Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Claudia sat on the Warehouse floor, surrounded by vaguely-ordered chaos. There were gears, screws, pieces of wood, glue, pieces of metal, springs, and tools all strewn around her in a semi-circle.
She studied the inner workings of the metronome in her hands. This one had very recently been whole and working, but it was just a regular old metronome. Fully understanding how it worked, though, was the first step in figuring out Johann Maelzel’s special device.
No one else knew what she was attempting; she knew it was better that way. Instead, she had slowly put together her own secret ‘Claudia-cave’ near the Personnel Quarters Archive. Whenever she could, she snuck away down there to work in private. She did find herself wishing that H.G. was still around, though. She would understand, even if no one else would. She would be willing and able to help.
But taking things apart and putting them back together again was one of the things that Claudia was just naturally good at. She’d figure out a way to make the artifact work again. She just had to.
The young inventor had also started thinking again about re-accepting the Caretaker job. But she’d do it her own way this time, and maybe the increased connection to the Warehouse would help her figure out what she needed to do.
Claudia wasn’t giving up on Myka, she repeated silently to herself. She just realized that she wasn’t ready to give up on Steve, either.
She pulled on a pair of purple gloves and went to work.
“We’ve only just arrived,” Helena laughed, “and you already wish to leave again?”
Myka shrugged stiffly, attempting nonchalance. It was their first night in Paris, and Myka had brought up the possibility of leaving the city as they got ready for bed. The guest room they were sharing only had one bed, which Myka wasn’t letting herself feel nervous about for now. There were more important things to deal with first.
“Not leave, really,” Myka replied. “Just, I don’t know. I thought it might be nice. You, Christina, and I, we could all take a short trip together. Anywhere, really. Just to get away from the city for a little while.”
Helena narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
It was clear that Helena knew Myka was uneasy about something, but it seemed like she couldn't decide whether or not to call Myka on it.
“Christina has been feeling a bit under the weather, but yes,” Helena agreed after a moment. “A small trip together once she’s recovered would be lovely.”
Myka grit her teeth. “Why wait?” she asked, sounding more desperate than she’d meant to. She coughed. “We could just go now. Well, not now, but you know. Tomorrow.”
Helena didn’t reply at first, frowning at Myka. “Why wait?” she repeated flatly. “Because Christina is ill, as I just told you. Is something-”
“Well, some fresh air really might be good for her,” Myka interrupted. “Besides, it’s no fun being cooped up inside, even when you’re sick.”
H.G. considered her silently, but Myka couldn’t quite tell what she was thinking.
Unable to keep quiet under the scrutiny, Myka continued, “It’s just... I know how much the two of you have missed each other. I can only imagine how hard it is, being away from each other for this extended amount of time. I really think that just being with you and doing something special would be great for her right now. Great for both of you, really. And I’m the tag-along, so I get to come too.”
Apparently, she’d managed to say the right thing. Helena’s expression softened into a loving smile as she turned in the direction of Christina’s room.
“We could head towards the coast,” Helena suggested. “The railroad goes out to both Nantes and Saint-Nazaire. I’ve never been to either of them, but I have heard that they’re lovely.” Helena’s gaze turned back towards Myka, and she affectionately ran her palm over Myka’s cheek. “You’re right, maybe some fresh air and each others’ company is something we could all use right now. And you are very much more than simply a tag-along, you know.”
Myka smiled, trying not to show quite how relieved she was. This was still no guarantee, but... They were on the right track, at least.
Christina almost always remembered her dreams. She was constantly making up stories in her head during the day, and at night, her imagination kept right going.
This night, however, her mind simply went blank. No dreams, just emptiness.
Her slight cold had by now turned into a fever, and that combined with her excitement over the trip and being on an overnight train for the first time meant that she was sleeping very lightly. Christina’s eyes fluttered open, then, as she slowly became aware of someone crouching beside her bed. She wasn’t scared, though, even before she fully realized that it was Miss Bering.
She blinked sleepily a number of times and stretched. She looked down at her own hand, wondering why Miss Bering was gripping it so tightly.
