“Welcome, Librarian Stesynd,” Imidar Torstan said in his soft, calming voice as Tervisan strode into his Archive. “How may I help you today?”
Tervisan smiled warmly, though he knew it was unlikely to have an effect. Imidar was not one of the Library’s most expressive denizens. In fact, Tervisan wondered whether he had any emotions at all. Perhaps the elderly Archivist simply believed them unnecessary and inefficient, and had requested their removal long before Tervisan had been created. Imidar himself had never commented on the matter, and Tervisan was too polite to ask.
“I’m looking for any changes to the personal timeline of William Shakespeare. The playwright, not the Martian king.”
“Certainly,” Imidar replied, turning to one of the monitors at his desk and tapping away at the typewriter connected to its base. “Another Deviation, I presume?”
“That’s right,” Tervisan replied, placing his hands on the desk. “I’ve just got back from Intervening. He’d been run over by a cart as an infant.”
“Indeed?” Imidar said, removing his spectacles for a moment and polishing them on the sleeve of his robe. “That is astronomically unlikely.”
“I know, right? I’m thinking he was deliberately put there.”
“Another time traveller, then,” Imidar murmured, returning the spectacles to his nose and hitting a few more keys. “That would correlate with these results.”
The Archivist grunted, and turned the screen around so Tervisan could see the graph he’d called up. It was a flat line, with the occasional minor bump, but nothing drastic. “Not a Time Quake then,” the Librarian observed.
Imidar spun the monitor around and allowed his fingers to dance across the typewriter once more.
“Stratford-Upon-Avon in the mid-fifteen-hundreds, as I recall,” the Archivist said to himself. “Let’s have a look.”
Tervisan waited patiently as the Archivist worked, allowing his eyes to wander around the Archive reception room. As indeed they did throughout the Cronos Library, shelves of Tomes lined almost all the available wall space, save for a small gap to the left, where a painting of Marilyn Monroe hung above a wooden coffee table, on which rested a well-maintained bonsai tree. Tervisan moved towards it to take a closer look, but Imidar tutted loudly and he stopped.
“Don’t touch that,” the Archivist cautioned without looking up. “It bites.”
“The tree, or Marilyn?” Tervisan asked, grinning.
“Both,” Imidar replied.
Tervisan took a step back, eyeing the painting and the tree with suspicion. Neither moved, though when he turned his gaze back to Marilyn’s smiling face, he could swear she was staring at him.
After a moment’s pause, she winked.
“Ah ha,” Imidar observed, and turned the monitor again so that Tervisan could see. It was a satellite feed – probably one of the monitoring probes that Library had scattered across through Earth’s orbit throughout history, providing grainy image of a field of wheat.
Tervisan watched. The timestamp read ’10:33, 27/05/1564.’
“What am I watching for?” Tervisan asked, but Imidar raised a finger, indicating he required patience.
A bird flew across the screen, but otherwise the field seemed innocuous - until, without warning, a fireball blossomed right in the middle of the screen. When the glare faded, the wheat had been scorched away in a precise circle, the centre of which was occupied by a silver cylinder, about the size of a person.
“I don’t recognise the model,” Imidar said, “but that is quite clearly a timeship.”
Tervisan nodded thoughtfully. “But who would want to cut Shakespeare out of history?”
“I can think of a number of GCSE English students,” Imidar commented wryly.
Tervisan glanced at him. “Was that a joke, Archivist Torston?”
“Certainly not. Look at the screen.”
Shaking his head, Tervisan returned his gaze to the video feed, and sure enough, part of the cylinder was sliding away, though it was impossible to see inside from this angle. Not that they needed to, for what had been inside was very clearly stepping out.
It was a woman with long dark hair, dressed in a white shirt, practical cream trousers and a leather jacket. Under one arm she carried a brown fedora.
She turned to her timeship and raised her free hand, which was holding something too small for them to see. The panel on the cylinder that had slid away was now smoothly moving back into place, seamlessly sealing the entrance so no unwanted guests would be able to enter.
She slipped what must have been the key into her jacket pocket, and placed the fedora on her head. Then, she strode out of the picture with a spring in her step.
“I think that’s our culprit,” said Imidar. He hit a key, and frowned. “Not on our system though. She’s a new one.”
“I think I’ll pay her a visit,” Tervisan said cheerfully. “Thanks, Imidar.” Before the Archivist could offer any resistance, Tervisan raised a hand and met the Archivist’s in a fist-bump. Then he turned on his heel and headed for the door.
“Not at all…” Imidar said hesitantly. “Mind how you go, Librarian Stesynd.”
“Never,” Tervisan called over his shoulder. “Where would be the fun in that?”