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In Any Version of Reality

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Not to be overdramatic, but Professor Flynn Carsen was having what was probably the worst day in his entire life.

 

He honestly didn’t even know why he had agreed to go on this field expedition. There had been that ridiculous bet, and something about true professors having real-life experience, the rumor about a 6,000 year old undiscovered Trypillian temple, and that annoying tiny voice in his mind that told him to go, to see the world, to have an adventure for once in his life.

 

He really hated that little voice.

 

Granted, he had been told about the risk of violence along the border, but he was just trying to find the most architecturally relevant dig site, as well as understand why ancient stones with gothic markings would be in this area when it was clearly incongruous with the established cultural timeline, and surely any decent sort of person would understand the historical significance of what he was trying to do.

 

As he ran for his life from soldiers shooting not only at him, but also outrageously close to the artifacts they had found, Flynn thought that perhaps these were not decent people.

 

Any other thought he might have had was interrupted as a woman appeared almost out of thin air (to actually just appear like that was clearly impossible, but he could have sworn she hadn’t been there before) and clotheslined her arm straight into his neck.

 

As the combined sudden application of force to his windpipe and his back while hitting the ground caused a temporary paralysis of his diaphragm (most people would just say he got the wind knocked out of him, but that was not nearly as precise), he noticed several things about this mystery woman who had decidedly not just appeared out of nowhere. First, she was beautiful. Terrifyingly beautiful, and tall, and fit, and definitely lightyears out of his league. Second, she was somehow not afraid of the soldiers who had caught up and were shouting things like “Stop or I shoot!”. Third, she was calling his name in a voice of almost familiar concern.

 

“Flynn? Flynn! Where are we?” She hauled him upright as he stared, then made a confused face at him. “What happened to your clothes?”

 

The soldiers started herding them over to the small tent Flynn had been using as a base of operations while the woman kept asking him questions like he knew what was was going on.

 

“Who is this guy?” She whispered as they walked.

 

Finally recovering his breath, Flynn rubbed his windpipe and managed to ask, “Who are you?”

 

The look she gave him was part annoyed, part confused, and a tiny bit betrayed. Flynn suddenly felt very guilty. He didn’t mean to annoy or confuse her (although those tended to be the standard reactions people had to most things he said), and there was a small stab in his chest at the thought that he had hurt her.

 

After being shoved summarily into a camping chair, Flynn realized that he really did not like this scary soldier guy. Especially since he tended to emphasize his questions with pointed gun waving.

 

“You are in charge?” He growled, with more of the aggressive gun-pointing.

 

“I am Professor Carsen, and I am in charge.” He agreed, and then suddenly thought that might not be his best move. He did want to impress the annoyed woman with the flawless skin, but he also didn’t want to die. “Not really. I-I'm... I'm in charge of the dig. I have a lot of responsibility. I'm more of a supervisor kind of slash-”

 

The army guy glared and interrupted. “Professor of what?”

 

Glad there was something he could answer truthfully, he leapt into the explanation. “That is a fascinating story. I actually hold the record in PHDs. More of a student of learning than any kind of discipline or doctrine, but I like to think of myself as more of a-”

 

And there was the terrifying gun-waving again, so he decided to take the most oft-given advice. “I'm gonna s-stop talking.”

 

“This area is closed to all foreigners while the border dispute is resolved. Give me your papers!”

 

As he handed over his passport, Flynn thought that he should just clarify something before the soldier drew any more incorrect conclusions. “We're not together, by the way. I-”

 

He was about to add something about just meeting her, or maybe he had run into her before (hopefully not literally) and had forgotten her name, although the tiny adventure voice was making comments about how this woman was clearly unforgettable, when the soldier barked, “Shut up!”

 

Once the militia had backed off a bit, the women turned to him with an outraged glare. “A professor? Are you kidding me?”

 

He tried to explain, “I'm not even supposed to be here. I never leave the university.”

 

“A professor?!

 

“They didn't think I would. It was kind of a bet. You are not... they said, ‘you won't go into the field and get your hands dirty, Flynn.’ I said, ‘I'll do it.’ They said, ‘you have allergies, and you won't.’ "

 

There was a considerable amount left to his story, which was quickly sidelined when the soldier came running up, furious.

 

“NATO! Western spy!”

 

The blonde woman sighed heavily. “Oh, crap.”

 

“Get up!” The soldier yelled, grabbing her roughly by the arm and yanking her down the trail. “You come with me.”

 

Wherever they were taking her, Flynn estimated a high likelihood that it was not pleasant. That stupid tiny voice started madly shouting at him to do something for once. “Uh, hey,” he squeaked, then winced at how pathetic that sounded.

 

The soldier wasn’t impressed either. “Shut up!”

 

By now the adventure voice was full on bellowing in alarm, and somehow managed to take over his mouth. “Let... let her... Uh... Let her go! I said, ‘let her go!’"

 

His attempt at bravery earned him a blow to the gut, and while he fell to the ground attempting to get his breath back for the second time within an hour, the woman grabbed the hand that was on her shoulder and twisted savagely. As the soldier dropped, she rushed over and grabbed his jacket.

 

Flynn, wake up! Listen to me, you are not a professor!” She told him in a tone that brooked no argument. Before she could continue, a yell came from their left as a soldier flipped through the air and crashed into some boxes.

 

Suddenly, a mysterious man appeared and took down the rest of the soldiers like a scene from an action movie. Flynn gaped as the man fearlessly grappled with the guns, throwing them aside in contempt and basically living out the dreams Flynn had sometimes about perhaps being a crime-fighting archeology professor before laughing at how ridiculous that sounded.

 

Finally getting his voice back, Flynn stuttered as the ninja guy walked up, “Uh, that... who... how did... who are you?”

 

He took off the scarf covering his face and answered in a low, rasping voice, “I'm the Librarian.”

 

The adventure voice marveled at how cool he sounded.

 

Flynn snorted. A librarian who fought people? C’mon. “Librarian? More like… ‘barbarian.’" He watched the woman from the corner of his eye to see if she appreciated his humor.

 

She didn’t really get the chance, as the Barbarian guy suddenly fixed his gaze on her face. “Eve.” He breathed in a stunned voice, then kissed her full on the mouth.

 

(Eve! Of course her name was Eve. He knew that.)


(Didn’t he?)