“Miss Bering?” she asked with a yawn. “Are we there?”
“No, not yet,” Miss Bering replied. She was looking at Christina strangely, a wide smile spreading across her face as she reached with her other hand to carefully stroke through Christina’s hair.
“I’m sorry I woke you,” she continued. “I just... I just needed to see you.”
Christina nodded, even though she didn’t really understand. “What time is it?” she asked.
For some reason, Miss Bering’s smile grew even brighter at the question, though she also looked as if she might cry. Adults were strange, sometimes.
“A little after midnight,” was the response. “Now go back to sleep, little bird. We’ll be there before you know it.”
Apparently satisfied, Miss Bering squeezed her hand one more time, and then leaned forward to kiss her flushed forehead.
Her eyes were already closing, but she managed to whisper, “’Night, Miss Bering,” before drifting off back to sleep.
She slept deeply this time, dreaming that she, her mum, and Miss Bering were on a journey together to save the world.
The plan for a relaxing few days along the coast didn’t go quite as intended. Instead, Christina spent their trip sick in bed, and rainy weather kept both Helena and Myka cooped up indoors as well.
Helena had been feeling nearly claustrophobic almost from the start. It was one thing to stay indoors when the decision to do so was voluntary; it was quite another when she had no choice in the matter.
Myka alone seemed unperturbed, but her constantly cheerful demeanor was beginning grate on Helena’s nerves.
“What is it that you are quite so happy about?” Helena asked grumpily, pacing back and forth before the window of their suite.
Myka smiled, moving behind Helena and gracefully capturing the writer within her arms. Helena obediently stopped moving, allowing Myka to crane her neck over Helena’s shoulder and press her lips to Helena’s cheek. “Why shouldn’t I be happy?” she countered. “I’m here, in France, with two lovely ladies for company.”
Helena could almost hear the smirk in Myka’s voice as she continued, her voice now noticeably lower in pitch. “Though I do enjoy your particular company in a very special way,” she drawled, trailing her lips down the column of Helena’s neck.
In spite of her irritable mood, Helena felt herself relaxing back into Myka’s embrace, arching her neck to the side to allow the other woman more room. Myka hummed happily in response.
Helena stiffened, however, when she heard the sound of Christina coughing in the other room. She pulled away from Myka’s grasp with a growl of frustration. Myka’s good mood had also resulted in her being more... spirited than usual, and while she would normally be quite pleased at this development, their unfortunate current circumstances – there was plenty of room, really, but knowing that her sick daughter lay just on the other side of the wall did tend to put a damper on things – meant that Helena was about ready to jump out of her own skin.
Myka reached out and squeezed Helena’s hand once, and then went to check on Christina.
“She’s fine,” Myka said when she came back out less than a minute later. “Fast asleep, and I left a note in case she does wake up.”
Helena frowned at this.
“Yes. Now come on, we’re going outside,” Myka pronounced.
Helena’s frown only deepened. “Darling, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is currently a great deal of water falling from the sky,” she replied impassively.
Myka raised a challenging eyebrow. “So?” she asked. “A little water never hurt anyone. Where’s your sense of adventure?”
Helena scoffed. She had a perfectly good sense of adventure, thank you very much, but really, her idea of a good time most certainly did not involve getting drenched in the rain. One sick member of their party was more than enough; Christina didn’t need the two of them to catch ill as well.
But Myka was already out the door, running out towards the beach.
Helena sighed, but with a last glance towards Christina’s room, she followed Myka outside and gave chase.
Unexpectedly, it was quite revitalizing, this spontaneous run through the rain. It also turned out that Myka actually had a destination in mind as well. Soon, they were catching their breath in a small cave carved into the cliff at the edge of the beach.
Myka brushed Helena’s wet hair out of her eyes, a wide grin again spreading across her face and a bright gleam in her eye. This time, Helena allowed herself to join in with Myka’s mirth, and with one shared look, both women were suddenly bursting into laughter. It wasn’t that there was anything particularly humorous about the situation; they laughed in relief, feeling happy and free as they breathed in the cool fresh air.
