The Maelstrom

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Chapter-2

Time travel- It is the concept of movement between certain points in time, analogous to movement between different points in space by an object or a person, typically with the use of a device known as a time machine.

What!

It took me a moment to process what dad had just said. Not only was the decision horrendously imprudent, but even its execution was hasty; all signs of a reckless leadership. I shook my head in annoyance, while dad busied himself with his computer.

But when I deliberated further on the new piece of information, a frown made its way on my face. The meeting had been over just five minutes ago and every board member’s opinion in the matter was allegedly taken into consideration. Then how come the people in question had already reached the building, even when the meeting was still progressing.

Was the meeting just an eyewash? Something to make people working here think of themselves as significant, while the reality was far from their expectations. Worse still, how many times before had the decision already been undertaken, while we all sat at that very table thinking that our opinions matter.

I felt a pang of nausea hitting me right in my gut. It was obvious that Mr. Neville was a person who did not believe in group efforts, but the fact that riled me further was dad’s silence and agreement in the matter.

I quickly brushed off these thoughts, because right now I had more serious troubles lurking somewhere in the building, and I had to find them. Giving a final nod to dad, I exited his office, slamming the door harder than I had intended.

I briskly walked through the hallway that connected the traveller’s area with the administration block, ignoring all the whispers and curious looks that were directed my way. It was evident from the commotion that ensued my arrival, that travellers were not frequent visitors to the administration side and there was hardly any interaction between the two. Just a mutual sense of respect for each other for a peaceful co-existence.

I made my way through the hallway unscathed and took a sharp right turn to come face to face with huge wooden doors with Winston Neville written in bold, golden letters. Unlike the chaos outside, consisting of the sound of ruffling papers, curious whispers and the clickety-clack of furiously typing keyboards, the outside of Mr. Neville’s office had an inexplicable stillness to it, so much so, as weird as it might sound, I could hear the blinking sound my eyes made.

I took in a deep breath and after steadying my ragged breathing and raising my chin high in confidence, knocked at the door.

“Come in.” Came the reply from the other side.

Swinging the door open, I made my way inside his office. It was the first time I had visited the place. Other times if I wanted to contact Mr. Neville, usually, it was his assistant that I went to, who was kind enough to pass on the information to him.

I stood by the doors with gaping mouth, marveling at the beauty and elegance of the place. Three walls of the room were painted in a soft cream hue, while the fourth one was brutally attacked by a number of colours- red, golden, blue, black smeared across with deliberate recklessness, rendering an intimidating vibe to the place. The huge room had a proportionately sized glass-top table and white plush couches sat near it. A huge glass window overlooking the city, let in natural light, softening the harsh, artificial ambience of the room.

All in all, the individual elements looked too out of place, but when they were brought together under the vigil of a cautious eye, it seemed to have blended in with beautiful precision.

Lost in my critique of the room, I was awakened by the clearing of someone’s throat. “Miss Darret, right on time.” Mr. Neville spoke, glancing at his old, worn-out wristwatch with a smug expression.

He appeared to be weaker than the last time I had seen him four months ago. He had thick rectangular spectacles settled on the bridge of his nose, making his emaciated face appear even thinner. Through his specs, I could see his grey eyes looking at me, calculating my next move.

“To what do I owe this pleasure.” Mr. Neville asked me, his eyes glistening at me with amusement and there was a slight irritation in his voice. Something told me he already knew the answer.

Well well, two can play this game.

“I had a little trouble regarding work.” I stated matter-of-factly. And gave him the best challenging glare I could come up with.

He looked at me with a small smile tugging his lips upwards, making his wrinkles more prominent under the harsh lighting. “I guess then it has nothing to do with the broken vending machine in the cafeteria.” He chuckled.

Don’t know about the vending machine, but keep up the attitude old man, and something definitely will be broken. Was he that desperate to avoid discussion? Unfortunately for him, I don’t let go of things easily.

