Odd Prompts: Running Into Time

This is a portion of what I wrote today, which was supposed to be a short vignette to bridge me between two projects and ballooned into over 3000 words of… something. Dunno what it is yet. You tell me!


“Why did you say Dr. Yeager was wrong?” She asked, after they had circumnavigated the fountain. Garry always leaned over and got water on his fingers to flick at her, so she had preemptively run when they got close, then waited for him to catch up, with a wary eye on his free hand.
“He said that time cannot be manipulated. That’s wrong.”
Oly tipped her head to one side. “What we perceive as the passing of time…”
Garry burst into laughter. “I didn’t mean the physics of it! Decay of atomic matter and all that. No, I meant the psychology of time’s illusion. So much to do, so little time, and all that.”
Oly frowned at him. “Time is a fixed phenomenon.”
“Pretty sure time machines are right out, yes. I know what he was trying to say. Given he’s your brother’s PI, have you ever worried he’d catch you taking notes for Pol?”
“He knows.” Oly shrugged. “Pol doesn’t bother with classes, only exams, and most of those he does with special proctors.”
Garry let out a low whistle under his breath. “I knew he was special, but…”
“Very.” Oly sighed. “I wish he weren’t, sometimes.”
“You’re never jealous?” Garry’s total disbelief had her looking up at him. His raised eyebrow was bisected by a scar that stuttered down his cheek, pulling one side of his mouth up in a perpetual cynical sneer.
“I’ve had my moments,” She admitted to him. “But the older we got, the more I realized that he’s so driven he can’t relax. Not that he can’t have fun…” She smiled at some memory, but it flickered away again. “He can’t ever let it go, and I… I worry.”
“You’re right to worry.” Garry hated to see her eyes cloud over, but he needed to tell her something.
“He’s working on something right now. He said when he was done, and got it written up, we could go away for a while, take a vacation.” She pressed her lips together.
“He may be your twin, but you don’t have to fasten yourself to him at the hip,” Gary stopped, and she swung around in surprise, giving him the opportunity to reach his free hand out and catch one of hers.
Oly colored up again. “I’m not. I just… If I don’t take care of him, who will?”
“I will.” Garry told her. “I may be all gimped up, but there’s something you need to know about me.”
Her eyes went wide.
“Oh, hell.” His gaze went up and over her shoulder. “This is not the time. C’mon, let’s see if we can dodge Poldrick and make it into the lab unseen.”
Olympia twisted her head around. “Pooh. He’s walking the other way now.”
“Still, c’mon.”
Garry tugged her by the hand he still held into a narrow path through the hedges, and into the nature preserve that ran along the bottom edge of the quad. “We can cut through here and stay out of his sight.”
“Why does he dislike you so much?”
Her hair had caught on a branch, and she took her hand back to pull the whole mass into a messy coil at the back of her neck.
“He downright hates me and is looking a reason to get rid of me.” Garry’s sneer became a downright smirk, and a dimple appeared on his cheek. “Joke’s on him, he can’t.”
Oly’s eyes flickered to the cane he was holding while he walked without it.
“Not that. What I was about to tell you. I’m here on assignment. School is just a cover.”
“But,” She was visibly confused. “You study.”
“I do, and I’ll get my Masters out of this. Well,” He corrected himself. “My third Masters.”
Her eyes got very big, and he laughed. “How old do you think I am, little one?”
“Older than I am.” She tossed her head. “What assignment?”
He used the cane now, as they climbed down into the ravine that led to a small creek with a bridge over it. There were trails in the preserve, but little used ones. Oly liked to come here, he’d learned. She really didn’t like the more populated areas of the campus.
“I’m here to protect you and your brother.” Garry told her as they reached the bridge and he could breathe to speak again.” He laughed softly. “Don’t give me that look, I’m perfectly capable of holding my own while I call in help. I’m here because I could keep up with you.”
Now she really was giving him a dirty look, and he bent over his cane, laughing.
“I don’t know what you find funny in this.” Oly put her hands on her hip. “I thought you were my friend!”
“I am. I…” He bit off what he’d been going to say. “I like you a lot, and I like Pol far more than I thought I’d like a stark raving genius who is a polymath the likes of whom most people will ever meet. He’s a good man. He can’t help what his brain is like. Any more than you can help being in his shadow, smart as you are, little one.”
“I like you too.” Oly said in a very small voice as she started to walk away.
“Aren’t you going to ask why protection was provided?” Garry didn’t try to catch up with her.
“No.” Oly stopped again and waited, without looking back. She could hear him, she didn’t need to look and betray her feelings. “I know why you’re here. I wish you weren’t.”
“I don’t. I wish I were here just for you, and didn’t have to worry about Pol, or do things like try to keep professional distance.” He was standing right behind her, as close as he could get with her backpack slung across his chest. “I’m sorry, Olympia. I never meant to betray your trust.”
She didn’t turn. Her voice was choked. “Why are you telling me now?”
“There’s been an escalation…”
