I squinted. “Why does the bar look like a hospital?”Two seconds ago, I’d been holding a rum runner and wearing normal clothes. Now, I was holding a syringe, complete with a wickedly glinting needle, and wearing an antiquated nurse’s uniform. The time traveling bar that I called my home usually resembled an eighties sports bar, but now resembled a hospital room with nondescript beds flanking white walls. The bar was able to change its appearance, because it wasn’t really a bar, but rather a praxidikai–which is a big word for time machine, I think.
Elegy Flynn, the Greek Fate that drove this time machine, was also wearing a nurse’s uniform. She was grinning at me. “We’re picking up a new volur.”
Volurs were people who’d witnessed a time paradox, and thus had to spend the rest of their lives unstuck in time, traveling to correct paradoxes.
“And this has something to do with the fact you made the bar a hospital?”I looked around for some place to set down the syringe I was holding, but I didn’t see anyplace. “Is this going to turn back into a rum runner when you change the bar back?”
“Probably,”said Elegy. “Look, this volur is in a mental institution in 1908. We’re going to pick him up, and I don’t want to arouse suspicions. He’s due any second now.”A door opened on the white wall and several women dressed in similar nurse’s uniforms wheeled a bed inside. “Ah, right on time.”
So, what I thought that meant was that Elegy had made the bar look like a hospital so that the people who were looking after our new volur wouldn’t be suspicious handing him over to us. A new volur was actually pretty exciting. I wondered what he looked like. The nurses were standing around the bed at the moment, so I couldn’t get a good look at him.
Elegy stepped forward to meet them. “We’ll take the patient from here.”
“He’s supposed to go down to the ward on the second level,”said one of the nurses, eyeing Elegy and me. She sounded a little wary.
Elegy waved the nurses away. “Yes, yes. We’re quite aware of his situation. Thank you very much for bringing him this far.”
“No one said anything about handing him off,”said the wary nurse.
Elegy looked annoyed. She gestured to me. “All we were told was to come up here and escort this patient the second level. If they didn’t tell you that, then maybe there’s some emergency back where you came from.”She put her hands firmly on the metal head of the bed and began to push the new volur away from the nurses.
Now I could see him. He was asleep, but I could see that he had tanned skin and a firm jaw. He was actually very attractive.
“Cathy,”snapped Elegy. “Stop gawking and help me with the patient.”
Right. I looked at the syringe in my hand, then set it carefully on the floor and hurried over to help Elegy wheel the hospital bed away from the nurses, who were giving us all somewhat confused looks.
“Well, don’t just stand there,”Elegy said to the nurses. “You must have someplace else you’re supposed to be. Get there.”
They looked at each other, shrugged, and left through the door they’d come in.
Immediately, the hospital room shifted back into the bar. The beds disappeared. The walls weren’t white anymore, but instead exposed brick, covered in pictures of bands from the 1980s. My nurse’s uniform melted back into my regular clothes. I turned to look at the place I’d left the syringe, which had not shifted back to my rum runner. Not exactly, anyway. Instead, it was a syringe filled with orangey liquid–probably a rum runner syringe. I picked it up and set it down on the bar. “You’re going to have to make me another drink.”
“Yeah, sure, in a second,”said Elegy. She was standing over the bed of the new volur, peeling aside the blanket. “This one’s got really nice arms.”
“And you told me to stop gawking.”I went back to the bed, lifting the other side of the blanket. Elegy was right. He was wearing a hospital gown, but his biceps were exposed and they bulged quite nicely. He had fine dark hair on his forearms. It looked soft. But I figured it was pretty creepy to start stroking a guy who was asleep, so I didn’t check. “He’s very nice looking.”
Elegy dropped the edge of the blanket. “Don’t get any ideas, Catherine.”She started back for the bar.
“Ideas?”I said, following her.
Elegy settled behind the bar. She picked up my rum runner syringe, eyed it, and then tossed it in the garbage. “I remember you saying you were going to flirt with volurs. You’re probably thinking that this one’s unattached, so he’s fair game. Think again.”
“Elegy Flynn, you cannot treat the volurs like your personal harem of men. You’re already sleeping with two of them, and you’re in love with my brother–”
“Who I’m forbidden from seeing,”she said.
“That’s enough for you,”I said. “Meanwhile, I have no one. You can’t stop me from flirting with this one.”
“I’m only trying to save you embarrassment,”said Elegy, getting out a fresh glass and filling it with ice. “Once this volur sees me, he’s not going to look at you twice. No guy would pick you over me.”
I sat down on a bar stool, glaring at her. “That is not true. I’m pretty and relatively thin and funny, and there’s no reason a volur wouldn’t like me.”
Elegy poured some rum into my glass. “But I’m a Fate. You’re only human. Sorry, Cathy, but I’m simply in a league above you, and that’s all there is to it.”
