Let’s Do the Time Warp
“May have overdone it a bit there,” Feng said.
“Are you feeling any better?” the doc said.
“Yes and no. The effects, while effective, are extremely temporary. I can feel them fade as soon as they arrive. It’s almost as if I am just a pipeline for it to pass through.”
“I suspected as much.” The doc poked around in the box before closing the lid again. “The missing dampener alone is enough to reduce the effectiveness of the exposure. It is difficult for your body to acclimate to so much time at once. Even with your time traveling experience using the TAP.”
“Wait,” Duncan said. “Are you saying he’s from another time too?”
“Sort of,” Feng said. “I’m from a long time ago, but I am here, now, by very different means than Henry’s little box there.”
“Not so very different,” the doc said. “Technology and magic have far more in common than even I would care to admit.”
“As a wiser man than me once put it,” Feng said, “they are almost indistinguishable from one another.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” the doc said, tapping his chin in thought. “I mean sure, they share similarities, but you would have to be an idiot not to be able to distinguish the two from one another.”
Under his breath, Feng said, “A knighted idiot, apparently.”
“What was that?”
Henry looked to Duncan. “What is he talking about?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Duncan said. “I don’t know what anyone is talking about anymore.”
“I am talking about time,” Feng said. “That mess in the box isn’t the whole thing, is it?”
“No, sir,” Henry said. “It’s only part of the time transverse system. At least as I understand it.”
“Where is the other part?”
“On my Jenny.”
“His what?” Dodger said.
“His airplane,” Feng said. He took a quick moment to explain the kid operated some kind of aerial craft similar to Rex’s Phoenix, but fitted for just two passengers. “Which, if I have my history correct, makes you a barnstormer. Right?”
“Yes, sir. I fly from town to town around here, offering rides and such to the locals. I mean, I did. Or is that I will?”
“You sell rides on this air craft of yours?” Duncan said.
“This keeps getting more and more unbelievable,” Duncan said.
“I think it’s marvelous,” the doc said.
“Here’s the fifty dollar question,” Feng said. “Where’s your Jenny now?”
“I don’t know,” Henry said.
Feng stood from the cot with a huff. “You don’t know where it crashed? How can you not know? You were on it.”
“You don’t understand,” Henry said. “It didn’t crash. I just don’t know where she is.”
“Maybe you should start at the beginning,” the doc said.
Henry told his tale with heartfelt detail, as if he had waited his whole life to share the story. To be fair to the kid, it must’ve been hard to hold all of those secrets inside for the last few weeks or so he had been in the past. Or the now, as Dodger preferred to think of it.
According to young Henry, while between flying jobs he was approached by an amateur inventor to participate in an experiment involving time travel. Of course, the lad assumed the inventor was out of his gourd, but the sizable fee offered by the man was enough for Henry to keep his opinions to himself. Each wing of Henry’s plane, the one he affectionately called his Jenny, was fitted with what the man referred to as a time transverse device. During the initial flight, an unexpected thunderstorm arose, forcing Henry to the ground. Just as he was about to land, lightning struck the Jenny’s wing, engulfing the entire plane with a shock of energy. Henry managed to survive and land the craft safely, but miles off course in the middle of nowhere.
“I had no idea where I was,” Henry said. “The town was gone. Everything was gone. It was just open fields for miles and miles. The first thing I did was to strip those things off of the wings. They were still throwing sparks and I was sure they would catch my Jenny on fire. But as soon as I managed to get one of them off, my Jenny vanished.”
“Vanished?” the doc said.
“Yes, sir. I know how it sounds, but the moment I got the contraption off of her wing, the other part of it started sparking something fierce and humming like a live wire and then my Jenny just vanished into thin air. She was there one second, then gone the next.”
The doc nodded, and considered the kid’s explanation. “What did you do after your craft vanished?”
“I waited for an hour or two, hoping it would come back. When the sun started to set it became fairly obvious my plane wasn’t coming back, so I put that half of the time transverse device in my bag and started walking. I was lucky to stumble across a small town just a few miles from where I landed.”
“I’ll bet that was rough,” Feng said.
“You have no idea. Though it didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t in my time anymore. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but thankfully Mr. Bigby’s circus was passing through the town, and I was able to find work with them. I got around my destitute state by telling them I ran into a band of thieves. The circus took me in without hesitation. There’s no telling what would’ve happened if Mr. Bigby hadn’t been so kind to me.”
At the mention of the man’s name, every face turned to the Frenchman. Dodger had nearly forgotten the man was still present. It was hard enough for Duncan to swallow the idea of time travel, but at least he had some experience with the doc’s brand of mad science. Bigby, on the other hand, was new to this kind of thing. The man in question sat on the cot across from Henry, eyes wide, jaw slack, the picture of surprise.
“Oh my,” the doc said. “I imagine all of this is a bit of a shock for you, Monsieur Bigby.”
“Henry?” Bigby said. “Is all of this true?”
“Yes, sir,” Henry said. “I’m sorry I lied to you.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me the truth?”
“Would you have believed him?” Dodger said.
Bigby ran his hand the length of his long face in exasperation. “I suppose not. I do not blame you, young Henry. Your secrets are yours to keep. It is just so hard to take in. From another time? Is it really possible?”
“It is not only possible,” the doc said. “It is very hazardous. I am afraid Henry’s life is in terrible danger.”
“You mean the seizures?” Henry said.
“The seizures are just the beginning. You’re unstable in this time stream. Your body will continue to reject this time period, and the results will turn deadly.”
“Is there anything I can do?” Bigby said.
“You’ve done more than you can imagine, sir,” Henry said. “Really. I can’t begin to thank you enough for taking care of me so far.”
The circus owner stood from the cot. “Henry, you may have only been with us a few weeks, but you have proven yourself a hard worker and an honorable young man. It would be my pleasure to help you in any way possible.”
“I’ll double that,” Duncan said.
Henry smiled warmly up at his comrades. “Thanks. I appreciate that.”
“I just wished there was something I could do to help,” Bigby said.
“There is, in fact, something you can do,” the doc said.
“Anything. I and my entire circus is at your disposal.”
“In that case, I will need to borrow your elephant.”
Bigby’s stalwart helpfulness faltered as he furrowed his brow. “My Baby?”
“Yes. I will need to inspect her anyways, to remove that awful collar, but I might have need of her extra weight once I am done.”
Bigby nodded, firmly. “Then you shall have her.”
“Good, because I think I have a theory on just where the Jenny is and how we can retrieve the aircraft, as well as the other half of this time manipulating device.”
Henry gasped. “You’re joking.”
“I never joke about science, young man,” the doc said. “Well, there was that one time I was commissioned to make joke Christmas crackers. I thought when they said they wanted them to explode with fun, they really meant explode. Calculating exactly how much of an explosion is fun before it becomes deadly turned out to be quite the mathematical problem. Ah well. Why don’t people say exactly what they mean?”
“I have no idea,” Henry said.
“Doc,” Dodger said, steering the doc back on track. “What do you need for us to do?”
“Ah,” the doc said, “it’s very simple.”
Every one paid careful attention as the doc outlined his plans for finding the other half of Henry’s time traveling device. Like most of the doc’s theories, this one turned out to be fairly simple—on the surface. Of course there was a much deeper explanation that would’ve taken weeks to relate, and even then most of the listeners still wouldn’t have understood. As it was, Dodger only grasped the basics of it. Duncan, Henry and Bigby seemed to believe the doc, if not understand him. Feng claimed he didn’t get it at all, but Dodger knew better than that.