The Maelstrom

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Chapter-6

The two manifestations of human brain are – good and evil. None amongst the two is inherently bad. It is the unintelligent, instinctive inference of the average society that dictates the fidelity human behaviour.

-Aldaire Brawcarth

Aldaire Brawcarth

The name resonated in my brain inducing a new-found state of terrifying excitement. A name so common in our field of work, yet at the moment, it catalysed the feeling of being ensnared into an intangible reality, like descending a spiralling staircase into nothingness. It was no less than utterly maddening to contemplate over the implications of the assignment at hand.

It was all becoming clear now as to why Mr. Neville had allotted this particular travel a high priority status. However, presently I was in a state of confused emotional disarray.

Aldaire Brawcarth was a name one read in books, heard stories about or even quoted. The fact that this mission involved me being in the same room as the legendary personality, excited me. However, like every other thing tempting in this world, the opportunity came with a catch.

“Camelia…Cammie!” Waving her hands frantically in front of my face, Brianna exclaimed with impending urgency. I looked around the room grasping hold of my surroundings to observe that Keith and Rhys were looking at me in confusion.

Patting my shoulder gently, Keith chuckled, “For a moment there, I thought we lost you Red.”

I gave him a tight-lipped smile and diverted my attention back to Jaxon who was frenetically pacing the room, with uncertain derision in his gait, all the while muttering incomprehensibly under his breath.

After an alarming number of paces, he stopped suddenly, and slowly turned around to face me.

It was at that moment I observed the storm behind his eyes and the perplexing look of disappointment and defeat vanquishing Jaxon’s characteristic wise and composed persona.

“It’s fine Jaxon.” I murmured in response to his questioning stare. However, both of us knew my words were but empty consolation.

Interrupting our trails of despondency, Keith retorted, “Who the fuck is this Bra-cart and what is his deal?”

Walking over towards Jaxon’s armchair, I let out a loud sigh as I plopped myself on it. I didn’t expect to be discussing Brawcarth with them, but then again, no deliberation regarding time travel can be fully understood or well appreciated without the mention of the enigma that is Aldaire.

But as misfortune would have it, they had a right to know. Thus, clearing my throat, I began in a soft voice, “Traveller-X, aka Aldaire Brawcarth, also known by various different names throughout centuries, is or was, no one really knows; the first Time Traveller.”

I interlocked my fingers together and began fidgeting my hands restlessly; an irritating tick that I had acquired over the years, which was prone to become more pronounced while dealing in stressful situations.

Brianna and Keith still gave me puzzled looks, however, Rhys seemed to have let go of his disinterest in the matter and held my gaze.

“Fine.” I mumbled indistinctly.

Thinking about the easiest way to satiate their curiosity and at the same time keep the matter concise, I continued, “Time travel, as we know it, came into existence somewhere in the beginning of the 17th century. Contrary to popular belief, it was never an invention of some exceptionally intelligent and motivated scientist dabbling in the temporal affairs of space-time.” I paused momentarily to reveal the climax of the story.

“No. It was given to humanity…. Like a gift.” At this Rhys’ eyes shot close in surprise while playing a small smile on his lips.

“A gift given to us by Traveller-X, a visitor from the future. So, in a way, you can call the discovery (not technically the invention) of time travel to be the greatest paradox of all. It literally came into existence out of thin air.” I concluded in a gentle whisper and directed my gaze to the floor.

“A casual loop.” Rhys quipped.

I shot my head in his direction, clearly impressed by the knowledge and accuracy of his remark.

Realising that I was wavering off-topic, I resumed my speech, “Traveller-X, sometimes is considered as the greatest mystery in the field of time-travel. No one knows what era he’s from, or what his aim was to introduce humanity to time travel, or where he is at present, or is he even dead or alive. All we know is that he has a weird penchant for 19th century England and it’s probably the first time he has made contact with the A-SATT after the dissolution of the Timekeepers in the sixties.”

Finishing, I looked over at Jaxon to correct me if my monologue had been inaccurate, or add some information which I might had unintentionally not mentioned.

