Fugitives of Time: Sequel to Emperors of Time

Fugitives of Time

James Wilson Penn

Text Copyright © 2015 James Wilson Penn

All Rights Reserved

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank several betas who worked on this
project with me and were instrumental in getting it ready for publication. 
Thank you, Gretchen Hodges and Melissa Eddings, both of whom read drafts of the
book and provided helpful and insightful comments that I have used to improve
it.  Thank you also to Andrew Malkasian, who provided extensive feedback
on the first 9 chapters of the work.  Thank you also to my mother, who
made helpful and extensive comments on each chapter of the book.  Of
course, any errors that remain in the text are solely my own.  Special
thanks to Rachel Olson, whose diligent effort on making a pleasant cover for
the book and the first book in the series is probably what inspired most
readers to pick up the series in the first place.

Chapter 1

Treason

 

Spring rain pattered against the windows of the kitchen
where four teens and one plump middle-aged woman sat drinking a variety of beverages. 
There were plates in front of each of them, with crumbs left over from the
lunch of sandwiches they had recently finished.

“See, I
told
you she’d believe us,” Rose said with a
smirk, looking at Billy.

“Sooner you than a government that was trying to convict you
of treason, of course!” Aunt Jane said without hesitation.  “I’ll admit
I’d never thought much about whether Time Travel was possible before, but I
always try to keep an open mind about things.”

Tim snorted, but he realized quickly that Aunt Jane was one
of a small number of friends the teens had in a world that was quite hostile at
the moment.  Julie and he were both wearing clothes she’d just lent them
from the antique shop, for goodness’ sake.  Tim was surprised they even
qualified as antiques, since they looked like lightly used clothes from the
seventies or something.  But still, it was a nice thing to do and he
wouldn’t want to alienate her. 

He gave a weak smile. “Well, you’re the first person here
who believed time-travel was possible without actually
doing
it,” Tim
pointed out.  “So I think ‘open mind’ is a bit of an understatement.”

“Hmmm, perhaps,” admitted Aunt Jane, pushing her glasses up
her nose.  “But I can’t think of any good synonyms for ‘open’.  It
wouldn’t do to call me vacant-minded, now would it?  Maybe we should just
say my mind is
wide
open.”

“I guess,” Julie said, brushing her dark hair out of her
eyes.  “Still, even after I time-traveled the first time, I still thought
I was crazy.  It was only after Tim jumped back with me that I stopped
thinking I might have to seek professional help.”

“That did it for you, huh?” Billy asked, eyebrows
raised.  “I’ve time-jumped more than once, and I’m still not sure I’m
sane.  We’ve gone to the future to see the Emperors’ plan for 2347. 
We’ve gone back to 1916 to fix history to make sure that the plan didn’t
succeed.  And now, we’ve come to a new timeline the Emperors have cooked
up in the meantime.  Absolutely none of that has made me think that I’m
not
insane.”

“Right,” Aunt Jane said.  “So this timeline isn’t the
right one either?  The Emperors of Time made this one, too?”

“Yeah,” Rose said.  “We expected that they would
manipulate events again, but we didn’t know the new timeline would be so
stacked against us.”

“I definitely wasn’t expecting to see a billboard declaring
me a fugitive in my first half hour in a new timeline,” Tim confirmed.

“I can imagine,” Aunt Jane said, nodding
sympathetically.  She paused for a moment, then continued.  “I think
I understand as much as I’m going to about the time-travel part, but how did
you end up here, you know, once you got back to this time?”

“Well, after the shock of seeing pictures of ourselves on a
‘wanted’ billboard started to wear off--” said Julie.

“‘Started,’ because I don’t think it’s actually going to
completely wear off ever,” Billy interrupted.

“Anyway, after we drove around for a bit, I finally
convinced them to come here, ‘cause I knew we could count on my Aunt Jane,”
Rose said with a smile.

“Yeah, even though we hadn’t even met you in this timeline,
and you could have been a completely different person, if you existed at all,”
Tim said, still convinced they were pretty lucky things had worked out as well
as they did.

“Well, whatever, it was basically our only option, and we
were ready with our Domini in case it went sour,” said Billy.

 “I still feel like maybe I should have called your mother
and at least told her you were all right,” said Aunt Jane.

“Right…  except, like we told you before, then we would
be in police custody, and therefore
not
okay,” Rose said.

“You really think she would turn you in?” asked Aunt Jane.

