The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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Symbol of Time

Present Day


Brackston, Lula, and Carter had their own mission set before them. They made their way through the alleyway behind the abandoned movie theater and towards the bookstore. Carter discovered earlier that cutting through the alleyways gave them access to be able to reach their destinations much faster and with as little contact with people as possible.

Lula and Carter were content walking alongside one another in silence but Brackston felt like he was going to burst from the dreadful quiet. A part of him felt he’d have been better off traveling with Ivan as opposed to playing third wheel. He secretly wished that Layla was here.

“What exactly are we looking for?” Brackston asked. “It’s not like we can get inside the bookstore if it’s closed and I am not helping you break in. No offense but I don’t think I can stand the idea of having to share a jail experience with you two.”

Carter actually chuckled at Brackston’s remark, shaking his head as he looked over at the man.

“We’re not breaking in,” Carter started, as they approached the back half of the old bookstore. “I just want to be nearby in case Whittaker tries anything. We have no guarantee at this point what their plan is.”

Lula fell back as the two men talked about the mission tonight. Doing so allowed her the chance to really take in the building that they were here for. She couldn’t help the small smile that crossed her face as her eyes wandered over the side of the building. Taking in the large bay windows, her eyes traveled down the discolored bricks until they landed on one brick in particular. Nothing was strange about it, other than it had a bizarre symbol carved into the side of it. The symbol was a square box with four arrows around it - one on the top, the other on the bottom, and one on each side. In the center of the box were three tallies. Running a finger over the symbol, Lula realized that the brick was loose.

“Guys,” she called out down the alley to the two men who were about to exit it. “I think I found something.”

Brackston and Carter quickly made their way back to see Lula pointing her finger directly at the symbol.

“What the hell?” Brackston mumbled, running his finger over the symbol. Lula noted that there was a hint of recognition in the man’s eyes.

“You’ve seen this before?” Lula questioned, stepping aside so that Carter could get a better look at the symbol.

Brackston nodded his head, lowering his voice as he spoke. “When Professor Altman started working on the plans for a time machine, he pulled out everything he could to help aid the process. Fiction, non-fiction… I think this symbol might have something to do with time travel. Maybe an organization.”

Lula’s eyes narrowed as she mulled over Brackston’s story. “So,do you think the symbol might have anything to do with Whittaker?”

Brackston was quick to shake his head, pretty much telling her that the symbol had nothing to do with Whittaker. She would have pressed further had it not been for Carter suddenly yanking the brick out of the wall.

Carter!” she hissed, stepping forward to get a better look at his vandalization process.

“The brick was loose,” Carter began, his tone almost reminded her of a child defending himself after he had done something wrong.

“So?” She questioned him irritably. “I’m aware that it was loose but we can’t be caught-”

She was about to chew him out for messing with the building but stopped short when he turned the brick over.

Her voice faltered the moment Carter turned the brick over. It was hollow, carved out in the center as if it was intended to be used to hide something.

With this knowledge, Carter peered into where the brick once rested and let out a defeated huff when he realized that the spot was empty. “Whatever was hidden here is long gone by now. Someone else must have recognized the-”

The sound of something clicking just beyond them caused everyone’s heads to turn towards the direction of the sound.

Brackston was the first to notice the familiar redhead with piercing green eyes as she stared smugly at the three of them, her hand extended out with a gun pointed directly at them.

Carter quickly dropped the brick he pried loose and within seconds he had his gun aimed at the figure. Brackston muttered a curse under his breath, mostly because Carter had almost dropped the brick onto his foot.

“That’s Autumn?” Lula whispered to Brackston as she remained hidden behind Carter, who was using his body as a shield for the other two members.

Brackston nodded somberly, his eyes darkening as he stared at the woman just at the end of the alleyway.

“That’s Autumn.”

“Hello Brackston,” Autumn responded coyly, smirking at the sight before her. “I see you have your new crew here. It’s a shame how quick Professor Altman is to replace someone. Although, aren’t you missing someone?”