“You seem to have forgotten the most important part of the story.” Jaxon gave me a pointed look of indignation and I averted my eyes away in defeat.

Going through his desk drawer to produce a cigarette and then lighting it, Jaxon gave me a slight nod. Huffing out a ring of smoke, he replied, “You seem to have left out the part of the story, where he brutally kills every single member of the Timekeepers before disappearing into oblivion.”

The calmness with which Jaxon uttered the sentence caused Brianna to let out a little yelp. I continued to stare at the floor with guilt preventing me from making eye-contact with anyone.

Resuming in his deep voice, Jaxon added, “Camelia, I care about you and that’s why I am telling you this.” He closed his eyes melancholically and concluded, “Don’t go. Think, why has he summoned the A-SATT after all this while; sixty years after murdering the Timekeepers. What cunning game is he trying to play now?” He took a long drawl of his cigarette.

“No one knows what goes in that scheming head of his. But what I do know is that Aldaire is never good news.”

Aldaire’s grim notoriety was not a concealed fact. Once revered as the man sent by God to guide the naïve humanity through the shadows of time; was now dubbed as a mass murderer, psychopath and a manipulator of grievous extents. Nothing short of a criminal.

But even Aldaire knew that he could not stand alone against the united front of the A-SATT; hence, he did what any sane man in his position might do-

Run.

He had been in hiding for over sixty years and there were rumours floating around in gossips, signifying that- defeated, he had gone back to his own timeline in the future; but the current turn of events hinted that he was anything but done.

“We’ll do it.” Rhys suddenly piped in, earning a surprised glance from me.

As much as the mystery shrouding Aldaire tempted my curiosity, it was impractical to even consider it a reasonable operation. But Rhys’ sudden interest and enthusiasm to partake in the travel surely seemed suspicious.

Something told me that he might pose problems in the near future, or rather in the distant past.

Giving me a stare of conviction and nodding over to Brianna and Keith, Rhys started walking out of the room. “Rhys! Wait! We still have to-”

But he didn’t wait to listen to what I had to say and with heavy footsteps and slumped shoulders disappeared out of the room.

“Here, take this.” I turned around to see Jaxon handing me the folder with a defeated look on his face. “If you do decide to go there, at least be prepared.”

Hesitatingly, I took the file from him. Jaxon made his way back to his armchair and again began reading the reports, without saying anything else. The terrifying possibility that Aldaire wanted to overthrow yet another organization was slowly eating away my calm.

Maybe this time, he has decided on A-SATT.

As if on cue, without any thought, my feet made their way towards the door. Everything seemed so surreal and overwhelming. My excess energies were spent on mulling over the mission at hand, so much so, that I had not noticed Brianna and Keith yelling my name from afar.

I stopped mid-step, when I saw both of them practically running in my direction. “Thank God!” Brianna sighed, fanning herself with her hand. “We’re gonna have a problem Red, if you keep running away without any explanation.” Keith added.

“I’m sorry.” I said in a low whisper.

“Don’t worry about that!” Keith exclaimed. “We just wanted to know, when can we leave. I’m just 10 minutes away from getting fired.”

“Just one more stop, and you’re good to go.” Assuring them, I began walking briskly towards the end of the hallway, clutching the file close to my chest.

But as soon as my hand reached to turn the knob, the door swung open by itself sending me stumbling backwards in surprise and revealing a very angry Marc.

“Ah la vache!” Marc shrieked with widened eyes. “If you don’t want to date Camelia, just tell the man!” He yelled, eying my outfit in contempt. (Holy Cow!)

The remaining vestiges of self-dignity and respect that I still harboured within myself, disappeared with Marc's critical analysis of my choice of outfit. However, fashion advice was the last thing I needed right now.

I quickly entered the room, ignoring Marc's review of my clothes. Gowns, corsets, footwear of all ages and form were scattered around, fulfilling every girls’ dream. By the manner they were neatly arranged in piles according to the era and age, clearly showcased Marc’s dexterity in the matter.

“Marc,” I greeted him, diverting his attention from a dress he was currently working on. It was a mauve, halter-neck gown with a humongous radius.

