‘I love you,’
‘I know,’ Myka replied softly and tried to relax as the seat slowly tilted backwards.
Helena’s hands shook as she adjusted the band resting across Myka’s forehead.
‘It will be okay,’ Myka reassured her.
‘Shouldn’t I be the one saying that?’ Helena asked with a small, nervous laugh. She exhaled with a puff of her cheeks, ‘You ready?’
‘As I’ll ever be …’
They kissed gently, self-consciously because the others were standing to the side.
It had taken Helena just over a day to make the necessary repairs and adjustments to her – as she insisted people remembered to call it – temporal consciousness transfer engine. A job that would have been completed quicker if Doctor Calder hadn’t insisted on regular breaks – although to be fair, it would have been a lot slower if Claudia hadn’t been on hand to help out. Pete had initially made demands that he go as well but had backed down when reminded that it would take more time than they perhaps had to repair and integrate the new elements to the other chair. And so Myka was going alone. The mind of Eliza Trenchman awaited her. In Helena’s words, Mrs Trenchman was the, bordering on senile, Warehouse Twelve equivalent of Leena – just without the B&B or youthfulness. Mrs Trenchman attended to the day to day needs of the Warehouse Agents but, unlike Leena, she was practically ignored. Only Helena and Caturanga knew and appreciated her true worth.
‘You’ll fit in just fine,’ Helena had told her, a look of nostalgia flashing across her face as she thought of the woman, ‘If you seem quirky, they’ll just think you’re having one of your days.’
Myka had nodded but then queried, ‘And how is Mrs Trenchman going to find out who you had … relations with?’
Helena had smiled fiendishly, ‘I’ll tell her – I had a lot of fun trying to scandalise the poor woman. If, as I recall, I hadn’t been acquainted with a man for a while, I would have made a point of sharing the details …’
‘That doesn’t sound very … Victorian …’ Myka had sighed – imagining being stuck in the body of a fifty-something widow while HG shared details of her sexual escapades.
‘Hey,’ Pete had laughed, ‘That’s the best case scenario!’
‘Why? What’s the worst?’
He had sniggered, ‘Well, if you get there before … you know …’ his eyebrows had danced wildly, ‘… then Mrs Trenchman is gonna have to ensure that HG gets her groove on.’
Helena ran her finger down Myka’s cheek, ‘Come back to me?’
Helena disappeared from view and a moment later the dais, on which the two chairs were fixed, started to slowly spin and Myka closed her eyes.
She opened her eyes to find Helena staring at her. Her eyes were dark eyes unflinching. ‘I asked – what are you doing here?’
Myka swallowed, her eyes dropping to the revolver pointing at her chest from less than three feet away. ‘Helena … I … um …’
A perfect eyebrow arched with apparent distaste, ‘You’re an American,’
Myka felt her breath stall in her throat, ‘I’m American?’ she croaked.
Helena frowned as she heard Myka mumble.
‘That’s new, they didn’t talk before.’ Clauda said with surprise.
‘It might be a side effect of new materials …’ Helena explained and stopped when Myka mumbled again.
‘What did she say?’ Claudia asked.
‘I think she said she was American …’ Helena responded with confusion and spun back to her machine, eyes and fingers flicking over the device. ‘But that’s not possible …’
‘Is something wrong, Agent Wells?’ Mrs Frederic queried with a raised eyebrow, stepping forward.
‘Myka is in the wrong body but I … all my calculations were …’ she spun, hands on head, staring between Myka and the machine.
‘Maybe Mrs Trenchman wasn’t at the Warehouse so she’s jumped into the nearest – ’ Claudia suggested but HG cut her off.
‘No! The machine seeks out the person on that day, at that time … not the location. If Mrs Trenchman isn’t at the Warehouse then Myka should still be in her – wherever she is.’
‘But she’s not!’ Pete half cried.
‘No, she’s – ’ HG stopped suddenly, head lifting, ‘Do you smell that?’
Mrs Frederic nodded, ‘Apples,’ She clasped her hands in front of her and pursed her lips as her eyebrows dropped into a frown, ‘It appears that, for some reason, the Warehouse has diverted Agent Berring’s consciousness into someone else.’
‘Is that even possible?’ Claudia asked, looking pale.
Mrs Frederic lifted her shoulders and sighed, ‘Endless wonder …’ She turned her attention fully on Helena, ‘Myka in the right time though?’
‘Yes – it’s the second of my five missing days Sunday the sixteenth.’
‘Then I suggest we begin with finding out who Myka is currently inhabiting,’ she announced, ‘You said that your missing days had something to do with the Warehouse … I think we need to find out more.’
Myka tried to focus. Tried to catch her breath. Tried to do anything but think about how damn sexy HG looked in a man’s shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows and a pair of dark trousers and braces. Her hair was tied back in a an elaborate twist but parts had come loose and hung like black ribbons around her younger-looking face.
‘You’re staring,’ HG commented, her anger giving away partly to humour even though the gun remained fixed on her.
The voice came from the doorway and Myka turned. He was a friendly looking man of Asian-Indian decent with searching, intelligent eyes.
‘Put that gun down immediately!’
‘Sir,’ she replied with more respect than Myka had ever heard her have for anyone. She lowered the gun.
‘Is this how you introduce yourself to our guests?’ he demanded but there was little anger in his voice.
‘I wasn’t aware that guests went around unaccompanied, sir,’
He considered and quickly dismissed her comment as he directed between HG and Myka, ‘Helena Wells, this is Alma Moore …’ A dark-skinned woman appeared behind him and he stepped out of her way to allow her to enter the office, adding, ‘And this is Miss Dominque Frederic, Miss Moore’s mentor and companion.’
Myka turned to the newcomer, her eyes widening as she studied the young woman who bore a startling resemblance to Mrs Frederic – or at least, what Myka imagined she would have looked like in her mid-twenties. Dominque turned distrustful eyes on HG as she moved to stand protectively beside Myka – Alma Moore.
‘Are you at least going to apologise for pointing a firearm at us?’ Dominque demanded, her voice rich and warm like Mrs Frederic’s.
HG pursed her lips, ‘I believed your companion to be an intruder, I did nothing wrong.’
‘All the same!’ Dominque spluttered.
‘It’s okay,’ Myka replied, ‘No harm done,’
Dominque’s eyebrow lifted in a very familiar way and she harrumphed and walked back to talk quietly with Caturanga.
Myka looked around the room and spotted a small mirror on a bookshelf. Trying to seem nonchalant, she strolled over and ran her finger along the spines of the books, as if reading the titles.
‘I am sorry, of course …’
She jumped at the purring voice and the warm air that stirred her hair. She turned and found herself looking into dark eyes that made her heart pound with the all too familiar look they had in them. She smiled and moved sideways so she could look in the mirror – well, that explained HG’s interest. A stunning blonde stared back at her. Her eyes were cobalt blue, deep and stunning. Her features were all high cheek bones and full lips. She was in her early twenties with a kind and innocent face.
‘Would you like a tour of the Warehouse?’ HG asked, leaning forward with hands clasped behind her back in a masculine way that she somehow managed to make look feminine.
‘We’ve had the tour!’ Domique called.
‘Ah, but I can offer an Agent’s perspective,’ HG responded with a disarming smile.
Domique lowered her gaze slightly and Myka could only imagine that, had she been wearing glasses, she would have been peering over them. Her narrowed eyes focused firstly on HG and then Myka. Eventually she waved, dismissing them.
HG turned and held her arm out, crooked at the elbow, ‘Shall we?’
Myka kept her hands by her sides, ‘After you …’
A lazy smile creased her lips and then HG led her to the door she had most likely just come through. The room beyond was furnished as a living room of sorts. A small kitchen area was in one corner and three leather sofas were dotted around the room. A small table in front of each one. ‘This is where the Agents relax … when we can.’ HG told her and strolled through the room.
‘I’m sorry that I surprised you,’ Myka said carefully.
‘I regret that my instant reaction to seeing a beautiful stranger in Caturanga’s office was to draw my weapon.’
‘Your job is to protect the Warehouse – there’s nothing wrong with that,’ Myka responded quickly, side-stepping the comment.
HG gave a quick nod, ‘Exactly!’ She led them to a door on the other side of the room and they stepped through into a huge warehouse, ‘This is Section One,’ she announced as they descended a set of metal stairs, ‘There are eight sections in all …’ she paused at the bottom and waited for Myka to catch up. She watched with amusement as she struggled to get down the stairs without tripping on the hem of her skirt.
‘I can see why you wear those …’ Myka commented, waving at HG’s trousers.
‘Perhaps you could lend me a pair,’
HG laughed loudly, ‘I don’t believe your companion would approve.’
‘No, probably not,’ Myka sighed.
HG led her around the section, pointing out Artifacts and telling stories about how they had been retrieved. It was quickly becoming apparent that she was working hard to try and impress her. Myka listened attentively, smiling and nodding.
‘You know, you really are quite charming,’ HG told her as they stepped through into Section Two.
Myka seized on the opportunity, ‘Am I not what you were expecting?’
HG closed the door behind them, ‘I didn’t know what to expect,’ she admitted, ‘Mysterious guests from across the Atlantic. Guests of the Regents, no less.’
Myka felt her stomach roll, how on Earth was she going to pull this off? She had no idea about the person she was in or what she was doing here. She was in trouble – two long days of trouble. She looked up, Helena was watching her intently and her stomach rolled for an entirely different reason. Oh – she was in big trouble.
Claudia stared at the index card in her hand. It was creased at the edges and yellowed with age. She read the words again, mouth moving but no sounds coming out.
‘Did you find something?’
She yelped, dropping the card on the floor. Mrs Frederic watched her calmly as she scrabbled to pick it up. Claudia slowly handed Mrs Frederic the card. Dark eyes studied it, ‘You’re sure about this?’
Claudia nodded and lifted a ledger, ‘This is Caturanga’s diary for that year, she is one of two visitors to the Warehouse during those five days. The other was – ’
‘Of less importance,’ Mrs Frederic replied flatly and read the card again.
‘But we don’t know which of the two Myka has jumped into.’
Mrs Frederic’s eyes lifted, ‘I believe we do … and this is her.’
Claudia took the card back, ‘Do we tell HG?’
‘She has no memory of the five days when this … incident … occurred.’
