Prisoners of Time: Time to say goodbye
Mid-Town New York City, July 15th 1859
Ramona patted flyaway strands on her hair bun and adjusted the lace collar of her teal blue dress. She had bought the latest fashion just for this occasion. Taking the driver's hand she climbed out of the carriage. He brought her two suitcases to the front door of the cream-colored building and she tipped him well before he left.
Her hands shook and she opened up a crinkled, faded paper. She gazed at the last paragraphs of the ten-page letter Phineas Bogg wrote her in 1835. It was like reading an an epic tale, filled with love, mystery, whimsy, and what she felt were the secrets of the universe. She swallowed down her agitation and held back tears as she re-read the final part.
"I can only hope that you understand how much of the future depends upon you. I desperately need you in my life to gently push me along and help me become the man I am, the man that you knew in your youth. I must help the Voyager cause fulfill its destiny, stop the nefarious Drake, and most important, save Jeffrey Jones and aid him to lead the full and productive life that he deserves.
I know that I cannot force you into this course. Your life will be vastly different from the moment we leave and you are bound to make certain decisions as time marches on. I hope as you read over the events I mentioned, and watch them unfold through the years, that you can fathom the notions and concepts I have presented to you. Like I said, I am not a prophet, but a man of the past, present, and future. I am a Time Traveller.
I'm sure that Professor Gerald Garth will explain some of the Voyager mission details. If you can find it in yourself to believe in them and believe in me, then you will guard this letter and be at 2020, 42nd Street and 5th Avenue on the fifteenth of July in 1859.
Until we meet again, my bonnie lass.
With love and affection,
Ramona shoved the letter in her dress pocket and licked her lips. Her heart palpitated as she reached for the curious, elephant head knocker. She let out a stuttered laugh and scanned over the earlier pages of the letter again.
'… my father was a sea-faring man and he brought home many wonderful curios from around the world. The knocker is a gift from a friend in India. In the future I will replace it with a lion's head because it rusted badly.'
She couldn't bring herself to knock and she turned and sank onto the steps. She gripped the railing with both hands and inhaled deeply.
'Oh my Lord in Heaven, this canna be possible.' She thought. She put her face to her hands and mumbled. "But it is! If ya didn't believe it to be so, ya wouldn't have done this. But ya did, woman, and ya had the full support of Mr. Garth and your son…and your husband, Wilfred. They know the truth. They are the forefathers of this organization. If they can understand, why can't you? Open your mind, woman!"
A small tapping at the window interrupted her train of thought and she turned around to see a darling, blonde-headed boy gazing out at her with large and inquisitive blue eyes. He was no older than four years old. She offered him a smile and he returned it and waved.
"There you are…"Ramona whispered. She stood promptly and pulled on the elephant's trunk. The boy quickly ran away from the window and she heard his tiny footsteps scamper up to the door.
"My name is Ramona, I'm here ta see the master and mistress of the house." She said through giggles.
"Ram…Ram…Roma! Roma! Roma!" He chanted. She heard a deep male voice.
"Phineas, who is at the door? What are you saying?"
Ramona's heart fluttered. She knocked again and it opened. She straightened up before the tall man and curtsied.
"Hello, Mr. Jeremiah Bogg?"
"Yes. That's me. May I help you?"
Ramona held out her hand and he shook it delicately. "My name is Ramona Ferguson Bailey, and I'm here to start the Nanny and Housekeeper position I applied for."
The man's stern, yet attractive face broke into a grin. "Ah yes, I received your correspondence last month. Please, do come in. What a charming Scottish brogue."
"Thank you, I just canna seem to shake it off."
Jeremiah laughed. "Don't! I think you bewitched Phineas with it already."
The little boy's head popped out between his father's legs. "Hiya Roma! Papa, what is Scootty brog?"
"It is the country she's from, Phineas. Ramona is from Scotland. So her voice has a Scottish brogue."
Little Phineas put his chin to his chest and imitated him. "Scooottiiishhh Brooogueee."
"Oh look at that…one day, wee one, you'll talk jus' like yer papa." Ramona said. "Deep and manly."
Phineas danced and crawled around. "Scooottiiishhh Brooogueee, Scooottiiishhh Brooogueee!"
