“And this time try to stay out of trouble till we get back,” said Sara with a wry grin, and led her chosen team away to hunt werewolves. With annoyance, Zari saw them go off for adventure leaving her with ship’s duties. Sure, she was an obvious choice to leave on the Waverider, given the damage to the jump ship on their last mission. On the other hand, it would have been nice to be given the chance to volunteer to stay behind.
She looked at Mick, who just grunted and strode off the bridge. Where to, he didn’t say; but, knowing him, it was like as not for a workout in the gym.
Zari debated the merits of joining him for a good exercise routine, or maybe going to the library to scan the ship’s collection for a few hours of entertainment. With a wicked little smile, she even considered spending the effort to try yet again to hack into Gideon’s sealed files. In her opinion, there was too much that the A.I. didn’t want the crew to learn about their future. Such as how to change it. Finally, though, she admitted that Sara’s brisk, “Zee, while we’re gone, fix the jump ship,” had merit—not because it was Captain’s orders, but because the others might need it if this mission went as far awry as most. Over the next couple of hours, therefore, she opened bulkheads, traced circuits and conduits, and raided the supplies of spare parts. Twice, she went to the fabrication room to get Gideon to build what she needed.
The first time she was interrupted, it was Sara to tell her that the team were now inside the town.
The second time she was interrupted, it was Ray. Sara was chatting up the trappers in the nearest bar; he thought there might be trouble. So, heads up, they might be returning in a hurry, assuming they didn’t wind up in the local jail.
The third time she was interrupted, it was Nate. He sounded worryingly bright and reassuring, and praised the beer. If it was true that nothing was wrong, then—as far as Zari was concerned—the call was nothing but a waste of his time and hers. “Right,” she said abruptly, cutting him off. “Thanks, Nate. I’ll tell Mick.” Not that she bothered.
The fourth time she was interrupted, it was Sara again. “Whatever this is,” she said, “it’s not in the town. At least, not in wolf form. It could be hiding in the countryside. There’s lots of forest.”
The fifth time she was interrupted, Zari suggested—politely—that Gideon put whoever-it-was through to Mick, instead.
“Mr. Rory has requested that he not be disturbed,” was Gideon’s response. “Shall I tell them you are unavailable?”
“Yeah,” Zari said. “Why don’t you do that?” Yet ten minutes later, she was interrupted yet again.
“I’m sorry, Ms Tomaz,” said Gideon (and her programmed tone actually did sound apologetic), “but it’s the Captain.”
“We’re going to start search patterns,” Sara informed her. She sounded slightly harried. “Have you fixed the jump ship?”
“Well, it’ll double the area we can cover by air. So we need it. You’ve got two hours. Get it ready.”
Zari made a face, said a crisp “Aye, aye, Captain,” and gave a mocking salute. Then, after only a moment's consideration, she put her tools decisively down and got up from her knees. “Gideon,” she called.
“Yes, Ms Tomaz?”
“If anyone wants me again, tell them I’m in the john.” After a moment, she added, “And don’t put them through.” She then took a most leisurely turn around the ship to stretch her legs. She didn’t see Mick in the gym. Nor was he on the bridge or in the galley. She then remembered his writing hobby; and It occurred to her that he might have decided to take advantage of free time in the others’ absence. In which case, he’d have holed up in his room to tap away at his typewriter.
The door opened at her approach. Rather than burst in, though, she leaned casually against the jamb, waiting for him to notice her.
Mick pushed his glasses slightly down his nose so he could look over the rim.
“So, how long have you been writing?” she asked. Even knowing he’d written an entire novel, she still found his occupation incongruous.
“Coupla hours,” he grunted.
For a moment, she looked confused. Then she said hastily, “No that wasn’t what I—”
“Don’t you got something better to do?”
