Chapter 1: The First Meeting
Chapter 1 : The First Meeting
The skyscrapers and streets of New York were aglitter with lights from people working late and cars driving out of the business areas, heading for home after a full day's work and Alice Kirkland's car was one of them as she drove her fiancé back to his apartment. He had his own car, they just carpooled on the busiest days so they would only need to look for one parking space. Alfred F Jones looked over the presentation they were holding the next day to begin the new business venture being started between himself, his brother Matthew Williams, Alice and, somehow, the god-son of their banker, Feliks Lukasiewicz.
Everything was riding on this and Alfred had been moving toward this point ever since he graduated college and moved into the food industry with Alice at his side. And with his brother's help, support and investment, he was now ready to make his food producing début with a new line of pre-prepared meals, The Fine Diner's Choice (name courtesy of Alice), under the name of their company, Hetalia Foods Ltd.
Tomorrow was do or die. They had to impress the clients or everything that they had worked for would be for nothing but a massive business loan that they would have to pay back. To say nothing of the future of their employees.
Alice gave a sideways glance at her blue eyed, blonde haired fiancé from the driver's seat as he pushed his glasses up his nose, the cowlick at the front of his hair bouncing with the movement of the car and knew he was worried. The silence gave him away and she knew it had to be about tomorrow. Not that she blamed him, they all had a lot riding on this and Alfred had been working on this for a full year. Tomorrow was make or break!
Alfred looked up at the girl who had stolen his heart back in college but it had not been love at first sight to begin with. Alice had caught Alfred's attention because, unlike most of the other girls on campus, the green eyed British girl with the long blonde hair, often in two ponytails, did nothing to try and attract his attention. Instead, he began doing the chasing. Alice had been very prickly toward him and Alfred had wondered why he bothered at times but he persevered and, eventually, the prickly exterior fell away and Alfred found that it had been well worth the time and energy.
Alfred had been an energetic and annoying fellow college student, the harem entourage had not helped and Alice had done her best to ignore him but this had, for some reason, drawn his eye. He spent the next few weeks, plaguing her and she did her best to make him give up but he was like a dog with a bone. After a few events where she saw his real character and not the energy filled, blue-eyed all-American boy façade he put on, she softened toward him and was very glad she did, she could not imagine being without him now.
Alfred's apartment building came into sight and Alice pulled in as Alfred closed the presentation file, looking at the building and then back at Alice.
"You wanna come up?" he asked. Alice winced slightly. One of Alfred's faults was his tendency to butcher the English language but she knew she stood a snowball's chance in Hell of changing that so she let it pass her by, or tried to.
"I don't think that would be a good idea," she replied. "You still have to write your presentation speech and you don't need the distraction." Alfred sighed, resignedly and nodded.
"Okay," he agreed. "I'll see you tomorrow." He leant over and gave his fiancée a quick kiss and got out of the car. She gave him a goodbye wave and pulled away, looking in the rear-view mirror as Alfred waved after her. Neither one noticed the old man, wearing a black coat and a black homburg hat against the cold New York night, briefly illuminated in Alice's headlights.
Alfred went into his apartment building and entered the elevator, punching the button for the fourth floor. He hummed to himself as the elevator rose, thinking about what he was going to say in his speech to the clients. He had a beginning in his head when the elevator stopped and the doors opened and Alfred made his way to the second door on the right, opened the door and went in.
He turned on the side-lights, lighting his living room in a soft glow and illuminating the two couches, coffee table and various pictures, like framed action movie posters, and artworks on the wall. Some photos, mostly of Alfred and Alice or Alfred and Matthew also graced the walls and stood on sideboards by the walls. Pictures of happy moments in time, caught for prosperity.
Alfred took off his jacket, revealing an opened shirt, with a t-shirt underneath, hanging down over his jeans. He flung the jacket on the couch, picked up a voice recorder and was about to turn it on when there was a knock on his door. He put the recorder down and went to see who was outside.
He opened the door and, on his threshold stood an old man in a black coat and wearing an old style hat. He looked to be in his mid-sixties or almost seventy with blue eyes and large, greying eyebrows, looking at Alfred as if he was trying to work something out.
"Can I help you?" Alfred asked when the old man did not say anything.
"Mr Jones?" the man inquired, British by his accent. "Mr Alfred F Jones?"
"Yeaaah!" Alfred said, slowly, wondering who this stranger was and what he wanted with him.
"This might be a strange question," the old man told him. "But …. are you ….. all right?"
"Totally fine," Alfred replied, wondering if he had made a mistake opening the door to this guy.
"Has anything happened in the past few minutes?" the man asked. "Anything …... unusual?"
"Only you," Alfred replied. He did not mean to be rude but he was tired and he still had work to do so he wanted this man to get to the point so he could get back to it.
"May I come in for a moment?" the old man asked but Alfred was already wary of this man.
"I'm kind of busy at the moment," he said. "So, unless you can write a speech ….." The old man was silent for a moment.
"Do you have the time?" the man asked. Alfred decided to indulge the man so it might get rid of him faster and he looked at his watch.
"9:15 pm," he replied. "Exactly." The old man took out a pocket watch and checked it.
"9:15 pm, exactly," he muttered. "I don't understand, it should have already happened!"
"Look," Alfred said. "I don't wanna be rude but I have a speech to write for tomorrow and clearly, you've made some kind of mistake so do you mind if I ….. go?" He indicated going back into his apartment. The old man sighed.
"I'm sorry for the inconvenience, Mr Jones," he apologised, tipping his hat. "Good evening." And he turned and left. Alfred shut his apartment door and went back to his work.
"Whack-job!" he commented, picking the voice recorder up and turning it on. He put it back down on the table and began to rehearse his speech.
"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen," he said in his best announcing voice, walking around as he spoke. "I would like to thank you for coming today to …..." A rumble of thunder distracted him and he frowned. There had been no mention of any storms in the weather forecast but …. meh, weather!
"I would like to thank you," he continued. "for coming today to the launch of the first venture of our new company, Hetalia Foods Ltd and I am proud to present to you, The Fine Diner's Choice!"
Suddenly the thunder came again and seemed to be inside the apartment, followed by lightning that danced around the room, leapt into Alfred's hands and then jumped into his body.
Alfred was blinded for a while by sudden light and then he could feel water seeping into his shoes. He looked down and found he was stood in a muddy puddle and he looked up and round. He realised that it was light because he was now outside in the daytime, in what appeared to be a muddy field with a few spindly trees here and there, along with piles of debris and barbed wire. The whole place looked like pictures Alfred had seen of battlefields.
'What just happened?' he continued to stare around him in shock. 'Where's my apartment? Why am I in the middle of nowhere? Why is it day and how did I get here?'
Alfred's t-shirt and shirt did little to keep out the cold that permeated the air and he began to shiver. He never did like the cold and it came with a hint of ice on the wind that seemed to be spluttering in the spindly trees.
Then Alfred realised that it was not the trees that were spluttering and the spluttering was getting louder and was coming from the sky and he looked up as, in the sky above him, came what looked like an old-style bi-plane. Other than pictures, Alfred had never seen a bi-plane before and he felt as if he needed to duck as it struggled to fly over his head. He watched as it hit the ground several meters away from him, flip over and came to rest upside down.
It took a moment of staring at the downed vintage aircraft for it to occurred to Alfred that someone had to have been flying the plane and he made his way through the mud to reach the bi-plane. He came around the wing, bearing what looked like the logo of the British RAF and saw something moving about in the upside down cockpit and he knelt down beside the plane.
"Hello?" Alfred called into the cockpit and a face appeared, wearing a leather flying helmet and goggles.
"Hello there, old chap," the pilot said with a British accent, like he was meeting a new acquaintance at a party. "Would you mind giving me a hand? I'm in a bit of a sticky wicket here."
"You don't say," Alfred muttered, kneeling down to help pull the pilot out of the plane as the man struggled out of the seat harness but his legs seemed to be stuck inside the cockpit.
"Hurry up!" the man said, urgently. "They'll start to whiz-bang us any time now." Alfred did not know what 'whiz-bang' meant but it did not sound good and he pulled the man harder. Whatever had trapped the man's legs gave up the struggle and Alfred pulled him out of the upside down plane and helped him to his feet.
"Better get away from the plane," the man suggested, grabbed Alfred's arm and pulled him away from the plane and around a large pile of debris. There was a whistling noise and the pilot pulled Alfred down to the ground and there was a deafening explosion with bits and pieces raining down on their heads
When Captain Arthur Kirkland's aircraft was hit by whatever new weapon the German Empire had developed, he found his plane had become almost uncontrollable, as if Sopwith Camels were not difficult to handle as they were but it was all he could do to bring it down without smashing head first into the soil but the wheels still caught in the mud and the Sopwith Camel performed a slow somersault on to its back.
He had to get out fast. The Hun would know the general area he had gone down and start shelling the spot so he had to relocate fast and he began undoing his seat restraints.
"Hello?" The English word was spoken with a bit of an accent that Arthur could not identify with that single utterance but it was not French nor German and he looked out of the cockpit at the upside down sight of a young man's face with blonde hair and blue eyes. The man looked confused as if he did not understand what was going on.
"Hello there, old chap," he replied with a friendly tone, hoping that this was an ally and not an enemy. "Would you mind giving me a hand? I'm in a bit of a sticky wicket here." The man muttered something like, "You don't say!" as he put his hands under Arthur's arm and began pulling him out but Arthur was not really listening as he realised that one of his legs had gotten trapped in the harness and he was struggling to free himself. They did not have much time before enemy artillery began raining down on them.
"Hurry up!" Arthur advised with an air of urgency. "They'll start to whiz-bang us any time now." The man pulled harder and the harness released its hold on his leg and he was pull free of the downed bi-plane. Arthur got his feet under himself and looked into the sky,
"Better get away from the plane," he said, taking the man's arm and dragging him to a large pile of wood and wreckage, the largest piece of cover he could see and, as they reached it, Arthur could already hear the whistling sound of an incoming shell and pulled the man down behind the debris, just as the plane exploded.
Alfred's head inched over the top of the wreckage that he and the British pilot had taken cover behind, to see the plane he had pulled the pilot from in flames and surrounded by pieces that had been blown off the plane when it was hit by the shell. The plane they had been standing beside only a few moments earlier.
Someone had fired something at the downed bi-plane! Actually shot at it! With the intention of killing the pilot but why? Why would someone shoot at a vintage plane? Why?
Beside him, he heard the pilot curse and Alfred turned to see the man pull off his helmet and goggles, revealing a head of messy blonde hair, green eyes and the biggest eyebrows Alfred had ever seen, bigger even than that old man's had been. The pilot ran out to pick up a piece of wreckage that had been part of the plane, apparently. It looked like a camera but one of the old kind with the concertina style lens on it and it looked damaged. The pilot checked it and then threw it down in frustration.
"Blast!" Arthur had hoped that the photographic plate in the camera had survived damage after everything he went through to get a picture of the German secret weapon but luck was clearly not on his side as the plate was smashed and broken. "Lost the bloody photograph!" Arthur was going to have to go out and try again, once he made it back to Base because they needed information about whatever the enemy had developed. Then he remembered the man who had pulled him out of the plane, giving him the chance to live and do just that.
He finally got a good look at the man and his first sight of the man had been correct but now he could see the weird lock of hair that stood up above the rest of his head, somewhat taller than him and he noticed that the man wore glasses and some very strange clothes, certainly not clothes for a battlefield on a cold day. But strange clothes or not, Arthur owed this man his life.
"Thanks for the help," he said to the man who seemed to still be in some kind of shock. Arthur held out his hand for the man to shake which he did in a kind of trance. "I'm Captain Arthur Kirkland."
The last few moments had left Alfred in a complete state of confusion as the world had seemed to go mad around him and, when the pilot held out his hand, Alfred had just automatically shook it. He heard the pilot introduce himself as Captain Arthur Kirkland but he was too dazed to comment on the man having the same last name as his fiancée. After shaking Arthur Kirkland's hand, he took a business card out of his jean's pocket and handed it to Arthur.
"Alfred F Jones," he replied, still slightly dazed. "Hetalia Foods Ltd." Arthur took the card, giving it a good look. He could understand Jones's name and he believed that some kind of address was printed on the card but what did E-mail address mean? Then he placed the accent.
"You're American!" he exclaimed. Arthur knew the Americans were entering the war but he did not think it would be this soon. "I heard you chaps were coming over." He looked Alfred's clothes over again. "Unusual uniform. Or hasn't it arrived yet?" Alfred looked down at himself and then at Arthur. Arthur was wearing some kind of uniform jumpsuit but it was old fashioned, like he was looking at a picture from years back. And what did Arthur mean ' I heard you chaps were coming over?'
"Well, it's not safe here," Arthur declared. "It's time we moved, come on!" Arthur began running toward the trees but Alfred had finally had enough and he wanted answers.
"Right, this is not making any sense," he declared. "HEY, ARTIE!" Arthur turned to look back at Alfred with a somewhat disgruntled look on his face at the name Alfred had called him.
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!"
The fire consuming the plane must have hit the fuel tank because the plane exploded behind Alfred and he was thrown through the air....
.….And bounced off his couch on to the floor beside his coffee table.
Alfred looked around in another state of shock as he found himself lying on the floor of his lounge. There was no indication that anything unusual had happened in the room. It was still dark outside and Alfred began to wonder if he had fallen asleep on the sofa and it had all been a dream.
But his feet still felt wet and he looked down at his dirty shoes, proving that he had stepped in something muddy. He ran his fingers over his head and winced as they touched a fresh wound on his forehead that had not been there before. He might have been hit by flying debris when the plane exploded. That's if it really happened.
Did it really happen?
Alfred was still tired after a restless night. He had not slept well, thinking about the strange events, not knowing if they really happened or if he had dreamt it. And the wound on his head, where he now had a wad of gauze taped over it, did not help and that was after he finally got his speech done. He had already had two mugs of strong coffee and he needed another one. Maybe he could catch a couple of hours sleep after the presentation.
He took his own car to the office and, as he got out of the car, he heard noise that sounded, at first, like artillery shells hitting the ground and Alfred dove for cover behind his car.
'Damn, it's happening again!' Alfred's mind screamed in panic. Then the sound settled into the more familiar noise of a pneumatic drill, being used by the road-workers on the other side of the street. Some kids standing nearby saw him laid out on the concrete on his stomach and began sniggering.
'Okay,' he thought. 'That was embarrassing!' He picked himself up, gave the sniggering kids a smile, like he had meant to do that and went into the building.
He was collared, just as he got to their floor, by his blonde, violet-eyed brother who was really mad, the curling strand of hair that fell between his eyes quivering with anger, not at Alfred but at their unofficial colleague who had made an advertising decision without consulting anyone. After asking about the bandage on his head and being assured that it was nothing, Matthew dragged Alfred over to where the prepared meals were laid out for the potential clients to view, to see what the problem was.
"Look at that packaging!" Matthew said. The original style had been to show a well-groom, butler-type man present a prepared meal on a silver tray. There was a maid holding the tray instead, in a very skimpy costume with very large, barely concealed boobs who was bent over slightly over the meal, giving a good view of her cleavage, one straining button away from a wardrobe malfunction. "We're supposed to be selling a fine dining experience, not dinner and a show."
"Hey," came a European sounding voice, followed by the appearance of a blonde man? Woman? with green eyes who wrapped their arms around Alfred and Matthew's shoulders. Feliks Lukasiewicz was coming to defend his advertising decision, despite knowing that at least one of his colleagues was very unhappy with him right now.
"You just have to, like, know what sells," he continued. "And it's, totes, sex appeal. We've got, like, one for the ladies too." He held out another meal box.
"Oh maple!" Matthew groaned, face-palming. On the box was the butler, very buffed up and wearing nothing but a shirt collar and tie and a short black apron, just about covering his meat and two veg. Alice wandered over after seeing that Alfred had arrived, taking one look at the packaging and putting her foot down.
"Under no circumstances are we using THAT!" she declared, disgusted. "Where would we advertise it, a porn channel?"
"Come on, Alfred," Feliks begged. Alfred shook his head.
"Sorry, Feliks," he said. "It's not the image we want." The problem was that it was too late to change it so that was the first thing to go wrong. Alfred hoped it was the only thing as he looked over the cooked meals ready for the clients to try, being kept at full temperature on the food warmers. At least nothing had been changed there.
"You could, like, almost want to eat it, couldn't you," Feliks commented, although Alfred could not tell if he was being facetious but did not want to argue so took him literally.
"Looks delicious," he replied and went to deal with other details before the presentation and so did not see Feliks pick up a chicken leg from one of the meals, take a sneaky bite and put it back.
Matthew caught up with Alfred as he walked to his office, grumbling about their meddling co-worker.
"I like Feliks," Matthew complained. "I do but I just wish he was not involved with the company."
"He's not that bad, Mattie," Alfred replied. "And not all of his ideas suck. Besides, while his godfather runs the bank that holds our loan, we're kind of stuck with him."
"More's the pity," Matthew commented as they went into Alfred's office, not knowing that someone was about to further disrupt Alfred's day.
Chapter 2: Second Try
Alfred gets a second visit....and a second trip...
Chapter 2 : Second Try
Peter Arthur Kirkland realised he had jumped the gun last night. He had gone back to his records and realised that when an unusual event had happened at 9:15 pm, it had been his arrival at Jones's door. Jones's skip into the past was two minutes later and Peter hoped he had not messed anything up with his little miscalculation as he headed toward Jones's office.
Alice came out of her office to head for the presentation area and Peter ducked out of sight. It would not do for his granddaughter to see him. She could not know that he was in the states, not right now. What were the odds that the very man he had to help guide through what he was about to go through, would end up being his granddaughter's fiancé?
Peter had kept all this from her but the family history was packed in a special file with his lawyer that would have been released to Alice's father, had anything happened to him before time but it had not so it fell to him to help Alfred on his new path.
When Alice was out of sight, Peter made his way to Alfred's office where he was talking to his brother about last minute details. When Alfred looked up and saw the old man, he went pale.
"Mattie," he said. "Can you give me a few minutes?" Matthew turned to see Peter standing in the doorway, then looked back at Alfred.
"Sure, Al," he replied and left, wondering how Alfred knew this man and what was it about him had his brother on edge.
After Matthew left, Peter shut the door so they would not be disturbed and no one would over-hear what they were going to discuss. He took a good look at the gauze on Alfred's head.
"You've hit your head, I see," he said. "Did that happen after I left, last night?"
"Why do you want to know?" Alfred asked, warily.
"Were you hit by a plane?" Peter asked. "A piece of burning plane?" Alfred raised his eyebrows.
"How did you know that?" Alfred was officially freaked out now. Peter was excited but had Alfred done what needed doing?
"Please tell me you rescued the pilot," he begged. He had the feeling Alfred had but he needed to hear it.
"All right," Alfred said, taking a step back from this strange man. "Who are you?"
"Then it did happen," Peter exclaimed. "Please, you must tell me everything you can remember."
"Are you investigating me for some reason?" Alfred demanded.
"No, no," Peter reassured Alfred. "You're not in any trouble. Just tell me everything, please."
"Okay," Alfred replied. "I was trying to write a speech in my living room. Suddenly I was on some kind of battlefield and everything was cold and wet."
"The Western Front, 1917," Peter replied. Alfred raised his eyebrows.
"Where did you say?"
"This old bi-plane flew over me and crashed," Alfred replied. "I pulled the pilot out of the wreckage."
"So you did save the pilot?" Peter asked. "You did save Arthur Kirkland?"
"Yeah," Alfred said. "That was the guy's name."
"There was some firing and the plane blew up," Alfred replied. "Then I was back in my living room. I know it sounds nuts."
"What about the camera?" Peter asked. "Did Arthur save the camera?"
"No," Alfred replied. "It was wrecked in the explosion. Look, whoever you are, can you tell me what happened to me last night?"
"All I can tell you is that it will happen again," Peter replied. He wanted to tell Alfred everything but he had to follow the trail of events. Instead he reached into his inner coat pocket and dropped a business card on Alfred's desk. "You must come to London when it does. You'll find my name and address on the card."
"Are you nuts?" Alfred blurted. "I can't go to London, I have a business to get off the ground." But Peter just tipped his hat to him.
"Good day, Mr Jones," he said and headed for the door but before he opened it, he turned back. "By the way, don't tell Alice about any of this." Then he opened the door and left.
' What did that mean, don't tell Alice?' He pondered and picked up the card. On one side it said 1A Tower Bridge, London with a silhouette of the famous landmark printed above it and he turned it over. On the other side, it said Air Commodore Peter A Kirkland, Special Air Force. Retired.
Wait! Alice Kirkland! Arthur Kirkland! Peter Kirkland! Suddenly his life was full of Kirklands! What was going on here?
The old man clearly knew Alice and, having the last name, he wondered if they were somehow related and he was going to ask her but, since the old man told him not to tell Alice, he wondered if he was some relative that she was not getting along with so he decided to ask her after the presentation. He did not want to upset her and certainly not before the most important event on their business calendar.
Clients strolled around, looking at what Hetalia Foods Ltd had to offer and he and Alice circulated among them, making sure that they were having a good time and trying to gauge their reaction to their product, making sure that the hired waiters and waitresses saw to everybody, making sure that their glasses were filled. Alfred and Alice finally managed to catch up with each other as they moved through their guests.
"How's it going?" he asked.
"It's all going fine so far," Alice replied. "The buyer from Imperium Stores has arrived." Alfred's head came up.
"Oh boy!" he exclaimed, pulling his white dress jacket down, trying to tidy his hair, mainly the errant lock, and straightening his glasses. "How do I look?"
"Great as always," Alice smiled at her slightly panicked fiancé.
"Okay," he replied. "Wish me luck."
"And plenty of it," she said. "It's Ivan Braginski." Alfred groaned. He and Ivan were in college together and they were, of course, rivals. The strange thing was, the more they sparked off each other, the more they challenged each other and they seemed to push each other into improving.
