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TOC Files 14: Time out of Joint

Title: Time Out of Joint
Series: The TOC Files
Word Count 7950
Summary During a simple mission to witness the Battle of the Boyne, the machines break down, separating the team in different time periods and places.


XIV. Time Out of Joint

The time is out of joint--O cursed spite
That ever I was born to set it right!
Shakespeare, Hamlet, I,v


Captain Eric Rader finished his drink and checked his appearance in the mirror. Going before the Temporal Committee always made him nervous; that if they spotted the slightest thing wrong in his uniform or manner, they'd put him back in the brig. He had returned to Earth almost a year ago despite knowing that a life sentence for desertion awaited him. He helped his friends Alan and Gil rescue Shannon, another friend, from Cameron James. In doing so, he became a member of the Temporal Observers. So far he'd been to London during the Regency period, France during WWI, and England during the Middle Ages. Now they were being called in front of the Committee again. God only knew where they'd be going next. God and the Committee.

He arrived at the Committee room and found the three other members of the TOC waiting. There was one civilian, Dr. Gilbert Connor, the inventor of the machine they used. He was about 28 years old with blond hair and blue eyes. There was one woman who had been given the rank of corporal just so she could officially travel with them. You could tell she was Irish from her red hair and green eyes. She was originally from Dublin Ireland of the late 20th century. Eric guessed her to be about 25.

The last member was the ranking officer, Col. Alan Kelly. He was the reason they were all together. Gil was his best friend from childhood; Shannon had met him while he was a fugitive; and Eric had him to thank for making him return after his desertion. He was the same age as Gil with sandy-brown hair and astonishing green eyes.

"Does anybody want to guess where we'll be going?" he asked.

"Probably in the middle of a war-zone again," said Shannon. "As if we don't get enough of that here."

"How's Cameron--excuse me, Ryan?"

Alan smiled. "Okay, I guess. I saw him the other day after counseling and he seemed in good spirits. It's still hard to accept the fact that he's my brother."

"I wonder if it's harder on him than you," said Gil.

"How do you figure?"

"He's pretty much always been alone. You had your family, friends from the Academy, then the Rangers. Now he's suddenly thrust into a family that he never knew he had. He doesn't know how to act with other people."

"You do have a point. He has been quiet the past few days. Do you think the pressure's too much?"

Gil laughed. "After what he's been through? I think he can handle it."

The door to the inner room opened. "I think they're ready for us," said Eric.

They filed into the room and stood in front of the Committee. Eric cast his eyes about the room, taking in the members as they sat behind their table. He wondered if they ever smiled. In a corner he saw a man in his mid-thirties who looked a bit harried. Recognizing him, Eric winked and the man smiled in return.

"Please be seated," said the Chairman. They did so. "For your new mission, we have chosen a major turning point in European history. It also hits close to home for Lt. Flynn. We want you to witness the final stand of James II--"

"The Battle of the Boyne, August 12, 1690!" cried Shannon. Immediately realizing what she had done, she apologized. "I'm sorry, sir. It's just something drilled into our heads at school."

"Your excitement is understood, Lieutenant. We took this into consideration when making our decision. Perhaps you could help in the briefing?" She nodded.
"Very well. Your departure has been set for 1600 hours." He looked at the other members of the Committee to see if they had anything to add. Nobody did. "That will be all. Good luck."

The members of the TOC saluted and left the room.

The man Eric had spotted in the corner earlier came rushing out after them. "Wait up!" he called.

"Jason," said Alan. "It's been a long time. Where've you been?"

"After your escapade on Sirus, I was re-assigned to teach me a lesson."

"Yeah, well, we're sorry about that. I didn't realize they'd be that hard on you."

"No real harm done. You're looking good. Congratulations on the promotion."

"Thanks."

"I know you've got a briefing to go to, so I'll see you when you get back. I'll buy."

"You're on," said Eric.

* * * *

James II was the younger brother of Charles II and inherited the throne upon Charles' death. He was married to Anne Hyde and had two daughters, Mary and Anne. He converted to Catholicism in the late 1660s after his first wife died then married a Catholic, which was unheard of at the time. Because he was old, Parliament decided to bide its time knowing that Mary and her husband William of Orange would inherit. Then the Queen became pregnant and had a son in 1688--the beginning of a Catholic dynasty.

"Several political leaders sent an 'invitation' to Mary and William. Little by little, the people left James and pledged their allegiance to William and Mary. As William's troops got closer, James fled for France. This was known as the Glorious Revolution."

"How did he get to Ireland?" asked Eric.

"I'm getting there. Don't rush me." Shannon looked at Gil. "Where was I?"

"James fled to France."

