Whooo, it’s Thursday again my dudes. And you know what that means.
More serial story!
For those of you who are behind, we’re now going into a heist being pulled on a futuristic historian society to try and find someone else.
Should be fun.
But it will also be confusing if you don’t know what’s going on so voila, we have links for catching up.
And behold, part 14!
Part 14: Step by Step
The first time I rode in a pod-car, I really liked how quiet they were.
Now I didn’t like it as much.
The almost silence as the car hummed along down the squiggly road towards the Historian Society building just made me more nervous. It made my breathing sound too loud and made me jump a little, every time someone moved.
We were all set to go. Today was the day we were going to get Jane out. At least . . . I hoped. I really, really hoped.
We’d done everything we could to get ready. I’d gotten some more professional looking clothes, and some glasses because they made me look smarter and more like the professor that was supposed to be going into this place.
Chase had gotten something other than pajama pants or Jonah’s old jeans to wear. Even if they were in some kind of weird future fashion, they were more or less jeans. We just hoped the janitor would be around his size, if he had to steal a jacket or something.
Jonah stayed just like he was. He spent most of his time just trying to fix his warper again, because apparently bringing us all through time before hadn’t left it in the best shape. He didn’t need a disguise, since he wasn’t going in.
Same went for Demetrius. Except for his new haircut.
While the rest of us were putting more plan details together in our room yesterday, he’d sneaked off to the bathroom and tried to trim up his own long mop of hair by himself. He said he wanted to look nice for seeing Jane again.
It was a sweet idea, but it wasn’t a sweet haircut.
Thankfully, Chase was a master of cutting his own hair anyway and managed to get Demetrius’s hair looking presentable again. It actually looked pretty nice when he was done. It looked like a normal, sane person’s haircut—like his hair had looked before, in the pictures and video we had seen in his house.
Demetrius looked almost un-crazy. Sometimes it was easy to pretend that he actually was, until he’d come out with something like a recommendation to watch out for Huns when we went to rescue Jane.
It was probably a good thing that he wasn’t coming in.
I let out a breath and rubbed my hands against the slick fabric of my skirt as I kept watching out the window. At least it was a sunny day today. I always felt just a little bit more confident when there was sunshine.
I pulled the glasses off my face for a bit, putting them up on my head so I could see out the window better. The society’s building was getting closer.
It was weird to see that building sitting out there in the middle of the countryside, after being in the city, which with all of its flashing lights and screens and mirrored, shiny surfaces was nothing like the society building.
This was like an old-fashioned mansion. I could see the old brick and stone that made up the outside. Ivy climbed up the walls and wound around the chimney. Wide, stained glass windows on one side of the building sparkled in the sunlight. There were even some fancy hedges and garden plots dotting the area around it.
The architecture was just a little bit different from what I’d actually call a genuinely old mansion. But it was still a heck of a lot older than the other stuff we’d been seeing.
Chase leaned over a little to look out the window as well, as we rounded another bend, heading further down towards the headquarters. “Whoa, that’s different.”
Demetrius scrunched a hand in the short curls on the side of his head, still getting used to not having long hair. “The Historians’ Society tries to immerse itself in history as much as possible. The literature, music and ways of life from days gone by are much more practical to learn, if we plan on going back to blend in and take notes.”
He sounded like a talking sales brochure. Though really, that did sound kinda cool. If these guys hadn’t been Jane-stealing jerks, I’d almost want to join.
“Classicists, then?” Chase asked, still craning his neck.
Jonah snorted. “Extremely.” He steered the car down towards the last stretch of straight road to the building. “I mean, they could have made the warpers look like anything. They could have made protection helmets, for goodness sake. But nah, they went with fob watches and scarves. Gotta keep with a snobby theme for everything.”
Demetrius looked over at him, his eyebrows drawn and his eyes sad.
Jonah glanced sideways. “No offense.”
“It’s for the sake of blending in,” Demetrius defended. “And with any bigger device, we wouldn’t be able to work in the DNA coding and automatic return system. People would lose their warpers all over the place if they didn’t automatically warp back to them. I once had mine stolen by a pickpocket in…”
“Automatic return system?” Chase interrupted, staring. “Seriously?”
“Well, of course.” Demetrius frowned. “That’s part of the DNA lock—it automatically comes back to me. Or else they would have taken my watch when they took Jane.”
“So it just… zaps right back to you?” I asked incredulously. Man, just when I thought time travel couldn’t get cooler. At least it made sense why our plan never had Demetrius separated from his watch.