Jeremiah rolled his eyes and he stepped over his son. "You'll have to forgive little Phineas, he's very rambunctious. But he's rather intelligent. He catches on to things quickly. Do you have children?"
"Yes, I have a grown son. I did mention it in the letter, sir."
"Ahh, yes, so you did. My apologies. It's been a hectic few months since I've been home on leave. I'm glad you're familiar with boys. At this point, I would have hired you even if you were childless. I don't mean to sound desperate, but our staff dwindled to none. One married, the other sadly passed away, and one was fired after they got sticky fingered with our silverware. I don't know where my head was hiring that man Michael Dolan. He belongs in a slum!"
Ramona quickly remembered her tenement days and shrugged self-conscious. "Oh, I'm sorry ta hear that, Sir."
"Yes, well, this lack of good and honest service is my fault really! Whoop!" He picked Phineas up and tossed him over his shoulder, but the boy immediately clamored down his back like a monkey.
"I'm often away at sea, and during the theft, my wife was on Holiday visiting relatives with Phineas. I suppose Dolan got bored one day in the empty house. Or maybe he planned to rob me all along."
Ramona nodded with understanding. "Well, I'm here at your service now. And my fingers are not sticky."
"Oh, I know you come with the highest references, Mrs. Bailey. My wife will be happy I went with you for the position."
"I think we'll all benefit from the decision. And please, call me Ramona, sir." She stared at the superior and unusual furnishings around the apartment. "I know what it is to be a traveling man – I mean, I have one at home. If he's ever home, that is. My husband he…he's often very far away. But he comes when he can."
"Oh, is he a sailor?"
Ramona smiled gently. "He prefers the term, Voyager."
"I've used that one myself. It has an adventurous ring to it, right Phineas?"
Phineas ran in a circle and did a somersault and a wobbly cartwheel. "VOYAGER! I yike it!"
"Phineas, I told you, we only do that rough and tumble stuff in the gymnasium I set up!"
Ramona laughed. "My dear boy, keep practicing, and you'll be strong and nimble one day." Her heart raced again as she recollected the warehouse fire and how Phineas all but flew in to save Breannen. It was an amazing feat of dexterity. She looked back at Jeremiah.
"Well, sir, it's a certain lifestyle ya men have, and any woman who falls in love wit' a man like that, must be prepared ta accept it. I married when I was thirty-two, and my husband was forty-two, so ya can imagine he was set in his ways."
"I'm thirty years old now. I've tried domestication, and it just doesn't suit me. But, don't get me wrong. I love my family more than anything. When Phineas is old enough, I'll take him with me on sailing expeditions. He'll love it." He patted his son's head and Phineas played with his hand.
"I believe ya, sir. Some people are just meant for grand things in far off places." She eyed Phineas and he wrinkled his nose and hid shyly behind his father's legs.
Mr. Bogg smiled. "You sound just like my wife. Her name is Sonora. She's at the bakery right now but she'll be glad you're here." He held his head. "Where are my manners? Please, come inside, have a seat on the couch. I'll get us some cool refreshments. She should be home any moment, and then we can have some fine cake."
"I wanna cake! Cheesy cake!" Phineas whined.
"Yes, yes. You'll get some. You must be patient, Phineas."
"No, no, no!" Phineas crossed his arms and shook his head. His father gave him one disapproving glance and he came to full attention and put his hands behind his back guiltily.
"Good. We want Ramona to see what a fine boy you are…now, excuse me while I get the lemonade. My wife discovered a way to make it pink. Ugh, you can imagine how it insults my manhood to drink it…but it's rather tasty!"
Ramona laughed as he hurried away. It tickled her to see the man running about like one of the servants. He seemed harried, but it didn't bother him to have to perform servitude in his own home. She admired that in a man. Jeremiah Bogg was unpretentious, as she remembered Phineas Bogg to be. She turned her attention back to little Phineas and held out her arms.
"Do ya mind if I give ya a lift? Can I bring ya wit' me to the couch?"
He sucked on his thumb and nodded. Ramona picked him up and gazed at his face. He had a little baby fatness in his cheeks and tummy, but there was solidness in his tiny muscles that she knew he would grow into very well. She sat down and Phineas wriggled comfortably on her lap. A faint blush came to her as she remembered the fateful night in 1835 and the kiss she shared with the adult Phineas. She let her memories go and gently removed his thumb from his mouth.