Still, they had been rivals but Ivan was not the type to cut off his nose to spite his face. If he thought that The Fine Diner's Choice would be a profitable venture, he would deal with Alfred on behalf of Imperium Stores so Alfred would just have to convince Ivan that it was a profitable venture.
And if Imperium Stores became a client, others would follow suit.
Alfred walked over to a tall man with ash-blonde hair, wearing a very smart suit who was looking over the displayed meals thoroughly, looking for the pros and cons of the product.
"Hello, Ivan," Alfred greeted as pleasantly as possible. Ivan turned to face his old college rival, his violet eyes shimmering with mischief and his old smile still in place.
"Privet, Fredka," he replied, using the name he called Alfred in college. He looked around at the presentation that Alfred had gone all out on. The room was decorated from top to bottom and there was a singing act in the corner, entertaining potential clients as they sampled the meals on display. "Going for the big time, I see."
"I think our product will do it for us," Alfred replied with confidence, although underneath he was nervous. Ivan picked up the two pieces of packaging with the barely dressed butler and waitress on the covers and raised an eyebrow at Alfred.
"I thought you were selling food, Fredka" he commented. "Not silicone implants and steroids." Alfred took the packaging from Ivan.
"A mistake in the marketing department," he explained. "This won't be the packaging we're using. The food, I'm sure, will be to your taste."
"Let us see, shall we," Ivan replied. He picked up a cooked meal and took a large sniff at the food.
"It needs more aroma," he commented. "Our customers like to be able to really smell their meal." Ivan was actually playing with Alfred. The smell was fine, in fact the meal looked good but he was not going to let Alfred know that just yet. Ivan wanted his fun first.
"Well, we can work on that," Alfred replied. He had an idea that Ivan was just yanking his chain, he had not changed since college. Ivan took a fork to pick up the chicken leg. To find that a large bite had already been taken out of it.
Oh shit! Alfred thought as he rushed to pick up another meal. "Sorry! Try this one." Ivan had to hide his grin. Although, he did not know why the chicken leg was missing a large piece, it was not uncommon for clients to only take a bite of each part of the meal they were sampling but, while it was not considered acceptable to take a bite of each thing from different meals and move on, it happened and Ivan guessed that was the case here.
"It is no problem, mon drug ( my friend )," he replied. "Someone was certainly tempted. I have a question about the creamed corn, however. It looks a little like ….. what is it I am trying to say? …... dog puke!" Alfred just smiled, took the meal from Ivan and dug a fork into it.
"Ivan," he said. "I would bet that your customers would say that they had never tasted better dog puke." Ivan had to laugh. He had missed his rival since leaving college, no one understood him like Alfred. Ivan did not think he had ever had a better frienemy.
Alfred believed that he just might have won Ivan over. They would never really be friends, they were too competitive around each other but they respected each other, even as they bickered but, right now, Alfred had the feeling that things were going great.
And that was when he heard the thunder. No one else seemed to hear it nor see the lightning that appeared in the room.
' All I can tell you is that it will happen again ' Peter Kirkland had said and it looked like he was telling the truth as Alfred dove behind a placard advertising the dinners and out of sight of everyone.
And found himself sitting on some kind of seat in an enclosed space that had, what looked like, some kind of control stick. When he sat up straight, he found himself looking at the wings of a bi-plane. It looked like he was sat in the back cockpit of a two-seater plane, the front cockpit armed with a gun, aiming in front and, when Alfred looked round, discovering that his chair swivelled, he found another gun behind him that looked like it could be moved around the edge of the cockpit he was sat in.
Alfred looked round at the voice and found himself looking into the surprised eyes of Arthur Kirkland.
Arthur Kirkland approached the Bristol Fighter he was flying on his new mission to try to photograph the enemy's secret weapon, having lost his Sopwith Camel on his last mission, three days ago. That reminded him of the American who had appeared out of nowhere and pretty much save him from being blown up along with his plane. Arthur still did not know what had happened to Jones, the last sight was of him being flung through the air when the plane exploded and landing out of sight behind some debris. Arthur had rushed to the American's aid but Jones had been nowhere to be seen. Arthur had tried to search for him but had been forced to retreat when the area was hit with more shelling. Arthur hoped Jones had somehow escaped the shelling and had taken refuge somewhere but the shelling had been pretty bad and, if Jones had been injured, Arthur did not hold out much hope.
Until he climbed onto the wing of the Bristol Fighter to get into the front cockpit and found the blonde, blue eyed American sitting in the back cockpit.
"You again!" he exclaimed, although he was happy to see Jones alive and well. He just never expected to find him in his assigned aircraft. "Where did you appear from?" Alfred looked up at Arthur wearing his leather flying helmet but his goggles were on his head so Alfred could still see Arthur's green eyes.
"Well ….," but Alfred did not know how to answer that but, fortunately, he was saved from answering as Arthur was mentally cursing whoever had put Jones on this mission. He wondered how Jones was even a pilot if he needed glasses.
"You shouldn't have been assigned to this plane," he said. "Chances are likely that this will probably be a one-way mission." Alfred did not like the sound of that.
"Hey, Artie," he demanded. "What do you mean, one way?" Arthur climbed into the front cockpit and turned to look at Alfred.
"First," he replied. "My name is Arthur, not Artie! Second, the Germans have a new weapon. I was trying to get a photograph of it and that's what caused my plane to crash. I have to go out and try again." He indicated to an old-style camera attached to the side of the plane. "And you saw how the last mission ended."
'Like I'd ever forget that!' Alfred thought as Arthur sat down in his own cockpit and buckled up the harness so Alfred did the same but he and Arthur really need to discuss this.
"There's a spare helmet and goggles in there," Arthur told him. Alfred found them and began pulling on the helmet.
"Artie," he called at the back of Arthur's head. "I really need to talk to you." Arthur just pulled his goggles down.
"No time for talk," he replied as he started the Bristol's engine. "Just look!" Alfred put the goggles on over his eyes which fortunately accommodated his glasses. He wondered what he was supposed to be looking at as they took to the skies.
Wolfgang Beilschmidt drove on to the airfield where his Halberstadt was fuelled and waiting for him. He had given orders for his plane to be prepared after it was reported that an enemy aircraft had been spotted, heading for the restricted area. He wondered if it was connected to the attempt three days prior but whether it was or it was not, one thing was clear.
No information about what was there could fall into enemy hands.
Soldiers saluted as he drove past and pulled up. Leaving the car, he made his way to his bi-plane, taking off his cap, revealing his blonde hair which he kept longer than his fellows, braided at the sides and pulled back to the nape of his neck. His blue eyes swept the plane, looking for anything out of the ordinary, even though he knew the ground crew would have check the plane over already.
He climbed into the cockpit and another soldier ran up to the plane, carrying a metal helmet with a mask that had protective shields over the eyes and Wolfgang put it on. Everyone cleared out of the way of the plane as he started the engine. He throttled down the airfield and his plane lifted into the air.
Casual conversation in the air was not possible in a bi-plane unless they shouted at each other so the flight was talk free as the plane flew over the German occupied French and then Belgium countryside. Alfred, stuck in the back cockpit, was bored so he occupied himself with looking around. And that was how he spotted the second bi-plane.
He reached over and tapped Arthur on the shoulder and, when Arthur looked round, he pointed out the plane. Arthur turned back to the controls and began evasive manoeuvres but the plane bearing the symbol of the iron cross kept up with him. He took the plane close to the ground and circled round trees but he still could not shake the German plane.
It came neck and neck with them and Alfred looked over at the pilot of the other plane to find himself looking at someone wearing an iron mask. It was quite sinister, the eyes peering at him through the eye-holes, the colour too far away to see but they were firmly fixed on their plane.
"Man the gun!" Arthur yelled and Alfred turned the seat so he was facing the Lewis gun and took hold of the trigger but then realised that he had no idea how to operate this thing. He pressed the trigger but nothing happened and he realised that the safety catch was on and he had to find where it was and release it. Arthur kept twisting and turning the Bristol, still trying to shake the other plane which had begun shooting at them.
"Shoot back!" Arthur ordered and Alfred found what he believed was the safety and clicked it off. He pulled the trigger and the gun began firing but his aim was off as the German plane evaded the bullets easily. Alfred kept firing but then the gun gave a funny click and stopped shooting.
"The gun's jammed!"
"Well, unjam it!" Arthur shouted back. "I'll try to outrun him!"
Arthur wondered just what kind of training Jones had been given. It took him forever to get the gun firing and now he was taking forever to unjam it. Arthur tried to lose the other plane by flying through more trees but the other pilot was as competent as him and Jones had still not unjammed the gun.
"What did they train you for?" he shouted.
The two planes zipped down the gap between the trees with the German plane still firing and, somehow, Alfred's gun unjammed itself and Alfred began firing again. Arthur took the Bristol into the air and the Halberstadt followed. They peeled away from each other and Arthur took the bi-plane back in the direction he had been heading in but the German plane did not follow.
"He's gone!" Alfred shouted. "We lost him!" The fact that they seemed to have caught a break seem too good to be true.
That was because it was.
Wolfgang cursed as the British plane managed to evade him at every turn and dodge every bullet but he had managed to avoid the gunfire coming from the enemy plane too but it meant that the plane was now within reach of the weapon.
But the weapon had brought down the last plane, it could bring this one down too.
He took out the special flare gun for just this reason and aimed it in the air. He pulled the trigger and a bright red flare shot into the sky.
A mile away, the flare was spotted by a German lookout who relayed it to the special hidden base and the commander stepped forward, looking down into the turbine room to the men awaiting orders.
"Mann deine Stationen! ( Man your stations! )," he ordered and the men ran to where they needed to be.
"Projektor bereitstellen! ( Deploy projector! )"
Outside, in a large field, something camouflaged began to rise from the ground. A giant circular device was pulled into the air by a giant metal support, resembling a satellite dish, constructed of bits and pieces of metal with what looked like a transmission tower jutting out of the centre.
"Projektor eingesetzt! ( Projector deployed )," one of the soldiers shouted back.
Out in the field, a low hum came from the dish and was emitted out through the air. The air rippled as the sound intensified and moved toward the British plane heading its way.
The weapon was in sight and Arthur pressed the camera trigger and the camera clicked.
"Got it!" he said, triumphantly. Now they just had to escape and get back to base and that was when things went wrong. One moment Arthur had the plane under complete control, the next it was shaking around him and it brought back bad memories of his last mission when the vibrations drove his Sopwith Camel into the ground. Alfred could feel the vibrations under his seat and around him and he did not like it. He felt like the plane was going to break apart.
"Arthur!" he shouted over the sound of the wind. "What's wrong with the plane?"
"Same thing as my last mission," Arthur shouted back, struggling with the plane controls. "They're using the weapon." They had to get out of range, the plane could not take much more of this punishment so Arthur raised the plane's nose.
"Hang on!" he shouted back at Alfred. "I'll go higher and try to get above it." Arthur pushed the engine to the limit to avoid losing speed as the plane climbed, still being shaking by the rippling air and, just when he thought that they were not going to make it, the plane pulled up into clear air and the shaking settled into normal plane operating vibration. Both Arthur and Alfred breathed a sigh of relief.
"That's it!" Arthur shouted to Alfred. "We're out of range!" Alfred grinned back at Arthur but the grin vanished when they both heard something clanking on the plane. Arthur looked down to the sound that was coming from the wind, to see that the camera had broken free of its mounting and was bouncing against the skin of the wing on a single securing strap.
"Take over!" he shouted to Alfred. Alfred was perplexed. What does he mean, take over?
"Take over what?" he shouted back. Arthur looked back at him like he had just asked a stupid question.
"The controls, of course!" he shouted back. "Just keep her steady." And Arthur began to lean out of the cockpit, trying to reach the camera. Alfred took hold of the control stick in his cockpit but he began to panic. He had no idea how to fly one of these things so he concentrated on trying to hold the stick in the same place.
He did not know what he did wrong but the plane began tilting to the right. The good thing was it caused the camera to drift into Arthur's hands. The bad thing was, as Arthur pulled himself back into the cockpit, the plane's nose dipped and the plane became inverted. Arthur secured the camera and took back control, wondering just who had trained Jones. He was a terrible gunner and he could not fly a plane to save his life. After a struggle, Arthur managed to get the plane the right way up and flying even. Then they were on their way back.
Arthur held the controls in one hand and took the photographic plate out of the camera with the other. He did not want to leave it in the camera after what had happened to the other one and he passed it to Alfred so he could use both hands to take them in for a landing. The plane touched down on the airfield and they could finally relax, knowing that they had made it, mission completed.
Arthur climbed out of the plane to make sure that the chocks were being put under the wheels, probably by the crewman who ran to the plane with them. The ground crew knew what they were doing but Arthur always felt the need to check.
Alfred climbed on to the edge of the cockpit, taking a moment to breathe and take off the helmet and goggles. Now he was not in the air being shot at or being shaken out of the sky, he could take a moment to process what had happened. If he had doubted Peter Kirkland's claim that Alfred had travelled back to 1917, Alfred did not doubt it now. He had just been in an air battle in World War I.
Arthur was satisfied that the chocks were in place and looked back at Jones who had climbed up to sit on the edge of the cockpit, his unusual white jacket smudged with oil and grime from the cockpit and taking deep breaths, then his head came up and looked Arthur in the eye. Arthur gave a triumphant grin and Jones grinned back, holding up the photographic plate. Then, to Arthur's horror, Jones lost his balance and fell backwards, taking the photographic plate with him. If they lost that plate after everything they had gone through to get it …Arthur ran round the other side of the plane to see if Jones was all right and the plate was intact.
Jones was nowhere to be seen. And neither was the photographic plate.
Everyone in the presentation room turned when the placard that Alfred had dove behind suddenly fell over and Alfred rolled out on to the floor, his white jacket, almost black with smudges and dirt and he shot to his feet and looked around him in wide-eyed surprise. When he fell from the plane, he had expected to hit earth and grass but, instead he hit carpet. Right in front of all of his potential clients, with absolute proof that this was not a weird, black-out dream as he was still holding the photographic plate.
Everyone was staring at him, especially Ivan who, for the first time since Alfred had known him, looked like he did not know what to think and even looked a little concerned. Alfred scrambled to his feet and tried to run for the door but he was intercepted by Alice.
"Alfred, what's wrong?" she demanded. "What happened?"
"Please, Alice," he replied, trying to get past her but she kept blocking his path and he had to get away from her before he jumped again. He had to go and talk to Peter Kirkland. "I just can't explain."
"Just tell me what's going on!" she insisted. Alfred physically moved her out of his way and ran for the door.
"It's not safe to be around me, Alice," he called back. "Just stay away from me!"
"Where are you going?" she shouted as he reached the door.
"London!" he called and disappeared through the door.
Next : Alfred gets a full explanation while his family and friends worry about his behaviour...and Arthur meets an former acquaintance...
Chapter 3: The Kirkland Clan
Alice chases after Alfred while he meets more Kirklands....
Chapter 3 : The Kirkland Clan
Early the next morning, a flight from New York touched down at Heathrow Airport and Alfred disembarked. After he had run out of the presentation, he had gone immediately home, quickly showered and changed, packed a bag with a change of clothes and toiletries, grabbed his passport and bought a ticket on the first available flight to London.
After going though Customs and collecting his bag, Alfred got a taxi and went immediately to 1A London Bridge, looking for answers about the strange events that had plagued his life of late. Alfred wondered about the address because, as far as he knew, there were no houses on the bridge, not that he had ever seen in pictures anyway.
1A Tower Bridge turned out to be one of the towers of the bridge, A1 in a black metal letter and number on a solid oak door with large ironwork hinges. Alfred hammered on the door, not expecting the door to be unlocked and for it to swing open.
"Hello!" he called out but got no reply. He tentatively stepped inside, shutting the door behind him and went further into the tower. Inside was the old mechanism for lifting the bridge and he made his way past the more-than-a-century old machinery toward a steep staircase that he began to climb. When he got to the top, Alfred was a little winded and he took a moment to catch his breath before continuing on.
He came up to another door, like you would find to a library in a stately home, also made of oak. Not knowing what was behind it, Alfred decided to knock.
"Come in," a voice said from within.
Alfred turned the door handle and pushed the door open. The room inside looked like a study with books and artefacts, mostly military, on bookshelves and tables with a couple of chesterfield armchairs in front of a roaring fireplace with a portrait of the Queen of England above it. In one of the armchairs sat Peter Kirkland with his back to Alfred, reading a book.
"You're right on time, Mr Jones," he said, turning a page. "I've been expecting you." Alfred wondered if that was why the front door had been unlocked. He walked into the room and stood in front of Peter Kirkland who looked up from his book.
"Welcome to my … lair, I suppose," Peter said to him. "Cosy, don't you think? The noise when they raise the bridge is somewhat troublesome but that's not very often. Would you like to sit down and I'll get some tea?"
"I don't want any tea!" Alfred snapped. "I just wanna know what the Hell is going on! I don't know how or why you're doing this to me but I have people and a business relying on me and I want, whatever this is, to stop now!" Peter winced at the increase in volume in Alfred's voice and got out of his armchair.
"Please don't shout, Mr Jones," he replied.
"And while we're on this subject," Alfred replied. "What's your connection to Alice? You asked me not to tell her about this and you have the same last name so what are you to my fiancé?"
"Alice is my granddaughter," Peter told Alfred. "She might not have mentioned me because I'm the eccentric one of the family. Since my father died, I've taken on the family secret and the rest of the family now think I'm missing a marble or two."
"And that secret is ….?" Alfred waited for an answer.
"You, Mr Jones," Peter replied. "May I call you Alfred?" Alfred nodded. "Your journeys back in time to assist my grandfather have been documented and my family has been waiting for you to appear, although I never thought you would be engaged to my own grandchild."
"Your grandfather?" Alfred inquired.
"You're Artie's grandson!" Alfred tried hard to process all the information while Peter smiled. He knew he had surprised Alfred with that little piece of information, although, like with Alice, he should have suspected a connection.
Alfred had also realised something. He had only seen Arthur twice and both times he had been wearing flying gloves so he had no idea if Arthur was married or not and if he was not, unless he had had an affair resulting in a child, then it was unlikely Arthur had children yet so, if anything happened to Arthur before he could marry and have children... Alfred had to make sure that Arthur stayed alive, otherwise Peter, and more importantly Alice, would never exist.
No pressure there!
"You seem to have an affinity with the Kirkland family, Alfred," Peter quipped. Alfred shook his head in disbelief.
"Why me?" he demanded. "Why did you have to drop this on me?"
"Alfred, you are the last person I would have 'dropped' this on," Peter replied, candidly. "Quite apart from the fact that you're engaged to my granddaughter, fortunately you've never had to fight for your country, or your life for that matter."
"I wouldn't call being shot at by some ass-hole wearing an iron mask in a German bi-plane not fighting for my life," Alfred retorted. Peter's large eyebrows were raised.
"Beilschmidt!" he muttered. "It had to be Beilschmidt."
"Just tell me what's going on," Alfred insisted. Peter nodded and indicated to the other armchair.
"Take a seat, Alfred," he said. "I'll tell you what I can." Alfred sat down in the chair while Peter went to pick up a framed sepia photograph and brought it over to Alfred.
"As you know," Peter began. "The man you met was Captain Arthur Kirkland and this is a photograph of him and his team." Alfred took the frame and looked at the brown-tinted photograph of Arthur, stood with three other men. Two were quite a few inches taller while the third was only just taller. It was hard to tell what colour their hair was but it was darker than Arthur's and they all had the big eyebrows.
"This is Allistor." Peter said, pointing out the tallest and then went on to the next tallest. "And this is Patrick and that's Rhys." He tapped on the man who was only just taller than Arthur.
"Sounds like a boy band," Alfred commented. Peter's mouth tightened with disapproval.
"Far from it," he replied. "They were some of the bravest men to do their duty. Their last name was also Kirkland, my grandfather's brothers and my great uncles. It's thanks to men like them that we have the freedoms that we take for granted today."
"But what does any of this have to do with me?" Alfred asked. Peter took the photograph from Alfred, reached into his pocket and took out a card.
"You gave this to Arthur, the day he crashed," Peter replied. Alfred took the card and looked down at his own name on the card in his hand. It had crease folds and some dark marks on it but it was definitely one of his Hetalia Foods business cards.
"What the Hell!" he muttered. "Where did you get this?"
"My grandfather left it for my father," Peter replied, sitting back down in his armchair. "And my father left it for me. Arthur was given that card when he was stationed on the Western Front by a man who pulled him from his downed aircraft in 1917."
"But I gave that card to Artie two nights ago!" Alfred exclaimed. "Are you seriously telling me that was 1917?" Peter raised an eyebrow.
"There is evidence that time travel happens," he replied. "And more often than anyone might suspect. There's a theory that Merlin was a time traveller, after all. Today's technology would seem like magic back then."
"But why is it happening to me?" Alfred asked.
"I can't answer that question," Peter replied. "The why is beyond me, I just know that it happens."
"But why do I always end up around Artie?" Alfred inquired.
"Well," Peter said. "My theory is that you are my grandfather's 'time twin' for want of a better term and your lives are very much intertwined." Alfred looked like he had just remembered something and began to rummage around in his bag.
"Could it be anything to do with this?" he asked, handing over the photographic plate. Peter took the plate and examined it. Could it be what he thought it was?
"Where did you get this?"
"Artie was on some photo re-con mission the last time I went back," Alfred replied. "Some kind of secret weapon and Artie was worried about it. I was holding it when I jumped back."
"I'll get this developed," Peter said, putting it down on the table. "Now it's time for action!" He got out of the chair. Alfred got out of his and followed Peter as he went to a nearby table where there was a long bag sitting and he picked it up.
"I have something for you," Peter handed the bag to Alfred. "This is for the next time you jump. You'll be properly equipped when you go back." Alfred really did not want another trip.
"Can't I get out of this?" he tried to keep the whine out of his voice to avoid sounding like a petulant child, not wanting to go to school. Peter shook his head.
"I'm afraid not," he replied. "If a weapon has been developed to give the enemy an advantage then Germany could win the first world war and history will change. You could end up stuck in 1917 as some kind of temporal refugee and, as for the rest of us, I'd hate to think."