“We just can’t risk it,” Julie explained.

The five around the table were startled out of their
conversation as the door opened.  Tim jumped out of his chair, thinking
that it was a police-officer or another minion of the Emperors of Time. 
Luckily, it turned out to be Rose’s Uncle Patrick, wearing a dark-blue poncho
with a hood pulled up over his graying hair. 

Uncle Patrick sighed as he closed the door behind him and
shoved the hood of the poncho back. 

“Should I put another kettle on for tea, dear?” Aunt Jane
asked.

“Yes, thank you,” Uncle Patrick said.  “Sorry I’m
late.  It took a while for the cab driver to come get me downtown.  I
understand he had to come from Harrisburg, but I called him in plenty of
time.  Lucky the poncho kept me dry.  Well, mostly dry, but in
running out of the house, I forgot to change into my boots.  There’s
puddles like lakes down on Main Street, so my socks are soaked through from my
ankles to my toes.”

“Well, you certainly couldn’t have waited in the car,” Aunt
Jane said.

“Yes, that would’ve rather defeated the purpose.” confirmed
Uncle Patrick, stripping off his poncho and hanging it on the coat rack next to
the door.

The purpose, Tim knew, was to get rid of the car in a way
that wouldn’t tie Uncle Patrick back to it.  The police were already
looking for the teens for being fugitives, and at this point they would know
they’d stolen Billy’s mother’s car.  Now that they were hiding in Uncle
Patrick’s and Aunt Jane’s house, they didn’t want to have the thing sitting out
by the curb. 

They figured if Patrick was pulled over on the way to
dropping the car off, he could claim he was returning it to Billy’s
mother.  The cops would be looking for a bunch of teenage fugitive
joyriders, unless they had been directly recruited by the Emperors of Time, in
which case they would be looking for a bunch of time-jumping teenagers. 
Either way, a middle aged man would not fit the description.

Soon, Jane came back in with a kettle full of boiling
water. 

“Does anyone else want a refill?” she asked.

“Yes,” Rose declared, as she reached for a second packet of
hot chocolate from the table.

Julie shook her head at Rose’s excitement.  “I’ll take
some hot water as well.”

“Would you like another teabag?” asked Aunt Jane.

“No thanks, plenty of flavor left in this one,” Julie
said. 

“For you, Tim?” asked Aunt Jane.  “More coffee?”

“I’m taking it slow,” Tim said.  Tim had never had more
than one coffee in a day, and rarely drank it at all, but this was the second
time this week he’d had the beverage.  Well, it was the second time in the
week for him.  Even though the last cup had been in 1916.

“I can’t believe you guys are drinking hot drinks in the
spring,” Billy commented as he finished off a bottle of spring water.

“There’s more water in the fridge, honey,” offered Aunt
Jane.  Billy thanked her and went over to the refrigerator to get
some. 

After all the drinks were in order once again, the six of
them sat around the table.  Rose turned to her uncle and was about to
launch into explaining the story of their expedition through time when Aunt
Jane interrupted her.

“I can explain it to him later,” she suggested.  “But
first, I want to know what you think you’ll need from us.  We’ll do
whatever you need, of course, but it’s not every day you find out your only
niece is on the run from the law, and it’s also not really the sort of thing
you prepare for.  Have you put any thought into what your plan is?”

“Well, we’re thinking on our feet, of course,” Rose
answered, glancing at the others.  “But, basically, I guess we thought you
could let us stay here until we figured out our next step.”

Aunt Jane nodded, and was probably about to say of course
they could stay, when Julie spoke up first.  “I think we need to head on
over to the oak tree.  That’s how Hopkins said he would get in contact
with us, or we could get in contact with him.”

Tim nodded.  “And it’d be nice to know what else has
changed about history, aside from the fact that we’ve apparently done
something, or been accused of doing something, that has landed us in
jail.  Do you guys happen to have any history books around?”

Patrick chuckled, a smile showing through his blonde beard
and mustache.  “In our antique shop next door, we have history books from
just about every decade before the 1990s.  As long as it doesn’t have to
be current, we’ve got you covered.”

“That should be fine,” Tim said quickly, as Rose nodded
agreement.

As Tim nursed his coffee, the others drank their second
round of beverages. 

“I still can’t believe that you guys are drinking tea and
cocoa,” Billy reiterated.  “It’s April!”

Rose shrugged.  “It was November a few hours ago,” she
said.  “Besides, it’s raining.  Hot beverages are always good when it’s
raining.”

