Others, 44

Being Stranded in Time Is Never A Good Feeling, Especially When You’re Alone

Ao3 Link

Juniper focused.

The people here had nicer prisons than the people on Nova, but prisons were still prisons and Juniper was tired of being in jail.

They’d stuck them in individual cells, obviously so they wouldn’t talk to each other, and Juniper’s had a small window that hardly let any light in and didn’t give him a view of anything but a concrete wall. It wasn’t cold in the room, but it also wasn’t warm. Being on Earth had taught Juniper that this sort of inoffensive middle temperature was almost always caused by effective climate control, but he hadn’t found any kind of ventilation. All that was in the room was a sink and toilet and the bed he was laying on, staring at the featureless metal ceiling.

It’ll be okay, June, I promise.

He was trying not to be angry that Giles hadn’t warned him any of this would happen. Telling the future was a hard fucking thing to do, and telling people the wrong shit could make them change the right shit that was supposed to happen. Juniper had gone to Narwhal Junction to save that little boy, the one called Crow. And he’d helped do that, so that was something.

Along the way, apparently time had been changed a few times, and not, Juniper surmised, in the good way. Which meant that Giles might well have not known that any of this was going to happen. Penguin sure had been freaked out. It sure seemed fucking impossible to predict the Involuted Clock’s moods, if it had any. Cal was pretty sure it was alive somehow and Juniper kind of agreed. It seemed to behave capriciously, and machines weren’t capricious.

If it were alive though, the question that remained was whether it was intelligent and doing all this on purpose, or whether it was just reacting to stimuli. The bigger question of course being where the fuck it was and whether it was coming back to rescue them, because Bob was pretty sure there was no way for them to get out of here on their own, even with all his time powers, most of which he seemed not to have suddenly.

Juniper could relate. He’d had his powers for about an hour in Narwhal Junction, and now they were gone again. At least, unlike Bob, he knew why. Not that it comforted him at all.

Me either. I’m working on it, I promise.

His cell door swung open soundlessly and Juniper sat up. A stern young human man in a grey uniform came in, glared at Juniper, looking at something in his hand. He stepped to the side. Behind him, a woman in blue clothes covered by a grey coat came into the room. She was tall and had long, dark hair pulled into a tail. She was holding a folding chair, which she opened and sat in.

She spoke to the guard for a moment and he spoke back, and Juniper listened, but couldn’t hear anything in their language that was intelligible. Parts of it sounded just a little familiar, like he’d maybe heard words in a related language once, but Penguin was the fucking linguist, not Juniper, so what did he know?

After a minute, the guard left the room, shutting the door behind him. Juniper didn’t hear a click or a turn, but the door was locked. It was always locked. The woman looked at him. “Listen, lady,” said Juniper. “If you want to interrogate me, make it the sexy kind, because that’s the only way you’re getting anything out of me. Not that I want to be uncooperative, but no amount of arch iciness is going to teach me your language in two minutes.”

Not to be unhelpful, but this attitude is kind of the reason why you keep getting arrested.

The woman looked at him, clearly not understanding his Daolo. “My name,” she said, after a second, “is Doctor Nadya Ovenbrook. Can you understand me?”

Juniper blinked. She was speaking English. “Yeah,” he said, too surprised to lie. “I can.”

“Very good. It was a challenge to teach myself this language in such a short period. I would have been quite cross had it been a waste of time.” Nadya looked down at what looked to Juniper like a smartphone, making a note on the screen. “I shall tell my colleagues to begin lessons as well.”

“I wouldn’t bother,” Juniper said. Her English was clipped and heavily accented, but Juniper could understand it. “Most of my colleagues don’t speak it.”

Nadya nodded. “That is what I would say in your position also,” she told him. “We will determine the truth. In the meantime, you may tell me where you came from and why you are here.”

“How about this?” Juniper asked, leaning forward. “You can tell me where we are and why we were arrested. We haven’t done anything wrong, unless walking down a goddamn hill is a crime here.”