"Right. In March 1689 James went to Ireland to gain the support of the Catholics. Many of the Protestants fled to Ulster in the north where they formed their own army to fight James. In the summer of 1690, with the French navy concentrated elsewhere, William landed in Ulster then marched south to Dublin. The armies met at the Boyne River north of Dublin on July 12. James retreated and fled to France."

"And that was the end of the Catholic Stuarts," remarked Gil.

"Didn't you guys ever read history?"

"James' son, also James, went to Scotland in 1715 to try to regain the throne but failed," said Alan. "His grandson, Charles, came the closest in 1745, but also failed. That marked the end."

After the briefing, they prepared to leave. They stood facing each other, counted to three, and then simultaneously activated their machines.

* * * *

Eric, after a slight moment of giddiness, found himself in a small room--little used by the look of it. One thing about these machines; they never put you in the middle of a crowd. The room had a musty smell and he went to a window for fresh air. Looking outside, he saw some timbered buildings in the Tudor style. "Looks like we made it, guys." Hearing no reply, he turned around. He was alone. "Correction: looks like I made it."

First thing he had to do was get the proper clothes so he could (1) finish the mission and, (2) search for his friends without raising suspicions. Looking back out the window, he saw a line of clothes flapping in the breeze. "Talk about Divine Providence," he said with a smile. He opened the door and crept down the alley towards the yard and quickly yanked the clothes off the rope before running back to the shed. The shirt and trousers were a bit baggy, but not that bad. He then sauntered out and headed for the heart of Dublin.

* * * *

Gil Connor arrived in the same place as Eric, except that he was about 500 years later. He could tell immediately upon his arrival that something was wrong. He was alone. The machine had somehow malfunctioned. He needed a lab of sorts where he could take a good look at it. The shack he was in was too dark and dusty for that. Being the only one with a transmuter, he changed his clothes to something acceptable in the time and changed his money as well. Once he was ready, he went out into Dublin to find a lab and the proper materials to fix the machine. He hoped the others were all right.

* * * *

Shannon was cold and damp. She never remembered Dublin being this cold. It was supposed to be summer! She slowly opened her eyes and found herself lying on a riverbank. Even though the sun was setting, she knew this wasn't Dublin. If this were the Liffey, the stores and other buildings would be more built-up. Instead, she was looking at forest. She stood and gasped in pain as she put pressure on her ankle. She must have twisted it. Great, the machine died on me. Where the hell am I? She hobbled to where she guessed the road might be. She followed it in the hopes of finding a village of sorts. A wagon came up the road and a man in period dress stopped. "Hast thou lost thy way, mistress?"

Shannon knew she was in the right time, if not the right place. "Yes, I was traveling and, um, the boat overturned. I awoke on the bank. Where am I?"

"Why, this is the road to Salem."

* * * *

Alan found himself in a busy city. At first, he thought he was in the right place until he heard Big Ben toll the hour. London. A little off-course. Walking into the street, he saw gaslights on cobblestones in front of tall storefronts. Okay, more than a little off-course. No way was this the 17th century. He found a hawker selling newspapers and got a look at the date: May 18, 1900. Why did this date seem familiar? Bells began to clamor all over the city. People came streaming into the streets cheering and making noise. "Mafeking is relieved!" they shouted. Alan was dragged along with the merry-making crowd. Then he saw her. She was standing in front of a building on the square. He tried to get back to her, but the crowd kept him away. Maybe tomorrow.

* * * *

Eric, in his borrowed clothes, stopped at a pub to listen to gossip. They were quiet in front of a stranger at first, but soon they were buying him beers. He learned that he was in a Jacobite pub. James was in the south and making his way north. Toasts were made to the Stuart line and men talked of joining James' army when he reached Dublin.

Eric nursed his ale and watched the more vocal men get more drunk. He allied himself with one in the hopes of getting a place to sleep. He helped the man home and took him upstairs to bed. The wife asked him if he had a place to stay. Upon hearing his answer, she prepared a room for him and let him stay the night.
As he put his head on the pillow, Eric's last thoughts were of the others. What had happened? Would they ever join him?

* * * *

Gil went to a hotel and got himself a room. He put on the television to see the news and get a feeling for the time. A familiar name appeared and grabbed his attention. "Dr. Dylan O'Shaugnessy, the brilliant temporal theorist, will be giving a speech tonight at Trinity University. Many of his theories are thought by more established theorists as fantastical and generally nonsensical. The public, however, is fascinated by such ideas. The topic of tonight's speech is the possibilities of time-travel."

O'Shaugnessy was one of Gil's main influences! To actually see him speak... Gil called for a cab then went outside to wait. He was dropped off outside Trinity's main entrance. He made his way to the auditorium and took a seat near the front.