One of his absent-looking smiles pulled at his mouth as the car jerked to a stop in front of the society building. “Here, let me show you.” He pressed a button and his window vanished. He pulled out his pocketwatch.
“Ohhh, let’s not.” Jonah reached over and clamped a hand over Demetrius’s. “No warper chucking. We can do that later when we have Jane back, alright?”
Demetrius’s smile faded and he nodded. “Right. Sorry.” I noticed his hand tremble a little as he stuck it back into his pocket.
I looked out the window again, tilting my head to see to the top of the building’s turrets. My heartbeat thumped a little faster. So here we went, then.
Chase unbuckled from his own seat. “You ready, Zoey?” He didn’t sound all that ready, himself.
I puffed out my cheeks as I blew out a breath, nodding. “Yep.”
Jonah tapped a finger to the inside of his ear. “Turn on the comm line and gimme a holler when one of you figures out where Jane is.”
We all checked to make sure our earpieces were on. I felt the teeny bump underneath the pad of my finger and pressed on it, hearing a little click. I frowned for a few seconds.
“So how are these supposed to work?”
Chase, Jonah and Demetrius all flinched, grabbing their ears with the earpieces.
I jumped a little too, putting my hands up. “I wasn’t that loud, was I?”
Jonah eased his expression out of a wince, turning towards me. “Gotta be a little quieter. These are really sensitive little buggers.”
My ear without the earpiece picked up his voice as a barely audible whisper, while my other ear heard a perfectly normal speaking tone. I stared.
“Fascinating. Did Tesla invent these while I was gone?” Demetrius’s voice came through in my left ear like a yell and it was my turn to flinch.
Chase winced hard. “Can we turn these off until we need them?” he hissed.
Jonah nodded, touching inside his ear. “Messages should still come through, but only tap it on when you need to say something. When you find something.” Thankfully, his voice came in its normal tone through both ears this time.
I clicked mine off and Chase did the same, reaching up afterwards to turn Demetrius’s off.
“Right. Well…” I twisted my mouth sideways and fiddled with the door handle, looking towards the grand, wooden doors at the entrance of the society building. “People’ll probably get suspicious if we hang out here for much longer.”
Jonah nodded. “Say your driver was admiring the scenery, if anybody asks.” He touched his fingertips to the brim of his hat briefly as he looked back to me. “Good luck in there, kid.”
Demetrius reached back and patted my head, looking deathly serious. “Saints go with you. And tell us the second you learn anything about Jane.”
I nodded back, pressing my lips in an awkward line. “Will do.”
Chase didn’t say anything for a few seconds, just sitting there looking tense and worried. He reached over and squeezed my hand a little. “Don’t do anything stupid ‘til I get inside, okay?”
I laughed nervously. “I’ll try. See you in there.”
I popped the door open and stepped out, my heeled shoes clicking on the bricks that made up this section of the road. Warmth still radiated from the magnets holding the pod car up off the ground.
The building looked a lot bigger, up close like this.
And Jane’s somewhere in there.
I took a deep breath and pulled my fake glasses back down onto my nose, trying to feel smart and capable. I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath, and started up the short brick walk to the door.
The soft whir of the pod-car sounded behind me, while a whoosh of wind rippled my skirt. I felt like I was suddenly riding a bike without training wheels for the first time.
This was the first time I’d really been alone in this future world, so far. And here I was, heading in to lie about who I was and try to get inside for a tour of this futuristic, crazy society.
My heartbeat bumped faster and my hands felt sweaty, but I kept walking. Another deep breath. We’d planned this all out. It’d be fine.
We were gonna find Jane.
My shoes clicked as I moved up the stone steps. I stood in front of the door. Intricate carvings swirled over the wood in a pattern of leaves and vines. I traced my fingers along them a little bit before reaching for the doorbell and ringing.
An old-fashioned clanging sound came from inside, muffled by the doors. The bell sound faded away into silence.
I bit my lip as I stood there, twisting my skirt fabric in my fingers. Maybe I should ring again…?
And then there was a loud click that made me jump, and the door swung open with a creak. The smell of old leather and books drifted out. A woman in a white blouse and a black pencil skirt stepped out, peering at me.
She was dressed a lot more normally than most other people I’d seen so far in this time. Her hair was cut at a strange angle, but she barely had on any makeup and looked generally more old-fashioned than the general population.
She raised her eyebrows at me. “Can I help you?”
