Authors: Jen Greyson
Tags: #tesla coil, #time travel romance, #tesla time travelers, #na fantasy, #time travel, #nikola tesla
“And that hasn’t happened before today?” I think of the computers, of the wild spinning diagrams, at how much firepower he’s put behind the workings of this place.
“This is the first time since she went missing that I’ve had one solid enough to replicate.”
I really wish he was fiddling with his left sleeve. But there’s still one other truth that’s never happened, one he can’t manipulate in any way—I’ll gain a memory from him while I’m here. “How long will it take you to make something of it, something useable?”
He strokes his tie, then brushes a speck of imaginary lint from above his left pocket. “A team of seven is working through the data. We’ve dedicated every server we have to locating her. I anticipate a resolution within two days.”
“We destroy Penya.”
“And bring Tiana home safe.”
He holds out a hand. “You must tell me everything. I understand your hesitation and I will do what I can to prove my trustworthiness. No matter where if fall right now on that measurement for you, I cannot help you if you don’t trust me with the details.”
Another request for trust and I think of what Steinaman said about the difference between trust and accepting help.
“I’ll think about it. For now, you have work to do and I have to get back to Steinaman. We were in the middle of figuring this guy out and I’ve got to show him my lightning and explain this whole thing to him.” I wave my hand toward the rest of the lab.
“Can you trust him?”
I shrug. “Not sure. But I need his help.”
“A wise course of action. Trusting creates problems.”
Yet that’s exactly what he’s asking me to do.
, I snuff my lightning and Daisy whimpers in Mrs. Steinaman’s lap; they’re both shell-shocked and working to recover. Mr. Steinaman blinks and taps his cane repeatedly against the carpet, unaware he’s doing it. A scowl furrows a deep line between his bushy eyebrows. It’s the most he’s moved since I agreed to reveal my secrets. “Time travel?”
“Goodness,” Mrs. Steinaman says, taking a big breath and relaxing into her chair with relief. “When you told us you were traveling for work I thought you meant the occasional trip to Santa Fe. It didn’t occur to me that you meant backward through time.”
“I’m sorry I had to lie to you.”
She dismisses me with a wave. “Brant did it all the time when he was working for the CIA.”
“Whatever, dear. Evy, lying to keep people safe and out of harm’s way is far different than lying to do others malice. You did what you had to do. We understand that most of all. I’m happy to keep caring for Ike while you’re away. Just maybe use the phone to keep me apprised.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Steinaman.” She nods and putters off, putting Daisy’s leash on and heading outside to take him for a walk. I look to
, not sure I can call him that, but it’s comforting to know his name after all these years. He quiets his cane and motions toward the dining table. “Looks like we have plenty of work cut out for us.” I follow him over, grateful he’s managed to take all this in stride, from my lightning to the arcing to the men I’ve already killed. “The gray-haired man’s a traveler, and this Ilif fellow. You think the others aren’t from around here?”
We sit and I jot the list of men on my paper.
Ilif, Gray, all the men with him in Nikola’s room, guy in my house with Penya.
“I can’t be sure. I have to assume they’re all able to travel.
can.” I repeat Penya’s words, so comforting and full of wonder when she first told me. Now, it’s a promise of evil on my heels. Yet, there’s a singular comfort. “
the only one who can alter history, so they can’t come kill me before it’s time.”
He chuckles. “Dear, there are things far worse than death.”
My stomach plummets and I struggle to swallow. “That’s not helpful.”
He leans forward and links his fingers on the table. “Au contrair, pretty girl. You can’t keep outrunning your troubles. Trouble always catches up.”
“I’m not trying—” He stops me with a look. He wants to help and I asked him to. “I can’t stop them all from coming.”
“How many do you have?” He juts his chin toward my pad.
“Plus the two I saw nosing about. They’re not current FBI, but we can’t discount them. From what you’ve told me so far, they’re active players.”
I nod and write
FBI, non-FBI dudes.