O'Shaugnessy, a man in his late thirties, spoke for a little over two hours and kept the audience enthralled. Gil remembered reading most of these theories in books he had studies. He stood and applauded with everyone else when O'Shaugnessy was done. As soon as he could, he went around backstage to try and speak with him. "Excuse me, Dr. O'Shaugnessy, but I must speak with you on your theories. My card." Gil handed it to him.

O'Shaugnessy looked at it. "Who are you, Dr. Connor? I have never heard of you before."

"But I have heard of you. You have been a major influence on me and I have used your theories and made them concrete."

"What are you talking about?"

"I am a temporal physicist, Doctor. I come from the future."

* * * *

Shannon shivered. Salem Massachusetts. Witch trials. The driver noticed her chill. "I will take thee to my home where thou canst dry off and change into suitable clothes."

"Thank thee, Master --. I am afraid I do not know thy name."

"Master Fletcher," he answered.

"I am Shannon Flynn."

Master Fletcher stopped in front of a small house. He tied the horse to a post and helped Shannon out of the wagon. "Prudence," he called upon entering the house. "My sister," he explained to Shannon.

A young woman with her blonde hair tucked under a cap, came down the stairs. "What is it, Thomas?"

"This is Mistress Shannon Flynn. I found her wandering on the road. Dost thou have clothes that would fit her?"

Prudence looked her over, taking in her strange, close-fitting clothes, he athletic build, and her short red hair. "Yes, Thomas, I think so. Come with me, Mistress Shannon." Prudence led her up the stairs and into a small room under the eaves. "Since it is late, I will loan thee a nightdress." She took one out of a drawer.

"Thank thee, Mistress Prudence. Thou art being so kind to me."

" ''Tis naught but Christian charity. Now, change out of thy wet clothes and I will bring thee some warm broth."

Prudence left and Shannon quickly changed into the coarse woolen nightdress, wondering if this was a form of penance. Maybe if she kept her nose clean and stayed out of trouble, she would be all right. She lay down on the bed and was asleep by the time Prudence returned.

* * * *

The following morning, Alan returned to the square and tried to remember which house he had seen her enter. He sat down on a bench as if waiting for Divine inspiration to point the way. A door to one of the buildings opened and two lines of young schoolgirls came out for their morning constitution. He smiled as he saw them in their matching uniforms. She was the last one out of the door. It was amazing how little she had changed. He followed from the opposite side of the street until he could think of a way to approach her. He saw they were heading for the National Gallery and he smiled, remembering the time he had taken her and young Jason Hunter, her pupil. The ideal place. He could approach her just as another visitor to the museum and she if she remembered him.

He found her and her young charges in front of The Haywain by Constable. "Why do we have to study boring old paintings?" ask one of the younger girls.
She smiled. "When I was a governess, one of my charges wanted to go out, but he was young and needed to keep moving, so I said no to him. A friend then convinced me otherwise with a moving speech."

"Do you remember what it was?" asked another girl. This sounded like a more interesting subject than art.

"It was over ten years ago."

"Please?"

"Let me try to remember." She thought for a moment. " 'Art is part of man's culture. It captures the beauty of life, and even the beauty of death. Art is like looking at history itself. It captures moments of time and freezes them forever.' He then quoted John Ruskin: 'at the same time the artist arrested it as it passed, and perpetuated it forever.'"

Alan felt that this was the ideal time for him to make his entrance. "Excuse me, miss, but your friend must have made quite an impression for you to remember that speech after so long."

"Yes, he was quite special," she said as she turned to face him. "You?"

"Hello, Violet. I'm back."

* * * *

The following morning when Eric woke, he almost forgot where he was. Then he remembered the mission and that the others were missing; that they had never arrived. He changed and went down to meet his host.

The man was taller than he remembered, with coal-black hair and clear blue eyes. He smiled when he saw Eric. "Good morning, friend. My wife has told me that you helped me home last night. I'd like to thank you."

"Allowing me to sleep in your spare room was thanks enough, sir."

"Call me Sean," he said. "Don't you have a place to stay?"

"No. I became separated from friends and they have the money." He smiled, and then realized he hadn't told them his name. "I'm Eric Rader."

Sean's wife came into the room bearing a tray of eggs and sausages. "You have met my wife?"

"Not formally."

"I am Fiona," she said, setting down the tray. "Please, help yourself to breakfast."

"Your friends were to meet you here?" asked Sean.

"Yes. Something must have happened. Perhaps I should go to our rendezvous point ever day to watch for them." He took a sip of tea.

"Until they do, you are welcome to stay here."

"Thank you very much, Sean, Fiona. I'll try not to be a burden." Hopefully, they won't be long he said to himself.

