Samuel placed himself between Horatio and the erratic lightning of the time gate. “Stop, please,” he said. “All we want is to preserve the timeline. We just want you to live in peace.”
“Who’s to say your version of the timeline is the one to be preserved?”
“Because people are allowed to make their own choices. They aren’t forced into serving a tyrant or given as sheep to be slaughtered.”
“People are sheep, and I will be their shepherd.” Horatio launched himself at Samuel.
As Horatio reached him, Samuel’s knees crumbled, but his hand shot up and flicked a switch on Horatio’s time shifter. Horatio tripped over Samuel and fell hard to the floor.
Both men jumped to their feet.
“That trick will only work once,” Horatio said.
“I only needed ‘once,’” Samuel replied.
Horatio took a step toward Samuel, but he made no progress. He tried to take another step and began to sweat as he pushed against the pull of the time gate. He had time for one more step as the lightning grabbed onto him and his time shifter and flung him into the unknown reaches of time.
Brock shut off the time gate. A hundred of Horatio’s men stood behind them. Just then an alarm sounded and white gas flowed down from the ceiling.
Alfred ran to Samuel’s side. “We gotta get out of here. We’ve only got twenty seconds of oxygen left.”
“Next time,” Brock shouted. Then he and Horatio’s men time shifted away. Alfred, Melinda and Samuel ran from the storage bay. Quentin stayed behind to destroy the time gate, to make sure it could not be used again.
As they stood in the hallway, Melinda threw her arms around Samuel, but he did not hug her back.
She stepped back from him. “What’s wrong?” she asked. Unconsciously she fiddled with the ring on her finger.
Samuel just shook his head. He had used so few words in the last two years that he couldn’t translate his feeling into them. He’d never been good at that in the first place.
“What happened to you?” Alfred chimed in. For someone who’d been around as long as he had, he still seemed inept with the feelings of others, particularly women.
“Two years alone in the wilderness,” Samuel said. “Finally built a jury-rigged time shifter. It shouldn’t have worked.”
“Horatio described his gate as something of a time magnet. It must have brought you the rest of the way, drawn you to it, pulled you through,” Alfred said.
“What did it do with that goon and with Horatio?” Melinda asked.
“Flung them back I suspect, possibly even to the time I came from,” Samuel said.
“He said he saw your tombstone,” Melinda said.
“Sure felt like I died out there.”
“For us its only been a matter of hours. ”
“Brock was here causing havoc,” Alfred said. “Quentin and I were searching for you in the archaeological record.”
“I do not doubt your loyalty to me,” Samuel said, “I doubt the man you are loyal to.
“I brought these horrors on the world through my imagination, my creation of the time shifters. I once thought I could save time, but now I realize that I’m the problem.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Melinda said.
Samuel looked at her with a resigned smile. “The only ones who use that word are the ones who know it’s not.” He turned his back on them and walked slowly away down the hallway.
Brock, a decade older than last they saw him, turned a corner, passed Samuel, and came toward Melinda and Alfred. “What are you all doing over here?”
Melinda picked up her gun and pointed it at Brock. “Get out.”
“Oh, that was today, huh?” Brock asked. “Well, I’ll be seeing you.” He turned on his heels and walked back the way he’d come, quickly turning out of sight.
Melinda could still see Samuel walking slowly down the hall away from her. “What do we do now, Alfred?”
“Give him time, Lass. All we can do is give him time.”