“There were two other men in black that harassed me in the hotel when I was with Nikola in the beginning. They came to my room.”
“Add them. That’s twelve.”
“Then someone leaked my whereabouts to Morgan.” I add those names, struggling with how fast they’re adding up and regretting my decision to leave Constantine at home.
Morgan, Morgan’s man in the basement.
“I’m not so sure.” I’d told him about Morgan threatening Tesla and about the guy I’d chased into the basement while Nikola lay dying. “What makes you think Morgan sent him?”
“He told me so.”
“Could have given you any name. What’s his credibility? Whoever he’s working for told him any number of lies, knowing he’d pass them on to you.” He sets his pen down on the pad and folds his hands. “Little disappointed you believed him. Always consider the source.”
“If the man was someone sent by Penya, she could have told him to tell you Morgan sent him. It’s classic misdirection, girly.”
Steinaman waves me onward. “What’s next? Come on, girl. No time for stalling.”
A knock at the door freezes us both. He lifts a finger to his lips and I nod, feeling really uncomfortable that he clearly wasn’t expecting anyone. I stand and ready my lightning, trailing him into the living room. He pauses and signals me to back up until I’m hidden behind the corner of the wall.
of his cane carries him toward the door, with a stopover at the curio cabinet. He slides the drawer open on silent hinges and removes a weapon, pulls it from the holster and cocks it, then lays it on the corner of the polished wood surface. We both wish he’d worn a holster today. He glances at me and nods firmly. I answer with a crackling burst of lightning.
the door to
, I’m unsurprised. He’s younger than I remember, but otherwise the same, including the hat.
“Yes?” Steinman shifts just enough so I can see past him, but it’s that motion that is his undoing. Gray’s hand strikes out at Brant’s neck, a device held in his palm. Steinaman crumples with a muttered curse of surprise and I launch from behind the wall, bullwhips blazing. Gray is unsurprised to see me,
rotating toward me with the stretched out lightbulb looking thing he used to attack Brant. He’s holding the narrow metal tube end and pointing the oval glass ball end at me, but it’s not firing anything. Whatever it is, it’s not a gun; maybe something he has to use in close quarters.
No way am I letting him get close to me with that thing. I draw my arm forward and strike, aiming for his hands. Nothing happens. My lightning is gone. I aim with my left, same motion, same thick bolt of lightning that’s never failed me. But it does.
I scrambled backward as he advances, forming a ball in my hands, but the second it becomes cohesive, it vanishes like I snuffed it. “What the fuck?”
He tackles me, his shoulder barreling into my stomach and catapulting us both into the kitchen. My head hits a chair and it topples. I scramble for anything I can use to hit him kicking and biting and punching. There’s nothing within reach. I try my lightning again. Nothing. Not even a flicker. I have to get away. Have to get out here. For all I know, Steinaman is already dead. If I can get out of here fast enough, maybe I can save Mrs. Steinaman before she returns with Daisy. No matter who sent the gray man, I won’t be alive much longer if I stay. Too many people want me dead.
My heel connects with his shin, buying me half a second. I scramble out from underneath him and crawl as fast as I can across the floor. My feet tangle in the rug and I barrel forward on hands and knees, struggling to get upright.
He lands in the middle of my back, flattening me onto the linoleum, the smaller metal end of his device pressed hard beneath the underside of my jaw, right where he hit Brandt.
I’ve trained with the best. I’ve fought everything that’s come at me. I was a fool to think there wouldn’t be a time when someone figured out how to combat my only weapon. Should have arced away.
I can’t get enough air and I’m about to black out. My vision flickers. As my senses start to fail I realize that without my lightning, I couldn’t have arced anyway. Somehow he stripped me of every chance I had. I strain to move my head another inch so I can see Steinman’s body by the open front door. His body is lifeless, his cane out of reach, one leg bent awkwardly beneath him. There’s a drop of blood at the corner of his mouth. I never should have gotten him involved in this. Never should’ve involved anyone. “Who the fox sent you.”
