Loving Who, Book 3
eBook ISBN: 978-1-60180-259-0
[ SciFi Romance ]
Cici Connors is losing her mind—or is she? John Smith vows to return her memories, but will his sci-fi con only attract an invasion of Earth by artificially intelligent life forms?
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Cici Connors awoke with a start—along with the worse headache ever.
What have I been drinking? Well, nothing really. I haven’t had any good reason to party recently. Cici massaged her aching temples and slowly forced herself out of bed and to the bathroom. It wouldn’t do to be late to work. Times being what they were, they could use any excuse against you to downsize you out of a job in seconds flat. To be employed these days meant you had to be perfect, or else.
Time being what it is… Somehow time had something to do with why her head felt like it was about to explode. She didn’t know the how or why, but it did. A strong feeling of déjà vu washed over her. She stepped into the shower and turned on the tap, blasting tepid water into her face. It felt like she had lived six months in the last twenty-four hours, and she had actually lived through the coming days before. Odd, that. She rubbed her temples some more. She couldn’t recall doing anything particularly strenuous yesterday. The stress of being a working stiff in this limping economy must be taking its heavy toll. Why can’t I just win the lottery and say goodbye to the day job, huh?
Cici hopped out of the shower, quickly dried off, dressed, and grabbed a cup of coffee to take on the road. Gradually the headache lessened and her boring commute, along with the inane chatter of morning DJs on the car radio, eased her sense of foreboding that somehow something significant was going to happen today. But what? There was no use fretting about it. It would happen or it wouldn’t.
At ten-fifteen, her foreboding meter went off the scale.
“Mandatory meeting in the break room in ten minutes,” her supervisor called out to the assorted cubicles in his department.
Uh-oh. Their supervisor wasn’t one to call a meeting unless one of his higher ups instructed him to do so. They didn’t call him email memo man for nothing, but he was easy enough to get along with most days. Something serious was up. One by one, her co-workers prairie-dogged out of their cubes and headed toward their fate with destiny.
A half hour later they shuffled, heads down, back to their desks and collectively sighed.
Now I know why I woke up with such a headache. Today is the start of a nightmare. Cici stared at the paper in front of her. Possible downsizing of our department. Dwindling income streams. More details to come.
She tore her eyes from her notes and stared at the wallpaper on her computer monitor. A cheerful-faced Matt Smith in bowtie as the eleventh Doctor posed with his trusty sidekicks Amy Pond, played by devastatingly gorgeous redhead Karen Gillian, and her handsome, if skinny, hubby Rory portrayed by the charming Arthur Davill, frolicked in front of the blue police call box time machine named the TARDIS. A fellow fan promised she’d emailed Cici a wallpaper file with pictures of the newest Doctor, Peter Capaldi, and his sidekick Clara on it soon.
Escape—run away! Leave the tension and headaches behind you! they beckoned. If only she could leave her professional life as a glorified bookkeeper and dwell in the fantasy realm of Doctor Who fandom for the afternoon. She could go online and read the online forum discussions and BBC articles and fanfic and what-all and forget that her job was on the line. What the boss didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, right?
But it would hurt her. She sighed and started the accounting spreadsheet she’d been working on before the emergency meeting. Time to knuckle down and act like a grown-up, her mother always said whenever she caught Cici’s attention wandering from her studies and into reading comic books and sci-fi novels. Time to stay in the mundane world, and put the fun world of fantasy aside until another day.
Her cell phone ringing an hour and a half later reminded her that she was hungry.
“Sorry to interrupt your lunch,” Jessie said, “but I thought you’d want to hear the good news.”
“Good news?” Cici grabbed her brown bag out of the bottom desk drawer and headed out of the office so she could eat her measly sandwich on a nearby park bench under a tree. She could use some good news today of all days, and her fellow Doctor Who fan, high school English teacher Jessie, usually didn’t disappoint. “What’s up?”
“I was told this in strictest confidence, but I know he wouldn’t mind me sharing it with others in our group…” A dramatic pause had Cici wondering if her cell phone signal hadn’t been compromised. “Sammy’s test results came back this morning—he’s in total remission.”
Cici smiled and sighed. “Oh, that is good news. Thanks for telling me, Jessie. Will we be starting on the video shoot this weekend as planned, then?”
