Team, 103

Never Trust a Time Travelling Clock if You Can At All Avoid it

Ao3 Link

The dark underneath the solitary cells was only total for a second after Cal dropped down, but that second was long enough to cloy at him. It seemed to stick at him, like the dark was a tangible thing, something that wanted to cover him and remove him from it so it could live in peace.

The magic light that started hovering around him a few seconds after he hit the ground dispelled it, but not enough. The brightness of the light didn’t seem to push the dark back as much as it should, like it was meeting active resistance.

The others steadily joined Cal, coming down through the trapdoor one at a time. More lights filled the room once Mick, Lillian and Sully realized how fucking dark it was. Bob put on a light on his forehead too, shining in a beam around the room wherever he turned.

“What the hell’s the point of this room?” Beatrice demanded, looking around the large, circular room. It had nothing in it, not even forgotten crates. She took a breath. “Oh. Nevermind.”

“Yeah,” Cal said. The smell was faint but it was present. Decay, rot.

“What?” Ray asked, standing really close to Wes. “What is it?”

“They used to dump bodies down here,” Cal told him. “People who died in prison, maybe people they didn’t want to keep official records of for whatever reason.”

“Oh,” said Ray, swallowing.

“You can wait upstairs if you need to,” Cal said.

Ray shook his head. “I’m fine,” he lied, with his ears flat against his head.

He wasn’t the only one who was fine. Travis was looking a little sick and Joey was holding his arms protectively. Wes looked freaked out too. “There are no bodies down here now,” Cal told all of them, in a way that made it seem like he wasn’t singling any of them out. “And from the smell of it there haven’t been for a good while.”

“Yeah,” Beatrice agreed. “It’s been decades at the very least.”

“So what happened to all the bodies?” Sully muttered, crouching and touching the floor. “Woah, fuck.” He drew back from the packed earth.

“What?” Cal demanded.

“That feels like divine magic. But it’s not a kind I recognize. It feels like it’s been corrupted somehow.”

“So in the last ten minutes we’ve had elves and gods trying to stop us from getting down there,” Lillian said. “We should at least consider the possibility that doing what they say is a good idea.”

“I’ve never done what gods wanted in any of my lives,” Cal assured her. “And I don’t know about elves, but I’m betting they can suck my reincarnated dick too. Let’s find a way down.”

“There isn’t one,” Mick said, letting out a low breath. “No sign of a tunnel or trapdoor or anything. And especially no sign that anything has been disturbed to hide one of those things. If there is another floor, I don’t know how to…”

Ray yelped, and suddenly the floor felt unsteady. “I didn’t do it!” he promised, clinging to Wes’s back.

“What didn’t you do?” Cal asked, holding Mick’s hand.

“I don’t know! I just moved and now everything is shaking!”

Ray probably hadn’t done anything, but there was no time to say that before the floor collapsed and they fell into…somewhere.

And then they stopped.

They weren’t floating, but they weren’t standing on anything. Cal felt…suspended. “Bob?” he asked.

“We’re…uh…” Bob was tapping on his unireader. “There’s a vers fragment under the tower. It’s sort of like a piece of a miniature world. It should have been absorbed by…uh.”

Cal didn’t need to ask what he was ‘uh’-ing. An object had appeared in the blackness with them, clearly visible but not generating its own light.

It was the Involuted Clock.

Cal had seen it when he’d been younger, but he’d forgotten how big it was. It was a metre square, made of a metal that looked like gold, covered in gears that turned the wrong way. It was just hanging there, looking like it was turning. It gave off the impression that something was trying to stop it from moving. Even the gears seemed to be moving with difficulty.

“What the fuck is that?” Beatrice asked. “No wait, I know what the fuck that is. What the fuck is the Involuted Clock doing here?”

“Weird time shit, probably,” Mick suggested. He sounded confused.

“Something’s wrong with it,” said Cal. It was stupid—he’d only seen the damn thing twice and for a cumulative total of two minutes, but he’d never seen it move like that. He looked at the clock’s face, thinking that the arms should be moving faster.

Bob looked up from his unireader, scowling. “What do you mean?”

“I mean—” The Involuted Clock stopped moving, and the blackness was rent by a screaming blue light that swirled into the space all at once. “Oh, shit,” Cal said, aiming Bob’s gun at it. “Travis, give me my sword.”

The light hurled towards them, stymied but not stopped by several barriers that Lillian, Sully and Mick put up, and it hit Cal full-on just as the hilt of Nathen’s sword fell into his hand. The darkness around them vanished and they were back in the bottom of the tower. The light and the Clock were with them. The sword was holding the light off.

“I think this is Kozna,” Lillian said, voice strained. “He’s powerful, fuck.”

“He’s not attached to this world yet,” Arky told Cal. “If you can get rid of him, he can’t do anything.”

