So how did the day start out?
Jun 13, 2015
It was a shining, sunny day in Yorkshire, which is rare enough. Rarer still were the fluorescent pterodactyls in the sky as they painted the tops of buildings purple. But Jane didn’t have time for them right now.
Her target was the little shop on the corner. Yorkshire was almost completely out of its mind. People were told through every medium possible to stay inside and turn all the lights off in rooms with windows, in case the extinct pterosaurs were attracted to them somehow. Everybody else was cowering in their cellars. Jane was quickly walking down the street, headphones in ears.
What was it in the store that you needed?
The crucial ingredient was in there. Somewhere behind that desk was the incredible device that’d caused all this with the Victorian time rip thingy. Jane needed to get there, fast, before the imagination of the young man trapped inside the store by his own fear imagined something new and worse. But she can’t get too cross with him. Right now she had to concentrate on mentally restraining the pterodactyls, which was frankly taking up far more energy than she’d thought it would, even with the song playing. She just needed the alien device before it caused any more trouble.
Just a Bubbly bar and a pack of gum.
“Did you get it?” she panted as she ran into the shop. David straightened up from behind the counter, his Victorian costume (not a costume, just his normal clothes) looking uncomfortably hot. “Barely,” he gasped. “Now hurry and press the button. I need to get this back before the blakkole opens up, right?”
“Black! Hole!” cried Jane. “And yes.” The 1800s are where thatship was waiting. Jane seriously wanted to take off at this point.
Did you know the man from behind that counter?
She’d met him in the corner store, in torn and tattered clothes behind the counter, after she’d followed the directions to “TING THE BELL FOR SERVICE”. All she could do for the first few minutes was stare. “I’m David O’Brenn from Yorkshire, a journalist.” His eyes were wide and terrified, and he spoke in a strange mix of Irish and Northern British accents. “Are you a daemon?”
“No,” she’d replied. “I’m not a daemon, I’m a physics major. Well, not that that’s much of a difference…” she trailed off. “How did you get behind the counter that fast? Why are you dressed funny?”
“Dressed funny? You’re a woman! Wearin’ trousers! ‘Tis indecent!”
This might not make sense, but it’s very important. Did you touch the bell?
“Maybe we just have to hit the bell again and it’ll send you back.” Chauvinist Victorian jerk, she’d added in her head. Her hand hovered over the bell.
“2015,” David sobbed. “I am in a land of daemons and madness.” He stared at Jane’s phone, his back against a shelf of crisps, feet against the glass case of watches, a single earbud hanging forlornly from his ear.
“I’m going to need my phone back,” she said, absentmindedly hitting the bell as she bent to take it. She disappeared in a TING and a flash of light.
“Jane?” David said, alarmed. “Jane!”
You mean the old fire alarm bell? Cause that thing was really rusty. I don’t need a tetanus shot if I touched it, do I? Not that I did. I just don’t like shots.
Did you touch it?
She could vaguely hear David’s voice, but she was mostly trying not to dissolve. A familiar picture began to come into focus, something she thought could’ve been in one of her textbooks.
Do I need a shot if I did? Out of curiosity.
This was definitely not 2015.
No. We’re talking about a different bell. Never mind. Do you know what would’ve happened if you touched the bell?
“Oh my God,” she said softly. “I’m in Victorian Yorkshire.” A horse-drawn carriage clopped along the cobbled streets. The air was cool, the women were dressed in warm-looking, cumbersome dresses, the men in suits, vests and top hats. A policeman was staring at her, terrified. She tried for a reassuring smile. “Hi,” she said.
At a guess, I would say it’d make noise.
David popped up behind her, looking ragged and startled.
“An angel from the heavens, good sir,” he said weakly. “If you would, please...my house is on Regents Street.” The journalist collapsed in the street. People were staring now.
“A woman!” she could hear people saying on the street. “In trousers!” She really would need to have a chat with these people about chauvinism. “Get up,” she grunted, pulling pale David to his feet. The policeman continued to stare at her.
“Stop staring,” she reprimanded, “and get us to his house. Goodness, you Victorians…”
What if it transported you back in time?
“Are you an angel?”
The young policeman was getting annoying, but she needed him to help carry David, who had fainted again. She hoped that the trip back in time hadn’t permanently scrambled him or something.
“I’m a time traveller.”
“Yer a time travelling angel?”
“Y’know what? Yes. Yes I am. Now just shut up and help me carry this invalid.”
There was a pause.
“Why’re y’wearin’ trousers?”
“I will kick you if you ask me again. Good enough reason?”
There was a pause.
“But why are yo-”
Do I look like an idiot to you?
Jane felt like an idiot.
All that way to get to Regents Street and they didn’t know which house. “We could ask somebody?” suggested the policeman. His trouser leg was still muddy where Jane’s foot had connected with his shin. His head, however, hurt more from her lecture on chow-vinnist attitudes than her strangely clothed foot.