‘Incident?’ Claudia half cried, ‘She died, Mrs F, Alma Moore was killed! Myka is in her body and might still be in her body when …’ she couldn’t bring herself to say it.
‘I know,’ Mrs Frederic stated, her voice deep with emotion, ‘I just don’t know what we can do about it.’
‘Do you really think that the Warehouse did this? That it sent Myka to the wrong body?’
‘Or the right body …’ Mrs Frederic replied cryptically.
Helena continued the tour for another hour before suggesting that they head back. On the way back up the stairs, Myka took HG’s arm. She told herself it was to save her from falling but they’re arms were still linked as HG pushed the door open to the lounge area and she waved Myka through.
‘Well, about bloody time!’
He was a large man with a ruddy, unpleasant face. His eyes glinted as he studied first Myka and then HG. He pointed at HG, ‘You the female agent here, aint ya?’ He was sitting on one of the sofa’s, thick legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankles.
‘I am,’ she replied coldly as she closed the door. She noticed that Caturanga had just entered from his office and she nodded for Myka to go and stand with him. She turned to the newcomer, ‘And you are?’
‘Inspector Wallace of Scotland Yard …’ he announced brashly and waved at a young, slimmer man who had stood as they entered, ‘He’s Wolcott.’
The younger man nodded, ‘Good afternoon, Miss Wells,’ he approached her, hand out, ‘David Wolcott, it’s a pleasure.’
She took his hand, shaking it briefly, ‘You’re the new recruits?’
‘Recruits?’ Wallace sneered and jabbed his thumb at Wolcott, ‘He might be but I aint no green recruit … I know a couple of the geezers that work here. Pitcher and Jones – good men! We used to serve together and then was at the Yard. They put my name forward so I thought I’d come check it out …’ he looked her up and down, ‘… they said you would be worth the trip.’
HG’s eyes narrowed and her head lifted but she didn’t reply.
‘So?’ he asked, sarcasm heavy in his voice, ‘What you waiting for? I been here twenty minutes.’
She stared at him in silence for a moment before asking, ‘And you have been waiting for what, pray tell?’
‘Tea!’ he laughed incredulously, ‘Why have a little thing like you around if it aint to make tea for the men!’
Myka tensed, her face reddening with anger. A hand touched her arm and she looked over. Caturanga was slowly shaking his head, his expression grim.
Wolcott rounded on Wallace, ‘I think, sir, you should make your own tea.’
‘Piss off, sonny, and mind your own business.’
Wolcott visibly trembled with anger as he stepped quickly to the slouched policeman, ‘Do not swear in front of a lady, sir!’
‘Lady?’ he snorted and tilted his head to look round him, is eyes moving up and down HG, ‘No lady would dress like that …’ he sneered, ‘… damn, even a whore dresses better.’
Wolcott’s fists clenched, ‘Stand up!’
Wallace looked up at him, harsh amusement curling his lips, ‘Sit down, you’ll get yourself hurt.’
‘Yes,’ HG said quietly as she crossed the room to the kitchen area, ‘Sit down, Woolly, please.’
He stared at her but then slowly stepped back to his seat. He sat on the edge, arms resting on his thighs.
Myka was about to step forward but Caturanga’s fingers tightened on her upper arm.
‘Miss,’ he whispered, ‘this is how the Agents are …’
She glared at him but his attention was fixed on HG as she diligently made a pot of tea and then poured it into a metal cup.
Wallace tilted his head back as he watched her return, ‘Quicker next time, yeah?’ he sneered, holding his hand out for the cup as she moved around the sofa. She held the cup out and then promptly dropped the mug and scalding liquid into his lap. He screamed in pain and anger and jumped up. HG’s face was a mask of fury as she grabbed a handful of his hair and kicked at the back of his knee. His leg gave way and she smashed his head off the table, leaving him to crumple in a heap on the floor. Wolcott appeared beside her, gripping her sides and pulling her back. She grimaced and spun out of his grip, glaring at him. He lifted his hands defensively and she turned, her hand going to her ribs as she stormed from the room.
Myka went to go after her but Caturanga stopped her with a soft, ‘Just a moment, please …’ He rushed back into his office and returned a few moments later with a velvet box, ‘She’ll need this …’
Myka frowned at him but took the box and followed HG.
She found her sitting on the metal stairs. She had her shirt open and was slowly unwrapping a strip of material from around her ribs. Myka gasped at the deep purple bruising that spread across her right side. HG looked up sharply, anger flashing through her dark eyes.
‘I don’t need or want any help,’ HG told her coldly.
Myka sat on the step beside her and held out the box that Caturanga had given her. With a sigh, she took it and flipped it open.
‘A medal?’ Myka asked, surprised by the silver disc with an ornate, oak leaf clasp across the yellow bordered, light blue ribbon.
HG hissed as she pressed the metal to her side. She closed her eyes, lips pulled back in a grimace. Slowly, a warm light expanded from beneath her fingers and her features gradually relaxed. Sighing heavily, she handed the medal and the box back to Myka and slowly started to wrap her ribs again.
Myka studied the medal with fascination, flipping it over in her hand and reading the name etched onto the back, ‘Seacole …’ she whispered.
‘Mary Seacole,’ HG announced as she buttoned her shirt and sighed angrily, ‘History has all but forgotten her already …’ She seemed to realise she had spoken out loud and held her hand our for the box, ‘It’s a curiosity,’ he explained, ‘It can be used once a day to alleviate pain for a few hours.’
Myka swallowed and nodded at HG’s side, ‘How did you?’
‘A drunken sailor who didn’t want to give up his never-empty-rum-flask,’ she explained as she stood up and held her hand out for Myka.
Myka helped her to her feet, ‘Why are you here if you’re injured?’
HG laughed harshly, ‘I can’t take an hour or two off every time I get a little bruise,’
‘That’s more than just a little bruise! You shouldn’t even be here!’
‘Things must be very different where you come from,’ HG laughed softly, ‘This is England, darling, we might have a woman on the throne but I have to be more resilient than every man here …’ she pointed at the offices, ‘… just to be considered barely equal.’
Myka’s lip twisted with annoyance but there was no arguing the truth of it.
‘Thankfully, Caturanga allows me certain privileges,’ she added, nodding at the box and the medal contained within.
‘And what of …’ Myka looked up the stairs, ‘… what just happened? Will you be in trouble?’
HG bit her bottom lip and started back up the stairs, ‘Let us find out.’
Only Caturanga and Wolcott were in the room where they returned. Caturanga took the medal box with a quiet, ‘Thank you, Miss Moore.’
HG looked around, eyebrows raised in question.
‘Upon regaining consciousness,’ Caturanga explained, ‘Inspector Wallace decided that he prefers the work at Scotland Yard and won’t be joining us … we will of course be wiping the memories of his visit here.’ He turned to Wolcott, ‘I believe that Mister Wolcott, here, will make an excellent Warehouse apprentice.’ He nodded at them and then focused on HG, ‘I’d like to speak to you, please? I shall make us some tea.’
She nodded at him and then shook Wolcott’s hand, ‘Congratulations, Woolly,’
‘It’s Wolcott, Agent Wells,’
She smiled warmly at him, 'Woolly suits you … and it’s Helena, or HG preferably.’
Claudia had searched the Warehouse Twelve archives but had found nothing to add to what little they knew. Alma Moore visited the Warehouse from America and died there on Tuesday the eighteenth of February. Myka’s trip to the past would end the same day – one way or another.
They headed back to the HG Wells section to find HG sitting on the steps, half slumped against Artie, his arm around her shoulders. It was a very different scene from the one Claudia had come upon the first time they had used HG’s time machine – when she had discovered Artie with his Tesla pointing at HG’s head. Vanessa was sitting the other side of her, slowly unravelling a blood pressure cuff from her arm. Helena briefly lifted pained eyes to Mrs Frederic before she lowered them again, grimacing as she pressed a hand to her head.
Claudia stepped closer to Mrs Frederic, ‘She’s tough … but look at her, she can’t take much more. If she … you know … I won’t be able to do anything if something goes wrong with …’ she waved uselessly at the machine and then at Helena, ‘I’m not her.’
‘Indeed,’ Mrs Fredric agreed and reached into her every present purse. She retrieved a small notebook and pencil. A quick scribble and she tore the paper out, handing it to Claudia. ‘Go and retrieve this item, please, Miss Donovan.’
‘Will it help her?’
Mrs Frederic looked over her glasses, ‘Would I be asking you to get it for some other reason?’
Claudia gave a mock salute and hurried off as fast as she was able.
Vanessa looked up, her eyes concerned, ‘Another changed memory …’ she sighed and gently squeezed Helena’s shoulder.
‘Can you tell us what happened?’ Mrs Frederic asked.
Helena shook her head, instantly regretted it and held her head in her hands, ‘Darkness …’ she mumbled, ‘… just hot, crushing darkness …’
Artie adjusted his glasses, ‘I think that it must be a change in the period that HG is missing the memories for … her mind knows that there has been a change but with no original memory to latch onto …’ he shrugged, waving his hand, ‘… but its just a guess.’
‘It makes sense,’ Helena groaned and lifted her eyes to Mrs Frederic, tears glistened on her eyelashes, ‘Nikolas is probably in the same timespan as Myka,’
‘Yes,’ Mrs Frederic agreed with her usual calm – reveal-nothing – demeanour, ‘and you know that she is strong, Helena, she will be okay. The changes you have made, they’ll protect her. She’ll come back to you.’ She turned as Claudia hobbled up to her, ‘Thank you,’ she nodded and turned back to Helena, holding out a velvet box.
Caturanga had sent Wolcott home for the day with the order to return ‘bright and early’ the following day. He had then beckoned Helena to his office, leaving Myka to pace aimlessly around the lounge area. Dominque appeared and poured them both tea from the pot that had been made. Sitting opposite each other, Myka sipped her tea and tried not to act like herself – who she was supposed to act like, however, she still had no clue. She felt Dominque studying her and tried not to react.
‘How are you feeling?’ Dominque asked after several minutes of silence.
‘I’m fine, thank you,’ Myka smiled in reply.
‘It’s been just over a day, don’t rush back into being your old self … you need to take it easy … you need time to recover …’
‘I guess …’ Myka responded.
‘You guess?’ Dominque laughed kindly, ‘You are connected to the Source now … that is both your family privilege and your life long commitment. It must feel … strangely wonderful, no?’