“Not in my opinion.” Zari smiled hopefully. But Mick just snorted, straightened his glasses, and turned his attention back to the typewriter. Although she waited, he didn’t look up again from his slow hunt-and-peck tapping. Obviously, he intended to ignore her until she left. She sighed loudly, to no avail. Finally, she turned away; and the door closed behind her. Even so, as she headed down the corridor, she could overhear him order Gideon to lock the door. Which was undoubtedly deliberate, and rather annoying of him.
At least, she thought, she had made her point—to herself, if not to the absent Captain. So she grabbed a sandwich in the galley, ate on her way back, and finished the repairs. She was lounging in the library when Nate came for the jump ship.
“Though what we’ll spot, I don’t know,” he said. “If you ask me, this is another of Constantine’s wild geese. We haven’t yet found any of his magical escapees-from-hell. I’m beginning to wonder if that dragon’s head wasn’t a mass hallucination.”
“Mallus wasn’t,” Zari pointed out. “Anyway, some detectable anomaly is out there. What are your plans? Will you be coming back to the ship when it gets dark, or keep looking?”
“Depends, I guess.” He shrugged and left.
Zari returned to her reading; but, eventually, the demands of her stomach made themselves obvious. She set the book aside in deference to dinner, and headed for the galley. It was not desperately surprising to find Mick already there, chowing down.
“Gideon, what’s he having?” Then, before the A.I. could answer, “No, never mind. As long as it’s not pork, I’ll have the same.” She grabbed a glass, went to the fridge for a drink, and found a bottle of sparkling water hiding behind the beer.
“So,” she said, sitting down, “are you revising the story I read, or is this a new one?”
“New one,” said Mick, without bothering to swallow first.
“Well, I hope when you finish you’ll let me read it.” She poured her drink and took a sip.
Mick shrugged. “Don’t hold your breath. I don’t type so fast.”
“I noticed,” said Zari. She put down her glass, and added lightly, “You’re not exactly one of those—what’d’you call ’em? Type-tappers?”
Mick looked at her blankly.
Looking up at the wall, she called, “Gideon? What’s the word I’m looking for? I’ve seen it in movies—they do it clackety-fast and don’t even look at the keyboard?”
“I believe the phrase you’re looking for is ‘touch typist’, Ms Tomaz,” Gideon replied.
“Yeah, that’s it. Thanks, Gideon.”
Mick didn’t bother to comment on the obvious.
Zari leaned forward confidentially. “You know, Mick, you could talk your story. Have you thought of that? There are … well, at least, in my time there are voice recognition systems that’ll transcribe it for you. If Gideon doesn’t have something like that on board—”
“Nah,” he interrupted dismissively. “I’ll stick with what I know.” He downed his beer, and got up.
“But it slows you down!” Zari said. “Why that old machine, anyway?” She swiveled in her seat as he went to the fridge. “How long have you had it? Did you bring it with you when you joined the crew?”
He reached inside without looking. “I used to have one much the same,” he said, grabbing a bottle of beer. “Back in Central. So when I decided we had too much downtime—” He shrugged. “—I picked it up during a mission.” He twisted off the cap.
“‘Souvenir’?” Zari said meaningfully. She rated zero the chance that Mick had used some of Gideon’s period-perfect money to actually buy the typewriter.
He didn’t deign to answer the dig. He was, after all, a thief. Always had been.
There was a beep from the food fabricator. “What made you decide to write a novel, though?” she asked as she got up to fetch her meal. It turned out to be hash with a fried egg on top. “I mean—don’t take this the wrong way, but … it doesn’t seem the sort of thing you’d do. Not that I’ve known you long; but let’s face it: you kept your writing a secret from everyone for so long. I don’t get the feeling anyone on board knew.”
“It’s the sort of thing I’d like to read,” he said simply, and chugged back half the bottle in one long swig. “Can’t read it if I don’t write it. No one else is gonna do it for me.” He took a shorter swallow of beer, smacked his lips, and sighed with pleasure. Almost shyly, he added, “I’ve done a couple or so.”
Zari turned round fast, plate in hand. “You’ve written more?”