I didn’t have the best discretion when it came to fashion, which Marc had blatantly disclosed, but I guess one could call that dress pretty.

“I have to borrow some dresses for 1867.” I explained, keeping my demands concise.

His face seemed to brighten at the mere mention of his dresses.

“Trēs bon.” He beamed. “I have the perfect dress for you.” And with that, he began rummaging through the endless stack of clothes. (Great.)

“Who is he?” Keith whispered in my ear.

Meeting Marc for the first time definitely elicits this response. In the solemn ambience of A-SATT- long-haired, amiable and silver eye-shadowed Marc is like a breath of fresh air. But the moment you ruin one of his dresses, he completely loses his chill persona. You commit that mistake only once.

“He is our hair, make-up and wardrobe.” I gave Keith a smile and he gave me a confused look.

Answering his unsaid question ,I explained, “You can’t walk around in 1867 London in Jeans and a shirt without drawing attention. And our job is to disappear into the shadows and appear as commonplace as possible.” I explained, to which he replied with a slight nod.

Marc dug out a sky-blue, silk gown. My jaw dropped at the enormity of it. It had an extremely full-skirt with broad white sashes of lace running across the waist and forming a huge bow at the back.

Marc passed me a smug smile. “Isn’t she a beauty?” Mirroring his expression, I gave him an over-enthusiastic nod.

An artiste like Marc liked praises. And appreciation was also the best way to stay in his good books.

“Now for you two.” Marc said, looking over at Keith and Brianna.

Both of them quickly introduced themselves and within a fraction of second, Marc was busy taking their measurements and writing it down on a piece of paper.

“I would have to adjust the dresses to fit you.” He spoke slowly, as if mentally making amends to his dresses. “When do you need those?” He asked me.

Gulping in, I mumbled slowly, “Tomorrow.” And closed my eyes for the storm that would follow.

“Pas question!” Marc raised his hands in the air. “Tu plaisantes?! And began to violently shake his head in annoyance. (No way!) (Are you kidding me?)

Not wanting to further worsen his mood, I quickly added, “Mr. Neville’s orders.”

That seemed to have calmed him down a notch. “Fine, tomorrow.” he said with the disappointment of a 5-year-old. “But mind you, Art cannot be rushed.” He stubbornly added, shaking his head in dejection.

“Hey Cam, if it’s all over, I think I’ll be heading home.” Brianna spoke up.

“Yeah its fine, I’ll give you a ride.” I suggested. The one thing I had learnt from yesterday’s encounter with Rhys was- to always bring my car to work. And an umbrella. No exceptions.

“No, its fine I’ll go along with Keith. He’ll drop me off on his way to work.” She told me and gave Keith a nod.

Bidding their farewells, they went out of Marc’s lair.

Now it was me and a working Marc in the room. Suddenly remembering, I muttered, “Um Marc, I would need another set of men’s clothes. One of my team-mates is not here, he’ll be coming tomorrow.”

Marc gave me an incredulous look of astonishment and frustration.

“Non. He comes right now and tries it on.” Announcing firmly, he took out a black overcoat and some matching trousers and pushed it in my direction. (No)

“And make it quick, I leave in five minutes.” He said in an equally irritated manner glancing at the wall clock.

I, for a fact knew that Rhys would never agree to come to A-SATT at such short notice. And Marc here was already angry beyond reconciliation. But it definitely would be worth a try.

“Please Marc, just this once.” I whined in a dejected tone.

Marc appeared to be visibly affected by my pleas, and in a softer voice replied, “You also have to consider me Camelia. I won’t get enough time to make adjustments to the clothes tomorrow. If he can’t come here, you can take the clothes to him and bring them over to my house for alterations.” He suggested.

If he was insinuating me to go over to Rhys’ all alone and without a .44 mag, Marc would soon be learning the meaning of-'Heck no!'

“Now off you go.” He said in a hurry, handing me a pile of Victorian era clothes. “I am locking the room.” He closed the door and in the process pushed me outside.

Disappointedly going through my contact list, I dialled a number.
I clutched the phone tightly in my hands, devotedly hoping to be sent to voicemail.

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