The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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A Dark Glimpse

Present Day

Ivan couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something different, that life in the lab wasn’t the same as before he left. There was a heaviness in the air every time he walked by Agent Simone or Altman, their faces were always somber when they glanced at him. Whenever he walked up to Lula to talk, she would stare at him with a dark gaze throughout the entire conversation.

The biggest difference was Elinor. He had been so caught up in worrying about her no longer being here, that he didn’t stop to think that maybe their time travel mission would affect other areas of his life and other things about her. Her nightmares were starting to become a more frequent thing, to the point that her whimpering and shivering body would wake Ivan up. The only thing that seemed to calm her down was if he pulled her into his arms, allowing her to sleep on top of him with her head curled up under his chin, his hands soothingly running over her back. She started referring to him as her giant comforter, the playful nickname earning a chuckle from him every time, despite the worry that weighed on him over her obvious distress.

Their situation with Whittaker was the other thing that felt off to Ivan. The sinister organization had not made an attempt to jump through time since their trip to 1924. Seeing as they were nearing a month after their last mission, Ivan feared that this meant that the dark organization was planning something even more messed up and dangerous than before.

Ivan was so lost in his thoughts that he had almost forgotten that Elinor was beside him, until she leaned her head onto his shoulder as she sat engrossed in one of her books. The two were casually sitting on the couch in the lounge area, enjoying what little time they had before their lives could be made interesting again by the sound of the lab alarms blaring. Day after day, that sound never came.

Placing his arm around her, Ivan nuzzled his face into her hair, allowing her warmth and scent to ease his racing mind as he closed his eyes. He wasn’t aware that Elinor was making a face, her nose wrinkled at his action as she lowered her book.

“Ivan, there are people watching us,” she whispered softly, the heavy feeling of eyes staring at them from the lab’s kitchen making her squirm uncomfortably.

“I don’t care,” Ivan mumbled into her hair, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze to reassure her. He always found her shy nature about his public display of affection to be rather amusing, especially when she tried to talk him out of it. “I’m just hugging you, El. It’s not like we’re going as far as-”

“Okay!” Elinor exclaimed, slamming her book shut as her face flushed red. She turned to face Ivan, who was giving her an innocent smile as their faces lingered just inches apart. “Do I need to send you to your room?” she whispered threateningly, her eyes locking with his.

Ivan’s eyes lit up slightly, his face leaning in towards hers. “Only if you promise to join me,” he suggested, chuckling at the way Elinor rolled her eyes dramatically as she smacked him with her book.

“I swear, watching you two is like watching a pair of horny teenagers,” a voice interrupted their quiet conversation, a tone of disgust in the other person’s voice.

Their heads turning so that they could see who had interrupted their conversation, their eyes flicked up to the slightly disturbed expression of Professor Altman standing behind the couch, his arms crossed over his chest.

Elinor groaned softly, dropping her book onto the couch so that she could hide her face in her hands.

Ivan squared his jaw at the sound of Elinor muttering into her hands, trying to hide the fact that he was holding back a laugh at some of the names Elinor was calling Altman. Giving the man a dark, menacing glare, Ivan sighed.

“Can we help you, Altman?” Ivan asked seriously, his voice gravelly and on edge. He was hoping to scare the man for interrupting their conversation and for embarrassing Elinor but Altman seemed completely unfazed by Ivan’s tone.

“As a matter of fact, yes. I have something I need to show Elinor,” Altman explained, walking around the couch.

Ivan watched carefully as Altman revealed Wells’s journal in his hands, the one that Elinor had brought back from 1931. Ivan frowned, his gaze growing dark as he took in the sight of the worn out journal. “That’s not yours to glance through,” Ivan threatened, tensing slightly. If it wasn’t for Elinor’s hand gently touching his shoulder, he was sure if he would have stood up and yanked the journal from Altman’s hands, pulling the nosey man’s arms out of socket with it.

“Relax,” Elinor stated softly, glancing firmly at Ivan’s dark gaze. “He’s just glancing through to see if Wells left answers as to what Whittaker might be looking for.”

