Catching Time: Chapter 9

So, it’s decided. Avery is going to follow Sierra after she got away. Now, here she is in this room full of people with this giant machine looming over her. This doesn’t feel real. Following Sierra back to 1994 sounds imposible. Will Avery screw this mission up? Find out in the next chapter of Catching Time!

Chapter 9: The Time Machine
[Read First Chapter Here.]

“I never thought you’d be the one to get caught.”

Avery was sitting inside a white room. The fluorescent lights combined with the white walls were overkill. It didn’t seem to bother the workers but Bliar fidgeted uncomfortably across from her.

“I knew you were a bad idea.” Bliar pulled at her wrists that were trapped in handcuffs from the table. She didn’t manage to get her arms far and was magnetically pulled back towards the table top. Her wrists landed with a thud. Bliar looked annoyed as she shot Avery a familiar glare. 

“We know where Sierra went.” Avery stayed cool, she was finally in control and it felt good.

“Why are you talking to me then?” 

Bliar’s voice sounded calm but Avery could see the stress in her eyes. Avery sighed dismissively, she wanted Bliar to be uncomfortable as silence filled the room. She wasn’t there to ask about Sierra. There was a personal question she had to ask her.

“My ship didn’t crash on the planet,” Avery said and paused again. “After The Organization did a review of it, they concluded that it was sabotaged after I landed.” 

“So, what does this have to do with me?” Bliar knitted her eyebrows together in anger.

“I think you know something about it,” Avery said. Bliar and Sierra were the only two people who knew why Avery had come. Sierra seemed disappointed when she had reached Avery’s ship. If it was sabotaged, it hadn’t been Sierra. Avery was confident that it had been Bliar but she wanted to know for sure.

“What if it was me? What would that information do for you now?”

“Exactly, what if it were you? That information can’t help you now either.”

“Do you really want to know?” 

“Yes.”

“Fine,” Bliar shrugged, “ If it makes you feel better, I did it. I didn’t want Sierra to send you back. I didn’t want you to come back after us, it was too dangerous.” 

“So, you let Sierra drag me around like a stray dog?”

“No, that wasn’t part of the plan.”

“What was the plan?” Avery asked. She was getting curious. It seemed like Bliar had acted alone. Avery wasn’t surprised, she could sense that Bliar didn’t like her from the start.

“You want the truth.”

“That’s why I’m here.” Avery put her hands down on the table and leaned forward.

“I was going to kill you.”

There was a pause. Avery raised her eyebrows. She hadn’t realized how ruthless Bliar could be. “How were you going to do that?”

“I was still working out the details. Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. You weren’t even the one who caught us.” Bliar sighed, she looked exhausted.

“You mean, caught you.” Avery made sure Bliar got the point. 

When Avery was finished, she’d ask The Organization for Bliar’s files. She wanted to know more about her too. Why was she hired, was it something to do with her lack of remorse for human life? Could Sierra be like this too? She was informed that Sierra had killed the employee who turned on Bliar. His name was Victor.

A knock on the door sounded and one of the workers walked in.

“We need you down in room 45A.” He said as he stood to the side patiently.

“So, is that all you wanted from me?” Bliar asked as she broke eye contact.

“Yeah, you told me what I wanted to know.” Avery turned around.

“Hey, before you go. It was nothing personal. I was just trying to keep us safe.” 

“You don’t have to explain yourself.” Avery walked to the door. She understood what Bliar meant. When she first started this job, it was nothing personal either. It was a job and nothing more. She didn’t really care about the people she had to bring in. Now, she knew them and she wasn’t sure what to make of either Bliar or Sierra.

“Hey, just please don’t blame Sierra for my mistakes, okay? She’s not like that. She literally wouldn’t hurt anyone.” Bliar blurted out as Avery opened the door.

“You do know that Sierra killed the man that brought you in?” Avery turned around.

“Victor?” Bliar’s eyes got wide, “Victor’s dead?” She looked stunned.

“Yes, Sierra shot him as she made her escape.”