Jane rolled her eyes at the young bobby. “Yes, absolutely! We’ll just stroll up to some random house dragging a bloke by his feet and say ‘D’y’know where this bloke lives? We need to break in!’”
“I am an officer of the law,” said the policeman, hurt. “I’m trusted evr’ywhere.”
Jane looked at him pitifully. “You’re new here, aren’t you?”
He nodded sheepishly. So, not much was different from modern Yorkshire.
No, not at all.
“It’s here,” mumbled David feebly, patting his pockets. The young policeman sponged his forehead with a wet handkerchief, but Jane wasn’t sure if it was actually working. “My key…” he pulled out a brass object from his inside coat pocket and held it in front of his face.
“201,” he mumbled. David made a sort of unsure facial spasm at his key that wanted to be a frown when it grew up. “I think?”
With a thud, his head hit the stones.
Look, what are you trying to say here? I’ve got better things to do than this, y’know.
“I’m feeling quite better,” reassured David.
“You were passing out a minute ago,” said Jane.
“Yes, but I feel much better now.”
Jane tilted her head. “How did you get to my store?”
“Oh, are you the proprietor?”
“I- no,I just wanted some chewing gum!”
“Why’d you say it was your store then?” said the bobby suspiciously.
“I was just jok- oh, never mind.”
Don’t worry. This is just standard procedure.
“Disturbin’ the peace, I’m afraid. We’ll be needing the key, please. Standard procedure.” The Scottish landlord of the little shop handed it to him as though glad to see the back of it.
“I dunno who owns it. ‘Ong as they pay their rent, it dun bother me if they’re nutters or no’.” The owner of the building of the little shop looked nervous. “I didn’ sign up for this when I left Glasgow, y’know. I just inherited the place. No’ my area…” The man was still muttering and fiddling with his vest-buttons as he closed the door. Jane sighed, and David weighed the key in his hand. She linked her arms through those of the two boys, who simultaneously blushed.
“Up for a shop, then?”
Downstairs, the bell rang.
Somehow I doubt that.
The woman (Jane noted this with pleasure) in the shop was wearing something white and functional, just like people from the future in those sci-fi shows. The only thing to ruin this impression was the slightly ill look on her face as she took some kind of small white motion-sickness pill. She looked around and saw Jane, standing out clearly in her 2015 clothes. Her eyes widened, and she gave the same kind of smile that irritated customer service people give the five thousandth complaining customer at the Apple store.
Did you see anyone dressed in white?
Her name was MacDerr, and she was dressed in white as a kind of uniform, she explained, like a NASA or UKSA spacesuit, except for time travel, not for LEO. The journey still tended to make her feel slightly uneasy (therefore the pills) although she was sufficiently sympathetic for the two unaided travellers present. It was a purely historical mission, and the shop was one of many such places run and maintained as covers for these, and the “bell” was only out because she’d been polishing it over the counter and forgot about it when she left to give a report.
“What is the bell?” asked the bobby.
MacDerr opened her mouth.
Dressed like you, you mean?
“It’s a Feynman loop inhibitor,” explained the woman in white. She was pacing the room, agitatedly running her hands through her hair and disturbing her ponytail. “It’s an old form of time travel, the OS is buggy, and it hadn’t been supposed to connect here. I was trying to fix it, but something went wrong, and now- and now-” her hand writhed so violently over her head, Jane feared for her follicles.
“It’s warping, it’s warping everything, and it’s pulling space-time around itself. There is a chance- there is a very big chance- that it will warp into-” here she stumbled and murmured something indistinct. David thought it sounded like a singularity, whatever that was.
To his surprise, Jane shot up in utter shock and horror. “A black hole?”
The white-clothed lady nodded shame-facedly.
Jane got up and started to pace, face as white as her partner’s clothes. “We’ve got to stop it,” she said, gnawing at her thumbnail. “How are we going to stop it? We’ve got to stop it.” Gnaw, step, gnaw, step.
MacDerr looked up and said what any science-fiction fan could predict.
“There is a way,”
“Yes,” said the woman, now established to be friendly, “It will have to be perfectly timed. This is going to be barely within the limits of human reflexes. The ion charges will need to interfere perfectly with the wave functions to destabilize the containment flux.” She looked up. “Are you understanding this, at least loosely?”
“Yes,” answered Jane, while David and the bobby gave vacant, shocked looks vaguely reminiscent of Jane’s relatives when she explained her latest papers at the holidays.
MacDerr looked at the men. “Right,” she said, “Now, here’s what needs to happen. I stay here, awaiting your success. Once you’ve pressed this-” she shoved a small black thing into Jane’s hands, like the monolith from 2001- “ion gun on the bottom of the bell, wait for the light to turn blue, then push the button there on the right as fast as you can. Now, Jane and David, you’ll go to 2015 and fix the bell- after which David will press it and return- and lovely policeman Jeremy, you’ll go outside and make sure nobody comes in.”
Everybody nodded in the way people who really want to believe they have a plan do. MacDerr looked up, as usual.
I’m sorry, but nobody else dresses as weird as you lot.
