The stories didn’t matter. The pounding on the Laboratory door did not bother her, nor the incessant calls from her agent through the
Speak-o-Scope, nor the battering-ram brought by the Inspectors, which did nothing more than mildly shake the twelve layers of intricate locks,
three-foot thick metal-and-wood doors and massive steel bars.
If they’d known about the secret entrance from the garage they would have by-passed all that, but that’s what secret entrances are for –
secrets. She ignored them. The Lab was a fortress – no one could get in and there was food and water enough in the stores she had resourcefully
put in place to last her a year if she needed it. Still she worked, day and night, collapsing onto the overstuffed couch Barrie had insisted they have
in the Laboratory for their comfort.
When the work was (she hoped) done, she looked at the monstrous machine, her Time Troll, with satisfaction. She adjusted the brand new device she’d
created for her wrist, the Time-Disambiguator, and rested her hand on her hip over the once-white lab coat.
“Well, old thing, I guess we’d better get on with it.” She heaved on the Primary Lever with all her might and then jogged over to push the
Secondary Lever into position.
After a clunking of gears whirred into precise motion, the room began to hum and thrum to life. Steam whistled and shook the pipes. The Oval Portal
sparked and buzzed and sizzled mysteriously with its odd purple and blue-white lightning, spilling the strange luminiferous aether into the Portal
entrance. She adjusted the dials and moved more levers, and pushed the final triumphant button, her hair seeming to transform into molten gold in the
warm flash of light. The Oval Portal opened.
The air felt turned to syrup, with an odd metallic scent of electrified aether as she fought her way to the final set of keys to type in the precise
moment the portal would take her to, then she adjusted her Time-Disambiguator to match. She could die. Perhaps she was already dead, she thought, a
ghost in the Lab, who had died of heartbreak. She grimaced, not liking that thought at all. Once the sequence for the Oval Portal was done, without
another thought, she walked straight in.
The Infinite Void opened up and she felt as if she were falling, spinning, tumbling helplessly from a great height. Lightning, purple and blue and
white, dazzled and raged in a tremendous, constant crackle over her as she tumbled, nearly mindless with fear.
Then she screamed with no sound and flailed with no limbs – realizing that only her mind was intact, the rest of her had been stretched and split
into a trillion coded vibrations that suddenly, and without warning came together in a disorienting affray of senses.
She had but a moment to see his contorted figure. She reached out with re-formed arms and grabbed his dangling, frozen body from behind as he began
to be sucked away towards his original Fate, wrapping arms and legs about him in a fierce tackle. There was a massive snapping sound and physical
jolt, and they fell back the way she had come in, then sprawled and tumbled onto the stone floor of the Laboratory.
She had won.
Dizzy and exhausted, that realization penetrated her being. She had caught Barrie at the precise moment the evil Troll had sought to steal him away
into whatever one of the infinite possible directions and times it had chosen.
All the Tabloids, all the teary-eyed and desperate young men at the door, the destroyed theatres her distraught fans had desecrated were moot; it had
never happened – it was only a split second after he had first gone through. She smiled.
Then she saw a ghost of herself, panicked and distraught, enter the Laboratory, as what had been played out on another, barely visible layer of time.
She ignored it.
She had fixed her mistake, the careless phrasing that had allowed Barrie to be taken elsewhere. She heaved her breath in relief and lay against him
for a moment, just breathing, before his eyes began to flutter and she sat up to call his name, and rub his frozen hands.
“Barrie,” she called softly, “it’s all done now. We won, Barrie. We won.”
He looked at her with a grimace finally, taking in the mess of her. “Good gods above,” his voice croaked dryly, “What in sooty blazes happened
to you? You’re a fright!” She sat stunned for a moment, staring at him, then shook her head and laughed, full bellied and gasping like a street
wench. Only Barrie would care how she looked at a moment like this. She gave him a weak punch to the arm. He began to laugh too, his rich baritone
turned raspy, realizing his own utterly sincere ridiculousness. She laughed until she coughed, and he rolled with teary-eyed mirth, barely able to
Hauling herself to her feet, she looked down at him, her smile fading and expression suddenly serious. She lifted her stained lab coat along her
thigh, pulled out the silver flask and opened it, took a swig then handed it to him. He looked at it gratefully and swallowed with a grimace, then
handed it back.
“Barrie, darling,” she said without warning, “I’m leaving you.” A crystal tear hung in the corner of her eye, then trailed down an otherwise
somber but composed face.
“What?” He groped for his thoughts and came out lashing, still askew on the floor, “But we are Forever, Lonnie My Lake, My Life! You are my
best, and really, my only true friend in the world!” He shifted up to his knees, angry and wheedling, his arms outstretched and imploring. “How
could you leave me after all I’ve done for you? It blasted well will destroy me!”
“Not for good, you silly man,” she sniffed, “But for a while. You won’t even know I’m gone. With this gorgeous, beautiful, wondrous
machine, I can go anywhere in Time I want – I don’t need a blasted Demon for it either,” she said pointedly. Then she continued in a gentler
tone, “I could have a second life, Barrie. Where someone loves me just for me, like I know you do, but who can also fully appreciate All of
His mouth hung open. No words came out, but realization hit his eyes, and his jaw shut, clamping down on whatever he would have said.
She continued, “I want to find a new Adventure. I want to be worshiped by fans, adored by you, and loved by a man I love in return; I want it all.
Should that surprise you?” she cocked her hip and her eyebrow for emphasis. “I’ve made a way to get back whenever I want.” She showed him the
device she’d strapped to her wrist.
“Can I go with you, then?” He gave her a look of deepest sadness. A lost little boy in a man’s body hung in the back of his gaze, and for a
moment she saw how utterly unfulfilled he was, too.
After a long pause, a searching of his aching eyes, she relented. “Yes, darling. We should pack money, and jewels, and things that would be of
value. You can be my… my brother, and I your sister, and we will take the world by storm in some other time where you are free to be who you are
without hiding, and I can sing my way around that world in whatever new-fangled contraptions they use, hopefully something more efficient than our
current sooty dirigibles, and we can be free, Barrie. Free of all of it. I may never wish to come back.”
Barrington smiled a bit then and took her hand, and he awkwardly stood, using her for balance. “If anyone can literally take the world by storm, my
Lonnie-Lake, it would have to be you.”