Myka sipped her tea, stalling. She kept her eyes down, hoping that the other woman would forget her line of questioning. When she thought it safe enough, she looked up. Dominque had her eyes closed, fingers pressed to her forehead. ‘Are you okay?’ Myka asked.
Suddenly Dominque called out, ‘Jaidev!’ even as the door to Caturanga’s office was thrown open and he and HG rushed through.
‘We have to get you both out of here!’ he stopped then, realising she had called his name, ‘You’ve had a feeling?’ He dropped to his knees in front of her, eyes concerned.
She nodded, ‘And you?’
‘We just received word that one of the Regents is missing … there’s a chance they know that the Alma is here.’
‘The Alma?’ HG asked, taking a step forward, ‘So Alma isn’t her given name?’
Caturanga glanced up, ‘Curious about everything, as ever, Miss Wells.’
She shrugged, unrepentant, ‘I find safety in knowledge.’
Dominque turned to her, her tone indulgent, as if speaking to a child, ‘Alma is as much title as name, her mother was Alma and all of her maternal line before her.’
‘And the Alma is ..?’ HG queried.
Caturanga lifted his hand and shook his head, ‘That knowledge you will have to do without.’ HG crossed her arms but Caturanga just looked at her like a patient father, ‘Not now, HG.’
Myka stood, frowning at Dominique who pressed her fingers to her head again – she looked like Pete when he got a vibe. She turned to Caturanga, ‘So? I’m in danger?’
‘No, my dear, not at all,’ Caturanga responded.
Dominique laughed, ‘Good grief, Jaidev, you are the worst liar,’ she turned to Myka and then to HG, ‘Alma’s visit here was in secret ... there are those who would wish to know her identity and we must protect her from them.’
‘And you knew about this before we came in?’ HG asked and when Dominque nodded she turned to Caturanga, eyebrows raised.
‘Dominque has sensations, she sensed that something was wrong,’ he explained and stood, turning to HG, ‘You need to get out of here and take Alma to safety. I know you can protect her and keep her safe. Mrs Jones’ house will –’
Helena shook her head, ‘Mrs Jones’ is a Warehouse lodgings … if they have a Regent, they might find out about it … whoever they are.’ Her tone made it clear that she would be expecting a full explanation at some point, ‘I know somewhere safe, they won’t find us.’
‘Good,’ Caturanga nodded but when HG moved for the door he took her hand and pulled her back. He gently held her upper arms and fixed her with his kind eyes, ‘You must use the emergency passageway.’
‘No!’ she gasped fearfully.
Myka was stunned by her tone and even more shocked to look at her and see the raw terror on HG’s face.
‘We don’t have a choice,’ Caturanga told her as she turned out of his grip, ‘They might have already located the Warehouse and maybe waiting outside. The emergency exit is the only option.’
HG was shaking her head, ‘We’ll wear disguises! Or … or … the thimble! It fooled old-Jack, we can –’
‘Helena!’ his was firm, his eyes sharp, ‘Go and get a flashlight. There isn’t time to argue. You can do this, you know you can.’
She shook her head, eyes wide and tearful, ‘Please ... don’t make me ...’
Myka could feel her heart breaking at the sight of HG’s fear but there was nothing she could do – she didn’t even know what had got her so scared.
‘Helena!’ he said sharply, ‘Alma is in danger – I can’t tell you why but you have to trust me. We have to keep her safe. The Warehouse depends upon it.’
She stared at him, eyes pleading. Eventually she heaved a breath and nodded, turning to the door for his office.
Myka turned to Caturanga who gave a small smiled and squeezed her shoulder, ‘She’ll be okay,’ he said softly.
HG returned a few moments later with an old fashioned – or, Myka guessed, actually modern – flashlight.
‘We’ll come with you as far as the gate,’ Caturanga told her and then led the way into the Warehouse.
They didn’t speak again until they had scurried through the stacks of Section Two to a small door set into a shadowed corner. Caturanga unlocked it and they stepped into the small, low ceiling room beyond. Caturanga moved quickly to the corner and unlocked a grate, half the size of a normal door. He turned back to HG who flicked on the flashlight and dropped into a crouch. She shone the light through and as Myka looked down she saw beads of sweat speckling her brow.
‘I’ll send word as soon we’re safe,’ HG told Caturanga and then to Myka, her voice trembling slightly, ‘Stay close to me,’
Myka nodded and then turned as Dominque touched her shoulder, ‘Be safe.’
Myka smiled at her and nodded before she dropped into a crouch and followed HG through the hole. At the other side was a narrow space leading to an even narrower tunnel. The top of the tunnel was just above their heads and would be barely wide enough to squeeze through, even if they turned sideways.
‘Oh …’ Myka whispered and reached for HG’s hand, suddenly remembering her fearful reaction to the suggestion of the MRI.
Helena glanced down at her fingers and closed her fist, holding her hand tightly. Myka could feel how sweaty her hand was and her arm trembled.
‘You don’t like tight spaces?’ Myka asked stupidly and could have slapped herself.
HG lifted dark eyes to hers, ‘Is it that obvious?’
‘Sorry …’ Myka whispered.
HG shook her head and managed a small, humourless laugh, ‘Come on – let’s get this over with.’
They squeezed into the passageway and their backs and chests rubbed uncomfortably along the wall as they followed the narrow beam of light. Myka kept close to HG, listening intently to her rapid breathing. She wanted to say something but had no idea what – she also had the distinct impression that HG was concentrating and she didn’t want to disturb her.
It was a long and horrible journey through the tunnel and Myka could sense HG getting more and more agitated with every passing moment. Myka started to wonder if HG was on the verge of panic – what the hell would she do if the other woman flipped out completely? What the hell would she do if HG suddenly panicked? Those thoughts made the tunnel seem narrower and she had to fight to keep her own breathing steady.
Finally, thankfully, HG stumbled forward into a wide space. She bent forward, hands on her thighs, sucking in lungful’s of air. After a few moments she straightened and wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. She was dirty, sweating and trembling as she asked, ‘You okay?’
‘I’m fine ...’ Myka smiled at her and when HG was about to turn away, she gently grabbed her arm, ‘Are you okay?’
A small, nonchalant shrug and she turned, looking around the warehouse that they found themselves in. HG nodded in the direction of the door, ‘This way.’
Myka followed HG through the abandoned warehouse, coming out into a darkened courtyard. It was early evening as they walked through the courtyard and out into the city beyond. Myka tried not to look around in complete awe as they moved onto the Victorian street. It was like walking onto a film set. Carriages rumbled past, horses clip-clopping along. Men and women bustled past, jackets and scarves pulled tight against the cool evening air. Myka had been fascinated to find herself in the 1960s – but that now paled in comparison.
‘Is London so different to … New York? Boston?’ HG was asking, ‘Wherever you’re from?’
‘Colorado Springs …’ Myka replied automatically.
‘Colorado?’ HG asked as she stepped to the edge of the street and waved down a carriage, ‘You sound more southern,’
‘Oh,’ Myka laughed nervously but was saved from having to say anything further by the hot breath of a horse in her face. She jumped back in surprise, suddenly nostalgic for a NY yellow cab.
HG covered a laugh as she opened the door to the carriage and helped Myka to climb in. She shouted instructions to the driver and jumped in herself, sitting opposite Myka as it pulled off. The carriage rocked side to side and Myka had to brace herself by holding the seat. HG watched her, swaying easily with the movement.
‘Why don’t you like small spaces?’ Myka asked. It was a cheap shot but she needed to distract HG from wondering why she looked so out of place and uncomfortable.
HG narrowed her eyes, ‘Why does it matter?’
Myka shrugged, ‘A tale to pass the time? But I’ll admit, I find you intriguing.’
She snorted a laugh and sat back, crossing her arms over her chest. Myka thought she wasn’t going to answer but after a few moments she took a deep breath and announced flatly, ‘I was buried in a collapsed tunnel.’
Myka’s eyes widened, ‘That’s awful. What happened?’
‘You’re a curious one, aren’t you?’
Myka smiled wryly, ‘I find safety in knowledge.’
HG’s eyebrow flicked up with amusement but the expression quickly faded. She uncrossed her arms, fingers curling over the edge of the seat. ‘I had been with the Warehouse for about a month and most of the other Agents wouldn’t even acknowledge me. I was with two Agents hunting a curiosity in an abandoned mine in Wales. They sent me crawling down a narrow tunnel in search of it …’ she sighed angrily and looked out the window, ‘… I reached a dead end and hadn’t found it but the tunnel was too narrow and I couldn’t turn around. I had to back my way out. I think I must have kicked a support or something because suddenly the tunnel collapsed. I could hear the other Agents laughing at my stupidity. They told me that if I really wanted to be a Warehouse Agent, I’d be able to get myself out … and then they left.’ Her eyes filled with angry tears, ‘I tried .. I really tried … but …’ she cursed under her breath and wiped her eyes with a sneer, ‘… I was in there for hours. Long enough to truly believe that they were going to leave me there …’ she mumbled something under her breath, ‘They came back eventually and dug me out.’
‘Oh, HG,’ Myka sighed and shook her head angrily.
HG shrugged, ‘That’s the worst that happened,’
‘But not the last?’ Myka queried and when HG didn’t answer, she asked, ‘Did you report the Agents who left you there?’
‘No … I had to deal with it myself.’
‘And did you?’
HG lifted her eyes, ‘Yes,’ she replied darkly and it was clear that she wasn’t going to elaborate and Myka was grateful for that.
The rest of the journey was spent in silence with Myla silently fighting the urge to cross the small distance between them and take Helena in her arms. She had often wondered what it had been like for HG in such a male dominated society. She had expected prejudice and discrimination but not outright cruelty. She realised that her view of the past was perhaps more romanticised that she had realised.
Myka was lost in thought when the carriage slowed to a stop and HG jumped up, opening the door before the driver could. He looked at her with an odd look – a mix of disapproval and attraction – Myka couldn’t help but smile at seeing it. How many people, over the years, had become swept up in the wonderful paradox that was Helena Wells?
She turned to the small shop front that HG directed her to and felt herself gasp with surprise. Under the flickering glow of the streetlamps, she stood and stared at the tea room. The front window was dark but the door was open and a buxom woman with red cheeks and a broad smile was waiting for them. She held her hands out, taking HG’s and leant forward to kiss her cheek.
