Dinner was lavish, as to be expected of Mrs Stiner. She had been the top reigning chef of a lead New York French restaurant in her day. She was a little disgruntled, though, to find no one enjoying their meal as much as she. Miss Teslanoviach was staring at her square plate like it was poison. Corbin was picking over the meal like a depressed psycho, and Sophia was smitten with asking so many questions of the girl that no one could get a word in to answer any of the questions. Corbin could feel Mrs Stiner’s seething stare melting into his Armani suit from across the table. He looked up at her and then down at his plate, a heated red creeping across his cheeks. He had hoped to dodge Mrs Stiner finding out about the time travel machine…but by the way Sophia was babbling, that hope had been crushed before the wine had even been poured. It wasn’t exactly how he had planned to explain the situation to Miss Teslanoviach either.
Burying his head in one hand, he placed his other hand on Sophia’s. Sophia looked up, her last question dying half asked on her lips. Miss Teslanoviach stifled a gasp, such blatant physical contact between two unmarried of the opposite sex was unheard of, at the very least scandalous. Mrs Stiner sniffed, “Corbin, by all the pate in Neo-Paris, what is Sophia going on about?”
“Um…well…” Corbin cleared his throat, trying to stall for time. Mrs Stiner’s stink eye was something not to suffer, and he could feel it drilling holes into his skull. “You see…” he tried again.
“I see a poor girl dressed in an ungodly looking dress dismissing my best lamb as if it were toadstools, a boy who I thought was man enough to know not to go dabbling with time, and a bright pink splash of paint with a stethoscope harassing the first. What I don’t see is you fixing this,” she answered.
“Paint?” Sophia blustered.
“What’s wrong with my dress?” Miss Tesslanoviach whispered, plucking at her lace trimmings.
“Your lamb is to die for as always, Mrs Stiner,” Corbin tried to soothe.
“I’m waiting,” Mrs Stiner grumped.
“Well, I figured she could be of some use in the lab, actually,” he began.
“If she doesn’t go into shock first,” Sophia quipped.
“Miss Teslanoviach?” Corbin asked the girl. She looked up, sullen. “Miss Teslanoviach, you would be a great benefit to both myself and Sophia in our laboratory research.”
“I don’t see how this is all possible. Time travel? Honestly, that’s something out of those back page stories in the gossip newspapers,” Nicole brushed off.
“Our laboratory?” Sophia asked, startled.
“Um…well…” he was beginning to suspect the fault in his theory of having so many women in his house at the same time.
“She would make a fantastic assistant, Sophia. She has a fascination for human anatomical structure in relation to industrial machinery, so you might be able to train her. I would like to open up the lab I have to you for help with the project I was trying to tell you about earlier, and having a lab assistant around would be of benefit for both of us.” He set his spoon down before he used it to punctuate his words.
She looked at him sceptically, not entirely sure where all of this was coming from. “So you abducted me a lab assistant,” Sophia accused. This was going downhill rather quickly.
“No, I just…she was – I told you that someone was after her, and I just didn’t think, and I brought her through,” he pleaded.
“Can you take her back?” Mrs Stiner asked.
“I could, but I’m not really sure if that would be such a good thing now that she has seen the future,” Corbin answered.
“No, I can see that would end poorly.” Sophia’s dropped her fork on the china made everyone jump.
“Honest, I can keep a secret,” Nicole promised.
“That wouldn’t help you much dear.” Mrs Stiner patted her hand.
“Why not?” Nicole glanced around the somber table.
“If you told anyone, you would end up in an insane asylum. Do you know what they do to people there in your time?” Corbin asked defensively. He had read enough literature to find the prospect terrifying. Nicole looked at him in surprise at his outburst. She shook her head, concern spreading across her face.“Lights are not the only thing that electricity has been expiremented with for practical application.” Corbin rose from the table, tossing his napkin next to his wine cup. He left in a huff. Truly, he was running away. He couldn’t handle this conversation at the moment, and it was his only way to escape the three women at the table.
Sophia watched him duck through the kitchen and heard the screen door slam. Corbin had left to the back garden. She found both Miss Teslanoviach and Mrs Stiner staring at her. It wasn’t like she was supposed to know what he was talking about. He hadn’t mentioned anything to her over coffee last week about joining up for a lab project. It wasn’t even like they were in the same field of study, not necessarily at least. “What?” she snapped, rising from the table to go after Corbin before she got jumped by the two prudish women.