“No, not yet. Sammy’s still feeling weak, and his mom pretty much told me that they thought it better if we waited another month or two until he has his full strength back. But The Haunted Fairgrounds is one step closer to becoming reality now that our writer-producer is able to do the directing himself. I was never really sure Milo was up for the task.”
“I don’t know about that. I think Milo would have done a great job.” Cici plopped onto the park bench and dug her slightly squished ham sandwich out of the bottom of the bag where her apple had crushed it. “You underestimate your husband’s photographic abilities. He’s a natural behind the camera.”
Jessie laughed. “More than I am in front of it! Besides, in another couple of months, I should have all the time in the world… The school district is hinting at laying off all the more experienced teachers and consolidating classrooms in an effort to save the taxpayers’ money.”
Not more bad economic news! Cici gritted her teeth. “As if teachers aren’t taxpayers as well?”
“You got it! Well, I’d better let you go now. See you this weekend at the regular fan club meeting?”
“Probably. Until then.”
Cici clicked off her phone and then stared at her lunch for a full minute as she contemplated her friend’s news. Great news for Sammy—the poor kid had been through enough poking and prodding and surgeries and whatnot in twenty-odd years of life. If anyone deserved a miracle of healing, he did. Bad news for Jessie and her fellow teachers and their students—when would this contracting economy end?
And when would the downsizing ax fall upon her?
She unwrapped her sandwich and mumbled to herself, “If ever there was a time machine that could whisk me away from this time and place, I’d gladly hitch a ride. Why can’t the Doctor and the Time Lords be real?”
An odd sense of déjà vu came over her once more. She took a bite and did her best to push the thoughts out of her mind that somehow she’d suffered worse indignities than downsizing in another place and time.
* * * * * *
Meanwhile, in a backward eddy in time and space…
“If you’re going to go back for her, then we’ve got to plan this operation carefully. There’s no use compromising your time line and hers again. You know how it gets our bosses’ knickers in a twist whenever we muddy up the time lines.”
The alien, known on Earth as Captain Mac, talked good sense the alien John Smith agreed. In John’s travels with the human Cici Connors, they had become close… even intimate, as human categorized relationships. Since intimacy wasn’t a quality his kind held in high esteem, it made their friendship all the more intriguing. He sincerely appreciated her being his teacher into the ways of humanity. He owed it to Cici to bring back her memories of their adventures together. It was only right that sentient beings who could sense the whole of space and time be able to keep their knowledge of the inner workings of the cosmos. Cici had displayed distinct signs that she was indeed sensitive to the flow of time. He had to make things right.
Oh, who was he trying to fool! John Smith felt that above all he was a pragmatist, and lying to himself didn’t fit in with his view of himself. He simply wanted to keep the earth woman by his side and in his time line. He wanted to lick whipped cream off her body and cuddle up next to her in a bed while watching videos of a long-running science fiction television show. Forever. And what was wrong with that?
“It’s sweet how much you miss Cici already,” the alien known on Earth as Babbling Brook remarked casually. “She is very special to you.”
Although they were conversing in a misty realm without a definite corporeal form somehow John sensed that Brook was smiling at him. Did she approve? Some of their kind didn’t care much for inter-species relationships. Or was she jealous?
“Don’t worry—I’m long over us,” Brook interjected into his consciousness. Being around humans made John Smith forget that his kind could read minds, but enjoyed vocalizing all the same. “But I agree with Mac. This time whenever you take Cici away from her home world, you can’t compromise its safety. You need the blessing of the bosses upfront.”
“That could take… a millennia or more.”
Captain Mac communicated something along the lines of a laugh. “If you want something badly enough, you’ll wait for it!”
John Smith considered the wisdom of his fellow time-travelers’ words. Patience was never his strong suit, but he suppose he could learn to rein in his impulsiveness. “All right. I’ll do as you two suggest. You’ll both back me, then?”
“Of course.” John sensed Babbling Brook’s approval in her tone. “We’ll even help you do it right this time.”
“I wouldn’t miss this for all the Earths in all the time lines,” Captain Mac agreed. John would have sworn he heard the sound of hands clapping and rubbing together. “So… why wait? Let’s get down to it.”
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