The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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The Answer to Everything

Present Day

“This is bullshit,” Elinor thought to herself as she paced the floor of the small room she was locked in. She knew that these men who kidnapped her were with Whittaker and she also knew that they wanted some sort of answers from her. The man who held her at gunpoint told her to think long and hard about the ciphers she had translated, to remember if one talked about a key. He claimed it would unlock something that would change the world.

That was about an hour and a half ago, and she had been trying to ransack her thoughts ever since. What they were asking her about felt like total bullshit, especially since they wouldn’t give her access to Wells’s book that they stole from her. It was as if these dumbasses wanted her to conjure a magical spell that would give them the answers to all of her problems.

Tired of pacing, Elinor sat down on the rickety cot that was in the room. She drew her legs up to her chest, resting her head against the wall behind her. It didn’t help that her mind was currently distracted, her thoughts racing as she prayed silently for Ivan. She wasn’t certain on what he’d be doing right now but a part of her was hoping that he was searching for a way to find her. She wasn’t sure of where they were but she knew one thing… They were still in Circleville.

Elinor jumped at the sudden sound of the door opening, her heart pounding as she watched the entryway carefully. She tried to mask the feeling of disgust that was clawing at the sight of Autumn walking into the room. She must have failed, for the redhead gave her a sly smile as she shut the door behind her.

“I can see that I’ve made a good impression on the bookworm,” Autumn sneered, stepping further into the room.

Elinor glanced darkly at the woman, her eyes lit with hatred and traces of anger as she tried to control the wave of emotions that washed over her. “Go to hell,” she hissed, a surprising amount of bitterness laced in her voice.

Autumn chuckled lightly at Elinor’s cold demeanor, her expression amused. “So the bookworm does have a bit of an edge.Tell me, is that all you or are you so smitten with Ivan that you’re allowing a bit of his behavior to rub off on you?” Autumn questioned, carefully watching as Elinor’s expression remained neutral, her lips pressed tightly together. “Don’t play shy, I saw the way you two were looking at each other the day. I never thought I’d see Ivan willing to devote himself to another woman.”

Elinor wasn’t fond of the way Autumn spoke about Ivan. It was as if she knew him personally, which made little sense considering they were on opposite sides.

Autumn was quick to notice the way Elinor knitted her eyebrows in confusion, despite how hard she was trying to keep her expression blank.

“You sure know a lot about your enemies,” Elinor admitted finally, keeping her gaze on Autumn. “This level of obsession can’t be considered healthy.”

“And you know an awful lot about Whittaker for being a harmless civilian,” Autumn reminded her, her lips curling into a smile at the sight of Elinor squirming. “But are you really as harmless as Ivan claims you to be? You’re more cunning, smart, resilient-”

“What the hell do you want from me?” Elinor demanded finally, her eyes burning into Autumn’s. Elinor was tired of whatever this game was that Autumn was trying to play. She knew that the red-headed Whittaker bitch had something up her sleeve, might as well rip the bandage off and get it over with.

Autumn grew quiet, her eyes narrowing darkly on the woman. Elinor felt a sudden flare of discomfort in her chest as she grew uncomfortable under Autumn’s vicious stare. Perhaps provoking the enemy with the firepower to end her life in one swift motion wasn’t such a good idea.

“You really have no clue, do you?” Autumn asked her finally, her eyes wandering over Elinor’s tense frame and questioning expression. “You really don’t know.”

Elinor frowned at Autumn’s vague behavior. Elinor couldn’t quite tell if the woman was playing her or if she was genuinely serious. “Know what, exactly?” Elinor asked finally, her curious nature getting the better of her.

Autumn tilted her head slightly, pursing her lips as she shrugged her shoulders. “Just how important you are. You see, Wells’s book talks about a light, Elinor. My men translated one of his ciphers and it talks about a ‘shining light’ being the answer to everything we’ve been searching for,” she admitted, glaring pensively at Elinor.

“And you think I’m somehow the one who can find the answer as to what this ‘shining light’ is?” Elinor asked, her eyebrows raising themselves questionably.

Autumn shook her head, her hard gaze remaining on Elinor. “No, Elinor. I don’t think you’re the one meant to find the light. We believe that you are this ‘shining light.’”

Elinor frowned at Autumn’s strange remark, her head tilting to the side as she tried to process what this could possibly mean. Maybe these Whittaker people were more insane than she realized. “Look,” Elinor began, her voice firm. “I have no clue what the hell you people are looking for. This key cipher you’re looking for? Never heard of it, never saw it. So maybe you should stop wasting your time on some stupid book of secrets and let me the hell go.”

