The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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Breaking Point

Present Day


There was a heavy silence that hung in the lab for the longest time as everyone tried to make sense of what all had taken place on this day. Agent Simone arrived at the lab sometime later that evening. Brackston, Carter, and Ivan gave her the rundown of everything that had gone down from the moment they originally arrived in Circleville, to Elinor being held hostage by Whittaker, the reveal of her true lineage, all the way through to their arrival back to the present just a short period ago. Agent Simone was alarmed by everything that had gone down but she was most bothered by the knowledge that Whittaker had seemingly erased an entire city from existence, and none of them had any idea. It was becoming clear that Whittaker was proving to be a bigger threat than they had originally gathered.

Elinor was probably the second biggest surprise for Agent Simone that day. With what little Elinor remembered, she explained to Agent Simone the mess that was her life now. The entire time she was clutching Wells’s journal, which had become like a security blanket throughout all of this. Elinor was worried that at this rate, Agent Simone wouldn’t want her around. She was starting to become a burden, wherever she went it seemed that destruction followed.

Ivan watched Elinor intently, looking for signs of a possible panic attack. It bothered him that she was being pressed for answers by Agent Simone, even though he understood Agent Simone’s reasoning. Elinor hadn’t given the agent any real reason for the agent to trust her yet.

At some point during all of this, Elinor had made herself comfortable on the couch in the lounge area of the lab. She laid there in silence as the team who went back to 1931 hashed out the rest of the gory details of their mission. Her body felt sore, tired, and weak from everything that had been brought down upon her. She imagined that this was what it felt like to have the entire universe on her back. Her head was still pounding from the constant crying that took place throughout the day, her heart heavy. She was starting to feel the exhaustion from the events of the day weighing on her, her eyes growing heavy as she struggled to stay awake. Eventually, she could no longer fight it and ended up falling asleep curled up on the couch.

Once Agent Simone was caught up, she dismissed everyone from the area to head off to bed before leaving herself to return home. Everyone retreated to their own rooms quietly, leaving Elinor asleep on the couch. Ivan stood silently in the lounge area, trying to figure out what to do with the sound asleep Elinor.

He wasn’t sure if he should leave her out here by herself, afraid that she might wake up alone and find herself frightened in this unfamiliar place. He decided eventually that it would be safest to just sleep on one of the other chairs just so that he could be nearby. He brought out a pillow and a blanket for himself from his own room, setting it gently on the chair as he unfolded an extra blanket he brought out for Elinor.

Trying his best to not wake her, he gently covered her resting frame, making sure that the blanket covered her body completely. He was about to back away when he glanced over at her sleeping face, his expression softening. Despite everything that happened today, he was grateful to see that she appeared to be sleeping peacefully, that her distraught expression had relaxed into a look of serenity.

He frowned slightly, thinking back on the events of the day. So much had happened to her in the last few days, that he was starting to worry about her. Elinor was strong, however, he was afraid that Whittaker had pushed Elinor to her breaking point, going to great lengths to make sure that this woman paid for her father’s sins. Ivan was worried that Whittaker had crushed her soul.

Ivan clenched his jaw slightly and decided to push those thoughts aside. The thought left a dark feeling in the pit of his stomach but it was wrong to assume anything just yet. His best, safest bet would be to wait for her to open up to him about it. Gently brushing a piece of her hair that had fallen in front of her face behind her ear, he leaned over to place a tender kiss to the side of her head.

Returning to his chair, he pulled his own blanket over him, trying to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. As his eyes started to grow heavy, he determined that no matter what happened to her - whether she bounced back quickly or took some time to heal, that he would always have Elinor Elsner’s back.

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Carter woke up in the middle of the night, bolting up in his bed with a startled gasp. His thoughts were racing in his mind as he glanced around the dark room quickly, his eyes searching for threats. It only took a second to realize that what startled him awake wasn’t any real threat, but a nightmare that felt a little too real for his comfort. He had forgotten that Lula was curled up beside him, sleeping soundly before he jerked awake suddenly. It not only woke her up from her deep sleep but he could see that his reaction had alarmed her.

She sat up quickly as well, her eyes wandering Carter’s tense frame as she tried to figure out what was wrong. His breathing was slightly heavy, his gentle blue eyes were wide and filled with panic. “Carter?” she groaned softly, eyebrows knitting together in concern as she rubbed her eyes softly. “Carter, is something wrong?”

A moment had gone by before he registered that Lula had said something to him. Squeezing his eyes shut he ran his hand over his face, embarrassed that he had worried her. “Just a bad dream,” he whispered softly, refusing to open his eyes.

Lula frowned, her eyes lingering on his pale expression. Carter had nightmares on a regular basis, understandably. There were a lot of sleepless nights, resulting in her coaxing him into opening up about whatever was scaring him. There was something different about her Carter, though. She could tell that whatever was weighing on him wasn’t like the other times. She figured it must have had something to do with the mission they had just gone on. That it had something to do with the strange young woman they brought home, H.G. Wells’s daughter. Likewise, she imagined that it also had something to do with the little town that they were convinced Whittaker erased from history. Lula could barely wrap her mind around it all.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she offered, running her hand soothingly along his back.

Carter opened his eyes, staring ahead at the wall before them blankly. He wasn’t sure what good talking about it would do, seeing as the nightmare was about her. Something about the thought of Elinor returning home to find that everything she ever had was now gone, erased from history… It didn’t set well with Carter. He was worried that one day he would come home to a similar reality, one that involved Lula being erased. Those were the fears that plagued his mind before he woke up suddenly.

“This whole thing with Whittaker is a mess,” Carter started finally, averting his eyes to Lula. “What’s even more alarming is that none of you remember… that you don’t remember anything that has happened.”