“That’s the only one I wrote here,” he said, grabbing a second bottle before nudging the door of the fridge closed. “I don’t got the others nowadays.” He plonked the unopened bottle down on the table, sat and stretched out his legs, and took a another swig from the one in his hand.
“You mean you wrote before?” Zari grabbed cutlery and joined him. “Where are they, then?” She hesitated. “You were working with Leonard Snart when Rip Hunter recruited you. Where were you living? Are the stories there?”
Mick was taken aback by her enthusiasm. After a long moment, he said, “I didn’t write when we were pulling a job.”
Zari remembered the booby traps he’d set to keep out his crewmates. “You’re saying Snart didn’t know you wrote stories? Any more than you wanted us to know?” She dug a fork into the hash.
“I expect he did,” said Mick. With a look of amusement, he added, “He was curious as a cat. I doubt there was much he didn’t figure out.” There was a longer, reminiscent pause, during which Zari ate several more mouthfuls. Finally he added, “I didn’t get the typewriter till a long while after he died. Didn’t feel like writing.” And, after another pause, “Didn’t feel much like anything.”
This was more personal than Zari had expected. She put down the fork, took a long drink, set that aside, and settled for saying only, “That was before I came aboard.”
Mick drained the first bottle, and opened the second.
“So where are those other things you wrote?” Zari said, eyes on her plate, feigning indifference. She broke the yolk of the egg and rummeled it into the rest of the hash.
She caught the movement and looked up. “No, really. If you didn’t bring them with you, where are they?” She waited, fork in hand; but he didn’t respond. Then the answer hit her. “Oh, back in Central City.”
“Nowhere, far’s I know.” He shifted in his seat. “Look, Zee, it was one of the prison psychologist types who got me writing in the first place. Y’know, after I burned something again, spent time in solitary. I think he thought it’d do me good—some therapy type thing.” He looked a bit embarrassed, wriggled his shoulders, and admitted, “Well, not that I cared about that. But I always got these story ideas I’d tell myself to pass the time. Some of them were kinda persinevant.”
“Perseverant?” she tried. “Persistant?”
“That’s it, yeah. Wouldn’t let me alone. Writing them down got them to shut up, basically. And then I added the bits in between, and it turned into a real story almost.”
“A really good story,” she assured him. “I don’t know how long you’ve been at it; but—”
“Years,” he said simply. “Off and on.”
“So your other stories,” she said, returning to the real point, “where are they?”
“Wherever I left them,” he said, stating the obvious.
Zari sighed. Pulling hen’s teeth had nothing on it. “Yes, but where was that?” she asked patiently.
“What’s it matter?” Mick got up, leaving his empties on the table.
“Well, I’m curious.” Zari set her fork on her empty plate. “The way you say it, I’d almost think you threw your stories away as soon as you wrote them—which would hardly make any sense given the effort you obviously put into writing them.”
“No,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that. Though they’ve been thrown out by someone. Long ago, I should think.” With that, he left the galley.
Taken aback, Zari abandoned her dishes and followed. She caught up just as he got to his quarters, and grabbed his arm. He turned to look at her in surprise.
“You can’t just leave it there!” she exclaimed.
“Whaddaya mean? Zee, you were on the run. You should know how it is! How many times did it happen? I dunno. I got arrested, tossed in jail; and that was that, right?” He shrugged. “All my things had to be left wherever I’d been living … shared squat, abandoned house, nice apartment when I had a bit of money ... didn’t matter. I’d be inside for however long … days, weeks, if I got bail; if not, months before they had the trial. Got off sometimes, got prison sometimes. Got out.” He paused for breath. “There’d be no point in going back, Zee,” he explained. “Someone would’ve took my stuff long before; landlord tossed it so he could rent the place, whatever. Just because I didn’t throw the stories out … they’re still gone, aren’t they?”
Zari nodded slowly, abashed. Yes, over her own years as a fugitive, she too had lost possessions as well as the greater loss of family. The reason was different; the consequences were the same.
“Why the hell d’you care, anyway?” asked Mick.
“Because I would have liked the chance.”
