The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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Mission Commodore

April 2, 1921


Through clenched teeth, Lula muttered under her breath as she fought with the impractical fashion choice that hung loosely off her frame as she hastily made her way through the bustling New York City crowd. While it was the wrong time of day, and the wrong type of occasion - it was all that was readily available. Available to steal, that is.

It was moments like this that made her silently wish that she had more time. More time to pick out a better outfit, more time to stop and remain in awe at the beauty that was New York City in earlier days, more time to mentally prepare herself for the mission ahead...

Funny, wishing for more time was something she'd never expect to hear a time traveler say.

Her midday checkered tennis dress swayed against her legs, as she brought herself to a halt just before a grand building, facing the entryway to a large, towering hotel.

The Commodore Hotel, to be exact. While familiar with it, this didn’t stop her from soaking in what she could. She would have stood in awe forever, taking in the grand architecture, the perfectly elegant details that were carved in every little crevice, nook, cranny... Had it not been for the urgency of the situation and the sounds of frantic footsteps approaching meeting her ears, she would have let herself linger a bit longer.

As she turned to see the rest of the team running to catch up with her, she pursed her lips in distaste at how lucky they were to have found clothes better suited for the time of day, and for the mission ahead.

Brackston was amazed that Lula was able to sprint through such a hectic crowd in heels, and still somehow beat them to their destination. However, this was Lula Peterson they were talking about. Whenever history was involved, you can damn well bet that Lula would be the first member of the team on the scene.

They were all dressed nicely in a pair of period appropriate suits, Brackston and Carter slid to a stop behind the awestruck Lula, their hats long lost in the mess of the crowd – no thanks to the haste they made to get here. The two were out of breath, Brackston leaning over to catch his breath – when a third face entered her view just behind Carter.

Unlike Brackston and Carter, Ivan Hayes managed to somehow keep not only his composure, his breathing steady but his hat still remained on his head after the run he made.

However, his breath was caught in his throat the moment he took in the large hotel.

“It’s magnificent,” he mumbled, embarrassed that he was beginning to show his true colors. Even after all they had been through since their arrival to 1921, even with the sour taste that the very thought of his own history left on his tongue – the reality of this all never ceased to amaze him.

Lula smiled softly, as Brackston let out an obnoxious snort. Needless to say, the sound earned a funny look from the other three travelers.

“Yeah, I mean, sure. But too bad in our time, it’s owned by a crazy egomaniac.”

Brackston’s response should have brought on a variety of responses. A snicker, someone shaking their head, a cough... This time, it was pretty much brushed off, leaving only Carter to respond with a simple roll of his eyes.

Turning, his blue eyes met Lula’s dark, wandering eyes. He could tell she was already forming an answer to the question he had yet to even ask.

“So, what’s the plan?”

Lula swallowed hard, still catching her breath from the run as she forced her racing mind to focus on the serious matter at hand. There was a hell of a lot at stake, and very little time to really explain it all. She would have to give everyone the abridged version.

“This is Albert Einstein’s first day in America,” she began, cutting herself short to shake her head in disbelief at the thought.

She could tell that this job was going to have its pivotal moments of being able to render her speechless, she wondered if she’d ever get the chance to get used to it.

Focus,” she chided herself internally, gritting her teeth.

“I know that his time here is crucial – and I think Einstein knows this, too. It’s why despite not wanting to, he forced himself to come anyways. I’m not sure what Whittaker plans to do afterwards, but I know that according to what Professor Altman stated, they’re possibly hellbent on making sure that Einstein either doesn’t live past today or he ends up abducted.”

Brackston shook his head, knowing full and well what repercussions of messing with Einstein could mean. She didn’t have to spell it out for him, but for those standing around, he knew she’d have to.

Lula trembled, beckoning them to follow her towards the doors, “Einstein’s death or disappearance would be more than just devastating, it would be catastrophic. His biggest regret in life was writing a letter with Leó Szilárd to President Roosevelt in 1939, one that encourages America to join the race for Nuclear weapons. If Einstein doesn’t write that letter-”

“-then we’re wasting precious time, remaining out here and talking like gossiping school girls – and not taking action.” Ivan piped up, a harsh edge to his voice.

Carter turned his head quickly to face Ivan, giving the man a dark glare as he bit back a vile retort. He could hardly understand why Professor Altman fought so hard to have this man on this mission with them, but at this moment, he couldn’t help but somewhat agree with Ivan.

They needed to get inside before anything could happen to Einstein.

Before letting an argument break out between the two, Lula led them the rest of the way through the doors of the hotel, and into a lobby that was even more grand than the outside.

Rattling off some important key facts that everyone needed to be aware of, Lula was oblivious to the fact that Brackston was gawking at the lobby they just made their way into. If it wasn’t for Ivan nudging him and gaining his attention, Brackston was sure that they would have probably left him behind.

