I had before. Hundreds upon thousands of times. But I had never jumped like this. It was like an invisible hand made of icy air reached inside me, squeezed and pulled at something, and made me jump. It was worse than unsettling. It was worse than disturbing. The fact that as soon as we reappeared my lunch made a sudden acquaintance with the ground in front of me is probably the best indicator of how it felt for me.
It wasn’t that I was carrying passengers – usually all that caused was occasional slight turbulence (how do you get turbulence in time travel, I hear you ask? Have you never seen Doctor Who? But you’re not in a TARDIS, I hear you scream? Well, it happens. Deal with it) but nothing like this.
“What the hell was that?” I asked from down on all fours, my face level with Harmony’s knees.
“You jumped us, and then you threw up. And you got a bit on my shoes.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“This is why I jump with Lix, not you.”
“This doesn’t usually happen to me.”
“That’s what they all say.”
“No, seriously. That wasn’t me. I didn’t do that on purpose.”
Harmony looked confused. “You didn’t bring us here? Not that I blame you if you did… its beautiful.”
I looked up, taking in the luxurious scenery. Purple grass matched the blue sunset almost seamlessly, the horizon bordered by mountains covered by snow, paradoxically right next to blue lagoon golden beaches. In the air above them floated a mansion on a silver disk, the bottom mirrored so they could see distorted versions of themselves in it.
“A pleasure planet…” Harmony whispered in awe.
“We must be close to the frontier” I said, rising to my feet. “The first of these only came in during the latest millennium, and this one certainly isn’t your basic model.”
“So, you didn’t know you were bringing us here?”
“No, I told you. I didn’t jump. Plus, I generally tend to stay away from the frontier – its too unpredictable, not knowing what will happen. The only people I know that liked to come this far forward, to these kinds of places were…”
We both turned to look at Pete, still sitting on his ass and smiling like an idiot.
Harmony turned to me, her face screwed up in confusion. “Pete brought us here?”
I shrugged. “Honestly, I have no idea. But it’s the best conclusion I can come to – or more importantly, you can come to. But why? I doubt he wanted us to take a romantic break away to sip pina coladas by the beach in the shadow of the mountain.”
Harmony was silent for a minute or two, and then frowned at the horizon. “What direction are those mountains in, relative to us?”
I took a compass from my coat pocket. “Due west, why?”
“And from what I know, they made these planets so they would mimic Earth – so the planet orbits and spins the same way?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“So you’re sure that is a sunset?”
“Yes. Now where are you going with this?”
“If the sun is going down, why is it getting brighter?”
I let the news wash over me, and then turned to look at the mountain. Harmony was right – it was getting lighter. It looked like the sun was just about to peek up over the mountain range.
Turns out I was half right/wrong again. But it wasn’t the sun that broke over the horizon.
Like a wave, the blue fire rose up from behind the mountains and crashed down like a tsunami, setting everything in its path ablaze. The snow melted but this fire set the water ablaze, and soon after the very rock it had flown over. In seconds it reached the beach, turning the sand to glass and then destroying it. It started to consume the purple grass, now spreading even faster. It sparked and sent the fire heavenward, only to collide with the mansion on a disk. Moments later the engines failed. It came crashing down to the ground around us as the flames chewed it up and split it into pieces.
Pete reached out to us again, the smile gone from his face. “Timefire.”