The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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Wells Final Message

Present Day


Autumn slammed her fists down angrily on the hard surface of her desk, a low, frustrated growl leaving her lips. She barely responded to the way her hands throbbed shortly thereafter, for no physical pain could amount to the hard to swallow, bitter truth that had been gnawing at her since she returned from 1924. Two of her men were lost on that mission but that was hardly her biggest concern. What ripped at her insides was the fact that that team of misfit travelers were constantly one step ahead, all the while keeping Autumn’s biggest pawn safe in their grimy clutches. Because of this, Autumn knew that without Wells’s daughter, any hope of finding that damn key was as good as gone.

Autumn glanced down at her clenched fists on her desk, sorting through her memories of Wells’s daughter. For whatever reason, Ivan Hayes was attached to this woman. She knew this made her mission of getting to the woman more difficult. Having seen how strong his determination and desire to avenge his wife and daughter was, she knew that he’d stop at nothing to keep the woman safe.

A knock sounded on the door to Autumn’s office, drawing the fiery redhead out of her dark thoughts. Clenching her fists tightly, Autumn stood up straight and stared at the door, her hazel blue eyes burning through the surface of it. “Who is it?” she snapped, her voice dripping with venom.

The door opened slowly as a young woman with auburn hair cascading over her shoulders carefully walked in, her bright blue eyes nervous as she took in Autumn’s agitated expression. “Is now a bad time?” the woman asked cautiously, her eyes scanning Autumn’s tense frame.

Autumn’s eyes softened slightly at the sight of the woman but her expression remained hardened. This woman was Autumn’s most brilliant and trusted agent, which left Autumn hopeful for answers. “That depends,” Autumn started, her tone a bit harsh. “Do you have good news for me, Liz?”

Swallowing hard, Liz nodded slowly as she held up a piece of paper in her hands. “I was able to crack the cipher, the one that everyone else couldn’t get?” she explained, her face relaxing as Autumn’s face twisted from the dark scowl. “It turns out that Wells has a knack for writing his ciphers and riddles backwards, which is why it threw everyone else off.”

“Or they’re all idiots,” Autumn hissed, holding her hand out expectantly. “It’s why I trust you with these sorts of things more than the other agents.”

Liz handed the paper to Autumn, watching as the woman’s hard gaze transformed into a look of interest at what was written on the paper. “It’s the location of Wells’s time machine,” Liz stated, a hint of excitement in her tone. “The one we’ve been searching all those answers for.”

“Quedlinburg,” Autumn read allowed, her eyebrows raising slightly as she continued reading through the translated cipher. “So Wells hid the time machine in Germany?”

“It would appear so,” Liz acknowledged, a small smile spreading across her lips. “I have no clue why. My guess is because he was trying to throw us off.”

Autumn shook her head, disagreeing with her agent. “Wells’s mistress was German,” Autumn mused, tilting her head up as she glanced at Liz. “That would be more understandable as to why he hid the machine in Germany. To be close to her and his precious little girl.”

Liz’s smile faded into a frown as Autumn’s words tumbled out, a realization crossing her thoughts. The sour expression on the agent’s face earned a questioning glare from the redhead. “While I think it’s good that we know where Wells’s machine is, what good is knowing the location to us at this point? Without Wells’s key, the machine is useless,” Liz reminded Autumn.

Autumn looked down at the translated cipher in her hands, her mind wandering as she pondered the woman’s words. After a couple of moments, Autumn’s eyes lit up with an alarming light. “How familiar are you with Wells and the history of our organization, Liz?” Autumn asked, unable to help the smirk that was crossing her face as Liz’s face twisted into a look of distaste.

Liz scoffed slightly, her body tensing with anger at the question. “You mean other than the fact that he’s a backstabbing traitor?” Liz huffed, shaking her head slightly. “All I know is that he used to be one of the best Whittaker members until sometime in the early 1920s. For whatever reason, he defected and seemingly disappeared until Einstein made his acquaintance later.”

Autumn nodded slowly, pleased with what her agent knew about the situation. “Wells joined Whittaker in 1895… for the same reason everyone else did. He didn’t fit in anywhere and he couldn’t get the answers to the thing that he was searching for. Whittaker provided a sense of belonging and gave him the answers that he needed. Whittaker gave him the power that he desired in exchange for one thing… his knowledge of time travel.”

“Why give that up?” Liz questioned, her eyebrows drawn together in confusion. “Why run away from the potential of all that greatness?”

