This week: I again post very late in the day. But I have a good gif.
Because this part is in the future. And we see the future world.
If you’re behind on the time traveling adventures of our insane historian, mercenary space cowboy and two college students, catch up here:
Aaand part 12, everyone!
Part 12: Big City Basics
Chase and I both stared at Jonah. We stopped walking.
I took a second to get my voice again. “Hold on—you … what?”
Jonah just kept going like he hadn’t said anything worth commenting on. “I broke in there once. To the Historian Society.” He glanced back at us for a second and jerked his head towards Demetrius, who was crouching over on the path ahead of us to look at something. “Come on, let’s catch up with him before he eats a bug or something.”
I could still hear the tension behind his voice. The nervousness.
“Wait, you…” Chase blinked and shook his head slightly, running a few steps to catch back up. “I thought you weren’t from around here? When did you have time to…?”
“Well, technically, I’m not. I just dropped in for a spell, from… ” Jonah waved a hand vaguely in the air, “somewhere else. I mean, I’m still in this world. Just not here in this world.”
I ran up next to the two of them just as we came up to Demetrius. “So why did you break in? What did you steal?”
“I didn’t steal anything,” Demetrius answered, sounding offended, but not looking up from what he was looking at on the road. “I just found this. Look.” He held up a tiny scrap of something white. “I think it’s a clue.”
I shook my head, “No, I was talking to Jonah.”
“The man’s found a clue, Zoey,” Jonah looked exaggeratedly disappointed in me. “I think this is more important.” He went down on his heels next to Demetrius. “What’d you find, buddy?”
I opened my mouth to protest, then clamped it shut again, narrowing my eyes to glare at the back of Jonah’s old, wet hat. He’d been so helpful in telling us things before, when I was asking him about the society and time travel. Why was he clamming up so much now?
“This.” Demetrius held up his white piece of something again between his thumb and forefinger.
It looked a little bit like a piece of white cloth for a second. Then I squinted closer and it looked a little bit more slick than that.
“Jane was wearing a white nightgown,” he explained. “This must be part of it.” His face was practically glowing with elation.
Chase sighed, rubbing a hand down his face. “That’s a piece of a plastic grocery bag.”
It was. I could see the stretched edge where it had ripped and the water droplets sliding off it from the rain.
“No, it’s cloth. There’s lace and…” Demetrius looked at it again and did a double take. “Well, knock me over with a feather. I could have sworn it was just cloth and lace.” His brow furrowed in a frown and he scratched at the side of his head.
“Doesn’t look like it,” Jonah observed. “Unless she was wearing a plastic nightgown, that’s probably not hers.”
“I’m pretty sure she wasn’t,” Demetrius murmured, flipping the plastic over in his hand.
I exchanged a concerned look with Chase. Demetrius definitely didn’t seem to be getting much better, here. And now we had Jonah being vague about what exactly his reputation was here. This trip wasn’t looking promising.
At least we were at the final destination for finding Jane, right?
Chase seemed to read my thoughts and gave a small shrug.
I looked back as Jonah sighed and pushed back up into a standing position. “Come on, we’ve got a ways to go. Let’s get walking.”
Demetrius didn’t move for another second, still eying the plastic. Then he quickly kissed the small scrap before sticking it in one of his pockets. He stood and smiled. “We’ll look for other clues along the way.”
Well, if that counted as a clue in his mind, then we were off to an excellent start.
The rest of the walk into the city was cool in a few ways. For one, this was in the future and I could definitely see that, the closer we got. There were these little flying pod things I could see zipping around and the buildings were super weird, with a lot of reflective surfaces and flashing lights. And I did notice while we were walking that this road felt like it was made out of some sort of other material than just asphalt. It felt lighter and less rough, somehow.
Seriously, I was excited to get into New London. There had to be so many cool things in there.
But there were some pretty frustrating things on the walk, too.
Demetrius found a few more rocks and bits of garbage he thought were clues. And he had me fooled on a couple of them because they were futuristic pieces of trash and they did kind of look like they should be something important.
