As Eluria lay sobbing against Travis’ chest lost in deep depths of despair over the perceived hopelessness of her situation and seemingly everyone, but Travis’ unwillingness to help her, a far more pressing concern was evolving.
Travis held Eluria awkwardly, unsure of where to place his hands. He was a mid thirties man with a fifteen year old girl draped raw and exposed across his lap. Eluria’s clothes definitely weren’t made with modesty in mind and Travis could feel an uncomfortable amount of her body through them. He knew he wasn’t attracted to Eluria – she was just a child and he was her trusted confidant, but he was still thrust head first into this bizarre caricature of sexual intimacy with her. He could feel her tears trickling down her face and soaking into his shirt. If Travis hadn’t been so overwhelmed he might have also felt a tell tale sense of wrongness prickling over his skin like an electric current. He did his best to extricate himself from the situation as quickly as possible, citing an all too real emotional distance.
Travis gently placed his hands on Eluria’s shoulders and slowly pushed her torso away from his, easing her up into a sitting position.
“I’m sorry, Eluria. I’m terrible at things like this – just the last time I was in this sort of situation with someone I actually cared about she turned out to be a very cruel, very unfeeling person and since then I just haven’t really known how to handle other people’s emotions very well. Why don’t you go in the bathroom and wash your face, take a minute to sort of get yourself together and we can talk about what we can do about all this.” Travis said, as he stood up and backed a few steps away from Eluria, cloaking himself in the safety of emotional and physical distance.
Eluria stood, still leaking fairly heavily and trudged into the bathroom, reduced to a sullen little girl.
And that’s when everything went to shit.
Travis heard a familiar sound he couldn’t quite place in the distance – a bang and a hiss. It wasn’t until he heard the second, much louder hiss that he realized the airlocks had been deactivated and turned to find himself face to face with Eleanor Phleer.
“Well, isn’t this exciting. Tell me, Travis, what do we have going on here? I think General Crayton would be very interest -” If Eluria pausing the flow of time could be equated with a sense of electricity flowing across and through your skin then this was more like what your last moments would feel like if you grabbed a live power line. Travis felt the entirety of the wrongness flowing across his skin in a fraction of his second and found himself short of breath and physically moved a few feet from where’d he’d been standing when Eleanor had started talking to him.
Eleanor had frozen mid sentence, her mouth slightly open and her tongue touching the roof of her mouth preparing to pronounce the last bit of her words.
Travis circled around Eleanor and saw she didn’t appear to be breathing. Her chest didn’t seem to rise and fall and upon closer inspection he felt nor heard an exhale or inhale.
Interesting. How does that effect the body? How long can you survive in stopped time like this?
“I’m sorry, Dr. Stein! I got scared, I didn’t know what to do. I think I did it too hard, are you okay?”
“I think so. I mean, I feel okay, as long as nothing is wrong inside me. I’m not worried about me though, I’m talking and breathing. Is she okay? She’s not breathing and I’m not sure her heart is actually beating either.” Travis hadn’t wanted to actually touch Eleanor to verify, but in the near complete silence of the airlocked, time frozen chamber he’d assumed he’d be able to hear her heartbeat, standing as close to her as he was when he was checking her breathing.
“I hope so, I don’t want to hurt her. I just didn’t know what to do. No one, but you has ever seen me talk before. I assume people have seen me getting up to go to the bathroom, but no one’s ever mentioned it – like they were all just glad the little retarded girl didn’t need to have someone change her diapers too, I don’t know.”
“Eluria, quit it. You’re not retarded. Now, can we fix her or not?” Travis queried, the concern in his voice becoming more apparent.
“Why are you so worried about her? You were in here, talking to me and next thing I know, you’re shoving me off of you, she’s bursting in here and you’re all worked up about her! Why do you care so much if she’s okay when you don’t care if I’m okay?!”
“I don’t care Eluria -”
“I know you don’t care, that’s why you shoved me off of you like a jerk, that’s why you’re so worked up about that… that…. bitch! Why is she so much better than me? Why aren’t you worried about me?!” Eluria shrieked, doing her best impression of the fabled banshee.
“Jesus Christ Eluria, calm down. You’re acting like a fucking child! If you’d get yourself together a little bit and let me talk, I was trying to say I don’t care about her. I’m not all worked up about her, I’m trying to make sure I don’t lose my job and go to jail and you don’t end up some fucked up science experiment, okay. You’re upset and crying, sheisn’t breathing – they’re a little bit different, okay, like you see that, that makes sense?!”