“It’s amazing what crazy things like love and a pretty face can make a man do,” Autumn stated, clicking her tongue disapprovingly as she thought about the pitiful man. “His loyalty to his mistress and their little girl pulled his eyes off the prize and away from the life he was destined for. Unfortunately when he left, he took his key plan for the time machine with him.”

Liz pursed her lips, staring intensely at Autumn’s frightening scowl. She had a suspicion that whatever Autumn was thinking about, it wasn’t pleasant towards the man who screwed up their plans for so many years. “What are you suggesting we do about this situation?” Liz questioned softly. “We have to figure out the whereabouts of this key somehow.”

Autumn crossed her arms over her chest as she leaned against her desk casually. “Sooner or later, his daughter is going to find out about the darker, more sinister secrets to her life.”

Liz tilted her head, unsure of how to answer. She wasn’t entirely sure what this had to do with the time machine or the key. Instead of pressing for more answers, Liz waited quietly for a response.

Autumn pressed her lips tightly together, taking Liz’s confused expression as a sign to continue. “Which means that sooner or later, his daughter is going to lead us to the answer that we’re looking for. All we have to do is wait.”

<>

Elinor was convinced that her life at this rate was turning out to be one of the biggest horror stories out there. If Brackston had been awake, she knew that he’d argue that it was more like an insane Sci-Fi tale. Realistically, she knew that it didn’t matter what genre her life would fall under as she would agree that it was all one giant, chaotic mess. The more layers that were pulled back about her life and her father’s, the more she silently wished she had been left in the dark. She was amazed that she hadn’t completely lost her mind at this rate.

After Tesla disappeared, the weight of everything about her situation had been lingering on her heavily. She knew that sleep was out of the question, for everytime she closed her eyes she was met with the same disturbing image of Tesla vanishing before her eyes. Revisiting the moment in her dreams proved to be just as unsettling.

Frustrated that she couldn’t sleep, she carefully climbed out of bed without waking Ivan. Once content that her lack of presence wasn’t going to disrupt his rest, she made her way into the hallway and eventually ended up in the kitchen. She found herself sitting in the exact chair Tesla sat in only hours ago. A part of her was silently hoping that Tesla would reappear, that way he could finish explaining what he had been talking about before he vanished. Unfortunately, the room remained empty of his presence.

She was about to groan in frustration when the sound of a voice interrupted her thoughts, causing her to jump slightly in her chair.

“You’re up early,” the voice mused, a familiar chuckle meeting her ears at the sight of her jumping.

Glancing up, she was surprised to see Ivan leaning against the kitchen counter, a look of amusement on his face. She wasn’t sure how she hadn’t seen or heard him come in. He was surprisingly wide awake for the early hours of the morning. She was amazed to see that his hair was still slightly damp from taking a shower and that he was already dressed this early. She envied him for being so prepared to face the day.

She smiled softly at the sight of him wearing his burgundy turtleneck, which he knew was one of her favorite shirts of his. “I could say the same about you,” she mumbled softly, her eyes wandering over him.

“Are you hungry?” he asked her softly, frowning the moment she shook her head. He had a feeling that her reason for being up so early had a lot to do with everything that went down earlier. He could tell from the way her expression seemed to be drained of color that she was struggling to wrap her mind around everything. However, it didn’t mean that she should compromise her strength in the process.

She watched Ivan carefully as he reached up to the spot he kept his secret stash, pulling a small package down. He kept whatever he had pulled down hidden from her view, turning around to face her with a warm smile as she gave him a confused, skeptical glare.

Ivan could tell that she was about to call him out on his mysterious behavior when he had made his way over to the table, setting a small little package before her. The sight of her face brightening made him chuckle. “You’re going to eat breakfast. You need the energy.”

“Swiss rolls?” Her face lit up with surprise at the sight of the treat before her before she wrinkled her nose slightly. She glanced up at Ivan, who was smiling warmly at her. “That’s… that’s not breakfast, Ivan.”

Ivan shrugged his shoulders, leaning against the table. “I thought you could use something nice for breakfast once. You know, nicer than a lousy granola bar or Carter’s burnt eggs,” he admitted, happy to hear the soft sound of her chuckling at his jab towards Carter’s cooking.

Bringing the package into her hand, she gave it a once over before giving him a questioning glare. “You do realize that these are like… super bad for you, right?” she pointed out, watching as he rolled his eyes.

“El?” he started softly, placing his hand on the back of her chair as he lowered himself to her eye level. He couldn’t remember the last time he had glanced into her eyes like this without seeing hints of hurt, tears, or anxiety within them. He was relieved to see that after everything, he could still gaze into her eyes and see the slightest hint of warmth and light in them. Pressing his lips firmly together, he tapped her nose with his finger and chuckled at the sight of her nose scrunching up at the random action. “Live a little.”