She started running before he could say anything more. In silence she sprinted along the narrow trail, making graceful leaps when she needed to clear a log or a rock in her way. Garry stared after her, clenching his jaw, then he started walking, using his cane to help him move faster than he wanted to.
The lab where her brother worked was separated from all other buildings on the campus, and looked more like a bunker than anything else. Garry walked up, smiled into the camera over the door, then pulled it open. She’d beaten him here by several minutes, and he was feeling sore from pushing himself so hard chasing her.
They were in the hall outside the lab. Pol, in his stained lab coat, her with her hands flying as she talked to him in low, urgent tones.
Garry limped up. Pol looked at him over his twin’s head. He towered over her by a full foot, but they both shared the same slim build and flame-red hair. Poll nodded at Garry, his face solemn, as it so often was. Oly crossed her arms over her chest, hugging herself, and didn’t turn around.
“How long do we have?” Pol asked Garry.
“I don’t know. The intel is simply that they are looking for you. The rest is sketchy at best.”
Pol made a come-on gesture at the older man, and Garry sighed. “Rumor has it, they are looking for two, not just one, and have a pipeline out of the country.”
Pol frowned and looked down at his sister. Garry could hear the tears in her voice.
“I’m not leaving you. I’m not.”
“It would be safer. Garry…” Pol flicked a glance up at him. “Garry would care for you.”
“Not leaving you alone,” Garry injected his voice into her inaudible response. “And I don’t think you should send Olympia away and separate the band.
That got her to turn her head a little, and he saw the tear-wet lashed clumped over violet-blue eyes and wet trails on her cheek.
“Right now, we take more precautions, but there’s nothing to say they are on campus, or even know where you are.” Garry shrugged. “This building needs to be more secure. If we can do that, we could hold off a small siege.”
Pol nodded. “I’ll have to call Dr. Yeager to get the locks engaged. But that needs to wait a minute, I want to show both of you something.”
He turned and headed through the doors into his lab. Garry, frowning, followed him.
Pol stopped by a lab bench and pointed at a small clear cube, with holes in the walls and a white mouse on the inside.
“What am I looking at?” Garry played along. Oly leaned over and peered closely at the small animal.
“I’m going to show you something now.” Pol headed for the other side of the lab, where a truly impressive structure of copper wires was assembled. “Stay there, and watch the mouse,” He called over his shoulder.
“Are you…”
Garry never learned what Oly was about to ask her brother. Pol had reached his wires, stepped inside of them, and flipped a switch.
The mouse stuttered. Flickering in and out of visibility, and somehow moving just minutely to one side with each appearance. Then, he vanished entirely.
Oly gasped.
“Hold on.” Pol flipped another switch, and every light in the lab dimmed. Garry stared at the empty box. He’d always known Pol had a little mad scientist in him, but this was more than just a little.
The mouse popped back into existence. His little pink nose wriggled, and he sat up on his hind quarters to groom his long whiskers.
“What just happened here?” Garry asked Oly in a low voice.
Her hands were tightly gripped together. “I didn’t think he could do it.”
Pol, walking across the room, heard that and laughed. “Oh, she of little faith in her brother!”
She glared at him, and he threw his hands in the air. “Ok, I admit it. I did it for spite. Yaeger kept saying it couldn’t be done. I want to see his face when I remind him that his distant relative broke the sound barrier after they said that couldn’t be done.”
“What did you do?” Garry asked again.
“Time travel.” Pol grinned. “I caused the mouse to leave our temporal plane, repeatedly. You may have been able to see him moving a little? That’s because I have to adjust for the motion of the planet, and I’m not entirely sure where he does go, you know? Which might also have affected his relative momentum.”
“I thought… I thought time travel was the stuff of science fiction.” Garry shook his head. “But that was… you didn’t even hurt the little fellow.”
“Oh, do not mistake ‘not immediately fatal’ for ‘non-damaging.’ Oly’s tone was bitter. “He’s killed several of them, just didn’t know it until necropsy when we could see their organs came back in the wrong places and all twisted up.”
“Still. That would be possible to work out, with refinements, couldn’t it?” Garry looked at Pol, who had been inspecting the mouse closely.


My prompts this week came from the spare bucket (Do not mistake ‘not immediately fatal’ for ‘non-damaging.’), and Leigh Kimmel with “So much to do, so little time.”

You can read more prompt responses over at More Odds Than Ends, and join in on the challenge yourself as well!

Now, to figure out what to do with the rest of this story. But not tonight, I have a meeting to get to.



4 responses to “Odd Prompts: Running Into Time”

  1. So much progress happens because of frustration or spite. People will put up with almost anything until somebody decides, “I’ve had it up to here with this!” and then goes about improving (or at least altering) the situation.

    1. Spite! Gets stuff done!

      Which amuses me, because the friend I first heard declaiming that didn’t use ‘stuff’ there.

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