“You are in Royal Valley, and have been detained because your appearance set off a considerable number of our instruments. We believe you are invaders from another world. You may appear largely human, but until we can be certain you are no threat to us, you must be kept isolated.” Nadya watched Juniper expectantly. “Your turn.”

Oh. Well, Juniper hadn’t expected that to glean him any information. Fuck. He took a breath, figuring it was better if he cooperated a little and got them not to torture him. Or anyone else. He never should have let Penguin put him on that fucking poll, fuck. “We’re humans. Well, some of us technically aren’t, but it’s the same difference. Our world is called Nova; we came here by accident thanks to something called the Involuted Clock. We’re just trying to go home.”

Juniper was always just trying to go home.

Nadya had gone quite stiff, which probably wasn’t a good sign. “You’re quite certain the Involuted Clock brought you here?” she asked.

“Yeah, I was there when it happened.” Juniper watched her. “You know about the Clock?”

“Yes. I built it. Or rather, I am currently building it.” Nadya stood up. “I will return later. I must run some tests.”

She knocked on the door. “Wait,” Juniper said, standing. “If you’re building the Clock, that means you can send us home. All we want is your help, please.”

The door opened, and Nadya left without a word. She did look back at Juniper, though.

Then the door shut and he was alone again. “Fuck,” Juniper said, laying back on the bed, looking at the ceiling. He didn’t know enough about time laws to know what it meant that the Involuted Clock had been built here but then come to Earth and Nova, but he was pretty sure based on what Bob had told them that it was a big fucking deal. Bob was going to freak out. Hopefully Nadya told him. Or let Juniper see him. Or anyone else.

“At this point I’d even take you,” Juniper muttered, to the empty room.

Nobody answered, just like nobody had answered since Juniper had woken up here. The Involuted Clock was obviously powerful, but it wasn’t omnipotent. It had brought Juniper here, and Cal and all his team, and even turned little Arky human.

But as far as Juniper could tell, it hadn’t brought Penguin with them. And so Juniper was left in an empty room, trying to figure out stuff he didn’t understand, to answer questions he didn’t know how to ask. And he had to do it all alone.

Because no matter what I do, I can’t make him hear me.

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2 thoughts on “Others, 44

  1. Interesting…

    So this is almost certainly the other side of the Split, which, as Rhonda Peregrine theorized, appears to be where the Involuted Clock came from.

    Is your inability to talk to Juniper due to him being on the other side of the Split, a conscious intervention by someone or something (the Clock, perhaps?), or a byproduct of one of the many, many anomalies involved in the whole Kozna-Map-Clock-otherworld thing?

    What else is being blocked on your end? Do you have any influence over the other side of the Split at all?


    1. Yes, this does certainly have all the right vibes to be the other side of the Split, I agree. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Dr. Peregrine was on the money with that hypothesis.

      Though there’s a lot going on, magically, technologically, temporally, at this juncture, I’m pretty sure my inability to communicate with Juniper is because we’re on the wrong side of the Split. I’m clearly still here, but he can’t hear me, which could mean a lot of things but which, given that Juniper has also lost his powers again, makes me think there’s something about this world that’s interfering with my normal in-universe abilities as a spirit. The realm accessible to spirits that I operate from either doesn’t exist (which would explain why I can’t do anything) or is empty and very firmly walled off from the physical world (which would explain why I can’t talk to Juniper, as well as the issue in the next sentence). I still have the ability to follow the thoughts of our main characters, but I don’t seem to have my normal ability to find new main characters while I’m here.

      My more (or less, depending on how you look at it) meta-level powers to time travel the characters and provide them plot armour when necessary are also gone, which is a bit concerning. I don’t seem to have any narratorial control over this side of the Split at all beyond the ability to describe what’s happening in the bit of it I’ve fallen into.

      Let me tell you, as a narrator, it’s very disconcerting. As a spirit it’s not fun either!

      Thank you!


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