Her chuckle melted into a sigh as he placed a gentle kiss to the top of her head before pulling away. She tore into the little package of Swiss Rolls, her eyes watching him intently as he started preparing a pot of coffee for the rest of the team. She was grateful that he didn’t press her about anything, allowing her to enjoy her unhealthy breakfast in silence as she pondered her thoughts from earlier.

“You’re awfully quiet this morning,” Ivan noted, his eyes focused on the coffee pot as he watched to make sure that the machine brewed the coffee correctly.

Elinor breathed in heavily, taking in the scent of coffee that woke up her senses. A part of her wished she could have a cup but knew that was possibly out of the question. “Just reflecting on some things,” she admitted softly, taking a small bite out of the sweet treat he had given her.

“You’ve certainly had a lot of that to do lately,” Ivan stated, searching through the cupboard for his favorite mug. He had a feeling that whatever mug Elinor had used last night to get a drink, ended up being his. Which meant that it was swept into a trash can someplace.

Elinor nodded, not fully aware that Ivan wasn’t paying attention to her. She was lost in thought, thinking about the way Tesla talked about her father. She couldn’t help but feel that the more she found out about him, the more she questioned his logic on things. She was about to respond to his comment when the sound of a voice yelling throughout the quiet lab quickly captured their attention.

“I’VE BLOODY GOT IT!”

Ivan nearly dropped the mug he had pulled out of the cabinet as Elinor quickly stood up from her seat, her heart leaping from the loud exclamation. Both their eyes fell towards the direction that the time machine was stationed before they quickly made their way out of the room and into the control room.

The two found Professor Altman excitedly scribbling on a piece of paper, his face beaming. Elinor noticed that the man was exceptionally giddy at this moment, like an overgrown kid on Christmas. She was slowly starting to learn that Altman could often get overly excited when he made astounding discoveries. He had been throwing himself into reading the contents of Wells’s journal to a point that his obsession was starting to alarm her.

“Altman,” Ivan growled, shaking his head at the man’s wild antics taking place so early in the morning. “People are still sleeping, you moron. Keep your voice down!”

Altman amazingly didn’t respond to Ivan’s rude remark. He was too busy waving the paper that he had been scribbling on through the air. “I’ve bloody figured it out,” Altman excitedly clamored as he quickly climbed down the stairs from the time machine's control area.

“Yes, you’ve made that pretty clear…” Ivan groaned, rolling his eyes as Elinor glanced at Altman skeptically.

“What did you figure out, exactly?” she questioned, her eyes narrowed as he held out the paper to her. Listed on it was some sort of address, a place in Germany that vaguely rang a bell to her.

“That,” Altman began, tapping the paper as she read it, a smile forming on his face. “That, my dear, is the location of the time machine your father used to send you forward in time. It was hidden inside of a very difficult cipher that I just finished cracking.”

Elinor’s face paled slightly, her eyes widening at the words written in Altman’s quick and messy writing.

“Why the hell would Wells hide the location of the time machine in a cipher that could be easily accessible to Whittaker?” Ivan challenged, glancing between the paper and Altman with a skeptical glare. The sight of Altman glancing firmly at Elinor left Ivan feeling slightly uneasy.

“Because Wells wanted Elinor to find it,” Altman admitted, taking a couple steps back so that he could reach Wells’s journal off of the desk of the time machines controls, where he flipped to a page in the book. “Wells stated that he trusts that Elinor would know what to do with the machine and the key that will allow any one person the ability to travel through any point in time. He trusts that she’ll make the right decision.”

Elinor swallowed hard, weighing the heaviness of her father’s words. She felt that trusting her with such a machine was an incredibly bold and selfish move on her father’s part. It left her to take care of the burden of his unfortunate mistakes.

“That’s hardly fair,” Ivan argued, his eyebrows furrowing together.

“Nothing about Elinor’s situation is fair, Ivan,” Altman reminded him, his voice dark. “Especially considering the fact that I just discovered upon reading further into Wells’s journal why Whittaker is so hellbent on making his life a living hell.”

Both Elinor and Ivan gave him a quizzical stare, their eyes locked intently on the man as they waited for him to answer.

Releasing a heavy sigh, Altman rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly as he gave her a sympathetic glare. “My dear, I’m afraid your father was a distant relative of Whittaker. Which makes you a Whittaker through blood.”

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