"This is completely nuts," Alfred muttered.
"You can't fail!" Peter said, adamantly. "I know you haven't booked a hotel yet so I've arranged a reservation at the Britannia Hotel, just across the river. I'll contact you when the photograph is developed." He patted Alfred on the shoulder. "Good luck!" Alfred took that as a dismissal and began to walk to the door, not looking forward to climbing down that staircase.
"There is a small lift this way," Peter called. Alfred looked back at Peter to show that he had opened a part of the wall to show a elevator with a pull across door.
' Now he tells me! ' Alfred thought as he stepped into the elevator and pulled the door across.
"You don't need to worry," Peter stated. "My grandfather's record speaks for itself. He was a fine officer, you're in safe hands." Alfred nodded and used the elevator control to descend as Peter closed the panel.
Back in New York …..
"I don't understand what was wrong with him," Alice said to Matthew about Alfred's behaviour and disappearance the day before. "Why did he act that way?"
Alice had wanted to go after Alfred but she was needed at the presentation, for damage control if nothing else, and by the time she could get away and get to Alfred's apartment, Alfred had already gone. Alice was ready to follow him to London but she had no idea where exactly in London he had gone to. Matthew shrugged his shoulders.
"I've no idea why he freaked out that way either," he replied.
"It's Psychosis Trauma!" Feliks's voice announced from the door. Both Alice and Matthew turned to see him brandishing a wad of papers. "I, like, looked it up."
"Looked it up where?" Alice asked, although she had a pretty good idea.
"On Google," Feliks replied. "It's, totes, amazing what you can find on there."
"Are you kidding me?" Matthew said, scornfully, showing what he pretty much thought of all this. "Are you trying to tell me that you think my brother had a psychotic episode based on what you found on the Internet! "
"I've been reading the sites all night," Feliks replied. "And this, like, totes fits." He tapped the papers on a highlighted paragraph. "Psychosis Trauma Syndrome." Alice was having none of it.
"No," she replied, adamantly. "Alfred was scared, not crazy. I just wish I knew why!"
"It might have something to do with that old man that came to see him yesterday," Matthew suggested, remembering how Alfred had tensed up when he saw him.
"What old man?" Alice asked.
"He showed up yesterday, before the presentation," Matthew replied. "Alfred really froze up when he saw him."
"What did they talk about?" Alice asked. Matthew shook his head.
"I don't know," he replied. "Alfred asked me to leave them alone for a while." Alice thought for a moment.
"Could it be blackmail?" she pondered. "Maybe this man has something over Alfred." Then her phone rang and Alice saw the caller Id.
"It's Alfred," she said and hit answer. "Alfred!"
"Alice?" The other two moved in close to try and hear the conversation.
"Alfred," Alice said. "Where are you right now?"
"At the Britannia Hotel in London," Alfred replied. "How are things over there?"
"Just fine," Alice replied. Despite the strange event with Alfred, or maybe because of it in some strange way, the presentation ended very well. "Ivan Braginski made a large order and, after that, the other clients lined up to make orders too. We're definitely in business."
"That's fantastic!" Alfred exclaimed. He had bet everything he had on this and now it was paying off. He knew that if Ivan genuinely thought the product was any good, he would not let their college rivalry get in the way. It meant he probably had to deal with Ivan in the future but it would be like old times.
"I'll be home in a few days," he reassured Alice but she was not reassured.
"What's happening, Alfred?" she demanded. "Please tell me."
"It's just something personal, Sweetheart," he replied. "Nothing I can't take care of."
"I'm coming there on the next plane out," Alice wanted to get to the bottom of this.
"No!" Alfred replied, adamantly. "I'll be home soon. This is something I just need to sort out myself. Stay there and I'll see you soon. Say Hi to Mattie for me, okay? Bye." Alfred hung up, She looked up at the others. Matthew looked as concerned as Alice while Feliks gave an knowing smile and tapped the papers again.
"It says here that guys like Alfred," he said. "You know the pushy overachievers, totes, store up stress and it, like, gets worse and worse until they.....blow." Alice just walked past them.
"I'm going to London!"
"I'm going with you," Matthew replied. Alice turned back to him.
"No, Matthew," she said. "We need someone to hold the fort here and sort out the orders. You're the best one for that."
"You can't go alone," he replied. Alice thought for a moment. There was only one person who's leaving would not disrupt anything.
"Feliks, you're coming too," she said and left to go home and pack a bag. Feliks grinned and left too, still clutching the information he had printed off the internet. With this information, Alfred would soon be on the road to recovery.
Matthew saw Feliks's smile and facepalmed. Now he was worried about Alfred AND Alice.
It was dark outside while Alfred lay on his hotel bed, watching the local news on the television for want of anything else to watch. It seemed that Britain had the same problem as America. Hundreds of channels but there was nothing on.
Alfred was beginning to nod off with boredom when he was pulled back into full consciousness by a rumble of thunder in the distance. He went to look out of the window which over looked Tower Bridge and it reminded him of exactly what thunder meant where he was concerned and he looked at his hands. When no lightning immediately appeared, he believed he had time and went to the bag Peter had given him and began to pull things out of it. A World War I British helmet, a rifle and bayonet and a uniform.
When he was dressed, he looked like a British Tommy and, as the thunder continued to rumble, he sat down in a chair and waited for the time jump, holding the rifle.
The next thing he heard was a humming sound and it was getting closer so he shot to his feet, still clutching the rifle to find he was still in his hotel room, confronting one of the hotel maids from house keeping, pushing a vacuum cleaner. Outside the window, it was morning so he had slept through the night in the chair and the thunder had just been an ordinary thunderstorm. He rubbed his tired eyes and then realised that the maid was still there, staring at the strange American in the World War I British uniform, like he was some kind of lunatic.
'Think of something!' he ordered himself.
"Guess I miss the costume party," he said. "Jet-lag caught up with me." The woman gave a relieved smile that there was an explanation.
"What a shame, sir," she replied, clearly a local. "I'll come back later and let you rest." The woman pushed the vacuum out of the room but Alfred went red as he could hear her chuckling as she went out of the door. He wondered how many more times this time jumping thing was going to land him in embarrassing situations as he took off the uniform to take a shower.
It had been difficult to get a seat on a flight to London as many was fully booked but Alice and Feliks finally disembarked from a plane that got them there the next morning, although Feliks almost did not arrive, at least not alive. One more word about how 'This has, like, probably been building for a while so Alfred was bound to, totes, blow sooner or later' , Alice was going to drown Feliks in the air-plane's toilet.
Like Alfred before them, they went through customs, collected their bags and went out and hailed a taxi.
"Where to?" the driver asked.
"The Britannia Hotel," Alice replied and the driver set off and Alice was a little relieved that they were getting ever closer to Alfred.
Alfred stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist and grabbed another towel to dry his hair before using the air-dryer. Then he put his glasses back on, picked up his electric razor and began shaving. As he looked in the mirror, rubbing the razor over his chin, there was a rumble of thunder and Alfred saw the lightning dance around the room and jump into his hands.
"Oh shit!" was all he had time to say before he jumped...
...and fell on to his back, still holding his electric razor, on to a large table, surrounded by nuns in, what looked like some kind of kitchen, with only a towel to spare his blushes, except for the nun who was at the end of the table at his feet and saw right up the towel. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and crossed herself. The other nuns were frozen in shock at the practically naked man who had just landed on their breakfast. Alfred lifted himself on to his elbows and looked around. He realised that he was in a church or convent but, if he had jumped to here, that meant that Arthur had to be somewhere around here too.
"Kirkland," he said, hoping the nuns would know. "Do you know where Arthur Kirkland is?" All the nuns just stared at him like he had a second head. He clambered off the table and on to the floor, his feet landing on the cold stone floor and he was beginning to get goose-pimples as the room was not exactly warm.
"Arthur Kirkland!" he said again. "Do you know him or where he is?" The nuns just eyed him like he was either the second coming or was going to attack them at any minute and Alfred knew they were not going to be of any help so he backed away toward the door, leading out of the room and into the rest of the building, hoping to find Arthur elsewhere.
Suddenly, his arms were grabbed and he was hauled back into the room before being thrown back against the table. He turned to see three men, all red-heads and different heights who looked familiar, in green British military uniforms, surrounding and pointing old-style handguns at him.
"Français, allemand ou belge (French, German or Belgian)? !," the second tallest man with coppery coloured hair demanded but Alfred did not understand him.
"I don't know what you're saying," he replied. "But my name is Alfred F Jones." With any luck, maybe these guys could lead him to Arthur.
"You're American!" the man said in surprise and surprised Alfred by speaking with an Irish brogue, then Alfred noticed the man's green eyes. And big eyebrows.
The Kirkland brothers from the photograph! Of course, that's who they were!
"You're Patrick, right," Alfred said, pointing at his questioner and then pointed at the smallest one with the auburn hair and the tallest who's hair was down right red and hoping he was putting the right name with the right brother. "Rhys, Allistor. Oh yeah! You're the Kirkland Brothers, all right! I'd recognise those eyebrows anywhere."
"Who are you, laddie?" the tallest demanded with a Scottish accent. "And how did you get here?"
"You wouldn't believe it if I told you," Alfred replied, honestly. Allistor aimed his gun at Alfred's head, making him lean back as far as he could while Patrick cocked his gun.
"We'll be the judge of that," he said. Alfred took a deep breath. Here goes nothing!
"I fell through a hole in time," he replied. The smallest brother, Rhys?, snorted.
"Can't ye come up with anything better than that, laddie?" Allistor mocked and three guns were now trained at his head. Alfred had to tell them something that they might believe. Maybe something James Bond-y. After all, the British were all about that, were they not? Oh wait! World War I, too early for James Bond. Still, worth a try.
"Okay!" he said, throwing his hands up in a 'back off' gesture. "Lower the guns! I'm an American agent. I've been sent to check out what the enemy's up to." To the Kirklands, it seemed plausible but they wanted proof.
"Let's see your identification," Rhys demanded, the Welsh accent colouring his voice. Alfred looked down at himself. Did they really think he had ID stuffed into his towel.
"Seriously?" he replied. "I'm wearing a towel. Besides, what kind of agent carries ID in the field? The last thing you want is the enemy to find it on you!" That made sense to Allistor, Patrick and Rhys but it left them with the thorny problem with being unable to check Alfred's story.
"Why ARE you wearing a towel?" Patrick said as they all realised the weirdest part of the whole situation. "And what is that thing?" He indicated the electric razor that Alfred was holding.
"I was taking a shower," Alfred replied which just made the whole thing weirder. "And this is a razor."
"In a nun's kitchen?" Allistor asked, scornfully. "And that doesn't look like any razor I've ever seen." Alfred knew he was losing them and he had no explanation for the whole situation, other than the one they had already rejected.
Then came an angel of mercy. An English Angel of Mercy.
"Let him go, chaps!" Arthur ordered from the door. Alfred had never been so glad to see anyone in his life. Arthur was wearing his flight jacket over the same green British military uniform as his brothers but the leather flying helmet was absent. He came forward with his hand out and Alfred shook it.
"Ye know this man, Bunny?" Allistor asked. Alfred raised his eyebrows. Bunny?! 'Bunny' nodded.
"Yes," he replied. "Alfred F Jones pops up in the strangest of places. He pulled me out of my plane when I crashed and assisted me in getting the photograph of the German weapon. Speaking of ….." He turned back to Alfred.
"Where is my photograph?" he demanded.
"It's being developed," Alfred replied. "It was thought best to get it done as soon as possible as time seemed to be short. Right now, I'm to give you every assistance so what do you want me to do?"
"Since we're ten miles behind the lines, be careful, for a start," Arthur replied. "We don't want the enemy to find us. As for what to do, there's someone here who know something about the weapon and obtaining that information is our first priority." Alfred gave a shiver.
"Well, mine is getting some clothes," he said. "I'm beginning to turn blue in here."
It was obviously apparent to Alfred that they were in a convent and, as such, there was only one kind of clothing available. Which was why, much to the amusement of the Kirkland Brothers, Alfred ended up in a nun's habit. But, at least it was warmer than the towel and it had a pocket to put the razor in.
Now that Priority One was taken care of, Alfred moved on to Priority Two. He had to know why Arthur's brothers referred to Arthur as 'Bunny'. He had a feeling that it was an embarrassing story so he had to pick the brother who was most likely to reveal Arthur's deepest, darkest secrets. So he approached Allistor. He did not know why, he just had a feeling that Allistor would have no qualms about embarrassing his brother.
"Why do ya call Artie Bunny?" he asked as they were led through the building by the Abbess, to reach the chapel where nuns were tending to locals injured in the recent German occupation of their town. Allistor gave a little laugh and opened his mouth.
"Allistor," Arthur warned as he walked ahead of them. "Don't you dare!"
"Awwh but Bunny," Rhys smirked, mischievously. "It's such an adorable story."
"I said no, you gits!"
"Okay," Alfred said. "Now I gotta know! I won't stop plaguing ya till I hear this."
"Well, that settles it then," Patrick laughed and Arthur groaned.
"Ye see," Allistor began. "It was when Bunny was a wee bairn. He wandered out one day and disappeared. Everyone was in an uproar, looking for the little imp and, when we found him ….."
"Don't say it!" Arthur stormed and Allistor smirked.
"He was curled up with the rabbits in the rabbit hutch," he revealed. "He'd crawled in there and gone to sleep with all the little bunnies sleeping on top of him. So that's why we call him Bunny. I only wish we could have taken a photograph of him before he woke up, it was so precious."
"Oh Lord!" Arthur groaned again and Alfred laughed.
"Probably would get a million likes online," he commented, quietly.
"Nothing," Alfred replied, thinking it was probably best not to mention anything future. "Hey, if you're all brothers, why do ya have different accents? I mean, you sound like you all come from different parts of Britain." Arthur shrugged.
"Drawbacks of being a military family," he replied. "Allistor was born in Edinburgh, Patrick in Dublin and Rhys in Cardiff. We moved around a lot. I was born in London but you're not the first to comment on it and I doubt you'll be the last." The Abbess opened a door and they walked into the chapel where people were laid on makeshift beds with nuns and uninjured locals seeing to their needs. She took them over to the far corner where a woman with dark, blonde hair in modest clothing and her back to them, was putting a blanket over an injured man. When she was finished, she turned and came face to face with the group and emerald eyes met sapphire ones and both sets widened with recognition.
As if you couldn't guess, Marianne is Fem France and I just love finding reasons for Arthur's family nickname and think that one was the cutest I've come up with so far...
Next : Alfred jumps again...and this time, he has company...
Chapter 4: Marianne
An old flame is rekindled and someone else climbs aboard the time ride....
Chapter 4 : Marianne
"Marianne!" The Abbess looked between the two who just stood and stared at each other.
"You know one another?" she asked. Arthur gave a sad smile that Marie returned.
"Yes," he replied. "We've met before."
The Abbess smiled and left the two of them alone. They stood still facing each other for another moment and then Marianne walked past Arthur and led the way out of the chapel, with him following and walked past Alfred and the other Kirklands.
"Marianne!" The tone that Rhys used told Alfred that this was an unexpected, and unwelcomed, turn of events. When he looked at Allistor, Rhys and Patrick, the looks on their faces were not happy to say the least.
"Who's Marianne?" he asked, wondering if this was something he needed to watch out for, for Arthur's sake. Rhys huffed.
"Bunny met her back in 1915," Rhys explained. "Turns out she was working for the Germans, trying to fool Bunny into taking messages for them, past the lines. But she fell in love and, when Bunny got trapped by the enemy, she betrayed them to save him. Both sides want to execute her now."
Alfred was disturbed by the idea of executing a woman, even for treason. In modern day America, as well as Britain, traitors were rarely executed so maybe he was affected by his future upbringing. But there was another concern. Was Arthur going to trust her now and could she be trusted?
"Bunny won't be taken in again," Rhys said. He must have seen the concern in Alfred's face. "He's wise to her now." While the Kirkland brothers went to guard the exits, Rhys might not have been so sure if he could see what was happening in the Abbess's office.
It had been a year since he had last seen Marianne Bonnefoy, was saved by the girl who had stolen his heart, even as the Top Brass wanted her dead. Arthur had felt betrayed by her actions but knew the reason behind them. The Top Brass knew too but did not care, treason was treason and even the duress of the enemy holding her brother, Francis hostage did nothing to mitigate her. When she had saved him and confessed what she had been doing for the enemy, he had felt betrayed but understood when she explained why she had done what she had done. Together, they had rescued Francis and Arthur had helped them escape to Southern France. No one had known about that, not even his brothers and that had been the last he had seen of Marianne.
When Arthur had been told to meet someone with important information, never did he think it would be the most wanted woman in Britain, France and Germany.
The woman he loved.
Marianne looked up into the face of the man who was always in her heart but never thought to see again. It killed her soul to work for the Germans against her own country but she could not let her brother, her only remaining family member, die so she did what she was told and made contact with Arthur Kirkland on their orders. She never expected to fall in love with the British pilot when she began secreting messages on his plane which were then collected by a mole operating at the airfield that Arthur was stationed at. When the enemy decided that Arthur was more troublesome as an enemy pilot than his value of unknowing messenger was worth, his death was ordered and Marianne faced a dilemma. Let Arthur die and protect her brother or save the man she loved and sacrifice Francis. She decided to save Arthur and tell him everything and, while it cost her any chance with Arthur, it had saved both the men she loved in her life but she never thought to see Arthur again.
And now he stood in front of her again, needing her help to defeat the enemy. The role she had played against her country had always been on her conscience and so she returned to the Western Front, determined to do what ever she could to defeat the Germans and she had come into some information that could help France and her allies.
Information that the man she loved needed now.
"This is a map of a cave system near a small town near Le Fere," she said, giving him a folded piece of paper. "That was where they found the bodies."
"Do you know what's there?" Arthur asked. Marianne shook her head.
"We've only seen the results," she replied. "No one has seen the weapon itself." Arthur opened the paper to look at the crudely drawn but detailed map and then back at Marianne. He could not help but be suspicious of her after the last time, even if she had been forced.
"Arthur, you can trust me!" Marianne had seen the doubt in his eyes and was a little hurt by it but understood. She had proven that she could be made to do the wrong thing with the right pressure. "I work for France now, to end the war. Please believe that!"
Arthur folded the map back up and put it in his pocket before turning to look Marianne in the eyes again, seeing the truth in them. How had he ever let her go!
He smiled at her and she smiled back as he took her face in his hands and he kissed her lightly on the lips. When this was all over, he was going to get Marianne pardoned and then she was never going to leave his life again.
"Don't become a nun," he jokingly ordered. "Yet." Marianne chuckled.
"I won't, mon petit lapin," she replied, using the name she gave him when she heard that his brothers called him Bunny. "Yet."
"Once this mission is done, I'll be back for you," he said. "I promise!" Marianne threw her arms around his neck and they held each other tight.
"Hurry back," she said after they let go and went to go back to the chapel.
He's here! Wolfgang Beilschmidt thought as he drove, followed by a truck full of men, toward the convent that, even now, his men were surrounding. The information that he had been given told him that it had to be Captain Arthur Kirkland. He drove into the courtyard of the convent as his men covered every entrance and exit and pulled up. He got out of the car and strolled toward the door.
Time to meet his arch-nemesis!
The Kirkland Brothers retreated back to the chapel, just as Arthur and Marianne returned from the Abbess's office.
"Outside is swarming with Germans," Allistor reported. "Every door is covered, there's no way out."
"They must have been watching the place," Patrick observed. "We're trapped!"
"Someone must have told them we were here," Rhys replied. The eyes of Arthur's brothers turned to Marianne and both Alfred and Arthur followed their line of sight. Marianne looked Arthur in the eyes and gave a small shake of her head. Arthur believed her but they had a decision to make.
"We can't fight it out in here," he said, looking at all the injured civilians lying on make-shift pallets around the floor. "We can't put these people in the line of fire." Allistor, Patrick and Rhys agreed so they only had one choice and they went to the nearest exit. It was heavily guarded by the enemy and they walked out slowly with their hands over their heads. Alfred was going to follow them but Marianne pulled him back and quickly slipped a wimple on his head before the Germans swarmed the chapel to guard their newly acquired prisoners so, as far as they were concerned, Alfred was one of the nuns, as long as he kept his head down.
As head of their group, Arthur was the one who went out first so, as the Germans kept Allistor, Patrick and Rhys covered, one of the soldiers grabbed Arthur and dragged him away. In the chapel, the soldiers were making everyone leave and the able-bodied were assisting the less mobile. Marianne walked with Alfred, blocking the enemy's view of him as they left the convent and were ushered out into the courtyard where Allistor, Patrick and Rhys were suspiciously lined up against a wall.
Alfred was not liking where this was going.
Arthur was pushed back into the Abbess's office where a German officer stood by the window with his back to the room. The soldier shut the door and stood guard as Arthur looked the officer over. His blond hair was longer than the typical German soldier and was tied back and he was quite a large man. Finally, he turned to face Arthur, showing pale blue eyes and the sides of his hair braided. As the officer slowly walked toward him, Arthur knew of only one German officer who fit the description.
"Captain Wolfgang Beilschmidt," he said with confidence. Wolfgang gave a nod of, one could almost say, respect.
"And you, of course, are Captain Arthur Kirkland," Wolfgang replied. "I always hoped that we would meet."
"Face to face," Arthur said. "You forgot your iron mask." Wolfgang smiled.
"Armour is not a requirement to catch a spy," he replied. "Unless you came for confession."
"Nothing like that." Arthur smirked. "I sing in the choir."
"Choir practice has been cancelled, I'm afraid," Wolfgang smirked back. He turned to the desk in the room where someone had put a bottle of wine and some glasses and he began to pour.
"How did you know I was here?" Arthur asked, curiously. He did not think Marianne had betrayed them but he wanted to know just how the enemy had found them. Wolfgang picked up two glasses that he had poured and handed one to Arthur.
