A low rumble caused Freya to look up from the teacup she was drinking from. And then, before she had time to wonder what the rumble could be a loud crash made her slam the cup down and grab onto the table in fear. Tom and Freddie had similar reactions, whilst Amado ignored it, and raised his china teacup to his mouth and sipped as the dust from the crash settled.
"I ought to explain that too" Amado said solemnly. He looked at his wrist and swore when he saw there was no watch there. "Well, I expect its half past four. You see, the time travel machinery, sort of 'resets' itself every two days, and today is a Friday, and every Friday at 4.29 the houses of parliament are bombed and 42 people are killed." There was a moment of stunned silence.
"Isn't it illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament?" Tom asked and Amado grinned.
"Yes, technically. But there's not much that the law can do about it once they're dead," He pointed out.
"Anyway, what were you saying?" Freya brought them back to the subject, deciding to leave the Houses of Parliament for later. She didn't care much for politics. "Someone else?"
"Aah, yes" Amado said as he stood up. "Follow me." He led them onto the platform, and then jumped onto the rails themselves.
"Uh, what if a train comes along?" Freddie asked nervously.
"Look," Amado said, pointing to the tunnel. "All bricked up. It'd be some train that knocked us down, to get through all that brick and mortar," Amado told him. Freddie nodded, reassured.
Walking down the tunnel, just before they got to the bricks Amado stopped at a door. It had old warning signs all over it. 'Danger! Electric shock risk' 'Warning! Trip hazard' Amado saw Freddie looking.
"I keep them here as a joke. You'll see."
"Yes, but why would someone be hiding in here? It's just an old electrics cupboard. Is there another bedroom in here or something?" Tom asked. Amado grinned, enjoying knowing all the answers. It was driving Tom mad. Opening the door they were met by a dimly lit room. Tom walked forward to inspect it, and found hidden to one side of the door about five tubes with what appeared to be human boys at various stages of growth inside of them, floating in liquid and illuminated by orange light.
"Oh my God!" Freya breathed. "They're not dead are they?" She asked, disgust and fear all over her face. Tom turned to her, grinning manically.
"No, I think they're genetically engineered life forms. Are they?" He asked Amado, who smiled.
"On the nose. This one," He pointed to a fully grown, muscled man bobbing in the liquid. "will be your support unit." Freddie reached out and touched the outside of a tube with a young boy of maybe seven or eight.
"Mr Amado, are you sure that's not a real boy in there? Could he have gotten in maybe by mistake?" Amado chuckled.
"I'm positive. This boy here'll come with you whenever you go on your treks to fix time. He'll keep you safe from harm"
"So…so that's a real person in there though? A real thinking person?"
"No, at the moment he has the brain the size of a tiny little mouse. But it also has a silicon neural net processor and a wafer-plex storage unit in its head."
"A what now?"
"A silicon neu-" Amado stopped, realising that repeating himself wasn't going to make anything clearer to the boy. "It can store lots of information in its head. Like a computer."
"A computer?" Freddie asked once more. Tom's jaw flapped open.
"A computer, an amazing thing, the greatest invention of all time! You can do anything on them, find out anything and then there's the internet…" Tom stopped, not sure how to go about explaining the internet to Frederick, fresh out of 1916.
"'It's like trying to tell a stranger about rock 'n' roll'" Freya whispered, earning a frown from both boys.
"What?" Tom asked.
"It's an old song, never mind" She excused herself. Amado cleared his throat loudly.
"Come on, we need to birth it now." Amado hit a button on a control panel. "I'd stand back." He suggested.
A roll of thick liquid poured onto the ground followed by the life form, coated in the stuff. For a second there was silence. Freya had just opened her mouth to ask if it was OK, when the form had a small spasm. Slowly it stood up. Pink goo came out of its mouth in a flood.
"Is it sick?" Freya asked in disgust.
"It's emptying the liquid from its lungs. If you two want to go and find some clothes for it I'll show Tom how to download the data into the-" Amado paused, considering Freddie. "Into its head."
"No, I think we were supposed to go left down there and right here." Freddie insisted.
"No, he definitely said first right, and then left." Freya said as they stood, not sure which way to go.
"Well, I suppose if we walk around long enough we'll either come back to them or find it. I mean it can't be too hard to find a giant staircase, right?" Freddie asked. Freya sighed.
"Escalators. They're like moving staircases except they probably won't be moving anymore, metal looking." Freddie looked confused at this.