“Do you really believe that?” Bliar shook her head. “You don’t know her the way I do, you’re lying.” She looked like she was in disbelief. 

“Excuse me, Dr. Fabre is waiting in room 45A.” The man from earlier interrupted. 

“Okay, yeah, I’m on my way.” Avery took one last look at Bliar. She looked small in her poorly fitted jumpsuit. Avery almost regretted telling Bliar about Victor but then again, she could just be covering for Sierra. Bliar did admit that she was going to kill her if she got the chance.

The thing that Avery kept reminding herself was that she had to do her job. She had to  push what Bliar said to the back of her mind. Now more than ever, she didn’t know what to think about Sierra. Everyone told her that she was a cold blooded killer but could the woman that Avery had seen singing in her kitchen really be capable of that? Why did she try to heal her? Would she have done the same for Victor if she had the chance? 

Those were questions that might never be answered. Avery walked out of the room and out into the hallway. As time went on, Avery was less sure of who was telling her the truth. 

>>>

“What is this?” Avery held out a neon pink and blue shirt.

“Ensign, you’re going to need to choose something if you want to blend in.” Dr. Fabre said in room 45A.

Avery made a face and placed the shirt back on the clothing rack. Dr. Fabre waited, lightly tapping her foot impatiently by the door. She cleared her throat twice as Avery continued to pick up three more shirts and placed them back on the clothing rack.

“Here,” Dr. Fabre walked up to Avery and pulled out a pair of denim overalls and a white sweater. “This looks like you.” She forcibly handed them by the hangers to Avery, who almost dropped them.

“Yeah, this can work.” Avery clutched the items to her chest. She hadn’t seen this side of Dr. Fabre before. She seemed angry. This was a far cry from the woman she had first reported to. It had been hard to read her expressions before but now it was plastered clear on her perfect face. Something was bothering her and it was bubbling up to the surface.

“Good, now before you get changed, tell me again what your mission is.” Dr. Fabre folded her arms.

Avery knew that Dr. Fabre was testing her. “I need to find Sierra and bring her back to you.”

“And?” 

“Dead or alive.” Avery said. She folded the clothing over her arm.

“Good.” Dr. Fabre tapped her finger repeatedly on her elbow, “Now, we will be in constant contact with you through your cell. Remember that Sierra has more experience than you and is more familiar with the time period.”

“More familiar?”

“Yes, you read her file. She was a child during this time.” Dr. Fable pursed her lips together in a thin line. She was unreadable again.

“Should someone else be on this mission too, I mean, to time travel?” Avery asked. She was informed that the original time travelers went in groups of five. She had also never done this before and didn’t know what to expect. On top of that, she was completely out of her element. 

“Unfortunately, you have to go alone. The groups that we have working for us still have close ties to Sierra. I do not expect them to be willing to bring her back under such extreme circumstances.”

“Anyone else from the military?” Avery asked. She could travel across the Milky Way but time travel was something completely different than what she was used to.

“Are you doubting your abilities. We can always find someone else if you don’t want the job.” Dr. Fabre raised an eyebrow.

“No sir, I’m all in.” Avery stood up straighter. She didn’t want the job to go to anyone else. After her memory was erased, this became personal. It was a horrible experience and she was going to bring Sierra back to The Organization for it.

“That’s what I want to hear.” Dr. Fabre unfolded her arms. “Get changed and meet me in room 12D.” She looked at Avery one more time and paused. She smirked and exited the door, leaving Avery alone in the room. 

Five minutes later Avery walked into room 12D. She felt ridiculous in her new outfit and out of place in the room. Five others stood around control panels and Dr. Fabre was waiting in the center of it all. What stood out wasn’t the people but the large circular machine that took up the majority of the space. It was massive.

This was the time machine.

For the first time, Avery was actually starting to get excited. She would actually get to pilot one of these things. She was told that it had been modified to handle like the ships she was used to piloting. This was not meant to be difficult.

“Doctor, I’m ready when you are,” Avery said and walked towards the machine. 