* * * *

O'Shaugnessy was shocked. In front of him was a man who claimed to be from the future! He could be faking it; could be one of those cracks that always came out of the woodwork when he went out on the lecture circuit. Right now he would take this claim at face value until he found out more about him. "This is amazing!"

"I know you may find this hard to believe, but I need your help."

"This is not the place to discuss this. We'll go to my lab and you can tell me all about it." He grabbed his coat and ushered Gil out of the auditorium. Gil stopped and waited for a car. "What are you waiting for?"

"Don't you have a car?"

"Not tonight. I live close by and can walk. Anyways, it's a nice night."

Gil followed the doctor as he strolled the streets. He seems to be taking this quite well, considering he's just been confronted with someone claiming to be from the future. "Doctor, I'd like to explain..."

"Not now. We're almost home, then I can give you my full attention."

O'Shaugnessy led Gil up two flights of stairs to his flat. It came nowhere near what Gil had been expecting. O'Shaugnessy noticed him looking about. "I'll give you a tour later. Right now, I want to hear your story."

Gil sat down in a chair and proceeded to tell the doctor of the birth of the TOC and how he happened to arrive in this time. "So, you see, doctor--"

"Dylan."

"Dylan, I need your help."

"To find replacement pieces for your machine." He looked at Gil's wrist. "Is that it?"

"Yes. It's been greatly modified since the first one." He took it off and set it on the table.

"This is amazing." Dylan gingerly picked it up. "To think that something so delicate could be such a major breakthrough."

"You can put it on. It only works when I'm wearing it."

"Bio-chemical feedback, eh? Quite clever." Dylan fastened it to his wrist.

"Once we went public, we had to protect them and ourselves. Let me point out the different functions." Gil showed him the buttons then took it off his wrist to show him the inside workings, pointing out what needed to be replaced.

Dylan looked at him. "I don't think I have anything like these."

"I'm going to have to find them in a hurry. Who knows what kind of trouble my friends are in."

* * * *

The next morning Prudence awakened Shannon early. It was still dark outside. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing. It is time to prepare for Service. Here is a dress thee can borrow."

"What time is it?" asked Shannon, yawning.

"Six of the clock. Dost thou and thy family not get up this early?"

"Not recently." She sat up on the bed.

"After thou hast dressed and made thy bed, come and have some bread before we leave for Service." She left.

Shannon slipped out of the nightdress and put on the simple brown dress Prudence had loaned. Not that bad a fit, really. She then pulled up the sheets of the bed, folded the blanket, and placed it at the foot of the bed. She then picked up a bonnet to cover her hair and went downstairs.

Thomas was sitting at the table, eating a piece of bread. "Good morrow, Mistress Flynn. I hope thee slept well."

"Yes, fine, thank thee. Dost thou need any help?" she asked Prudence.

"No, just have thy bread. We must leave soon."

Shannon picked up a piece and found it tasty and fresh-baked. "Delicious." Prudence blushed at the compliment.

When they were done, Thomas held the door for both of them and they walked across the street to the meetinghouse. Thomas nodded to acquaintances as he followed his sister and guest into the hard, wooden pew. Shannon gazed around and saw that it was sparsely decorated. Of course! They're Protestant and don't believe in having pictures or statues of the Holy Family or saints. She then saw some families placing pails under their pews. "What are they for?" she asked.

"They live outside the town and won't have time to go home between services," Prudence answered.

Between services? Shannon thought herself as religious as the next person, but to spend all day sitting on a hard pew listening to a preacher drone on about hellfire and damnation was more than she could bear. A young man approached the pulpit and prepared to deliver the sermon. At the first sound of his voice, Shannon was amazed: he was Irish!

* * * *

Violet Munro was in shock. Here was a man she had had a girlish crush on twelve years earlier. He hadn't changed one bit. But, then he could travel through time. Could he have come back for her? It was too much to ask. "Mr. Kelly, this is quite a surprise," she said calmly. It wouldn't be proper for her to act like one of her charges.

"I saw you last night and tracked you down this morning." He smiled and she nearly melted. The girls giggled at their teacher's reaction. Realizing he was causing her some embarrassment, Alan offered to meet her later when it was more convenient.

"I have a free evening tonight," she said.

"Fine. I'll come by the school at 7:00."

"That would be lovely."

"Until tonight, then." He smiled and took his leave.

That night he was waiting for Violet on the doorstep fifteen minutes early. He had gone to a place where they handed out used clothes. Even though they weren't in the best condition, they would attract less attention than his "traveling" clothes. She came out wearing a simple dress with a matching shawl and bonnet. "You look lovely," he said.

"Thank you," she said with a blush.

"Do you have any place you'd like to go? I'm not familiar with this London. Before you decide, I should warn you I have no money."