‘It’s so good to see you, darling,’ HG laughed and threw her arms around, enveloping the other woman in a tight hug.
Myka knew who the woman was – Helena had spoken of her fondly. She wanted to run to her, to thank her for being a friend to Helena, for helping her. But she knew to keep her distance and wait to be introduced.
‘Okay, okay,’ Betty was laughing as she fought to extricate herself from HG’s strong arms. She looked over at Myka and gave a respectful nod, ‘Come on in out the cold.’
HG stepped aside and then followed them into the tearoom, closing and locking the door behind them.
‘I saw the carriage pull up and the door open before the driver even had a chance to step down,’ Betty laughed as she led them to a small lounge at the back, ‘I knew who it was right way,’ she looked at HG and then at Myka, ‘Always impatient this one – never one for propriety.’
HG threw her head back and laughed, ‘You love me just the same,’
‘I do,’ Betty nodded and looked at her with such affection that Myka felt a lump form in her throat. ‘Anyways,’ she continued, ‘given this ones lack of manners …’ she stepped towards Myka and held her hand out, ‘I’m Betty … owner of this little establishment.’
Myka took it, smiling, ‘Alma …’ she glanced at HG.
‘First names are best,’ she agreed.
‘Your accent?’ Betty asked, ‘That aint British now, is it?’
Myka shook her head, ‘I’m from America,’
Betty looked impressed, ‘Don’t reckon I’ve met too many Americans before.’
‘I’d appreciate you forgetting you met this one, darling,’ HG commented with a gentle hand on her shoulder.
Betty nodded, ‘You know me, love,’
HG smiled her thanks and dropped herself down at the small table, ‘Are we too late for supper?’
Betty turned, hands on her hips, ‘And what makes you think I’ll be able to feed you at a moment’s notice, young lady?’
HG’s smiled widened, ‘Because you’ve always got something on the go for those who need it …’
She huffed and waved Myka to the other seat, ‘Sit down before you fall down, child,’
Myka did as she was told as Betty huffed at HG again and left. Myka gave a small laugh, ‘She’s lovely.’
HG nodded, turning and stretching her longs legs, crossing them at the ankles. ‘She’s a very dear friend, I’m very lucky.’
Myka studied HG for a moment and remembered the way she had spoken of Alexandra – her first true love. She had described their first visit to this tearoom and the way Alexandra had changed so dramatically. Myka saw that in HG now. Away from the Warehouse, in Betty’s company – who she clearly adored – HG was relaxed and playful. It was a side of HG that Myka knew well, yet here, now, there was a youthful enthusiasm to her that was wonderful and charming.
Supper was a meat stew. Stew was something Myka hadn’t eaten since a child. She remembered that the one time her mother had made it, she had complained through every mouthful until her father had mumbled something and left the table, taking his plate with him. The look on her mother’s face had made her feel ashamed and she had eaten the rest without compliant. But they had never had it again. The stew that Betty served looked even worse than the one her mother had made but she forced herself to try a mouthful, telling herself that the meat was beef. She was surprised and delighted by the taste. It was rich and wonderful and she imagined that Leena, if asked, would be able to create an equally wholesome and homely meal. She also imagined that Leena and Betty would have much to share on the topic of looking after characters such as Helena.
‘Helena Wells!’ Betty berated when she came into the room with a wonderfully smelling loaf of bread.
Myka looked up, she had been so enraptured by her meal that she hadn’t been paying HG any attention. Now she saw that the other woman was smiling guiltily at their host.
‘Those are my best napkins!’
‘My sincerest apologies,’ HG responded with a wry smile, ‘but when inspiration strikes …’ she pressed the tip of her pencil to her tongue and added a quick note to the scribbles she had made on the napkin by her plate – her meal hardly touched. ‘And besides,’ she added, setting the pencil down and picking up her spoon, ‘you would never provide me with your best napkins.’
Betty scowled but her lips curled with humour, ‘I’ll remind you that I have a more distinguished guest than … you!’
HG laughed easily and lifted the spoon to her mouth, staring at Myka and lifting an eyebrow, ‘Indeed we do, Betty,’
Myka lowered her gaze back to her meal as Betty placed the bread board on the table and scuttled off again. After a few moments, Myka said, ‘You’re staring,’
‘Yes, I am,’
‘Isn’t it obvious?’
Myka finally lifted her gaze, ‘No …’ That damn lazy smile made the breath hitch in her throat and she reached for her glass of water.
‘I find you interesting,’ HG announced as she cut them both a slice of bread, adding thoughtfully, ‘Which is interesting in itself because other women do not hold my attention … for long, anyway.’ The last words were spoken more deeply, heavy with suggestion.
Myka decided that now would be a good time to try and act like an early-twenty-something American girl – which she feared was doomed to failure since she wasn’t even know how a twenty-something American acted in her time, let alone this one. ‘Do you find them tiresome?’ Myka asked.
HG leant back with a sigh, ‘Tiresome, yes, very much so … they have heads full of hot air …’ her eyes grew distant for a moment and her lips twitched as if she were talking to herself. Grabbing her pencil she jotted down a few more notes.
Myka smiled as she watched her – so this was what the young HG Wells was like – not much different to her older self, there were only ten or so years in between – but she was a little more impulsive, a little quicker in her movements. Myka felt herself sadden at the inevitability that this youthful exuberance would become tempered by life and loss. But forced those thoughts aside to concentrate instead on the wonder before her as HG alternated between scribbling and eating. Myka finished her own meal and leant forward – she had expected to see diagrams and calculations but instead there were just neatly written words that she couldn’t read from her angle. ‘Are you sketching ideas for a story?’ Myka gasped with excitement as she tried to remember the publication dates for HG’s books.
HG looked up sharply, ‘Stories?’
Myka swallowed, realising her mistake. ‘Or inventions?’ she asked pathetically.
HG slowly set her pen down and sat back, ‘Caturanga told you?’ she asked but it was more of a statement, ‘Damn the man, he’s always trying to get me to tell people that I am the inspiration behind HG Wells, the author,’ she sighed, her eyes shining with affection, ‘For an intelligent man he can be very … naively optimistic. I shall have a word with him … again!’
‘Oh, please don’t,’ Myka said quickly, ‘He’s such a lovely gentleman – let’s just forget I said anything, please?’
HG narrowed her eyes and studied her in silence for several moments before nodding, ‘Very well … but please don’t tell anyone what you know.’
‘I won’t,’ she agreed readily and then added, ‘It must be difficult though, watching someone else take all the credit for your work?’
‘No, not really,’ she replied, head dipping as she returned to her notes.
Had Myka not known the truth, she would have believed her. She was reminded how good HG was at lying. Although, that was unfair. HG was good at hiding how she truly felt. She buried anything that hurt so no one would ever know. It had taken a gunshot and over a year of emotional ups and downs for Myka to learn how to see through HG’s façade. They had spoken of HG’s past, of the darkness that had grown within her. But to see her now – to witness the day to day struggles of an incredible woman trapped in a world that would never see or accept her genius, a world that would never accept HG for who she truly was – it was heart-breaking. Yet at the same time, Myka found herself being all the more impressed and devoted to her. She suddenly felt overwhelmed by emotion. A sense of privilege rolled through as she felt lucky beyond all measure to be able to see this Helena, who would later become her Helena. She was suddenly so grateful for the life they would have, the love that would grow between them.
‘Are you okay?’
Myka blinked, clearing her misted vision. HG was watching her intently, pencil hovering over the napkin. She smiled, ‘I’m fine … just tired.’
HG grunted and scribbled a few more words before folding the napkin and putting it and the pencil into her jacket pocket. She stood, ‘I have to get word to Caturanga that we’re safe … I won’t be long, Betty will look after you.’
‘Okay,’ Myka nodded and was surprised by how small she sounded – it must have come across in Alma’s voice too because HG paused in the doorway and turned.
‘I’ll be back before you miss me …’ she smiled alluringly and then was gone.
Myka slumped back in her chair and sighed, ‘I do miss you,’
Desperate for something to do, she gathered up the plates and went in search of the kitchen. Betty turned and her eyes widened in shock as Myka entered with the plates.
‘What on Earth do you think you’re doing?’ she gasped and hurried over, taking the dishes and cutlery, ‘You don’t need to be cleaning up!’
‘Nonsense,’ Myka laughed and looked around the kitchen, ‘Now – point me in the direction of the sink and we’ll get this washed and put away in no time.’
Betty laughed, ‘Oh, you’re a friend of Helena’s alright …’
After cleaning the dishes – and more besides – they sat in the small parlour and drank tea. Betty asked about America and Myka replied in an elaborate enough way for Betty not to realise how vague she was actually being.
‘So, what happened then?’ Betty asked nonchalantly, pouring them both another cup.
Myka frowned, ‘I’m sorry?’
Betty set the teapot down and handed Myka her cup and saucer, ‘Something’s got Helena all strung out …’
Myka gave a surprised laugh. Since arriving at Betty’s HG seemed more relaxed than she had been all day.
‘That scribbling at supper?’ Betty told her with authority and tapped the side of her head with her spoon, ‘She does that when she wants to stop her mind turning over other matters … I seen her do it, a lot …’
‘This is her safe place …’ Myka sighed with a smile.
‘Guess you could call it that,’ Betty agreed and set the spoon down, ‘Women can be themselves here. Helena needs that – all those pig-ignorant men she works with …’ Betty muttered a cuss under her breath and then a slightly louder apology, ‘… Was it something they done again?’
‘Uh …’ Myka replied, unsure.
‘Ah,’ Betty nodded, ‘It’s cos of her Government work then – no need to say anymore. I’ve gotten good at not asking questions … when she needs it I just feed her, give her somewhere to sleep and patch her up when necessary … my way of doing my bit for Queen and Country.’
‘We’re all doing our but for Queen and Country, madam,’ a deep voice rumbled.
Betty jumped, spiling her tea, ‘Damnit, Helena!’ she cried, ‘You sounded like a bloomin’ Rozzer!’
HG laughed and tested the heat of the cooling stove before leaning back against it, ‘Got something to hide from the police, Betty?’
She glared at her, ‘You know the answer to that, young lady …’ she put her cup down and stood, waving for Myka to stand, ‘Right, you look tired and you’re both filthy … bath and bed for the both of you!’
