Twin Speex: Time Traitors Book II

BOOK: Twin Speex: Time Traitors Book II
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TWIN SPEEX

Time Traitors: Book II

 

 

 

 

 

By

Padgett Lively

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar Y Mariposa Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twin Speex

Time Traitors: Book II

© 2015 by Padgett Lively

 

ISBN: 978-0-9960232-5-2

 

All rights reserved. No part of this text may be used or reproduced, downloaded, transmitted, or decompiled in any manner whatsoever, whether electronic or mechanical, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or any other means without the permission of the author is illegal. Please purchase only authorized editions, and do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


For Donna again

 

Prologue

 

 

Stonehenge, Late Fall 1774

 

“FATHER?” HE TURNED, and Odette blinked disbelievingly to see her dreams made real.

Tall and backlit by the setting sun, his shadow lengthened across the grassy plain to mingle with those of the massive standing stones. His heavy woolen cape was blown back to reveal a lean, rangy frame, and the wind whipped his long, black hair around a narrow face lined and seamed with age.

His expression was emotionless, even harsh. The large hooked nose stood out in stark relief from his heavily etched cheeks and forehead. Odette hardly noticed, her gaze held steady by a pair of gold-flecked eyes so like her own.

“Odette.”

His voice was a surprise. She had expected a deep, resonating tone. Instead, it carried almost inconsequentially on the wind. He cleared his throat and tried again.

“Odette.”

This time it was in a deeper register and sounded almost normal.

“Yes?” she answered.

“I had expected you earlier.”

Her awe was overridden by exasperation. “I can’t imagine why. Dreams are all well and good, but it would have been much easier if you had merely knocked on my door.”

There was a fleeting ghost of a smile, and then it was gone. “You will find that nothing we do is easy. Merely knocking on a door is harder than you know.”

She sighed. “Dreams and now riddles… I don’t understand any of this.”

“Never fear, my daughter, you will.”

 

 

 

 

One

 

 

New York City, Present Day

 

THE VIEW FROM her barely cubbyhole-sized office had never before elicited much notice. She didn’t even have a whole window to herself, divided as it was by the prefabricated wall of an adjacent cubicle. Due, however, to the fateful confluence of architecture, landscaping, and campus layout, it was the only unobstructed sight of the student barricades from her floor.

“Are they still smoldering?” Patty stopped at her open door and squinted out over her head through the window behind her.

Ava didn’t bother to answer. The question was obviously rhetorical. Wisps of black smoke curling up into a dreary November sky was a clear indication that the barricades were indeed still smoldering. Patty shook her head and muttered one of the many sorrowful clichés Ava had heard countless times over the past two weeks, before moving on down the hallway to her own office.

Ava briefly contemplated closing the door again, but her colleagues had so perfected the simultaneous act of opening it while knocking, that it made little difference. She sighed and swiveled her chair around to gaze out the window.

It was only last night that the barricades had still stood. They had gone up two weeks ago to the day. Composed of discarded furniture, old tires, and whatever else the students could scrounge up, they were a visible testament to the explosive anger sweeping college campuses nationwide.

Ava understood the students’ outrage. Tuition hikes and staggering debt were only two of the many injustices visited upon them. But she was perplexed; the rapidity of the movement was astounding. Even given the instantaneous connections of social media, she could hardly believe it capable of coordinating the wide-spread, highly organized protests that now occupied campuses all across the country.

As a member of the faculty, a very junior member, Ava was prohibited from participating directly in the protest. But she, like many of the senior faculty in her department, had lent advice and as much logistical support as possible without violating entirely the spirit of her contract.

Some had taken bolder action. Ava was aware of at least two of the student leaders hiding out in the department head’s basement. And her own cozy loft was unaccustomedly crowded after the early morning confrontation with riot police had led the students to torch their own barricades and flee into the pre-dawn darkness.

To its credit, the university had steadfastly refused outside police intervention. The protests, while disruptive, were nonetheless peaceful. Ava wasn’t quite sure how it happened. Both the chancellor and university president were quick to disavow the police assault and subsequent hunt for the protest leaders. The students who arrived at her door in the early hours were confused and frightened. All she knew was that the police had arrived in riot gear and with tear gas, and the students had panicked. The ill-advised move to burn the barricades allowed many of the students to escape, but left them open to more serious charges.

She felt somehow responsible. She knew many of her colleagues felt the same way. They should have done a better job of protecting their students. They should have taken a more active role in helping them—contracts be damned!

Her gaze grew vague and distant. As the smoke drifted up to blend in with the dark-lined clouds above, she couldn’t know whether the charred remains of the barricades were a funeral pyre or the birth of a phoenix. She only thought… what now?

“Ahem.”

Ava swiveled her chair around to the open door. She blinked, momentarily taken aback at the unexpected sight.

He cleared his throat again. “Sorry to disturb you.”

“Well, you would be the only one,” she managed.