And then there was the frustration of Jonah, who really didn’t want to talk much about himself, even after all the information he’d given us before about Demetrius and the society. About all we got out of him on the whole “breaking in” front was that it was easier than it looked, and that was how he’d gotten his warper. I mean, that was better than nothing—but still not a lot.
Also, it was still rainy and cold the whole walk, and poor Chase was still barefoot. He kept his arms crossed tightly over his chest and his lips pressed together in a line as he walked. He hid a bit of a shiver.
I watched him walk, guiltily curling my own warm toes inside my boots. I moved over a little and poked at his arm. “Hey. I could give you one of my shoes and we could hop into town. How does that sound?”
Chase’s tight-lipped expression softened and he chuckled. “I think we’re already gonna draw enough attention to ourselves as it is. Let’s not push it.” He looked down at his feet. “Besides, the road is actually kind of warm. Not sure if we came just after some parade or…” he shrugged.
“Really?” I stopped and bent over, feeling the smooth surface of the road. It actually was warm. Despite how wet it was, it felt good on my cold hand.
Jonah turned away from watching Demetrius pick up another trash piece and looked back at us. “Oh, yeah. That’s the … magnetic things they use to help the hover pods stay in the air and on the roads. It makes the roads kind of warm.”
“The magnet-guided roads are now?” Demetrius looked up in confusion. “I could have sworn that was medieval Germany.”
“Whoa.” I pressed my other hand against the road for a few seconds, feeling the warm for a little longer before I stood back up. “How long have these been a thing around here?”
Jonah shrugged one shoulder. “At least around forty years, I think. They’ve been using a similar idea for some of the transportation on Mars and the moon for longer than that. Makes for some pretty smooth driving.”
Chase’s eyebrows went up. “Mars, huh?”
“You guys colonized Mars!” I couldn’t help the slight squeak in my voice.
“Yeah, a while back. There’s a lot more space stuff going on nowadays than you folks have in your time.” Jonah squinted up at the sky. “It’s kind of too cloudy to see much today, but there’re a lot of spaceships and satellites you could usually see.”
Now I wanted to stay here even longer. We could visit other planets in this time! And … oh man, the Historian Society probably had the history of how and when it happened, too.
Chase nudged me to keep walking as the other guys started down the road again. He looked over my head towards Jonah. “Hey, even if you’re not cool with sharing any personal stuff, any more you two would like to tell us about this time? Like… maybe what we should expect in the city?”
“Yeeaah,” Jonah squinted one eye. “Lemme think for a second.”
Demetrius spun around, droplets flying from his wet hair, and walked backwards so he could see us. “We invented the vacuum cleaner and a movie called Star Wars.”
Jonah gave him a sideways look, trying to hide an amused smile. “No, we … really didn’t.”
“No?” Demetrius frowned again. “Goodness, it’s been a long time since I’ve been back here.”
As if it hadn’t been obvious enough before, Demetrius wasn’t going to be a very reliable source of information.
Jonah thoughtfully fingered the brim of his hat, tipping his head back a little to look at the tall tops of the buildings in the city. We were almost there. I could hear the bustle and chatter of city sounds drifting on the air.
A small, hovering pod-car came buzzing up out of the city, coming down the road we were on. All of us stepped off to the side and let it whoosh past.
I stood there for a bit and just stared after its sleek, metal form as it zipped off down the winding road away from the city. The circular things on the bottom of the ship and all the wiggly-looking air between that and the road caught my attention the most.
Those must be the magnet things, right?
Chase jumped a little in surprise as we stepped back onto the road, moving back into the mud at the side for another few seconds. “That road… just got a lot warmer.”
“Yeah, ‘cuz a pod just went past,” Jonah explained distractedly. He stood in the road again, looking towards the city for a minute before he turned back around to the rest of us.
“Okay, just some basics so nobody gets themselves killed while we’re in there. We’re trying to lay low, here. New London’s not the destination and it’s a big place. All we’re gonna do is get ourselves a room, hide out and get the supplies we need for getting his Jane back,” he jerked a thumb towards Demetrius, “then we’re gonna bust her out and get out of here. Got it? No running off. No getting distracted.”