“You are so full of yourself, it’s ridiculous.”Sometimes, being stuck in a bar with a goddess of Fate was maddening. Elegy was not exactly the poster child for good manners.
“I’m not.”She set a new rum runner in front of me. “I’m just telling you not to get your hopes up. Trying to compete with me would only set you up for disappointment.”
I took a sip of my drink. “We’ll see.”
She sighed. “I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, Catherine. This is the way it is. Be reasonable.”
I sucked yummy juicy rum goodness into my mouth and seethed. “My boobs are bigger than yours for God’s sake.”
She looked from my chest to her own. Her breasts swelled a little, sticking out against her white checkered t-shirt. “Not anymore.”
“Not fair,”I said. Elegy could change her appearance, just like she could change the appearance of the bar.
“See?”she said. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s not going to be fair. I’m a Fate. You’re not. Give it up.”
I stole a glance back at the new volur. He was so gorgeous. Give it up? Not likely.
As I was looking at him, he stirred on the hospital bed. His eyes fluttered. When they opened completely, he pushed himself into a sitting position. “Where am I?”
“Oh!”said Elegy. “You’re awake.”
The volur was huddling on the bed, his blankets clenched in his powerful hands, glancing around himself with fear in his eyes. “I really have gone crazy, haven’t I?”
“Not at all,”I said, going over to him. “It’s fine, really. You’re in a time-traveling bar. Nothing crazy about that, is there?”Well, on second thought, maybe I could have picked something a little more reassuring to say.
Elegy was right behind me, carrying some folded up fabric. “You’ll probably want some actual clothes, won’t you?”
The man raised his blanket as if he could use it to protect himself from us. “Who are you?”
“My name’s Catherine,”I said.
“She’s my sidekick,”Elegy said. I glared at her. I hated it when she called me that. “I’m Elegy Flynn. I’m a goddess of Fate. And you are?”
The man began to mumble to himself incoherently. He shook his head back and forth, twisting the blanket in his hands.
Elegy set down the folded cloth on the bed in front of him. “This must be a shock,”she said.
How was Elegy getting all the conversing in? If I wanted this guy to like me, I was going to have to be the one that soothed him. “See, you’re a volur,”I said. “That means you’re going to be fixing time paradoxes.”
“Really, Cathy,”said Elegy, “perhaps we could work up to that.”She smiled at the volur. “There’s a bathroom back there.”She pointed. “Take those clothes and get dressed, and I’ll make you a drink. A good drink makes everything better. What would you like?”
“Beer?”said the volur, still looking freaked out.
“Lager? Stout? Pale Ale? Hefeweizen?”asked Elegy.
“Well, don’t worry about it yet,”said Elegy. “You can decide after you get dressed.”
The man picked up the bundle of fabric and cautiously got out of his hospital bed. He was a little shaky on his feet, so he staggered a little as he walked to the bathroom. The back of his hospital gown gaped a little. He had a very nice butt.
“Don’t even think about it,”Elegy hissed at me.
The bathroom door closed after the volur.
“I don’t see why you can’t spare one stupid volur for me,”I said.
Elegy headed back for the bar. “Fine. You can have Kellen.”
“Kellen wants you. And I don’t see him that way.”
“They all want me,”said Elegy.
I went back to my rum runner. “Bullshit.”
I sulked over my drink until the volur came out of the bathroom. He was wearing a white collared shirt with suspenders and a pair of gray slacks. I didn’t remember the clothes that Elegy had given him being gray. Weird.
“I suppose there’s a reason why these clothes changed into something different than what they were the minute I put them on?”said the volur. The terror in his eyes had gotten worse, not better. “A reason other than the fact that I’ve lost my mind, that is.”
“It’s fate fabric,”said Elegy. “It shifts to be whatever you need it to be. When you travel through time, you’ll look like you’re wearing clothing from the proper time period. Right now, it’s shifted into the kind of clothes you feel comfortable in.”
I remembered Kellen saying something about this, actually. I wished I had fate fabric clothes. I didn’t need them, because I never left the bar, but Elegy’s clothes were all completely weird and horrible, and even though she said I could borrow anything I wanted, I never wore her clothes except when I put my own clothes in the laundry.
The man threw himself into a bar stool next to me. “I am insane.”
I put my hand on his. “It’s a lot to take in at first, I know. I didn’t believe it either, not right away.”
“You’re not insane,”Elegy said, filling a pint glass from the tap with a golden beer. She slid the beer over to the new volur. “You’re special.”
The man took a drink of the beer. “This is good,”he said.
“I told you a good drink would make things better,”said Elegy. She leaned her elbows on the bar. “So, what’s your name?”
“Gabriel,”said the new volur. “Gabriel Cyrus.”