Lula knew that there were many important details about Einstein that they needed to be aware of, but the most crucial fact of them all was that they needed to know was that Einstein spoke German and knew very little English.

“Einstein’s wife, Elsa, is able to translate for him. She looks out for him, sort of like a gatekeeper. But she’s only able to translate so much, as she can’t even begin to know how to explain Einstein’s brilliance.” Lula explained, unaware that Brackston was making a face throughout this last segment of her history lesson.

“Does this Elsa have the desire to start belting out ‘Let it Go’?” Brackston questioned innocently, as Carter wrinkled his nose in distaste, thinking about how many times he had to hear the overplayed Disney song.

“I prefer Anna.”

Ivan was only half listening to Lula, let alone, acknowledging Brackston and Carter’s conversation.

He was too busy marveling over the fact that Lula was totally oblivious to the pristine beauty of the exotic plants, the elegant ceiling, and the vibrant furniture surrounding them. If Lula were even aware, she’d spout off facts about the room they were making their way through was considered one of the most beautiful lobbies in the world – something he only knew from dealing with her spout off random history facts since their arrival.

Another thing he learned from the small amount of time he’d been around her – if you got Lula Peterson on one of her historical tangents, she would lose her mind if you didn’t allow her to throw up every historical fact she knew would better aid them on their mission.

After concluding their boyish argument about who was the better Frozen princess, Carter gave Lula an almost smug smile.

“I guess it’s a good thing you have a soldier here who can speak German,” he responded, snapping Ivan out of his deep thoughts.

It was the perfect opportunity for Ivan to make a smart-ass comment, one he knew that would earn him no respect from Carter, but it would most certainly have brought him pleasure in knowing that he got Carter’s goat.

However, before anyone could take another step forward or so much as make another sound, the unsettling sound of a gunshot echoed through the lobby. Panicked shouts and a blood curdling scream rendered the four time travelers speechless, as they remained frozen like Anna did at the end of the film. An unsettling feeling washed over the entire area, as the realization finally sank in.

Einstein.

Lula, being the most in tune with their mission was obviously the first to respond by jumping quickly into action, breaking into a run in her awful heels again. Ivan snapped to attention the moment she raced off in the direction the gunshot echoed from, urging him to sprint into action after the historian.

The sight of Lula and Ivan running off brought Carter out of his frozen trance as he muttered something under his breath. Drawing his gun, he chased after the other two through the elaborate lobby, not even paying any attention to see if Brackston was behind him or not.

It didn’t exactly take long to pinpoint where the noisy commotion came from, but it left barely enough time for Lula to come up with a solid plan for what she would do when she arrived.

What if they were all too late and Einstein was already dead? What if Whittaker and their men were still around and the gun was turned on Lula next? The entire team knew that the dark organization had it out for Professor Altman – for anyone close to him. Still, Lula was still willing to risk her neck and her life to see history left as it was meant to be, if that was what it took.

Lula’s heels clicked to a stop at the scene of the action, where she was both relieved and mortified at what played out before her. Her dark brown eyes widened, her jaw fell slightly as the sight of a gentleman with wild, crazy hair and an even wilder, crazier look in his eyes fought to keep a tall, menacingly unfamiliar gunman from putting a bullet into his head.

To the left of the crazy haired man was another familiar figure, a woman in a dressy coat and an extravagant hat slouched against the wall, clutching the left side of her face.

From what Lula could tell, neither one of the beings appeared to be bleeding or to have any serious wounds. She lowered herself to assist the grimacing woman, who she quickly identified as Einstein’s Elsa. Had it not been for the dire situation, she would have found herself in awe at the beings that stood before her.

It wasn’t too long after Lula knelt down to assist Elsa that the sound of a couple shots ringing out met her ears, causing her to duck down defensively. The feeling of fear crawled its way through her chest, as her eyes darted up to see what the status of Einstein was.

That feeling of dread was quickly washed away with the overwhelming warmth of relief as the gunman that Lula had no chance against was lying in a crumpled heap on the floor before Einstein, who appeared to be stunned by everything that just went down.

Lula’s eyes pulled away from Einstein and landed on a figure that stood at the end of the hallway. Continuing to keep his gun aimed directly on what he assumed was a sleeper, Ivan made his way over to the body. Once he was reassured that the gunman was dead, Ivan turned to make sure Lula was alright but she was busy attending to a rough mark that was forming on the injured woman’s face. It looked bad now but it was going to look a hell of a lot worse later.

Ivan tensed at the movement he saw out of the corner of his eye, relaxing when he realized it was only a trembling Einstein bending down to pick up a case Ivan hadn’t noticed earlier. The shape gave off the impression that it was a case for an instrument; that’s when he remembered one of Lula’s many, quick history lessons about Einstein and his love for his violin.