Ivan glanced over at Elinor, his expression slightly confused. “I thought you said that Whittaker got their answer? That Wells told them something about the energy from Tesla’s coils being what they needed?”

Elinor shook her head, frowning deeply. “Whatever he told them back in 1931 apparently wasn’t the answer or the key that they were looking for or else they wouldn’t have gone back to 1924.”

Ivan could see Altman nodding in agreement out of the corner of his eye.

Altman’s eyes lit up with excitement as he flipped through Wells’s journal. “Right, while I didn’t find any answers about that, I did find something equally as interesting. Apparently, Wells had been trying to figure out time travel for a lot longer than any of us realize. His book ‘The Time Machine’ was only a stepping stone. He started an organization shortly after 1895, a cult-like group of men who were convinced that time travel could be possible.”

Elinor’s nose scrunched up, her lips pursed. “Great,” she grumbled, rolling her eyes slightly. “So my father was not only a literary genius, but he was also a time traveling cultist. No wonder I’m attracted to peculiar things.” Elinor raised her book, which was a different copy of the Peculiar Children series she was reading.

Ivan chuckled softly, though Altman’s dark stare as he flipped through Wells’s journal quickly distracted him.

“Yes, your father was a very strange man. All his bizarre thoughts and his frowned upon life of many mistresses-”

“Hey,” Elinor snapped, glaring darkly at Altman as an offended look crossed her face. “I gave you that journal to find out answers, not to judge my father’s lifestyle. I may not agree with his lifestyle either but Moura Budberg explained that a lot of his poor choices were to fill the void that losing my mother and me left in his life.”

Ivan frowned at this statement, slightly surprised he hadn’t heard anything about this. Of course, he had yet to tell her the truth about her mother - the mind boggling fact that she was a woman out of a different time period herself. He wanted to bring the subject up to Agent Simone first.

“My apologies,” Altman responded, distracted with something on the page that he had stopped at. “In speaking of finding answers… Are you familiar with this symbol?” Altman asked finally, carefully handing Wells’s journal to Elinor.

Elinor hesitantly took the journal, upset that she even had to look inside the damn thing. She was hoping to keep from seeing a bunch of the contents that was her key to knowing more about her father but that feeling washed away as soon as she glanced at the journal. A look of recognition lit up on Elinor’s face as she glanced at the symbol on the page, a square box with four arrows around each side and the three lines in the center. She had probably seen the symbol hundreds, if not, a thousand times. “Of course,” she responded, glancing up at Altman. “It was in my father’s copy of ’The Time Machine’. It usually signified that whatever cipher it was placed next to was one of importance. I also incorporated it into the key logo for my bookstore.”

Altman shook his head, chuckling slightly at Elinor’s explanation, unaware that she was frowning deeply at the thought of her bookstore and not at his chuckle. “Oh my dear, it’s more than just a mere asterisk Wells used to draw your attention to his ciphers. The symbol has a much deeper meaning than I think you realize,” he explained, gently tapping on the page of the journal. “It’s the emblem for his time travel cult, a nod to time travel itself. Some of the world’s greatest minds gathering together to solve the mysteries of controlling time.”

Ivan glared at the symbol in Wells’s journal, a mixture of feelings washing over him. The more they uncovered about Wells, the more he found himself questioning if this man was truly a genius or merely a person corrupted by the idea of power.

“That isn’t even the most fascinating part. Each piece of the emblem has a different meaning!” Altman exclaimed, his voice a bit too giddy for Elinor’s comfort. “The arrows on the left and right of the box signify years. There’s only two directions to go when time traveling, forwards and backwards.”

“O-kay…” Elinor hesitated, trying to process Altman’s explanation. “But what about the other two arrows? What do they mean?” Elinor questioned, immediately regretting it the moment Altman’s eyes lit up even more.

