The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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April 22, 1931
London, England


Elinor bolted up from the comfortable position on her bed at the sudden sound of her bedroom door creaking open. It had been hours since Elias dropped a confusing, somewhat surprising bit of knowledge about Whittaker’s belief that she was the answer to their problems. She had been reflecting on what he said about her name meaning ‘shining light’ when the presence of someone walking into her room drew her out of her thoughts.

She was somewhat hoping that it would be Elias again to check up on her but her hope was replaced with the sour, sickening feeling of anxiety at the sight of Autumn standing in the doorway. Her outfit had changed since she had last seen her. She was now wearing a long coat and a skirt, the beige background splashed with speckles of a deep blue. Beneath her coat was a loose white blouse. Autumn’s red hair was tied up into a neat bun.

Elinor opened her mouth to throw out a smart comment but she was cut short by the sudden motion of Autumn tossing something at her. Elinor was surprised to see that Autumn had tossed her a dress with a unique pattern. It had bronze and white flowers printed on a black background of the silk material. Elinor was surprised to see that Autumn had managed to find something suiting to her tastes, all the way down to the slight way the sleeves puffed up and a small bow accented the front of it.

“Get dressed,” Autumn demanded quickly, an edge to her voice. “We need to leave.”

Elinor swallowed hard, unsure if she should listen to Autumn’s demand. “What’s going on?” she asked softly.

Autumn glanced at her firmly. Elinor was alarmed by the spark that lit up in Autumn’s eyes. She had a feeling that something awful had happened.

“I found H.G. Wells,” Autumn stated, a smirk crossing her face. “It’s amazing how trusting he is when you’re willing to offer him favors.”

Elinor bit back a gag at Autumn’s comment, slightly disturbed over the fact that Autumn felt the need to share that sort of detail. “I’m so happy for you,” Elinor replied sarcastically, shrugging her shoulders. “Never thought anyone would find someone wicked like you so desirable.”

If Elinor’s comment had made any sort of impact on Autumn, the redhead didn’t show it. She was still holding that same alarming smirk, that discomforting twinkle in her eyes.

“Wells invited me over for dinner tonight. I thought I’d bring you along to meet him,” Autumn admitted, watching as Elinor glared at her confused.

“Why do I need to meet him?” Elinor challenged softly, curious. “Offering me as a present to Wells won’t encourage me to work with you on whatever the hell it is that you want from me.”

Elinor was surprised to see Autumn throw her head back, the unusual sound of laughter filling the air. She wasn’t expecting her comment to bring such amusement to the annoying bitch.

Once Autumn seemed to have had her fill of laughter, she shook her head as she glanced at Elinor. “You’re so clueless,” Autumn mused, chuckling lightly. “I assure you, you’ll wish you had never uttered those words once you find out the truth.”

Elinor wanted to question Autumn on that response but Autumn nodded towards her, beckoning to the dress clutched in her hands. “Get dressed, we’ll be leaving shortly.”

<>

Elinor felt uncomfortable walking through the London streets, following behind Autumn and alongside Elias, as they headed towards their destination. Elias was doing his best to give her a comforting glance every so often, an assurance that whatever happened over the course of this evening, he wouldn’t let anything happen to her. That didn’t help the unfortunate rise of panic in her chest, however. She had been dealing with the heavy, draining feeling that she knew was a ball of anxiety in the pit of her chest. It had been weighing on her ever since Autumn announced her plans for the evening.

She was worried about what the night held for her, what was lurking in the shadows and uncertainties in the near future. Thinking such a thing felt bizarre, seeing as they were walking along the streets of another time period. The only thing that seemed to bring her mind to ease was the warm feeling of familiarity that greeted her as they walked the streets that should have been foreign to her.

She was so lost in her racing thoughts that she didn’t even realize that Autumn had paused. Had it not been for Elias grabbing her arm to stop her, Elinor would have probably bumped into her.

Autumn turned quickly on her heels, glancing at Elinor with amusement. “We’re here, bookworm,” Autumn whispered, her lips twisting into an alarming smile. “Are you prepared for what’s about to happen?”

Elinor didn’t respond, she couldn’t bring herself to. She glanced coldly at Autumn, her jaw clenched as she tried to calm the racing of her heart.

Autumn seemed content with Elinor’s lack of a response, for she turned around and marched up the stairs to a surprisingly familiar, beautiful house. Elias kept his firm grip on Elinor’s arm as he guided her up the stairs, stopping behind Autumn as she knocked on the door.

Elinor couldn’t see past Autumn to see who had answered the door but she could tell that the voice belonged to a man. Her legs trembled slightly at the sound of the voice meeting her ears, the pit of anxiety melting into the strange sensation of hope.

Elias had noticed that she had tensed visibly, her face paling. He grew concerned by this sudden behavior but he couldn’t question her about it because Autumn was already making her way into the house and she expected them to follow behind her.

Elinor barely responded to the grand foyer they had entered into, hardly aware that Autumn was speaking. Everything seemed to grow muffled the moment she laid eyes on a familiar man with soft eyes and a warm expression. It only took her a second to realize that she was staring at the face of H.G. Wells.