"Now, now, we canna be puttin our dirty, wee fingers in our mouth. We'll get sick, and our teeth will be crooked. Ya donna want crooked teeth do ya?" She winked and made a silly face.
Little Phineas touched his teeth and copied her. "No Roma, no. What is wee? Is it fun? Like WHEEE!!"
Ramona chuckled. "No, not that sort. Wee means little. Like you, a little boy."
"Oh. But I'm a big boy!"
"Ah, yes, you are. But ya know what? Big boys donna suck their thumbs."
Phineas sighed. "Okay I won't."
"Good laddie. It's not polite."
"No, bonnie lad."
"What's bonnie lad?"
"It means you are a beautiful boy."
He made a disgruntled face. "I'm not bootiful. Only girls. I'm handsome!"
Ramona stroked his hair. "Yes, yes, that you are. In Scotland we call beautiful girls, a bonnie lass."
"Bunny lass. You are a bunny lass. Mama is a bunny lass."
"Aye, I see ya portraits on the wall, that she is!" Ramona said. "You are all a bonnie family!"
Phineas touched her neck and pulled at her silver locket. "Jewly. Its so pwetty. It's BONNIE!"
"Oh yes! Good lad! This is my favorite piece of jewelry in the world. A very special man bought it for me many years ago. Look, the heart opens up. Do ya wanna see what is inside?"
"Yes! Open it!"
"Open it what?"
"Open it please!"
She unclasped the heart and showed him the two small drawings. He stared at them curious. "PAPA!…no…Who that man?"
Ramona swallowed hard and her stomach flip-flopped. "It's…it's you…" She whispered and then shook her head. "Never mind."
He looked hard at it again and then back at her with his eyes wide. "Me? NO! He's bigger." He shook his head and laughed.
Ramona laughed with him. "I'm joking! One day when you're a man, I'll tell ya who that is. These are two dear friends of mine. This boy on the left? His name is Jeffrey."
"I yike Jeffy."
"But ya don't even know him."
Phineas shrugged and wagged his hands. "SO! I wanna yike him. He can be my best friend!"
"Oh, that he will, Phineas. One day." Tears burst from Ramona's eyes and she hugged him tight. He wrapped his small arms over her neck and his legs around her waist.
"Don't cry, Roma. Don't cry." He patted her back.
"I'm sorry, Phineas. I'm just so very happy. You and I are gonna be such good friends and I'm gonna take care of ya always, bonnie lad…always."
December 20th, 1835
Jeffrey and Phineas were back in the barnyard where they had stored the Omnichron and they unlaced the canvas wrapping. The barn owners had not touched the machine and Phineas realized they never returned home. Jeffrey felt bad for the animals so he fed them while Phineas tried his best to warm it up and tinker with the frozen controls.
"Bogg, I'm glad we stayed a few extra days to help Ramona get settled with the Garth family."
"We had to Jeffrey, the future of the Voyager Academy legacy was at stake. They had no qualms about taking her in as a maid. It just made it a little harder to say goodbye though."
"Do you think she'll read the letter?"
"Of course she will. She promised to keep it."
"You practically wrote a book. Do you think she'll believe it?"
"I hope so. I did what I could. I know that Garth will believe it."
"You know what's amazing, Bogg?"
"Mmm, yes?" Phineas said, kneeling beside the base.
"The locket. It's the same exact one she always had, but now she insisted on putting our pictures instead of her and Breannen. That's gonna be strange for her in the future."
Phineas wiped his hands with a rag. "Maybe so, but it will make it firm in her mind that the Voyager cause is real and Time Travel exists."
Jeffrey came over and touched the Time Machine. It was still very cold and he hoped it wasn't broken. He stared at his partner. Phineas had a concentrated look on his face, but there was also a melancholy behind it.
"You liked her didn't you?"
"What's that supposed to mean? Of course. She was my maid and nanny all my life."
"That's not what I meant. I saw how you looked at her, and it's not the way I've seen you look at other women. When she came out all cleaned up with that new dress you bought her, she looked very pretty, Bogg."
"Yes, she's beautiful. Hand me that screw driver please."
"Too bad we couldn't just take her with us or something."
