-slides in late- That’s two strikes for me and proof that you guys need to bug me more when it’s Thursday.
Have a new time travel story part.
And catch up here if you’re behind:
Part 16: Watch for the Paradox
Before I could even yell for Demetrius, our room at the Metrotel appeared back around us.
My stomach lurched, for more than one reason.
We’d just left him. He’d made us leave him.
There was no way he was getting Jane out by himself and getting them both away from all the security the Historian Society had to offer. And there was no way they’d be going easy on some guy they were obviously trying to bump off for breaking their rules.
He wasn’t thinking clearly. He was gonna get himself killed.
I just stood there in shock with my brain screaming at me to do something to fix this mess and make it better. Demetrius and Jane could die, and we were just back here safe and sound.
I realized I was still gripping the watch and frantically started turning it over in my hands, twisting the dials like I’d seen Demetrius do. Maybe if we could get back there . . .
“Zoey!” Chase grabbed my arm, his hand shaking. “Stop it!”
“We have to go back for them!” I shot back. “You saw all the security going into that room! Demetrius is screwed if he doesn’t have his watch!”
“And we won’t be helping anything if you send us both back to ancient Egypt!” Chase snatched the watch out of my hand. “You don’t know anything about how this watch runs.”
“I’ve seen Demetrius do it tons of times!”
“So have I. And I know machines, but I still have no idea how it works. You don’t either.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “Listen, I know you’re scared. I am too. But remember what Demetrius was telling us right before we went in?”
My brain was too frazzled to pull up that whole conversation. I swallowed back the sick taste in the back of my throat. “T-to tell him the second we saw Jane? But he got to Jane before us, and . . .”
“No, not that. The thing about his watch. The automatic return system, remember?”
The frantic drumming of my heartbeat inside my chest evened out just a little bit as I remembered. “The watch is DNA locked.”
“Right. And that means it always goes back to him.” There was still a slight tremor in Chase’s hand as he held up the watch. “So all we have to do…” he moved over and set it on the windowsill, “… is wait for it to register that it’s not with him and warp back. See?”
I kept my gaze on the watch, sitting on the windowsill and glinting in the light, the chain still swinging a little, beneath it. I swallowed. “It’s not going anywhere.”
“Well, it probably takes a little to register. Give it a bit of time.”
I still felt like a spring that was coiled too tightly.
Demetrius and Jane didn’t have more than a bit of time. That watch needed to get back to them.
I rubbed my hands together, trying to let off some of the panicked energy, while still keeping an eye on the watch. Come on, come on, warp already…
Chase blew out a breath and rubbed a hand over his short hair. “It’ll be okay, Zo. There’s not a lot else we can do.”
“I know,” I muttered. My stomach twisted itself into another knot. Those screech-owl sirens started up again in the distance. I sat down on one of the weirdly shaped, future chairs and kept fidgeting nervously.
Then suddenly, a voice came through in my left ear. I jumped. Chase stiffened at the same moment.
“… hear me? Guys, I… Demetrius… please…”
I gasped and sat bolt upright in my seat. “Jonah? Jonah can you hear us? We’re back at the Metrotel, is Demetrius with you? Does he have Jane? Are you guys okay?”
“Can’t… breaking u-… on my w-… safe?”
Chase answered that time, from what we could make out from that. “Yeah, we’re safe. Back in town. Do you have Demetrius?” He paused for a second as a bit more static came through. “Maybe… answer that when the signal’s cleared up more.”
There was one more static-y sound from Jonah’s end and then it went silent.
I huffed out a breath and leaned my elbows forwards on my knees. Yet another thing to wait and feel nervous about.
The nausea I was feeling pressed up the back of my throat again and I winced, swallowing. Maybe I should get a garbage can or something. Throwing up didn’t seem too far off, as a possibility.
I looked over at the watch. It still hadn’t moved.
I groaned quietly and dropped my head forward as my stomach twisted. I hadn’t felt this sick since Demetrius had gotten shot in the arm, back when we were in Canada.
Chase looked over at me. “Jonah’ll be here soon, okay? We’ll work this out.”
“Yeah, I know,” I mumbled, rubbing a hand over my face. “It’s not that, it’s just… I don’t feel g-“ My voice choked on the last word as a chill ran through my body. Only I’d gotten chills before. And this… didn’t feel like those times. This felt like a computer glitch. Like I’d turned into a ghost for a few seconds.
My chair slipped out from underneath me and I sat down hard on the floor.
Chase’s eyes widened and he hurried over. “What was…? Zoey, are you okay?”
“I-I have no idea, it…” I swallowed hard, my heartbeat pounding again as I sucked in a breath. Realization slowly started to settle in my stomach like a cold rock—because actually, I did have an idea.