‘Uh … I … that is …’ Myka said quickly, suddenly remembering the elements of HG’s past that had included the upstairs rooms of this establishment.
Betty stared at her, confused. After a moment she laughed, ‘Oh, no worries, love, I know you and Helena aint romantic with each other … I’ve got separate rooms for you.’
Unfortunately separate rooms didn’t mean separate baths and HG tried to insist that it would make more sense for them to bathe together – to ensure that the water stayed warm for both of them. Myka argued that she didn’t mind a cold bath and hurried to her room, leaving HG to wash first. It was only a few minutes before HG appeared in her doorway, wrapped in a thin, worn towel. Her hair was dark and droplets ran down her shoulders and her chest, rolling down to disappear into the dark crevice between her breasts. Myka cleared her throat and jumped up from the bed. HG stepped backwards, allowing her to pass and called after her, ‘Do you need me to wash your back?’
‘No, thank you!’ Myka yelled back.
Her room was empty when she returned to it and she dried quickly, dressing in the long nightdress that had been left out for her. She used the towel to dry the end of her hair. She hadn’t fully submerged – as HG had clearly done – her hair took hours to dry naturally … but she had no idea how long Alma’s hair took to dry! Shaking her head at her own foolishness, she slipped between the sheets and settled down on the pillow. The bed was lumpy and the pillows thin. She considered that she would never be able to sleep. But she closed her eyes and the next time she opened them, it would be morning.
Pete had carried the wingback chair all the way from the office and set it next to Myka. Helena had looked at him with such a look of gratitude that he had actually blushed. After mumbling something about not always being a clueless jerk, he had wandered off, leaving Helena to slump into the chair. She rested her elbow on the arm and her head against her hand. Her eyes flicked up to the clock on her machine and she sighed. Myka had been gone for just about half a day and they still had so long to go.
Helena sighed and closed her eyes – she wish she knew who Alma Morris was. Mrs Frederic had given her the name – perhaps hoping she would recognise it. She didn’t. They had obviously met but she had no memory of her. More importantly, why had the Warehosue diverted Myka’s consciousness into her. Helena hated not knowing things and when those things that she didn’t know involved Myka – then her anxiety grew exponentially. Her eyes flicked to the clock as another minute rolled past.
‘God, Myka, I miss you so much …’ she sighed and closed her eyes. Exhaustion dragged her into sleep where she would find some, if temporary, release from her worries.
Myka had barely finished dressing when Helena burst into the room. ‘What is it?’ she gasped.
‘What’s what?’ HG asked with a frown.
‘Why did you burst in like that?’
HG looked back at the door and gave a small shrug, ‘Betty’s made breakfast!’
‘Oh,’ Myka sighed, less than excited at the prospect. She very much doubted there would be much fresh fruit on offer. She took a moment to look Helena up and down, ‘Are those the same clothes you were wearing yesterday?’
‘Yes …’ she waved at Myka’s change of dress, ‘… Betty only has dresses available and …’ she directed at her own attire, ‘I’d rather be comfortable than clean.’
As it turned out, ham, eggs, smoked kippers and fresh bread turned out to be a delightful breakfast. Myka couldn’t help but wonder how on earth HG managed to keep her frame so slender with the food she ate. She wondered if the constant whirring of her mind burned off as many calories a day as an Olympic athlete.
After breakfast, supplied with scraps of paper from Betty, HG sequestered herself in a back corner of the tearoom and continued to scribble her notes. Myka eventually talked Betty into letting her help out and the pair of them cleared the breakfast things and then set about getting ready to open up for the day. HG looked up as Myka set a small vase of fresh flowers on her table.
‘Are you going back upstairs when the tearoom opens?’ HG asked.
‘I’ll go mad up there with nothing to do … I’ll stay here and work with Betty.’
‘You most certainly will not!’ HG laughed, ‘Do American’s not understand the concept of hiding?’
Myka put her hands on her hips, ‘Well, if this place you’ve chosen is so well hidden, what do have I to be afraid of?’
HG stared at her, eyes narrowing, ‘This place is a haven for many people, it is safe, secure and … private.’
‘Good,’ Myka grinned.
‘But your accent isn’t exactly … local,’ HG added.
Myka cleared her throat and leant forward over the table, ‘And will you be wanting any tea this fine morning?’ she asked in a more than passable Irish accent.
HG’s eyes widened with surprise but then her gaze slowly drifted downwards. Myka followed her eyes – the way she had leant forward had caused her breasts to swell and lift against the confines of the dress. She stood quickly, pulling the front of her dress a little higher.
‘You’re hired!’ Betty laughed from where she was wiping down the next table, ‘The customers will love ya!’
Myka gave a small courtesy and said with an Irish lilt, ‘Thank you, Mrs,’
‘She doesn’t mean your accent,’ HG told her and turned back to her notes.
The day passed in a blur of activity and Myka loved it. There was something wonderful about being someone else for a time. Something liberating. It was nice to leave Myka Berring behind for a while, to have the chance to forget all the hurt and worries of the past few weeks. It was a holiday from herself. The women that visited Betty’s were friendly and fascinating. She watched them in awe and tried to imagine what it must be like for them to be living in such a closed society. She saw true love in the eyes of the women as they sat and drank, talked and laughed. It was a beautiful and heart-warming experience. Throughout the day women would see Helena sitting in the corner and approach her. Some she seemed to know, others seemed to want to know her. She was the same with each – polite but dismissive. At other times, she caught HG watching her and knew that a blush would be creeping up her neck. She told herself that it was Alma who was drawing her interest – and that would have worked had HG not had distinctly familiar look in her eyes. A look that would make her insides turn and her lower regions warm no matter who’s body she was in.
As the day wore on, Myka reminded herself that she was here to find out something but remembering that and actually doing it would likely be very different.
They cleared the tables at the end of the day and extinguished the lights. Then the three of them sat down to eat supper. HG had brought an extra chair from the tearoom and now sat, pushing her food around the plate. Both Myka and Betty noticed but neither of them mentioned it.
After supper, Myka stood at the sink, sleeves rolled up and apron on, washing the dishes. She heard HG enter but kept herself focused on the job at hand. She heard HG pacing but had no idea what to say. When Betty came in a few moments later she clucked her tongue at HG, ‘You look like a dozen cats in a basket,’ she sighed.
Myka glanced over her shoulder when HG mumbled that she would be going out, that she had to make contact with her Government people.
Betty stepped closed to HG, ‘You bringing someone back?’
HG looked at the floor, ‘Maybe …’
Betty gently pressed her hand to HG’s cheek and lifted her head, ‘Now you know that I know you gotta do what you do and I aint ever gonna judge you for that.’
HG gave a small nod.
‘But I got girls who come here cos they’re scared and they ‘ave nowhere else to go,’ Betty continued, ‘So don’t you go endangering that, you hear me?’
HG slowly lifted Betty’s hand from her cheek and tenderly kissed her palm, ‘I swear, I never would,’ she replied earnestly.
‘Good,’ Betty sighed, ‘Run along then.’
HG moved past, pausing as she moved behind Myka, ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’
Myka nodded and turned back to the sink, the dirty plates swimming in her misty vision.
Betty made a pot of tea and they sat in the parlour playing cards. The sound of the door made them both turn.
Myka tried to ignore the disappointment that swelled within her at the voice that was clearly not HG.
A young woman, flushed and breathless appeared in the doorway, ‘I’m sorry to use the key and come in the back way but –’
Betty stood, hand held up, ‘I tell you girls where the key is so you can let yourselves in. Now what’s wrong?’
The young woman looked down at Myka, lips trembling, ‘It’s Daisy … she’s been hurt bad.’
‘Where is she?’ Betty demanded.
‘By the farriers on Cross Street … he’s taken her in, keeping her warm by his forge.’
‘Cross street?’ Betty snarled with frustration, ‘That damn girl has been working near that damn men’s club again, aint she? I told her that no good man ever came out of that pit of vipers.’ She grabbed her coat and opened a cupboard, pulling out what looked like a doctor’s bag. She set it on the table and opened it, searched the contents quickly and snapped it shut. She looked at the newcomer, ‘You wait for me outside, I’ll be there in a minute.’
A quick nod and the woman was gone.
Betty was about to say something but Myka cut her off, ‘Don’t you dare apologise, I’ll be fine, go.’
She smiled and pressed her hand to Myka’s cheek, as she had HG earlier, ‘I’ll lock the door – you’ll be safe in here.’
Myka nodded, ‘Thank you.’
Myka cleaned up the parlour and then searched the room for a book. She found a small shelf inside a cupboard and grabbed one of the books without looking at the title. She went to her room and sighed as she undressed and slipped the nightdress on. God, how she wished that she was at home, preparing to sleep naked with the beautiful woman she loved. ‘Tomorrow,’ she told herself, shocked at the realisation that her trip to the past would end the next afternoon. A surge of excitement flowed through her and she climbed into the bed, grabbing the book to hopefully distract her from thoughts of returning safely to her Helena again. She looked down at the cover, The War of the Worlds. ‘Of course,’ she sighed and slumped back against the pillows. She had no desire to get out of the bed to find another book so she settled down and started to read. She had read the novel several times, each time hearing the narrator with the deep rich voice of the British actor Richard Burton … but tonight, as she read the familiar words this time, it was a distinctly female voice – just as rich – that echoed in her ears. As distractions went, it wasn’t the best, but at least things couldn’t get any worse.
The sound of a door banging open made her lift her head. Sounds were coming from the room beside hers – a voice that she had been hearing in her head now echoed from the next room. A male voice answered and they both laughed. Myka glanced at the paper-thin wall that separated her room from HG’s. They continued to talk and laugh with apparent abandon. Myka couldn’t make out the words – not that she really wanted to. Slowly, the words became fewer, the laughs less frequent. Myka forced herself to focus on words in front of her.
She was reading the sad scene where the narrator sees his – or in Myka’s head, her – lover on a ship heading out of England, when the first bounce of bed springs echoed through the wall. She groaned and pressed the book to her forehead. She couldn’t help but wonder what had taken them so long to move to the bed and with that, images of what may have delayed that move flashed through her mind. She groaned and opened her eyes, moving the book to a better position and starting to read again. But all she could see was Helena, staring up at her from a crowded dockside. Her eyes ran over the words and normally, her heart would be speeding up as the action in the book turned to a battle between the ironclad ship Thunderchild and the Martian fighting machines. But instead of hearing the pounding of the ship’s guns all she could hear was the rhythmic squeaking of bed springs.