Dr. Odell Speex stood uncertainly on her threshold. Like his twin, he was blond and blue-eyed. However, to Ava, that is where their similarities ended. Tall and athletic, he was certainly as good-looking as Ettie was lovely. She understood the attraction he had for many of the undergraduates and knew his entry-level physics course to be surprisingly popular. But where Ettie was warm and outgoing, her brother maintained an aloof and rather mysterious demeanor.

She had known
of
him for many years, had seen him occasionally at his mother’s studio. But they had only really met once before, at Ettie’s premiere performance as a soloist. He had barely spoken to her then, and afterward never acknowledged their acquaintanceship in the few times she had passed him on campus. Ettie assured her that his indifference was distraction, not rudeness, consumed as he was by his work. Piqued by this particular conceit, Ava allowed him to stand uncomfortably at her door for a few seconds more than was polite before inviting him to take a seat.

“May I close the door?” he asked before sitting down.

She swept her hand out in a magnanimous gesture, saying, “Of course.”

For his part, Odell saw seated across from him a very daunting woman. She was only a couple of years older than he and uncommonly beautiful. Her Nigerian ancestry was evident in her dark skin and close-cropped curly hair. Her large, teardrop-shaped eyes were almost black and, at present, challenging. He knew her full-lipped mouth could draw back into a dazzling smile, but now only curved questioningly up at the corners.

“You’re probably wondering why I’m here.” He attempted an affable grin, failing miserably. He looked at her impassive face and sighed. He knew what she was thinking—insufferable boor, spoiled boy wonder, self-involved academic—he had heard, or rather, overheard, it all.

“My sister tells me you’ve been studying a somewhat obscure historical figure,” he plunged in, “by the name of Odette Swanpoole.”

Her surprise was fleeting. But of course, why else would he seek her out if not for her academic expertise?

“Yes,” she replied, assuming a professorial tone, “she is presently the primary subject of my research.”

He leaned forward intently. “What is your focus? How does she fit in?”

Ava pursed her lips in irritation.

Odell put his hand up quickly as if to forestall further reaction. “I’m sorry, Dr. Washing—”

“Ava! My name is Ava! Your sister is one of my dearest friends,
if
you recall?”

Odell shook his head, impatient with his own bumbling. He drew in a deep breath and tried again, “Ava, forgive my abrupt delivery; I am not the most graceful of social creatures.”

She sat back, struck by the incongruent mix of his youthful appearance with this overly formal, old-fashioned speech. She suddenly remembered this about him. He never seemed comfortable or completely at ease, at least never in her presence or when she had seen him striding obliviously across campus. Ava had once read that geniuses as children often revert into a world of their own and could be quite socially clumsy. As a full professor at twenty-three, there was little doubt of his genius.

Ava smiled her wide, dazzling smile. “Listen, I’m sorry.” She shook her head wearily. “I’ve been a bit on edge since this morning’s raid. Several of my students were at the barricades.”

Odell smiled. “Who says there’s no future in the liberal arts?”

Ava laughed reluctantly. “You’re joking about it?”

He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Not at all!” he countered. “It’s no coincidence that it is your students out there and not mine. Or those from the business school, for that matter. We need them asking hard questions, holding people accountable. We need them now more than ever.”

He was serious. Ava was a little taken aback.

“I know this sounds presumptuous, but you don’t seem the type to hold such opinions,” she replied.

It was his turn to laugh reluctantly. “Until recently, I had never given it much thought.”

She looked at him questioningly. “And now you are here in my office asking about Odette Swanpoole. Just how did an obscure mid-eighteenth-century ballerina and feminist pioneer turn your thoughts to the liberal arts and social justice?”

“Why would you think the two connected?” he responded a little too quickly.

Ava merely placed an elbow on her desk and, resting her chin in her hand, looked at him expectantly.

Odell returned her look uncomfortably, and then rose to pace the short distance to the flimsy cubicle wall.

“Can we be overheard?” he asked.

If she was surprised by this question, it didn’t show. “Yes. But the graduate students who occupy the adjacent offices are… are, well, indisposed. This place has been pretty empty of late.”

He nodded his understanding and sat back down. The contrast with his own spacious office and well-equipped lab was stark. He had heard for years that the liberal arts were being starved out of universities. At least a third of the history department had been cut only the year before. Donors wanted to focus their dollars on the hard sciences that had a measurable return. Parents as well were looking for job security and hoping to live out their retirements without grown children underfoot.

Odell looked at Ava from across her desk and had a fleeting glimpse of another time, another woman. He saw her from across a restaurant table, black hair and gold-flecked eyes—worried eyes. Music played in the background and airships danced at a docking port hundreds of feet above the city. It was a different time, a different world, but the situation was the same. How to make her understand without him ending up in a padded cell?

He cleared his throat. “It seems there is a connection between my family and Odette Swanpoole.”

If he thought she would draw back in disbelief, he underestimated her. Ava was a meticulous researcher, and she knew enough of Odell Speex to feel sure he would not approach her without evidence. Having herself discovered a cache of Odette’s letters in the attic of an elderly relative, she was aware that such documentation was often squirreled away in the strangest of places.

BOOK: Twin Speex: Time Traitors Book II
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