“Good.” Dr. Fabre walked up to Avery and put a hand on her shoulder. “Follow me, and we’ll get you started.”

They walked up to the door of the machine and it whooshed open, revealing a row of chairs and control panels lining the walls. This was clearly a ship meant for more than one person. Avery still didn’t understand why Dr. Fabre was sending her alone. 

“Ok, now if I just turn on this here, it should be simple.” Avery sat down in the main pilot’s chair and buckled herself in. Dr. Fabre leaned into her and entered the date on the control panel. 

“Sierra landed in Arizona on February 14th, 1994. You need to find her at all costs. We don’t have the resources to send another if you fail,” Dr. Fabre said, entering the last clicks on the control panel. “The time jump will make you disoriented and we cannot pinpoint an exact location for you to land. You will have less than twenty five seconds from the jump to land the ship safely.” 

“Got it,” Avery said and put her hands on the keys. 

“Good luck, Ensign.” Dr. Fabre looked down at Avery and placed a hand on her shoulder one last time. “Remember, bring her back at all costs.”

“Yes, sir.” Avery said and Dr. Fabre looked satisfied with her answer. Avery watched Dr. Fabre leave the machine with a swoosh of the door and she was alone. 

Avery was nervous. she hadn’t felt this way since she’d flown combat missions. Now, she wasn’t exactly sure what she had gotten herself into. A few months ago Avery was flying in the war and all of a sudden she was taken out and offered a job away from the fighting. She took it without hesitation. Avery had no idea why anyone would specifically ask for her for this job. She was a low ranking flyboy.

“Ensign, we will start the countdown now.” Dr. Fabre interrupted her thoughts as she came through on her cell. 

“Got it. I’m ready.” Avery said.

“10, 9, 8…,” A male voice from one of the workers started the countdown in her cell,  “…3, 2, 1.” 

Avery felt the jolt as the machine started. The view screen blurred and she immediately felt sick as everything around her turned pitch black.

“Ensign Rosario, stay with us.” Dr. Fabre said in her ear and grounded her to the present. She couldn’t see anything but she felt the control panel with her hands and the seatbelt press against her body. She hadn’t blacked out after all. Everything around her was still real.   

Suddenly, it felt like someone had instantly turned on the lights and her vision returned. She gripped the control stick and steadied the machine in mid air. It seemed as though everything was a coppery brown as her eyes adjusted to the harsh desert landscape around her. 

Beep beeeep!

A car swerved under her. Avery was dropping altitude fast as she headed towards the middle of a busy freeway.

“I’m here, I made the jump.” Avery said aloud. She knew the people back at the lab were able to hear her through her cell.

“Good, what do you see?” Dr. Fabre said.

“Cars.” Avery adjusted the best she could. She couldn’t get enough power to the machine to fly over the busy freeway below. She was also flanked on each side by power lines. “I can’t get more altitude. I need to clear this area.”

“The machine needs to recharge after every jump. You need to coast into a safe landing site.” Another male voice said.

“I’m coming in close to some power lines. I don’t know if I’m going to make it.” Avery hoped that she’d be able to avoid the road. She only had seconds to react. “Who chose this area to jump too anyway?” 

“We put in a time and general location but we can’t predict much else. Get that machine back in one piece ensign, it’s your ticket back home.” Dr. Fabre said.

Beep!

A car whizzed by a few feet below her as the craft descended. She was sure that any second now she’d hear a sharpe scrap of metal from one of the cars colliding with her below. That never happened.  Avery set the machine down.

“Did she make it?” A man asked in her ear from the cell. 

“Ensign, are you there?” Dr. Fabre’s voice came in through her ear.

“I made it. I’m alright.” Avery said, taking her hands off of the controls. She had never experienced anything like that before.

Immediately, she heard cheering from the lab. It had been a close call. For awhile she knew that everyone thought that she’d be roadkill. 

“Good, now we can get to work.” Dr. Fabre was the first person to speak again. 