"You were spotted by one of our patrols," Wolfgang replied. "When they reported that a plane had landed and taxied across a bridge, at night, I knew it could only be the famous Arthur Kirkland." Wolfgang raised his glass.
"To the Gods of War!" he toasted. Arthur raised his own glass.
"To Peace!" They sipped out of the glasses. Wolfgang looked regretful.
"I would rather we finished this in the skies," he commented. "Warrior to warrior. The firing squad is much less satisfying."
"But less likely to fail," Arthur quipped back. Wolfgang's lips tightened.
"Take him to the courtyard!" he ordered. The soldier guarding the door grabbed Arthur again while Wolfgang took the glass out of his hand and he was pulled out of the office.
Alfred's mind was desperately trying to think of something as German soldiers lined up to form what looked suspiciously like a firing squad. He realised that his time was short when Arthur was marched into the courtyard and thrown in with his brothers. Arthur stood beside Allistor as Wolfgang came out to supervise the execution himself. Alfred's palms started sweating and he rubbed them on the habit he was wearing and that was when he felt the hard shape of his electric razor. Could he use that?
"Beachtung! (Attention!) ," Wolfgang ordered. The soldiers cocked their rifles and stood in a tight line, ready for the next order.
Alfred had an idea.
"Bereit! (Ready!) ." Alfred pulled the razor out of the habit pocket and caught Arthur's eye. Be ready! Arthur got the message and looked toward his brothers who also caught on.
"Ziel! (Aim!) ." Alfred turned the razor on and threw it.
"GRENADE!" he screamed at the top of his voice. The razor landed between the firing squad and the Kirkland Brothers where the unfamiliar item, combined with the buzzing sound, had everyone but Alfred and the Kirklands diving for cover. The five men all dove for the guns that had been dropped in panic. Arthur got Wolfgang in a head-lock, pulled Wolfgang's own pistol from the holster and put it against his head. Allistor took care of the guard of a truck that brought some of the German soldiers and took the driver's seat while Alfred, Patrick and Rhys yelled at everyone to stay down, the civilians as well, to avoid being accidentally shot if it came to a gunfight.
"Tell your men to stay where they are," Arthur ordered. "Or you'll be sprouting your own wings!" Wolfgang believed that Arthur would shoot him if his men did any rash moves.
"Nicht bewegen! (Do not move!), " Wolfgang shouted and the soldiers did as they were told.
"You're probably expecting me to shoot you in the head, right now," Arthur said to the helpless Wolfgang. "But I'm not going to do that because shooting sitting ducks is not what I do. We'll face each other again, I'm sure so right now, just stay where you are." Arthur let go of Wolfgang's head but kept the gun at his temple before kicking the German to lie on the ground. Patrick climbed in the passenger seat beside Allistor and Rhys clambered in the back. Arthur stood on the truck footplate of the driver's door and held on to the window as Allistor started the engine and began to drive off.
"JONES!" Arthur shouted. "COME ON!" Alfred turned, dropping the gun as he ran after the truck. Rhys held out his hand to pull Alfred into the truck and Alfred reached out to him but then the habit became tangled around his legs and Alfred began to fall.
Alice heard the loud thud as she was about to knock on Alfred's hotel room door and she and Feliks looked at each other dumbfounded. It sounded like something big and heavy had fallen and Alice became very concerned what was going on in the room. She began knocking on the door.
"Alfred!" she called out. "Alfred, are you all right? What's happening in there?" When there was no immediate answer, she banged on the door. "ALFRED!"
In the room, Alfred was still recovering from running after the truck one moment then hitting his hotel room floor the next. The last thing he expected to hear was Alice's voice shouting at him from behind the door. He picked himself up and moved to the door.
"What are you doing here?" he asked as he opened the door a crack. He really did not want her or anyone else to see him the way he looked, right now. When Alfred did not open the door further, Alice really became worried.
"What's wrong, Alfred?" she asked. "Please let me in!" Alfred looked down at the habit and cringed.
"Can I just have a moment?" he asked, hoping he could change quickly and thinking he should have done that before opening the door. It was not to be as Alice pushed the door open, showing Alfred in all his mud-splattered, habit-and-wimple wearing glory. Feliks's jaw dropped.
"He's, like, become a religious transvestite!" he whispered in shock. Alice just stared at Alfred, wondering if Alfred needed help, after all.
"Alfred, what's going on?" she said, still trying to take in what she was seeing. "Why are you dressed like a nun?" Alfred had no idea how he was going to explain himself.
"I said it was personal," he replied and moved back into the room with Alice and Feliks following. Of course, they spotted the bayonet rifle.
"A transvestite bank robber!" Feliks's gasped, pulling the papers out of his bag and looking through them. "I, totes, never even found that on the net!" Alice rolled her eyes. Who robs a bank with a bayonet rifle but she had to admit that it did not look good. Alfred could see the look on both of their faces and could not even guess at what they were thinking.
"I promise," he said. "That there is an explanation for all this."
Alice certainly hoped so.
Feliks wandered the hotel after being kicked out of the room by Alice so she could talk to Alfred in private and Feliks could prove to be a distraction. So the Pole had to find something to occupy himself for an hour or two and it became clear that Alfred and Alice should have kept him where they could see him.
Alfred needed help, that was clear to Feliks and, armed with his internet information, he was the best one to help but he would need some strong arm assistance. With that in mind, he went to the hotel guest phone and called the desk.
"Hello," he said when the desk clerk answered. ""This is Doctor Feliks Lukasiewicz on Floor 6. I'm, like, a psychiatrist based in New York and one of my patients is one of your guests. I may need some help so if you could, like, arrange an ambulance and two able orderlies, I would be very grateful." The woman on the other end of the phone wondered if this was a joke but was still concerned. What if it was real?
"Is your patient dangerous?" she asked because, if it was real, then she had the other guests to consider.
"Oh no, no!" Feliks insisted. "He's just, like, confused from stress. He's dressed as a nun and has a gun ….."
"Yes," Feliks replied. "But I don't think he'll, like, use it. If you could, like, get on with that request, I would appreciate it." And he hung up, hoping that mention of the gun would get him the help needed but it got him far more than that.
The desk clerk did not know if this was a joke or not so she did the only thing she could.
Called the police.
Alfred changed into clothing he was more comfortable with while deciding he would take Alice to Peter to back up his story. He knew that Peter wanted to keep Alice out of this as much as possible but the situation would soon affect her because she was not going to leave him alone now so there was always the possibility that Alice would be present one of the times he jumped. Without giving Alice a chance to object, he grabbed his jacket and ushered out of the room, giving her just enough time to grab her handbag.
"Alfred, please just tell me what's going on?" she said as they left the hotel. She just wanted Alfred to tell her what was bothering him.
"You won't believe me," he replied. "So I'm going to take you to someone who can back me up when I tell you."
"You won't know if I believe you if you don't tell me," Alice pointed out. "Please, Alfred, just tell me what's wrong!" Alfred gave a sigh.
"Okay," he said, "But you'll find it hard to believe. I keep falling through a hole in time to 1917." Alfred waited for Alice's reaction but she just looked at him and he did not know what she was thinking.
Alice was thinking that, maybe, Feliks might be right about Alfred buckling under the strain but she could not tell Alfred that. She had to keep him calm until she could get him to someone who could help.
"And what happens there?" she asked, playing into his fantasy so she did not upset him by telling him that the idea of real-life time travel was nuts.
"You believe me!" Alfred stopped in surprise. Alice was a feet-on-the-ground type of girl and he was sure that she would say he was dreaming it or something.
"If that's what you say happens," she replied, evasively. "Tell me what you do in 1917."
"I keep going back to World War I," Alfred explained. "Where I'm helping this pilot call Artie find a German secret weapon and we're trying to destroy it." Alfred thought it might be a bad idea to tell Alice that 'Artie' was her great, great grandfather, Arthur Kirkland.
To Alice, it sounded like a game a little boy would play. Pretending to be in the war and defeating the enemy but it was a school-boy's fantasy, not a grown-man's but she did not know where Alfred could have gotten this delusion. He might have seen the odd picture or picked up the odd snippet of information from time to time but he did not read war histories seriously or watch war documentaries and the closest film he had watched that had anything to do with war was Captain America but that was World War II so she did not know where this had come from.
Alfred looked into her eyes and knew she had not completely decided on his tale and there was only one person who could convince her. Her grandfather.
"Let's go!" he said and began to pull her in the direction of Tower Bridge.
" Doctor Lukasiewicz! " came a message over the hotel's PA system. " Please go to the front desk! " Feliks heard the announcement and figured that the ambulance and orderlies had arrived and went to the desk.
"I'm Doctor Lukasiewicz," he said to the desk clerk. The desk clerk was a man this time and he pointed to the door.
"Yes, Doctor," he replied. "The doorman is waiting for you." Feliks made his way to the front door where a man in a doorman's uniform was stood looking for someone.
"You're waiting for me?" Feliks asked, not seeing any ambulance in sight. "I'm Doctor Lukasiewicz." Feliks was in for a shock when suddenly he was grabbed by the doorman (who was a police officer in disguise) and other armed policemen (because a gun had been mentioned) who had checked his credentials when the desk clerk had reported his phone call and discovered that there was no such Doctor as Feliks Lukasiewicz in New York and concluded that he was, perhaps, the dangerous one.
"Alfred, I'm not saying I don't believe you about travelling back in time," Alice told him as they began walking again. "But you need to get some help."
"We'll find help at Tower Bridge," Alfred replied. "That's where we're going." Alice could not do this any more.
"Stop it!" she ordered, bringing them to a halt again. "When I say help, I mean professional help. Of the psychiatric kind." Alfred looked hurt.
"So you don't believe me," he accused. Alice put a comforting hand on his arm.
"I'm sure that all this is very real to you," she said, soothingly. "But ….." Suddenly Alfred looked up at the sky and looked very worried.
Alfred was a little upset at Alice's disbelief of him after making him think that she thought he was telling the truth and now she was saying that she thought he was imagining it all. He only wished he was.
Especially when the thunder rolled over his head and Alice clearly could not hear it.
"Come on!" he said, taking her hand and setting off again. "Time's short!" and he took her across a bridge over a canal which brought them back in line of sight of the hotel.
"Listen to me!" Feliks yelled as the police were dragging him to the police van. "There is someone in there with, like, serious mental problems. He's, totes, a friend of mine and he needs help!"
"Of course he needs help, mate," the doorman uniform clad officer replied, struggling with the squirming Pole. "He needs help from a fake doctor like you."
"I'm telling you he, totes, has a gun!" Feliks said and then he saw Alfred and Alice running across a bridge, spanning a canal some distance away and Feliks got his arm free and pointed at Alfred.
"THERE HE IS!"
Completely unaware of what was going on back at the hotel, Alfred dragged Alice over the bridge behind him but he stopped in the centre when he saw the lightning and he let go of Alice.
"Alice, get away from me!" he ordered as the lightning jumped to his hands. "Don't touch me! Stay away!" But Alice thought Alfred was becoming upset about her not believing him so she threw her arms around Alfred to comfort him, just as the lightning jumped into his eyes and they jumped.
Silly, silly Feliks!
Next : Alice finally sees the truth and the Kirkland Brothers discuss their strange American ally...
Chapter 5: The Caves
Alice meets new/old some family members....
Chapter 5 : The Caves
Alfred and Alice hit the ground as he over-balanced and they fell into the dirt, then there was a deafening explosion and they were pelted with dirt as well. Alfred looked round and, in the distance, saw the remnants of a town that looked like it had taken a lot of pounding from the guns he could hear firing, the most prominent feature was an old church with its spire blown clean off. Between the destroyed town and them was a crater-filled scene with barbed-wire, coiled in front of a trench, in which he could see the tops of helmets moving about. More explosions went off, accompanied by machine-gun fire and Alfred knew they were wide-open so, during a lull in the shooting, he grabbed Alice and pulled her to her feet.
"Come on!" he said and pulled her toward the trench, keeping as low as possible. He helped Alice into the trench and then jumped in after her. She screamed as another explosion rocked the landscape and Alfred covered Alice with his body as it sent soil raining down on them and the British soldiers as they ran past them in the trench, too preoccupied to pay the strange pair any attention.
That was until Arthur and his brothers were about to run past and spotted Alfred crouching over Alice. They did not see Alice at first as Alfred was blocking their view of her.
"Good Lord, JONES!" Arthur exclaimed. He had been feeling guilty after it turned out that Jones had not made it on to the truck as they made their escape from the convent and that they had left him behind. He found Rhys's story about Jones vanishing before his eyes hard to believe and thought that Jones had tripped and not caught the truck and that Rhys had imagined it.
But he could not deny that Jones turned up, just when you least expected him to and usually to their benefit so he was not going to question Jones's presence here and now, quite apart from the fact that it was the wrong place and time for a discussion.
"It's the American again!" Rhys gasped and then Alice looked up at who was talking. Arthur was flabbergasted when he saw the female face with blond hair and eyes as green as his own.
"Good Heavens!" Arthur could not help himself. A woman in a hell-hole like this where most men would not go if not needed! What was Jones thinking? This was definitely no place for her.
"Artie, this is Alice," Alfred introduced, deliberately not using last names to avoid awkward questions but he needed to give a reason for Alice's presence. The trenches was not typically a place where you found women in WWI. "My …... partner."
Did Jones mean that Alice was an agent too? Arthur's brothers had told him of Alfred's claim to be an American agent and he supposed that there could be female agents too. It was just that it went against the grain of being a gentleman that women should be exposed to such danger.
Alice was still trying to process everything that was happening. One moment they were on the bridge, the next they were in the middle of a battle, in a muddy trench with soldiers running around them in uniforms she had only ever seen in war pictures that her grandfather had shown when she was younger. Now she was looking at a man who had the same colour hair and eyes as her who, for some reason, reminded her of someone. Behind him were three red-haired men who also looked familiar and all four had similar eyebrows to her grandfather and father. Where had she seen them before?
"A pleasure to meet you, Artie," she said, falling back on polite manners until she could figure out just what was going on.
Arthur's eyebrows shot up. She was British ! A British female agent working with an American one! He supposed it was possible but he had no time to work this out now as the shelling was intensifying and the enemy was advancing toward their trenches. Besides, they were here for a reason and they had no time to lose.
"This is a bad place for a lady, Miss," he said, holding out a hand to help her out of the mud. "We need to get you somewhere safer." As if to emphasise the point, there was another explosion and everyone hit the mud, except Arthur and Alfred who threw themselves over Alice to protect her from the flying debris. Whistles sounded, a code for 'abandon the trench' as the enemy was coming and there was not enough British troops in the trenches to hold them back. They picked themselves out of the mud and Arthur took Alice's hand and began to pull her through the trenches behind the troops who were on the move, followed by Alfred and the other Kirklands. Arthur did not know why but he felt he needed to look out for Alice, like she was important to him personally, although he was sure he had never met her before. He did not know what it was but he had the feeling that Alice could prove to be a big surprise.
More shooting erupted around them as the British troops ran to evacuate the trenches as the enemy was coming in overwhelming numbers and the explosions just kept happening.
"The Huns will be over the top soon!" Arthur shouted as he pulled Alice toward safety or, at least, somewhere safer. "Don't fall behind!" He ran toward a opening in a sandbagged, built wall where a soldier was on guard who saluted when he saw Arthur.
"We've broken through to the cave system, sir," the guard reported. The sergeant shouted for his men to continue down the trenches as they had been ordered to fall back to the next trench system and bolster the troops there but the Kirklands were there for another purpose.
"Into the caves!" Arthur ordered and the Kirklands all went through the doorway. Alfred took Alice's arm and began to usher her through but she pulled him back.
"Alfred, what's happening?" she asked and gave a scream as an explosion went off nearby. "Tell me this is a prank or that I'm dreaming, please!"
"I told you I keep going back to 1917," Alfred replied and they ducked as debris from another explosion flew over them. "Do you believe me now?"
"Can we please go back to 2017?" Alice said, then she screamed as a enemy soldier appeared over the top of the trench and threw something at them. When it landed, it was like a short stick that was large at one end. Alfred picked up the stick grenade and threw it back the way it had come where it landed over the top of the trench and blew.
Arthur appeared back through the doorway, having come back when Alfred and Alice had not come into the tunnels.
"Come on, Jones!" he ordered. "Don't keep Miss Alice out here!" He could hear enemy troops above them and he wanted to be away before they arrive. "Rhys, cover our escape!" Alfred, Arthur and Alice ran through the doorway and Rhys appeared, holding a package that had a lit fuse sticking out of it. He threw it over the trench and ran, not waiting for the explosion or to hear the screams of enemy soldiers that were caught in the blast.
They crawled through a small tunnel that had been knocked through a wall into the cave system on the map that Marie had provided them with. It had turned out to be very close to one of the British trenches and work had been going on for a week to punch through, as the actual entrance was in enemy territory and heavily guarded. They came out into large tunnels, lit only by their trench torches as Arthur consulted the map while explosions from above them echoed, breaking the silence.
As they walked through the tunnels, Alice still could not believe that what was happening was real. The nightmarish battle outside and now the dark forbidding tunnels. This had to be a joke but how they got from the canal bridge in London to here was a little hard to explain. Maybe they were drugged and moved. She pulled Alfred to one side away from the others as she could possibly get.
"Tell me this is a put up job," she begged. "Like a reality show." Alfred wished he could tell her otherwise, he knew she was scared. Hell, so was he. After all, this was war!
"It's not so bad," he quipped, trying to lighten the mood. "It's only World War I." Alice gave him a sour look and Alfred felt he better distance himself, he had seen that look before.
"I need to talk to Artie," he said and ran to catch up with Arthur.
"Yo, Artie!" he called out while Arthur winced.
"It's Arthur!" he replied, a little tersely. He liked the American, he did, but his butchering of the English language and his insistence on calling him that nickname was a little grating.
"Whatever!" Alfred replied. "What's the plan this time?"
"These caves lead to Le Fere," Arthur replied. "The ones on the map Marie gave us. They'll bring us close to the weapon and we need to find out what kind of weapon the enemy has developed. This is a major offensive because we think it won't be long before they start using it against our troops." They all turned a corner and then Arthur stopped to consult the map again and that was when there was a particularly loud boom that shook the tunnels, causing rocks and dust to fall. There must have been a direct hit above their heads or, at least, a near miss and further down the tunnel came the sound of a lot of rocks falling at once. That did not sound good.
"Oh god!" Alice exclaimed as she straightened up after ducking down. "We're going to get buried alive down here!" At that moment, something gave way above them and the end of a box appeared. The rotten wood gave way and emptied its contents all over Alice, said contents being a decomposed skeleton, held together only by leathery skin and the clothes it had been buried in. Alice screamed and threw it away from her toward Alfred who, in turn, threw it away from him.
"We must be under the old cemetery," Patrick observed.
"That's it!" Alice said. "I'm hallucinating and it had to be the mushrooms I had on the plane. I'm going to sue that airline!" The Kirkland Brothers just stared at Alice, not knowing what she was talking about and wondering just what kind of agent she was if this was how she reacted under pressure. Arthur, being the gentleman that he was, had picked up Alice's hand-bag, that she had dropped when the skeleton fell on her, and gave it back to her and she thanked him.
"We better keep moving, Bunny," Allistor said. "Before any more shells really bring the roof down on us." Arthur consulted the map again and pointed down the tunnel toward another turning.
"That way," he said and they began making their way toward it. Alfred shone his torch down at the fleshless skeleton.
"Too many Fine Diner Meals," he quipped and followed the others. After a distance, they came up to the source of the falling rocks. A wall of stones and boulders blocked their path and Arthur was not happy.
"Bollocks!" he swore. "This is the way we need to go and we don't have time to clear it. We'll need to find a way around this. Patrick, you're with me! Allistor, Rhys, cover us! Jones, you and ….. your partner, wait for us here."
Allistor and Rhys went back the way they came while Arthur and Patrick disappeared down another turning, leaving Alfred with a very confused and question-filled Alice.
"Alfred," she said. "Please tell me what's really going on because this can't be real." Alfred shrugged.
"I don't know what to tell you, Alice," he replied. "It's very real and this is World War I. This is my fourth jump."
"Is there no way to stop it from happening?" she asked. Alfred shook his head.
"Peter doesn't think so," he replied.
"Your grandfather, Alice," he said. He had meant to keep his promise to Peter but now that this had happened, keeping it from Alice now was pointless. Alice rolled her eyes.
"Alfred, my grandfather is …... somewhat confused," she said, diplomatically. "He used to tell me stories when I was a child about how my great, great grandfather was helped by someone from the future. It's made up, Alfred! It was all in his head! I stopped listening and he stopped talking about it!"
"Alice, is this made up?" he replied, indicating at everything around them. "Your grandfather told you those stories and you really haven't made the connection. Alice, Artie's full name is Captain Arthur Kirkland! He is your great, great grandfather! I'm the one from the future your grandfather was talking about. The other three men are your great, great, great uncles and we are in 1917. Your grandfather is not the family nut-job, everything he told you was true! Don't tell Artie what I just told you! I'm not sure what knowledge of the future could do to the time-line, that's why I didn't tell him your last name."
Alice tried to deny what Alfred was telling her because, if he was right, she had been calling her grandfather insane when he was not and she did not like the idea that she had treated her grandfather in such a way but then she remembered the old sepia picture he had when she used to visit. The one of the four men and she realised! The four men in the picture were Arthur, Allistor, Patrick and Rhys. Oh God! This really was real! She had met her great, great grandfather!
Before she could process this epiphany, the came the sound of rocks moving and some began rolling down from the rock fall. Alfred moved out of sight but Alice was not fast enough and she was spotted by the German soldier who managed to move enough rocks to be able to see through to the tunnel and he shone a light in her face.
"Bleib wo du bist! ( Stay where you are! )"
Down in the tunnel, Allistor and Rhys had their eyes open for any of the enemy that might have followed them. There was no sign of anyone yet but they remained alert.
"Oi, Allistor," Rhys said. "What do you really make of Jones? Do you really think he's an agent?" Allistor mused on the question.