He looked surprised. “You mean you really want to read my stuff?”
It was hours later that the loud return of the rest of the Legends woke Zari. Wrapping her robe round her, she left her room to find that they had a miniature wolf in Axl’s old cage. “Not a werewolf,” said Ray ebulliently, “just another anachronism.”
“It’s a dire wolf,” Nate informed her. “They died out about nine or ten thousand years ago. Remember that sabretooth?”
“Before my time,” said Zari; but she had, of course, heard about it. She went over to take a closer look. The tiny wolf snarled as she loomed over it.
“Mind!” said Nate urgently. “It may look small and cute; but it still thinks it’s top of the food chain.”
“And will be, as soon as the shrink ray wears off,” Ray pointed out.
Zari poked curiously at the cage. For a moment, the dire wolf dithered. Then it lunged toward the wire, snapping at her finger. She pulled back fast, inspecting for damage.
Sara sighed. “Lock it in the brig till we get it back to its own time,” she ordered. “And, if it bit you, Zee, it’s your own damned fault.”
“Feed the thing,” said Mick pragmatically. “Something other than Zee, anyway. That’ll keep it quiet.”
The camouflaged Waverider took off; and Sara engaged the time drive. A few hours later and several thousand years earlier, the wolf was released in the Ice Age. The following week was one of routine and idleness. No further high-priority anachronisms required urgent attention. Ray occupied himself in the lab; Sara continued her courtship of Ava. But Nate—wherever else he might be found—took pains to avoid the library, with its memories of Amaya. Zari mostly had it to herself, catching up on the centuries of history that Gideon made accessible to the crew.
She wasn’t expecting to see Mick with a stack of typescripts. “Here,” he said roughly, thrusting them at her. “If you really do want them.”
“Yours?” She hefted the weight, and slid the top one aside to see the title page of the one underneath. “Where’d you get them?” she asked. “How’d you get them? I thought you said they’d been thrown out?”
“I took the jump ship,” he said simply. “Went back to each day; got the story as soon as the cops left, before anyone else came around.”
“Well, thank you,” said Zari, hitching the top stories up to have a peek at the bottom one. She looked up with a broad smile. “I mean it, Mick. I’m going to enjoy reading these.”
And she did.
Ten days later, Zari informed the author firmly that his novels were really good, and he should get them published. “Wouldn’t you like to see them in print?” she asked. Slyly she added, taking into account his generation, “Properly bound, with hard covers and a fancy dust jacket, sold to book clubs and libraries? Something you can hold in your hand.”
He snorted. “Who’d publish it? Anyway, we’re here, not there.”
“Not ‘there’ but ‘then’,” she countered. “It takes time for a book to get in print. So borrow the jump ship and go … oh, about five years back from your present day. Then next time you go home, you’ll have a nest egg of royalties.”
That brought a gleam to his eye. Still, he felt compelled to protest, “Everyone knows I never got books published! Back then I was a wanted man. I’d a record going back to my teens. If I walk into a publisher, soon as I tell them my name, they’ll call the cops on me. I ain’t going five years back just to get thrown in prison! Especially,” and he added the final clincher, “since it never happened. It’d change the timeline.”
“As if that’s never happened,” said Zari airily. “All in a good cause, Mick. All in a good cause. Though,” and she winked, “I don’t recommend telling Sara till it’s done.” After a pause, she added, “Give her one of your complimentary copies.”
“Bet Gideon don’t agree,” he declared. Looking up, he added, “She’s listening now. Aren’t you, Gideon?”
“Indeed, Mr. Rory. It is my duty to protect the timeline. But that doesn’t mean I should stop you, if you choose to get your books published.”
Zari frowned. Before she could say anything, though, Gideon added, “I’m familiar with the names of millennias of authors. What you need to do, Mr. Rory, is use a nom de plume.”
“A what?” said Mick.
“A pseudonym or allonym.”
“What Gideon means,” said Zari, “is that you should use an alias.”
“All you have to do is pick the right one.”