“That’s a nice name,”I said. And it was. I wasn’t saying it only to ingratiate myself to him. Truthfully, it was pretty hard to flirt with someone who was confused about his sanity.
“Gabriel,”said Elegy. “Recently, I guess you witnessed something very strange. The sky probably changed colors. Things started floating around or disappearing or sprouting wings when they weren’t supposed to.”
Gabriel’s eyes lit up in recognition. “Yes. They said I was crazy, and they locked me up.”
“You witnessed a time paradox,”I said. “It happens to all volurs. You’re not crazy.”I was determined to try to explain something here. Elegy didn’t get to do all of it.
Gabriel took a big gulp of beer. “A time paradox? I’m sorry, that sounds pretty crazy.”
“No,”I said. “It’s the universe’s normal reaction to things that don’t make sense within the fabric of time. See, if someone from the future goes to the past and tries to change something, then if that thing changes, when they get to the future, they don’t actually have any reason to back to the past, so then they don’t go back to the past, but then they don’t change it, so it creates this messed-up loop, which doesn’t make any sense and then the world doesn’t make any sense.”
Gabriel furrowed his brow and drank more beer.
“Thank you for that very clear explanation, Cathy,”Elegy said sarcastically.
I flipped her off.
“There’s time travel?”said Gabriel.
“Yep,”said Elegy. “And it makes a big mess of things. If someone creates a time paradox, it’s up to people like us to fix things back to normal. You’re a volur because you remember the time paradox. Most people who witness one don’t. And that means that you’re destined to be a person who sets the right the fabric of time and keeps the universe running smoothly.”
“Really?”said Gabriel. “Me?”
“You,”said Elegy, smiling at him.
Well, she’d done a really good job of making him feel better. I’d pretty much crashed and burned. I sulked into my rum runner. Maybe Elegy was right, and I’d never stand a chance against her. But I looked at Gabriel Cyrus firm jaw and his straight nose, and I decided I had to keep trying. He was so pretty.
Gabriel ran his finger around the edge of his beer glass. “But that sounds absolutely crazy.”
Elegy shrugged. “Either you’re crazy, or you’re a hero who’s been chosen to save the world from certain doom. Which would you rather believe?”
“I’d rather believe the truth,”said Gabriel.
“Good,”said Elegy, “because the truth is that you’re a volur. And I have a job for you.”
“Already?”I said. “But he just got here. Aren’t you going to give him more time to acclimate to all of this?”
“What better way to prove to him that it’s all true than to send him back in time?”said Elegy.
“I’m going back in time?”said Gabriel.
“Absolutely,”said Elegy. “To 1895. Someone’s trying to save Nicola Tesla, and you have to make sure he dies.”
Gabriel got up off the bar stool. “You want me to kill someone?”
“No,”said Elegy. “He’s supposed to die. If he doesn’t die, there’s a time paradox. You remember what those are like, right? Maybe it isn’t fair that he dies, but that’s what’s supposed to happen, so that’s what you have to make sure happens. We don’t make decisions about how the universe is supposed to work. We simply preserve it.”
Gabriel folded his arms over his chest. “I don’t know. If someone’s going to the trouble to go back in time to save this man’s life, wouldn’t it benefit people if he lived?”
I had this one. “Maybe,”I said. “But if there’s a time paradox, then no one gets to live, not really. The one you witnessed only stopped because a volur like you set things right.”
Gabriel bit his lip, looking back and forth between Elegy and me. “Maybe I am crazy,”he said. “But all right. I’ll do it, I guess. Where do I start?”
Elegy grinned at him. “Good man!”
Gabriel came back into the bar, dragging along a tiny woman with long, frizzy red hair. She was wearing a skirt and a blouse which seemed similar in style to the kind of clothing women wore in the late 1800s, but they were both constructed of shimmery metallic fabric. Obviously, she was from the future and had tried not to stick out, but ended up looking completely out of place. She didn’t look happy with Gabriel at all.
“Well, I intercepted this woman just like you said,”said Gabriel, “and I stopped her from finding and warning Mr. Tesla about the fire, but she’s not very pleased about it.”
The woman ripped herself away from Gabriel. “You can be assured I’m not pleased,”she said. “I am Dr. Tiffany Rogenze, and it’s at some risk to myself that I’ve come here to right this wrong that was perpetrated on Tesla. I won’t be manhandled or taken anywhere against my will, thank you very much.”
“Do you want a drink?”asked Elegy.
Dr. Rogenze sniffed.
“Maybe a glass of wine?”asked Elegy.
Dr. Rogenze approached the bar and slammed her hands down on it. “Do you know anything about Nicola Tesla?”
“Quite a lot, actually,”said Elegy.
“I’ve never heard of him,”I said.
“Exactly,”said Dr. Rogenze, pointing at me. “He was a brilliant man who was silenced before his time.”