Chase felt me over, his brow furrowed in worry. He pressed a hand against my forehead. “It doesn’t feel like you have a fever. You’re a little cold, actually. And that weird… thing you just did.” He bit his lip and sat back on his heels. “Time travel side effects? Maybe not everyone gets time sick…”
I curled my legs up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. My heart pounded harder as my mind whirled, trying to disprove my idea. That was just too wacky. There was no way…
It got scarier, the more I thought about it.
And I would have just shoved it to the back of my mind and never thought about it again… if where I’d seen Jane’s face before hadn’t finally clicked into place just then.
I put my head against my knees, trying to take in a deep breath and not hyperventilate.
Chase shifted his position, scooting closer. “Want me to get you something from the room service machine? Maybe they have soda.”
I almost asked for more Zags, but I probably couldn’t have kept them down. I lifted my head again to look at him. “Remember what I was… kind of rambling about when I ran back into you in the society building?”
“Something about clocks and paradoxes?” Chase frowned.
I nodded, biting my lip for a second. “So I kept noticing something about all the clocks, that they kept changing to one twenty-three. And I thought it was something with Demetrius and the whole time travel thing. I thought he was the one doing it, but… he wasn’t. Because when I went inside by myself, every time I’d get near a clock, it would change. And Demetrius wasn’t even with me.”
The worry creases in Chase’s forehead got more pronounced as his eyebrows pressed closer together. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I didn’t know. But I asked the guy who was showing me around if their clocks were broken or something. And he figured out they were changing around me. And he called someone else over and they said he should sound the ‘paradox alert’ and they were both just staring at me, and…” I stopped, taking in a shuddery breath.
“Like something that’s not supposed to happen. Something that went wrong.” My voice came out louder than I intended. I winced and hugged my legs tighter. “A-and I think I know what that is now.”
Chase opened his mouth to ask, but got cut off as Jonah’s voice came through the comms again, this time coming clear through the static.
“Okay, I should be in range now. You kids hear me?”
We just looked at each other for a few seconds, then Chase sighed and I touched the button inside my ear. “Yeah, Jonah, we can hear you.”
Chase reached over and grabbed my hand, squeezing it gently as he turned on his own earpiece.
“Well that’s one thing going for us, at least,” he muttered. I heard a heavy exhale over the line. “I’ve got the pod car and I’m only a few minutes out from you. I overheard some stuff after climbing up the side, but couldn’t get Demetrius out. And it’s not good news.”
Chase winced. “Is Demetrius…?” he trailed off.
“Still alive. Society has those rules against killing, remember? But he’s sure as hell got himself locked up. And Jane…” Jonah stopped for a few seconds and I held my breath. He sighed again.“I don’t think we’re winning this one, folks. Our time we have to work with just got shaved down to next to nothing. Somehow Morrow managed to fry the controls on the stasis pod they had Jane in. She’s awake. And now that they don’t have to worry about Demetrius being around anymore, since he’s locked up… they’re taking her back. Back to die where she’s supposed to, on the Lusitania.”
Silence. I didn’t have any air to reply.
“They’re suiting someone up to go back with her now, and that’s gonna be it. I’m sorry, we … there’s nothing we can do. With my warper broken, Morrow’s DNA locked like it is, and Morrow locked up in one of those warp-proof cells they have … we don’t have a chance.”
Chase finally worked up the voice to respond. “I… is there really nothing we can…?”
“If there is, I don’t know what it could be,” Jonah replied, his voice tired. Another stretch of silence. “Listen, I’ll be back in just a minute here, and we can talk about it more.”
The line went dead, along with just about all the hope we had just then. My eyes stung and my nose felt tingly.
Another chill went through my body and my hand slipped through Chase’s.
Literally, through it.
We both stared, Chase taking the shock side of things and me covering dismay.
I knew what was doing this to me, and I knew why I was a paradox.
Because the place I’d seen Jane’s picture before had been when I was studying my family’s genealogy.
I shifted so that I was sitting on my knees instead of hugging them, and then opened my mouth to tell Chase. But the watch interrupted me. It flickered away from the windowsill in a flash of gold. And then reappeared in my lap.
I flickered again and the watch clunked to the floor as it fell through me.
Chase’s eyes got wider and his mouth fell open. He just stared for a second, pointing. “That … that shouldn’t … how …?”
I swallowed. “Because it’s DNA locked. And I’m one of Demetrius and Jane’s descendants.”
But now Jane was going to die. Demetrius was locked up and couldn’t save her.
And I was going to disappear.
Ahhh, a really nice relaxing ending there, huh?
Who of your guys saw that coming? -eyebrow wiggle- 😀
Come back next week to see how things turn out!