1. Class and Countenance

Physics College student, Zara Costello-Masters, was a workoholic. Because that's what the middle class are supposed to be. But that middle-class is in a delicate existence - and Zara's grandfather started it all by marrying down. Good for her, bad for society. When Zara's stubborn nature is mixed with a time-manipulator, only bad can occur. Lives twist through the different fabrics of time - including a younger version of herself trying to right a past she has caused with her trials.

Physics was confusing enough without adding a fifth dimension that Zara didn't even believe in.

She slammed down the wall lever, eyes flitting over to the volt-barometer fitted beside the double-barred handgrip. A stripe of red zoomed past, and the hiss of the engine droned out. The experiment was over – and her lab-partner had already returned from the engine's depths.

"84 MPH. Not bad," Mairim read from the chart. She picked at the scarlet velvet of her knee-length dress. Zara blinked; she herself hadn't even lifted her eyes to the vertical lines of numbers yet.

"Not high enough," Zara replied. "Professor Leigh said we need over 90 for a pass. Don't forget that clause.”

"Don't worry," Mairim added. "You have only been here for a year –"

"That's exactly why I should be achieving. Next time, let me be the one to operate the time-manipulator.”

Mairim wrinkled her nose. "You're hardly strong enough to hold the driver steady against the second pulse – stop complaining, when, in a different world, we might not even be able to measure the output. Be grateful it works."

"I am," Zara grumbled.

She frowned and followed her lab-partner away from the volt-barometer. Already the disguised insult had set her mind into full flow. After all, Zara had held onto the idea ever since she had first laid eyes on her Main Project for the year.

"But if we didn't need a phenomic driver, I could handle it. Think of how much quicker the manipulator would run."

Mairim's face went through three different flinches as each word took her off-guard. "Woaho! Keep it simple, Zara. This is Temporal 101, not Mechanics 305."

Ha! If only it were. Sometimes Zara couldn’t comprehend her decision to study the science of the material theoretics. She shrugged. It was better than training as a nurse, in any case. It was a better option than most. At least she had an education. That was what should have mattered.

"Huh," Zara said. She glided over to the typewriter on a desk nearby, but Mairim’s fingers were already dressing the keys with their pale tips. Despite her tendency to mash the buttons, the scan-out Zara obediently collected was clean. She seized it and snorted. 84? Still not good enough.

“I shall have that sheet, Miss Costello-Masters,” a deep voice said. “We do not want you doctoring your scores now, do we?”

As if she’d done it before. Zara scowled at the desk as Professor Leigh snatched the papers. The professor of physics gave her one over-the-glasses glare, before he turned and strode from the room, footsteps clattering on their way to his next victim-student.

Zara folded her arms across her chest.

“Are you going to help me tidy, then, Zara?”

Enough with Mairim and enough with them all. Zara flung her hands wide. “As if there is much to! You were in the manipulator; you do it. Besides, I have places to be.”

The statement was asking for derisive questions. She would swipe back against them. Nevertheless, Zara didn’t wait for Mairim’s reply. She marched from the room with arms taking the pendulum effect to her feet. She curled her hands at their words. No smart man would rule her education.

***

The End

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