twenty-one hours

Restless was an understated word for the feelings in both Helena and Pete an hour into their research. The archives had only provided them with the Plague Doctor's Mask which only succeeded in preventing disease, not curing. Claudia woke up once in a panic, screaming that someone was chasing after her. It had taken many soothing words and a song Helena used to sing to Christina in the midst of night terrors to coax the girl back to sleep. Myka remained frightfully still.

A sheen of sweat had broken out on Pete's face. He didn't have very much longer, and then Helena would be alone with the fallen. And she was still chills free, healthy, but far from alright.

"What did Mrs. Frederick say again?" Pete asks. He's watching the news channel on the television.

"She said she'd call soon with more information, for us to keep looking. What do news reporters say?" Helena doesn't look up from her screen, the different Artifacts and their properties scrolling down it rapidly. No. No. No. Nothing.

"Nothing good. People are dropping like flies. Like fifty kids didn't show up at the local school around here. We all got whammied, HG. Big time. And I could have…" He shakes his head.

"No Pete. You couldn't have." She gives him a meaningful look. They both know that nothing could be done, not with the facts being what they are, and how events turned out. Experience showed that blaming each other and blaming themselves generally got them nowhere. Even if, privately, it could't be helped.

"Look….maybe you should just get out there, start the hunt." She gives him an incredulous look.

"Hunt for what, Peter?" He shrugs, although anxiously.

"I don't know! Anything. Something."

She narrows her eyes.

He looks at her then, very seriously. More seriously than she'd ever seen him. He doesn't say anything and she supposes she should feel guilty for snapping at him.

She stops her scrolling and looks at her list of Artifacts. And there's the hard truth of herself, staring her in the face. That those events had led to now, these moments of finality. Where Helena is merely an observer and is caught in Myka's still figure and shining forehead. She who knows well that time never plays to the favor of those who live it. She has to make peace with the present and look ahead to every second to make sure they counted. The big picture was an open door, and Helena was standing in its doorway. She just had to look, and look she would. Anything was calling. HG Wells could always make something out of Anything.

Pete was looking back at the television.

The Farnsworth rang a moment later, and Helena snatched it up quickly. Mrs. Frederick's face filled the small screen.

"Miss Wells may we talk privately?" She nodded and slipped away into the adjoining room, locking the door behind her.

While Mrs. Frederick did not look frightened per say, there was a large degree of alarm in her eyes that drew the same feelings in Helena herself.

"I may have a few ideas for solutions, but we'll need to meet in person."

"Where?"

"The cafe around the corner from your hotel." Helena nods. "When?"

"One hour from now. But Miss Wells, I'd like to ask you something. Are you absolutely sure that you have no symptoms of the Sweating Sickness?"

"No. None at all."

Mrs. Frederick looks curiously at her, although with that same alarm. Suddenly a shadow overcomes her face, a gravity that speaks all the years she's lived and something beyond that was both chilling and haunting.

"I assume you still have the Astrolabe?"

"Yes, of course." Helena feels a clench in her stomach. She knows exactly what Mrs. Frederick is going to ask and knows that the Warehouse's trust of her only goes so far. And she' s thought about it, many times. The loophole, the simple solution, seemingly out of the box. But really, not at all. Not at all.

"Then I-"

"I would never use it. The world cannot be riskedmy darkness again." It's already strong enough, she knows, without the presence of an Artifact. A vengeful HG Wells must be kept in lockdown. A vengeful HG Wells means terror and destruction.

"That's not what I'm asking." Mrs. Frederick is looking at her gravely now. Almost pointedly.

"Arthur Nielson swore you would lay down your life for the Warehouse. Is this true?"

She looks at the face on the screen with an expression of vague wonder.

"Yes. Of course I would. In a heart beat." Of this Helena is most sure. For one of the few homes she'd ever had? For the path she took? Of course. For the family she'd started to to build, yes. Even if they didn't trust her yet. For all the work she's put in, all lost and gained, yes she would. She's laying down her loyalties again and will never again give them up for the sake of her own plight. Helena thinks about the Astrolabe in the other room, and then Mrs. Frederick words and feels her stomach begin to drop. An icy chill settles. Myka. She thinks of Myka. The big picture. She takes a big step through the doorway. This was one option she never truly considered, but it may be the only viable one they had left.

"If all else fails, Miss Wells. If all else fails."

"Like I said a moment ago, Mrs. Frederick. The world cannot be risked my darkness again."