“Shit happens,”said Elegy. “About that drink. We have lots of other selections besides wine, as you can see.”
“I don’t want a drink,”said Dr. Rogenze. “I want to save Tesla’s life.”
“Well,”said Elegy, “that’s out of the question, unfortunately.”
“Do you know anything about electricity?”Dr. Rogenze asked me.
“Tesla discovered alternating current,”said Dr. Rogenze.
All of us stared at her blankly.
“Certainly you’ve heard of AC and DC,”said Dr. Rogenze.
“The band?”I said. “Elegy probably likes them. She’s really into eighties music.”
“Alternating current and direct current,”said Dr. Rogenze. “He was a brilliant scientist who wanted to harness the power of the sun to give us free and clean energy, and if he hadn’t been killed in that fire, he would have changed the world for the better. Everything would be different. But instead, he was silenced, and his talent wasted. I can’t stand by and let that happen.”She slammed a fist down on the bar for emphasis.
Gabriel made a pained face. “This is what I’ve been dealing with ever since I met up with her.”
“Do you know anything the fabric of time?”Elegy asked her.
“I’ve used time portals for research many times,”said Dr. Rogenze.
“Right,”said Elegy. “For research. You didn’t interfere, did you?”
“I don’t see why that’s important,”said Dr. Rogenze.
“You’re trying to interfere now,”said Elegy. “And I can’t let you do that. See, the fabric of time is set to go a certain way. You can’t change it.”
“I most certainly can,”said Dr. Rogenze. “And I will.”
“I tried to explain to her about paradoxes,”said Gabriel, “but I got really confused, and I don’t think I got through to her. Maybe if you said it again, Catherine, but go slower this time, so that I could–”
“If time is set,”said Dr. Rogenze, “then who sets it exactly?”
“The Fates do,”said Elegy. “I’m a Fate.”She pointed at herself.
Dr. Rogenze chuckled nastily. “You expect me to believe in superstitious claptrap like that?”
“You don’t have to,”I said. “Just think about it. If you change history right now, then when you go back to the future, you won’t need to change it, because it will be already be changed. So, then it’ll be like two things happened at once, and that doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?”
Dr. Rogenze raised her eyebrows. “ You don’t make any sense.”
“Don’t listen to Catherine,”said Elegy. “Think of it this way. When you save Tesla, the you in the future who wants to save Tesla will no longer have any reason to want to save Tesla, because he’ll already be saved, right?”
“There’s no scientific reason why I can’t save Tesla,”said Dr. Rogenze. “I won’t listen to this.”
“It’s a logical reason,”said Elegy. “Think it through for a second. If you change the past, you change yourself. If yourself is changed, you won’t change the past. The universe can’t compute that.”
“He doesn’t deserve to die,”said Dr. Rogenze.
“Who does?”said Elegy. “That’s not the point. You can’t save Tesla, and that’s the end of it, okay?”
“Just watch me,”said Dr. Rogenze. She took off running for the door of the bar.
Gabriel went after her, but the door slammed in his face. He started to open it. “I’ll get her back.”
“Don’t bother,”said Elegy. “We’re going to have to try again. If you go after her now, we’ll never convince her not to do it. We’ll have to intercept her from the beginning again. But you can’t go out at that point again, because you’ll cross your own timeline.”Elegy got out a shot glass. “We’ll have to get another volur.”
“Why can’t I cross my timeline?”Gabriel asked.
“I don’t understand this either,”I said. “I’ve never understood this.”
Elegy poured herself a shot of whiskey and downed it. “Okay,”she said, grimacing. “Right now, Gabriel has already gone into that timeline and interacted with Dr. Rogenze. If Gabriel goes back into that timeline, then there will be two Gabriels at once and that will fry his brain. They’ll try to merge with each other, and it will be completely horrific.”
“In time travel movies, people do that all the time,”I said.
Elegy poured herself another shot. “You just can’t. Trust me.”She downed the second shot. “I think we can pick up Lizzy.”
“She’s another volur like you,”I told him.
“She’s in the twenty-first century,”said Elegy. “We’ll be there in a jiff.”
Gabriel sat down at the bar next to me. “I am so confused.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty typical for being around here,”I said cheerily.
The door the bar opened, and in walked Elizabeth Peters. The last time I’d seen her, I’d found out that she had an affair with Shakespeare before she became a volur. Lizzy sat down on the other side of me in one of the bar stools. “Hi, Cathy. Hi, Gabriel.”
“How does she know my name?”asked Gabriel.
“I don’t know,”I said.
“Different timelines,”said Elegy as if we were the most idiotic people in the universe. “How many times do I have to go over this, Cathy?”
She didn’t have to be a bitch about it. I turned to Lizzy. “So how long ago was it for you that we saw Shakespeare?”
Lizzy shrugged. “I don’t know. A while. Did you guys just do that?”
