifacts to build the new time machine.
Steve and Helena had jury-rigged a set of screens and webcams so that Helena could almost feel like she really was in the Warehouse, although it was just as frustrating as being a hologram had been; she couldn’t just pick things up and make it go faster. Still, working with Adelaide had always been a joy, and her eyes met Nate’s full of parental pride more than once when Adelaide grasped the concepts intuitively and even offered enhancements.
Once the high fives were over, though, Helena realized that they’d overlooked a very important step.
“Claudia…” she said slowly. “You don’t have any agents there. There’s no one to transfer your consciousness to.”
It was Nate who replied. There was a gentle smile on his face. “Best brain in the history of humankind, and you can’t figure that one out?” he teased.
Terror seized her heart. “Nate – you can’t – it’s not safe! You’re a civilian!”
There was some trepidation in his eyes, but he said, “My wife and my daughter made this thing. I know I’m in good hands.”
Helena could feel tears rolling down her cheeks. “It couldn’t save my first daughter,” she said. “It couldn’t save Myka. I couldn’t bear it if it killed you, too.”
“We’re going to use it to save Myka,” he said. “I’m not going to die on you just yet, I promise you.”
“You can’t promise that!”
Through her tears, she watched her daughter set the jury-rigged headpiece – Hank Morgan’s crown, she was told – on Claudia’s head. She cursed herself for ever creating the damn time machine; it had been nothing but trouble since the start. When this was all over, she was going to destroy it.
Adelaide set the time machine for ten seconds in the future, pulled the switch, and had the sense to run.
Claudia, wearing Nate’s body, ran for the Concorde she’d arranged. Adelaide was left with Claudia’s immobile body, and it didn’t take long for her to become bored.
She wandered over to take a look out at the Warehouse, and a broad smile crossed her face.
“How are you feeling?” Helena asked Pete.
“Like crap,” he said.
“Soul-dissolving crap or regular run-of-the-mill crap?”
That won her a tired smile. “How do you tell the difference?”
Myka was sleeping, a drug-induced sleep because of the pain. They both gazed at her.
“Do you think Claudia will make it in time?”
Helena looked at the clock for what felt like the hundredth time. “No,” she said.
Pete wasn’t such a good actor that he could hide his fear from her, but he said, “I’m not afraid. It’s worth it, so long as she lives.”
Helena couldn’t drag her eyes away from Myka’s pale face. “You love her very much.”
He snorted. “For all the good it’s ever done me.”
She focused on him. He was jealous of her, of course. That was to be expected. But – “Love is never wasted,” she said.
“Who told you that, a greeting card?” he asked bitterly.
“A very wise woman named Marianne Wilkes, shortly after my daughter died,” she told him.
Claudia had not arrived by the time Pete’s twenty-four hours were up. Pete tried to fight them; of course he did. Steve tied him up while Helena took the manacles from him.
Then she knocked out Artie and Steve as gently as she could, and manacled herself to Myka.
“For such a genius, you do some remarkably stupid things,” Claudia growled at her from the doorway just as she was about to click the last lock into place. “Like not answering your Farnsworth. Honestly, it’s like you don’t want to be an Agent when all this is through.”
The relief of seeing Nate, even if wasn’t really Nate, and the overwhelm of a last-minute rescue brought tears to her eyes.
There wasn’t time for that, though.
“What’s the plan?” she asked, not ready to put away the manacles until she was sure it would work.
Later, Helena would be glad that at least Pete was awake to witness this, because she was never entirely sure what had happened. A great, profound stillness came into the room, and Claudia started to glow. She approached Myka’s bed and ribbons of light flowed from her, wrapping around Myka’s wrist.
Helena held her breath as the pressure and light grew and grew, sure there would be an explosion any moment. Surely it would kill them all!
She could see Claudia gritting her teeth, trying to bend the energy to her will. All of the light was pouring from her into Myka, and that wasn’t right – the Caretaker couldn’t die!
Did Claudia mean to make Myka the new Caretaker?
Just when Helena had made up her mind that she had to intervene somehow, the ribbons of light changed. Now they flowed from Claudia to Myka, but new ones spiraled up from Myka’s wrists and wrapped around Claudia. Give and take, the power flowed between them, dancing and writhing.