She dashed through the kitchen and out the screen door, searching in the evening twilight for wherever Corbin hid himself in the lavish garden. It smelled of jasmine and roses. The evening was chill, but a humid warm breeze ruffled the leaves of the bushes that encircled the grounds. For living in the middle of the city, Corbin had scored a pretty decent pad. She spotted him, rocking in the covered porch swing, feeding his koi. “Corbin?” She ventured over to him.
“Hi.” He tossed another couple kibbles, entranced with the moving ripples of the pond.
“Are you all right?” She settled on the seat next to him.
He sighed, looking up at the stars. He was startled by Sophia nudging him with her shoulder. “Yeah, I’m all right, just a bit worried.”
“About the girl?” Sophia asked, trying to play soft.
“I shouldn’t have brought her back over with me, I just wasn’t really thinking. I’ll have to have her vaccinated for like, a billion and one things. God, I didn’t think…We’ll have to if she’s carrying anything…tuberculosis…I didn’t really know where she would be safe if I just dropped her off somewhere. It was rather a good surprise when I found out her science interests, but it didn’t really occur to me her potential until you showed up. Sophia, I’ve had this brilliant idea,” He grasped her hands excitedly. His handful of fish food scattered in the manicured grass.
She looked up at deep brown eyes, a bit surprised at his sudden change. “Outside of all of your other great inventions and your time machine?” she asked. What more could he possibly do?
“I want to make a bank.” A smile spread across his lips, his teeth gleaming in the moonlight.
Sophia furrowed her brows. “I’m very confused, Corbin.” She tilted her head to study him, though she still allowed him to retain possession of her hands. His warmth was nice.
“I want to make a human resource bank. I want to go back in time and pull great people from the world to store them for future use. Have you seen how our world is going? I mean, our politicians suck, most of the world’s politicians are corrupt to begin with. There are more and more poor people in the world, and fewer and fewer rich people, but those rich people, they have so much of the money, it’s ridiculous.
That and global warming, nuclear facilities, biowarfare. Have you heard the news on the intelligence leak of armaments in Scotland recently?” he was blathering and Sophia was looking at him like he had gone off the deep end, but he was already swimming happily in dark water, why not keep it up? “I want to establish a population of people that can reconstruct our society if our world proves to be imploding under this massive interconnected problem. I own a hanger in Florida where I have scientists currently working on a long distance spaceship with hyperdrive capabilities. I’m hoping these will never need to be used, but!” he exclaimed, leaping from the swing to begin pacing the grounds.
“It sounds fantastic, Corbin, but wouldn’t that screw with time?” Sophia stopped him.
“You see, that’s the thing! After I brought Teslanoviach into the future, really nothing changed. I even looked into her while I had a second, and she’s just a missing person on the back page of a New York newspaper. As long as who we take are missing person reports in the first place, it won’t phase the time ripples.” He spun in the grass, opening his arms to the sky.
“And what do you need me for in all of this?” Sophia asked, not really sure how she felt about kidnapping random unsuspecting individuals.
“Your medical experience will be of great benefit for preparing the candidates for stasis. I want to make sure that no one suffers ill-effects from being placed in suspended animation until they are needed for creating the next human colony.” He bounded back to her.
“You know this sounds crazy, right?” Sophia asked.
“And I’m gladly swimming with the sharks.” He knelt down at her feet and took her hands in his, smiling like a smitten school boy.
“Corbin!” He heard a shout from inside the house. Why was Mrs. Stiner yelling? He jumped up and hurried back inside to find the woman standing in front of the small tv she kept in the kitchen. A news broadcast was playing. “What is it Mrs. Stiner?” he asked, peering at the video. A grizzly, clouded mess played across a flickering screen. Tentacles flipped through the fog.
“They just said that the…the – that thing just made landfall in France. It used the underground. It broke out in Scotland. It’s…it’s destroyed London!” Mrs. Stiner tried to explain to Corbin.
Sophia slipped her hand into Corbin’s. He squeezed it reassuringly, though a cold sweat dripped down his back. The sounds coming from the tv had to have been designed by a horror special effects department. It was an eerie scream of the dying and the tortured. “Shut it off, Mrs. Stiner.” He reached for the power button.
“I’ll help with the lab,” Sophia agreed in a whisper.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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