“So was it worth braving the elements?” Myka queried, once they’d calmed down. “Would you rather be here right now or still stuck in that stuffy room?”
Helena rolled her eyes, but her soft smile provided answer enough to Myka’s question.
“However did you know that this would be here? Or was it pure dumb luck?” Helena teased.
Myka ignored the second question, explaining, “I was talking with the innkeeper yesterday and he told me about it. I knew that you were going to go crazy if you had to stay cooped up in that room any longer. Do you forgive me for dragging you out in spite of the ‘great deal of water falling from the sky’?”
Again, Helena didn’t respond verbally. Instead, she leaned back against the cave wall and reached for the woman in front of her, pulling Myka towards her by the edges of her waistcoat.
Myka moved forward willingly, pressing her body flush against Helena’s as their mouths effortlessly fused together.
The walls of the cave fell away; so too did the weather outside and the slight chill that Helena felt from her now damp clothing. There was nothing but the two of them – cool hands warming as they swept across heated skin, lips becoming swollen from coming together again and again, nails lightly dragging through damp hair.
Helena was certainly no blushing innocent, but there was a spark of electricity between them, which felt invigoratingly new.
One of them moaned (Helena thought it was Myka, but she couldn’t be sure), and the sound drove Helena to push tighter against Myka’s body. She groaned in frustration, though, as her wandering hands kept meeting resistance in the form of Myka’s clothing. She could reach under Myka’s hem to the smooth skin of Myka’s waist and lower back, but that was all, before the tightness in the fabric impeded any further progress.
Myka pulled back minutely, studying Helena’s face as she chewed absently on her bottom lip. Helena met the gaze head-on, not shying away from the intense look in the brunette’s eyes.
“Celebrate with me,” Myka whispered.
Helena quirked an eyebrow in confusion, but lost track of her question as Myka’s fingers rose to begin undoing the buttons of her vest.
Her mouth suddenly dry, Helena cleared her throat before she managed to ask, “What are we celebrating?”
Myka leaned in again, kissing her as though she were filled with a hunger that only Helena could sate. Their lips were a few scant centimeters apart when Myka finally responded, exhaling one word over Helena’s skin: “Life.”
Myka’s good mood lasted until they were almost back to Paris. Then, a slight anxiousness settled in. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect back at the apartment. Just because Christina wasn’t there, that certainly didn’t mean that the robbers hadn’t still come.
Indeed, they arrived back to find everything still in disarray. The police were trying to track down the thieves, but there wasn’t much to go on. Since Christina hadn’t been sick in bed at the time, Sophie the housekeeper wasn’t inside looking after her. So there were no witnesses – no unexplained blanks in memory, no robbers coming across a housekeeper who knows kempo. Instead, there was simply a lot of stolen property.
Myka felt a twinge of guilt, but all she had to do was look and see Christina, alive, and nothing else mattered.
She couldn’t quite meet Helena’s eyes, though.
“It’s really quite a miracle that you decided to leave when you did,” Helena’s cousin, Rose, exclaimed. “I shudder to think of poor Christina and Sophie being inside when those brutes came here.”
“A miracle, yes,” Helena replied softly. She was clutching Christina to her side, her arm wrapped tightly around the girl’s shoulders.
Helena was sometimes too clever for her own good, and Myka could feel Helena’s eyes boring into her. The cogs were obviously turning in the artificer’s head. It had been Myka who first suggested and then insisted so forcefully that they leave. Myka, who came from the future. Myka, who knew things that no one else did.
She could only hope that Helena would let it drop. It wouldn’t do anyone any good to talk about what might have been; what once had been.
Unable to keep from squirming, Myka finally peered over at Helena out of the corner of her eye. The other woman’s expression was an intense mix of confusion, suspicion, and protectiveness. Myka clenched her jaw, but said nothing.
Then, as Myka watched, Helena seemed to come to some sort of decision. Myka could easily see the wave of denial that ran through her. Helena’s facial features softened, she relaxed her stiff posture, and she leaned down to kiss the top of Christina’s head.