Looking out through her main window, the sense of relief she had felt left her. About a dozen cars on the freeway had pulled over to the side of the road. A group of people were exiting their cars and looking towards her in bewilderment.

“I think we have a problem.” Avery said.

>>>

“Is it aliens?” A man in a cowboy hat made it to the machine first.

“No, it’s a woman!” Another man shouted as he looked through one of the side windows.

Avery could hear their voices from her cockpit.

“Shit, what do I do?” Avery panicked. She had no idea what to do in this situation. She just did the flying, she had no idea how to interact with people from the past. It didn’t occur to her that this could be a possibility. 

“Calm down Ensign,” Dr. Fabre said calmly. “There is a box in the top compartment that has a red label. Open it.”

“Yes, I found it.” Avery pulled out the box and opened it. She found something that looked like a wallet and opened it. It had a badge along with a picture I.D. of herself. 

“We were hoping you wouldn’t have to use it but that is a government badge and I.D. Unfortunately, the machine might be compounded but we can find it again later.” Dr. Fabre said.

“What?” 

“Open the door and flash the badge.” 

“And that will get me away from that mob out there?” 

“Just do it. It will buy you some time. Once you do that, get as far away from there as you possibly can.” Another man pitched in.

“Alright.” Avery stood up, she could do this. She looked at the badge one more time and then out of the main window. People were starting to gather outside. They were looking in the windows curiously and started knocking on the outside of the walls. 

She found the opening hatch and pressed it open. The door swooshed open and the Arizona heat immediately rushed in.

“And who the hell are you?” The man in the cowboy hat said.

“Government. You all need to go home.” Avery took out her badge. The man looked back at her skeptically.

“Well, she doesn’t look like an alien.” The man with the cowboy hat mumbled. 

Avery stepped out of the machine and the door closed behind her. Locking the entrance. She hoped that the lock was enough to keep people out. The crowd continued to stare at her. One woman reached out and pinched Avery. 

“Ow.” Avery said and rubbed her arm.

“She’s real.” The woman looked confused.

“Well thank you, I know that.” Avery continued to rub her arm and lifted the badge above her head so everyone could get a good look. “Ok, everyone stand back and get away from the area.”

The small crowd of people parted as Avery walked past. The majority of them looked completely dumbfounded. They didn’t follow her. Apparently, the machine she landed in was more interesting than she was.

 Walking to the street, she could hear cars honking the closer she got. There was still more people who had no idea what was going on as they got out of their cars.

“Hey lady, was there an accident?” A man asked as he walked up to her. He hadn’t seen what caused all the commotion.

“Something like that.” Avery said.

“Was anyone hurt?” 

“No.” Avery looked passed him. Several cars were lined up on the side of the road. 

“That’s good. I’m a nurse y’know and I just wanted to make sure everyone is ok.” 

“That’s very kind of you.” Avery said. She felt guilty about what she was about to do.

They both walked back to the line of cars and the man walked up to the door of his old VW bug. Avery found a truck with the window rolled down. She walked up to it and reached inside to unlock it. Opening the door, she reached under the wheel and pulled out some wires.

“Is that truck yours?” The man said standing with his own door open. 

“Yeah, I… uh… I’m with the government” Avery hot wired the truck to start. When she turned around the man was staring at her. She tried to flash her badge again. This time it didn’t work.

“I’m calling the cops,” he said as he watched Avery climb in the truck and shut the door.

“Yeah, I’m sure that a truck theft is going to be their top priority today.” Avery nodded to the group of people that were off in the distance where she had walked from. “Just ask them.”

“Thief!” He yelled.

“Have a nice day,” Avery said back to him. She had only been here five minutes and she had made more of an impression than she wanted in this time period. Again, she wondered why she was hired. They could have gotten someone who was way more qualified and way better at being discrete. She was pretty sure that she’d get the cops on her tail soon and her only hope was that the government at the time was good at covering stuff like this up. 

“Thief!” The man yelled again.

 Avery put the car in drive and drove out onto the road. She could still hear the man yelling. Everyone else was too busy inspecting the time machine to notice.

>>>

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