She angrily tossed the book aside and promptly took a moment to chide herself for being so reckless with a first edition! But then she heard HG groan and a sudden pulsing heat slammed upwards between her legs. ‘Oh, god …’ she whispered, closing her eyes. Well – at least this solve one problem anyway. This was, after all, her reason for coming back to this time – she just hadn’t expected to be so close to the event itself!
Another groan, deep, sexy and very erotic. A sound that she was very, very familiar with. She pressed fingers to her eyelids and wanted to put her hands over her ears but she suddenly couldn’t move her arms. The bed springs started to squeak faster and HG’s groans grew louder and far more pleasure-filled. ‘Oh … shit …’ Myka whispered, willing yet again for her rebellious hands to lift and clamp over her ears. Or at the very least not be moving to slowly bunch the material of her nightdress around her waist. The bed springs stopped squeaking and Myka stopped – daring to hope. But then she heard HG give a small cry followed by a delectable groan and Myka was sliding her quivering fingers between her own thighs. Her head pushed back into the pillow as she gently stroked her labia, feeling the wetness there. Things happened quickly after that. The sounds from next door suddenly became louder and much more rapid as the squeaking of the springs became an accompaniment to the metal frame banging against the wall. Myka slid two fingers into herself, angling her thumb so she could press the base against her clit. She groaned loudly and quickly dropped her other hand over her mouth to stifle the sound – although there was little chance it would be heard in the next room because he was fucking her hard! Myka gasped against her hand as that thought slammed through her head, bringing with it a montage of very x-rated images. Her back arched, eyes widening in surprise as the orgasm that had been slowly buildin, suddenly and unexpectedly peaked and crashed through her. She lay quivering, vaguely aware that the sounds from next door had ceased at some point during her own climactic release. She groaned angrily. Annoyed at herself. She didn’t want this – she wanted Helena’s hands on her … Helena’s lips … she groaned at the thought and suddenly her release was less than satisfying. Trembles rippled her body were ones of unreleased desire – desires that would not be fulfilled until she was back in Helena’s arms. She cursed herself and angrily pushed the nightdress back down before she rolled over and closed her eyes.
Claudia moved as quietly as she could but it was hard to tiptoe when you had a leg in a brace and a cane. Even so, Helena must have been so exhausted that she didn’t stir as Claudia moved past. She went to the Time Machine and narrowed her eyes, pressing her fingers to her lips. She had – secretly – studied both HG’s plans and technical drawings, as well as the machine itself, after Myka and Pete’s trip the year before. And now she had to use that knowledge to save Myka. Mrs Frederic had said that there was nothing they could do – but damnit, she was not going to risk it. Hoping for the best had never really worked for her and she didn’t trust that it would work now. She couldn’t stop Alma dying but somehow, she was going to work out how to bring Myka back before it happened.
She was sitting on the floor, staring up at the machine, a screwdriver spinning in her fingers when a sleep-British voice asked, ‘Couldn’t sleep, darling?’
Claudia hung her head and jabbed the end of the screwdriver into the floor. Mrs Frederic was going to be very unhappy with her. ‘I was … trying to work out how to bring Myka back … early.’
Helena was, above all else, smart. She leapt up from the chair, all vestiges of sleep falling from her. ‘Why?’ she demanded.
Claudia used the cane and hop jumped to her feet. ‘Alma Morris … died.’
Helena took half a step back, face paling, ‘When?’
She waved her hands uselessly, ‘Tuesday the eighteenth …’
Helena’s eyes face said it all, ‘That’s … for Myka … tomorrow …’ Her fear, her anxiety quickly turned to anger and she spun, eyes going upwards. ‘Is this to punish me?’ she demanded, her voice echoing around them, her fury aimed at the Warehouse, ‘You fucking bastard!’
Claudia nervously approached her, ‘HG – we don’t know for sure that we need to but … can we bring Myka back early?’
Helena’s lips twisted with anger and she shook her head, ‘We have extended the timing with means that can not be undone …’ She slumped to her knees, shaking her head, eyes stricken, ‘… if Myka is still in there when Alma dies … she’s lost.’
A restless night followed. She had extinguished her lamp and was unsure how to restart it so had lain the dark, cursing herself for being so stupid. Why would she put the light out? What a stupid idiot. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep! What idiot would expect to be able to sleep when she was aching to be touched … to feel … to make the sounds that she had heard HG making. Thankfully, however long later, she had heard the door to the room opening again. HG must have been showing him out because she heard her return a few minutes later. She had lifted her head and stared at the door, willed with all her might for HG to throw it open and come and join her in the bed and … sleep was very elusive after that. She had heard a bath running and then a while after the bed springs had squeaked briefly before leaving her to her silent, self-beratement.
It was still dark when Myka climbed from the bed, eyes dry and itchy from lack of sleep. She dressed and went downstairs. With nothing else to do, she managed to work out how to start the lamps in the tearoom and set about setting up for the day – some two hours early. Betty appeared when she had almost finished. The shadows both in and under Betty’s eyes saying as much about the events of the previous night as the lateness with which she had returned. She thanked Myka with a hug and seemed ready to argue when Myka said she would make them tea – but a gentle shove towards the small kitchen table and she sat with no further argument. They spoke very little – both still carrying the weight of their previous nights. Although she didn’t need it, Myka helped Betty to make a huge saucepan of porridge and left it on the stove to simmer. Myka excused herself, saying that she would be back down to help in the tearoom again. Betty had nodded and smiled distractedly and then led the way upstairs.
Now that she had figured the lamps out, she set a pleasant glow in the bedroom and settled down to finish her book. She had only read a few pages when the door opened and HG stumbled in – stumbled because her feet had become entangled in the sheet that was draped around her. Myka lowered the book and looked at her, swallowing at the sight. Her hair was tousled, the sheet was creased and hanging around her in a haphazard fashion, her eyes were glazed and sleepy – and she looked god-damn gorgeous. Myka had thought that the unspent arousal from the previous night had dissipated in the cold light of the morning – but seeing the HG like that, the smooth skin of her shoulders and neck, the curve of her breast barely hidden by the sheet and … Myka turned her eyes back to the book and tried to ignore the aching throb between her legs.
‘Morning, darling …’ HG yawned and rubbed her eyes with her fist, ‘… sleep well?’
‘Like a log,’ Myka half growled in reply but HG didn’t notice her tone.
She shuffled carefully towards the bed, ‘Betty kicked me out – she said she wanted to change the bed clothes.’
‘Hmmm,’ Myka grunted without looking up from the book, ‘Did you not think to get dressed?’
‘She took my clothes, said she wasn’t going to let me wear them for another day … she’s sent someone to fetch me some clothes from my home.’
Myka looked over the book quickly and then turned her eyes back to the page.
‘I thought I could stay in here with you until … well, I have something to wear. You don’t mind do you?’ She moved to sit on the bed, smiling at Myka.
Now that she was closer, Myka could see the contended look of someone who had recently had great sex. Myka felt her core contract and a surge of anger coursed through her – ignited as much by her own lingering arousal than anything else. ‘Well, what if I do?’
HG was taken aback by the harshness of her tone, ‘Sorry, darling …’ she looked down briefly and then started to move for the door, her eyes lifting to the wall behind Myka’s head. She paused, a look of realisation flashing through her eyes. Myka stared at her. Was she blushing?
‘Sorry …’ she whispered and hurried, tripping on the sheet but somehow managing to stay upright.
Myka suddenly felt guilty, ‘No … no … it’s okay.’
HG turned, hand on the door handle. She looked unsure and it was such an unfamiliar look on her face that Myka couldn’t help but find it endearing.
She sighed, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t sleep well … of course you can stay.’
‘No,’ HG looked at the wall again with a small self-depreciating smile, ‘you’re right …’ she looked down at her barely covered body, ‘… this isn’t appropriate …’
Myka didn’t intend to move. Her intention was to let HG leave and then return her attention to her book. But suddenly she was off the bed and moving to the door. Her hands pushed against HG’s naked shoulders, twisting her round and forcing her back against the wood, making her gasp. She kissed her, hard and deep, her tongue driving between her lips. She felt HG’s hands lift to her shoulders and push her away. Confusion warred with lust in HG’s eyes. But then the doubt fell away, replaced with the cool confidence that made Myka’s heart flutter. HG spun her, slamming her back against the door. They kissed again as the sheet became unravelled from her body and fell to the floor between them. HG stepped over it and pressed her body to Myka’s, crushing her, stealing even more of her breath. Myka twisted her face from the kiss, gasping. HG’s lips found her neck and then her shoulder. Her hands squeezed at her breasts through the material of her dress. And then one hand dropped and started to lift the material. Her hand searched beneath, fingers searching through her undergarments until she found wet folds. Myka’s head tipped back against the door, sighing loudly as she lifted her leg and wrapped it around HG’s hip. Her fingers were gentle, enticing and wonderful. Myka groaned loudly, hands twisting in HG’s hair as she bit gently at her shoulder. Myka’s hands dropped and pushed HG gently away. She lowered her underclothes and kicked them aside. She was desperate to feel her skin against HG’s. She lifted her dress over her head and then HG stepped forward, helping to lift the thin shift she had been wearing beneath. She slid the material up Myka’s arms and tossed it behind her before holding Myka’s wrists above her head. She kissed her hard, biting at her tongue and lips. HG kept hold of her wrists, dropping her mouth to Myka’s breasts. Her tongue and lips were soft and so gentle, as if she were afraid that she might hurt her. It was lovely and sweet and very much what Myka didn’t need. She twisted her wrists from HG’s grip and lowered her hands to her hair, twisting her soft locks through her fingers. HG gasped against her breast, eyes flicking up. Those eyes must have seen something in Myka’s – Alma’s – because her own eyes darkened even more and she started to kiss her way down Myka’s torso. Alma’s torso. That thought stopped her. This wasn’t her body – this was the body of a young woman who, admittedly, would remember nothing but even so … Myka lifted her hands from HG’s hair and gritted her teeth, prepared to push her away. But suddenly her mouth was at her pussy and it felt so fucking good. Myka whimpered, hands twisting again in HG’s hair. Her tongue was hot and perfect as it slid between her pussy lips and she felt herself throb with anticipation. HG’s hand tightened on her thigh and lifted her leg, moving it to the side and holding her steady. She was so open. So wet. HG’s tongue licked long and slow between her folds, flicking intermittently at her clitoris. Myka shuddered at the first fluttering of climax. She felt herself building towards something incredible and she almost sobbed with delight. HG’s fingers slid easily into her and she gave a small cry. She slid her fingers in an out, a long glide building to a wonderful rhythm. Myka tensed, expecting her to bend her fingers at any moment to stroke her g-spot. But she didn’t and Myka couldn’t help have a brief flicker of excitement at the thought of introducing her to that little trick. But then her body tensed and a deep groan followed by a shuddering cry accompanied the shattering climax. HG slid up Myka’s quivering body, kissing her skin and making her sigh. Her fingers were still buried inside her and Myka twisted her leg, claiming HG’s hip with her thigh once more. The angle of her fingers changed wonderfully and her second climax made her head swim as stars danced in front of her eyes.