“Ah, now this is where things really get interesting. The two arrows on the top and bottom signifies the crossing of realities, which goes along with the design of Wells’s machine. The two machines I built travel through a closed, timelike curve. Still very, very dangerous but a lot safer. Wells’s machine is much different. From what I read in his journal, his machine travels through multiple realities… alternate realities, before it reaches its destination. What’s risky about that is if something were to go wrong in the process of traveling through time, the effects of another reality could negatively affect the traveler. I think that’s what happened when you traveled forward, what caused you to lose your memories.”

Elinor shook her head, her thoughts slightly overwhelmed with the information Altman was unloading onto her. She wondered if perhaps both Wells and Altman were a little bit crazy but the existence of their time machines were more than enough proof that two geniuses were a lot more than just insane. She seriously wished that drinking wasn’t out of the question for her at this moment, for she felt like she could use one at this moment.

“But what about the three lines?” she quickly changed the subject, hoping that the shift in topics would help the sudden flare in panic rising in her chest. “Let me guess, they signify the Holy Trinity of time travel?” Elinor teased, trying to make the situation light.

“Pretty much,” Altman responded, not realizing the woman’s playful antics or the fact that she was scowling at his response. “According to Wells’s notes, the lines resemble past, present, and future.” Altman scoffed, tilting his head to the side thoughtfully. “And of course, leave it to bloody Wells to be the only man to create a time machine that can travel to the future. You have no clue how lucky you are, being the first person to be part of such a historic moment.”

Ivan frowned deeply at Altman’s comment, his arm squeezing Elinor’s shoulder protectively. He could think of a hundred ways to describe Elinor’s situation and being lucky was not one of them.

Elinor barely registered Altman’s words or Ivan’s grasp on her arm, her eyes staring intently at her father’s writing on the page with the symbol. Everything Altman had unloaded on them these past few moments appeared to be true, but she was hardly focusing on the words that were written and more of the writing itself. She took in the sophisticated way her father wrote out his thoughts carefully, the way his writing was so careful and neat, revealing that he had taken his time. As she read further down on the page, there was a sudden shift in his writing. It was a bit more sloppy and rushed, giving away that he had either been in a hurry or in a dire situation. She was almost to the bottom of the page when her eyes grew wide at the sentence that was scribbled across the page.

“In the safety of Teddy’s arm, lies the key to controlling all time.”

Elinor groaned softly, her hands dropping the journal into her lap as she raised them to rub her temples softly. She could feel the familiar discomfort of a headache forming in her head, concern crossing her mind as she tried to push the pain aside.

Ivan took her movement as a reaction to Altman’s confusing words, his theorizing and dumping of all this information overwhelming her. That was, until Ivan raised his eyes to meet Altman’s, a severe look of worry crossing the man’s face.

“Ivan, help Elinor lay down. Now,” Altman explained calmly but firmly, taking in the way Elinor’s expression twisted in pain as she released an agonizing groan.

“What’s going on?” Ivan asked, a concerned expression crossing his face as he carefully helped Elinor to lay down, her head resting in his lap. He carefully stroked her hair, hoping that would ease some of the discomfort she was in.

“It’s nothing…” Elinor assured, her voice trailing off as she winced suddenly. The pain in her head was starting to pound within, making her vision blurry so that it was difficult to make out the details of Ivan’s face.

“It’s not nothing,” Altman argued, carefully sitting on the coffee table as he hesitantly stared up at Ivan. “I’m taking it, she hasn’t told you yet? About her condition?”

Ivan glanced up from Elinor as she let out a soft whimper, his jaw clenching at the sound of her in pain. “What condition?” Ivan asked, his tone firm.

Altman hesitated for a second, his eyes growing serious as he tried to figure out the best way to explain this to Ivan, preferably in a way that wouldn’t result in Altman ending up with a bloody nose. After pondering over it for a couple moments, he decided that there was no easier way to tell him. “She’s about to have a vision,” Altman stated seriously, focusing his gaze elsewhere.

Ivan’s mouth hung open, his eyebrows knitting together as he tried to process what Altman had just sprung on him. He was about to question Altman on this insane notion but the feeling of Elinor’s body trembling slightly brought Ivan’s gaze back to her as her eyes fluttered shut.