Autumn’s eyes grew stormy as she glanced darkly at Elinor. Elinor felt as if the woman’s stare was penetrating through her soul, searching for answers beneath the surface.

After sitting for a couple of moments in heavy silence, Autumn stepped forward and grabbed Elinor’s arm roughly, jerking her from the safety of her cot. “You just don’t get it,” Autumn growled, dragging Elinor to the only exit in the room. “You’re never leaving our grasp, Elinor. But you are leaving this building with me. I hope your pretty little brain can handle what’s about to happen next.”

Autumn was surprisingly strong for being nearly the same height and build as Elinor, which proved difficult in fighting the rough hold the woman had on her bicep. Autumn had brought her through a long, unfamiliar hallway and into the wide open area of a familiar store front. It only took Elinor a second to recognize the interior as the abandoned grocery store across town.

She would have questioned the hideout if it wasn’t for the strangest thing standing in the center of the large room. A pristine white machine stood out like a sore thumb against the aging interior of the building, its door opened to reveal a chamber with some seats, monitors, and controls. Elinor felt her jaw grow slightly slack at the sight of the magnificent machine, the nagging feeling that she had seen something like it before plagued her mind.

Autumn smirked lightly at the hint of recognition in Elinor’s eyes, releasing the tight grip she had on the woman’s arm. “Amazing, isn’t it?” Autumn asked finally, watching as Elinor’s eyes roamed over the features of the machine.

“What is it?” Elinor questioned, a hint of skepticism in her tone. She was surprised that Autumn had started to bring her closer to the small ladder leading up into the machine, where Autumn beckoned to the machine’s entryway.

“Climb inside and I’ll show you.” Autumn responded, amused over Elinor’s sudden glare.

Elinor wasn’t willing to trust anything about this situation. She could already see that sitting inside the machine was the man who had attacked Ivan earlier in that day, which made her uneasy. Given that she really didn’t have any other choice, Elinor climbed carefully into the machine and tried to keep her awe in check.

Elinor would have continued to glance around at the different controls and monitors, had it not been for the man beckoning to one of the chairs behind her. “Might want to sit down and buckle in for this one,” he stated, an alarming twinkle in his eyes.

Elinor swallowed hard but listened to his commands, sitting down hesitantly in the chair. She fumbled with the buckles for a few seconds before the man leaned over to assist her with the straps. “I’m sorry for attacking your friend,” the man spoke softly, glancing over to make sure that Autumn was still a safe distance away outside the machine. “I had to keep up my cover. Agent Simone will have my head over it later.”

Elinor’s lips parted in surprise as she glanced over at the man. “You’re with...” she whispered carefully, watching as the guy gave her a soft, warm smile.

“There’s a lot to explain and not much time to do it,” the man warned her as he glanced softly into her eyes, his face just inches from hers. “But I promise I’ll keep you safe.”

Elinor opened her mouth to respond but the sound of someone climbing up the ladder and into the machine caught her attention. Autumn stared at the two of them, a smirk on her face at how compromising the situation appeared.

“Keep it in your pants, Elias.” Autumn shook her head. “I swear, you’re like a teenager.”

Elias leaned back into his chair, giving Elinor a reassuring look once Autumn turned her back to sit herself into her own chair.

Elinor tensed the moment the door to the machine had closed shut, as a soft whirring sound met her ears. Elinor listened hard as something shifted in the air suddenly. Her heart was pounding as if she had just witnessed something drastic but she frowned in confusion when the machine’s sound died slowly.

“Are you okay?” Elias asked softly, watching Elinor glance around confused.

“What the hell just happened?” she scrunched up her nose, watching carefully as Elias unbuckled her seatbelt for her. “Did anything happen?”

As if to answer her question, the door to the machine opened. Elinor squinted against the light that entered into the chamber, her mouth falling open at the sight beyond the door. Gone was the aging grocery store they had been in a few seconds prior. What laid out before her was an unfamiliar outdoor territory, the machine strategically shrouded among trees.

“Welcome to London,” Autumn piped up finally, a smile twisting into a look of amusement as Elinor turned back to look at her in surprise.

Elinor thought she had misheard Autumn but gauging by the look on her face Elinor realized that she was serious. This next statement was enough to make Elinor’s head spin. “Circa 1931, on the twenty-first of April.”

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