HG nuzzled her neck and carefully slipped her fingers free. Myka sighed and opened her eyes, hands and nails running up and down HG’s back. Their lips met with shuddering passion and HG’s hands suddenly gripped her buttocks, lifting her. Myka gasped in surprise as she was pulled tight to HG. As her feet left the floor she had a sense of how much smaller Alma was. She wrapped both her legs around HG’s waist and sighed in wonderment as she was carried to the bed. They fell, HG twisting so she landed first, her stomach rubbing pleasantly at Myka’s core. Myka’s hands lifted to her breasts, pinching and stroking at the hot flesh and hard nipples. She slid down her body and HG lifted her legs, planting her feet on the mattress. Myka wasted no time and pushed her thighs wide, pressing her mouth to HG’s soaking pussy lips. She feasted with a fury that made HG shudder and cry out, climaxing quickly. But Myka wasn’t done with her. Teasing kisses were followed by the slow slid of fingers into her wetness and HG groaned deep in her chest. Myka thrust her fingers a few times, building the pace and depth. She lifted herself on one hand, eager to watch HG’s reaction as she crooked her fingers and pressed the tips to the soft flesh inside her.
‘Ah!’ HG cried out, eyes going wide as her head lifted from the bed to stare at Myka, ‘Wh … wh … what are you doing?’ Before Myka could answer, HG’s body arched, pushing her head back into the mattress. Myka stroked hard at her inner walls, her thumb moving to stroke her clitoris. ‘Oh … darling!’ HG suddenly cried out as her body spasmed in waves. Myka thrust and stroked, stretching her climax for as long as possible until she collapsed, limp and breathless.
It took HG a few minutes to catch her breath and when she did, she turned to Myka, sitting on the edge of the bed, How did you … what did you ..?’
Myka smiled at her and lifted a shoulder in a half shrug, ‘Get your breath back and I’ll show you again …’
HG shuddered a laugh and she rolled over so she could rest her head on Myka’s thigh. It was such a familiar action that it made her smile and close her eyes as she gently stroked HG’s hair. Voices rose in her head – telling her that this wasn’t her HG and that HG hadn’t even seen her – she had seen someone else. She pushed the voices away – neither HG nor Alma would remember what had happened. That thought gave her pause and she bit her lip – had HG conceived the previous night? She felt nausea roll through her stomach but there was no way to avoid the question she needed to ask – the whole reason for this trip to the past was to find out who Christina’s father was. She gritted her teeth and slowly stroked HG’s hair. ‘Ummm …’ she began, ‘… so … that guy last night? Is he your …’
HG half lifted her head, ‘My what, darling?’
Myka bit her lip, hating the coldness in HG’s tone, ‘Boyfriend? Husband?’
HG rolled away and sat up, ‘An interesting time for a question like that,’
‘I’m just interested,’ Myka replied weakly.
Helena studied her for a moment before she stood and walked to where she had left the sheet, ‘Phillip is a dear friend … we enjoy each other’s company.’
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry, I …’
HG turned to looked at her, her face blank, ‘You think I’m a whore?’
‘What?’ Myka gasped, jumping up, ‘No! God, no!’
HG studied the sheet as she wrapped it around herself. When she lifted her gaze to Myka there was a coldness in her eyes. ‘You’re wondering how I can enjoy the pleasures of a man one night and then the following morning share my body with another?’ she didn’t give Myka a chance to answer, ‘If memory serves, darling, it is you who threw yourself at me.’ HG studied her, eyes flickering as she seemed to consider everything. She gave a curt nod, ‘Since I have clearly served your purposes, I shall leave you.’
Myka felt tears stinging her eyes, ‘Helena, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you … I would never hurt you … I –’ she stopped herself and looked down at the floor, ‘… I’m sorry.’
HG shrugged, her face impassive, ‘A woman should never apologise for wanting pleasure,’ she announced, ‘as long as she is honest about it.’
‘It wasn’t … I …’ Myka tried to say but seriously, what could she say? She hung her head, stared at her hands.
The sound of the door opening made the breath catch in her throat but she couldn’t look up, couldn’t let HG see the look that must surely have been in her eyes. The door snapped shut and she fell back onto the bed with a loud, growled curse. But maybe it was for the best. She would be leaving this body in a few hours and what the hell was HG going to say then? A cold chill ran through her – she hadn’t thought this far ahead. Admittedly, there had been very little thought at all. But she had had sex with HG and Alma would wake with no memory of the previous two days.
‘Fuck …’ she whispered and threw a hand across her eyes.
Helena kept looking at the clock and she was driving herself crazy. She sighed angrily and bent to pick up the jug of water. She turned to Myka and used a cloth to gently wipe her lips, allowing some of the water to run into her mouth. She had been doing what she could to keep her hydrated and thankfully, outwardly, there seemed to be no real side effects. She looked at the clock again – just a few more hours and she would have her Myka back. The anger, that had all but consumed her when Claudia had told her about Alma, had faded to become a cold child of fear. But she buried that deep and focused on looking after Myka – as best she could. As so many things were – this was out of her hands and all she could do was regret her decision to send Myka back. She turned back to Myka, gently stroking her face and wondered if she had found out about Christina’s father. Had Myka met him? Had she already conceived the child that she was destined to lose? She felt tears stinging her eyes at the thought as images of Christina swam in her vision. She turned to her machine and studied the new circuits and integration of the Versailles fork. Had the forks been at Warehouse Twelve, would she have stolen one as Nikolas had? Would all of this been avoided? She turned back to Myka and carefully took her hand. She felt weary beyond all measure. She should never have let Myka go. She would have risked their future rather than Myka’s life. Myka had called herself selfish – now Helena wondered if she had been the selfish one and Mya would pay the price. She tried to swallow past the tightness in her throat. She pressed fingertips to her head – was her life forever destined to be a maelstrom of emotions and twisted fates?
‘How is she?’
Helena looked up as Mrs Frederic stepped up onto the dais, handbag held in front of her. The anger that had dissipated flowed through her like flames. ‘You should have told me,’ she snarled.
Mrs Frederic needed no explanation, ‘And does knowing help you?’
Helena turned from her without answering.
The two women stood in silence, both watching Myka.
Eventually Helena did speak, her voice quiet and full of so much emotion, ‘Is the Warehouse punishing me?’’
Mrs Frederic stepped closed and gently took Helena’s hand in hers, ‘I don’t believe so.’
‘Then why?’ Helena half cried, ‘Why put her in Alma’s body?’
‘I wish I knew …’ Mrs Frederic sighed, ‘… but we must have faith, Helena, Myka will come back to us.’
Helena felt hot tears rolling down her cheeks. If faith was needed to bring Myka back than she was already lost because Helena had learnt, long ago, that faith was an illusion.
Myka tried to distract herself by helping out in the Tearoom but her mind kept shifting between the look in HG’s eyes and the clock that seemed to be ticking louder and louder in her head. HG stayed upstairs until her clothes arrived. When she appeared, Myka went to the table where she had perched herself. She opened her mouth to say something but HG cut her off, ‘A ship is leaving for Ireland this afternoon. You will be on it. From there, in a week, you will catch a ship heading back to America.’
‘Oh … okay,’ Myka swallowed, ‘What time?’
HG looked up, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get you there on time.’
Myka looked down, ‘I know you will … I just …’ her words dried up. What was she supposed to say? ‘I was just wondering if I’ll still be in this body when I get on that ship because it’s going to be pretty awkward if I’m not!’ She sighed angrily and turned away.
Myka was in the kitchen washing cups and plates when HG entered, followed by a filthy looking boy, barely older than ten years. HG squatted down in front of him, hand on his shoulder. Myka couldn’t help but smile at her manner – she was sweet with the boy.
‘You have a message for me?’
He nodded, ‘Miss, you have to tell me something first,’
‘Good lad,’ she smiled and ruffled his hair. She leant closer and whispered something in his ear.
He listened, face set in concentration. When she leant back he nodded and glanced at Myka before beckoning HG closer. She smiled and leant forward again so he could whisper in her ear.
Sitting back, HG reached into her pocket and handed him a few coins before she pecked him on his dirt-smeared cheek and stood up. ‘You did well …’ she reached into her pocket and pulled out another coin, ‘… now, what are you going to do next?’
‘I am gonna forget everyfing, Miss,’ he told her, smiling up at her as he held his hand out.
She gently pressed the coin to his palm and gently closed his fingers around it. ‘You like cake?’ she asked.
He nodded eagerly.
HG directed behind her, ‘Go and see Betty, you tell her that Helena says she has to cut you a huge slice of cake, okay?’
He bounced off, grinning broadly.
‘You’re good with children,’ Myka commented as she dried her hands.
HG looked at her, face blank. Eventually she lowered her gaze, ‘I like children – they say what they mean and are always clear about their intentions.’
Myka knew a pointed comment when she heard one but didn’t feel like rising to the bait. Instead she unrolled her sleeves and walked over, ‘What was the message?’
‘He have me the details of where to take you to catch your ship. Dominque is already on board,’ she glanced at the clock on the mantle, ‘We’ll leave on the hour.’
‘Okay,’ Myka nodded and stepped a little closer, eyes downcast, ‘HG, what I said I’m –’
‘Forget it,’ HG snapped but then seemed to regret it and softened her tone a little, ‘You had better go and see Betty – she’ll never forgive me if I sneak you out without saying goodbye.’
‘Right,’ Myka sighed, ‘Thanks.’ She brushed past HG.