“Lula!” Altman exclaimed, the alarm in his voice catching the attention of the historian who was sitting in the kitchen, having a conversation with Brackston, Carter, and Layla. “Call Agent Simone now, tell her that it’s happening to Elinor again.”

“Again?” Ivan repeated, a heaviness to his tone that caught Altman off guard. “You mean that this has happened before?”

After Lula took off to make the call to Agent Simone, the rising of Ivan’s voice encouraged the other three members to cautiously make their way over, Brackston’s and Carter’s eyes growing wide at the sight before them.

“What the hell is going on?” Carter asked, Ivan was surprised to hear that the soldier’s voice was filled with fear.

Layla’s lips parted in surprise, a familiar feeling washing over her at the realization of what was happening finally hit her. “She’s… she’s having a seizure?” Layla stuttered, her expression pale before growing confused at the sight of Altman shaking his head. “What the hell is happening?

“A few weeks ago,” Altman growled, his tone agitated from the fact of the different members ganging up on him. “Right before you returned from your last mission, Lula found Elinor lying on the kitchen floor in a similar state. Lula thought that Elinor was seizing as well. It appears that she’s been having vicious nightmares that are predicting future events before they happen. Some will happen at night in the form of a bad nightmare, others happen during the day… Resulting in this.”

Ivan gritted his teeth, thinking back to all the difficult nights that she had, the nights he’d hold her in his arms as she’d tremble, upset about whatever nightmare plagued her mind. He realized that the reason she’d never open up about them anymore was because he had spilled about them happening to Altman. That, and the fact that it appeared they weren’t just simple nightmares, but what Altman believed to be dark glimpses into the future.

Altman took everyone’s silence as a sign to continue on, his tone dark. “Back on the day of your last mission, she revealed that Ivan was going to return from the mission injured. Then Ivan returned with the exact injury she described in detail, confirming our suspicions,” Altman explained, shaking his head. “I think that her memories slowly returning might be what’s triggering these attacks.”

Brackston paled slightly, his eyes flicking up from the disturbing sight to Ivan’s irritated expression. He could honestly relate to the way Ivan was feeling currently. It bothered him to see Elinor like this, bringing back bitter memories of his first time seeing her in this state, back at the abandoned movie theater in Circleville.

“Ivan,” Brackston began firmly, his mind racing. “This happened before, shortly after we escaped the bookstore. Remember? When we gave her that cipher about Teddy?”

Ivan couldn’t believe that he had nearly forgotten about the moment, his eyes darkening as he thought back to the frightening moment. So much has happened since, that that situation felt like it took place years ago.

“Why didn’t any of you tell us that this was happening?” Carter asked gruffly, his arms crossing over his chest. “Why the hell would any of you keep something so serious from us?”

Altman glanced up at Carter somberly, his eyes dark. “It wasn’t our right to tell you. Do you think I wanted to keep this a bloody secret? But Elinor wanted to wait for the right time, asking us to keep it from all of you,” Altman explained, turning his gaze back to Elinor, who had finally stopped trembling, her eyes no longer fluttering. “I can assure you, this is not the way she wanted to tell you.”

Ivan could barely make out Altman’s words, for he was alarmed by how still Elinor had gotten, her face painfully pale as she rested limply. He was almost afraid to breathe, afraid to pull his gaze off her. His brain was still trying to wrap its mind around what had happened.

“It’ll be a little while before she wakes up,” Altman mentioned, sighing softly. “When she does, I suggest we give her a moment to come to… She’ll be a bit confused before she can explain what she saw-”

Altman jumped, startled by the sudden sight of Elinor bolting up with a start. She gasped so loudly that the reaction drew everyone’s attention to her. Everyone else in the room stared at the rigid Elinor with surprise, their bodies tense as she breathed heavily, her eyes wandering over the room.

Ivan wasn’t sure if he should reach out to pull her back into his arms, to help her to calm down before she started going on whatever she had seen in this vision Altman claimed she was having. He barely had a chance to even form a plan of approach before she stood up abruptly, her legs nearly giving out as she turned to face them.

