We’ve been reliving this Monday for a solid week when I hit the proverbial wall. I blink open my eyes to the same view of the sandstone manor, the same entry drive, the same gardener dragging the same hose towards the same topiary, and the same flock of starlings shrieking their hearts out in the elm to our right. I can’t help it. I bend forward and smack my forehead against the steering wheel in slow time.
“Nicholas,” Gwen says, shifting her sword so that she can turn in her seat to face me, “We can’t just give up.”
“Aye, I know,” I say, not stopping. I don’t think I can stomach another inspection. I already know that Disciplina Aevum is meeting operational standards and that the disembodied screaming on sublevel B really is nothing to be worried about. We’ve pretended our way through seven of these inspections by now, each of them seven hours long. I don’t know how many more times I can meet the Guild’s scientists and supervisors ‘for the first time’ before I completely crack.
“My blade is Corstophian steel,” Gwen says, brushing a hand over the pommel of her sword, which is resting against her knee. “It’s likely sharp enough to cut through the temporal relocator.”
This is enough to get me to glance up from rhythmically smacking my head against the steering wheel. “Why have ye not mentioned this before now?”
“Because I was certain that each of our previous solutions would suffice.”
That’s fair. We’ve been nothing but sensible, and although we haven’t reached the point of desperation yet, it’s not far off.
“Ye just need a clear path, right?” I ask.
Gwen balances her palm on the pommel of her blade. “One strike is all I’ll need.”
“Okay. Leave it tae me. I’ll make sure ye’ve a clear shot,” I say as though I have any semblance of a plan. It’s worth a try, and if it fails - well. I know where we’ll be in twelve hours.
I really don’t want to go through the niceties and small-talk of this Guild inspection for the eighth time, but it’s the easiest way for us to get a clear path to the relocator. We get out of the car into the same summer afternoon. It’s hot and I wish I wasn’t wearing a suit. I break into a sweat almost immediately, again.
Gwen looks uncomfortable in her vest and formal summer overcoat, but she doesn’t voice a word of complaint. She brushes away a couple dark strands of hair that are stuck to her face, then belts her sword around her hips, resolute as ever.
We walk up the carved stone stairs. The porter impeccably times when to open the door. I get the feeling that he would be this precise on any day. He’s a leggy, clean-cut man in a high-collared mauve and gold justacorps that I imagine is agonizing to wear in this heat.
“Ser Hartford; Steward Turcotte. Welcome to Disciplina Aevum. We’re most honored for your visit,” the porter says with a sweeping bow.
“It’s a pleasure to be here,” Gwen says, her tone pleasant and light, ever the perfect Steward.
I eye the bulletins on the wall by the entry as the porter dutifully logs our arrival. They’re a mix of warnings, announcements, and reminders:
-Tip of the month: Don’t solve tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s solutions!
-Reminder: Do NOT answer any cries for help on sub-level B!!! Everything is well in hand!!!
-Event: It Can’t be Wrong if No One from the Future is Stopping You - The ethics of blame and causation in modern temporal narratives. Interview with Author Nadia Morin 23 July, seats limited.
-Event: Anomalybeasts - Fact or Fiction? Debate 3 October, book your seat today. Friends and family welcome! Contact Silas or Effie with any questions.
-Caution: Watch for falling vegetables on West Hallway 3. Hard hats are provided at Northwest and Southwest stairwells for anyone taking classes on this hall. Please return the hats when you are done!
-Reminder: Please collect any fallen vegetables into the donation box as compost for our upcoming Spring garden. Message Tim Timmerman, Theoretical Physicist, with any questions.
“If you will follow me this way, Ser and Madam,” the porter says and directs us down the right-hand hall.