The Fixers #2

"Why do you keep insisting that I killed you?"

Gretchen wanted to scream. She had agreed to calm down - and after a bit of a scuffle, she had - but how many times was he going to ask her the same questions?

Now, the three of them were seated together around a table in the Lobby. At least, that's what the black guy, Len, kept calling this room. He was sitting beside her.

The other guy, Seb - the thin Englishman who'd killed her -  leaned forward. "Where did you get that bracelet?" A bruise was starting to form around his right eye, where she had managed to land a blow.

Gretchen closed her eyes. She put her hands to her face. Exasperated, she let out a moan, and dropped her hands back to her lap. They had already been over this, twice!

Looking across at Seb, she told him again.

"You gave me the bracelet. You put it on my arm and told me that I had to wear it. As if, I had a choice." She held up her left arm, showing him that it was still around her wrist. "The fucking thing doesn't come off."

After he had clasped it on her, the strange little bracelet seemed to fuse into a single piece. It wasn't uncomfortably tight, but it was secure around her wrist. She couldn't slide it over her hand - she tried while they had kept her locked in that cell they called her room.

Her eyes darted to Seb's hands, which were resting on the table. Around his left wrist, he wore an identical bracelet. Len, sitting nearby, had the same metal bracelet.

Seriously, what the fuck was going on?

"Why won't you tell me anything?"

"How could I have given you the bracelet - I've never seen you before in my life," Seb persisted.

"You chased me into the fucking road!" She turned to look at Len, pleading. "Look, I can't explain it - I mean, I know I'm here, right? Wherever the hell I am. But I died. It wasn't a dream."

She pointed at Seb. "He chased me into the road, screaming something about time, or fate, or I don't know what. And then I turned my head..."

"What happened?" Seb prompted.

"I turned my head and a fucking van slammed into me, that's what happened."

The two men exchanged looks.

"I felt it!" Was she going crazy? Was she already there?

"Look," said Len, leaning forward, "we believe you, okay?"

"So where am I?" she asked, wiping her eyes.

"It's... a little complicated," said Len.

"Hal?" his partner called out. "Does any of this make sense to you?" Gretchen looked around, but couldn't see who he was addressing.

Silence fell over the room.

"Great. Thanks, Hal." Seb looked disgusted. "When something important actually comes up, you've got nothing to say."

"Who's Hal?" asked Gretchen.

"I'm sorry, Sebastian," came a voice, which was quiet and yet filled the room all the same. "This matter is not yet determined. I can't say more than that."

"Not yet determined?"

"I can't say more than that," the voice repeated.

"That's Hal," Len whispered to her. "The Voice." He chuckled, then gave her a warm smile. "You'll get used to him."

"What is that, some sort of computer?" Neither man answered her. "Please," she said, switching her gaze from one to the other, "just tell me what's going on."

The two men shared another look. Finally, Seb let out a deep sigh. This guy, who she could clearly remember from... was it a dream? Had her whole life been a dream, and now she was finally awake?

"I can't explain how you got here," he began, "but I can tell you where you are." He looked at Len. "Sort of."

"This place," he said, motioning to the room they were in, the Lobby, "this whole place is outside of time."

She stared at him. "What the fuck does that mean?"

"Geez," he said, exasperated, "you've got a filthier mouth than my father. It's means this place is outside of time, okay? Do you want the shorter version?"

He held up his left arm, showing her the bracelet he wore, identical to the one on her own wrist.

"This bracelet," he said, "connects you to this place, and to Hal. With it, you're able to travel to any point in time. Past or future to you - it doesn't matter. There's no such thing here. All time is laid out in front of us, because in this place, we are outside of time."

She laughed out loud. Right in his face, which seemed to annoy him for a moment.

Eventually, he nodded, as if he had expected that reaction after all, and continued.

"You'll believe me when you see it in action," he told her.

Okay, she thought.

Maybe she was dead already, and this was some sort of Afterlife. The van killed her, and now her consciousness was creating some sort of dream-like world for her to occupy. That explained why he's here, she thought, looking at Seb. He was the last person she saw, so her consciousness included him. That made sense.

Seb was peering at her oddly. "Well?" he prompted.

"Well, what?"

"What do you think?"

"Of what? Of your story? I think either you're crazy or I am."

Beside her, Len laughed.

Seb sighed. "Look, this isn't how it normally works. Hal gives us a name - the next person in our crew. We go find that person somewhere in their timestream, hook them up with one of these bracelets, and that's it. We all come back here together. No one gets hit by a van; no one dies."

"Then why am I here?"

"I've never seen you," Seb told her. "I didn't go find you, and I didn't give you that bracelet. Hal's never even mentioned you. You just showed up in the Chamber, complaining that your head hurt, and then you passed out." After a pause, he added, "I didn't kill you."

Strange, she thought, but she suddenly was beginning to believe him.

"What happened after I got here?" she asked.

"Honestly? I don't know, I wasn't here."

Len leaned forward. "I can answer that," he said. "I was here the whole time. We put you in an empty room - that'll be your room now, by the way. You were out for a couple of hours, at most. After that, well, you probably remember."

"Yeah." She remembered waking up in that small room. The door was locked, and after banging on it for a minute, Len arrived.

"You wanted to know where Seb was - you said some guy named Seb had killed you. And you wanted to know where you were. Sorry I kept you locked up in there," he said, lowering his eyes.

"It's okay, I was a wreck, anyways," she told him. This seemed to make him feel better. "This is all so... fucked up, though. Isn't it? I mean, time travel?"

"Well, I'd imagine it's a little less jarring if you arrive in the normal way, with the proper explanation, and such," Seb said.

"So I can go anywhere?" she asked.

"Well," Seb began, weakly. "It doesn't quite work that way."

She was about to ask what that meant, when the strange voice they called Hal returned.

"My computations are complete. The Fix has been determined."

Continue to The Fixers #3

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