Phineas rested his arms on the counter. "Jeffrey, that seems like the simple solution, but it would have thrown the currents of time into a frenzy. Ramona has to live and thrive here with Breannen. And now she will."
"So technically, she's still raising her own son?"
"Yes. The Garth family agreed to that. But they want to be his benefactors and help her raise him proper."
Jeffrey frowned. "I kind of feel bad for Mrs. Garth. She really wanted to have her own."
"She was sad, but who knows? I overheard them talking and they may take in another orphan. So, that means our little trip through time saved more than one life."
Jeffrey smiled. "Yeah, that's true. Bogg, what if we can't get it to work?"
"It still works, but I don't want any parts to stall, it could…uhh, it could take us to a time we didn't set it for."
Jeffrey folded his arms and stared at him wryly. "That's not what you were gonna say. It could kill us if those beams aren't positioned correctly, right?"
Phineas tapped him lightly on the head with the wrench. "Exactly. All the gauges must be working properly. I can never get one by you, Jeff."
Jeffrey snickered when Phineas turned his back. He didn't want to embarrass Phineas, but he had awakened the previous night because he was cold. When he had peeked out behind the sheet Ramona had divided the room with, he saw the two of them very cozy and kissing on the armchair. He sometimes wondered if Phineas ever wanted to settle down. Jeffrey had assumed he loved Susan. But Phineas was too distracted and busy with Time Travel and contraptions to take on a woman. King-Ray used to say that women were only good for three things – cooking, raising babies, and keeping a man pleasured and warm at night. Jeffrey never fully believed him. He didn't view his own mother that way. She had so many graces and talents and his father admired her. Only time would tell with Phineas.
Jeffrey stared outside the barn, still marveling over the city. As they rode around the streets viewing old sights, everyone was anxious and saddened by the Great Fire. Some said it would be the end of New York, as they knew it. Jeffrey wanted to tell them that Manhattan would rebuild better than ever. Phineas warned him not to discuss the future, not even with Ramona. She would read what she needed to know in his letter. Time Travel confused Jeffrey, but he never wanted Phineas to think he couldn't handle being his assistant. He still feared being turned out.
Phineas came up behind him and held his shoulders. "I did what I could. Are you ready to go?"
Jeffrey looked up at him. "Bogg, I feel strange."
Phineas felt his forehead. "No fever. Are you sick? It must have been all that good food we indulged in."
"No, it's not my stomach. My mind feels…funny. I can't explain it. I thought you might think I was stupid if I said anything."
Phineas rolled his eyes. "Jeffrey Jones, you are the smartest kid I know." He led him to the Omnichron and they sat down. He rubbed his forehead. "I wasn't going to mention it either, but my mind feels funny too."
Jeffrey grew excited. "What does it mean?"
"Aside from influenza coming on? It means that…we made a lot of changes being here in 1835. So now our future is a little different. My memories with Ramona are stronger, more loving and…motherly than ever before…last night all I did was dream about her. And in those dreams, I was still a child. Yet, I can still remember how it all was before we came here, the funeral and everything. Does that make sense to you?"
"A little bit. I wasn't involved in your life, so I don't know those differences, but…" Jeffrey stood up shocked. "The Omnichron! Bogg, you had it in your lab on the top floor at first…but now I remember you didn't!"
"What are you saying? It's always been…" The memory dawned on him and he gripped Jeffrey's arms. "You're right! Ramona convinced me to build it in the greenhouse and she never let it go to rot. She always kept the plants and flowers in bloom. My goodness! There are so many differences to ponder!"
Jeffrey hugged him. "Yeah, Bogg, and guess what? Ramona didn't die!"
Phineas pulled back with tears. "No! She's healthier, even still has some red in her hair. Her son…he was like an uncle to me." Phineas walked the length of the barn. "Things are coming to us in scattered bits and pieces, new streams of consciousness."
"But how is that possible? I've read some of your books and the essays from the Academy. Wouldn't we disappear? I saw it as one of the theories. It scared me a little."
Phineas smiled. "No Jeffrey, we still exist and we still remember the alternate past." He packed up his small tool pouch. "Look at it this way. When we go back in time, we can make any changes we want in the past and we'll continue to exist, because the very act of time travelling takes us out of the time stream and removes us from the effects of the changes in history."