Kozna seemed to expand, and above them, the ceiling fell away as the whole tower exploded outwards. They were all pushed back by its power as it knocked back everything, creating a crater that kept growing and growing, levelling Narwhal Junction as it—

Everything stopped moving, and Cal was standing at the edge of the crater with the Involuted Clock. He looked at it, then looked at the city, a hole being torn in it by Kozna. “What did you do?” Cal asked the Clock. It just floated there and ticked at him. “Don’t you play fucking dumb with me. This is the second time you’ve gone out of your way to save my life. You’re alive.”

The clock just tocked and the tower and the city started un-exploding, going back where they belonged. They were standing in the middle of the square just outside of the tower, where Cal had gotten himself arrested earlier. But there was nobody here anymore.

But then, once everything was back in place, the square twisted into a different shape with more corners, and there was Kozna, fighting against Mads the soothsayer, who had dark magic boiling all over his skin.

“There you are, you slippery piece of shit,” said Cal, swinging his sword at Kozna, who moved away from Mads and seemed to turn his attention to Cal.

That was a bit of a problem because without anyone to help him, Cal was not the best equipped to fight a ball of evil light. Nathen’s sword could only do so fucking much.

Mads helped him, at least, using his magic to push Kozna away from Cal at the last minute.. “Thanks.” Mads didn’t answer, just looked at him with totally black eyes. There was nobody in there, Cal thought. “Uh. Well. We’ll fix you later, promise.”

Light pulse outwards, and Cal fell over. “What the fuck?”

But there was no time for what the fucks, because Kozna was charging at him again, shrieking. “Fuck you,” Cal decided, swinging the sword hard. He’d kill this motherfucker himself if that was what it took.

Mads helped, but Kozna hit him hard, and Mads was on his knees, still not saying anything. Whenever they touched, Cal thought, he missed time, movements, actions. They were way less human than he was, even Mads, and way less stuck on the idea of time moving in a line.

Since Mads was down again, Cal got a good hit on Kozna while he was distracted, who screamed once more. Every time he did that it made Cal wish his ears were bleeding.

Kozna pulled away from him, climbing into the air. He got brighter, and then brighter again, and Cal didn’t need to be told that wasn’t fucking good. A little boy—the little boy, he was sure; the Map of Amker—was running towards him, right fucking into Kozna. He was covered in blood. “Hey!” Cal called.

Juniper pulled the dumbass kid back before Kozna could do more than shock him a little, and beside Cal, Mads leapt into the air like a fucking bat, slamming Kozna into the ground. He was writhing, trying to escape. Perfect.

Cal hurried over there, and without ceremony he slashed Nathen’s sword downwards, and Kozna screamed. He screamed and screamed but only for a second, before swirling out of existence.

The little boy sat right on the cobblestones. “Is it dead?” he asked.

No he was not. Kozna had just left. “It’s gone, which is close enough,” Cal said.

“Not really,” said the boy.

The square moved again, and it was full of people again, Cal’s team surrounding him.

“Woah, what the fuck,” Wes said, looking around.

“The Clock froze time and then I sort of banished Kozna,” Cal explained.

“Makes sense,” Wes said, fake-calm as can be. “You okay?”

“Not even a bruise.”

Bob was hugging the little boy, who looked a bit like him. “Thanks, Roberto,” said the boy, sounding happy.

“Nobody calls me that, Grandad.”

“Get used to it. Or don’t, since you’re about to leave.”


The Clock ticked, and the boy, Mads, the square, Narwhal Junction, everything vanished.

“What the fuck?” Cal asked once again, standing up first. They’d all been dumped on a hillside, including Juniper and a boy Cal didn’t know but intuitively recognized as Arky. It was grassy, tall, and full of plants Cal didn’t recognize. A quick look around confirmed they were all okay, and also that they were all cock-naked. Nathen’s sword was gone too. The Clock hadn’t come with them.

“Where are we?” Joey asked, growling a little as he sniffed the air. “It doesn’t smell like Narwhal Junction.”

It didn’t feel like it either. It was too hot, for one, even under the moonlight as it was. “Hold on,” said Cal, nodding up the hill. “Maybe there’s a landmark.”

Bob was frowning at his unireader. “Readings are a bit fucked,” he said. “If you wait a second, I can…”

“I got it,” Cal promised, going up the hill. It was only about fifteen paces. “Oh.”

At the top of the hill there was a view of a city full of tall, metallic buildings connected by soaring walkways. Vehicles zipped between them in the air, and it was full of bright, artificial lights that couldn’t come from fires.

Bob would get his readings unfucked in a minute, but Cal didn’t need them to know that the Clock had sent them to a time that wasn’t theirs. And probably, Cal thought, to a world that wasn’t theirs, either.

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