“So who is she?” Martin Fields had just put on his upgraded time jump suit. He didn’t see Isis materialize behind him in the center of his bedroom, but he knew how to feel her presence by now.
“Consider it a challenge to discover that for yourself, Martin.”
“Too easy, Isis.” He turned to face her. “The new suit’s sensors can detect her jumps. I can literally be one step ahead of her and I have all the time in the universe to do it in.”
“Then please proceed.”
Isis was always smug and condescending, but he still thought she was up to something. What did she know about the other time traveler? Probably everything.
There were no more manual controls on the suit. Not since the incident with the Zodiac killer. Now the suit was virtually skin-tight and with holographic properties that allowed Martin to project any costume he needed to blend in with any period in history. He could control the suit at the speed of thought.
Catching NaCumbea should be a breeze.
Chicago, Friday, April 2, 1926. The Roaring Twenties. Martin was already inside the speakeasy, standing at the bar holding a drink when she walked in. She made a very sexy “flapper”. NaCumbea immediately made eye contact, vanished into the crowd, and then just vanished.
The early morning hours of Monday, April 15, 1912 aboard the Titanic. Martin watched as her lifeboat was lowered toward the surface of the frigid Atlantic. The ship was listing. He could hear the band playing in the background.
The lifeboat lurched as it hit the watch and NaCumbea fell overboard…
…only to vanish an instant before going into the water.
London, Saturday, September 7, 1940. The first night of the Nazi Blitz. 300 German bombers had just started dropping their payloads onto the heart of one of the most heavily populated cities on Earth.
Martin could see her running across the street. He tried to follow her but there was an explosion. His ears were ringing. He was down on his knees. She’d already escaped to another place and time. He followed.
Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor. What was this chick’s obsession with disasters and explosions? Martin realized he was aboard the USS Arizona. He had seconds to escape with this life.
Wednesday, August 27, 542 CE (adjusted calendar). Constantinople. The bubonic plague. Martin held his breath even knowing the suit’s bio-barrier would protect him. An upper room in some domestic building. NaCumbea is holding a little boy in her arms. She’s crying. He’s dead. They’re all dead. She vanishes in a violet haze.
He remembers the last time he held a child in his arms as she died.
He follows once again.
11:57 a.m., Monday, May 30, 2016, La bocca Urban Pizzeria and Wine Bar on South Mill Avenue, Tempe, Arizona.
She’s sitting at a table on the patio just outside the restaurant’s entrance. She looks lovely in that light, summer dress, the off-white contrasting her dark hair and skin.
“I saved you a seat.”
Martin sits down. A waiter appears. They order two glasses of the house Pinot Noir.
“What was that all about?”
“I told you to come get me, didn’t I?”
“Why the chase to all those ‘exotic’ locales? Most of them were terrifying.”
“Welcome to my world, and your world too, Martin.”
The waiter returned with their order. “We’ll need a couple of more minutes.”
“Yes sir, take your time.” The waiter left again.
“The pepperoni and cheese is to die for, Martin. Let’s order a medium.”
He stared at her quizzically and then summoned the waiter back. The order taken, they were again alone.
“Who are you?”
“This used to be my home?”
“You lived in Tempe?”
“No, I lived in my village, Los Hornos. That’s what the Spaniards called it, but that was much later. It means ‘the ovens’. Tempe’s built on the same site.
“Wait.” Martin was being fed information from the suit. “That was over 700 years ago.”
“I was 14 years old when I died. It was stupid. I cut myself while cleaning a rabbit skin. The herbs usually stopped the infections among my people, at least most of the time, but the mortality rate of ancient peoples were always high compared to what you’re used to.”
“Well, not exactly. I was resurrected…by them…those like your Isis. They made me a deal. In exchange for my life, I would be trained to be used by them, to be like you. A time traveler.”
They were interrupted by the delivery of their lunch. “Enjoy your meal.” They both casually thanked the waiter before returning to their conversation.
She pulled a piece of pizza onto the plate in front of her and then took a bite. “Mmmm. Delicious.” She wiped her face on a napkin. “Try some. You won’t regret it.”
Martin took a piece for himself. It wasn’t bad. He washed it down with a sip of his wine.
“Have you ever noticed how isolating time travel is?”
“Isolating. You can’t talk to anyone about what you do. They’d think you were crazy. If your control is as joyless as mine is, you can’t talk to them, either. It’s a lonely life.”
“I know what you mean, NaCumbea.”
She took another bite and chewed.
“That’s why, Martin. I just want someone to talk to, someone who understands.”
“Why the chase?”
“For fun. Also, I wanted to see what you’d do, how you’d react.”
The playful smile she’d been wearing throughout their conversation vanished.
“I wanted to show you it’s not all fun and games.”
“You think London and Pearl Harbor were fun and games?”
“You know what I mean. Especially people from your culture are used to thinking of history as big, sweeping events. History on the personal level is so much more…painful.” She drained her glass.
“I know. I’ve been there, too.”
“You’ve been at it for less than a year.”
“How long have you been at it?”
She looked at him. He could see her brown, beautiful eyes moisten.
“Long enough to know I don’t want to do it alone anymore.”
“Why do you do it at all?”
She chuckled. “Like I’ve got a choice. I have no life to go back to, and it’s not so bad. I have all of history to live and play in. You have no idea what an education time travel is.
“When I was a child in my village, I was content to learn the ways of the women, the cooking, cleaning of animal carcasses, pottery, the promise of mating with a young man someday. But that was just one little part of time and space.”
“And now I have experiences that defy imagination. All I need is someone to share them with.”
“What do we do now?”
“Now, we finish lunch.”
“After, we go looking for dessert. I’m thinking the original Bud’s ice cream, corner of 24th and Castro in San Francisco. 1971 is a good year.”
Martin knew he wasn’t going to get a straight answer out of her, not yet. She’d seen too much, lived through too much to let it out all at once.
“Okay, you’ve got a deal. Louie, I think this is…”
“…this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” They finished the quote together and then laughed.
Martin finished his meal and called for the cheque. They left the restaurant hand in hand for San Francisco. Martin reminded himself to ask Isis why people couldn’t see them jump, even in the middle of a large crowd…
…but that could wait.
This is an immediate sequel to my flash fiction piece NaCumbea.
Read more about Martin’s and NaCumbea’s adventures in The Impossible Direction.