She laughed. "I thought so once I saw you in that outfit. We can walk in the park and you can tell me all that has happened since you left."

"Only if you return the favor."

"Gladly."

They took an omnibus to the park entrance and bought some popcorn to nibble on. He told her of everything from meeting Shannon to the revelation that Cameron was, in fact, his brother. She was amazed at this, only knowing Cameron as the man who had kidnapped her.

She then told him that after Jason Hunter went off to school, she had nothing to do until a friend told her about an opening in a girls' seminary. She enjoyed herself and loved teaching, especially since she had changed her method of teaching history by showing both sides. "Something I learned from you."

Alan was content, strolling through a quiet park with a beautiful woman on his arm. Right now, he couldn't care less if the others never found him.

* * * *

Gil woke in the morning and found himself lying on a couch. Out of habit, his hand reached for his time machine. It was gone! What had happened? He sat up and started searching the cushions.

"Did you lose something?"

Gil looked up at the man standing there, the man who was holding the machine, and remembered. "For a moment, I thought I had. Have you had any luck?"

"No, not yet. I've been put on the track of someone who might have similar parts. They're going to call back later."

Gil took a good look at him. He was unshaven, his hair was mussed, and his clothes unkempt. "Did you sleep at all?"

"How could I, with everything you've told me? It's just too much to absorb." Gil smiled at Dylan's eagerness. The phone rang and Dylan pounced on it. "Yes? Wonderful! Why? A friend and I are trying an experiment. Fine. We'll see you in about an hour." Dylan hung up the phone and looked at Gil. "I think we're in business. She has parts that might be compatible. I said we'd be down to check 'em out."

"She?"

"Katie Flaherty. She's an electronics whiz. Not much known outside the field, though. I've done up some coffee and there are some rolls in the cupboard. I'm going to take a quick shower. Make yourself t' home."

Gil went into the kitchen and saw a fresh pot of coffee warming in the percolator. It took him a few tried to find the cupboard with the rolls. He sat down and planned an approach to the repairs. Aside from fixing the coordinator, he'd have to check all the other functions to make sure there wasn't a complete breakdown. Once he determined what he needed, he'd have to get parts for each machine.

Later, Dylan and Gil made their way to Katie's shop and went up to the counter. A young man looked up. "May I help you?"

"Yes. Is Katie in?"

"She's with a customer at the moment. Is there anything I can do?"

"I talked to her this morning and she said she'd set aside parts for me."

"Oh, yes, she had mentioned that." The youth took a small box out from under the counter.

Dylan opened it with swift hands and peered inside. A puzzled look crossed his face and he tilted the box so Gil could look inside. "This is nothing like what we need at all!" he cried.

* * * *

The next few days passed quickly as Shannon became accustomed to the daily routine. She assisted Prudence with the chores and occasionally helped Thomas at the school. The children loved hearing her tell stories from Ireland. She knew it wouldn't be appreciated if she told them about leprechauns, so she kept her stories to those of Cúchulainn and Deirdre of the Sorrows. She won the approval of most of thee boys when she spoke of pirates--something of which she had experience.
Whenever she had a free moment, she escaped to the bluffs overlooking the sea. If it had been warmer, she probably would have gone swimming. One day as she sat there softly singing a song in Gaelic, she heard someone come up beside her. "Dia 's Muire dhuit."

"Go mbeannaí Dia dhuit," she replied automatically.

"Mind if I join you?" asked the young rector.

"No. Go right ahead."

He sat on the ground next to her. "I don't think we've been properly introduced. "I'm Sean Burke." He held out his hand.

"Shannon Flynn." She shook his hand.

"You're the one."

"What?"

"I saw a group of boys playing and I asked them what game, and they told me they were re-creating the Great Cattle Raid of Cooley. Needless to say, I was surprised to see that they even knew of it. When I asked, they said Mistress Shannon had told them the story."

"Do you think it was wrong of me to tell them? I mean, they're just stories."

"No, I don't think there's anything wrong. But then, I'm not their parents."

"I just don't see why simple stories of heroes and færies should cause such problems. They don't affect religion at all."

"Being raised in Ireland, these stories are part of our heritage and we know its place. I think that might be one of the main reasons the Irish are looked down upon; this belief in the little people. That, and, for the most part, being Catholic." She looked at him, shocked. "You are Catholic, aren't you?"

"So, what's wrong with that?" she asked defensively.

"Nothing. I don't think so, anyway. You poor thing, to have to be submitted to this denunciation of the Pope. If anyone finds out, I'm sure they'll accuse you of being a spy."

"Hopefully, I won't be here long enough for them to find out. I know my friends are looking for me."

"How did you come to Salem anyway?"