Lula pressed her lips tightly together, her eyes locked firmly on his. He had told her earlier that they took advantage of the mission they were sent on, making an effort to go out on little dates, being more intentional with one another. What bothered her was that Carter didn’t see that they were still doing that same thing now, just in the safety of the lab. She couldn’t fault him for it, however, seeing as he knew nothing about the timeline he entered into.

Carter ran his hands through his hair, sighing deeply. “If Whittaker is willing to erase an entire city from existence to get back at someone, what else are they willing to do?” he asked softly, glancing at Lula.

Lula felt a slight flutter in heart as she realized what he was getting at. His concerns weren’t necessarily about the fate of the world itself but about the fate of his entire world. She removed her hand from stroking his back soothingly, her arms protectively wrapping around her midsection, shivering slightly as she pondered Carter’s fears.

Carter noticed that in this short span of a few seconds that Lula had grown slightly pale as she hugged herself slightly. He swallowed hard, suddenly feeling guilty for unloading all of this on her. He couldn’t imagine that any of this was easy for her to hear, especially knowing that there was a gap of time that he remembered and that she never even lived. The last thing he wanted was for his concerns to scare her away. “Lula,” he spoke softly, wrapping his arms around her shivering frame. “Lula, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Lula nestled her head into Carter’s shoulder, her mind racing with her own frightening thoughts. She had been trying to figure out how to talk to him since he returned from the trip earlier today but every moment felt like the wrong moment. There was something weighing on her heart as well and she wasn’t for sure how to bring it up to him. “We need to talk,” she managed finally, lifting her head so that she could look Carter in the eyes.

Carter frowned at her cliche choice of words, his eyes narrowing slightly as he took in her pale face. From the moment he stepped out of the time machine, he knew that something was off about Lula. Once they found out that the timeline had been altered, he figured that it was because of that. Now as he gazed into her eyes, taking in the concern that washed over her expression, he couldn’t help but feel slightly on edge. “What’s up?” he asked weakly.

She clenched her jaw tightly, her hands nervously wringing together as she tried to figure out the best way to voice this. She questioned if she should even be bringing her own concerns up right now, but seeing as he was every bit as responsible for these concerns… Releasing a heavy sigh, she released the tight hold she had on her hands as she encouraged his confused gaze to flick down to her stomach. “Carter… I’m pregnant.”

<>

“Our lives are so weird,” Brackston admitted, shaking his head slightly as he glanced over to where Layla sat on the edge of his bed. “At one point, I was just an underrated genius coming to Professor Altman's school. Next thing you know, I’m piloting a time machine back from 1931 with H.G. Wells’s daughter, who he originally sent forward in time to protect her from Whittaker.”

Layla chuckled softly, shaking her head in disbelief. It was hard to wrap their minds around what had become of their lives, especially with that last bit. “So this woman never really knew that her father was H.G. Wells?” Layla pressed, tilting her head slightly.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as that,” Brackston began, scooting closer to where Layla sat on the bed. “Elinor explained that as a young girl she was the first person to go through the machine, the first person Wells used to test it. There were bound to be some complications, right?”

Layla nodded her head slowly, understanding what he was getting at. She could only imagine what it must have been like for a kid.

Brackston rubbed his lips together, absorbed in thoughts for a couple of moments. “Elinor suffered some sort of weird memory lost. From what she explained, something Wells said back in 1931 triggered some of her memories. A part of me wonders however, if she always knew in some weird way that she had a connection to Wells, just as she somehow always seemed to know that she was from another time.”

Layla wrinkled her nose slightly, tilting her head. “What makes you think that she knew she was from another time?” Layla asked curiously, pressing her lips together as Brackston chuckled.

“Well for starters, her bookstore was probably the coolest place on earth. Felt like we had walked back into another point in time. She had all kinds of really cool antiques decorating the entire store. Then there was her wardrobe, which was always some sort of vintage dress or top.” Brackston shook his head, thinking back to the first time they had met her. “You should have seen Ivan the first time he laid eyes on Elinor. I think she blew his mind a bit with her looks.”

Layla thought back to the moment the team returned, to the point where Ivan helped Elinor down from the time machine. She had noticed that there was something in the way the two gazed at one another, something that slightly surprised her. “What’s the story with Elinor and Ivan? I mean, other than the obvious fact that they’re clearly into each other.”

Brackston let out a hearty laugh, one that both surprised her and brought a smile to Layla’s face. He had been gone for so long, he almost forgot how comfortable life was with Layla. “Oh, they’re definitely into each other,” Brackston admitted, grinning slightly. “And it’s hilarious, too. She has a way of catching him completely off guard, which leaves him frustrated.”

Layla watched as the playful light slowly faded from Brackston’s eyes, his grin melting into a concerned frown. “What’s wrong?” Layla inquired, her eyes wandering Brackston’s face.

Brackston shook his head, shaking whatever thoughts had crossed his mind away. “I’m just worried about them,” he stated, biting down on his lower lip. “I think she’s been the only person outside of Lula to really reach what humanity Ivan has left. Likewise, he’s been able to break through whatever shell she’s had built around herself all these years. What if everything Whittaker has done to screw up her life ruins the progress they’ve made?”

Layla shrugged her shoulders simply, pursing her lips. She wasn’t too sure on how to answer his question, especially since she hardly knew anything about Elinor. “I don’t know,” she sighed, a small smirk playing at the corner of her lips. “What I do know, however, is that you need to stop watching all those morning talk shows that talk about relationships. I might need to petition for some better entertainment.”

Brackston rolled his eyes dramatically, grabbing Layla’s hands as he pulled her back into the bed with him. He chuckled at the way she let out a surprised laugh, her face just inches from his. “I have really missed you,” he admitted softly, placing a gentle kiss to her lips.

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