Jeffrey thought about it momentarily and then grinned. "I think I get it. That's so amazing. So when we go home, it will be like our future changed around us."
Exactly! Come on, Jeff! We need to talk with Roma!"
They climbed into the Omnichron, and Jeffrey pushed down the crank to power it on. The barn door opened.
"Phineas Bogg! I knew I'd find you somewhere in time!" A familiar, haughty voice called out.
The Voyagers turned to see Drake and another Voyager – who kept a gun pointed at them. Phineas recognized him as a classmate that delved into crooked law enforcement after graduation.
"You thought you could change everybody's history, didn't you? Well it's too late! Voyager Academy is destroyed. I hold the power now."
Phineas stood unafraid. "What do you mean destroyed? Whatever you thought you did back there, I have undone, Drake."
"Oh no, Mikey told me what he saw in the greenhouse not long after you left. I've been out of the time stream, so I went back and made sure it was still ruined. I should have known you'd build this hunk of junk. But no matter. I have my omni with open time calibration and the precious guidebook that Garth coveted in his locked safe!"
Phineas stomach went in knots. "No, you can't take that! That is a book of the future, it was given to him by the Tribunal of Time Keepers!"
"Yes! That mysterious group from beyond the cosmos who never show their faces! And believe me, this book is a miracle! To quote Lincoln Steffens, I have seen the future, and it works…but now only under my control!"
"You narcissist! You won't get away with this!"
Jeffrey didn't know about the Tribunal or the cosmos but now wasn't the time for questions. "Bogg! Forget him! Let's get out of here!"
Jeffrey hit the emerald activator and pushed it up. He dragged Phineas into his seat.
"Stop them, Terrence! Shoot them!" Drake yelled.
The Voyager aimed and fired two bullets. They sped toward Jeffrey just as the blue electro-light swathed them in a protective barrier. Jeffrey stared terrified and Phineas lunged over him to take the shots.
"No, Bogg! Don't!"
Phineas turned his face and closed his eyes, waiting for the end. He felt nothing. He stared at the blue light. The bullets twirled slowly and passed through, but disintegrated before they could make impact. Terrence threw his gun and ran at them.
"Terrence! It's no use! Don't go into that light!" Drake called out. "We have more important things to do!"
"I'll get them for ya, Drake! I've been wanting to get that dirty Hester gang kid for a long time!" Terrence made a grab for Jeffrey. He was strongly built and he yanked him from Phineas' arms.
"Aughh! Let me go!"
"Bogg! Help me! It burns!"
Phineas thrust his arms through the light and latched onto him. "I got you, Jeff!"
Phineas tugged him back and punched at Terrence. He stumbled against the Omnichron's base and grabbed onto it. Phineas kept Jeffrey in his arms as the blue orb encircled the Time Machine. Terrence stared up at them alarmed, his body stiffened and he couldn't pull away.
"What is happening!" Terrence shouted.
Phineas glowered at him. "You're about to become history!…Hang on, Jeff!
The dates on the counter rolled forward and Phineas noticed the century. "Oh no! It hit nineteen! The activator's stuck!"
"Bogg! Look!" Jeffrey cried. "It's tearing him apart!"
"He's trapped in a time flux!"
"HELP ME!" Terrence shouted in agony.
There was nothing they could do to save him without killing themselves. Terrence was caught halfway in the orb. His body quivered and rollicked as he rapidly aged and the super charged energy seeped into his flesh. After a minute he stopped screaming. Jeffrey hid his face in Phineas' coat, but was compelled to look. They stared in horror as the Voyager's body rotted into muscle and bones and at length crumbled into dust.
"What happened! Oh God! Bogg!" Jeffrey yelled in shock and he crawled against Phineas.
"It's okay, Jeff! He's gone. I have you. I have you." Phineas rocked him and stroked his hair.
Jeffrey sobbed and raised his eyes. "Bogg, where are we going?"
"To the future. A new century."
The stream of time passed and Manhattan rose up in towering skyscrapers. They stared at the sky and saw large flying machines pass overhead and bright, colorful electric lights filled the city streets. Cement and mortar built up around them and eventually blocked their view. The Omnichron jerked and rumbled under their seats.
