“This is Librarian Stesynd,” Tervisan said into his watch. “I’ve arrived in 1564. Let me see if I can find the target.”
“Careful, Stesynd,” Fate replied as Tervisan surveyed his surroundings. “You’re dangerously close to crossing your own timeline.”
Tervisan chuckled confidently.
“Don’t you worry, sir. I’m about an hour before I arrived last time, and it shouldn’t take that long for me to find this woman and bring her in.”
“All the same, watch yourself,” Fate instructed him. “We haven’t the resources to deal with another paradox. And that means the baby still dies, you hear me? I don’t want your sentimentality buggering up the timeline by saving the baby your past self will resurrect in an hour – get it?”
Tervisan clicked a button on the side of his watch, calibrating it to temporal disturbances in the immediate area. Time travel left a lingering smell, as it were – a multi-dimensional stink that hung in the air both before and after the event, and that could be tracked, even by a device as small as Tervisan’s watch.
The woman, whoever she was, was due to arrive in around a minute’s time. Tervisan couldn’t get too close before then – because he hadn’t shown up on the satellite feed when they watched it back in Imidar’s Archive. If he entered the shot now, he’d be changing his own past, which would of course be a bad thing.
Time travel was irritatingly complicated.
He’d arrived in a small cluster of trees which, judging by his GPS, was a little West of where the woman would arrive. So he flexed his shoulders and set off at a jog, quickly leaving the cover of the woods and stepping out into a large, otherwise empty field of wheat, similar to but not quite the same as the one on the satellite feed.
As it had been on his first visit, the sky was an overcast grey, hovering on but not quite crossing the precipice of rain. Very English, Tervisan observed. He came to a low stone wall that marked the edge of the field, running down the side of the valley and stopping at the river below.
On the other side of the wall was the field he wanted. With around ten seconds to go, he crouched down, peeping through a gap in the stone, and waited.
The fireball was spectacular, a spherical blast of light and flame at least fifteen feet wide in diameter, though the wave of heat and sound shot out far further than that in all directions, rustling the leaves of the trees in the copse Tervisan had arrived in.
He was fairly certain he could smell his eyebrows burning.
When the flames faded, the silver capsule was settled neatly in the centre of the circle of singed wheat. The door slid to the side, and the woman stepped out, placing her fedora on her head.
Though it hadn’t been apparent on the feed, she was whistling to herself – the theme from an old film series, he realised. Indiana Jones.
In his mind’s eye, he pictured the bounds of the satellite feed, knowing that as soon as she reached his wall, they were in the clear. Any moment now…
The woman swung herself up and over the wall, not spotting Tervisan as she landed neatly on the other side. She took one sauntering step, and the Librarian slipped in behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“Hello there,” he started to say, but suddenly he found himself being yanked by his arm up and over her shoulder and coming down hard on the ground. Not wasting a moment, he rolled to one side, just as the woman ignited some kind of short energy blade in her right hand and lunged down at him.
The laser knife stabbed into the damp earth with a hissing sound, followed by a cloud of steam and burning wheat. Tervisan bounced up out of his roll to his feet, striking at the exposed back of her head with his right fist. The strike sent her reeling, the blade still stuck in the ground, and Tervisan followed through with a kick to her ribs and another strike to her right arm, targeting a specific pressure point that would leave it totally useless.
Sure enough, the arm fell to her side, but when she turned to face him again, she was grinning madly.
“You’re a tricky one, whoever you are,” she said. Her accent was northern English – Yorkshire, probably.
“I could say the same of you,” Tervisan replied, but suddenly the woman’s left arm shot out, launching something small and silvery through the air towards him. He tried to duck, but wasn’t quite fast enough, and was punished by a sharp jab in the neck.
He raised a hand to where he’d been hit, and found a tiny feathered dart stuck firmly in his flesh.
“Tranquiliser?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Bingo,” the woman nodded.
“Nicely done,” Tervisan mumbled, and everything went black.