Julianna awoke in a cold sweat, her nightdress and even the bedclothes drenched. Through her window she could see the first faint red glow of dawn, and she knew that there would be no more sleep for her. She dare not.
She lay shivering in her damp clothing, knowing she should rise and change into something dry lest she risk illness. But she felt paralyzed, afraid to move, unable to understand what had happened during the night.
She pulled the covers up higher but it was no use, there was no way to get warm in a wet bed on a damp and chilly morning. So she clenched her jaws to stop her teeth from clattering and waited for the sun to rise and warm the room.
The burning ship … and the strange city with all of the strange things. What could it mean?
A sudden thought struck her, that this was a premonition of some sort, that the ship in flames was the Sovereign that Admiral Grey was on board …
She couldn’t bear the thought. Tears began to well up and she wiped them away angrily. She shouldn’t believe in such things. Dreams didn’t foretell the future … not unless you were a Biblical prophet, and there were no more of those.
But what of the city? The images were vivid. Vehicles without horses passing at incredible speeds. Metal birds high in the sky, moving faster than any bird she had ever seen. And that blinding flash and the heat and …
She didn’t know how many hours she lay in her bed, until finally her mother came into her room, took one look, gasped, and shouted to her husband to go get the physician.
Paulie had to talk with someone. It was all just too much to keep to herself, and Joan· was the only one she could really trust.
Oh, Ted was trustworthy enough, but he was just a little too, well, fatherly. He’d insist that she do this or do that, all of it well-intended, but Paulie wanted to think things through and make her own decisions.
What was up with Ray? For that matter, what was up with Kate? It seemed to Paulie that her life was in a downward spiral, ever since …
Ever since she started reading that book. Good that it was at Joan’s place … unless Joan started to read it.
Fortunately Paulie had a bit of luck this morning. She and Joan were on duty at the shop. Kate was off and Ted would be at his regular day job. In any case Paulie wanted desperately to get out of her still disordered apartment.
She only had a brief wait for the bus and was right on time to open the shop. She greeted Joan, who was waiting at the door, and they ascended the narrow flight of stairs together.
In just a few minutes they had the shop ready to go. There weren’t yet any customers and Paulie decided to brew up some tea. When the tea was ready and she had poured out some cups, she said, “Joan, some strange things are going on.”
“Like what?” Joan replied.
“Like with Ray and Kate.”
Joan raised an eyebrow. “With Kate … I get that, but with Ray?”
“He called me last night.”
“So? That’s odd? Your boyfriend calls you and it’s odd? It would be odd if he didn’t call you.”
“You would think. But listen, he said the strangest thing. He asked me not to tell anyone, but I don’t see why I can’t tell you.”
“Whatever you think best, but I don’t need to know your intimate secrets.”
Paulie smiled. “No, nothing like that … look, to make a long story short he told me to pack a bag and leave town right away. Go to visit my relatives in Toronto. Something like that. I can’t exactly remember the details because I was so angry with him, but he told me to leave Calgary right away.”
“He wouldn’t say, he just said to trust him. It sounds kind of crazy, I know.”
“So are you going?”
“I told him no, I wasn’t, and we kind of got into a fight, and I kind of threw my phone across the room.” Paulie’s expression changed. “Joan, it’s just all been too much! My place was ransacked and then Kate and then Ray …”
“Kate? What about Kate?”
“She … well … she attacked me?”
“What?” Joan exclaimed, startled enough to almost lose grasp on her teacup. Tea spilled onto the service counter.
“Here, let me get that.” Paulie got a towel from the little kitchen and started to mop up the spill.
“Yes,” Paulie finally continued. “Kate asked me for that logbook, and when I said she ought to check with Ted, all of a sudden her hands were on my throat. Joan, she’s so strong! She let go and apologized but it really shook me up. For a moment I thought she was going to crush my windpipe.”
“Paulie, you need to tell Ted.”
“I don’t know … I don’t want any more trouble.”
“That book is trouble if you ask me.”
“Are you reading it?”
“Are you kidding? I won’t touch the thing. And if you don’t tell Ted about Kate, then I will.”
“No, Joan, just leave it.”
Some customers came in and the discussion broke off with Paulie wondering if she had done the right thing in talking with Joan. It wasn’t that she had stopped trusting her; it was that she hoped she hadn’t pulled her into the middle of something ugly … or even deadly.
The meetings were over. The assessments were made, the alternatives were evaluated, the plans were made. It was time for Ray to leave Honolulu. But not to return to Calgary. He would have to go straight to Ottawa. There was a lot of coordination to be done and precious little time to do it.
He dialed Paulie’s number again, but as before the call went straight to voicemail. Why did she have to be so stubborn and tempermental? She had to listen! Maybe he should call that tea shop where she worked, but he didn’t want to risk anyone overhearing their conversation. He had probably already broken enough laws to get him life in prison just with his call the night before.
So little time. No one really knew when, or if. But the intel seemed pretty solid.
He’d fly to Vancouver within two hours, and from there to Ottawa. No telling when he would get back home, or what there might be to come back to.
Alarm bells rang and red lights flashed. This hadn’t happened in years.
The senior members of the organization gathered quickly in the tracking center. “A major disturbance,” some were muttering.