"Purely by accident. Thomas Fletcher found me on the road and took me in."

Sean Burke rose. "I must take my leave, Miss Flynn, and you'd best be careful. Your secret is safe with me."

"Thank you, Mr. Burke. Good day." Shannon watched him leave. If she was to be stuck here, he would make it bearable. He knew she was Catholic and it didn't matter. She stood and dusted herself off. It was time to help Prudence with dinner.

A shadow pulled away from the bushes. The disreputable-looking man smiled, showing crooked teeth. So, the village's new arrival was an Irish Catholic and the rector met with her secretly. The elders should be told of this.

* * * *

Alan held Violet's hand as they walked on Hampstead Heath. Here she was, spending all her free time with a man she knew might have to leave her soon, instead of spending it with her other friends. Not that he didn't want her attentions. Maybe it was due to the frustration he felt at not being able to do anything about his position. He was here until Gil found him and repaired the machine. Granted, he could be stuck in a less respectable time without the comfort of knowing someone...

"Penny for your thoughts," said Violet.

"What?"

"You had this faraway look in your eyes and I said 'penny for your thoughts'."

"Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about what I'd do if Gil doesn't find me. His machine could have malfunctioned as well."

"What would you do?"

"I guess I'd have to find a job, though I don't think I'd qualify for anything now."

"You could always teach history," she remarked with a smile.

"Yeah, guess I could, and make 'predictions' about the future."

"I know a nice little tea shop in the village." Violet led him into Hampstead. She knew that soon his friends would come for him and he would leave again. Until then, they would live and enjoy each other's company.

* * * *

Eric was sitting in a pub with Sean and his friends when the door burst open. A man, breathing heavily, declared, "He's close and should be here tomorrow!"

"A toast to King James!" cried Sean. "Get the man a beer, Brian," he told the bartender. "I don't know about the rest of you, but when James leaves here to meet Orange, I'll be with him!"

"Here, here!" shouted the patrons.

Eric joined them even though his heart really wasn't in it. When James arrived in Dublin tomorrow, he would be the only one there to go on to the Boyne valley. Why did I ever give up being a mercenary?

* * * *

"What's the matter here?" asked a woman Gil thought to be in her early thirties.

"Katie, these parts are no good to us," said Dylan.

Katie Flaherty walked over and peered in the box. "Those aren't the ones I set aside for you, that's why." She turned tot he youth behind the counter. "Where's that box I set aside for Doctor O'Shaugnessy?"

"Oh, I'm sorry." He bent down and took another box out from under the counter. "Here you go."

Dylan took it from him. "This looks a lot better. What do you think, Gil?"

Gil lifted out one of the small, delicate pieces. "This is more like it. I think these will work quite well."

Katie smiled at this young man. He seemed a strange companion for a man like Dylan. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?"

"Sorry. Katie Flaherty, this is Dr. Gilbert Connor. He thinks he has a way to put one of my theories to work."

"Pleasure." Gil held out his hand.

Katie shook his hand. "I wish you luck. You'll make Dylan a very happy man if you prove his theory of time travel," she said with a smile.

"I'm sure he'll be pleased," said Gil.

"Just put it on my tab, Katie. I'll settle up when I can."

"I won't hold my breath."

Gil and Dylan went back to the lab and locked themselves away so Gil could make four replacement parts. They occasionally broke for food and sleep. After about 24 hours, Gil nudged Dylan awake. "I think I'm ready."

"So soon? I hardly got to know you."

"I'm sorry I can't stay, but I don't know what kind of trouble my friends are in. I have to find them and finish our mission."

"How will you find them if they're lost like you?"

"I've made an addition that will track their individual bio-rhythms." He tapped the sack he wore over his shoulder. "I've got the other pieces as well. So long, Dylan. Wish me luck!" Gil disappeared.

"My God, it works! It really works! Thank you, Dr. Gilbert Connor!"

* * * *

"Give us the Papist witch!" cried the mob outside the Fletcher home. "She's been telling tales to our children!"

Shannon huddled in a corner with Prudence as Thomas shuttered and bolted the doors. "I'm sorry," she kept saying. "I never meant to hurt you. Yes, I'm Catholic, but I never let that come into the picture. I helped with your chores and went to service with you."

"We know thou art no witch," said Thomas. "The townsfolk are just using it as an excuse to be rid of thee. Thou couldst not 'corrupt' them."

"They say thou hast already bewitched the rector."

"He is from Ireland as well and we just talked. I've done nothing!"

"Thomas and Prudence, give us the witch and we shall forgive thee for listening to her words!" called one of the elders.

"This is madness!" cried Sean Burke. "The poor girl worships the same God as we, but in a different way. You are treating her the same way the Romans treated the first Christians. None of you are perfect. He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

"She has bewitched thee, Mr. Burke. Thou dost not know what thou art saying."