Chase nodded in agreement right away.
I hesitated a little before I nodded.
Demetrius tilted his head, looking up at the buildings. “New London? I thought this was Old London.”
“Well, you were wrong. It’s New London.” The nerves of taking this whole thing on were starting to show through in Jonah’s tone and his worried expression. He took in a breath and let it out, rubbing one hand over the stubble on his face.
I cleared my throat a little. “The basics?”
“Right. Basics.” Jonah rubbed his hands together. “Well. For one, in this time, we don’t have any physical money. It’s all virtual credits. Usually people have a chip installed in their wrists to make things quicker and connect it with the rest of their communication stuff, but some people still have just cards. And that’s what we’re gonna have to do because activating my or Demetrius’s chip ain’t gonna do us any favors.” He looked over at Demetrius. “If you still even have a chip.”
Demetrius looked down at both of his wrists, narrowing his eyes.
“On clothes…” Jonah stopped for a second, looking all of us over. “Honestly, I think we’ll be alright. Demetrius with his watch could still pass for a member of the society. And the three of us… if anyone asks, we’re from Aldrin, okay? And my name isn’t Jonah.”
I looked down over my clothes. I definitely would have dressed differently if I’d known we’d be going time travelling … maybe if I’d had time to dress up for the past, I could have passed for another historian, along with Demetrius.
“Aldrin?” asked Chase.
“One of the older Mars colonies on the far side of the planet.” Jonah responded. “Pretty behind on any fashion trends, as you can imagine.” He turned back towards the city, blowing out a breath.
Chase nodded. Slowly, he started to walk towards the city again, staying off to the side of the road this time.
I trailed along behind him, sticking my hands in my pockets.
Pretty soon, all of us were realizing it was better to stay off to the side of the road. It got a lot busier and not dying was our first goal, so we weren’t about to get run over by a weird, future car.
The muddy sides of the road slowly morphed into sidewalks. And while at first we were having trouble keeping Demetrius focused and with us … honestly, I got almost as bad.
There were so many people who looked so… different. A lot of them were wearing stuff I couldn’t imagine wearing in this cold weather. The pod cars were all different shapes and colors and filled the streets in a shiny stream of color. Screens were built straight into the sides of buildings and flashed ads for food and clothing that looked like they’d come out of a weird dream.
If only I could … wait, hold on…
I fumbled for my zippered coat pocket and my heart jumped as I felt that my phone was still there.
“Yes!” I whispered, grinning as I pulled it out and stopped onto the sidewalk. The battery was kind of low and there was no signal, but that was no big deal. I stopped for just a second to frown at the time on the lock screen. 1:23am. Weird. It was still doing that?
I swiped over to the camera function and opened it up, snapping a few pictures of our surroundings. Now at least we’d have some sort of proof to show our professors, once we got back, right? Who could argue with the story that Chase and I had time travelled when they saw these?
“What are…?” Demetrius stopped next to me and trailed off. His smile faded and his brow wrinkled up. “Are you taking photographs?”
“Well, yeah,” I looked away from my camera screen and over to him. “I need to at least have some proof we did this. And this is all so cool, how can I not?”
Demetrius still frowned, scratching at the side of his head. He muttered something I didn’t completely make out about timeline disruption and breaking the rules.
I made a face at him. “Oh come on.” I motioned for him to come over next to me as I flipped the camera around.
Demetrius stepped closer, the buckles on his boots jangling and his scarves swishing. “What is it?”
“One more picture,” I held up my phone so we were both in the screen and grinned. “Smile!”
He only looked more confused for a few seconds, but then looked a little amused, a smile pulling one side of his mouth upwards.
“Perfect,” I snapped the picture and brought my phone back down. Oh, that was a keeper.
“I forgot that was the time period you were from for a moment,” Demetrius remarked, looking lost in thought. “Selfies. I mixed up and thought those were from the Edwardian era…”
“Zoey!” Chase’s voice cut him off and I looked up, quickly stuffing my phone back in my pocket.