Their eyes met for just a moment. Helena blinked, and then looked away.
I don’t want to know, her eyes said. Whatever this means, I don’t want to know.
The door to the office slammed open, startling Pete so badly that he lost his balance, tumbling over backwards in the chair that he’d been balancing on its back legs.
“Dude!” Claudia cried out, sounding alarmed for all of one second, before she burst into laughter.
Myka stood in the doorway.
“I’m so sorry Pete, are you okay?” she asked, hurrying over to his side.
“Oww,” Pete groaned. “Way to make an entrance, Mykes.” He’d had the wind knocked out of him, but was really none the worse for wear.
“I’m so sorry,” she mumbled once again, making a tight, apologetic face.
He winked, showing her that he was fine.
Claudia moved closer as well, and though she hadn’t quite managed to stop laughing yet, both women reached down to help pull him back onto his feet.
Once he was back standing, he took advantage of the now-rare opportunity of having them both within arms’ reach and pulled them in for a bear hug.
“Good to have both my women back beside me!” he pronounced happily.
“Your women?” Claudia repeated, scoffing lightly, at the same time that Myka pulled back and slugged him in the arm. So much for her being worried that he might be hurt. “Have you been hanging out in the Paleolithic Aisle?” Claudia continued.
Pete turned to quickly face the redhead. “We have a Paleolithic Aisle? Are there dinosaurs?” he asked, feeling his inner-five-year-old-boy spring to the forefront.
Claudia ignored him, turning to Myka with a raised eyebrow. “His women.” She rolled her eyes, earning an affectionate smile back from Myka.
Then, as if they were communicating on their own telepathic wavelength, both Myka and Claudia simultaneously rushed at him. He instinctively jumped backwards, but there was a split second when he had no idea what was going on, before they reached out and started tickling him.
They were pure evil. Both of them.
Pete was a tough guy. A United States Secret Service Agent. A man’s man.
He let out a girlish little squeal. They already knew exactly where his weak spots were, and they were going straight for the kill.
“Mercy!” he cried out, trying to squirm away from them. “Mercy! I’m not a Neanderthal, I swear! Yay for feminism!”
Myka stopped almost immediately, distracting Claudia just long enough for Pete to escape and run around to the opposite side of the table in the middle of the room.
“Come on, Myka,” Claudia protested, “you let him off way too easily.”
“Sorry,” Myka replied, not sounding sorry at all. She had a goofy smile on her face. “I just... Pete reminded me that I have to go check something.”
Without any other word of explanation, Myka turned around and started up the spiral staircase, heading in the direction of the archive room.
Claudia turned to him with a look of confusion, but he could only shrug in return.
Suddenly, though, he was hit with a vibe – a bad one.
He frowned, worried, and rushed to chase after Myka, with Claudia following right behind him.
Myka was sitting at the table in the room, some kind of file spread out in front of her. She was facing towards them but she just flipped rapidly through pages until she found whatever she was looking for.
The goofy smile had remained while she looked, but as soon as Myka landed on the current page, her face fell. Pete’s vibe intensified, rising from the pit of his stomach.
“No,” Myka muttered, almost to herself. She looked up at them, an expression of confusion and pain written across her face. “No,” she repeated, louder this time, even as color slowly drained from her face. “No, that’s wrong! I changed it, how... This can’t be right.”
Frowning, Pete moved forward to try to see what it was that Myka found so upsetting. It took him a few seconds, but he soon realized that she was looking at the H.G. Wells file. That still didn’t help him figure out what was going on.
“Myka, what-” he began.
“This!” she cried, jamming her finger down on a particular spot on the page in front of her. “This is wrong!”
He twisted his head until he could read the line. ‘Dependents: Christina Wells, daughter; deceased (1891 – 1899).’
Pete’s brow furrowed. He had no idea what the problem was. He looked over to Claudia to see if things seemed any clearer to her, but she just shook her head at him.
Myka kept staring at that one line of text. “How did it happen?” she asked, voice barely above a whisper.
“How did what happen?” he responded with his own question. He was starting to get frustrated. “Myka, you’re not making any sense, what are you talking about?”