"I have warned you of your folly and there is nothing more I can do." He left the crowd and went around to the back where he saw a young man crouching near a window. Thinking him to be one of the mob, he set upon him. He pinned the man to the ground and looked him in the face. He thought he knew everyone in the parish. "Who are you and what are you doing here?"

"If you'd get off me, I'll tell you." Sean knelt next to him. "My name is Gilbert Connor and I'm here to take Shannon home."

"You're a friend of Shannon's? You could not have chosen a better time to arrive." Sean tapped on the window.

"You're not going to get any response like that. Let me try." Gil tapped five times in a rhythm, paused, then tapped twice more.

After a few moments, the shutter slowly opened and Shannon's face appeared. "Gil! Thank God! When I heard the knocking, I thought it too good to be true."
Then she saw Sean. "Mr. Burke. I heard what you said in my defense. Thank you."

"Would someone tell me what's going on?" asked Gil.

"Because I'm an Irish Catholic, they're calling me a witch. Mr. Burke and the Fletchers have been defending me and I'm afraid they'll be hurt if we leave now."

Gil took in the four pairs of eyes watching him. "I think I might have an idea..."

Twenty minutes later, Sean and the Fletchers ran out of the house, telling of how that pretty young girl turned into a vicious creature, throwing things across the room without touching them. She also spoke in a strange guttural tongue. Burke was praised for being stronger than the witch and risking his life to rescue the Fletchers. Shannon then appeared in the doorway and spread a powder on the step. She then began to wave her hands and chant strange words. "She is casting a spell!" cried the villagers.

Sean smiled, knowing that she was only reciting an old Gaelic poem. He waited until she reached the line that was his signal. "We no longer fear you, witch! You have no power over us! Go back to your master and tell him to bother the people of Salem no more! Begone, evil mistress of Satan! Begone!" With a cry and a puff of fire and smoke, the Papist witch of Salem was gone.

* * * *

Alan and Violet walked down Regent Street, Alan carrying her packages. "Why is it that women always buy a lot of things?"

"It's not all that much. Besides, it's not just for me. Some of the other teachers and students asked me to pick up a few things."

While passing in front of a tailor's, a voice called out, "Miss Munro?" Violet stopped and turned towards the voice. "It is you. I thought so." A youth of about 18 or 19 approached them.

"Jason Hunter. My goodness, just look at you. How you've grown. How is university?"

"Oh, it's going wonderfully. I'm reading for history. I have you to thank for that."

Alan tried to stifle a laugh. "Jason, you remember Mr. Kelly, don't you?"

Jason looked at the man next to his old governess and remembered him as the man who had been instrumental in allowing him his first field trip to the National Gallery. He hadn't changed in ten years. "Mr. Kelly, how nice to see you again. How long are you in town?"

"I'm not sure. I'm waiting for friends and I'll be leaving soon after they arrive."

Big Ben chimed the quarter-hour. "Sorry, must dash. If you can, stop by and see Father. I'm sure he'd enjoy that." He backed away down the street. "Good-bye!"

"He turned out well," remarked Alan as he watched the boy disappear into the crowd.

"He was my one and only post as governess. Once he went to school, I got this job."

"Are you sorry you took up teaching at a school?"

"No. I feel I can help more students this way." She looked at her list. "Just one more stop. How are the packages?"

"I can manage."

"I never thought I'd see the day: Alan Kelly shopping with a lady."

Alan turned at the familiar voice. "Gil, Shannon, you found me!"

"Doesn't look like you're suffering too much," said Gil with a smile in Violet's direction.

"Miss Violet Munro, this is Dr. Gilbert Connor and Miss Shannon Flynn."

Violet held out her hand. "A pleasure to meet you both. Alan has told me so much about you."

"Oh, really?" Shannon raised an eyebrow.

"She knows everything. I met her earlier, after Bosworth. Cam--Ryan had kidnapped her to get to me. When I saw her after my arrival here, we picked up where we left off."

Violet saw they had much to talk about. "I'll go run my errand and met you later. You can talk more freely without my presence." She nodded to the others and walked down the street.

"She's very nice, Alan," said Shannon. "Are you very serious?"

"We both knew the possibility existed that you would come and get me. We tried to pretend it didn't, but it was always there."

"Why didn't you bring her along?" Shannon asked.

Gil was surprised at this, thinking that Shannon had a crush on Alan herself. "That would be impossible; to take her out of the time she knows, to uproot her from the life she's created for herself."

"He did it with me."