The carriage stopped and they climbed out. They were a distance from the docks but HG explained that they would be taking an indirect route in order to avoid whoever might still be looking for her. Myka wished she knew who Alma actually was and why she was so important – she guessed she could find out when she got back. When she got back … she felt her heart speed up. There was less than three hours left to go and she would be back, in Warehouse Thirteen, with Helena. With the information they needed. That’s what mattered.
‘Stay close,’ HG told her as they headed into an alleyway, ‘These rat runs are dark and easy to get lost in.’
Myka nodded and followed her.
She was right. The narrow alleys that ran between lines of small, dilapidated houses were indeed dark and shadowed by the high walls and surrounding buildings. They smelt of damp and human excrement. HG didn’t seem to notice and marched on, occasionally glancing over her shoulder to check Myka was keeping up. She also kept looking up, glancing at the sky as if to remind herself that she was completely closed in. HG turned a corner and disappeared from view for a moment. Myka followed. A figure suddenly appeared in front of her. He was tall, his head covered by a hood. Myka froze and took half a step back as she saw his arm move. She felt a blow to her stomach and stumbled backwards, falling against the wall as he disappeared. It had all happened so quickly that her mind was still processing it when HG turned.
‘Alma?’ she asked.
‘A man just …’ she gasped, her knees weakening suddenly, ‘… punched me.’
‘Punched you?’ HG demanded as she ran back, searching for him, ‘Where is he?’
‘He went …’ Myka lifted her hand to direct but stopped and stared at her fingers, ‘… what the ..?’ She swallowed and gave a small groan, ‘HG?’ Her knees finally gave way and she slid down the wall.
HG dropped to her knees in front of her, grabbing Myka’s hand and staring at her fingers. HG’s eyes widened and she pulled at the material of Myka’s dress, inspecting her stomach. When she lifted her hands again, her fingers glistened darkly. ‘Christ!’ she yelled her eyes glistening with emotion. She lifted her hand to gently touch Myka’s cheek, ‘I’m going to get you to the Warehouse … it’s not far … Caturanga will fix you … I … I promise …’
Myka stared up at her, her eyes misting as the pain in her stomach started to grow worse. She stared down at the dark liquid that was covering her hands. ‘Oh god …’ she grimaced, teeth gritting as the strange throbbing at her stomach quickly turned to an agonising burn. Suddenly she was being lifted and she cried out, eyes watering. She pressed her face to HG’s neck, sobbing.
‘I’m sorry … I’m sorry …’ HG gasped breathlessly over and over again as she half ran, half stumbled through the alleyways.
Myka had never known pain like it. Every jolt sent her body aflame and she would have screamed if she were able to pull enough air into her lungs. She drifted in and out of consciousness, sobbing and whimpering.
Light suddenly burned her eyes and she cried out, struggling to escape the pain. Her arms flailed uselessly and strong fingers gripped her wrists, forcing her hands to her sides.
‘No … please …’ she whimpered.
‘Alma … settle … we’re trying to help …’
Dark eyes swam in her vision, ‘Helena?’
‘Yes, I’m here … lie still, let Caturanga help you.’
The darkness wanted to keep her. She wanted to stay. It was safe in the darkness – nothing could hurt her there. As the darkness receded she could feel the pain tearing at her stomach, spreading tendrils of fire throughout her whole body. She whimpered weakly.
Her eyes twisted to the side and she tried to focus but her eyes were filled with tears and she couldn’t see more than a blurred outline. She grimaced, face twisting with pain.
‘Damn it! Help her! Use the medal … take her pain .. do something!’ HG sounded so desperate, so lost. It broke her heart – adding more layers to her agony.
‘I can’t … if I use a curiosity it will effect her connection to the Source … it will taint the gift.’
‘Gift!’ HG cried, ‘Look at her … this is no gift – she’s dying!’
‘We must save the knowledge … we must protect the Source …’
‘Make damn sense!’ HG screamed, ‘Please!’
‘You have to trust me, Helena, Alma will survive even though her body will die.’
Myka blinked rapidly, managing to clear her vision for an instant. ‘What is that?’ she whispered.
Caturanga leant over her, gently stroking her cheek. ‘Alma, this is the Janus Coin …’ he whispered, ‘… I can not save your body … but you, the Alma, the knowledge, the gift, it can all go onto here. Who you are – it can be saved.’
Myka’s eyes widened, fear overriding her pain, ‘My consciousness?’
He nodded, ‘Yes … everything that you are, everything that you gained when you came here … we can save it …’
Myka twisted to HG, ‘Time? What’s the time?’
HG frowned, ‘What?’
‘Please,’ Myka gasped, ‘I need to know the time.’
HG glanced behind her, ‘It’s almost two o’ clock.’
Myka closed her eyes whispering, ‘Twenty minutes … just give me …’ her body arched as pain lanced through her, ‘God!’
HG gripped her hand, tears filling her eyes, ‘For god’s sake do it! Save her from the pain!’
‘No!’ Myka screamed as Caturanga reached for her hand, ‘Please … I beg you!’
He looked down at her, eyes sad, ‘We must save the Alma …’
‘I’m not her …’ Myka whispered and turned her eyes to HG, ‘… I’m not her …’
HG stared at her then with a gaze that seemed to see right into her. Slowly, as if a light were being cast behind those eyes, understanding flooded through them. She gasped softly, ‘You know me, don’t you?’
‘Yes,’ Myka sobbed, lips trembling, ‘But not you … the future you …’ her body arched again and she cried out, ‘… please, I promised to get back to you … I promised!’
HG pressed her lips to Myka’s fingers, ‘God, but it makes sense … you looked at me sometimes and …’ she shook her head, ‘… no one has ever looked at me like that.’
‘I will …’ Myka whispered, ‘… every day.’
HG turned to Caturanga, ‘We wait,’
His eyes widened with disbelief, ‘You don’t know what you’re risking … we can not lose the Alma!’
‘We won’t,’ HG told him, her eyes fixed on Myka, ‘You’re going to hold on.’’
Myka swallowed painfully and nodded.
‘This is madness!’ Caturanga yelled, backing away from the table.
HG ignored him and dropped to her knees, resting her head against Myka’s hand.
‘This Time Machine of yours, HG …’ Pete queried, ‘… does it slow time down?’
Helena was staring at the clock, teeth biting on a thumb nail. ‘No, darling, why?’ she replied distractedly.
‘Because this is the longest ten minutes of my life!’
Claudia was sitting on the edge of the wingback chair, her eyes flicking between HG, Myka and the clock. Ten minutes … just ten more minutes … she was going to be okay! Surely she was going to be okay!
Time moved agonizingly slowly as Myka shivered, tears rolling down the sides of her face.
‘Talk to me …’ HG whispered.
Myka grimaced, ‘What do you want me to say?’
‘How about … who are you?’
‘I’m someone who is going to love you very much.’
‘And I’ll love you back?’
HG smiled, ‘So, there is hope for me?’
Myka squeezed her hand, ‘Helena … you’re going to forget everything that has happened since we met ... but I hope a part of you will remember … you are going to face some dark times but, I promise…’ she whimpered and HG gently touched her face, ‘… I …’ her eyes fluttered shut.
HG’s eyes widened, ‘Caturanga!’ she screamed.
Myka’s body arched and was suddenly wracked by violent convulsions. HG cried out in despair and ran to her, dropping to her knees beside the chair.
‘HG? What’s happening?’ Pete demanded.
‘No!’ Helena gripped Myka’s hand as her body flailed and almost fell from the chair, ‘It’s happened,’ her voice cracked over and over, sorrow creasing her features, ‘she … Alma … she – ’
Myka’s body fell still.
Helena froze. Staring. Then, with trembling hands, she lifted the apparatus from Myka’s head, eyes wide and anguished. She rested her forehead against Myka for a moment before she slowly lifted her head and stared upwards. ‘Please …’ she sobbed, ‘… don’t take her away from me …. please … I beg you … give her back to me …’
Silence filled the Warehouse. The only noise was the sound of HG’s heart-wrenching pleas but even they fell silent and she dropped her head, kissing Myka’s forehead.
The smell of apples drifted around her and she pulled back just as Myka suddenly heaved a breath.
HG cried out, pulling her into her arms and rocking her. ‘Oh, darling, darling …’
Myka lifted shaking hands and gripped her shoulders weakly. ‘Helena …’ she groaned, her voice pained, ‘… why can I smell apples?’
The look of pained terror that flashed through the young woman’s eyes made HG’s blood run cold. The terror-stricken eyes flicked to her. The voice, weak, fading, ‘Who are you?’
‘We’re going to take your pain away …’ HG whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Caturanga press the coin into her palm and her eyes shifted to him.
‘Wh … what is that?’
‘It’s okay,’ HG told her, trying to force her voice to stay calm.
‘Alma …’ Caturanga said softly, ‘… think of your mother, your grandmother … think of all those who have come before … think of the Source and the gift of knowledge …’
The young woman’s face glowed with a strange light and a cool breeze stirred the air around them. It took a few moments and that was all they had before the young woman’s hand fell limp.
HG sobbed softly, shaking her head.
Caturanga reverently placed the coin in a large, circular tin and closed the lid. ‘We barely had time …’ he whispered and looked up at HG, ‘… but the Alma is almost safe.’
‘Almost?’ HG queried, slowly moving the young woman’s hands until they were crossed over her stomach.
‘No one must know what happened here today … if it is discovered that the Alma’s gift is on the Janus coin … then there are those who will hunt it down and use it for their own evil means. We must forget what has happened here,’ he told her, ‘I have a curiosity that will take the memories of five days past. We will give ourselves a day to get things in order and then we will wipe Alma from our minds.’
HG stared at the young woman, her face relaxed and free from pain. She trusted Caturanga more than anyone. ‘If we must …’ she sighed, ‘But you know me, I won’t just accept missing memories … I will want to know what happened …’
He turned and waved towards his office, ‘We will both write ourselves a note – explain as little as possible but make it clear that the safety of the Warehouse is at stake.’
She gently touched Alma’s cheek, ‘I’ll write mine now …’
He watched her leave, pulling his pocket watch from his waistcoat. He had just over twenty hours of his trip left – plenty of time. Smiling with satisfaction, he lifted the box with the Janus coin and then looked down at Alma, ‘I’ll see you in the next century.’