The train squeaks and begins moving forward. The squeaking gives way and within seconds we are speeding forward along the meadow.
The lights go out. I run to the nearest window and look out to find nothing but darkness and the occasional flash of light.
“Are we in a tunnel?” I ask no one in particular.
“Yes, ma’am,” says the engineer.
“A time tunnel, I bet,” Griff smiles.
“Of course,” the engineer replies. “The only type of tunnel you’re going to find when traveling by temporal locomotive.”
“Who the hell comes up with these names?” Griff frowns.
“According to Robo-Griff, it’s you,” I smile.
“We already know he’s a liar, but that pretty well clinches it. I’d at least be able to come up with something cool like, um, Past Passage?”
“Dat hardly serves,” Noll argues. “Seeing as dis could take us to da future or da past.”
“Even the future is the past for someone,” Griff defends himself.
The brakes squeak again. I return my attention to the window and see we’re still being held somewhere in darkness.
The squeaking reaches an apex and we finally stop. I see the dungeon under the cathedral, which seems to be blinking awkwardly with short glimpses of people, things, dirt, and sometimes just a simple bright light.
“What’s going on out there?” Griff asks from my side.
“We’re in temporal flux,” the engineer answers. “Per your request.”
Griff looks at me for answers. I simply shrug. Tenney comes up and stands between us.
“You didn’t get the full tour, huh? Temporal flux means we’re in a single spot in space, but not in a set time. What you’re seeing out there is the spot you want to go to, but the time is still changing. Think of it like—“
“Nope,” Griff says, waving Tenney away, “I don’t want to think about it anymore, just tell me how this is going to help us.”
“Simple,” Tenney smiles. “We can watch to see when that Wizard fella comes in and takes what you’re looking for, then we can settle in place just a few minutes before or whatever.”
“Sounds pretty easy,” I say. “It’d be a lot easier if we knew where the spheres were.”
“Okay,” I say, turning my attention toward the oubliette, “so, I guess we have to find the spheres and then note when they disappear and then rewind things or whatever?”
“Dat looks a lot like you two,” Noll says cheerily.
“Hey, look, it is us!” I smile. “Can we slow things down?”
“Unfortunately, that’s not how temporal flux works, miss,” the engineer answers.
“Wait,” I shout. “Stop the train! I have an idea!”
The brakes sound again and time slows outside until it finally comes to a stop.
“Is it safe to go out there?” I ask.
“Yes, miss. Although, I would request you make it quick. The apparatus which allows us to stay still within space and time while also allowing portions of the train to be outside of—“
“Simple English, please,” Griff shouts.
“Just make it quick.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Griff says, rushing for the door and falling out onto the damp ground. He releases the contents of his stomach to make it even more damp.
I step out behind him, making sure not to catch myself on the pile Griff left. Tenney and Noll join us.
“Alright, kid,” Griff begins as he returns to his feet. “So, what’s the plan here?”
“Are you okay?” I ask Griff.
“Your friend just appears a bit time sick,” the engineer shouts out to us. “There are some patches in back which should help.”
“I’m fine,” Griff growls. “Just tell me the plan.”
“First, we’ve gotta find the spheres.”
“I fink I found ‘em!” Noll shouts at us as he runs to the far corner of the dark hole we’re standing within.
I skip the few steps to his location and against the wall I see a great big pile of spheres lying on the floor. I’d say there are at least twenty of them. Griff ambles up behind us.
“Holy hell,” he gasps.
“Yeah,” I say breathlessly.
“That’s a lot of them there spheres,” Tenney joins in.
“Yeah,” I repeat, still breathless.
“What do ya fink he was planning on doing wif all dem spheres?” Noll asks.
We all turn to look at the train.
“How do you think those things are powered?” Griff asks.
“You don’t really think?” I ask, starting to find my words.
“Do we know of any other method in which to travel through time?” Griff looks at me in earnest.
“Does that even make sense? Wouldn’t he know if we were trying to use his trains to stop him?”
“Probably,” Griff replies. “Of course, if I were going to trap us somewhere we couldn’t possibly get out of, it would probably be a deep hole in the ground, long forgotten by time.”
“Yeah,” I agree, “except we have a ton of spheres and already know the secret exit.”
“Good point,” Griff smiles. “So, we’re probably safe. What’s your plan?”
“First,” I say, picking up five of the grounded spheres, “we need to get all of these out of here.”
Tenney, Noll, and Griff each take a handful and we place them within the train. Before exiting, I stop them, “You all stay in here. That way, in case this really is a trap to get us stuck in the ground, you can come back and save me.”
“No buts,” I reply. “Just keep our butts covered. All I need now is a sack or something.”
“We have some timesickness bags located within the seat backs,” the engineer offers. “If that helps.”
“Actually,” I smile, “I think that will work perfectly.”
I reach into the pocket in the back of the nearest seat, find a bag which looks just like any other barf bag I’ve ever seen and step out of the train.
“Aren’t you going to tell me the plan?” Griff asks.
“Oh, you’ll know soon enough.”
I return seconds later, unable to remove the smile from my face.
“Got a good one?” Griff asks.
“I’m pretty happy with it,” I giggle.
“Alright,” Noll cuts in. “What do we do now? Just wait for him to arrive?”
“Oh, no,” I smirk. “Now we head back to the beginning.”
Go to Chapter Fifty-Five