She alone stopped when her breath caught light clouds in the evening time. The stone edgework of the college and its neighbouring student laboratories loomed out of the spring heat.
Checking the entrance-way a second time, Zara pressed on, tripping up and over each curb she passed. No minute was spared on making her way softly. She hurried around the front of the college, whiter in its luring façade, to where the laboratories were far more lax in their types of security.
One more glance was shot back at the night sky, in case Continent-born Freidrich deigned to appear from behind a gaslamp. With a foreign name like Freidrich, he was hardly a part of the forces his father and grandfather had served. Zara had heard her own grandfather relate the tale of his pacifism in-between war-torn lives. How could Friedrich do such a monstrous act, even to his own family? He had to have been bribed or something.
Thinking of her relation alone, Zara scowled and slammed her elbow into the first simple swing lock. Having been put under so much strain before, it easily cracked open with no more effort.
Zara pushed through the door into the laboratory, another door creaking to her right. She shoved it to. There were no ways of raising an alarm so quickly, and, if someone had noticed her breaking in, they would have apprehended her by now.
Zara shook her curls off her shoulders, wishing she’d tied up the black tendrils before leaving; she would have to do with pushing the lines out of her vision.
Cold chutes made a path through the many laboratories of the building; of them, Zara had only been in six and one lecture theatre. Nevertheless, she strained her eyes against the warming lamps, automated by her presence, and hurried forward, pressing her back against the steel shaded walls.
Those chills running down her spine were certainly not imaginary!
And in that nighttime, she heard her breath catch.
She counted the labs as she passed them. They were numbered irregularly, room five, eight, eleven. The time-manipulator lay in the house of room thirteen, a vaster room with panels open to the sky if necessary. If ever a machine needed ‘fresh’ air.
The inner door was unlocked, yet that didn’t surprise Zara. She wasn't even sure if the laboratories had locks. They relied on the burly weight of the front door deep within the painted face. Unlucky for them that she could ‘unlock’ the back with a tilt of her hand, then. Zara smirked, casting her eyebrows around the room.
She strolled over to a panel in the far wall. Black and hinged, behind the plating lay the manual switch, the only initiator for the time-manipulator. Zara opened the plating and inserted her key into the jagged hole made for it. She rotated it a quarter-turn, smiling at the following click and whir.
So far, so good. Breaking in became easy, though. She possessed a key and knowledge. Zara wasn't getting all her hopes up yet.
In the dark night, the wall level was exposed, as always. Its leathery bars called to Zara, begging her to move them up into action.
She slammed her hands down onto the lever. Cranking her rebellious smile up a notch, she forced the wall lever upright; with a clunk, it wobbled through its motions. In one moment, the little beads of energy would master the spurious machine – into life, no less.
Zara trembled as the boom of the power-initiation rattled through her ears. The hum morphed into green and blue hazes; she shielded her eyes against the colour-razing. The manipulator always groaned, but today the sound was an anguished moan. It opened its eyes and received the entry. It knew of her forcefulness. That machine always had a life of its own – literally. It pulsed and bubbled, dormant in the low murmur. Any higher voltage for the moment and the beast would awaken.
Zara strode across the room, low heels casting echoing clicks amidst the silence. The tense room was on edge. The great machine was an iceburg, showing Zara the face of its bare electrics. She eyed the wall of grey, three eyes blinking out cerise at her. As normal.
It was stupid that, even after a year of study, she had never ventured into the cavernous body below the water's edge. Now the metal jutted, raw, and beckoned with its hole of a mouth. Zara took one more deep breath of oxygen, before pushing through the steel frame. The strain ached on her shoulders the most. If this door alone was too weighty...
No, she wouldn't think that way. Her new plan had to work.