Wells’s warm expression faded the moment his eyes locked with Elinor’s. She was surprised to see that instead of a look of confusion or questioning, Wells’ eyes were wide as he stared in silence. After a couple moments, she realized that the look he was giving her was a look of recognition and horror.

“How…” Wells mumbled, unable to remove his gaze from hers. She felt slightly baffled by his response but she was still trying to figure things out herself, like why his frightened gaze gave her a sense of comfort. He swallowed hard, hesitantly stepping closer to her as his expression remained paled. “You were only a little girl a month ago, you look so much like your…”

Elinor parted her lips, her eyes narrowing in confusion as she took Wells in after his voice trailed off. “The hell is he talking about?” she thought to herself, wondering if maybe Wells had slowly started to lose his mind.

He must have realized her confused expression for his face softened, surprising her with the sight of tears flooding his eyes. “You’re home, my shining light.”

She had heard the words countless times over the last day, thought the words over in her head from the moment Elias had told her what her name meant. It felt familiar but it never really had any impact on her. That was, until she heard the words spoken in Wells’s voice.

Her knees gave out slightly as a heavy wave of emotions washed over her. She could barely hear Elias’s voice call out in alarm as his arms caught her before she could hit the cold floor, lowering to the ground as he gently held her in his arms. Her head throbbed in pain as she clutched at it with her hands, a soft whimper of pain escaping her lips.

Wells quickly glanced at Autumn in alarm, surprised to see that Autumn was watching this all go down with a look of amusement on her face. “What the bloody hell is wrong with her?” Wells asked Autumn, visibly frightened by the sight.

Elinor couldn’t hear Autumn’s response, her mind was overwhelmed with the sensation of the room tilting around her as she squeezed her eyes shut, tears filling her eyes as the pain increased. She could barely feel Elias hand stroking her hair, barely make out his voice trying to bring her back to the here and now. She could have almost sworn that she was dreaming, a rush of vivid moments dancing across her mind. She saw herself as a young girl, huddled in a closet as a familiar woman told her to remain unseen, unheard, and calm. This vision sparked a memory of fear washing over as she remembered a terrifying night that happened so long before, a night that proved everything she had ever known to be a lie.

The bookstore, Circleville, her family, the life she built for herself - none of that was ever truly hers. She had been living a life feeling like she never truly belonged, and it became painfully clear as to why. That life was never hers to claim. Her real life, her real family, belonged to another time. She belonged to another time.

Letting out a violent sob, Elinor forced her eyes to open as she gazed up at Wells, the last memories she had of him flooding her mind. He had placed her into some machine, told her that she was going to be safe someplace else. She remembered him telling her about some bad people, about their plans to hurt her to get to them. It became painfully clear that he was right. There were bad people after her, and it just so happened that the people of Whittaker Foundation were the people he feared. They had won.

“Papa,” she managed to say finally, surprised and upset at how natural the word felt on her lips. This only brought more tears to her eyes as she pushed herself out of Elias’s hold, standing to her feet weakly. “Papa, I’m so sorry.”

Wells stared at her, visibly upset at her words. He opened his mouth to reassure her but the sight of Autumn pulling a gun from the inside of her coat stopped him from saying anything more.

Elinor tensed as Autumn pointed the gun at Wells, panic rising within her. “NO!” she cried, stepping forward to retaliate. A memory of doing something similar many years prior crossed her mind, when a strange man in a fancy suit was strangling her mother. The reality hit her that her mother was already dead at the hands of Whittaker and she was dangerously close to losing her real father as well.

At least that was what she had thought, before Autumn turned the direction of the gun and pointed it to Elinor, bringing an overwhelming look of fear to Wells’s face. Elinor was just relieved to see the gun pointed anywhere else but him but her fear quickly rose again as Elias stepped before Elinor, blocking her from Autumn’s hard gaze as he pulled out his own gun.

“That’s enough,” Elias growled, keeping his eyes intently locked on Autumn’s.

Autumn let out a laugh, unsurprised by the sudden turn of events. “I was wondering when the squeaky clean Homeland Security agent would have the balls to stand up to me,” she remarked, shaking her head. Before anyone could respond, Autumn lowered her gun as if she were going to surrender but surprised Elias when she pulled the trigger, hitting his leg.

Elias fell to his knees, keeping his grip on his gun as he let out a cry of pain. He raised his head and his hand to make a shot for Autumn but she proved to be faster. Her hand pulled on the trigger, bringing Elias to a crumpled heap on the floor as Elinor screamed out in terror.

Elinor flinched as she raced forward to help Elias but Autumn was already losing her cool. She stepped forward quickly, placing her gun directly at Elinor’s head. This was the angriest she had ever seen Autumn in the short period of time she had known her. The haze in her blue eyes were practically murderous as she turned her attention to Wells, who was standing tensely across the room.

“Give me the damn key,” Autumn viciously growled, placing the tip of her gun against Elinor’s forehead as the woman let out a sob. “Give me the piece that you stole from Einstein or I will snuff out your daughter’s light.”