"This isn't good! Jeff, when I tell you to jump, you jump!"
The gauges exploded and the glass nicked at them. The Omnichron halted and the blue orb vanished.
Phineas pushed Jeffrey and they tumbled out. The machine shook from top to base. Cogs and sprockets blew out while steam whistled and curled into the air. Phineas shielded Jeffrey; they were no longer in a greenhouse. It was a storage room filled with boxes and crates. They raced to an empty corner and ducked, waiting for a big explosion, but none came. The Omnichron went silent.
Phineas took a deep breath and looked Jeffrey over. He quickly hugged him. "Are you hurt?"
Jeffrey felt a few bloodied scratches on his hands and face, but he was unscathed. "I'll be okay." Jeffrey gripped Phineas' coat collar. "Bogg, you jumped in front of me when he shot that gun. You could have been killed. You would have!"
Phineas held his arms in a fatherly manner. "I know. But I will never let you get hurt as long as I can help it. As Voyagers sometimes we have to bite the bullet."
Jeffrey brushed his tears away. "What does that mean?"
"It means that we accept inevitable hardships and endure the resulting pains with strength and fortitude."
"Bite the bullet. Okay." Jeffrey wanted to cry again, but kept firm. "Thank you, Bogg. Sometimes it's still hard to believe anyone cares about me."
"Jeffrey, I care greatly about you. You're not alone anymore. Never forget that."
"I won't." Jeffrey's shudders lessened and he stared at the dim room. "Where are we? The skylight disappeared. It's dark in here, except for that light bulb."
"It looks like a warehouse or basement. Come on."
"Bogg, the Omnichron is damaged. What are we gonna do? We're stuck here!"
"Don't give up hope yet. If this is the future, there's bound to be places I can find all the parts I need. Look, there's a staircase. It seems like they connected this room to the Manor."
The door above the stairwell flung open and a group of five people ran in with large weapons. Phineas and Jeffrey grabbed for each other and backed against the wall. They stared the group down and Phineas gasped. They held sleeker versions of his weapon creations. They were all dressed in a curious fashion similar to his Victorian era, but there was something intrinsically modern about the cut of their cloth, leathers, coats and other articles. It was a dynamic mix of old and new.
A slender woman ran in their midst and bade them to hold down their weapons. White lights shot on, nearly blinding the Voyagers. When their eyes adjusted, the woman stood in front of the group with the authority of a leader. She was young and stunning, with straight and layered reddish-brown hair draped over one shoulder in a loose braid. She had high cheekbones and a strong jaw, offset by soft, cunning lips. Phineas gazed into her almond-shaped green eyes. They seemed familiar. He tore his gaze away and held up his hands. Jeffrey did the same.
"Who are you?" She demanded. "Where did you come from and how did you break into this area? It's restricted. I have guards posted on watch outside and…"
"Please, miss." Phineas interrupted. "We are unarmed. We haven't come here to hurt anyone. We didn't come from outside. We appeared in here. I have to tell the truth. We are Time Travellers. My machine…"
The woman stared at the broken Time Machine and her expression lit up in joyous shock. "Oh my God! No way! Everybody look, that's the Omnichron!"
All the others stirred and murmured in surprise and they smiled. Jeffrey and Phineas stared at one another dumbfounded.
"Please, tell us what year this is?" Jeffrey asked.
"This is 1982." She went closer and studied their faces in awe. "Just as handsome as the portrait. Even more." She murmured and Phineas cracked a tiny smile. She cleared her throat and stepped back.
She removed a tarnished silver locket from around her neck and opened it. "And these drawings. You really are Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones! You've finally come back to us!"
"Wait…who are you people? We had an emergency and the activator got stuck…but you know of us? You know of Time Travel?"
"Of course we do. It's our business to know." She said, and everyone agreed.
Phineas felt dread and exhilaration growing within him. "Real Voyagers…so the Academy's goals are successful! That locket! I bought it for…"
"For my great-great grandmother, Ramona. My name is Jocelin Ferguson-Garth." She pointed at the crew behind her.
"We are the descendants of the original members of Voyager Academy. We are the Voyager Mission Society."
*To be continued in Prisoners of Time Story V: Time enough at last.
Coming soon after the author takes a writing break to rest her fingers and recoup her ideas. :D