I need to know who has the capability to know my lightning like this. To know how to extinguish it. Whoever they are, they’re smarter than me.
He’s panting, straining to keep me pinned. His voice is hot and hard in my ear. I struggle against him and he sticks the tip of his device deeper into my jugular until my vision fades out and back in. I want to hit him, want to fight him like Constantine trained me. My body parts aren’t working like I need them to, like he’s short-circuiting the commands from my brain. “You’re a lot easier to handle without that lightning.”
How many times did Constantine ask me to carry a knife? How many times? He made me learn to use it so I’d never let this happen. But it has. His worst fear came true all because I got in a hurry, got distracted when I left him, and my favorite knife is on the table beside his bed. I always had my lightning, never imagined when I wouldn’t, the thought too ludicrous to imagine. I humored Constantine and let him teach me, let him give me my own knife, but dismissing the need anytime I had to strap it on with yellow lightning and leave him. Half the time, I forgot. My bravado finally caught up to me. Like he always worried it would. A warrior knows her weaknesses. I thought my family was mine.
Now, I see it was my lightning.
Brant’s gun is still on the curio where he left it. There’s no way for me to get it now; I’d have probably shot my own foot off or given Gray another way to hurt me.
His knee presses into my back and I can’t roll out from underneath him. Can barely draw another breath.
I don’t want to die. Not like this. Not without answers. Not without finding Tiana. Not without Constantine. Not at the feet of my friend.
I’m such a fool.
He presses the metal into my jugular this time. The world goes black like it always does before I arc, but this time I won’t be waking up on some other timeline.
I won’t be waking up at all.
? Her place??) or steinaman’s and they come back together later. She can’t see them when she first comes to?
Is she received to be alive? Pissed? What’s her plan what’s going through her head.
I blink and rub my throat. It burns. My legs are bound together with thick strands of bronze lightning. There is no transparency to the strands and they vibrate in a steady pulsing rhythm. This man has an expertise with my weapon that should make me afraid but I’m not going out like that. He had his chance to kill me, now all he’s done is piss me off.
He sits back, panting. “Christ, woman. Do you ever just talk?”
I test my own lightning, but it fails me.
“You didn’t come here to talk.” I wish I could see Steinman. I have no idea how long I was out or how long before Mrs. Steinman returns.
“Not everyone is always out to get you.”
I glare I him. “Who sent you?”
“Who do you think?”
He’s sitting at the table, hand resting against my list of people. Any one of them could have sent me. He taps the top of the page. “Gray Man. That me?”
I don’t answer.
He draws his finger down the list. “You piss all these people off too?”
“Is that your problem, I made you mad? You couldn’t handle a girl messing in your business?” If Penya sent him, he’s used to working alongside women and taking orders from them.
“You know nothing of my business.” His finger underlines each entry on my list like he’s checking off his own and double-checking all the players. He seems unsurprised at how many I’ve catalogued. I wonder how many he’s teamed up with.
“You’re the one who wanted to talk. Let’s talk.” I twist my legs left to right as much as the binds will let me. “Or let me up and we’ll skip the talking.”
He glances up from studying the paper, a frown creasing his bushy brows. I wonder how old he is now, how many decades span the time between this age and when I first spot him in the hotel. What’s transpired between now and then? Does he know that if he kills me now those alterations in the future stand? No matter what he does to me, I will still leave the hotel with Nikola’s papers from the safe? I will still be the first to get to Nikola’s room and take everything from the secret hiding spot.
So fuck him. I win.
He stretches across the table and grabs a pen from where it rolled away from the pad while we were fighting and knocking shit around. He crosses through something on the pad.
“Hey! What are you doing? That’s my list.”
He glances at my feet, at the lightning binding them, then back to the list, like he’s reminding me that he owns whatever I had. I clench my teeth together and strain against the binds, force my mind to tell my feet to get up, but they don’t listen. The just flop like dying fish, managing to roll side to side but nothing useful.