An: First, thank you vampirekyawl for spotting my glaring error, but it's all fixed now :D. And just as a warning the next chapter won't be up until probably late next week because I pretty much deleted what I had and started over, (all for the better I hope). Now you may continue :D
Ambrose waited impatiently for Lindsey as she ran up to her room to pack, what she considered, a few items. He hated living through what he deemed as slow time. Some how the minutes lasted longer when you were actually living in a minute, instead of skipping through them. Imagining life as a normal being depressed him deeply. Technically he should be living life the slow way, after what had happened and all. He hardly cared. Rules were simply guidelines, but he never followed lines anyway. Time never progressed in a straight line, so why should he? Unfortunately, he discovered, not everyone shared his mindset.
"Ready!" Lindsey called as she bounded down the stairs, her backpack hanging from one shoulder.
"Finally! Good Gods you humans know how to take your time." The Time Traveler said digging out his remote and walking out the front door.
When they were safely away, Ambrose put himself and Lindsey back in the moment of time. It struck Ambrose as humorous how literally nothing had really changed, as they were back to the same minute he had paused on, and yet in one moment he was on a mission with an Earth girl he had just met. Humorous indeed.
As they walked across town to the time machine, Lindsey began asking an assortment of questions, which seemed to sow a growing headache for Ambrose. He understood humans were inquisitive beings, but gods did everything they didn't know or understand have to be explained? The universe is set up with mysteries, paradoxes, and chaos. Why spend your time solving it all, when you can just enjoy it.
"I'm sorry, it just doesn't seem possible. The future hasn't even been written yet, so how can we visit it?" Lindsey asked essentially for the third time. This time there were more words for Ambrose to process, which only added to his mounting headache.
"Like I've told you before, and before that time, it's complicated. It, in a sense, has been written. But it's not permanent. It's constantly changing, for example, you just changed your future. You could have decided not to come with me." He explained.
"What if I decided not to go?"
"Then your future would not be this one, or this would be an alternate reality. No one really knows or understands the future. You can visit it, but it's always changing."
"But if we visit the future, doesn't it become the present?"
"You've heard the saying, 'time is relevant'? Well get used to this one too: time is a fickle bitch."
From his jacket pocket, Ambrose pulled out a long silver chain, which held a small key on the end. It served as a constant reminder to a past life he never hoped to relive. Sliding the key into place, he listened for the familiar fall of the tumblers and they came into place.
"It kind of looks like a train car." Lindsey commented, clearly unimpressed. What was she expecting, he wondered. A large, conspicuous sign advertising that a time machine was located here? Honestly, humans sometimes could be so dense.
"On you go." He said, motioning her to enter.
She looked skeptical, as she stepped inside to see whatever the machine lacked on the outside, it certainly made up for on the inside.
He found it pretty tacky, old fashion, and very out of date. The front of the machine was set up to resemble an air craft, which was done on purpose so the transition from space ship to time machine was made easier for pilots. The back was made up of monitors, buttons, springs and other random controls, which was where the time travel took place. The newer machines were much smaller and there were fewer controls, but if he was being honest, he grew attached to the old thing. Even though it was falling apart bit by bit.
"No bed?" Lindsey asked dropping her bag to the floor.
"I don't sleep much." Ambrose quipped, making his way to the controls.
She looked at him questioningly, but decided not to press the matter. Instead, she moved on to what she had been waiting for. "So where to?"
"See that's the thing. I'm not entirely sure where to start." He raked a hand through his thick hair, which he realized was in desperate need of a trim. He kept it full, but the minute it started growing over his ears, something had to be done. "I have a feeling though that you are a large part of this."
She let a small smile slip, which she quickly took back. Ambrose didn't understand why she didn't smile more often. She had a lovely smile.
"You pick." He declared.
"God, it's like you're asking me to find Waldo." She chuckled.
"Who's Waldo?" He asked, growing embarrassed when she began laughing hysterically.
"It's Where's Waldo? And don't worry about it. I'm just saying I don't even know how to consider picking the right place." She explained through her laughter.
"I have a feeling it doesn't matter. It's just a feeling, I could be wrong. But I'll be honest, I'm hardly wrong."