"I think he's on our side," Allistor replied after thinking. "But I don't think he's telling us everything. I know, as an agent, there are some things that might be classified but ….. I don't know! You would think he'd be less conspicuous." Rhys nodded.
"He does tend to stand out, doesn't he," he agreed. "And he wears some weird clothes and carries some weird objects. And why did he show up in the convent kitchen, wearing a towel of all things? We never did get the answer to that!"
"There's no denying, though," Allistor admitted. "If it hadn't been for Jones, we never would had gotten out of that situation alive."
"True," Rhys agreed. "I've just never met anybody like him before so I don't know what to think. The girl has me baffled as well. The way she panicked when the shell hit. Unless it's an act, she's not a very good agent."
"Hmm," Allistor hummed in agreement. "But there's something about her, though. Like we should know her for some reason. It's almost like she's a …..." Then he just laughed at himself.
"Almost like she's a what …..?" Allistor gave another laugh.
"Almost like she's a Kirkland."
Arthur and Patrick made their way through the tunnels, checking out an alternative route that they had worked out from the map to see if it was viable. The other way would have been faster but that was not an option now.
"Bunny," Patrick said as they moved further up the tunnel. "Not to cast doubt on your American friend but what do you really know about him? He's a bit weird, don't you think?"
"I admit he's unusual," Arthur conceded. "But he's American. They probably do things a little differently to us. We must make allowances for cultural differences and we wouldn't be alive right now if it wasn't for him."
"But are we sure he's American?" Patrick replied. "Anyone can fake an accent and it would probably take a real American to know the difference which none of us are. And we couldn't find anything out about him when we investigated."
"But, if he is an American agent," Arthur pointed out. "That kind of information is not going to be easy to access. The Americans wouldn't want all and sundry knowing who their agents are, would they?"
"I suppose not," Patrick replied. "It's just hard to know who to trust when you have no information."
"Well, I trust Jones!" Arthur gave his vote of confidence.
"You trusted Marianne too," Arthur winced at the comment.
"That was a completely different situation," Arthur huffed. "And you don't know everything about that, either."
"I know there are things you haven't told us," Patrick said in a conciliatory tone. "But she betrayed her country and she betrayed you. What could possibly condone that?"
"What would you do if I, Allistor or Rhys were being held by the enemy," Arthur asked. "And they would kill us if you didn't do as they say?"
"You mean Marianne …..," Patrick gasped.
"Had a brother in enemy hands," Arthur replied. "But she still risked him to save me so, in the end, she did the right thing."
"Her brother ….?" Patrick asked.
"Alive and well," Arthur replied. "When she told me everything, I went to take him from the enemy and get both of them to a safer part of France."
"So that's why you disappeared that time," Patrick said, remembering how Arthur went AWOL over a year ago.
"I know the Top Brass will never accept an endangered family member as an excuse," Arthur replied. "But it's easy to be judgemental when you've never faced that situation yourself. I just thought, what if it was one of my brothers, what would I do? I couldn't condemn her for it."
Patrick asked himself the same question. What would he do if Arthur, Allistor or Rhys were captured and their survival depended on Patrick doing what the enemy wanted? Truth was, he did not know. Maybe mount a rescue with his remaining brothers but Marianne had had no one to help her so what would he do if he lacked assistance? This needed consideration but his opinion of Marianne was now less condemning.
Arthur knew he had given his brother something to think about. Marianne could never escape punishment, after all, what she did was treason, whatever the cause but he never wanted to see her in front of a firing squad. Then Arthur turned his mind to the other thing that intrigued him.
"What do you make of Alfred's partner, Alice?" he asked. She was a rather strange agent (but then so was Jones) but ever since he met her, he just had this feeling, like a connection or recognition. He just could not put his finger on why.
"Well," Patrick replied, candidly. "I haven't met any female agents but she's not what I would expect. She acts more like a civilian and a rather strange one at that but there's this …..." Patrick did not know how to say it. A feeling, like he was around someone he should know but had never met before. It was slightly disconcerting but he got the feeling that looking out for her was important.
"So you feel it too," Arthur replied. "Like she's someone important to us, despite the fact we never met before today."
"That's exactly it," Patrick replied. "I don't know, maybe it's because she has the Kirkland eyes." Arthur realised that Patrick was right. Alice did have the Kirkland eyes. How strange!
"Bleib wo du bist!" the German ordered and began shoving rocks away so he could get through. When he became trapped in the tunnels after the rock fall, the last thing he expected to see when he moved the rocks was a woman. When she ran, he shouted, "Halt!"
When Alfred heard the German shout, he indicated to Alice to come to him and she ran while the German called out, "Halt!" and Alfred pushed her behind him while they waited for the soldier to follow. When the soldier turned the corner, he ran into Alfred's fist and then he was thrown into the wall and then punched in the stomach. Between the new headache and painful winding, the soldier lost consciousness and fell to the ground. Then they heard more rocks tumble from the cave-in. Looked like the soldier had friends.
Allistor and Rhys, having heard the commotion, came running up the tunnel as one soldier reached the bottom of the rock pile and more were emerging through the hole. Allistor aimed his hand-gun and fired and the first soldier dropped. Rhys shot at the one coming through the gap and they retreated back through the gap. They took defensive positions either side of Alfred and Alice with Rhys covering the gap in the rockfall with his gun.
The gunfire must have alerted other enemy soldiers in the tunnels as a soldier came out of a turning, only to be shot down by Allistor. Then Arthur and Patrick came running back and Allistor alerted them to the tunnel that the soldier had come down. Arthur nodded with Patrick handing him a grenade and he pulled the pin, throwing it into the tunnel. The resulting explosion took care of any other soldiers waiting to jump out of hiding to attack them.
"All clear!" Arthur said. "This way, we found another route." Everyone got to their feet and followed Arthur and Patrick through the tunnels they had come from. There was a few turnings and then the cave walls gave way to man-made brick and there was a shaft of light coming from somewhere above.
"This is it!" Arthur announced. "This is half a mile from Le Fere. Keep your eyes open!" Just a few feet ahead of them, about four feet up a wall was an opening where the light was coming from. Arthur went first, hand-gun ready and looked cautiously through the hole. When he was sure there were no enemy soldiers about, he climbed out and reached down to help pull Alice up and everyone followed after them. It looked like they were in the basement of a wrecked building but the floor above had fallen in, leaving a massive hole. They climbed on to the surviving upper floor and made their way to the exit that was missing its doors. As they looked out, they saw that they were in some kind of industrial complex full of destroyed buildings, all in all, looking like every apocalyptic scene of any film that Alfred had ever seen.
And Alfred just hoped that this was not what it looked like.
Next : Alfred, Alice and the Kirklands see the weapon in action and Alice is a help...
Chapter 6: The Bunker
Alfred and the Kirklands find out just what the weapon does....
I'm not sure about the German so, if any of it is wrong, please let me know....
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chapter 6 : The Bunker
There was no surviving glass in the windows of the buildings before them and puddles dotted the ground between the buildings. Parts of the buildings had crumbled and there was nothing growing anywhere, no sign of life. The whole place was, for want of a better word, dead.
"This place looks like it was nuked!" Alfred commented without thinking. He knew that wasn't possible, the Atomic Bomb was World War II, not World War I. Arthur frowned.
"Nuked?" he asked. "What does that mean?" Alfred cursed himself again, the Atomic Bomb would not become public knowledge until 1945.
"It's an American slang term," he lied. "It means to …...over-react." Arthur just nodded at that.
"Come on!" he ordered and they all left what looked like had been offices and admin. It had been a fine building once but now, whatever was going on here had left it destroyed, barren and lifeless. They ran to another building, not wanting to be exposed for too long, they did not know what was out there. The building looked like it had been some kind of manufacturing plant and they ran through it to the other side and stopped to assess their surroundings.
They were surrounded by equally damaged and wrecked buildings but nestled in the puddle littered land between them was a strange construction. It was a dome, dug into the ground with a smaller dome on top with porthole type windows, looking in every direction. The whole thing was covered in white tiles and looked like a cross between an igloo and a flying saucer.
"What's that thing?" Alfred wondered.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see some Eskimos," Patrick commented. He, Arthur, Allistor and Patrick looked around carefully for the enemy but it was all eerily silent.
"Let's get a closer look," Arthur said and they moved forward, cautiously. Allistor kept watch on the left, Patrick on the right and Rhys watched their back as they crept toward the strange igloo structure.
"Bunny!" Allistor called out and pointed to the left toward what looked like men dressed in British uniforms, tied up to wooden pillars, driven into the ground with a British artillery gun standing nearby. After a second look, they realised that the men were only dummies but they were heavily damaged and the sight left everyone feeling uneasy as they continued on to the igloo thing. It looked like it had been made of some kind of stone and there was a door on the side.
Inside the 'igloo', an observing officer had spotted the group through the portal window and ducked down where they could not see him. He grabbed his field phone and reported the intruders.
Alfred knelt down by the construction and ran his hand over the surface and then he knocked on it. It gave off the sound similar to knocking on a stone pot but with a slight echo to it.
"Ceramic tiles," he muttered. "It's like what they use on the Space Shuttle." Alfred was a big fan of astronomy and anything to do with NASA. Arthur frowned. What does he mean 'Space Shuttle'?
"What are you talking about?" Patrick asked, as if reading Arthur's mind.
' Oops! ' Alfred thought. ' I need to be more careful! '
"What I mean is," he replied, deliberately not explaining what the Space Shuttle was. "Whatever this thing is for, it's been made to withstand a lot of heat." Arthur began to ponder Alfred's words and tried to think of any kind of weapon that would produce a lot of heat to the extent that they would need extended protection from it. Grenades, yes but that was momentary, unless they set fire to something. The same with shells so what could produce a lot of heat for a long period of time?
He was broken out of his musings by the sound of something being driven toward them and he indicated to the others to take cover and they all ran back to the ruined manufacturing building to see what was happening from hiding. A truck, bearing the iron cross, drove into the area, carrying troops and stopped. The soldiers disembarked and began pulling dummies dressed in British uniforms off the truck and took them over to where the others stood and began tying the new dummies to the empty pillars.
"The dummies are the targets," Arthur said, quietly. "That means they're going to test the weapon." The soldiers had just finished when a klaxon sounded. The soldiers looked up at the large horn set on a pylon on one of the buildings and they climbed back on the truck and it drove away.
"I think that means we shouldn't be here any more," Arthur replied. He had the feeling that they needed to get somewhere safe fast and if that bunker was meant to withstand heat …
"Get into the igloo!" he ordered and they ran toward it, not realising that they were being watched. The soldiers from the truck had not left, they had circled around and come back and were now hiding in one of the buildings ready to strike.
Rhys reached the door first, followed by Alice as he turned the opening handle and pulled the door open. Everyone found themselves looking down the barrel of a Bergmann MP18 in the hands of the observing officer.
"Nicht bewegen!( Do not move! )" he ordered. Arthur cursed himself, he should have realised that there might be someone in the bunker. All the Kirkland Brothers raised their guns to point at the German who pondered his options then he spotted Alice and aimed his gun at her. Everyone froze.
"Don't sell her short," Alfred muttered to Arthur. "She can fight back when she needs to." Arthur considered his options. He needed to find away to subdue the German without Alice being harmed but, before he could come up with anything, they were surrounded by the enemy.
"Lassen deine Waffen fallen! ( Drop your weapons! )," the observing officer ordered. Alfred and Alice did not understand but got the gist when the Kirkland Brothers began throwing down their firearms and Rhys put his bag of explosives down.
The observing officer went back into the bunker and operated his field phone again. He waited for the phone to be answered.
" Kapitän (Captain ) Beilschmidt," came the response.
"Kapitän , " the officer said. "Wir haben sie! Was sind Lhre bestellungen? ( We have them! What are your orders? ) Wolfgang smiled.
"Gut! ( Good! )," he replied. "Wir haben zeit keinen Live-Test mehr gehabt. ( We have not had a live test in a while. )."
The officer came back out of the bunker and shouted something to the other soldiers in German. Alfred and Alice did not understand what was being said but they got the impression that it was not good by the looks on the faces of the Kirkland Brothers. The soldiers grabbed hold of the men while the observing officer seized Alice's arm and they were dragged over to where the dummies were tied to the pillars and when soldiers began to untie the dummies, it all became obvious.
They were taking their places.
"We're British citizens and one of us is an American!" Alice argued, indignantly. "You're violating the Geneva Convention. Do any of you speak English? Call the British Embassy!" She dug around in her bag and pulled out a small thin book." Look, this is my passport!" The observing officer just slapped it out of her hand in annoyance.
"Alice!" Alfred called out as he struggled against being tied to the post. "The Geneva Convention doesn't exist yet and this is World War I. We're the enemy, they're not going to listen!" Arthur, struggling against his own captors, took a moment to wonder what the Geneva Convention was and what did Alfred mean, this is World War I? This was the Great War! Then he went back to fighting the soldiers. Alice grabbed a fob that was hanging from her bag and smirked.
"Well let's see what they make of this!" she said, putting the fob up to the officer's ear and pressing the button. He screamed in shock and dropped his gun to put his hands over his ears to block out the ear-splitting shriek that Alice's personal attack alarm was sending down his ear canal to pierce his ear drum. Alice took the opportunity to grab his gun and kick him over. She aimed the gun and fired but was unprepared for the recoil and the force had her firing into the sky rather than at the enemy but it was enough!
Distracted by the sudden strange and annoying sound and then the gunfire, the soldiers turned to see what was going on and Alfred and the Kirkland Brothers struck. Arthur threw his fist into one of his captors and dodge the other before slamming his other fist into the second soldier's stomach. Allistor gave his captor two punches in quick succession and the soldier went down. Patrick and Rhys dealt their opponents some hard blows and they put them in the dirt. Alfred's captor managed to land a blow but Alfred recovered quickly and hit back, then grabbed the soldier and slammed his head into the post he had been trying to tie Alfred to and he was knocked out cold.
Then another sound filled the air as the klaxon blared out again and those soldiers who were not out cold began to run and Alfred and the others followed. Alice tried to run as well but the observing officer grabbed her ankle, causing her to fall and drop the gun. He got to his feet, picked up the gun and aimed it at her and she expected to be shot at any moment.
But the bullets never left the gun as her great, great grandfather slammed his fist into the face of the officer, sending him back to the ground and Arthur picked up the Bergmann MP 18, held his hand out to Alice and pulled her to her feet and they began following everyone else to the bunker.
There was not enough room in the bunker for everyone and it became a fight for the safe haven with the remaining conscious soldiers and there was not enough to deal with the Kirkland Brothers and Alfred so it was a fight easily won. Once the fight was over, they could hear something, a low hum filled the air and seemed to increase and make the air vibrate, like it was building to something.
"Time to get inside!" Arthur ordered. "Ladies first!" He ushered Alice into the bunker and everyone followed after grabbing their guns and equipment from where they had thrown them down when they were captured. Arthur was the last one in, closing and locking the door behind them. Inside was lit up in red from a red light bulb beside a green one, indicating that something was happening and everyone stood up to look through the portholes. The air was rippling, like it did when it brought Arthur's plane down and dirt began jumping up from the ground. They could feel the vibrations hitting the outside of the bunker and the gun beside the posts and the dummies began trembling. Metal roofs on some of the buildings outside also began to shake but it was not an earthquake because the ground beneath their feet was solid and unmoving. It was as if the very air itself was attacking whatever was still outside.
Then their view was block by the sudden appearance of the face of the observing officer who was desperately holding his hands over his ears as if to block out some noise that was worse than Alice's personal attack alarm, causing Alice to give a little scream. His mouth was open in a silent scream because the bunker was blocking the sound. He staggered away from the bunker, probably looking for refuge from whatever was happening outside but he did not get far. As he wandered through the puddle-riddled ground, the water began to boil and hiss and finally, he collapsed into one of the puddles and did not react to whatever was causing the water to boil.
The gun and metal outside began to glow slightly, as if it was being heated to incandescence and the vibrations continued for another two minutes. Then they could feel the vibrations begin to ebb until they could no longer be felt. After another minute, the red light switched off and the bunker was bathed in green.
"I suppose that means it safe to go back out," Arthur muttered and moved to the door. Unlocking and opening it, he stepped outside into the open air.
Which felt like it had been disturbed, like the beginning of a thunderstorm and Arthur noticed that the soldiers that littered the ground near the door were dead and he knew that they had only knocked them out, telling him that, whatever had happened, it was, indeed, lethal to humans.
"Keep an eye out for the enemy," he ordered and they made their way from the bunker. None of them heard the field phone ring.
Wolfgang waited for an answer, eager to hear how the test had gone. The phone continued to ring without reply and the observing officer knew to wait for his call. When he continued to receive no answer, he put the phone down and turned to one of his subordinates.
"Schicken Sie ein gerat zum testgelande! ( Send a unit to the test ground )," he ordered. "Da stimmt etwas nicht! ( There is something wrong! )."
Arthur walked cautiously to the officer who had fallen in the puddle, grimacing at the burns the boiling water had caused to unprotected skin and knelt down beside him. He gently took the man's wrist to check for a pulse and the whole arm detached from the shoulder and Alice gave a shudder of disgust. The bloody end of the arm looked gelatinous and the muscle looked like it had lost its ability to bind together. It was clear that the man was dead and Arthur dropped the arm, not being able to get it away from him fast enough.
"Look around!" he ordered as he desperately tried not to throw up at what he had just seen and they spread out, looking to see what else had been done. Alfred went over to the gun which he could feel was still giving off heat. He was glad of his gloves, protecting him from the heat as he reached out and touched a pipe on the gun. The pipe snapped and crumbled like it was made of very weak plaster of Paris. Alfred did not know much about military hardware but he knew it was tougher than that.
Allistor jumped back to avoid being buried by the collapsing wall and roof of an out-building that he had just touched as he passed. He turned and stared at Arthur as a cloud rose from the bricks that had not just fallen, they had crumbled to dust.
Alfred moved to the gun's long barrel and put his gloved hands on the metal and gripped it. The metal gave way and crumbled in his hands and the barrel snapped in half, the end falling to the ground where it broke like a dropped plant pot. Definitely not how a gun should be!
Alice was drawn to the body of a young soldier who seemed too young to be on a battlefield and too young to be dead. She reached down to touch the boyish face as if in apology for his death. Her gloved hand touch the young man's face by the eyebrow and, without warning, the bone under the skin cracked and her hand sank into his face. When she pulled her hand away, his eyeball came with it, sticking to her palm and she tried not to scream while shaking her hand to dislodge the white, squishy ball from her fingers. Alfred ran across to her and pulled her into a comforting hug as she pressed her horrified face into his shoulder.
Arthur struggled to put it together and did not like what everything was pointing to. The rippling of the air, similar to what had hit his plane, the vibration pounding on the walls of the bunker and how the observing officer had tried to block the sound out! How had they managed this? To create audio oscillation on such a scale!
"They've invented a bloody sound weapon!" he gasped in disbelief. How could they fight such a thing? Even if they could build bunkers for their soldiers, and there was no guarantee that they could build them in time, there was no way to protect civilians from this. They had just seen what this weapon could do and it was terrifying. He looked up and saw the same foreboding in the eyes of his brothers.
"I've think we've discovered enough," he said. They had to get this information back to base. "Let's go!" Alfred took Alice's hand and everyone made their way back to the wrecked admin building. As they approached the door, Arthur heard movement inside and motioned everyone to stay where they were. He moved closer cautiously and peered around the edge of the door, getting a quick glimpse of an enemy soldier who had come up from the basement and the caves before he had to pull back as a bullet nicked the door edge. He came from behind the door and opened fire with his stolen Bergmann MP 18 but the soldier had disappeared back into the caves and Arthur went back to the others.
"There are still soldiers in the caves," he reported and he looked at Alfred and Alice. "The two of you, stay here while we deal with them." Arthur threw the Bergmann to Alfred, drew his own revolver and he and the other Kirklands ran inside the building. When they had the cave entrance covered, Arthur indicated to Rhys who took a grenade from his explosives kit and threw it to Arthur. Arthur pulled the pin and threw it through the opening, then everybody ran for cover.
Debris and fire erupted from the opening and, when it cleared, they jumped through the opening to deal with their opponents.
Outside Alfred and Alice waited for them in silence, that was until they heard something being said in German and looked out at the destroyed buildings to see soldiers running toward them. Alfred pushed Alice behind him, aimed the gun and fired. And the enemy began dropping.
As did Feliks and the police as they were forced to hit the ground as bullets punched holes in the side of the police van and shattered the windows.
That was what went through Alfred's mind when he realised that they had jumped back to the bridge in 2017 and that he had just shot at the British police. He dropped the gun, grabbed Alice's hand and they began running with Alfred being thankful that regular British police were not armed like American police. In New York, he would have been shot for what he had just done but he knew that it was only a matter of time before they called in the armed units. And he was right.
"You two take care of him!" the officer dressed as the doorman ordered two other officers and pointed to Feliks. Then he indicated to another officer. "Get on the radio and get the armed units here!" The officer operated his radio to do what he was told while everyone else went in pursuit of the gunman, the doorman officer picking up the World War I gun as they ran across the bridge.
"Sir!" the officer who had been talking on the radio. "The helio's in the air and it has an armed officer on board!" The doorman police officer nodded.
"Even better!" he replied.
Alfred and Alice ran between two buildings and stopped and gasped for breath. Alfred knew that he and Alice had to separate, the police would come at him with everything and he could not risk her being caught in the crossfire.
"Alice," he turned to her. "I have to get to your grandfather but you have to slow them down. I don't care what you have to do." He looked round and saw a drainpipe and began to climb it while Alice went to delay the police.
She ran back the way she and Alfred had come to intercept the police coming the other way and began to put on an act.
"Please!" she cried fake tears and grabbing as many of the officers that she could. "Please don't hurt him! Please, he's ill! He thinks he travels back to World War I, he doesn't know what he's doing, please help him!" She kept grabbing officers, doing a perfect impression of a hysterical person. The lead officer in the doorman uniform tried to get her to calm down as he needed to catch the man who had fired the gun. Yes, they had the gun he had fired, and where did he get such a old gun in working condition anyway, but who knew what other weapons he had?