“Well, recently,”I said. “So, you’ve worked with Gabriel as a volur before?”
“Only once,”said Lizzy. “You just met him?”
“This is his first job,”I said.
“Oh,”said Lizzy. She offered him her hand. “I’m Lizzy.”
Gabriel reached in front of me to shake her hand. “Hi. Different timelines?”
“Don’t worry about it,”said Lizzy. “It’s confusing. When it happens to you, it’ll make more sense.”She turned to Elegy. “So if you already have a volur, why am I here?”
“He tried, but we have a particularly persistent time traveler,”said Elegy. “She has terrible hair too. Could really use some product.”
“So I’m take two?”asked Lizzy.
“Absolutely,”said Elegy. She began to explain to Lizzy what was going on.
Gabriel touched my arm. “Are you positive I’m not going crazy?”
I smiled. “Definitely. It’ll be okay. You’ll see. Eventually, it all stops seeming so weird.”
“Elegy really doesn’t care about this Tesla fellow, does she?”Gabriel asked.
I considered. “Well…not really. I don’t know. Elegy’s strange. She claims she’s only concerned with making time run smoothly, but she does things sometimes that don’t seem to support that. Like once, she completely wiped Shakespeare out of the timeline because he slapped Lizzy.”I jerked my thumb at Lizzy. “She fixed it eventually, and it was kind of weird, but it was a gesture, you know? She cares about people more than she lets on, I think. The only reason she’s imprisoned in this bar, traveling through time instead of weaving fate threads, is because she fell in love with a human, my brother.”
Gabriel looked surprised. “Is that why you’re here? You’re not a volur, are you? And you aren’t a goddess either.”
It was that obvious, was it? I drank some more rum runner. “Elegy saved my life. My boyfriend was supposed to kill me, but she snapped me up into the bar.”
Gabriel leaned forward onto the bar. “So, she’s changed time before. Why can’t she change time for this Tesla man? I have to admit I don’t understand exactly who he was. Apparently, he died when I was only ten years old. But from the way Dr. Rogenze was talking about him, he seems like an important and deserving man. So, why can’t she help him too?”
I shrugged. “I guess she can’t help everyone, right? I mean, some people have to die, or else the world would get overcrowded. I mean, I guess death is bad, but it’s necessary. Isn’t it?”
“She saved you,”he pointed out.
“Well, I can’t leave the bar, because I’m supposed to be dead. It’s not exactly the same thing.”
Gabriel smiled at me, and the effect on his face was dazzling. “I’m glad you’re not dead.”
My breath caught in my throat. Now, I thought at myself. Flirt. Say something interesting or witty. “Um, me too.”I cringed. That had been neither interesting nor witty.
But Gabriel was gazing into my eyes, still smiling. “If I haven’t gone crazy, and I am meant to travel through time, I would think that I could right some wrongs, not simply avert disaster.”
Wait. What did he mean by that?
But Elegy was talking as she poured herself another shot. “So, we’re back to the time period now when Dr. Rogenze is going to try to save Tesla. Grab her at the portal, Lizzy, and don’t say a thing about Tesla, just tell her she’s in violation of the time traveler’s code of 7181 or something. That should scare her.”
“Okay,”said Lizzy, standing up. “And when I get back, I want some wine.”
“Of course,”said Elegy.
The door the bar closed. I looked at the bar stool next to me. It was empty. “Where’s Gabriel?”I said.
All three of us looked at each other.
“What was he saying to you?”Elegy demanded.
“Uh…I don’t know,”I said. “Something about wanting to do good for the world instead of just averting disasters?”
“Dammit,”said Elegy. “He’s crossed his own timeline.”
Lizzy was already on her way to the door. “I’ll get him. I’ll get him back. Don’t worry.”She hurled herself through the bar door.
Elegy’s face had gone white. She rubbed her forehead with one hand. “Why weren’t you watching him?”
“I didn’t know I was supposed to be his babysitter,”I said. I looked down into my half-empty rum runner. “This is bad, isn’t it?”
Elegy didn’t even bother to pour her whiskey into a glass. She pulled the nozzle off with her teeth and chugged directly from the bottle. When she was finished, she slammed the whiskey down in front of me. “Have a shot.”
I eyed it. “Um, maybe someone should stay a little sober?”
“Lizzy’s sober,”said Elegy.
Good point. I tipped the whiskey bottle into my mouth. Ugh. Gross. I set it back down. And whiskey reminded me of my ex-boyfriend Richard, who’d beaten the crap out of me. I gagged.
Elegy swept the bottle off the bar and drank a little more. “I’ve never let a volur cross his own timeline before. Usually, I’m so careful about that. I can’t believe I let this happen.”She shook her head. “He was really hot too.”