Her head whipped upwards again, and he involuntarily took a step back as her intense gaze burned through him. “This didn’t happen; I stopped it from happening!” she yelled brokenly. “Either I’m wrong, or this stupid file is. So tell me! How did she die?! When did she die?!”
Pete tried to think, but his mind was drawing a blank. He knew that H.G.’s daughter had died, but he wasn’t sure whether he’d ever learned any of the details.
Thankfully, Claudia spoke up. “She witnessed a murder,” she said in a hushed voice, eyeing Myka sadly. “They were two hit men, hired to take out some business competitor of their client. They did it in a back alley, staging it to look like a robbery gone wrong...”
Myka slowly hunched over in her chair, her pale face growing even paler as Claudia spoke. “Keep going. Tell me everything,” she ordered, not meeting anyone’s eye, when Claudia hesitated.
Claudia looked pained, but did as requested. “The alley they chose was off of some small street that was normally empty at that time of day. But Christina was out doing some errand, and it was on her way home. There was another child with her, a friend. The hit men felt like they couldn’t leave any witnesses, even though they were only two young girls. But Christina was able to fight back and keep the men busy trying to deal with her long enough for her friend to escape. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Myka flinched. She shook her head, as if she could simply deny reality away. “That’s not right. That’s not how it happened,” she whispered. “There were robbers at Helena’s cousins’ house. Christina was in that wrong place at that wrong time. But then she wasn’t, because I changed it.”
Myka was starting to sound like a broken record.
Claudia tilted her head to the side, a strange expression crossing her face. “In Paris,” she murmured.
Myka’s head jerked up to look at Claudia. “You remember!” she exclaimed.
“Dude, that’s so trippy.” Claudia blinked. “It doesn’t make any sense, but... yeah. How is this possible? I have two distinct memories of H.G. telling me what happened. They’re both from the same time, but... she’s telling me something different in each memory. I thought that what I just told you was right, but I totally remember the other one too. Weird.”
“Two memories, and she dies in both of them,” Myka murmured dejectedly. “When did it happen? The murder, I mean.”
Claudia screwed up her face, apparently trying to tease the two memories apart. “Um... I’m not sure. Early August, maybe?”
Myka released a sound that Pete could only describe as like a wounded animal.
“I was there until the very end of July,” she said. “Are you kidding me? I save her life, just so she can die a few weeks later?”
Abruptly, Myka stood up from the table, making her chair tilt over and clatter behind her. Her face an unreadable mask, she strode out of the room.
Claudia shot Pete a pained look and then turned to follow Myka out the door. Pete just stood there. He’d only been able to stand there and listen as the two women talked, and now he still felt like there was nothing he could do.
He was so damn tired of everything going wrong; so damn tired of just being able to stand and listen; of being so helpless; so useless.
He knew beyond a doubt that he wouldn’t actually do it, but this was one of those times when Pete felt like he could use a drink.
Instead, he whirled around in a tight half-circle – going from complete stillness to full speed in the blink of an eye – gathering momentum as he let out a cry of frustration and rammed his fist into the wall. Skin met brick with a satisfying burst of pain. He could feel just fine, though; that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that there was nothing he could do.
“Myka? Myka, wait up!”
Claudia called out to her, but Myka had no desire to sit and chat at the moment. She immediately headed down to the Warehouse floor, thinking of losing herself in the aisles. Moving at a fast pace, Myka didn’t slow down or even turn to acknowledge the other agent, even as Claudia jogged to catch up, clipping right at her heels.
“Not now, Claud, okay?” she finally said. “I don’t know where I’m going yet, but I know that I don’t want to talk about this right now. I just need to not think.”
Claudia didn’t say anything, but she didn’t stop following, either.
Of course, not thinking was just about the last thing that Myka would be able to accomplish right now. She had always had trouble turning her mind off, especially at the moments when she most wanted to do so.
Inspiration – though it was possible that ‘desperation’ would be a more accurate description – struck once they’d been walking in silence together for about five minutes.