“El!” Ivan growled, his arms reaching out to help steady her as he stood up quickly. He noticed instantly that something was wrong, it was evident in the way her usually bright eyes were dark and cloudy, her lips pressing together as they trembled. She held onto Ivan’s arms tightly, almost as if she was afraid to let go of him. He was almost terrified to ask her about whatever it was that she had seen.

Her lips parting slightly, she glanced nervously up at Ivan, her eyes searching his face. “The baby,” she managed to say finally, her voice shaking.

Ivan’s eyes narrowed, confused by her vague outburst. He was even more bothered by the tears that were welling up in her eyes, the way her hands shook against his arms. “El, what are you talking about? What baby?”

Elinor shook her head, biting down on her lower lip as she glared cautiously at the other members standing around, staring at her with confused expressions. Glancing back at Ivan, she whimpered softly. “Ivan, the baby isn’t okay.”

Ivan wasn’t entirely sure what she meant by this statement. He worried that maybe she was having some sort of vision about herself as an infant, perhaps something that was supposed to go wrong. He was worried that perhaps what she had seen was Whittaker coming after her again as a child, the very thing he feared after they left Anneliese back in 1924. Ivan opened his mouth to question her further but another voice pierced through the heavy silence, cutting him off.

“Are you talking about Lula?” Carter’s voice spoke up, his bright blue eyes growing wide. His face slightly pale, he stepped closer. “Are you saying that our baby isn’t okay?”

Layla and Brackston looked at each other seriously, their expressions darkening slightly.

Elinor stared at Carter, her mouth hanging open slightly as she tried to form a response to give the glaring man. The tears flooding her eyes streamed down her face the moment she blinked, her body flinching at the sigh of Carter taking a step towards her.

Ivan could see the panic that rose in Elinor’s eyes, encouraging him to turn around. Carter was stepping forward, his eyes locked with a dark glare on Elinor. Turning slowly, Ivan faced the brooding soldier, his gaze unyielding as he blocked Carter’s path to Elinor. “Give her a minute,” Ivan threatened, his tone firm. “She just woke up and I’m sure she’s terrified enough without you getting in her face.”

Carter’s eyes pierced through Ivan, his jaw clenching slightly. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with Ivan, let alone, to have to push his way through the man just to get answers. “I just need a damn response about her vague statement. Is Lula okay? Is our baby okay?”

Ivan’s heart started aching suddenly at the sound of Elinor letting out a sob behind him, a small amount of rage building up within him at how Carter’s words were upsetting her. He couldn’t fault either of them for their response to the situation, for it was terrifying for all of them.

“I said to give her a damn minute,” Ivan growled, glaring down at the soldier darkly.

Carter couldn’t help his own rage that was flaring up within his chest, his fists clenching and unclenching as he tried to decide what the best response would be to the situation. He was contemplating walking away and giving her a minute as Ivan had suggested, he even pulled back. He was going to let this be, but the thought of everything that had gone over the last couple of months entered his mind. Carter was convinced that this woman that Ivan was so hellbent on protecting was nothing more than a Whittaker target, bringing destruction and ruin to everyone she was near. How long would it be before Whittaker ran out of ways to make her life miserable, before they started looking at other ways to get back at her? This meant going through every member of the team before they finally got to her.

Carter clenched his jaw, his anger rising as he tried to steady his breathing. He tried to push himself away from the situation but his fists reacted before his brain could put a stop to it. With an incredible amount of force, Carter shoved Ivan. The impact of the shove caught Ivan off guard, knocking him into Elinor, who was still behind Ivan.

Elinor was caught completely off guard by the whole thing, barely having a chance to catch herself from stumbling onto the floor. Once she was sure she had stabled herself, she turned just in time to see that Carter had slammed Ivan into a wall, the two gripping at each other’s shoulders as they tried to fend the other off.