Wells glanced between Autumn’s murderous, demanding glare and Elinor’s broken, pleading expression. He could see that his daughter was silently begging him to not give in. He barely knew this Elinor, she was much older than the last time he saw her. Despite her being older, he could see that she had so much more life ahead of her. He felt that she didn’t deserve the same cruel fate as her mother. “It’s not actually a key,” Wells began, ignoring Elinor’s disappointed expression as he turned his gaze back to Autumn. “It’s an equation. Einstein needed my connections to have access to this key equation, for the last needed piece to make the machine work can be found with Nikola Tesla and his design of his Tesla coils. The power the coils produce are said to be powerful enough to make time travel to any point in time possible.”

Despite being terrified and distraught at the impression of Autumn’s gun placed against her forehead, Elinor gave Wells a funny look. All this time, the thing Whittaker had been looking for was out in plain sight? Elinor knew that she was no scientist but his words hardly made sense to her.

However, it must have been enough for Autumn, for she slowly lowered her gun from Elinor’s forehead. “See daddy? Now that wasn’t so hard,” Autumn chuckled slightly, shaking her head. “It’s just sad that I’m going to have to still kill you both anyways.”

Before either one of them could respond, Autumn raised her gun and pointed it at Wells, stepping forward as her finger pulled on the trigger. Her shot hit Wells in the chest as she reacted without hesitation, the impact causing him to collapse to the ground.

Elinor could feel the sudden rise of anger and fear in her chest, a resounding no leaving her lips as she approached Autumn.

Autumn quickly heard the sound of Elinor’s footsteps behind her, whirling around she raised her hand to take a shot at Elinor but the sudden sensation of a bullet piercing Autumn’s arm caused her to yell out in pain as the gun fell from her hand.

Autumn and Elinor quickly glanced up to see an unfamiliar woman with a serious expression staring at Autumn darkly. Autumn contemplated reaching for her gun to try and retaliate against the woman but must have decided against it, for she clutched her arm and made a quick escape through the front door.

“Take care of Wells,” the woman barked at Elinor, who was staring at her with wide, tear filled eyes. “I’m going to go after her.”

Elinor nodded quickly, making her way to Wells’s side as the woman raced out the door. The tears that were flooding Elinor’s eyes spilled out as soon as she knelt at Wells’s side, seeing that his chest was heaving as blood covered the front of his suit.

Nonono,” Elinor pleaded, grasping his hand as he glanced up at her. “Please stay with me.”

She could see that it was difficult for him but he managed to give her a weak smile as he gripped her hand firmly. “You look so much like your mother,” he mumbled softly, causing Elinor to swallow hard. She could barely remember what her mother looked like, the impression that briefly crossed her mind as her memories came flooding back wasn’t enough to give her an idea as to what he was talking about.

“Just focus on staying awake for me,” she begged, her voice shaking.

He shook his head weakly, gasping slightly. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered, his eyes growing heavy. “My dear, I am glad I got to see you again. I am so glad to know that you’re safe, my shining light. But I am afraid I won’t be here much longer, so Teddy will have all the answers you need.”

She frowned slightly as glanced into his eyes confused, racking her brain for this Teddy person he was talking of. She never had the chance to even ask him about it because his grip had loosened on her hand, his eyes devoid of life as his gasping ceased. Elinor let out a broken sob, her body trembling as she squeezed onto his limp hand. “Papa,” she whispered, her voice cracking at his lack of a response. Squeezing her eyes shut, she placed her forehead against the limp hand she was holding, her sobs filling the empty room as she grew overwhelmed with the bitter, heavy emotions that were washing over her.

She was angry and broken over everything that had gone down in the short period of time that she had entered this house. Elias gave his life to save hers, her heart sinking at the thought that his wife and daughter would never see his face again. Wells gave his life to protect hers, taking away the last bit of real family she had before she even had the chance to acknowledge it. Whittaker had taken everything from her.

Elinor was startled by the sudden, gentle touch of someone placing a hand on her shoulder. She gasped suddenly, panic washing over her as she whipped her head around. She had feared that Autumn had returned to finish her off but that quickly melted away the moment she came face-to-face with a familiar face.

It startled her to see the bruise along Ivan’s cheekbone but whatever panic she felt slowly shifted into relief as she gazed into his soft, concerned eyes. She could see that just over his shoulder stood Brackston and Carter, their eyes wide as they breathed heavily, taking in the sight before them.

Elinor’s eyes flicked back to Ivan’s, the sudden feeling of more tears welling up in her eyes as her lower lip trembled, her body shivering. “Ivan,” she sobbed, unable to control every emotion that had been building up within her the last few moments.

Ivan shushed her quietly, sitting down on the floor as he pulled her into his arms gently. His heart ached at the sound of her sobs filling the empty room, her body shaking in his grasp as she held onto him tightly. His chin rested softly on her head as he blinked back tears that were filling his eyes, the sound of her painful crying piercing his soul.

He had no clue what the hell went down here but he knew that whatever happened, Elinor wasn’t the same. He wasn’t sure if it had anything to do with Wells’ lifeless body and the dead young man another few feet away but he could sense that she was different now. It angered him to know whatever the hell Whittaker did to her was the reason she seemed different. Whatever they did, he swore that he would never let the organization live it down.

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