No one noticed the girl who materialized with a thump and a bang outside the Starbuck’s. Those who were outside hadn’t had their early morning coffee yet, those inside were too engrossed in overly sweet over-priced coffee to notice the strangely dressed girl who was dusting off her ruffled skirt. A clever little clockwork monkey whirred and clicked as he hid underneath her mat of curly hair. She adjusted her satchel and checked that her ray gun was still secure before walking inside and up to the counter.
“Excuse me ma’am, but can you please direct me to 19th century London? I seem to have lost my way… again.”
The harried barista looked up from the white mocha breve she was making and did a double take.
“I think you might be a couple of months late for the convention miss,”
“Anora Cartwright,” the girl said.
“Alright, well, order a coffee or else let someone else order,” the barista said.
Suddenly there was a crash and a startlingly loud bang. A dark cloaked figure rose from a cloud of smoke. Several of the coffee shop patrons screamed. One or two fainted. Several others started looking for the candid cam. Anora shook her head.
“Amateur,” she muttered under her breath. Anora lifted Geoffrey the clockwork monkey from her shoulder and sent him scampering away to hide.
“Anora Cartwright,” the dark shape rumbled.
“Cuthbert the Melodramatic. Still haven’t figured out the Temporal Paradox Manipulator I see,” Anora answered.
“You will hand over the jewel now little girl,” Cuthbert rumbled. He strode forward; his dark cape swirling ominously, his hand held out in a manner suggestive of a man who was not used to being refused. Anora pulled out a deep blue jewel necklace and held it up.
“You mean this jewel?” she asked sweetly. Cuthbert practically dove for the jewel but Anora danced back out of reach. “Fat chance slowpoke. This jewel is going to the queen.” Anora glanced back at the barista – who was gaping like a fish suddenly deprived of water and obviously hoping that this whole thing was simply some elaborate hoax.
“Terribly sorry about all this. You may want to contact whatever local law enforcement you have in this time. Perhaps they will show up before the Vikings start rampaging too badly,” Anora said. Cuthbert strode forward, hands held out like he wanted to strangle the girl in front of him. Anora jumped up onto the counter, yanked out her ray gun, and fired a quick two shots at the lights. The plastic covers cracked and the bulbs shattered.
Cuthbert laughed. “Not quite the effect you were looking for, is it?”
Indeed, the number of windows and the light outside meant that there was no significant darkening in the room. Cuthbert snapped his fingers and a hoard of Viking berserkers landed in the middle of the coffee shop, having fallen from somewhere in the 8th century.
There was a half-second of utter silence before the remaining clientele unanimously decided that the current premises were no longer entirely safe. Screaming commenced.
Anora dodged a hairy fist and leapt from the counter. The berserkers proceeded to destroy the blender, the espresso machine, and half the tables before Cuthbert could get them pointed out the door and after the rapidly disappearing girl and her clockwork monkey.
Anora ducked into an open empty garage in a residential neighborhood to catch her breath. Geoffrey jumped from her shoulder and scampered off to explore. Anora was not concerned – he always managed to find her again.
Simply by looking around the garage Anora started to piece together where and when her T.P.M device had landed her. 21st century, by the look of the car, although technically it could be a throwback style from the 22nd. The lack of dystopian security ruled that out though. She inwardly shivered. The 22 hundreds were exciting in all the wrong ways. This was earlier though, probably around 2014ish. Not the easiest time to navigate, but she’d been though worse. With a shrug Anora tucked herself into a quiet corner and pulled out her T.P.M.
The matchbox-sized contraption had a host of new scorch marks, and a new crack in the casing. The problem with discount T.P.M.s – they were junk when they were new. Anora eased the lid open and winced at the mess inside. No wonder the ride had been so rough – half the gears were out of place. Anora pulled her repair kit out of her satchel and started poking around the innards with a screwdriver. She had gotten pretty good at jury-rigging it back together, but she wasn’t sure how many more times she could fix it before it broke for good. When that happened… with luck it would be a good time she got stranded in.
Anora had just finished wrapping the T.P.M. in yet another layer of duct tape when Geoffrey came bounding back in with a squeak and a whirr. He leapt into her lap, turned, and started chattering at the girl who had just entered from the house. The girl stopped short and stared at Anora and the clockwork monkey. Anora lurched to her feet, scattering her toolkit across the floor.
“My apologies Miss, I thought the house was empty,” Anora said.
“Are you some kind of robber?” the girl asked.
Anora dipped a curtsey, “Anora Cartwright, displaced time-traveler and historian to the Queen, long may she reign. This is my companion Geoffrey. We are not burglars, nor do we intend you any harm.”
“Cool. I’m Zoe Holmes.” The girl leaned up against the wall, arms crossed. “What are you doing in my garage?”
“I was repairing my equipment after narrowly escaping the clutches of my nemesis Cuthbert the Melodramatic and his band of Viking berserkers. I am sorry if I have inconvenienced you in any way.”
“Is that a gun?” Zoe asked, pointing at the thing that hung on Anora’s hip. Anora pulled the ray gu from the holster and passed it over.
“A customized V80 Zombie Hunter from the year 3021. Not a good time to visit, but they make a good gun.”
Zoe hefted the mahogany and brass ray gun and glanced down the sight.
“Can I shoot it?” she asked. Without waiting for an answer she zapped a pile of extension cords into a puddle of goo. Anora took her ray gun back before Zoe could hurt anyone.
Geoffrey screamed. Anora shoved the ray gun back in the holster, dropped, and started gathering her scattered toolkit.
“That is Geoffrey’s danger alarm, the berserkers must have almost caught up to me. I’m sorry, but I have to go.” She buckled the last strap and ran to the door of the garage. Already the first of the Vikings were turning down the street, sweating and stumbling in her heavy furs.
“Awesome!” Zoe said. She leaned further out the door to see.
“They keep life interesting. Stay low and they shouldn’t do too much damage before Cuthbert realizes I’ve time-jumped.” Anora started pushing buttons on her T.P.M.
“Wait, you’re leaving?” Zoe asked.
“I can’t stay here,” Anora answered.
“Then let me come, just on one trip.” Zoe grabbed Anora’s arm. Anora glanced at Geoffrey, who shrugged his tiny shoulders.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to get you back to this time,” Anora said.
“I’ve been trying to escape this time most of my life,” Zoe answered. The Viking was getting closer and Zoe would not relinquish hold of Anora’s arm.
“Fine.” Anora grabbed Geoffrey and punched the green button on the T.P.M. With a pop they were whisked away through time.
The Vikings continued their search for another three hours and two thirds of them were rounded up by the police before Cuthbert sent them all back to their proper time. There was head scratching and minor panic attacks for weeks after, but eventually people forgot all about it. Time was like that – it always fixed itself.