Brackston, Layla, and Altman responded quickly, racing over to try and break the fight apart. The noise and the chaos of the situation echoed throughout the lab, leaving Elinor frozen at the sight.

A rush of angry tears filled her eyes as the sight of the situation slowly overwhelmed her. She let out a cry of anguish, the noise rendering everyone in the room speechless before a bigger fight could break out between the two men. “ENOUGH!” Her voice resonated through the room.

Elinor’s hands shook violently, her eyes brimming with tears as she glanced between each person in the room as they stared at her with surprised expressions. The rush of feelings washing over her only got worse as Lula walked into the lounge room quickly, the woman looking around frantically at the situation around her.

Licking her lips nervously, Elinor hugged her stomach with trembling arms. “Your baby and Lula are fine, Carter,” Elinor assured him, her voice shaking as she ignored Lula’s confused gaze. “I’m sorry if I terrified you, I’m still getting used to… whatever the hell is wrong with me. But that doesn’t give any right to give into your fear and your anger. If Lula had shown up just a few seconds earlier and had seen what had just gone down, I’m sure she would be pretty damn upset.”

Carter lowered his head, glancing down at his feet silently as Lula turned her head to look at him. He felt ashamed for his behavior, especially now that he knew that this wasn’t about them.

Sighing heavily, Elinor placed her gaze on Ivan, who was staring at her with a pale, confused face. Her lower lip trembled over the thought of what she was about to tell him. “My vision...” Elinor drew in her lower lip, trying to decide how she should explain this. “I think I’m suffering a miscarriage.”

There were a variety of responses that came from the group that stood around her. Since Lula was behind her, she could no longer see the historian’s face. She could see, however, the way Carter stared at Lula, his face red as he probably reflected on the way he reacted a few moments prior.

Layla was staring at Elinor quizzically, her eyes flicking down to the way Elinor hugged her stomach. She could tell that Layla was skeptical from the way she glanced at Brackston questionably.

Ivan’s face was the hardest to take in, for he stared at her with a confused, pale expression. She could see that his mind was trying to make sense of what she had just blurted out.

“Are you sure you’re not misunderstanding your vision?” Altman questioned, the only voice to pipe up. “As far as you know, this may not even take place for weeks or even months and it could be different than you expected. Plus, seeing as you’re not pregnant…” Altman’s voice trailed off the moment he noticed Elinor’s harsh stare.

“I discovered about two weeks ago that I was pregnant,” she admitted softly, her voice shaky as she tried to avoid Ivan’s surprised, speechless stare. “It had been a good while since… stuff went down between Ivan and me. I was noticing some differences, so I asked Agent Simone for advice. She was able to bring me a test and…” She sobbed softly, shaking her head. “I was terrified to say anything because I had already seen what stress Lula’s pregnancy was bringing on everyone, I didn’t want to add to all of the stress until I knew things were calmed down.”

Bringing her eyes back to Ivan’s, she almost couldn’t stand the way he was staring at her. His green eyes were lit up with surprise, with a hint of excitement, before they darkened just as quickly. She imagined that he was reflecting on the words she stated earlier, the words she blurted out about her concerns.

Ivan watched as Elinor tried to figure out how to further respond, her hands nervously wringing together. Eventually the silence had gotten to her and she couldn’t take their stares any longer. Ivan watched with a heavy ache in his chest as Elinor wandered off, heading towards the hallway that led to their rooms.

Ivan was about to follow after her but Altman blocked his path, the man giving Ivan a firm glare. “Give her a moment,” Altman commanded, despite knowing that Ivan could brush him aside easily. “She’s just confused. Maybe if she ponders over her vision for a little while, she can better explain why she thinks it’s about her.”

The last thing Ivan wanted to do was to leave her be. If her vision was true, it meant that he was partially to blame for their situation. He allowed himself to let down his guard, to give into everything he swore he’d never do again. Worst of all, it was hitting Elinor while she was already down. The woman didn’t need anything else to add to her plate and he just added to it for her.

Clenching his teeth, Ivan nodded slowly. His only hope was that in a couple hours, Elinor would still want to see him.

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