"I asked her, that if the occasion ever arose, would she want to come with me. She said no." He was quiet for a few moments. "I want to give her something before we go. Can I have the transmuter?" Gil nodded and Alan took some mixed coins out of his pocket. "She's been buying everything and I want to pay her back." Gil touched the wand to the money and it changed into coin of the realm.

"What? You've been a kept man?" Shannon laughed. "I'm ashamed of you."

"It was nothing like that. She knew I had no money. You guys wait here for Violet. I'll be right back."

"Wait. Let me have your machine so I can fix it," said Gil. Alan took it off his wrist, handed it to Gil, and then left them with a pile of packages.

"Do you think he's in love with her?" asked Shannon.

"It looks that way," replied Gil. "I've seen him with a lot of girlfriends before, but this looks serious."

"Too bad it can't go any further than this. How do you think he'll handle it?"

"He won't let it show, but it'll bother him."

"Ssshhh, here she comes."

Violet walked up to them. "Where's Alan?"

"He just remembered something he had to do."

"Oh." She made to lift some of her packages and Gil helped her.

"Do you live far from here?" asked Shannon.

"No, not far. When did you meet Alan, Miss Flynn?"

"Shannon. I think it was right after he left you. He moved into the same building and we became friends. Cameron then showed up and I accidentally went with Alan to the Caribbean in the 17th century. I've been with him ever since." Alan came back with a small box. He looked at her and signaled her with his eyes. "I think I'll see if Gil needs any help with those packages." She left them alone.

Alan took Violet by the arm and began to walk. "As you can guess, I've got to leave soon, but I wanted to give you something first." He put an envelope in her hand.

"Alan, I can't--"

"Yes. It's to pay you back for all the money you spent on me."

"Alan, that was done out of friendship. You don't have to pay me back."

"I want to. There's something else." He opened the small box, inside which rested a gold ring.

"It's beautiful."

He took her right hand and placed it on her third finger. "It's a claddagh ring from Ireland. The hands stand for friendship, the crown for loyalty, and the heart for love."

"I'll treasure it always." She looked up at him. "I'm only sorry I've nothing to give you."

"The memories I have of our time together is gift enough." God, did I just say that? I'm beginning to sound like some mushy romance novel.

Violet saw Gil and Shannon behind them. "Your friends are waiting."

"I know. I was just going to help you back with your packages."

"No, please. I can manage from here. If I have to walk with you any further, I might break down and ask you not to leave. It's better this way."

He waved the others forward and they gave over the packages. "Are you ready?" asked Gil.

"Just about. One last thing." Alan took Violet by the shoulders and kissed her on the lips. "Good-bye, Violet."

Shocked and numb, Violet could say nothing until they were gone. "I love you, Alan Kelly." A tear trickled down her cheek.

* * * *

Gil, Shannon, and Alan arrived in a shack, the same shack where Eric had arrived. "Well, did we get the right time?" asked Shannon.

Gil looked at his machine. "July 1690, Dublin."

"Do you want to use the transmuter so we can go find Eric," said Alan sharply.

Shannon and Gil exchanged knowing glances. "Sure."

Once they wore the clothing of the time, they stepped into the alley. Shannon looked around her, amazed to see the city as it used to be. She spotted a figure walking down the street towards them. "Take a look."

Alan and Gil looked at the man, who, at the same time, recognized them. He ran up. "God, it's great to see you! I was going crazy! Where the hell have you been?"

Gil laughed. "I was here in Dublin--in 400 years' time."

"I was across the Atlantic in Salem a few days ago."

"The right place at the wrong time and the wrong place at the right time." Eric looked at Alan. "What about you?"

"London, 200 years from now."

"The wrong place and the wrong time."

"I didn't think so."

Eric looked at the others, who shrugged. "Now that you're here, we can go to the Boyne. James was here yesterday and left with a large following. My host for the last few days went with him."

"Okay, let's go. We'd better use your machine. I don't want to risk using ours anymore."

They arrived at the Boyne River Valley in time to see the Irish forces defeated as James fled tot he coast for France. "Afterwards, all rights were taken away from the Irish people," explained Shannon "There were other rebellions over the years, but it wasn't until 1922 that they were awarded Home Rule and independence from England, except for the six counties in the north."

"For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost," said Alan.

"Exactly. It could have changed the history of Ireland."

Alan was quiet upon their return home and his relief came from an unlikely source. His newly-discovered brother Ryan--the former Cameron James--had found the diary of a Victorian schoolteacher and bought it for Alan, knowing of his feelings for Violet. Alan took to sleeping with it under his pillow open to the entry that read:

March 20, 1900. He left again today and I feel empty inside. I'll always wear the ring he gave me before he left. I never got to tell him, but I can put it down in here: I love you, Alan Kelly.

15. Time's Fatal Wings

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