"Are you now?" She cocked her head to the side, looking for a challenge. He liked her spunk, although it could get them into trouble somewhere, but in the meantime he liked it. "Alright, take me to a planet where the cities are underwater."
He only considered it for less than a second. "Atlantis is a good pick."
"That's a myth." Lindsey challenged.
"No, not the city, the planet Atlantis. It is a water-based planet, and every city is completely submerged and contained in oxygen units hundreds of miles wide. The people are a mix of human like beings and sea creatures, so some live in the ocean, while some live in the oxygen units. Very peaceful planet if I remember correctly." And he always did remember correctly.
He saw the gleam in her eye and he knew that gleam very well. He could sense her feeling of excitement, the same kind of excitement he felt when he traveled to his first planet. Of course he couldn't take pleasure traveling to his first planet. He was there on official business after all. If he was being honest, it ruined the new and exciting for him. Instead it became a source of resentment. Everything he never knew and didn't know was existing before him and he couldn't even touch it.
"It sounds great!" Lindsey said with enthusiasm. "But, can I ask one more thing before we go?"
Ambrose rubbed his temples and thought very hard about whether he should allow yet another question. "Fine, what is it?"
"Because this is a time machine, you can bring me back to this time? I don't want my mom to worry about me."
Concern was wrought on her face, but luckily for her, she was completely right. He enjoyed giving good news as opposed to bad news. Good news entailed the simple emotions of happiness and joy, while bad news entailed the opposite, more complicated feelings he had the displeasure to occasionally deal with.
"I can certainly do that." He said with what he considered a satisfactory response.
"So you can bring me back, and my mom will never even know?"
"I believe I said that."
"I'm just clarifying!" She said more loudly, exasperation evident in her voice.
"I'm sorry!" He said, his voice rising to meet her volume. "Are we okay now?"
"Yeah, let's go."
Humans. They're so frightfully complicated, if his head could spin, it would do so quite often. Earth was a place of frequent visitation for him, and on every trip he found himself questioning his own judgment. They could hardly make up their mind and when they finally did they were hardly satisfied with the decisions they came to.
"Find something to hold onto. It gets a bit rickety in here." Ambrose warned punching what he hoped were the correct coordinates. He was often always right, but the universe was a big place. One wrong number and he could bring himself back to those flesh eating aliens he had tried so hard to avoid.
"No seatbelts?" Lindsey asked holding on to a chair she only hoped was bolted into the ground.
"Now where is your sense of adventure?" He pressed the final button, which sent the machine into what could be described as a violent seizure.
He could never get used to it. The shaking, the increase of pressure as the box squeezed its way into the vortex of time, the flickering of the lights, and the warning noise, always sent his heart rate up.
Finally the box began to calm and soon stilled completely. Ambrose let himself fall to the floor for what he considered he deserved, a moment of resting.
"What are you doing?" Lindsey demanded with excitement sharp in her voice, "This underwater planet you promised me is right there and you're just sitting!"
"I'm sorry!" Ambrose exclaimed hopping to his feet, "I haven't lived a slow day in a very long time so I lost my footing. But look, I found it!" Ambrose said, shaking his feet to prove his point. His body was used to the constant change in time, a consequence of frequent traveling through the forth dimension. "You're lucky I'm young, if I was 300 years older I would not have bounced back so quickly."
"If you were 300 years older? Then how old are you?" Lindsey asked, thoroughly shocked. The oldest person she had ever known was her grandmother who lived to be 97.
"Oh I'd say 224 years, 8 months, 10 days. Give or take that is, I could be a bit off." Ambrose replied, nonchalantly, completely forgetting how short a human life span was. They did leave ridiculously short lives, he decided. He never understood how a human could live a fulfilling life in under a century; it just did not seem possible.
She shook her head in disbelief, deciding not to press the matter any further. Instead, she stood up and brushed herself off, looking at him expectantly.
"Right, the Planet Atlantis. As you know, completely submerged with oxygen units encasing cities. Creatures born to breathe the air and sea co-exist together after centuries of battling each other. I've brought you to the fourth great and bountiful empire, where there has been peace for nearly two centuries."
"Please tell me there's some awesome shopping." Lindsey's enthusiasm for a recreational activity Ambrose greatly detested, greatly displeased him. Shopping. Universally female and universally boring.