Slowly, the light faded, but Helena could still feel the energy humming in the air. Myka’s eyes were open, and she was gazing at Claudia in open-mouthed wonder.
“What did you do?” she demanded, shaking off the blankets and getting out of bed. “It’s stopped hurting. I’m… well now?”
Claudia tottered and sat down on the bed, clearly exhausted. “You need to get back to the Warehouse as soon as possible,” she croaked. “Caretakers can’t be away, not for the first five years. It’s going to hurt like hell until you get there.” She glanced at Helena. “Take care of her. I need to go calm down the Warehouse.” She pressed a button on her Farnsworth, and far away, Adelaide must have pulled the switch, for a moment later Nate was blinking at her, confused.
Helena kissed him swiftly. “We need to get Myka home, fast,” she whispered.
“The Warehouse has two Caretakers now.”
Chapter 5: Epilogue - Plus One
The physical and psychological agony of the Caretaker separated from her Warehouse was horrible to witness. Helena suspected that if Claudia hadn’t been back at the Warehouse holding down the other half, Myka might not survive it.
On the Concorde, Pete finally managed to administer enough painkillers that Myka stopped screaming. Helena left the two of them curled up together, Pete murmuring comforting words into Myka’s hair as she clutched him and whimpered. It would be a long flight home.
She went and found Nate and put her arms around him, feeling unexpectedly off-balance in spite of the fact that there was finally a resolution to this whole ordeal.
“You owe me a rather long explanation,” Nate told her, but she could see in his eyes that he forgave her for it.
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“1895, apparently?” He sighed. “What on earth are you mixed up with, Emily? Or should I call you Helena?”
“Doesn’t matter what you call me,” she said, taking his hand. They sat down together and she laid her head on his shoulder.
“You’re a time traveler, aren’t you? I wouldn’t have believed you, if you’d told me.”
She nodded. “I was born in 1866.”
“And you’re really H.G. Wells? The H.G. Wells?”
She laughed. “Well, no, not the author. My brother used my name for his novels. He was the artistic genius; I was the scientific genius.”
“And this Warehouse? You used to work there?”
Helena grimaced. “It’s complicated.”
“But you’ve been reinstated.”
Nate’s brow furrowed. “Is it always that… exciting?”
She shrugged. “Usually.”
“It sounds dangerous.”
He was right. Too dangerous, really, and yet she desperately wanted to go back.
He took her hand in his and threaded their fingers together. “Tell me about Myka.”
Helena bit her lip. She wasn’t sure she could explain.
“You were willing to die for her.” Nate was avoiding her eyes; he was nervous, she realized. “Are you in love with her?”
She swallowed. “I don’t know,” she said after a long silence. “I was, once. I think I still am.”
“She must be someone pretty special.”
Helena was on the verge of tears. She’d never in her life thought she’d get married, but once she had she’d never thought that old loves would interfere. She didn’t know what to do.
Nate squeezed her hand. “We’ll figure something out. Together.”
Startled, her eyes flew up to meet his. He leaned in to kiss her, and relief washed through her.
“Claudia and I talked a little, while you and Adelaide were building the time machine. The Warehouse likes Adelaide, apparently – whatever that means.”
Helena caught her breath.
“Claudia wants you back as an Agent. And she said she’s willing to train Adelaide. If it’s anything like it was today, it would be right up her alley.” He paused. “I didn’t say yes, mind you, but I said we’d talk about it.”
Helena had had enough tears to last a lifetime, but she couldn’t stop them coming now. She’d never thought she’d be offered everything she’d ever wanted. But – “And Myka?”
“I told you, we’ll figure out something. The three of us.” He pulled her close. “I’m not willing to lose you, but I’m also not willing to see you unhappy. We’ll make it work.”
Helena could only answer this with a kiss.
H.G. Wells sat beside her husband on a Concorde in 2013, hurtling across the ocean to take her love from 1895 home. As soon as she got back to the Warehouse, she would destroy her time machines. With these people at her side, she was perfectly content to time travel into the future one day at a time.