Myka didn’t know why she hadn’t thought about it before, but it occurred to her that Helena’s home, a place where she’d now spent a majority of the past six months, was also here, in the Warehouse. Well, not exactly. But maybe if Myka went to the copy of Helena’s room in the Personnel Quarters Archive... Maybe being there, in that familiar room, would somehow trigger the artifact into pulling her back there again. She’d barely been gone for any time at all, so maybe there was still a chance for Myka to save Christina a second time. Maybe-
“Um, where are we going?” Claudia’s question interrupted Myka’s train of thought. She had almost forgotten that the junior agent was even there, and her pace faltered just slightly at the unexpected intrusion into her thoughts. She glanced over her shoulder in concern at the note of quiet panic in Claudia’s voice.
“The Personnel Quarters Archive,” she replied, speeding back up to her earlier pace. “Why?”
“Oh, okay.” The relief in Claudia’s voice was palpable. “And, uh, no reason. I was just asking.”
Myka came to an abrupt stop, lurching forward and just barely managing to catch her balance when Claudia crashed into her from behind.
Once they were both steady on their feet, Myka turned to face Claudia and accused, “You’re relieved that that’s where we’re going. Why?”
Claudia awkwardly shrugged and scoffed, twisting her face into an exaggerated picture of denial. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she protested.
In spite of the situation, Myka found herself smiling affectionately, adding, “And you have no poker face.”
“So,” Myka concluded as she started walking once again, “that means that there’s somewhere near the Personnel Quarters where you don’t want me to go. And that means that I now have to figure out where it is and why you don’t want me to go there.”
“Mykaaaa,” Claudia whined.
But there was a reason why Myka was so good at her job. She took hold of Claudia’s upper arm and made the redhead walk right beside her, using the subtle little tics in body language to tell which direction to go.
When they finally came to a small alcove nicely hidden from view, the kind of place you wouldn’t notice unless you were specifically looking for it, she knew she’d found the right place, from Claudia’s defeated sigh and sagging shoulders.
Still, it took a moment for Myka to figure out why Claudia was trying to keep the place hidden at all. There was a work bench in the middle of the room, with lots of tools and gadgets and papers strewn about. Clearly Claudia was working on some kind of invention or other, but there was nothing wrong with that.
Then she saw the half-broken metronome, and it all clicked into place.
“Oh, Claudia,” she sighed sadly.
Claudia merely scuffed her shoe against the floor, refusing to meet Myka’s eyes.
Myka stepped further into the alcove, running her fingers over the bits and pieces of metal and wire covering the surface of the table. She sighed again, but before she could say anything, Claudia spoke up.
“You don’t get to lecture me about this, and you don’t get to stop me.” Claudia still wouldn’t meet Myka’s eyes, but she clenched her jaw in defiance. “Even if you didn’t do it on purpose, you get to go back and see H.G. over and over again. And how do you get to do that? By using an artifact, that’s how. You get to go back there, and see her, and change things. You saved Christina. By using an artifact.”
“But it didn’t work, Claud,” Myka murmured softly, feeling a stab of pain as she admitted the fact out loud.
“You still got to try,” Claudia cried out, finally looking up into Myka’s gaze.
Seeing the depth of pain and anger in Claudia’s eyes, Myka could only blink, unsure how to react.
“If there was something that you could do to bring H.G. back,” Claudia continued, “wouldn’t you do it? No matter what it was? I’m not giving up on him, and you can’t stop me.”
Claudia was right. It would be hypocritical of Myka to try to claim any moral high ground here. So instead, she simply stepped around the work bench and pulled Claudia into a tight hug. It clearly wasn’t what Claudia had been expecting; she was completely stiff at first, before melting into the embrace and reaching up to bunch Myka’s shirt in her fists.
“I won’t help you,” Myka whispered into Claudia’s hair. “I wouldn’t even know how to. But I won’t stop you, and I won’t tell anyone else about this.”
Nodding against Myka’s shoulder, Claudia simply held on tighter.Myka squeezed back with equal strength, turning her head to the side to gently press a kiss to Claudia’s temple.
Click for Part 7