Jonah was out of sight already, and Chase was right at the corner, ready to turn down a side street. He raised his eyebrows at me. “I think we’ll have time for selfies later. Come on. Jonah says we’re almost there.”
I poked at Demetrius to come along with me and then ran after Chase. I’d have to come out and take more pictures when we got wherever we were going. Speaking of that …
“Where exactly are we going?” I asked Chase as I came back up next to him.
Chase shrugged, not looking too comfortable with not knowing. He made sure Demetrius was with us before we started walking after Jonah again. “Jonah says he knows a place he can get into that’s close to here. And, since we don’t really have any other options …” another shrug.
Jonah kept walking ahead of the rest of us, his shoulders hunched and tense, and his hat pulled down low over his face. He kept his gaze on his boots, for the most part, and his hands in the pockets of his dirty old brown coat.
He kept quietly leading us through back streets, the city slowly getting less and less flashy and futuristic looking. By the time we reached his place, it was looking almost more dystopian than anything else. But it still did look cool, even without all the reflective surfaces and super bright lights.
The place Jonah herded us towards was a very tall, thin building, crammed between a couple of bigger buildings.
The sign on the front was a little hard to read, but I managed to decipher it while we stood there on the front steps.
Metrotel: rooms for rent
I scrunched my nose in thought for a second, then leaned over to Chase. “Sort of like… metro hotel?”
“I hope so. Because if that means a butcher shop or something in future-speak, I quit.”
“I think it means it’s an inn,” Demetrius provided helpfully as he dug through his pockets.
Jonah took a deep breath and rapped his knuckles against the metal of the door. Silence for a few seconds. Some thumping around inside. And then the door creaked open. A shorter man with a scowl on his face and a ton of tattoos all over his arms looked us all over for a second before stepping aside and letting us in.
We filed in quietly and all stood in the musty smelling, weirdly decorated entryway to this metrotel. I looked up at the Chinese lanterns and pennant banners strung across the ceiling and squashed back the urge to pull my phone and take more pictures.
“You here for a room?” the man growled.
Jonah pushed his hat back from his face a little and raised his eyebrows at the man. A nervous smile stretched his mouth. “Well it does look like you need the business, Pep.”
The man Jonah had called “Pep” scowled harder for a second and opened his mouth, then stopped. His eyebrows went up as well. “Jenkins?”
Jonah nodded, some of the tension leaving his smile. “The one and only.”
Pep said something that I couldn’t understand, but it sounded like a curse. “Didn’t think I’d ever be seeing you again.” A smile spread across his bulldog-ish features. “We’ve always got a room ready for…” he trailed off and looked at the rest of us, a little of his frown coming back. “Hold on, I thought you quit with the…?”
“Yeah, I did.” Jonah interrupted him quickly. “These are just friends. You have a room that can fit all of us?”
The man eyed us for another few seconds, then shrugged and went to get a thin screen thing from behind his front counter. “Soon as I get you all checked in, sure. Not like we’ve got a lot of other business.” He looked up. “How long’ll you be needing it?”
“Probably about four days?” Chase suggested quietly.
Pep squinted one eye at Chase, but Jonah nodded, so he tapped it in. “Alright. You’re good to go. Just sign in there with your name and the time.” He handed the screen to Jonah. “Guessing this’ll go on the tab too?”
“You know it,” muttered Jonah, scribbling his finger across the screen. He paused for a second and looked back up. “What time is it?”
Pep frowned. “Should be around fourteen-hundred. There’s a clock in the corner of the screen there.”
“Hmm.” Jonah scribbled down the time Pep said. “Might wanna get this one fixed. It says it’s one twenty-three.”
I stiffened a little, goosebumps prickling my skin.
But no one else seemed to notice. Jonah handed back the screen and Pep nodded.
“Enjoy your stay at the Metrotel. Your room is number 4, right at the top of the stairs.”
And just like that, we were in. We had a base of operations in New London, in the future.
Step one to rescuing Jane, complete.
Whoo hoo! Actually not the worst cliffhanger for once. xD
Hope you all enjoyed! Tune back in next week for more!
Or… you know… maybe sooner for some bonus features. -eyebrow wiggle-