As Einstein straightened himself up, one of his trembling hands smoothed out the suit he was wearing. It was shortly after this that Einstein began yelling out in German, in what Ivan could only assume was a mixture of fear and anger.

He began pointing to the deceased gunman, when Brackston and Carter finally made it to the scene that was quickly evolving into a mess before them. A crowd of spectators were forming at the end of the hallway. It was only a matter of time before the police would show up.

Brackston rushed over to assist Lula with helping Elsa stand to her feet as Carter approached Einstein carefully, speaking to the man in fluent German.

Einstein drowned out Carter’s calm voice with the sound of his own raising itself as he continued to bark out German words. Lula only gathered that he was talking about his wife, when he pointed a finger in their direction.

Carter turned to look at Lula. The fear that sparked her dark eyes earlier had softened into a gentle, calm composure.

“Carter, if he’s worried about his wife – please tell him that she isn’t terribly harmed. She said the man did nothing but place a blow to her face after she prevented him from shooting Albert.”

Carter nodded slightly, quickly translating Lula’s reassuring words to Einstein. Her words were meant to be a comfort to the startled man, an assurance that all was well. Gathering from the redness forming on the mans face, Carter had a sinking suspicion that his words weren’t winning the genius over. That was pretty much confirmed after a few more German words tumbled out.

Carter looked to Lula, a grim expression on his face as he roughly translated Einstein’s words back to her: “He pretty much just told me that he knew coming to America was a mistake and that he will begin making arrangements to leave with his wife tomorrow.”

Lula’s eyes widened, quickly making sure that Brackston had everything with Elsa under control before she approached Carter’s side. If Einstein left now, she wasn’t sure how this could affect the future. The people he meets, the steps he takes, play a very important role – she could feel it. Einstein’s two months spent in America was said to have been rough on the man, and there’s no doubt that from here on it would be hell...

“We need to convince him to stay,” Lula mumbled, her brain racing to think of ways they could convince the genius.

Her eyes brightened after a quiet moment, her voice lowering itself. “We need to feed on his desire for peace. Einstein is a pacifist, he is not a fan of war. If we can convince him that his presence here could encourage America and its leader to think of other ways outside of war to solve issues with other countries, maybe we could avoid another situation like The Great War.”

Carter looked at Lula with an incredibly doubt-filled expression as if she had lost her mind. He knew that there was no way one man could change the outcome of the second World War and there was no guarantee that it would truly change Einstein’s mind.

With very little options left, Carter spoke back to Einstein in German. His voice was soft but Lula could pick up on hints of firmness that made it clear he was trying to make it aware how crucial this all was.

Lula couldn’t tell if the suggestion was winning the argument or not – it appeared to be calming Einstein down. His tense frame relaxed slightly as did the intense grip he had on his violin case. The redness seemed to fade away the more Carter spoke, leaving Lula to feel a spark of hope.

Carter’s conversation had finished but even after all that, Einstein kept his lips pressed shut in a tight line. Lula felt her spark of hope fade as the seconds went on, feeling like years were passing them by. After what felt like ages sitting in silence, Einstein finally broke the awkwardness with one, simple word – and none of them needed Carter to translate it for them.

Ja.”

Lula let out a breath she wasn’t aware that she was holding at the sound of the German word for yes slipped out of Einstein’s lips, tears forming in her eyes as she smiled at the man before her.

She took this as a win, even though this would have affected history some – the outcome would be minuscule. At least, that was what she thought...

In a safe area in the lobby, a woman with red hair and fiery eyes watched the team as they accepted the win, a sly smile forming on her face. To her right, stood a man – the key to her true mission.

The attempt to take Einstein’s life today was merely a distraction, a way of throwing Altman’s team off from what was truly meant to happen.

The man to the right of Autumn Whittaker gave her a curious glance, unsure of why the woman was smiling at such a moment.

“Am I to keep my mission as scheduled?” he questioned, earning a look from Autumn’s burning gaze.

This only encouraged her smile to widen as she focused back on watching Lula and her ragtag team assist Einstein and his wife, before making preparations to leave the scene in a quick haste before the police showed up.

“You have your orders,” Autumn began, her voice firm. “Wait until Einstein is well acquainted in his friendship with Mr. Wells. When 1931 rolls around, that’s when you will take out Einstein, take up his name and his place in society, and fulfill the remainder of your mission.”

Autumn turned slowly, lowering her voice to a soft, vicious whisper – the venom dripping from every word was enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine.

“Find the missing piece that will allow us more freedom and liberty to travel to any point in time that we want or I’ll make sure that you end up just like the real Einstein.”

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