"We'll do what we can, Miss," he said and pushed her toward one of his men. "Take her back to the hotel and look after her." As the other men went after Alfred, Alice hoped she had bought him enough time.
Alfred reached the top of the drainpipe and ran across the roof toward where he could see Tower Bridge but as he ran toward the edge of the building, there came a whomp, whomp, whomp sound and a black helicopter, with Police painted on it and a large speaker ball on a mounting on the side, rose up into view and, in the open side door, Alfred could see an armed police officer, pointing an assault rifle at him.
How did they get a police helicopter here so fast?!
"Stop right there!" a male voice came through the speaker. Alfred decided that, at this point, stopping was not in his best interests. He had to reach Tower Bridge and Peter so he began to run again and the helicopter followed.
"Stop running!" the voice came after him. "Or we'll shoot!" Alfred swerved and ran behind some roof sheds that held some kind of controls, probably for the utilities for the building and they shielded him from the armed officer in the helicopter. He was hoping to ditch it but he soon ran out of sheds and, when he ran into the open, the helicopter was in front of him with the officer ready to fire.
Okay, I cheated slightly here. The Bergmann MP18 is a WWI weapon but it was created a year after this story takes places but it was the closest to a hand-held machine gun I could find in that time period so I went with that.
Next : Now it's Arthur's turn...
Chapter 7: Surprise!
How's Alfred going to get out of this one....?
Chapter 7 : Surprise!
Alfred stood stock still, knowing that one wrong move on his part would get a bullet in him. Although armed police were rare in Britain, when they were called in, they did not mess around and Alfred had already, although accidentally, made himself look like a serious threat and he did not know how to get out of this one without ending up in the nearest hospital, morgue or mental institution.
Then, suddenly, he was grabbed from behind and pulled back to the safe shield of the utility building, a bullet nicking the edge as he disappeared behind it. Alfred look round at his saviour and found himself looking at Arthur, leather flying jacket, helmet, googles and all.
"How did you get here?!" Alfred squawked in surprise.
"I have no idea!" Arthur replied. One moment he was in his plane, trying to find the weapon from the air in the hopes of taking it out before it could be used against the troops on the ground but that was pretty academic any way. There was a German offensive against the nearest British trenches and it was going badly for his side as the trenches were being overwhelmed and they were cut off from retreat. He remembered a rumble of thunder and a flash of lightning, his plane vanished from around him and he found himself on a roof top with Alfred having a gun pointed at him from some contraption that hovered in mid-air.
"You must have fallen through the same hole in time as I have," Alfred said. At last, he would not have to make up stories to explain his presence in 1917.
"Hole in time?" Arthur asked but then decided that this was not the right time. "Never mind! What is that thing?" He indicated the strange flying contraption that looked like some kind of giant black bug with large propeller blades for wings.
"It's a helicopter," Alfred replied, realising that helicopters were definitely before Arthur's time.
"No," Alfred replied. "We're in London, that's the British police. They're kinda pissed at me because I accidentally shot at them when Alice and I jumped back. I was going to someone for help." Arthur took another look at the contraption that hovered through the sky like a dancing bee. The civilian police had a contraption like that! It was not military! It should be!
"Where do you need to get to?" Arthur asked.
"Tower Bridge!" Arthur thought for a second. He still had his flare pistol with him from the plane but these were British police and he did not want to harm his own people, he just needed to get them to back off so he took out his flare gun, aimed and fired the flare as a warning shot to its right.
Flares, however, are not like bullets and do not fly in an accurate, straight line and the fired flare veered slightly to the left, giving the helicopter a glancing blow and Arthur had a bad moment as he thought that he might have brought the helicopter down but there did not seem to be any damage but the shot had had the desired affect as they withdrew, in case the flare had done something that could affect the helicopter's flight, leaving Arthur and Alfred with escape time.
They made their way across the building to where they could see Tower Bridge and jumped down to another attached building that had a courtyard like some kind of warehouse and they ran across the top of the wall to the next building and from there came the hard part. A jump from one building to another across an alleyway. It was a short alley but still a long way to fall, had they got the jump wrong. From there, it was on to a storehouse roof where a man was using a winch to hoist stuff from the ground to the upper storehouse and there was a ladder propped up against the drop down platform. Arthur climbed on to the winch and shimmied down the rope to the platform.
"May we use your ladder, old chap?" Arthur asked, politely. The man just nodded his head in surprise and Arthur began climbing down the ladder as Alfred followed him down the winch rope. Soon they were both on the ground and running toward Tower Bridge but then stopped short when they turned a corner and saw police, wearing uniforms that Arthur did not recognise, standing in the road to the bridge, looking for them, obviously.
They edged back round the corner, out of sight and leant with their backs against the wall, trying to figure out their next move when Arthur looked across the way to where there was a piece of waste ground, occupied by people wearing dark clothing and dark make-up. Arthur pulled off his goggles, which he had not removed since he landed in 2017, off his eyes, staring at the people in awe.
Alfred began smiling at Arthur's reaction to seeing Goths for the first time and Arthur took time to finally process everything. The helicopter, the unusual police, people wearing clothes that he had never seen before, although some of it resembled clothes from two decades previous of 1917. A device that resemble a horseless carriage drove past but it was more like a metal box on wheels and drove much faster. There had to be an explanation for this London that was, landmarks not withstanding, so different to the one he knew. What was it Alfred had said …..?
"Hole in time?" he asked Alfred and Alfred nodded. "I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it! So you're not an American agent, like you told my brothers."
"I tried to tell them that I was from the future," Alfred explained. "But they didn't believe me so I told them I was an agent. I was having trouble with them believing that until you showed up and vouched for me. I don't know why but a few days ago, I started slipping back in time and it seems to be whenever you're in danger but it looks like it works both ways. Truth is, I work in the food industry, I've never been in the military in my life."
"That explains a great deal," Arthur replied, thinking about Alfred's unusual clothing and his ineptitude with the plane's gun and the fact that he was, quite probably, the worse agent Arthur had ever met. "And what about Miss Alice?"
"She's actually my fiancée," Alfred replied. "She was holding on to me when we jumped last time so she ended up coming with me. Any way, what happened to you?"
"I was up in my plane," Arthur replied. "The enemy was overrunning our trenches and I was looking to take out the weapon before it could be used."
"Then we really need to get to Tower Bridge," Alfred said. "The man I was going to see has your photograph but how are we gonna get past the police." Arthur looked over at the Goths who had begun to move in their direction, looking like they were heading toward the bridge and he had an idea.
Police turned to see a large group of Goths coming their way. They walked past the police calmly as the police looked them over, one of them, some Steampunk guy wearing an old army uniform, leather flying helmet and goggles and another guy, wearing an old leather flying jacket among them but did not see who they were looking for. Alfred had the collar of Arthur's jacket pulled up and he made sure he walked beside someone at all times so that the clear view of his face was blocked and he crossed his fingers. They managed to pass by the police and climbed the steps to the bridge,
When they reached 1A Tower Bridge, Arthur and Alfred detached themselves from the Goth group as silently and quickly as they had joined them without them realising and went inside.
As the elevator could only fit one person at a time, they had to go the long way and Alfred knocked on the door of Peter's hidden lair, after giving Arthur his jacket back. Arthur walked in to find an old man with white hair and huge white eyebrows waiting for him.
Peter stared at Arthur for a few moments. He knew this moment was coming but still, it was quite an event, coming face to face with your own grandfather, whom he had last seen as an old man, looking at him, with a face that was, at least half a century younger than his.
"Hello, Arthur," he greeted, like Arthur was someone he had not seen for a very long time which, in truth, he had not. Arthur frowned.
"Excuse me, sir," he replied. "But do I know you?" Peter smiled.
"I know you," he replied. "But you don't know me ….. yet!"
"I don't know if telling you this is the right thing but...," Alfred said. "Arthur Kirkland, this is Peter Kirkland. He's your grandson." Arthur's jaw almost hit the floor.
"My grands...," he gasped. He was this man's grandfather! He looked old enough to be his grandfather but then. Hole in time ….. of course. "But I have no children, I'm not even married!"
"Not yet," Peter grinned.
"Who do I marry?"
"I'm not going to tell you that," Peter said, adamantly. "But, at this point, I don't think I need to." Arthur smiled. Peter had told him without telling him...Marianne!
"By the way," Alfred thought since he was introducing family, he better get this out of the way. "Alice is Alice Kirkland, Peter's granddaughter." Arthur nearly hit the floor.
"Are you saying," he gasped. "That girl, your fiancée, is my great, great granddaughter!" That explained why he and his brothers had felt so protective about her. They automatically recognised her as a Kirkland! And Alfred was going to become part of the family, what a turn up! "Well, if you're marrying her, at least I know your intentions are honourable."
"He knows Alice?" Peter asked Alfred. That had not been in the information file Peter had of Alfred and Arthur and he got the feeling that it was deliberate.
"The last time I jumped, Alice was holding on," Alfred replied. "She jumped with me. Don't worry. she's all right! In fact, if she hadn't been there, we'd have all been dead." Peter sighed.
"Well, at least she knows I'm not the family nutter any more," he said. He missed the days when he could tell her the stories of her great, great grandfather and his mysterious friend, before everyone convinced her that he was going senile.
Arthur moved over to a table when he spotted the photograph of him and his brothers and picked it up.
"That was taken when your unit got its first commendation," Peter said. "Your commander, William Raymond, mentioned in dispatches how proud he was of you all."
"That was last year!"
"I take it you know how you got here?" Peter asked.
"Showed up and saved my life," Alfred replied.
"So you know that the hole in time opens both ways," Peter said. "When one or the other is at risk?"
"We kinda figured that out," Alfred quipped. "But I've got the police after me now, I suppose you knew that too." Peter gave a wry smile.
"Things will work out," he reassured Alfred. "Oh, the photograph has been developed, I have it over here." He moved over to the table next to his favourite arm chair and picked up an enlarge photo in a clear, protective sleeve and moved over to Arthur. "This came from the photo plate Alfred gave me. You see the weapon has been heavily camouflaged but I've used computer enhancement to bring up the detail." Arthur frowned.
"Computer enhancement?" he asked. Peter cursed himself for slipping up.
"It doesn't matter," he replied. "Point is, I've marked the position of the weapon so you should be able to find it easily."
"Thank you," Arthur still had a hard time believing that this old man was his grandson but if Alfred said so, Arthur was going to believe him.
"Right!" he said, taking the photograph. "Time we left, I think." Alfred turned from the window where he had been watching the police presence growing.
"The place is swarming with cops," Alfred replied. "How are we gonna get pass them?" Arthur looked around and spotted some war memorabilia and equipment. He grabbed two coils of rope from the display and threw one to Alfred.
"You seem to know everything that happens," Alfred said to Peter as Arthur walked back to them. "How does Arthur get back to the past?" Peter just gave a wry smile.
"You'll know when it happens," he replied. "Now God speed to both of you." Peter gave his young looking grandfather a hug and they left the room. When he was sure they were gone, he went and picked up his phone, dialled a number and waited for an answer.
"Yes, they just left," he said. "Is everything ready? Good …... I know the police won't be happy but they'll be compensated, just make sure nothing gets in Tempus or Fugit's way, the preservation of the time-line depends on it."
The police helicopter crew were very disgruntled when they were ordered to abandon the chase and put down on the quayside as the Army had taken command of the operation and they wanted the air space cleared as soon as possible and the police were not even granted time to return to base. When they landed, they were told to leave the area and those orders were backed up by their superiors. They wondered why the Army had taken over, what was a serious firearms incident, but nothing that they could not handle so they wondered if the Army knew more about this than they did.
Arthur ran to another window and opened it, looking down to see that it was on the side facing the Thames river and began tying his rope around a steel column in the middle of the room.
"Just do what I do," Arthur said and hoped Alfred had done any rope work as he copied Arthur, tying his own rope to the column.
"What are you gonna do?" he asked. Arthur smiled and threw the remainder of the rope out of the window and began to climb out and down the side of the tower.
"You gotta be kidding me!" Alfred exclaimed. He had done rope work during Physical Education in school, like everybody else but that had been a while and this was a whole different level but what choice did he have? He threw his rope out, making sure it did not land on Arthur and began the perilous climb down, once again, glad for his gloves so he was spared the rope burns. It took a while as Alfred was cautious, wanting to reach the ground, not crash into it but, finally his feet were on the stone floor that curved around the outer riverside wall and they ran down the stairs that took them to the quayside where the police helicopter stood, seemingly abandoned.
Arthur took off one of his gloves and ran his hand over the paint covered metal, moving on to the wind-shield which felt hard like glass but not quite the same. He had seen it fly and manoeuvre, seemingly turning round on the spot in mid-air, instead of needing to do a wide turn. Seeing it up close, Arthur marvelled at the engineering of the aircraft, the sleek lines and he just had to look at the controls.
"So ingenious!" he exclaimed as he moved round to the other side and the pilot seat.
"What are you doing?" Alfred asked as Arthur figured out the door control and opened it. Alfred opened the other side as Arthur climbed into the pilot seat, noting the assault rifle, strapped to the passenger side and wondered who would leave a gun in an unguarded helicopter . "I don't know why no one's with this helicopter but we better get out of here before they come back."
Arthur did not listen as he looked over the control panel and took hold of the control stick to see what it felt like. Some of the instruments, he did not recognise but he recognised enough to believe he could get the hang of flying the craft. And boy, did he want to fly it!
"Are you seriously thinking of trying to fly this thing?!" Alfred asked in shock as Arthur reached for what he believed to be the starter. "You don't know how!" Arthur just looked at him and smirked.
"If you can fly a Sopwith Camel," he bragged as the helicopter blades began to rotate. "You can fly anything! Now, get in!"
"No way!" Alfred replied as the blades sped up. "You're not trained for this aircraft!"
"Stay where you are!" A voice ordered and Alfred turned to see a group of soldiers running toward them and decided that in the helicopter with Arthur might be better and grabbed on to the helicopter's frame and stood on the runner. Arthur took the helicopter into the air before the soldiers reached them.
As the helicopter lifted away from them and over the waters of the Thames, the sergeant took out his radio and activated it.
"Trap 1, this is Greyhound!" he said into the radio. "Tempus is aboard the helicopter and he and Fugit will be turning back the clock! Repeat! Tempus Fugit are turning back the clock!"
"Roger, Greyhound!" came the reply. "Standby for the clock turning forward. Time-lord is heading your way."
"Roger, Trap1," the sergeant replied. "Awaiting Time-lord." He watched the helicopter, that he had had refuelled and ready for Tempus (Alfred) and Fugit (Arthur) to take. He hope that one of them could operate the automatic rifle he had left on the passenger side. At least he had taken the safety off.
Alfred held on, trying to get the door open again to get inside the helicopter while Arthur came to grips with the controls and how they made the helicopter fly.
"Clever!" he commented. "It can be tilted to create an air-screw effect," He dipped the nose down on the helicopter and it began to turn round in a circle, rather than moving forward. Alfred just held on for dear life.
"Blast!" Arthur swore. "Why isn't that little propeller at the back compensating?" Arthur tried several things before he found a way to stop the turning and the helicopter began flying forward. He turned to smile at Alfred and saw him still holding on to the outside of the helicopter.
"Why don't you come in?" he yelled over the sound of the rotor blades, like he was inviting Alfred into his home. Alfred grimaced and struggled with the door again, then the helicopter shot upwards and Arthur fought to bring the helicopter back under control. The helicopter rose above Tower Bridge as Alfred got the door open but almost fell as his feet slipped off the runner, stopped only by the brackets holding the runner to the helicopter and he managed to hold on, get his feet back on to the runner and pulled himself into the chopper, strapping himself into the passenger seat.
"Welcome aboard!" Arthur quipped as The Tower of London passed their view. Then the helicopter's flight became wobbly and Alfred braced his hands against the chopper's roof to stop himself being thrown around.
"Hold on!" Arthur shouted. "I'll have it under control in a moment!"
"We might not have a moment!" Alfred screamed, scared that the helicopter could fall out of the sky at any second. "Have you try the autopilot?"
"What's an autopilot?" Arthur asked.
"It's this," Alfred replied and pressed the button marked 'Autopilot'. He dove to press it again when the chopper's nose dipped and they began diving toward the Thames. Arthur managed to get the helio back under control.
"Okay," Alfred said. "We'll leave the autopilot alone."
"Don't worry," Arthur told him as the helicopter began responding to him and doing everything he wanted it to. "I've got the hang of it now." And they began flying down the Thames.
A rumble of thunder, a flash of lightning and the Thames disappeared.
Greyhound, Trap 1 and Time-lord refer to a certain British time travelling cult classic, I'm sure you can guess which.
Next : There's a surprising development on the battlefield...
Chapter 8: The Power Of Sound
Arthur has a plan....
Chapter 8 : The Power of Sound
The murky water of the Thames river was replaced by the battle-riddled muddy rows of the trenches and the British were fighting back as best they could but it looked like the enemy was gaining the upper hand but they all looked up as the strange looking aircraft flew over their heads.
"Well, it looks like we're back in 1917," Alfred commented as the soldiers below pondered just which side this strange thing was on.
"Indeed," Arthur replied. It made sense that they ended up here, this was where he had been when he jumped through time, he could even see the wreckage of his plane a little way off which made him ponder. Why had his plane not come through time with him but the helicopter had? Was it because Jones was in the helicopter with him, confusing the hole in time with someone from the past and the future passing through? Or maybe, just maybe, things passed through that were needed? Like the electric razor and then there was Alice. They would have died at the bunker if not for his future great, great granddaughter's actions.
So maybe the helicopter was needed here and that's why it came through with them!
The battle began to rage again and Alfred decided to give the British side a helping hand and grabbed the gun, aiming out of the window at the enemy. It never crossed his mind that the safety was usually on so he did not think it strange that the gun began firing and the Germans learnt the hard way that this whirling, flying contraption was not on their side. Quick bursts of gun fire had the enemy diving for cover if they were not hit and the tide of the battle was changing, thanks to this big, flying bug-like aircraft that zipped around the battlefield like a big, black bee, attacking from the air, along with additional gunfire and battle cries from the British troops on the ground, glad for this unexpected, if rather strange, aid.
One German officer ran for their own trenches and the field phone. They needed their own air support and they had the best German pilot near by and he rang the field phone of Captain Wolfgang Beilschmidt.
The enemy tried to shoot at the helicopter but Arthur either evaded them or Alfred shot at them. There were a few hits but, fortunately, these hit in places where no harm was caused or they just pinged off the helicopter's body. But Alfred's gun could not keep shooting forever and eventually the bullets ran out but by that time, many of the enemy were in retreat and their side had an advantage.
There was no more they could do here. Without armaments, they were just a flying distraction so Arthur decided that they needed to get to his base and rearm which meant flying over enemy territory.
As he flew, Arthur pondered what he could do with the helicopter as he had no doubt that this was what would bring down the sound weapon but how to use it? Then he remembered when he jumped to 2017, someone had demanded Alfred not to move but the voice came from the round ball on the side of the helicopter.
"Jones," he asked. "What's that round thing on the side of this aircraft?" Alfred looked at the round ball with the speaker grid panel facing the way they were going.
"That's a speaker," he replied and picked up the mic. "If you speak through this, your voice comes out of the speaker, much louder."
"So it projects the voice," Arthur mused. "Can it project other sounds?"
"Any sound that goes through the microphone," Alfred replied. "Why?"
"It might be useful," Arthur replied, the beginnings of a plan forming in his mind. He was insane to consider it but it might be their one shot to take the sound weapon down but first, they needed to rearm.
Wolfgang soared through the air in his bi-plane, looking for the 'strange aircraft' that had been reported, routing their troops in a land battle that had been going their way so he went up to deal with the menace.
He expected to find something at least plane-shaped, maybe with unusual wings or something added on, nothing he could not take care of as he flew over the countryside, looking for his target. Then, there in the distance, he could see something black, flying above the trees but, as he got closer, one thought ran through his mind.
What is that thing?!
The helicopter whipped across the sky and over the trees as Arthur and Alfred headed for the airfield in friendly territory but they were still in enemy occupied airspace so it was no surprise to see the bi-plane as it came level with them and they saw the familiar iron mask of Wolfgang Beilschmidt.
Wolfgang stared at the weird aircraft that had no wings but huge propellers that spun and created a huge blur above the body of the craft, making it look like some huge black insect. The wind shield was huge and through it, in one seat, he could see the man who he had last seen dressed in a nun's habit as he saved Arthur Kirkland and his group and in the other seat ……
Who gave Wolfgang a cocky salute.
Strange plane or not, Wolfgang would bring it down, Kirkland and his friend along with it.
He had no idea what he was up against.
Arthur looked over at Wolfgang's plane and smirked. He had a feel for the helicopter's manoeuvrability now and a bi-plane was no match.
"Let's show the sausage guzzler what this thing can do," he said to Alfred. Alfred grinned.
"Go for it!" he encouraged.
Arthur increased the speed and pulled away from Wolfgang's plane who began to pursue them and Arthur took the chopper close to the earth and Wolfgang tried to follow but Arthur was flying barely feet above the ground and Wolfgang was forced to pull up and veer to the left while Arthur veered to the right, climbing back into the air but, while Wolfgang was forced to fly a wide turn, Arthur could turn the helicopter practically on the spot and, by the time Wolfgang was back on course, Arthur was way ahead of him and Wolfgang pushed his plane to catch up and get the helicopter back in firing range.
But, just as he was ready to fire, the chopper suddenly turned and moved off to the left, hovering there as Wolfgang zipped by before taking off again, leaving Wolfgang to do another turn to get the chopper back into the line of fire.
Arthur began flying low along a railway track, following it through the countryside but Wolfgang managed to catch up and was following behind but he could not get his plane as low as the helicopter and he could not aim his gun that low either so firing at the chopper was not possible. All he could do was follow and wait for an opportunity to get the aircraft back into his sights because he had to bring it down. While not as fast as a plane, its manoeuvrability was like nothing he had ever seen and his plane was no match. He just hoped that this was a prototype and that the enemy had no other aircraft like this because, if they had, they could, quite possibly, win the war.