David and Jane had their hands hovering over the bell. The glass counter of watches was much the same, but the shop was lined with wooden shelves now, none of which contained brightly-colored packages of crisps. Outside Jem the bobby was standing stock straight and proper, ready to bully any curious onlookers off the steps. MacDerr looked anxious, and kept apologizing for getting them all in this sorry mess, and they were all terribly brave (at which there was an outbreak of modest blushing). As anxious as she looked, however, David and Jane won the mini-Olympics medal for nervousness.
“Now listen,” MacDerr said, “There is a small chance one of you will end up slightly outside of the shop, so you’ll just have to find your way there, it shouldn’t be more than a block off. The only real problem with that is that if the landing occurs outside the target, the software builds these holograms based on your imagination of a distraction to cover you. Usually it’ll just be a holographic crowd of people or something like that, but with these malfunctions who knows. Be careful what you think of- and Jane, if people like me come to ask you questions later, just-”
David’s slippery hand almost dropped the mini-monolith. It clicked.
Bang-flash. The bell rang, taking David and Jane with it.
Were you told what to do if you met us?
Jane blinked. This was not the shop. About eighty people stared at her.
Oh God. Don’t think of a distraction.
An image of her friend’s niece’s cartoon show rose to her mind.
Pterodactyls appeared in the unusually sunny sky. Some carried brushes, and some carried purple buckets.
Not unless I missed the PSA on “How to Deal With Nutjobs”.
Jane had decided that the best way to deal with this was to keep her mind focused on this one, non-harmful situation. So she listened to the theme song for the cartoon, trying to ignore the loud warnings of danger emanating from every shop speaker, radio, and TV in Yorkshire. She just hoped David hadn’t dropped that monolith, or imagined something even scarier...She strode toward the little shop, purposeful.
You clearly know a lot of science, Dr. Jane.
...Jane just wanted to take off. The shop was overly hot with some kind of atmospheric excitation. David looked terrified over this singularity, as well he should, even if he didn’t know why.
Jane felt a sudden moment of absurdity. This was all one day, one day in which she had time-travelled and met David and the bobby and MacDerr, one day in which all of these impossible and magically ridiculous things had happened and she’d taken it all in stride, of course, barely stopping to introduce herself, but now this crazy dream was at its climax, and it was real. The danger of creating a supermassive black hole over Yorkshire, even if only long enough to cause huge, devastating planetary earthquakes, was terrifyingly real.
As mad and terrifying as this is, it’s certainly a change of pace, she thought.
David grabbed her hand and the bell. “Let’s go,” he said.
Not “doctor” yet. I’ve still a year to go.
The light flashed blue.
Jane pressed the button.
“Here we go,” she said.
Well, you’re so smart, I’m sure it’s not much of a difference.
The pterodactyls cleared up. The sky was blue and cloudless. The buildings, for whatever reason, stayed purple. David stared at her in amazement.
“You did it,” he said. “You did it.”
You trying to flatter me?
They hugged in celebration, cheering so loudly she was sure that everybody in Yorkshire could hear them. She spun David round, and they high-fived and patted each other on the back and breathed the hugest sighs of relief Yorkshire had seen for two centuries.
David and Jane looked and grinned. But Jane’s faded, just a bit.
“You have to go home,” she said. “You have to bring this back.”
David’s faded too. “Agreed.”
She paused, then got on her tippy-toes and hugged him. “I won’t forget you guys, promise,” she told her friend.
“Also agreed.” He closed his eyes.
They separated and coughed. Jane grinned wildly. “Well, you’ve been smashin’ friends, for Victorians,” she said. “Say goodbye to Jem and MacDerr for me.”
“As you say, Angel of Future Yorkshire.” David’s smile beamed out, and he fiddled with his cravat.
His hand hovered over the bell.
“See you in the history books,” Jane enthused.
He nodded, coughed, and hit the bell. There was a flash of light and a ting, and he was gone.
Absolutely not. Well, I think our little chat is almost over. Thank you so much.
She never knew how long she stood there, but she estimated five minutes. Five minutes staring at the place her new friend had gone, staring, hands in pockets, enjoying the fresh, cool, modern air on her skin. Five minutes before she sniffed, lifted her chin, and turned to leave the shop for, technically, the first time in almost 200 years.
Of course, it wasn’t until the next day the man from the bank came, saying that the mysterious account dedicated to her exact name and identity had finally been opened to her after collecting a large fortune in interest and continual additions by some mysterious entities. It had been made, they said, in the Victorian era, maybe as a sort of time capsule- it was all hers, of course, but did she know anything?
And it had been only the next afternoon that she’d seen the people in white through her window, and known who they were and why they were there, and walked out past the people repainting the buildings to meet them. They’d just wanted to ask her some questions, they said, and would she terribly mind if they recorded it?
And because it was MacDerr asking it, and because of the letter promising further adventures in time and space she’d slipped into Jane’s hand, she said no, she didn’t mind at all.
Absolutely. Thank you.