“Give me one damn good reason as to why I shouldn’t shoot you,” Carter interrupted, bringing Autumn’s cold gaze back onto him.

Autumn chuckled at Carter’s comment, barely shrugging her shoulders so that she could keep her gun trained on her target. “Wow, someone is trigger happy. Where did you pick this guy up?” Autumn clicked her tongue disapprovingly ,shaking her head. “Shouldn’t you be off celebrating? You did save Albert Einstein, afterall. Your first win. Too bad it eventually ended up backfiring.”

Carter could almost sense that Lula was fuming after that comment. He knew that she would step out into the line of fire if it meant calling out the woman on her latest actions.

“You say that we saved Einstein but we’re not stupid. Lula figured out as soon as we returned that he was replaced sometime in the 1930s. Why not take him out as soon as we left? Why wait so long to bring in your own man?” Carter questioned, hoping that this would be enough to satisfy Lula.

Carter could see it in Autumn’s eyes. There was something beneath the surface that told him he had asked the right question.

“If you didn’t already guess it, attacking Einstein in 1921 was just a distraction to throw all of you off,” Autumn admitted, shrugging her shoulders slightly. “Seems to have worked.”

Brackston was the next voice to pipe up. “So then why are you here? Why does any of this matter? You got what you wanted.” Carter could hear the confusion in Brackston’s tone as he asked the question.

The question - it was a pretty damn good one but Carter wasn’t understanding what Brackston was aiming for. It was already pretty evident that Whittaker was here for the bookstore owner and to take care of whatever dirt she might have on them.

That’s when it hit Carter, the realization of why Brackston was asking this nearly making him falter. The man wasn’t looking for answers in regards to their mission, but instead trying to grasp how someone close to him could turn around and stab him in the back. He was trying to make sense of the betrayal that took place before he was brought on as their soldier.

“You’re pretty small minded for a genius,” Autumn chuckled, shaking her head as she interrupted Carter’s thoughts. “Hasn’t your historian put together the connections yet?”

Autumn noticed the way Lula stared directly at her, the historian’s eyes were unwavering and her jaw was clenched. Autumn couldn’t help the dark smile that started crossing her face. “Oh, so you have figured some of it out. I thought maybe you were getting rusty-”

“What does Whittaker gain from taking out Albert Einstein?” Lula finally snapped, growing tired of Autumn’s games.

“I think you three should worry less about Einstein and focus on what you were sent here for.” Autumn tilted her head, the sounds of sirens wailed in the distance. “The object of your mission was to protect Miss Elsner, wasn’t it? And you sent one man alone to do it?”

It only took them a second to realize what she was hinting at. Ivan was right, making the team believe that the bookstore was the target was just another distraction.

Something washed over Brackston as he realized that she was taunting them. It made him feel sick to think that Whittaker may have just succeeded in taking out the young woman he met yesterday. What if they had also succeeded in taking out Ivan? They’ve already managed to turn his life upside down, Brackston couldn’t handle the thought of it changing anymore.

Brackston assumed that Carter would feel he responded without thinking, but at this rate Brackston didn’t care. He had managed to bend down while Autumn was distracted talking to Lula. He grabbed the loose brick that Carter dropped. With one swift motion, Brackston chucked the brick at Autumn.

His aim was pretty damn awful but it at least caught the woman off guard. It connected with Autumn’s shoulder, the force accidentally causing her to pull the trigger she had her finger on. The three ducked down as the bullet missed its target entirely and shot through one of the bay windows of the bookstore.

They were fortunate the bullet missed any of them but rather unfortunate as the bullet going through the window set off an alarm.

When Carter looked back to where Autumn stood just seconds prior he was disappointed to see that she had disappeared.

Dammit.

“We need to get out of here,” Carter started, his expression grim. “We need to see if things on Ivan’s side are okay.”

Without so much as a word to one another, the team took to the alleyways to find the best way to where Ivan was located, silently hoping that Ivan’s mission had gone better than theirs.

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