“He liked me,”I said. “He said he was glad I wasn’t dead.”And I realized I was talking about him in past tense, like I wasn’t going to see him again.
Elegy didn’t even respond to that. Which meant she was pretty upset.
We sat in silence for some time, Elegy occasionally taking nips from the whiskey bottle. My rum runner was nearly gone, but I knew better than to ask Elegy to make me another one.
Eventually, the door the bar opened, and Lizzy came in, leading Gabriel behind her. His eyes darted back and forth, but he didn’t seem to be seeing anything. He opened his mouth and let out several garbled noises–things that sounded almost like speech, but made no sense. When Lizzy let go of his hand, he promptly sat down on the floor and wrapped his arms around his knees. He rocked himself there, looking scared.
“Well,”said Lizzy. “I did the impossible. I fixed the paradox and got him back here, all at the same time. Gabriel helped a bit, I suppose. Dr. Rogenze was so scared of seeing two of him that she ran back into the portal and disappeared.”
Elegy came out from behind the bar and strode to Gabriel. “The paradox is the least of our problems.”
I stood up, taking a few tentative steps toward Gabriel. “What happened to him?”
Elegy knelt next to him. “The minute he walked outside of the bar, he was aware of his alternate self. It was like being in two places at once, seeing and hearing two separate things at once, and not being able to keep them straight. He was drawn to his other self like a magnet, and once they were close enough, they began to merge. His brain tried to reconcile the two conflicting selves, and it overloaded it. So now he’s…like this.”
I covered my mouth with my hand. “Will he…get better?”
Elegy didn’t say anything.
Lizzy looked at the floor.
Elegy put her hands on either side of Gabriel’s face, trying to get him to look at her, but his eyes weren’t focusing on anything. “Gabriel, can you hear me?”
Gabriel made a strange sound like a string of consonants.
Elegy stood back up. She shook her head, looking miserable. “We’ll have to take him back to the mental institution.”
“I’m sorry,”said Lizzy. “Maybe if I’d been quicker–”
“It’s not your fault,”said Elegy. “I guess I didn’t make it clear to him how dangerous it was to cross his own timeline. He was new. He didn’t know what he was doing. I should have kept a better eye on him.”
“You can’t take him to the mental institution,”I said. I went to Gabriel. I touched his arm, but he didn’t register the fact that I’d touched him. “You’re a goddess of Fate, Elegy. You can do stuff. You scrambled Shakespeare’s brains. Can’t you unscramble Gabriel’s?”
“It’s not the same thing, Cathy,”said Elegy. She sounded sad and apologetic.
“But you have to be able to do something,”I said.
“We’re in a time machine,”I said. “Can’t you go back to when we picked up Gabriel and do it all over again? Can’t we fix it?”
Elegy thought about it for a second. “No. If I messed with that, Fate Central would see it immediately. Doing things like that is completely against the rules.”
I stood up. “You don’t care about the rules. You fell in love with my brother against the rules.”
“Oh,”said Lizzy, “so you know about that now, huh?”
“We do not mention him,”Elegy said.
“If you send him back to the mental institution, they’ll probably do horrible things to him. They’ll strap him down and give him shock therapy or something. Or they’ll lobotomize him or drug him. This is the early 1900s we’re talking about, Elegy. You can’t do that.”
“What did you say?”Elegy asked.
“I said you can’t talk him back to the mental institution.”
“No after that.”
“They’ll do horrible things to him?”
“I said something about shock therapy, I think–”
“Electric shocks!”Elegy said.
I gave Lizzy a funny look. She shrugged.
“Electric shocks cause memory loss,”said Elegy. “It’s one of the reasons that they don’t use it very often anymore. It can wipe out all kinds of memories in a person. Retrograde amnesia, they call it.”
“So,”said Elegy, “if Gabriel’s memory of crossing his timeline was wiped out, maybe he’d be fine. I’ve got to move the bar.”She squeezed her eyes shut.
“Move the bar to where?”asked Lizzy.
But Elegy was already walking across the room to open the door the bar. She threw it wide and yelled out something in a foreign language.
Lizzy and I crept up behind her. Outside the bar, there was a tall man standing on a dark street. He was gazing at Elegy in interest.
Elegy spoke again in this rapid strange language. It sounded almost Russian. Or maybe German. I couldn’t really tell.
The man replied. He spoke for a long time, making gestures with his hands high over his head.
Elegy nodded. She pointed at him. “Okay, then, two seconds. I can deal with that.”She slammed the bar door.
“Elegy,”said Lizzy. “What are you doing?”
Elegy dragged her hands over her face and the appearance of the bar shifted. Suddenly, we were inside a vast warehouse with huge ceilings and not much else. It was entirely empty.
“Elegy,”said Lizzy. “Was that Tesla?”
“So what if it was?”said Elegy.
