Sunday, April 19, 2015
First 5 Pages April Workshop - Harrington Rev 2
Name: Sarah Harrington
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Title: Of Time and Blood
Some Timekeepers saw the Schedules as a rigid set of rules never to be broken, but I figured a little creative interpretation never hurt anyone.
The dust was thick in the air and heavy on my tongue as I inhaled. With every breath, history took root in my lungs. A flowery perfume tried to hide the musty scent, but the smell of years long gone still lived on in the antique store.
“Change of plans,” I said as my assignment partner rounded the corner of the aisle. He jumped out of the way to avoid sending a teetering pile of old books crashing to the floor.
Trent sighed. “Why do you always do this, Mik? What was wrong with the original plan?”
“Do you really think just prompting him to buy a book from her would be enough to create a spark between them? It's way too simple for a guy like that. We’ll need something a little more drastic to get through his thick skull.” My gaze drifted towards our target.
Thirty-year-old Joseph Bolland stood on the far side of the store with stiff shoulders and a straight back. The window behind him, dirtied with years of grime, let in very little light. Even with the dingy overhead lamps, the wine decanter in his hands was barely visible.
I ran through my mental checklist for matchmaking assignments. The briefing was on point with almost everything, but it had failed to mention that Joseph was a real jerk.
Trent’s voice sliced through my annoyance. “What’d he do to piss you off?”
“Elbowed me out of the way. He was muttering about how rowdy teenagers don’t deserve to be in a place like this. Apparently we ‘don’t appreciate the history behind the objects’.” I dropped my voice as low as I could to imitate Joseph’s grating tone.
We stood at the back of the antique store, surrounded by old figurines and pieces of secondhand kitchen equipment. Although most of my focus was on Joseph, I could just make out our secondary target in my periphery. Coraline stood behind the cash register with her lips pursed and fingers drumming on the counter. She trained her eyes on us and I could almost hear her mentally screaming at us to get out of her precious shop.
I ached to tell Coraline that nothing about me wanted to be in this dusty old store with uninteresting and poorly maintained items. We were only there to set her up with her future husband and we would certainly appreciate not having to operate under the shopkeeper’s piercing glare the entire time.
I turned to relay that thought to Trent, but stopped short at the sight of him cradling a clay Chinese teapot.
“My mom had one just like this.” He ran his free hand over the smooth surface, light sandy skin contrasting with the deep reddish brown of the clay. “She used to sneak tea in to me during all the hospital stays.” Sorrow laced his voice as he spoke of a time stolen from him.
A time stolen from all Timekeeper recruits.
At his words, my hand crept up to touch the silver anchor charm hanging around my neck. It was the only thing I had left from my time in the outside world but, unlike Trent, I didn’t miss my life before the Timekeepers. They’d given me the closest thing I’d ever had to a family.
“Careful!” The sharp sound of Coraline’s voice shot across the room. “These aren’t toys to be played with; they’re antiques.”
“They deserve each other,” Trent muttered as he set the teapot down. “We should hurry up. Can’t have you being late for your own Advancement Ceremony.”
The nerves that had been swimming lazily in my stomach all day burst into a frenzy at his words. The thought of this being my last time engaging with the outside world sickened me. Staying on as an Agent would be a dream, but it was such a rare occurrence, and it wasn’t likely for that dream to become my reality. But there wasn’t time to worry about that now.
I pushed my anxiety aside and moved to stand with Trent. Our eyes poured over the store, looking for all the possible ways to bring Joseph and Coraline together.
A burning sensation interrupted my thoughts. I pulled my pocket watch out of my jeans and ran my fingers over the rusted surface of the hunter case. The hot metal singed my skin; it was a warning, but I couldn’t initiate the interface here to read the message. The risk of the targets seeing the hologram coming out of the watch was too high. “They’re telling us to get a move on. We need to figure out a plan.”
“Well I thought the original plan in the Schedule was good enough, but we can’t do that anymore because someone decided we should change things up and made us miss the time slot.”
I ignored his sass and squinted in Joseph’s direction. “It wouldn’t take a lot of force to shatter the glass display case behind him.”
Trent followed my gaze, catching onto my plan. “But it would cause a ton of damage. It doesn’t really fit in with the whole ‘unnoticed’ part of our mantra, does it?”
He was right. Being yelled at by Coraline was one thing, but causing lasting damage to property in plain sight of the targets was something else altogether. The Councillors would probably ream us out as soon as we got back to Meridian, but time was ticking down. “Do you have any better ideas? The next customer will be here any minute. This needs to be done right now.”
Trent pressed his lips into a thin line but nodded. We broke away from where we stood, creeping down opposite sides of the store towards the target. Inching closer, I saw Joseph’s eyes dart towards Coraline. He didn’t know what the future held for himself and the shopkeeper.
But Trent and I did.
We always did.
And it was our job to make sure it happened.
I walked down the aisle, trying to look natural and innocuous for Coraline, while also making my footfalls as light as possible to keep Joseph from noticing me. My mind wandered back almost ten years to the last time I saw Joseph. One of my very first assignments had been to make him late for a law school interview. The world just hadn't been ready for Joseph the defense attorney; his current job as an accountant suited humankind's course far better. Maybe he remembered the seven-year-old girl who spilled her milk on his jacket. My lips twitched at the memory. Joseph hadn’t been as awful back then; he’d even bought me another milk carton to show he wasn’t upset. What happened to that man? I should’ve looked at the database to see his full Schedule. Another Timekeeper must have been responsible for the assignment that turned him so sour.
I stood close enough now to catch the spicy scent of Joseph’s cologne. He was so engaged in examining a vase for chips in the glasswork that he hadn’t noticed us sneaking up on either side of him. Trent’s brown eyes met mine.