Q1X took his seat, fighting back an unwelcome premonition. The director, A1A, took the podium and with a sweeping gesture pointed to the wall of electronic screens and indicators. “Please silence the alarm,” he commanded, and the loud ringing ceased at once.
“You all can guess what has happened,” he began. “There is a disruption ripple that originates in the 19th century, and a second one originating in the 21st.”
There was a collective gasp. Disruption ripples were rare. That was the whole point, to keep them from happening. But two at once … that was almost unheard of, something that happen once in hundreds of subjective years. And it would put the master plan in grave danger.
“The 19th century ripple is fast moving and will actually reach us first. But it’s more distant and actually less dangerous than the 21st century wave. We must move immediately to stop both of them. Orders will be given. Until then maintain your stations. All personnel are ordered to remain on duty until further notice.”
The director appeared to have finished, but then he looked straight at Q1X. “Come to my office, Q1X, and don’t ask me why.”
First came the blinding flash of light from down in the sea, and then the sailor in the lookout heard a loud roar as he was nearly knocked from his perch by a sudden blast of air. Shaken, he hurried down to the deck where other sailors were gathering.
Admiral Grey emerged from his cabin and strode down to the main deck. “What is happening?” he thundered. “Lookout! Are we under attack? I see no other ships nearby.”
The lookout responded, “Admiral, sir, I saw something in the mid-distance and then … there was this bright light …”
“What did you see? Speak up, man!”
“Perhaps a small craft, sir, couldn’t have been larger than a dinghy. Or at least I think it might have been.”
All eyes were drawn to a shape in the shadowy ocean.
“Arm the cannon!” Admiral Grey ordered. “I don’t know how such a tiny craft can attack us, but we’ll be prepared. Musketeers, on deck! We’ll soon find out what’s going on. Up anchor and move toward her!”
Elder watched in dismay as the missile flew past the mast of the Sovereign.
“What did you do?” he demanded of Middle. “Did you not calibrate the weapon properly?”
“Calibrate … what do you mean?”
“Weren’t you ever properly trained?”
The small boat was pitching about. The sea was becoming rougher with the incoming tide.
“What do you …. oh.”
“You left the missle set for electronic homing. And there are no electronics in this age.”
“I … yes.”
Elder indicated the floor of the dinghy. “We have one more missle,” he said. “See to it that you set it for infrared homing, as you should have done it the first place. Look! They’ve spotted us. You had better hurry.”
Both of the men saw the Sovereign start to slowly move, turning towards them.
“They’ll fire on us if they get the chance!” Elder exclaimed.
A couple of minutes passed. The Sovereign was underway and would reach the dinghy’s position in a very short while.
“Ready, sir,” Middle said. “Armed for infrared heat seeking. It won’t miss this time.”
Middle lifted the long tube to his shoulder once again. There was another bright flash and loud roar.
Seconds later, the missile impacted on the hull of the Sovereign.
It was just as easy to break into the Tea Trader building as it was to gain entry to Paulie’s apartment. At about four in the morning, Kate easily bypassed the alarm system, picked the lock, and, shouldering her backpack, hurried inside, closing the door behind her.
She was tired of all the nonsense. If Paulie wouldn’t cooperate, Kate would take care of things in her own way. She was tired, too, of taking orders from upline bosses who had no idea how an Assassin did field work, how she needed to have the freedom to solve problems in her own way.
There was no use in just killing Paulie, much as she would have liked to. That would have left too many loose ends. There was a better way. No loose ends at all. Then it wouldn’t matter if she retrieved that logbook or not. What was so important about it, anyhow? It just didn’t make any sense.
Still, she didn’t know how it could have stayed hidden for so long. Her search of Paulie’s apartment revealed nothing. The monitoring equipment she had concealed in the shop didn’t give her any clues either— except to know that Paulie had told Joan everything. Too bad, Kate thought, that she hadn’t just squeezed Paulie’s throat a little harder for a little longer.
Well, never mind. This way would be better.
She made her way up the narrow stairs, quickly picked the lock to the Tea Trader shop, and then headed down the back stairs. She didn’t need a light. Assassins were trained to see in the faintest of illumination, and there was just enough light coming from outside. Soon she reached the abandoned, dilapidated basement.
She hunted around for a little while until she found the right spot. Here. It would do perfectly. She swung off her backpack, opened it, and pulled out the device it contained. With the push of a few buttons, she heard a satisfying beep and watched the numerals on the face of the device light up and start to count down.
Ten hours. After which there would be no more problems.
Kate smiled and silently made her way back upstairs, through the shop, down, and out of the building, leaving not the slightest trace or clue of having ever been there.
A few minutes less than six hours, now. And counting down.
What Paulie needed was something relaxing and calming. Even though it was during working hours, she chose to brew a pot of Good Evening. An infusion that is often used as a sleep aid, it’s the perfect brew to aid in stress reduction during a difficult day.
If you need to unwind after a long day, or just need something soothing, try this complex but well-balanced rooibos blend with peppermint, chamomile, fennel, lemongrass, balm, cardamom seed, valerian root, pollen, lavender, sage.
Gcod Evening can of course be ordered from Tea Trader; if you’re in the Calgary area you can also call ahead at 403-264-1868 for pickup at the door.
(Some of the photos in this episode are courtesy of the real-life Kate, shop manager at Tea Trader.)