“Why do I get the feeling you’re going to do something that’s going to completely screw up the timeline?”said Lizzy.
Elegy ignored Lizzy. She shut her eyes again and two tall black cylinders appeared in the warehouse, both attached to tripods that they sat on. Also a strange shiny ball on top of a cylindrical cage appeared, set up on a tripod as well. Then she ran back over to the door of the bar and opened it again.
The tall man walked inside. He was wearing a black suit. He walked with a very upright posture, very stiff. His face similarly composed–almost arrogant. He surveyed the warehouse and the cylinders.
“Elegy, he’s supposed to die,”said Lizzy.
“He does speak English, Lizzy,”said Elegy.
The man turned to Elegy. “I still do not quite understand what it is you want me to do or why I should do it.”He spoke English quite well, but with a thick accent. He looked down at the floor. “This place is filthy.”
It looked clean to me.
“Never mind that,”said Elegy.
“Never mind that?”said Tesla. “It is unacceptable to perform demonstrations in a place that is unfit for them. I have my own laboratory, of which I told you, and I do not see why we cannot go there instead.”
“Because it’s going to burn down,”said Elegy.
“And you’re supposed to be in it,”said Lizzy, folding her arms over her chest.
“Ignore her.”Elegy waved a dismissive hand at Lizzy. “These, um, coil things you have, they make it possible to transmit electricity for long distances, right?”
“Oh yes,”said Tesla. “It’s really quite interesting and magnificent. You see–”
“I’m sure it is,”said Elegy. “But, the thing is, that’s not really what I need right now. I need enough electricity to cause a seizure. In that guy.”She pointed at Gabriel, who was still sitting with his hands wrapped around his legs, rocking back and forth.
“A seizure?”said Tesla. “That sounds highly dangerous.”
“Only for like fifteen seconds,”said Elegy. “Just a brief sort of pulsing…charge. Can you do that?”
“I…”Tesla looked around at all of us in the warehouse, at the cylinders which had appeared out of nowhere, and then back at Elegy. “How did you get these?”
“If you can do what I asked for Gabriel here,”said Elegy, gesturing at him, “I’ll save your life.”
Tesla’s brow knitted itself together. “You are a crazy woman.”
“You think I’m crazy.”Elegy sighed. “Well, you’ve been called crazy before, haven’t you? People have mocked you a lot, haven’t they? Were you crazy?”
Tesla sucked in a deep breath. He turned away, clasping his hands together. “What you ask me to do here is…”He looked up. “I can easily pass harmless watts of electricity through the body or through the earth or through the air. We are natural conductors. But you want me to damage this man.”
“No,”said Elegy. “I want you to erase his memory so that he can be okay again. I could have just gone to mid twentieth century and popped him into a facility where that kind of thing was common, but I…I thought maybe you deserved a chance. So help me, and I’ll help you.”
“You are threatening my life?”He didn’t seem exactly concerned about this. Very little seemed to surprise him.
“Fate is threatening your life,”said Elegy. “And I’m giving you the chance to change your fate. Can you do what I ask?”
“I don’t understand why,”said Tesla.
“Because it’s important,”said Elegy. “Because Gabriel doesn’t deserve this. Because you don’t deserve this. Because…”
“Bring him to the center,”Tesla said, pointing between the two cylinders.
“Thank you,”said Elegy. She went over to Gabriel and helped him to his feet. Gabriel seemed disoriented, stumbling and unable to keep his balance. I went to him too, helping Elegy keep him upright. We walked him to the spot that Tesla had indicated and sat him down.
Tesla wandered around the cylinders, humming to himself.
Elegy and I backed away from Gabriel, who immediately curled up into a ball again. Lizzy came up behind us.
“He’s supposed to die,”whispered Lizzy. “You’re messing with the fabric of time.”
“If he’s in the bar, there’s no paradox,”Elegy hissed back. “No harm, no foul.”
Lizzy just shook her head.
Tesla turned to Elegy. “Can you put out the light in here?”
“Uh, sure,”said Elegy, and we were plunged into darkness.
The first thing we could see was an eruption of brilliant purple sparks emanating out of the odd ball-and-cage thing that had been set up. The sparks jumped to the black cylinders, and there was a triangle of brilliant light in front of us.
In the scant light of the flying sparks, we could only see the outline of Gabriel, but Tesla stepped out from behind one of the cylinders, and he was glowing from head to toe. Surrounded by a halo of blue-white light, he held his hands up to us and tiny sparks of electricity danced between his fingers. He looked like some kind of sparkling god, a moving, brilliant light in the darkness, life and light flowing from him.
He smirked at us. “You see, this is what I can do. This is harmless. Beautiful. Useful. I could send this electricity through the ground. I could power all the houses in one city. Easy. Free. Magnificent.”
Elegy’s voice was barely audible. “This is the man you want to kill, Lizzy?”