"Yes, yes there's shopping." Ambrose said, only to appease her, "Ready?"
Lindsey smiled widely and nodded her head, bounding to the door. Ambrose felt himself smiling with her as he opened to door to an ancient world, thriving beneath the depths.
Beyond the door was a world teaming with life. The Time Traveler had read the myths about the human's version of Atlantis, to which he always scoffed at because the real one was undoubtedly more impressive. Tall, imposing buildings were built out of sea-glass; the roads were a conglomerate of basalt and gabbro stretching into the city center. Lights lined the street as ornate fixtures, bringing an odd glow to the area. It never failed to impress him, the city's glow that is. The way low lit orange reflected against the glassy green of the buildings always struck him as beautiful.
The only mark on the wondrous city was the conspicuous gray brick tower that stretched to the surface. Ambrose found it hideous, but genius never did have to be aesthetically pleasing.
"This is beyond awesome." Lindsey said in a low voice, clearly astounded.
"Indeed," Ambrose agreed, "During this era the planet experiences a new sense of wealth and prosperity because by now they have discovered intergalactic travel, which they had deemed impossible for hundreds of years because of their proximity to the atmosphere. But they are quite clever, especially once they stopped waging war on each other."
"Ambrose I don't see any sea creatures, or a mix of the two for that matter." Lindsey said, observing the frenzy that was one of the main streets.
The Time Traveler registered her words and began to do his own scan of the city. He knew he wasn't wrong, he was hardly ever wrong. However, all he could see were the human looking creatures that had come to inhabit the planet second. That was the thing about humans, or at least human looking beings, they were everywhere. While they evolved a bit differently from each other, they were all made up of the same stars and planetary dust.
"You're right." Ambrose finally admitted, "But I'm never wrong so something else must be."
"You're never wrong?" Lindsey asked, completely unconvinced.
"Hush, I'm thinking." He ordered.
"Excuse me?" Lindsey retorted, "Don't hush me."
"Fine, lets try this again." He said turning to face her, "Please be quiet so I can figure out what's wrong, because clearly there is something not right."
This girl. Perhaps it was a mistake bringing her along, he thought. No, there is definitely something going on in the universe, he can feel it, and she's a part of this. This niggling feeling that had so rudely interrupted his life began to pulsate in the back of his head. Either he was on the right track, or whatever was distressing the universe was getting worse.
"I think we should investigate." Lindsey suggested, purposely ignoring his request to quiet down. "If we're really where and when you say we are, then those other species must be around here somewhere."
"Why do you never listen to me?" Ambrose groaned rubbing his temples. He wasn't quite ready to admit she had a very good idea.
"Because you're wrong to tell me to be quiet." She replied, boasting through her eyes. He really did like her spunk. This was surprising. He wasn't surprised often, but this girl went and did it.
"Fine, but let's try not to bring attention to ourselves."
Lindsey let out a laugh. "Which shouldn't be too hard. I mean, clearly, we dressed appropriately."
He didn't, however, appreciate her sarcasm. But she was right. The citizens of the city were clothed in seaweed, weaved together to create dresses and robes. They were bound to stick out with her jeans and t-shirt and his black suit. Often, a suit was an acceptable form of fashion on just about any planet during any time. There was always, however, the exceptions.
"I think if we just wander around quietly, there should be no trouble. They are a peaceful people after all." Ambrose reasoned.
"But you also said they got along with their sea counterparts, and we don't know where they are." Lindsey reminded him as she continued to scan the area, looking for glimpses of other life.
"Good point." Ambrose admitted, although he wasn't too happy about it. "Well, unless you have a better plan."
"Then let's stick with this one."
"What if we get caught?"
"Get caught? We're visitors here on this planet."
"But I don't see any other visitors."
"The planet is a bit secluded, but it's possible for there to be visitors. I mean, maybe not very many, but it could certainly happen. Although, if my assumptions about something on this planet being horribly wrong are correct, well then we may need to be a bit more careful."
The two walked through the crowded streets, collecting suspicious and hostile looks as they went. The hostility made Ambrose uncomfortable. It often meant he would have to get involved and he really detested getting involved. It meant meddling, it meant there could be an unnecessary change to the time line, and even though it wasn't a part of his job description anymore, he still respected that part of it.
