The world moves slowly, and new truths are difficult to see.
William Wolcott still cannot quite believe this is his life.
Gathering the wonders of yesterday and keeping them and the general populace safeguarded from each other, working with a very singular woman who spends her free time imagining the wonders of tomorrow, travelling farther from Cardiff than he would have ever been able to on his own resources - who would have thought a simple military helmet would lead him to such a place as Warehouse 12?
“Come along, Woolly,” HG says, sweeping past all the marvels the Columbian Exposition has to offer as though she sees this sort of thing every day. “We wouldn’t want to be late for our appointment.”
“I--” William stops gaping at the displays long enough to hurry after her. “Are you sure Mr. Tesla is even going to be here?”
“Of course he is. Who do you think arranged for all the electric lighting at this event?”
“But I thought Mr. Edison--”
HG rolls her eyes, and the briefest of scowls crosses her face. “Mr. Edison wouldn’t know originality if it bit him in the arse. Besides, Woolly, take a closer look at the bulbs. They’re not the incandescent style; Mr. Edison was so upset to lose the contract that he wouldn’t allow his patents to be used in the Exposition.”
“Oh. That’s rather... mean-spirited of him.”
“Would that it were the worst to be said of the man.” She keeps walking, occasionally reminding William to keep pace, until she reaches a secluded park, somehow both part of the Exposition and well away from everything. There’s a man seated on a bench, smoking a cigar; William doesn’t think much of him at first - he’s far too old to be Mr. Tesla - until he stands and walks toward them.
“Now, this is something of a surprise,” he says; William tries not to wince at the harshness of the man’s American accent. “And what super-scientifical wonders are you unleashing on the world this time, Miss Wells?”
HG smiles. “Charmed as always, Mr. Twain, but I’m afraid it’s your dear friend who has the wonders for us today.”
“Ah, yes, he did say he’d contacted your organisation. Who’s your fish-faced young friend?”
William closes his mouth, wondering just when it fell open; before he can gather his wits enough to make an introduction of his own, HG says, “This is my new partner, Mr. Wolcott.”
“They’re letting you break in the new recruits? I am sorry, Mr. Wolcott.” Mr. Twain flicks some ash off the end of his cigar. “And between you and me, Helena, your organisation contacted our mutual friend before he called for you, which tells me that when you’re properly settled in the States, you simply must come by for dinner sometime.”
HG raises an eyebrow. “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. I don’t suppose you know what delights Nikola has in store for this meeting?”
“He does not.” Another man approaches them - Mr. Tesla, William presumes - and sets a case on the bench Mr. Twain had previously been occupying. “I had hoped to perfect the design before sharing it with anyone, but it seems that is beyond me.”
“You’ve been holding out on me?” Mr. Twain says. William can’t tell at first if he really is outraged or not, but then he adds, “All right then, let’s see it,” and doesn’t sound half as upset.
Mr. Tesla nods and opens the case; what’s inside is such a surprise that William finally finds his voice. “A pistol?”
HG laughs, pulling the pistol out of the case. “Don’t be silly, Woolly. If I’m any judge, this doesn’t do anything as simple as kill people.”
“Nor so undiginified.” Mr. Tesla scowls. “I will leave using electricity as a lethal weapon to Mr. Edison. This will leave its target quite insensible for a short time, and perhaps affect the short-term memory of being shot.”
“Now this I have to see,” Mr. Twain says.
“I quite agree.” HG turns the pistol so that she’s holding the muzzle, and holds it out to William. “Go on, then, Mr. Wolcott. Have a go.”
“I...” William looks among the three of them, lost for words for a moment (but given that he’s sharing company with two authors and two scientists in three people, he thinks he’s allowed to feel a bit outclassed). “I - HG, I can’t possibly shoot you!”
“Of course you can, Woolly, it’s perfectly safe. I trust Mr. Tesla to have seen to that. And if for some reason it doesn’t work as he intended, I would much rather we find that out while he’s still here than when we’re back in London.”
“You have a point there, I suppose.” William sighs, takes the pistol, and motions for everyone else to step back; once HG is well away from everyone else, he takes aim and fires. The burst of lightning still surprises him, even knowing it was meant to happen, and the force of the blow almost makes William lose his footing; once he’s recovered his balance, he finds HG just as insensible as Mr. Tesla had promised.
“How...” He clears his throat, hoping that will help him sound less nervous. “How long until she wakes up?”
“No more than five minutes,” Mr. Tesla says.
Mr. Twain applauds, then takes his cigar out of his mouth and says, “Good show as always, Nikola. So tell me, what the devil do you think is wrong with the thing?”
“No matter what I have tried, I have not been able to persuade it to recharge on its own. I can hardly make something marketable out of that, at least for military purposes. But as Miss Wells has complained more than once about the inefficiency of their current methods for slowing people down, I thought it might pique her interest.”
William looks at HG’s prone form and bites his lip. “I dare say it will, at that.” He wouldn’t even be surprised if she set about improving the recharge problem.
William’s watch tells him it’s been three and a half minutes, by the time HG finally stirs, but it feels much longer. She sits up, rubbing her shoulders as though they’re sore and smiling.
“That,” she says, “was marvelous. I should imagine you have more than one of these ready, or you wouldn’t have said anything.”
“Unless he didn’t bother making more than one of an imperfect prototype,” Mr. Twain points out, “but I dare say he’d make an exception in your case.”
“Quite so - we’ll certainly need more than one. And I do assure you, Nikola, your name will remain with this invention.”
Mr. Tesla smiles. “I do appreciate that.”