“And tea is just always good,” Julie said.  “The
temperature outside doesn’t matter.”

So as they drank, the four teens chatted, with Jane and
Patrick periodically chiming in.  Soon, Patrick went back to the shop next
door, which he had temporarily closed while he got rid of the car. 
Meanwhile Jane began clearing the table from lunch and washing off the
dishes.  When Billy offered to help, she politely refused, saying she
she’d never really minded doing dishes.  

It was weird maintaining small talk while they got ready to
see what cataclysmic changes in history might have already taken place in this
timeline.  Still, they had been through a lot in the past week as it was,
and the four teens seemed to have an unspoken rule about taking breaks from
their new and borderline insane reality when they needed to.

Finally, once Rose took her final sip of cocoa, she spoke up
as if one cue.  “Ready to figure out what those rascals have done to our
timeline, then?”

“Rascals?” Billy asked, eyebrows raised. 

“What, you don’t think they qualify as rascals?” Rose asked.

“I dunno, sounds like it could be the mascot for a real
lousy minor league baseball team or something,” Billy said.

“Or maybe a bunch of four and five year olds who are up to
no good,” Julie suggested.

“But not a group of evil adults who use time travel to take
over the world,” Tim said.

“Especially because they don’t play baseball,” added Billy.

“Okay, but just to clarify, we should still find out what
they did, right?  Like, you guys have no objections aside from the
smart-alec ones?” Rose asked.

“Right,” Billy confirmed, and soon they were being led by
Aunt Jane over to the antique shop. 

“It’s convenient that you guys live right next door,” Tim
pointed out, as the group of five made their way briefly outside.  He
meant that it was convenient for Jane and Patrick on a day to day basis,
although it certainly carried an extra convenience now, when the four teens
were fugitives.  They only had to be outside for a moment as they slid from
one door to the next in a downtown duplex.

“Quite,” agreed Jane.  She paused for a moment, then
looked to Rose.  “Do we own the antique shop where you guys came from
too?  In the other…  ‘timeline’?”

Rose nodded, her curly blonde hair bouncing up and
down.  “Yep”

“You owned an antique shop in my timeline, too,” Julie
said..  She paused, then realized that she was getting an odd look from
the middle-aged woman.  “Sorry, I’m from a different timeline than the
others, because Hopkins recruited me first.  I came back to an altered
timeline and then found the others.”

Aunt Jane shook her head with a slightly dazed
expression.  “It’s not easy to keep track of it all,” she said, after a
moment.

“Now you know how I feel,” Billy said, with a sympathetic,
if slightly over dramatic, wince. 

They had entered the door of the antique store, which looked
both similar to and different from the store in the same location that they had
entered only about a week before.  The walls were a different color, and
Tim was pretty sure that the clothing racks were in different places, but they
still had a lot of the same kind of stuff.  Books, clothes, dolls, china,
and furniture mingled chaotically in rooms built on the same model as those
next door.  They made their way through the kitchen, where china and
kitchen furniture were on display, to a staircase.

“We have most of our books upstairs in storage and bring
them down as the ones down here get bought.  But most of our better
history books are up there, too.  Patrick won’t bring them down because
he’d rather keep them than sell them.  Although I probably don’t really
have to tell you that, Rose.  I can’t imagine he’s much different where
you come from.”

As they walked up the stairs, Rose spoke up.  “Speaking
of different timelines…  What did we do here, or what are we supposed to
have done, to get put in prison?”

“Ah, yes,” said Jane with a bit of a laugh.  “I guess
I’d forgotten that you wouldn’t have any way of knowing that.  Well, you
were accused of treason.”

“Treason?” asked Rose, stopping in her tracks so suddenly
that Billy bumped into her.  Tim was surprised, too.  Treason wasn’t
a common accusation in the timeline they came from.  It was true that not
everyone was on board with all that the government did, and some even did
things that interfered with government goals, like distributing secret
government knowledge over the internet. 

Tim knew this because he had read articles such dissidents
had published.  But the government seemed to know better than to accuse
these people of treason, on the rare occasions when they could catch
them.  This was probably because treason traditionally carried the death
penalty, and the U.S. government, at least in Tim’s timeline, was not in the
business of making martyrs.

“Oh yes,” Jane said.  “I doubt you’ll be the last
people accused of treason this month, even.  The government is rather fond
of using it as a technique to weed out potential rebels.”

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