“Mr. Neville,” I cleared my throat, “the reason for my sudde-”

The loud banging of the wooden doors, interrupted my statement. Walking hastily inside the office was a girl with bright-blue hair, followed by a buff guy with brown hair and a muscular body. The girl seemed young, way too young, maybe 17. The boy looked older, maybe in mid-twenties. I looked at them quizzically and in surprise, ruminating over the fact who in their right mind would have the guts to barge into Mr. Neville’s office like that.

“Hey Red, don’t you know its rude to fucking stare.” The buff guy said in irritation looking at me.

Red, very original. Considering half of the times it’s my distinct hair colour that people notice, I have somehow, become immune to it. But before I could give the guy a suitable response, Mr. Neville spoke up, “Miss Darret, meet Brianna Mason and Keith Lester, your new partners.”

My eyes unintentionally widened under the shock of his statement. I looked at my new team-mates with disappointment etching my face. They were people with no experience. Why would they even be considered to be sent off to a dangerous travel. Casualties were common in our line of work and presently I was more worried than angry.

“Where’s the third one?” I questioned, turning to Mr Neville. Surely, the meeting had stated that there were three new recruits, but considering Mr. Neville, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he had already changed it. I closed my aching eyes, unsure of the fact that would I be able to face what more would follow.

Mr. Neville gave out a loud sigh. Looking over at his wristwatch, he softly replied, “He is probably running late.”

At this, my eyes flutter opened. Wow a soon to be time traveller not concerned about being on time. Ironical, if you ask me. An unintentional smirk played on my lips. Considering the circumstances, it was going way worse than I had anticipated. It was just a matter of minutes before Mr. Neville would realise the stupidity of his plan and send all the recruits home.

My train of thought was rudely interrupted by the sudden sound of footsteps emanating from the doorway. Turning around, I saw a tall, muscular guy leaning against the door with his arms folded across his chest, making his bulging biceps even more prominent. His black hair was tousled beyond saving and he had tattoos running all over his arms. He harboured a blank, faraway look on his face and gave a slight nod to Mr. Neville, before turning to the other habitants in the room.

The moment the newcomer made his appearance, the room went silent. Even Mr. Neville seemed to have been affected by it, as he no longer drowned himself in filling up the unfinished reports that were stacked by his side. The tattoo-guy exuded confidence and intimidation, so much so that even the brave, gutsy Brianna seemed to flinch under his stare.

But when his blue eyes landed on my green ones, his expression faltered. For the minutest duration of time, his eyes widened under shock and he clenched his sharp, droolworthy jawline in frustration. Quickly recuperating from his episode, the tattoo-guy regained his blank, uninterested look and averted his eyes away.

As if waking me up from a dream, the loud shriek of Brianna brought all of us back to reality, “Would someone mind explaining to me why the hell was I taken away from school only to end up in this office filled with oldies!”

I had my sympathies with Brianna, it was not every day that a clandestine organization would force you to join it, and unfortunately, the girl was in for the surprise of her life.

Hey! Did she just call me old? I don’t think 21 is considered old.

Although I had a suitable comeback right on my tongue, I perceived that it was better to let that slide, considering the pressure she was in. I did not blame her for acting this way, I blamed the stupid authority figures and their stupider actions.

Turning over to Mr. Neville in defeat, I said, “Don’t you see, it’s not working. These people are….. not trained.” I settled for something polite, although Keith and Brianna had already done and said enough to push on my wrong buttons.

Blatantly ignoring my very apt observation, Mr. Neville turned over to me and pointing to the tattoo-guy, announced, “This is Rhys Neville, my grandson.”

A wide smile broke across Mr. Neville’s face as he introduced Rhys, and he made no efforts to hide his evident display of nepotism. Continuing, he again addressed the room, “And this everyone, is Camelia Darrett.”

I gave a professional nod to everyone; and again turning to Mr. Neville, I began, “May I talk to you in private?” It was the need of the hour to knock some sense into him. It would be a grave danger to our present if any single one of them messes up the past. And although Mr. Neville seemed to be overlooking this crucial detail, it would be this very ignorance that could ultimately lead to the downfall of the whole humanity.