"Then surely if they're not moving that makes them just stairs?" Freya rolled her eyes trying to look nonchalant even though she was beaten.
"Fine then. Stairs. Either way we need to find them. If only the old underground direction signs were still up, I can't think why anyone would take them down." Freya said huffily.
"Neither can I. It's just asking for two directionally challenged people like us to get lose in this place" Freya smiled and reminded herself that it wasn't entirely her fault they were lost.
"Underground stations were never this big when I came here with my family" Freya complained. Freddie shrugged.
"We can send the data via Bluetooth, it'll take several minutes but before you know it he'll be as smart as you like"
"Fantastic! Where did you get all this? It's…it's brilliant!" Tom stroked the keyboard, not looking for an answer. Then he turned to look at the, well, what he supposed he could call a 'living organism'. Still naked.
"Um, when will Freya and Freddie get back with the clothes? I think I've had my fair share of naked people already today." Amado frowned.
"I don't know, and come to think of it I think I told them to go right first, but the wardrobe is left and then right. I hope they find it OK" Tom decided the best he could do was investigate the technology further.
They finally found the escalators and there at the top the clothes were, in what once could've been an information desk or ticket office.
"Mr Amado said the biggest ones we could find. Said there was a whole drawer full of stuff that'd fit him if we looked."
"Here!" Freya cried as she lifted up a pair of jeans that looked like they might fit a giant, after puzzlingly looking through drawers of clothes that wouldn't look out of place in Tudor England, or Native America.
They ran back to the platform, confidant of the way now. Every now and then they had to stop to pick up the odd piece of underwear that had slipped out from under their arms. Freddie was certain they'd left a trail of the slippery things.
Suddenly Freya stopped.
"What is it?" Freddie asked, waiting for her.
"Ugh. Nothing, just a dizzy spell"
"Did you feel that?" Amado asked in panic.
"Feel what?" Tom said, looking up from the screen which had just come up with 'Data transfer complete'.
Freya and Freddie burst out from the corridors and onto the platform.
"Thank God." Amado said. "Give him some clothes to put on, we need to go outside. I'll try and explain the rest of everything as we go"
Freya, Tom and Freddie were all but running to keep up with Amado and the support unit.
"Freya, your job is the observer. You need to become familiar with the two-day world out there and as soon as you see something out of place, you let everyone else know. It could be the beginning of a time wave. You might also be able to feel them, a moment of sickness or dizziness and disorientation" Freya opened her mouth to say something but Amado put up a hand to silence her.
"Tom, you're our analyst. You work the computers. You locate the source of disruption when time goes wrong. And Freddie, you're our operative. You get sent back in time with the support unit to fix time, or to get information. And now can you think of a name for the support unit? Quickly? I think something has gone wrong"
"Xavier?" Freya suggested. Tom snorted.
"Too fancy. Fred."
"You're not naming him after me!"
"Fine then. Alex" Tom suggested.
"No way! I have a cousin called Alex. A real arty kinda guy. He likes reading, drawing, origami, that kind of stuff. Nothing like, um, that." Freya nodded to the support system.
"Gregory?" Freddie put forward.
"Greg?" Freya shortened. Tom had no argument.
"Great. Greg it is then." Amado said with no particular delight as he opened the door built into the age-old rotting wood.
Out on the street Freya, Freddie and Tom had trouble keeping up with Amado's brisk pace. Freddie noted with a smile that Amado's marching would've earnt a nod from his head officer, back in the trenches.
Amado froze in his track, eyes fixated on the horizon. Freya strained to see what he saw and only looked upon a far off heat wave. Amado swore in a way that made Freddie fiddle with his hair and look at the sky, as if expecting to be struck down by lightening. Freya wondered absentmindedly if he was Christian.
"See that? It looks like a heat wave, right? Wrong. That's what we call a time wave. Give it a moment or so and it'll wipe across all of time and space rewriting reality. Ideally you want to be down in the field office where you're safe. Up here you could find yourself suddenly dead and melded into a table, or worse, another person. And unfortunately this means that we've got a time mess we have to fix on our hands and I've hardly explained anything, you haven't done a single training mission and God only knows what the world is going to be like once that thing passes. I felt a minor one earlier, I should've taken the hint" Amado swore again. "We need to get inside." But before they could move the wave was upon them. All three of them kept their eyes open in avid interest, eager to know not just what could have been, but what never should have been.