I thought the Time Capsule problem would drive me crazy until I went back to four-oh-oh-seven, but actually I hardly thought of it. Ren’s mom took a turn for the worse and I spent a few evenings in the care center, holding his hand while we waited for news.
Margy finally found a few extra shifts for me, which was welcome as a pipe broke in the tin closet and The Bank blamed us for it, so all my coat savings went to the fix. I was shivering so much Toby finally called our parents and they sent us one of my mother’s old ones. It wasn’t much better than the one I had, but the two of them together were at least bearable.
All of that pretty much drove away my thoughts about Time Capsules or Level 3’s or anything. I didn’t see Scat but I wasn’t at the apartment much either, just a few hours in the middle of the night to collapse in sleep. In fact, I only really thought about it again when I knocked on four-oh-oh-seven’s door and let myself in.
She was waiting for me.
“Come here, girl,” she announced the second I stepped inside, and I remembered everything with a sudden thump in my stomach.
She was in deep purple today, like a bruise. Even her eyes were purple, making a skull of her pretty face. I came.
“I decided not to report your transgressions to your supervisor,” she said. I didn’t know that word in the middle but I guessed what it meant well enough. “Though I will expect you never to go looking in my private possessions again.”
I didn’t say I hadn’t gone looking, she’d left them out in plain sight. She was doing me a favor. “Yes ma’am,” I said.
“But in return, you will help me.” It wasn’t a question.
“I have thought about it and I believe the Clouders have kidnapped Tuscan,” she said gravely, “and you will help me find him.”
I didn’t know who Tuscan was but I figured it was her guy, and I didn’t really like the idea at all, but I was pretty sure she meant that if I didn’t say yes she’d tell Margy I’d been looking through her things. There weren’t cameras in the bathroom to back up my side of the story. I didn’t have a choice.
Still, I couldn’t help saying something. “I didn’t know the Clouders kidnap people,” I said.
She didn’t like back talk. “That’s not your concern. He would have found me by now. He always has. Something’s gone wrong.”
“I don’t understand, ma’am,” I said. What I meant was, if I have to help you, maybe you should tell me something.
She must have gotten it, because she glowered a bit and stared out the window, but finally huffed a bit and said, “Do you know what you found the other day?”
I didn’t want to say, but I wasn’t sure I could lie either. I said, “I’m not sure.”
“Time Capsules. Taking one allows you to relocate to any time of your choosing. But there’s a price; your existence in your original time is lost, or fades away. It is as if you have always lived in your new time. The only thing you keep is your memories, but even those are mixed and tainted with the memories of this new time, that you never truly lived.”
It sounded pretty complicated to me, but I thought it sort of seemed like it’d be hard for Level 3’s to just pop around changing things if it created a whole new past for them. I wondered if Toby would be pleased, and then thought I’d probably never be allowed to tell him.
“So you’re from the future.” It wasn’t a question.
She nodded theatrically. “Not so very far in the future, if I’m right. But the thing is — well, Tuscan and I — my mother didn’t want us to be together.” She sniffed haughtily. “We heard about the Capsules and ran away together, to another time. But that one wasn’t as we thought, so we went to another, and another –“
She sighed, a little rapturous smile covering her face. “Can you imagine how exciting it was, every new time, to find each other again? We never knew where we’d find each other, what pasts would be created. Sometimes it was so impossible! Me the duchess and him the court jester! What a funny life! But each time it was like falling in love all over again. The adventures we had!”
She waved a purple arm, the gems at her throat winking, but just as soon, she fell silent, brooding. Her eyes blinked sadly under their purple shadow. “But this time he hasn’t found me. He always found me before.”
She turned to look at me then, as if waiting for something, and her face crinkled. “What’s wrong with you, girl?”
I shut my mouth with a snap. I hadn’t realized I’d been looking at her with all the open-mouthed confusion I felt. I couldn’t possibly imagine the carelessness of it, jumping from time to time and hoping they’d find each other. I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help from blurting the question out. “But if you really love him, why would you ever purposefully lose him?”
Her eyes snapped. “Because it was romantic, you stupid girl, not that you’d know anything about that.” She was right, I didn’t. Romance, what I thought I knew of it, required time and energy that I would never have. “Imagine, ours was a love story that has spanned generations, across time, space, centuries!”
Except that each time it was erased, I thought, but I didn’t say it. I didn’t understand, and I didn’t think I wanted to.
“Of course, ma’am,” I said. “What are we going to do then?”
“We will go up. And you will come with me.”
I wondered what she needed me for, and if I dared ask. “Today? But I have to clean On-I mean, four-oh-oh-eight.”
“Never mind that. I talked to your supervisor, they’ve arranged cover.”
So I wouldn’t be getting paid for the extra hour. I fumed, but she seemed to get it and waved me off with a frustrated sigh. “Of course I’ll pay you, girl, is that all you think about?”
Yes, because I have to, I thought. I disliked her more and more by the second. “Thank you, ma’am,” I said humbly.
“Now. We will take a shuttle to the Station, and a Clouder ride from there,” she announced, and I looked at her in surprise.
“They don’t run Clouder rides anymore, not after the disappearances.”
“They do, if you pay enough,” She responded with a self-satisfied smile. “And they are waiting for me now. Come on, girl. To the helipad.”
I thought suddenly about going up there, and seeing Toby, seeing me trailing after her in her purple, and I hated the idea with a fierce passion. But she didn’t notice, or care. She was standing in the door, waiting for me.
I went. I had no choice.
This is the sixth part of the new series on Once Upon A What Now? entitled “She.” The fifth part is here. If you enjoyed, make sure to click the green heart to recommend, and follow the publication so you don’t miss the next parts!