The further they went into the city, the more he sensed was wrong. The gleaming buildings appeared dull close up, cracks in the structures evident. Shops were boarded up, litter strewn across the broken streets. Despair hung in the air like a heavy cloud, and could be seen on every persons face. Something was very wrong indeed.
"There are the invaders!" A brute and angry voice declared. Suddenly Ambrose had a very bad and unfortunate feeling.
"Get them!" Another, deeper and more commanding voice ordered. Suddenly a troop of guards, distinguishable by their tridents and helmets, surrounded the pair who reluctantly put their hands up above their head. Another universal sign Ambrose liked. It was simple and conveyed the very simple message that they were unarmed.
"I don't think this is necessary. If you will just let me introduce myself I think we can have this all cleared up." Ambrose tried reasoning.
"We know who you are Ambrose." The head guard pulled out a crinkled yellow scroll, which when unrolled revealed Ambrose's face.
"That's a very old picture of me." Ambrose noted, completely ignoring the bold words 'wanted' over his head.
"It's been a very long time." The guard said, putting the poster back in his pocket. "You have no authority any more, but instead a nice price on your head."
"Ah well, at least I'm still worth something to them."
"Ambrose, what's going on?" Lindsey whispered, nervously eyeing the guards.
"We're being arrested." Ambrose stated.
"Obviously. But why?"
"Take them in." The guard ordered. "And make sure the girl keeps quiet."
Indeed there was something terribly wrong on this planet, but what it was Ambrose couldn't figure out. The inhabitants were progressing the way they should, but there was a lack of prosperity that should exist. The missing species was another startling revelation that worried the Time Traveler the most. Although admittedly, he was more worried about the sharp end of the trident going into his back more than anything else at the moment.
The guards brought the two into a grand room with high ceilings and ornate fixtures. The sea glass interior gave the room a greenish tint, which reminded Lindsey of the Emerald city of Oz.
"So you are the infamous Ambrose. Ex-protector of Time." A cool voice hissed from the far center of the room.
"Ex-protector of the Universe. If you're going to retell the story, you might as well tell it correctly." Ambrose said nonchalantly.
"It's funny I never thought I would get the chance to meet a protector. It's a rather big universe out there, and infinite amounts of time." As the two approached the man in the center, they saw cool blue eyes narrow in their direction. The man twisted his white beard around one finger, contemplating them.
"Well, to be fair you still haven't met a protector. But don't worry I'm sure you've alerted the others of my arrival, you'll get your chance."
"Silence!" The man boomed, letting his voice bounce against the walls, "I'm tired of you correcting me."
"Well you should probably stop being wrong." Lindsey shot with venom.
"Lindsey!" Ambrose whispered harshly. She was rude too. Very rude. He wasn't sure if he liked the rudeness, it seemed like a liability. The last thing he needed was getting a very large fork stuck in his back because she decided to be rude.
"You need to control the yellow haired girl." The man said evenly. "She shouldn't behave this way in the presence of royalty."
Lindsey narrowed her own set of cool blue eyes, and didn't let her gaze fall. Ambrose squeezed his own eyes shut in fear and frustration.
The man smirked with satisfaction as he proceeded to stand. The guards fell to their knees immediately, bringing Lindsey and Ambrose down with them. The man, or prince, or king, paced in front of his plush throne, trying to appear in deep thought.
"Who are you anyway?" Ambrose asked nonchalantly, "No disrespect intended," Although secretly it was intended, "You know, all the time traveling I do it's hard to keep names straight."
"Why does your time machine look like a boxcar, but their time machines look awesome?"
"Leave my time machine alone! It gets us to where and when we want to be does it not?"
"Well nothing is perfect Lindsey, you're an expert on that."
"It's funny, out of all the planets in the universe you pick a planet with something very wrong."
"But you told me to pick."
"I wasn't looking for the wrong, the wrong found me. So what does that say?"
"That we aren't looking for the sign… the sign is looking for us."
"Why is there a picture with my face on it?" Lindsey asked
"I saw flashes." She said slowly, trying to find the right words scattered across her mind. "They were dim, like a dream, like it didn't even feel real. But I knew that it was.