“You know what? Fine! You deal with her, alone. That’s what you want anyway. I know how you feel about her, I saw it!” And as quickly as she spoke, Travis Stein felt the super powered jolt that was apparently Eluria using her powers when she wasn’t calm.
“- ed. Very interested indeed, after all -” Eleanor restarted exactly where she’d left off. It was surreal for Travis – he understood the concept of Eluria’s power, but he hadn’t seen very much of it in action. He’d been on the roller coaster with her, but that felt like a very vivid hallucination, and he knew she regularly played with time when he was in her dormitory, but he’d never seen anyone that wasn’t “in” on the frozen time.
Eleanor stopped mid sentence again as Eluria stormed off and slammed the door of her bedroom, shutting out Travis and Eleanor completely.
“Ah. I’m not sure what just happened, but from the looks of it I think this is a conversation that would be much better suited to my office, don’t you agree Travis?”
Bitch Travis didn’t see Eleanor wink at him, but he could feel it in her demeanor, and hear it in her voice. She knew exactly what she was doing, except that she didn’t. She obviously was aware she was somehow the cause of Eluria’s outburst, but seemed oblivious to the certainty that Eluria could lose control and wipe her from existence on a whim.
Travis made his way out of the airlock with Director Phleer. He sat in silence as she dialed a number on her desk phone.
“Yes, I’d like to speak to General Crayton please.”
“Oh, yes. I play this game too. We’re going to skip all the bullshit, okay sweetie? I’m going to do you the biggest favor of your shitty little career when I tell you to get the General on the phone, right this second or I promise you he, not Iwill make sure the only goddamn thing you’ll ever be in charge of again is a mop bucket, Captain. Now, it’s your career…”
“I knew you’d see it my way, thanks dear. Yes, General, I think you’re going to want to come down here -”
“Yes, I understand the hour. If I could just cut this short, the daisies are blooming.”
“Yes, I thought so General. We’ll have a man at the gate for you.”
The rest of the night was a whirlwind of meetings, paperwork and bureaucracy – the daisies were blooming and things were full speed ahead. Travis didn’t think there was anything he could do to help Eluria at this point, especially if she was going to hole herself up in her room when he needed to talk to her the most.
“Beers or booze? You know what, I’m going to grab some glasses and the bottle of Jack and we’ll head down to the shelter.”
Travis was glad Johnny had answered for him, he was exhausted and he just wanted to give up the reigns and have someone else tell him what was going to happen. Well, in a good way – he felt like his reigns had been given up, the leather cut up then shredded and incinerated as far as work was concerned and that certainly wasn’t what people meant when they said they just wanted someone else to decide.
Johnny descended the ladder first and Travis followed down when he heard his footfalls on the concrete floor, pulling the hatch and turning the lock behind him. Johnny had a nuclear fallout shelter built into his backyard – all very expensive custom work, state of the art, up to all government standards and completely off the books. He was just a janitor at the facility, but janitors that need security clearances make just a little bit more than the average floor sweeper and a man needed a place to feel safe and not spied on. The way Johnny saw it, if those three letter government spooks could and were listening in on him down here, then there wasn’t even a point in pretending. The bunker was where they went to talk about work.
Johnny had been Travis’ best friend since they were kids and he owed him everything. Really, everything. His wife was another friend of Travis’. He’d helped him get his clearance back on the fourth deployment and gotten him a job to keep it active when he got out. Travis always said he owed Johnny his life, but Johnny’d take that bullet again and again for him. If he hadn’t made it, he’d just be dead, and, really, what’s dead? He wouldn’t even know he was dead. But Travis? Travis had made sure Johnny could live – all Johnny did was stop Travis from dying and he’d tell anybody who’d listen that those weren’t the same fucking thing, not for one second of the fuckin’ day.
“Well, you know what we gotta do, don’t’cha Travesty?”
“You know you’re the only one who still calls me that, don’t you?”
“Buddy, I ain’t ever going to let you forget it. Nobody bombs quite as hard as Travis the Travesty.”
“Fuck you, man. You’re such an asshole. Tell me, what genius idea do you have? At this point, it’s probably going to be the best idea I’ve got.”
“We gotta do what we’d do for Patz or Betty,” Johnny raised his glass in a small salute, “we gotta break her out, man.”