It might seem an overexaggerated scare, but the evidences support it. Events in the past express a greater, conglomerated outcome in the present. Any deviation from the set rule, results in a totally different result with amplified effects. A simple analogy can be inferred from the falling tiles of dominoes- only one little flick of finger is enough for everything to tumble down in destruction.

Mr. Neville looked at me in amusement and replied slyly, “If you have any grievances, you can discuss it in front of your teammates. After all, trust should be the foundation of your team.”

I gave a challenging look to Mr. Neville, if he had thought I would hold me tongue in front of the people present, he was terribly mistaken. Taking in a deep breath I began, “I consider the proposition of enrolling new recruits in an S-ranked travel to be a ridiculous idea; not to mention a grave mistake.”

Intervening my speech, out of nowhere, Keith spoke up, “What stuff are you talking about? I don’t fucking remember enrolling into shit.”

This was proving to be more difficult than I had imagined. Instead of making my work easier I was gifted with three liabilities. I gave Keith a deathly glare insinuating him to shut it, while in response he simply shrugged his shoulders and looked away.

Turning my attention back to Mr. Neville, I continued,” Apart from the fact that they are clearly not trained for the travel, they have in themselves huge character and appearance flaws.”

At this, a loud chuckle emanated from behind me. Turning around, I saw Rhys condescendingly staring at me with a smug expression wiped across his face. Locking his eyes with mine he patronizingly asked, “Care to elaborate on the appearance flaws, Miss Darrett?”

Something told me the Nevilles are not known for their modesty.

I straightened my shoulders and looked squarely at him Evidently, nice Cammie was not very convincing in conveying her opinion, it was now time to let adrenaline take over and do all the talking.

Taking two long strides, I stood in front of Rhys who still had that amused expression plastered over his face. Not caring for the shock in Mr. Neville’s eyes or Brianna’s loud gasp at my sudden movement, I began, “You have the whole tattoo book designed on every anatomical part of your body. Care to elaborate how would you explain that to a 19th century commoner?”

He appeared to be visibly surprised at my sudden outburst, but I was not done yet. The stress of dealing with everything was finally getting to me and I made no efforts to cool myself down.

Going over to Brianna, I sighed dejectedly. In a softer voice, I added, “And you look like a blue cockatoo with clipped feathers.” That’ll teach her not to go around calling me old.

Finally walking towards Keith, I spoke with utmost disdain, “And you-” Where should I even begin, “You have a big mouth without any filter.”

By now I was breathing heavily and an uncomfortable silence settled in the room. Suddenly, Keith began laughing loudly. Looking at me with a mischievous smile, he added, “You will be surprised to know the things I can do with this big mouth of mine.”

With this I rest my case.

At this Brianna laughed loudly and lightly punched Keith on the arm. But the story with Rhys was completely different. He was staring intently at me, as if trying to scrutinise the inner working of my brain.

After what felt like an unusually long pause, Mr. Neville announced, “I understand you completely Camelia and don’t worry required measures will be taken, but remember, my decision is final and irrevocable. It’s not-“

Suddenly Mr. Neville’s monologue was interrupted by a loud screech, “If you think I am going to change my hair colour, just because you said so,” Brianna hatefully pointed her index finger at me in accusation, “You are terribly mistaken.” She yelled loudly, her blue hair flailing in all directions and her voice echoing in the room.

I stood patiently, waiting for her to calm down and catch her breath. As expected, it was difficult for her to take it all in. And again I didn’t blame her for her outburst. It was the normal, anticipated reaction of any individual in her position.

“Miss Mason, I would ask you to please calm down.” Mr. Neville spoke in a cold, lifeless voice sending shivers down my spine. Expectedly, Brianna repulsively averted her eyes away from Mr. Neville.

It was not everyday that one had the chance witness Mr. Neville’s dark side. He was the voice of A-SATT, the man had unimaginable power in his hands and the way he uttered those very simple words with his characteristic solemnity was enough to scare anyone.

“As I was saying,” Mr. Neville continued, “It’s not as if I have made this decision on my own.”

The next thing he said, made my jaw drop to the floor.

“The time scrolls. The time scrolls have their names written alongside yours.”

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