Up ahead, Arthur and Alfred could see a steam train coming toward them, the smoke from the funnel puffing into the air and trailing behind it. While playing with Wolfgang was fun, they needed to get back to base and armed up. Arthur had a plan and he did not want to waste any more fuel before he put it into action.
Wolfgang was catching up again as they flew toward the train at full speed and then Arthur veered to the left and Wolfgang went right and became shrouded in the smoke, losing sight of his quarry. He flew the full length of the train before he cleared the smoke and when he emerged ……
There was no sight of the strange aircraft!
The train continued on its way, leaving behind the bi-plane and its bewildered pilot, rolling through the land, unaware that the flat railway carriage that they had unloaded at the last stop now carried new cargo as the helicopter rested on it and took it close to the edge of the territory still held by France. Arthur began the helicopter again and it rose into the air, leaving the train and heading for friendly airspace and his airfield.
The mood at the airfield was subdued. It was a temporary base that the French had given permission to the British to set up and mainly consisted of a clear space for planes to take off and land with tents for sleeping, planning and just socialising when the war allowed and there was a shelter for the ground crew, should the airfield come under attack.
There had been a report that Arthur's plane had crashed in no-man's land while a battle was raging and, from the reports coming in, it was not going their way. No one had been able to get to the wreckage to see if Arthur had survived the crash and Germans had been swarming the area so if he had survived and the enemy had found him …...
It did not look good!
They sat under a canopy tent, each with their own thoughts about the fate of their brother. Allistor had been chain smoking ever since the report had come in. Patrick had been quietly sipping tea from a tin cup while Rhys cleaned their guns, just to have something to take his mind off it. Whether Arthur was dead or in enemy hands, they just wished they knew which so they could either mourn or plan a rescue.
Allistor stubbed out his cigarette, pulled out another one and lit it.
"He's not dead!" he said, adamantly after he blew out a plume of smoke. "Ye can't put a Kirkland down that easily." Patrick was more pessimistic.
"He crashed in the middle of a battle, Allistor," he replied. "If the crash didn't get him, he was in the middle of shelling and enemy advancement. There's nothing easy about that …..." Rhys said nothing and became more vigorous in his gun cleaning while Allistor sighed and took a deep draw on his cigarette. As much as he hated to admit it, those were big odds to beat.
Then a strange sound began to reach their ears, a whomp, whomp, whomp sound that they had never heard before and they turned toward the noise and, through the trees, came the strangest thing they had ever seen. It looked like a giant black bee with a thin tail, its wings whirling above it, too fast to see.
Arthur grabbed the microphone and pressed the talk button.
"ALLISTOR!" Arthur's voice was amplified by the speaker. "PATRICK! RHYS! ON YOUR FEET!" Was that Bunny? The Kirkland Brothers left the tent and stared up at the helicopter in amazement as it danced in the sky over their heads, turning in tight circles that no plane could ever manage. How was it doing that?!
The ground crew came out and saw the strange whirling thing as it came in to land, lowering down vertically instead of needing a long run of ground. Incredible!
When it landed, the blades began to slow down and Arthur jumped out of the helicopter, grinning at the flabbergasted faces of his brothers as he ran toward them. Allistor grabbed his younger brother's arm and pulled him in for a (manly) hug.
"I couldn't believe my ears, Bunny," Allistor exclaimed. "It really is you!"
"When we heard that your plane had crashed, we thought ….." Patrick could not complete the sentence so he turned his attention to the helicopter and the four blades that had stopped turning. "What is that thing, some kind of flying windmill?" Arthur laughed.
"I'll tell you later," he replied. "Right now, I need a Lewis gun, plenty of ammunition and some luck wouldn't go amiss." Allistor flicked his cigarette away.
"The gun and the ammo we can get yer, Bunny," he said. "You'll have to talk to the Big Man upstairs about the luck." Arthur smiled and turned his attention to Rhys.
"Rhys!" he ordered. "Get full battle kits for the three of you. Arm to the teeth!"
"Are we going for a ride in the windmill?" he asked. He would not mind having a go in that contraption and, judging by the looks on Allistor and Patrick's faces, neither would they!
"Sorry," Arthur apologised. He had seen the eagerness in the faces of his brothers but he had plans for the helicopter. "I'm going to attack the sound weapon with it but I want you to go to the convent and protect the civilians. The battle nearby went against the enemy and, if we succeed in destroying the weapon, they might try to take reprisals."
"I think we can persuade them otherwise," Patrick replied. After everything the people at the convent had done for them, they were not going to allow those people to be harmed. "Let's get ready." They turned to leave.
"And!" Arthur called out and they stopped and turned back toward him. "Look after Marianne …. for me!" Patrick had told his other brothers what Arthur had told him about the reason behind Marianne's actions and they all nodded, understandingly. They would watch out for her as if she were their own and they turned away to get ready and to get Arthur's weaponry. Arthur walked back to the helicopter, to Alfred's side and opened the door.
"Willing to join me, Jones?" he asked. "What do you say?" Alfred grinned at Arthur.
"I say, let's kick ass," he replied. "Old boy!"
Once everything was on board, Arthur and Alfred were back in the air, skimming over the landscape as it passed beneath them. They were in the general area where Arthur had taken the photograph and now they just had to get its precise location because this time, it was no re-con mission, they were going to take the weapon down.
Or die trying.
Arthur hoped his plan would work but it was dependent on the strength of an aircraft who's schematics he was unfamiliar with and so he had no idea exactly how much punishment a helicopter could take. He just hoped it could take enough.
They came in low over a lake that Arthur remembered passing once before on one of the other re-cons and knew that they were getting near.
But someone else was in the air.
Wolfgang knew that his plane was no match for the strange craft that Kirkland had gotten his hands on but, if he could not bring it down, there was something else that could.
He aimed his flare pistol in the air and fired, sending the red flare to signal the deployment of the weapon.
This time, Kirkland would die!
The flare was sighted and the order was given as the assigned crew men operated the control to deploy the weapon. The huge disc began rising from the ground and turning to face the on-coming threat.
Arthur stayed above the trees he was passing and flew out over open fields, toward the weapon compound, unaware that it was being aimed in their direction. The landscape was getting more and more familiar and he knew that the weapon was not far now.
"Jones!" he ordered. "Check the photograph Peter gave us. If I'm right, we should be on top of the weapon soon!" Alfred looked carefully at the photograph that had been clipped to the check-list clipboard. It showed the weapon at a distance but everything between that spot and where they were looked similar to the photo.
"We're nearly there!" he replied.
The generator that created energy for the weapon was building up power, ready to be used and everyone was standing by for the order to activate the weapon once full power was reached.
It would destroy anything it was aimed at.
They could see the weapon now and it was deployed. Arthur knew he did not have much time before it fired so he and Alfred would have to work quickly.
"Turn the voice box up to full power," he told Alfred who turned the volume control to its highest setting, wondering what Arthur had planned.
"Full on," he said when he finished.
"Good!" Arthur replied. "Now, take the microphone and throw it out over the speaker!" Alfred looked out at the round speaker unit and began to get an inkling of what Arthur was planning.
"I'm going to fight sound with sound," Arthur continued. "What sound the weapon spews out will be picked up by the microphone and thrown back at it by the speaker, giving the weapon a taste of its own medicine."
"That's sounds crazy!" Alfred exclaimed. He wondered if the helicopter speaker would be powerful enough to overwhelm the weapon and, even if it could, would the helicopter stand up to that kind of sound vibration. These aircraft had to have a certain amount of resistance to vibration but they had all seen what this weapon could do so, like he said, it sounded crazy.
But maybe crazy enough to work!
Alfred took the microphone and a rubber band from the check-list clipboard that was used to stop papers from flapping about in the wind and wrapped it around the microphone to keep the talk button pressed as Arthur took the helicopter on a direct flight path to the weapon. Then came the precarious job of putting it over the speaker. He opened his door and got a firm grip on the body of the helicopter as he leant out, stretching the microphone cord as he reached to hook the cord over the speaker mounting. When he had a secure hook, he lowered the mic over the speaker, making sure that it aimed away from the speaker itself, no one wanted to hear that squealing feed-back, and then pulled himself back into the safety of the helicopter. The sound of the wind rushing into the microphone was already being pushed out of the speaker and it was quite loud.
But would it be loud enough?
The weapon had reached full power.
"Aktivieren sie! ( Activate! )"
The weapon was rapidly growing in size as they flew toward it when it opened up with its deadly force. The helicopter seemed to handle the vibration better than the planes had, although they could still feel the shaking through the helicopter body and the speaker began emitting a shrill noise which got louder and more shrill as they got closer....and closer they got until the helicopter was mere meters from the weapon and the shaking got worse. Alfred put his hands over his ears to block out the worst of the sound but he could not block it out completely. Arthur had to withstand it as his hands were occupied with keeping the helicopter in the air so Alfred put the radio headphones over Arthur's ears to give him some protection. Both Arthur and Alfred could see that the speaker was having an effect on the weapon as the disc began shaking too but which was the better built device? The weapon or the helicopter?
Which would give out first?
The speaker seemed to scream, as if in agony as Arthur fought to keep the helicopter in the centre of the disc to send its sound stream back at the weapon which was beginning to shake harder and things began to become undone from the dish and fall to the ground but the helicopter was becoming harder to control as the weapon took its own toll.
But, while the weapon was affecting the helicopter, it was a 21st century machine and the vibration dampers were dumbing down the effect, somewhat giving the chopper more stability in holding together while the weapon began to lose panels as the bolts shook loose. It began to be affected inside as well as the weapon pulled more power from the generator and it was beginning to scream but the more sound the weapon threw at the helicopter, the more sound was thrown back at it and the two sound-waves began to set up an harmonic, similar to an opera singer attempting to hit the right note to shatter a glass.
In the control room, control panels began to spark and some exploded, sending their operators flying backwards as everything began to overload and men began panicking, unused to a situation where they were the ones under attack.
Arthur did not think the helicopter could take much more before its ability to fly became compromised but he had to see this through because, if this weapon was not stopped, it could win the Germans the war.
Then the opera singer hit the high note!
Next : The Battle concludes and Alfred sees the affects of his time jumps …..
Chapter 9: Fight To The Death
Helicopter vs Sound Weapon...
Kirkland vs Beilschmidt...
Let's see who wins...
Chapter 9 : Fight To The Death
The opera singer hit the high note …..
The sound vibrations hit their peak and the weapon began to waver on its support, as if too tired to stay up right and Arthur and Alfred could see small explosions from components on the disc and they knew it was ready to blow so Arthur turned the helicopter around and got them out of there as fast as it could fly. The weapon was now free of the sound being thrown back at it but it was too little, too late!
The small explosions kept happening as a chain reaction set in and they travelled to the transmitter in the centre and it blew apart in a spectacular display of fire and debris, taking the rest of the disc with it and the destroyed pieces fell to the ground in a tangle of twisted, burning metal, its deadly sound silenced for good.
In the control rooms, the effect was equally as devastating. The generator was now creating power that had nowhere to go and it began screaming, as much of the power rushed into systems already overloaded and began blowing apart but it was not enough to clear the surplus and, with one last deafening screech, the generator blew with the full force of the power it had created.
The explosion broke the surface and concrete and soil were flung into the air, watched by Arthur and Alfred in the helicopter from a safe distance while it was followed by more explosions as the control rooms were completely destroyed and buried by their own generator.
"And there went the power base!" Arthur declared, happy with his work. Not only was the weapon down but it had taken what powered the weapon with it! Bouncing back from this would take time, especially if this was a prototype, which Arthur suspected it was. It might even take years!
"Say goodbye to the secret weapon!" Alfred replied. He might have worried that the Germans would rebuild the weapon but it would take a while, years even and it was 1917. The war would be over in another year and he knew that this weapon would never see the light of day again.
Hooray for our side!
"You might say we 'nuked' it, eh," Arthur quipped and Alfred could not help but grin at the reference to what he had said 'nuked' meant. Although, in about twenty-eight years, Arthur might learn what it really meant.
"Let's go," Arthur said as he turned the helicopter and began to fly in a specific direction. The convent and a blonde French girl he had said he would come for once this mission was over. "I have a promise to keep!"
The battle was over! British troops cheered as the helicopter, that they had assumed was some newly invented aircraft that their engineers put together, flew over their heads. They waved at the helicopter in victory, some punching the air and, as Arthur moved the helicopter around the trenches, Alfred gave a victory punch back at them and they cheered louder. They had beaten the enemy, the sound weapon was no more and history was still on track. Just one thing left to do.
A few civilians and nuns wandered the convent courtyard, closely watched by the guards left to watch them while the main troops had taken over a nearby manor house that they were using as a billet, much to the dismay of the owners but there was nothing they could do about it. Inside, the injured were back in the chapel with those tending to their care but they were not allowed to leave without permission or an escort. Marie was giving water to an injured man and her thoughts drifted to Arthur. Would he come back for her, like he promised? She cursed herself for doubting him. He had always kept his promises to her, she was the one who had not trusted him completely, at first, with the situation with her brother and the enemy. Never would she distrust him again!
But what if he could not returned to her? What if something had happened to him? His was a dangerous life and he was brave but not indestructible and she could not stand the thought of losing him a second time.
Two Germans sighed as they walked toward the courtyard doors, heading out on their assigned patrol. Patrols were tedious but orders were orders and they stepped beyond the gates. Tedium vanished as they were grabbed from either side, one punched by Patrick and the other by Allistor. Both went down and they were dragged out of sight and Rhys tied them up.
The brothers went back to the gate and peered inside again. Soldiers standing guard over the civilians was a problem as they assessed the situation.
"Grenade?" Patrick asked. With warning, the local people could get out of the way but it was a risk, one that Allistor was not prepared to take and he shook his head.
"Too close to the civilians," he said. Yes, they might get clear but then some might not and the brothers were here to help them, not harm them.
"Maybe they'll listen to reason?" Rhys suggested. This was not the stupid statement it sounded like, this was like code between the brothers, suggesting a different kind of attack but it put them at extreme risk.
The Kirkland Brothers strolled calmly into the courtyard, with their hands behind their backs like they were just taking a leisurely walk but, in their hands were their guns, poised and ready for action. With their attention on the civilians, the soldiers did not notice the three men wander in.
Allistor took stock of the situation, noting that some soldiers had propped their weapons against the walls of the convent while they chatted but some were holding their guns. They would have to be taken out first.
"Top of the morning to you," Patrick called out. The civilians had an inkling that this was not going to end well and ran for cover which was what the brothers wanted. They could do what they needed to do without innocent people being caught in the cross-fire. The soldiers stood frozen, not expecting the enemy to just stroll in and give a morning greeting.
"Ye wouldn't mind surrendering, would ye?" Allistor asked. The enemy soldiers looked at each other and then back at Allistor, like he was insane.
Then everything happened at once.
The soldiers with their guns went down first, as planned and then Allistor, Patrick and Rhys turned their guns on the soldiers who had to pick theirs up. Rhys had a Lewis gun, moving it around as he sprayed the courtyard with bullets, taking down a good portion of the enemy.
In the chapel, everyone turned at the sound of gun-fire that rattled outside and knew something was happening beyond the walls that would affect them. Most half prayed that it would free them from the clutches of their captors and half prayed that the fighting would not spill into the chapel. Marianne prayed that this meant that Arthur had come for her but all any of them could do was sit and wait.
The sound of the gun-fire also carried to the commandeered manor house and the Germans began to mobilise, grabbing their fire-arms and heading for the convent.
A bullet zipped past Allistor from a sniper, firing from an upper window and Allistor sent a bullet of his own back, this one hitting his mark and the soldier fell through the open window into the courtyard below. The last of the soldiers had been dealt with and they made their way into the convent, taking care of any stray guards as they went. They had to secure the building before more soldiers came to try and retake the convent so any locals they found they ushered toward the chapel.
All the able-bodied people in the chapel stood up when Allistor burst through the door, followed by the other civilians and Patrick while Rhys guarded the outer door with the Lewis gun. Marianne looked around desperately. Where was Arthur?
"Stay down, everyone!" Allistor ordered. "This isn't over yet!" This was emphasised by the sound of more gun-fire as Germans appeared in front of Rhys, running toward the convent and he opened fire. Allistor and Patrick went to the main entrance to the convent, not realising that Marianne had followed them, to find more enemy soldiers there and began to lay down suppressing fire but the convent was surrounded and their weaponry would only last so long.
Then came the sound that they hoped they would hear, the whomp, whomp, whomp of Arthur's flying windmill and Rhys saw it first as it came over the trees, turning round over the sky and the Germans looked up at the weird, hovering thing in the air. Then a gun appeared out of the side and those smart enough to know what this meant ran for their lives.
Alfred sprayed the area around the enemy with bullets, scattering the enemy as they desperately ran to dodge the rain of metal coming from the strange aircraft. They could not even stay still long enough to take aim at the whirling black thing and they ran for the surrounding trees.
Having taken care of the enemy on one side of the convent, Arthur took the helicopter to the other with the main entrance and took the enemy there by surprise too. More soldiers ran from the onslaught, routed and in disarray. Rhys, having barred the door he had been guarding, came and joined his brothers at the main entrance to watch as Arthur brought the helicopter into a landing.
The blades began to slow down and Arthur and Alfred disembarked from the helicopter, keeping their heads down from the still moving blades and Marianne's heart warmed. She knew she should never have doubted him, that he would return as promised. And he had, although she never expected him to turn up in such a strange aircraft!
She pushed by the other brothers to meet Arthur half-way, ignoring Allistor's order to wait, that it was not safe yet and she just ran toward Arthur. This time she would never let him go again.
She climbed over the convent wall and ran into the field with Arthur's brothers following, just wanting to run into his arms but then came a sound that was familiar to Arthur and his brothers, the sound of a plane and they looked up to see a familiar bi-plane bearing the iron cross.
There it was! The aircraft that changed the tide of battle! That had destroyed their most powerful and secret weapon. That could cost his side the war if not destroyed itself!
He would destroy it if it cost him his life and he began firing.
Bullets began spitting up pieces of dirt as they hit the ground, coming toward Alfred, Marianne and the Kirkland Brothers.
"GET DOWN!" Arthur screamed and everyone threw themselves on to their stomachs as the bullets fell between them. Arthur threw his body over Marianne to shield her as bullets rained down round her. The bullet storm passed quickly as Wolfgang flew past and began his turn for another pass to get the helicopter that had been missed in his first pass.
Arthur knew that they had to get into the convent before Beilschmidt came around again and got up.
"Let's go!" he ordered and everyone got back to their feet.
Everyone except Marianne!
Marianne was not moving and Arthur knelt down beside her, fear clutching at his heart and he turned her over. Her hair draped over her face and he pulled it away, revealing her pale face and closed eyes. Blood soaked her blouse from where a bullet had hit and gone straight through and she was still. So still!
Arthur looked up with pain-filled eyes at the plane, which looked like it was doing a barrel roll in victory. He would get Beilschmidt for this! The German would pay!
A slight movement caught his eye and he realised that Marianne was still breathing so Arthur picked Marianne up and he carried her into the convent and toward the chapel, his brothers fanning out round them and Alfred covering the rear with the Lewis gun. He could not lose her, not after he had just got her back and he was sure that his grandson had been telling him that Marianne would be the one he would marry, his wife and the mother of his son, possibly other children too. She could not die!
When he burst into the chapel, carrying Marianne's prone body, nuns and people with any medical training came to help and Arthur laid her down on a pallet while his brothers took defensive positions by the doors and Alfred climbed up on to the sill of the convent's huge stained-glass window to see what Beilschmidt was up to. The bi-plane appeared and headed straight for the helicopter, shooting his gun.
The strange aircraft was just sitting on the ground where it was helpless and Wolfgang was not about to miss this opportunity to rid the German Empire of a significant threat to victory. He missed it on his last pass but this time he would get it.
A rain of metal was spat toward the black aircraft, making holes in the plexi-glass and the metal body but it was the bullets in the fuel tank that sealed the helicopter's fate as the hot metal of the bullet interacted with the fumes of the fuel.
The helicopter was ripped apart by the explosion ignited by the bullets and pieces flew everywhere. What was left was burning, a fiery wreck. Flames devouring the remains of the aircraft from the future.
The explosion was seen by Alfred and heard by the others in the chapel while people worked to stem Marianne's bleeding. She was still pale and unconscious, still hanging by a thread.
"He got the helicopter," Alfred reported, watching the helio burn. Arthur did not mourn the loss of the helicopter, despite how it could have change the course of air combat. Watching Marianne potentially dying was driving him insane and he needed to do something to distract him.
And that something? Get revenge!
"Jones, give me the gun!" he ordered as he stalked toward the door and Alfred threw him the Lewis gun and he caught it on his way out of the door, grabbing a couple of grenades from Rhys as he passed. He ran out of the convent, into the nearby cemetery, watching as Beilschmidt circled back round for another shot at the convent.
Arthur stood by a statue tombstone of the Virgin Mary and child and readied the gun as Beilschmidt completed his turn and began to fly back toward the convent.
Wolfgang spotted the figure standing in the convent cemetery and knew it was Kirkland, who else could it be! Well, let this be their last battle!
He opened fire.
The moment Beilschmidt's plane was in range, Arthur began firing, his gun spitting bullets at the approaching bi-plane, ignoring the bullets the plane was spitting back at him but, somehow, none of them hit and Arthur kept firing as the plane flew over his head but he knew Beilschmidt would be back. This was a fight to the death now and one of them would not walk away.
A few minutes later, Beilschmidt flew back into view and Arthur readied his gun and the shooting began again. Arthur's gun fired a number of bullets before the gun just started clicking as it ran out of ammo so Arthur took out one the grenades and, as Beilschmidt came in close, Arthur pulled the pin and threw it up as Beilschmidt came over his head, just as Beilschmidt dropped something himself. Arthur looked down at what Beilschmidt had dropped and saw the stick grenade, ready to blow. Arthur's own grenade had flown straight up and came back down.