I realized I’d just been staring for a few seconds and quickly shook myself out of it. I gave my most charming smile, raising one hand to wave a little. “Hello! I’m . . . Professor Williamson, from… America.” Dang it, Jonah. I knew I’d forget that complicated city name you gave me. “I had a visit scheduled today? Just to . . . you know, look around and see how you run things here.” I leaned forward almost conspiratorially. “It’s been kind of my dream to come here for years now. You guys were booked really far out.”
I almost felt like she could hear how loud my heart was thumping.
She frowned, tilting her head a little. “Williamson?”
“Mm hmm.” I nodded and tucked my hair back behind one ear, biting my lip.
“I don’t remember seeing a Williamson on the calendar for today . . . ” the woman hummed thoughtfully, glancing back inside. She hesitated for a second, then motioned for me to follow her. “Our bookings get mixed up a lot, with how we do them. You might have been lost in the shuffle. Come back in with me, and we can check.”
I tried not to look too visibly relieved or victorious as I followed her. I bit back my smile.
In the door. That’s step one complete.
The rich, leathery smell practically washed over me as I stepped inside. That alone would have sold me on this place, but what it looked like.
An ornate, coppery looking chandelier hung from the ceiling. Dark wood panels shone in the light from the many windows. The ivy carvings that were on the door continued around the trim through the whole enormous entryway. Spiral staircases curled up to the next floor on either side of the room, and the clicking of my shoes muffled in the jewel-toned carpet covering the floor.
I realized I’d just completely stopped walking to stand there and stare. My mouth hung open and my eyes were wide behind the fake glasses.
The woman was over behind a large mahogany desk, shuffling through papers and clicking through some things on a strange looking computer.
I forced my mouth back closed and moved over towards her. As much as there were other awesome things I wanted to look at, there might be something to tip me off to where Jane might be, on her desk.
“This is a really amazing place, here,” I remarked, leaning one elbow against the edge of the desk and peering over. Not exactly the most professional pose, but I could see a lot more now.
The secretary lady looked up slightly, giving a polite laugh. “It isn’t like I own the place, but thank you.”
“Must be an amazing place to work.”
It was hard to read any of the papers upside down, and besides, they all seemed to be a bunch of boring dates and names. But there was something much more interesting on the computer screen.
A layout of the whole building, with the usual “tour route” highlighted. I tried to read as many room names as I could in a few unsuspicious glances. I could make out a few library rooms. A few probable museum rooms. Storage. Clothes. One labeled just “X” and a few unlabeled.
X marks the spot?
I looked back up at the ceiling and over at the chandelier for a few seconds, trying to keep my heart from pounding too hard. I glanced at the old clock behind the desk on the wall and blinked a couple of times.
Those hands had to be in the wrong position. It was early in the morning, not…
My heart skipped a beat again.
Again.What was up with that? Were all the clocks just broken, in the future?
“I’m in.” Chase’s quiet voice came through in my ear and I flinched hard.“I found an extra janitor coat in the closet, so I didn’t have to knock anyone out, thankfully.”
Well, it was good to hear, but now my hands were shaking from the adrenaline rush.
The secretary looked up at me, her smooth brow crinkled. “Are you okay?”
I managed a smile back at her. “Fine. I just … twisted my ankle a little.”
Oh great, why had I said that? Was I gonna have to walk with a limp for the whole rest of the time I was here?
Thankfully, the lady just nodded sympathetically. She looked back down to the desk. “Well, I found something for a Professor Williamson who’s from Canada and who’s supposed to visit next month … we may have booked you incorrectly. You’re a history professor interested in joining us, correct?”
I just bobbed my head, afraid I’d break the magic of my good luck by speaking.
She nodded back.
I got one last glance at the computer screen before she turned it off, and one tiny line of blue text from a room on the second floor stayed seared into my vision.
The secretary gave me a pleasant smile, tucking her hair back. “I think we have our schedule free enough to show you around. I’ve paged Mr. Hudson and he should be along shortly to escort you.”
I beamed back at her, trying not to let my sigh of relief be too obvious. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” I bounced on my toes a little. “I just can’t wait to see everything.”
Not a lie.
But now I had my mind set on a very particular “misplaced person” I wanted to see.
Located Jane. Step two, complete.
All cards on the table, this and the next part were supposed to be one part.
But the next part got very long, oops. We’ll have to wait another week. -ninja face-
Any theories? How’d you like the part?
Talk to me in the comments!