Tesla pointed at Elegy, and bright streaks of electricity trailed after his fingers. “But you want me to shock him, do you?”
Tesla walked to Gabriel. He put his hand on Gabriel’s head. Gabriel lit up just like Tesla.
Tesla walked away, leaving the triangle of electricity. Gabriel stayed illuminated. He shuddered and electricity sparked off of him.
Suddenly, the sparks grew blindingly bright, hissing and crackling in the air.
Gabriel cried out. His eyes opened wide. His body began to shake. His glowing eyeballs rolled back in his head.
“What are you doing to him?”I shrieked.
And everything went black again.
There was no sound. I held my breath, unsure of what I’d just witnessed.
Then the lights of the warehouse came back on.
Gabriel was rubbing his fingers over his temple. “I feel like I was just struck by lightning.”
“Pretty close,”said Elegy, running to him.
I was right behind her. “You’re okay, Gabriel?”
He looked around. “Where am I? The last thing I remember, I was dragging that weird Rogenze woman into the bar. Did something happen?”
Tesla strode over to us, his fingers a tent under his nose. “This did seem to help your friend.”
“It did.”Elegy stood up and offered Tesla her hand. “Thank you so much, Mr. Tesla.”
He took her hand and shook it. “Who are you?”
“I’m a Fate,”said Elegy. “I set time right.”
Tesla drew back. “Surely you don’t think I would believe in time travel. The idea is ludicrous.”
“Mr. Tesla,”said Elegy, “I’m sure that all kinds of people have thought your ideas were ludicrous.”
He raised his eyebrows, but didn’t respond.
“Your lab’s burning down,”said Elegy. “Sorry about that. I’m going to drop you off just a little further forward in time so that you don’t go in and burn to death. That was supposed to be your fate, but since you’ve helped Gabriel, it won’t be.”
Tesla shook his head as if this was too much to comprehend.
Elegy took him to the door of the warehouse and opened it. “Sorry about your lab,”she said as she ushered him back out into the night. “Thanks again!”
Lizzy stood with her hands on her hips. “You saved him, then. You changed history.”
Elegy shrugged. “Oh, it’s not that big a deal, Lizzy, seriously. So, he lived. He still ends up being a footnote in history. He gets crazy OCD in his later life, and he dies penniless years and years later. He’s mostly written off during his time as a mad scientist and showman, and no one takes him seriously. I really didn’t change much of anything.”
Gabriel stood up. “Really? We saved his life, and it didn’t make any difference?”
“It made a difference,”said Elegy. “To him, I’m sure. It just didn’t make as much of a difference as Dr. Rogenze would have liked. Of course, the best thing to come out of it is that now there’s a really great Christopher Nolan film called The Prestige. And David Bowie plays Tesla. We’ve totally got to watch that.”Elegy began humming “China Girl.”She smiled at Gabriel. “And anyway, you’re okay, which is a bonus, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Me too,”I said.
“What happened to me?”said Gabriel.
“You crossed your timeline,”said Elegy. “Never do that again.”She continued to hum the David Bowie song.
“Okay,”said Gabriel, looking confused. “I don’t really remember that.”
“No, you don’t,”said Elegy, “because I had to erase your memory so that you’d be okay.”She snapped her fingers and the warehouse turned back into a bar. “Who wants a drink?”She pointed at me. “Cathy? Rum runner? Gabriel? Beer? Lizzy? Wine?”
Lizzy sighed. “I guess I didn’t get my glass of wine, did I?”
We all trooped over to the bar and sat down as Elegy began working on our drinks.
“You’ve got to be careful,”said Lizzy to Elegy. “They’re watching you, you know? You keep pulling stunts like this, and things are going to get worse.”
“Worse than being stuck in this thing for all eternity?”said Elegy. “It doesn’t get worse than this.”
“They could take away the alcohol,”said Lizzy pointedly.
Elegy shrugged. She set a glass of wine in front of Lizzy.
“One thing I don’t understand,”I said.
“Cathy, you never understand anything,”said Elegy.
“That’s not true,”I said. “I understand lots of things. Maybe you just suck at explaining things.”
She gave Gabriel his beer and got started on my rum runner.
“Well, why is that I can’t leave the bar, but Tesla could?”I said. “He’s supposed to be dead, too, right? So why wouldn’t fate zap him?”
Elegy sighed. “Because you’re the sister of a volur, that’s why. Volurs have this tendency to try to save their loved ones, okay? Fate watches people who are related to volurs a lot more closely.”
“And they’re going to start watching the paradoxes you fix more closely if you don’t want out,”said Lizzy, pointing at Elegy.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,”said Elegy, handing me my rum runner. “I don’t know why everybody’s so sour today. We did a good thing. We saved a man’s life. Since when is that a tragedy, huh?”
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