Straight into Wolfgang's cockpit!
The stick grenade exploded, sending grass and soil into the air, pelting the statue of the Virgin Mary, blowing little pieces of stone off the statue with the blast.
Wolfgang's eyes bulged as the grenade bounced off his lap and on to the floor of the cockpit, disappearing into the shadows and he knew he had no time to find and get rid of it. His last thoughts were of his wife and sons back in Germany as his plane flew on its last journey.
The last sight was of Wolfgang's plane, disappearing behind some trees before an explosion ripped through the sky, igniting it up with fire. The only sign of the end of Wolfgang Beilschmidt.
As if the darkness of war had lifted, the sun broke through the clouds and bathed the statue in light and Arthur stepped from behind it. When he saw the grenade, he had taken refuge behind the statue and it had shielded him from the blast, saving him from death and harm.
The weapon was destroyed. Beilschmidt was dead. It was over!
Arthur ran back into the chapel, praying that he was not running back to the worse news possible. Marianne was hovering at Death's door when he left to deal with Beilschmidt. Had she stepped through?
The Abbess was bandaging Marianne's wound now that they had managed to stop the bleeding but all they could do was wait now and hope that the blood loss was not fatal. Alfred and the Kirkland Brothers took turns throughout the night, standing guard against the enemy coming back. Arthur stayed by Marianne's bedside, holding her hand and watching her breathe in and out, just to be sure that she still lived.
Dawn broke outside and, as the sun rose, it shone through the stained-glass window, casting colour across the floor and the colours fell on Marianne's white face and woke Arthur who's head rested next to hers and he sat up, looking down at her and making sure she was still breathing. He stroke her cheek softly and carefully, as if she was made of delicate glass. Alfred watched the exchange and thought about Alice. How was she doing, back in 2017? Was she worried about him? Wondering if he would make it back to 2017 and to her? He would make it back, at least this time.
Arthur's heart was aching that Marianne had not woken up yet and he feared that she never would. This might be the day he could lose Marianne for good and the thought send a shaft of pain through him but if this was their last day, he would not let it pass without showing his true feelings, even if she was not awake to acknowledge them.
He lowered his head and brushed his lips over hers. They were as soft as he remembered and just as sweet. He pulled away, fearing that, when he did, she would be gone, leaving her body and him behind, alone.
Marianne's eyelids twitch and Arthur's breath caught in his throat. They twitched a little more and, slowly, they lifted, revealing her beautiful sapphire eyes. Arthur remembered to take the breath that he forgot to pull into his lungs as he became caught in her gaze when she looked up at him.
"Hello, Love," he whispered, as if afraid that any over loud noise would send her back into unconsciousness again.
"Bonjour, mon petit lapin," she whispered back. Arthur smiled, bending down and claiming her lips again. She was going to live! Peter had been right! This was the woman that Arthur would marry and have children with, he would accept no one else.
Marianne never would have thought that the clichéd kiss of True Love would be the thing to wake her. She remembered hitting the ground when the bullets rained down, the pain of one entering her body and the last thing she remembered was Arthur's body coming over her to act as a shield, even as the bullet that had already hit robbed her of her consciousness. Now, he was here, watching over her and she knew he would watch over her for the rest of her life.
Arthur looked around and saw his brothers, grinning at him, partly because they were happy for him that Marianne was going to live and partly because of the sappiness that they would tease him for later. Then he looked up at Alfred who was once again standing up at the window where he had been keeping an eye out.
"Thanks, Jones," Arthur said. "Your help is deeply appreciated."
"No problem, Artie," Alfred replied, jumping down from the window …
…... and landing in the cold waters of the Thames river where a police river boat was waiting for him!
Peter Kirkland was waiting at the quayside with two men in RAF uniforms when the army-commandeered river police boat, that had pulled Alfred from the river, pulled into the side and, once moored, Alfred was escorted under armed guard from the boat. When they stepped on to the quayside, Peter came forward, holding up an id.
"I'll take charge of this man!" he announced, showing them his credentials. The army sergeant nodded and they turned Alfred over to Peter and the two men took hold of Alfred's arms to escort him to a waiting car. Alfred got in the back with Peter and one of the men while the other got in the front with the driver and they drove away. Both men were red-heads, as was the driver, all looked like they were in their forties and, to Alfred, looked vaguely familiar.
"Did you destroy the weapon?" Peter asked and noticed how Alfred's eyes flickered to the other three men in the car. "It's all right! They're familiar with the situation. Even the soldiers on the quayside know, we just had to put on a show of taking you into custody, in case any nosy policemen saw us." Alfred gave a silent 'aah' of understanding although he did not really understand at all.
"Yeah," Alfred replied. "We blew the weapon sky high." Peter gave a sigh of relief.
"Well done!" he praised. He reached under the seat in front of him and took out some dry clothes and passed them to Alfred to change into.
"Peter," Alfred had to know. "I know Arthur had at least one child but he lived through the war, didn't he?" Both Peter and the man sat on Alfred's right side looked at each other and smiled.
"Oh yes," Peter replied as Alfred removed his jacket and shirt. "He fought in both World Wars and survived both of them. Marianne was tried for treason but her part in the destruction of the weapon bought her some clemency and she spent a few years in prison but she and Arthur married when she was released and they had a son. Called Alfred!" Alfred grinned at that, pulling on the dry shirt.
"I know he's not alive now," he commented as he buttoned it up. "I mean he can't be, can he?" Peter smiled, sadly.
"I'm afraid not," he replied. "But he lived to be a good age, he died in 1978, aged 84. All the 1917 Kirkland Brothers have gone now but they've all left their mark. Let me introduce you to my companions." He indicated to the man on Alfred's right.
"This is Scott," he said and turned to point to the man in the front passenger seat. "That is Liam and the man in the driver's seat is Aidan. They're all Kirklands and Allistor, Patrick and Rhys's great grandsons!" So that's why they seemed so familiar!
"You're kidding!" Alfred exclaimed, changing his trousers. Difficult in a moving car, or any car for that matter. "That's so cool!"
"Thanks, lad," Scott said, sounding like his great grandfather. "None of us would have existed if it hadn't been for you, we owe you our lives."
"Yes, thanks," Liam added. "And our kids have their lives because of you."
"You're a hero, boyo!" said Aidan from the driver's seat. Alfred liked the sound of being a hero and he had no idea that, when he was helping Arthur, he would affect so many lives.
"You're welcome, guys," Alfred replied as he pulled on the dry jacket and then he wondered.
"Huh! Guys, where are we going?"
Next : The mysterious department is revealed...
Chapter 10: The Temporal Department
Peter introduces Alfred to 'The Department'...
Chapter 10 : The Temporal Department
Where they were going was an unassuming building that would not draw the eye which was good, considering it contained one of the best kept secrets in Britain and, indeed, the world. The car drove into a underground garage through a hard-to-find entrance where they parked up and waited for a moment before Alfred was startled as the car began to descend into the ground and a panel slid closed over them. When the car finished its descent, they left it and the Kirklands took Alfred to an elevator that had a card reader. Peter took a card out of his inner jacket pocket and slid the card through the reader and a panel opened, revealing an eyepiece that Peter looked into. There was a flash of red as the scanner read the back of Peter's eye and a light on the card scanner flashed green, opening the elevator doors. They all got in and Peter pressed down, everyone feeling that weird turn in their stomachs as the elevator dropped. It descended for a couple of minutes and Alfred wondered just how far under ground they were before it slowed and the elevator doors opened on to a corridor with other corridors branching off it. They walked down and turned off into the third corridor on the right and it led down to, what looked like, another elevator but, in front of the door was a desk with a blonde man in his twenties sat behind it. They walked up to the desk and the man behind the desk looked up with blue eyes.
"Bonjour, Commodore Kirkland," he greeted with a French accent, clearly used to seeing Peter.
"Hello, Lieutenant Bonnefoy," Peter replied. Alfred's eyebrows shot up. Bonnefoy! Had that not been Marianne's family name?
"This is Lieutenant Jean-Paul Bonnefoy," Peter introduced. "He's the great, great grandson of Francis Bonnefoy, Marianne's brother. Lieutenant, this is Alfred F Jones, codename Tempus."
" I have a codename!" Alfred exclaimed. "Cool!" Jean-Paul smiled.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Monsieur Jones," he said. "There are not enough thanks for what you have done for my family." Alfred tried to think about what he had done for Marianne but could not think of anything and he had never even met Francis Bonnefoy.
"Dude," he replied. "I met your great, great, great aunt but I can't think of anything that I did for …..."
"You misunderstand, Monsieur Jones," Jean-Paul said. "I'm talking about my great grandfather."
"Lieutenant, we're here to see General Andersson," Peter did not want to keep the General waiting.
"Of course, Commodore," Jean-Paul replied. "You know the procedure." He pushed a button on the table and a panel turned round, showing a hand reader. Peter put his hand on the panel and a light ran down the panel, reading Peter's finger prints and palm and it glowed green. While the other Kirklands put their hands on the reader, Jean-Paul took a visitor's card out of a drawer and handed it to Alfred.
"A visitor's pass, Monsieur Jones," he said. "It authorises you to be here." Alfred nodded and clipped the pass to his jacket. When everyone was accounted for, Jean-Paul announced the arrival of the guests over the intercom, the doors opened and they went through. There was another corridor beyond that with more doors at the end but first they had to go through a security scanner in front of it, manned by another soldier who said nothing but let them pass when the scanner cleared them and they went to the door. Peter knocked and they heard, "Come in!" and he opened the door.
General Lars Andersson had been waiting for this day for a long time and he knew he would be here for it but almost feared that he would not live to see it. He was ninety-three and in a wheelchair now, so different from when he was twenty, when it all began. The blonde, spiky hair of his youth was now grey and his green eyes now sat in a face full of lines. A vast change from when his saviour from the future came to his aid, time and again and, while it was at the end for him, it was just beginning for his twenty-first century friend.
The Kirkland group came in with Alfred F Jones, codename Tempus and he knew for certain the day had arrived.
"Hallo, Commodore," he greeted in a Dutch accent. "Hallo, Kirkland Brothers. I see you have Tempus with you so I assume everything went to plan?"
"Perfectly, General," Peter replied. "The weapon was destroyed and the war ended before they could rebuild it and, as you see, the Kirkland family is intact."
"Good!" Lars replied and turned to Alfred. "And may I call you Alfred? I think it's time we explained everything to you?"
"Would be nice," Alfred replied. Lars indicated to Peter to do the honours.
"This is the Temporal Department," Peter said. "Simply known as The Department on the outside. After the destruction of the sound weapon, my grandfather was debriefed to explain just how he destroyed the weapon and the helicopter had been seen by too many people so he couldn't deny its existence. Even to this day, there's a conspiracy theory about a helicopter seen above the trenches in WWI. Arthur told them everything, about you, the trip to the future, bringing back the helicopter and the destruction of the weapon with it. The result was this, a secret department, dedicated to temporal anomalies and maintaining the time-line, created by the British government and then became a part of the United Nations when it was formed in 1945. Practically, everyone attached to this department has been affected by a time jumper or is a time jumper themselves. Your codename, as you know, is 'Tempus' and Arthur is referred to as 'Fugit', as in the Latin 'Tempus Fugit' meaning 'Time Flies'."
"The destruction of the sound weapon is not the end, my friend," Lars told Alfred. "The next time you jump, the 'Top Brass' as the British called their highest officers, will be interested in you. You must not tell them anything about future events but you can tell them everything about the time jumps from your perspective. Dates, times, what you were doing when it happened, the record of that is vital for Commodore Kirkland. By the way, his codename is Timelord as all temporal operations go through him and he will be the one you work with the most if you decide to work with us."
"What if I decide I don't want to?" Alfred asked.
"That's your choice, Alfred," Lars replied. "Time jumps will continue but, if you join us, you'll have access to vast resources that would be otherwise denied to you. It would be better for you to work with us, as we have the knowledge of when you will jump and what you will be needed to do. Arthur Kirkland's long life may depend on it."
"Way to guilt trip a guy," Alfred muttered. If he said no and did something wrong that resulted in Arthur Kirkland's death, then he would lose his friend and every Kirkland in this room might cease to exist.
As well as Alice!
"I don't have much choice, do I?" Alfred replied. "Okay, I'm in!"
"Good," Lars replied. "You have made the right choice, Alfred. We have resources throughout the world, even in America and with your family's history, or should I say future history, you will need them."
"What do you mean, my family's future history?" Alfred asked.
"Let's just say, time travel runs in the family," Peter replied. "You'll discover soon enough." Alfred just hoped it did not mean that any of his future kids would be time jumpers too.
"Commodore," Lars said. "I will leave Alfred in the capable hands of you and your family. Teach him what he needs to know. Alfred?"
"Hmm," Alfred replied.
"Welcome to the team!" Alfred gave a mock salute and everyone turned to leave. As the door shut, Lars sat back in his wheelchair and smiled.
In a year, it would all begin!
The Kirklands drove Alfred back to the hotel and a tearful reunion with Alice who had been worried sick about Alfred and she met her distant cousins. The hotel manager was not happy to see Alfred back after everything that had happened but a quick explanation (AKA a cover story) from Peter allowed Alfred enough time for him to collect his stuff and they were taken to Kirkland Manor.
On the way, they collected Feliks from the police station, having discovered him being held there when they went to sort out the mess caused by the shooting and the helicopter theft. Peter talked to the officer in charge, telling him that, no, Alfred was not insane! He had been working with Air Intelligence on something (and, no, he could not tell them what, that was classified!) and his friends had become worried about, what they thought was, his strange behaviour, leading to Feliks to make the silly mistake of pretending to be a psychiatrist in order to get his friend the help he thought he needed. The story about Alfred going back to 1917? That had been a joke he had told Alice but, coupled with the way he had been behaving, Alice thought that Alfred really believed it and thought he needed help too.
And the shooting incident? And why had the gun been confiscated by the army? Well, that was evidence but the safety had failed and the gun had gone off. Peter said he was just grateful that no one had been shot.
The missing helicopter had been brought up and Peter apologised, stating that the helicopter had been urgently needed and they had had no time to ask permission (and, no, he could not tell them why) but the cost of the helicopter would be reimbursed.
The officer in charge was not sure he bought the whole story and was going to argue the point when he was called away for a phone call. When he came back, he begrudgingly accepted everything and let everyone go. Muttering something about 'bloody spooks', he released Feliks with a caution, saying the next time he thought one of his friends was a nutjob, inform real medical professionals and do not pretend to be a shrink!
They booked Feliks into another hotel and, after dropping him off there, went straight to Kirkland Manor, a modest 18th century manor house and Alfred stood, in what used to be, Arthur's home when his family were not moving around on the orders of the military and he found pictures on the walls of the Kirkland brothers in various stages of their lives, as well as other Kirkland ancestors. One picture of all of them as children, showed Arthur at age six, wearing a little green suit and holding a rabbit, his brothers around him with Allistor, as the oldest, standing dominant over them all with Patrick and Rhys standing at either side with no indication that they would become one of the best fighting units of WWI. Peter took them all into the library where they sat on sofas in front of a fireplace. All in all, somewhat reminiscent of Peter's lair at Tower Bridge.
"First things first!" Peter said. "No one outside of the department is to know about your time jumping, Alfred. Alice already knows and, as she has been affected by it, I have permission to bring her into the loop but it can't go any further at this time."
"So I can't even tell Mattie?" Alfred asked. "But he's gonna be affected too if I keep disappearing through time at a moment's notice."
"There'll come a time when you can discuss it with your brother," Peter replied. "Just not right now. And certainly don't discuss it with that Feliks fellow! That was a pretty mess we had to sort out and I don't believe that officer bought the explanation. Now Alfred, you'll be trained in things, such as combat and the like because, more often than not, you'll be jumping into combat situations and you'll need to know how to fight properly if you are to safeguard both Arthur and your own life."
"What about my life here in 2017?" Alfred asked. "I've just started a new business, I can't abandon it!" Peter waved that off.
"We have the knowledge of when and where you'll jump," he replied. "So we can work around that but you need to learn how to use the weaponry of the past, how it works, how to strip it down and put it back together and how to use it safely. There'll come a time when you'll face greater dangers than you have already."
"Great!" Alfred replied, sarcastically.
"Just how dangerous?" Alice asked, worriedly. Scott patted her on the shoulder.
"Don't worry," he said, reassuringly. "At this point, there's no indication that Alfred ever died in the past." Alice gave a sigh of relief.
"Well, I can help cover the business," she replied. "So Alfred can train and I'll try to keep Feliks under control and out of your hair."
"Excellent!" Peter replied. "I knew I could count on you, Alice." Alice looked contrite.
"I'm sorry, Grandpa," she said. "You were right all these years and I just thought you were demented." Liam gave a laugh and Aidan smiled.
"Welcome to the Time Travel Roller-coaster," he quipped.
Back in 1917, Frau Adelhied Beilschmidt looked down at her now fatherless children. Three year old Gilbert was curled up in his bed and six month old Ludwig was asleep in his crib. What would the future hold for them now, she did not know but they would grow up, knowing what a brave hero their father was, she would see to that!
Wolfgang lay in a bed of the infirmary of the nearest German base the soldiers who had found him had come to. The last thing he remembered was jumping from his plane as it passed over the trees and he was thrown into them by the blast and then began to fall to the ground, the branches breaking his fall and a few bones in the process. Some of the men who had been running from the helicopter found his unconscious body and carried him back to the base and he had been there ever since, unconscious for a few days as his body healed itself.
He had no idea that some panicking officer who had seen his plane go down, had reported him dead and a message had been sent to his wife to that effect. As he lay there, he thought only one thing. He and Kirkland would meet again, of that he was certain.
It was only a matter of time.
A year had passed since Alfred joined the Temporal Department of the UN and, just as he was warned, he jumped and the British Top Brass of all three militaries were fascinated by this visitor from the future, wanting him to tell stuff from the future and tried to get their hands on him, not an easy task when Alfred usually popped up when Arthur was in the field at some kind of risk. Alfred just told Arthur how he came to be in 1917, the times, dates, where he was and what he was doing at the time he jumped. Arthur or one of his brothers, who now knew the truth about Alfred, wrote it down in a report to the Top Brass officers, opting to keep them away from Alfred, fearing what some might do to get the information, despite Alfred being an ally.
Eventually, they managed to get the Top Brass to back off with the argument that if they got the information they wanted and used it wrong, they could, potentially, wipe out Alfred's future existence and undo everything he had done up to now and it was decided that it was not worth the risk so they eventually left it alone.
Peter had asked Alfred if he wanted to visit Arthur's grave but Alfred elected not to because, although he knew Arthur was dead in his time, it seemed abstract to Alfred, like it was nothing to do with him or Arthur but seeing Arthur's grave would make it real and he was afraid that he would start being weird around Arthur if he thought of Arthur as being really dead and make it difficult for him to behave normally around Arthur, a risky thing in the dangerous situations that they would often find themselves in.
But now Alfred faced something much more scary than a battlefield or over-zealous superior officers trying to force information from him.
He and Alice were getting married.
Alfred, Alice and her grandfather had talked long and seriously about the past and the future. Alice had to deal with the fact that her future husband was a time jumper and it was necessary for the existence of the Kirkland family. They talked about the theory that Arthur had, that Alice and the helicopter had only jumped with Alfred because of the part she played in saving them at the bunker and the helicopter in destroying the sound weapon and that things and people would not necessarily time-jump with him every time, at which point Alfred confronted Peter with why he had given Alfred the WWI uniform and rifle if he was never going to use it. Peter shrugged and said that it was in the reports and besides, it was good for a laugh.
Alfred stood at the altar, dressed to the nines and waiting for Alice to walked down the aisle while Matthew and Feliks stood beside him, dressed in similar wedding tuxedos. Somehow, Alfred had ended up with both as his best man and he still did not know how that happened, some kind of misunderstanding so it was decided that Feliks would give the ring to Matthew and Matthew would give the ring to Alfred.
The music started and Alfred turned to see Alice, a vision in white, walked slowly down the aisle on the arm of her father, Robert who had the Kirkland eyes. And the Kirkland eyebrows! Alfred just hope that, if he and Alice had boys, they escaped that particular curse. Peter, Scott, Liam and Aidan were sat in the front pew with Alice's joyfully teary-eyed mother, Olivia, a small woman with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes who already regarded Alfred like a long lost son.
They had chosen this day for the wedding because they knew Alfred was not going to jump. Imagine the vicar saying 'Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?' and the groom disappeared! Alice could not get that image out of her head as she came up to Alfred's side but Alfred remained just where he was, where he was supposed to be. Many a bride had a fear that the groom would disappear on the wedding day but she had a legitimate reason to fear it, literally.
"Dearly beloved," the vicar boomed out. "We are gathered here in the sight of …..(Blah, blah, blah)" Alice kept her eyes on Alfred which brought her grandfather and cousins into her line of sight over his shoulder, all of them were checking their watches and not in a 'Oh how much longer is this going to take?' kind of way. Had they lied about this being a jump-free day for Alfred, because if this was their idea of a joke, she was going to kill all four of them.
"Do you have the rings?" the vicar asked, bringing Alice back to the ceremony and the wedding party all turned to Feliks. Feliks looked panicked for a moment and he dug into his pocket. After a few seconds of rummaging around, he pulled his hand out, holding everything that was in there. Pocket fluff, an opened tube of sweets, a handkerchief and, among the miscellaneous pocket dwellers was the gold band that Alfred had entrusted to Feliks. Matthew rolled his eyes as Feliks picked out the ring, dropping everything else except the handkerchief which he used to give the ring a polish and that was when Matthew heard it and looked up at the stained-glass window.
Funny, he thought. I don't remember a thunderstorm in the weather forecast!
In the pews, Scott, Liam and Aidan were counting down.
"Five," they muttered, quietly. "Four, three, two, one!"
Lightning filled the church.
Feliks finished cleaning the ring and turned to give it to Matthew, to give to Alfred.
Matthew was gone!
I hope to get to Matthew's story at some point so stay tuned...