Before I had time to ask “what the hell is timefire?” – and more importantly, before the flames could latch hold of us - Pete had grabbed us and we were back in Sanctuary. And I was back on the ground, repeating the throwing-up-on-Harmony’s-shoes act. She wasn’t pleased.
“Is it me? Is it my feet? Is it this specific pair of shoes that you hate? I got these in 2046! Do you even know how special it makes them? I’ve only had them for a week! God!”
She kicked the shoes off and gingerly picked them up, holding them out at arms length in front of her before depositing them into a box to deal with later.
“I’m sorry, ok? If I had known how important those shoes were to you, I would never have involuntarily projectile vomited on them. Scout’s honour.” I held up the hand sign (or what I thought was the hand sign). Harmony just shook her head.
“So why is Fixer pretending to be a sick dog?” Tome asked, coming through into the main room and trailing ash in behind him. I pushed myself up on crawled to the broken couch, where I simply lay down and groaned.
“What do you mean pretending?” Lix said with a smirk, sitting down on the armrest next to me. “You catch something on your trip? Or is this something you got from Marie?”
I groaned more. “Tome told you?”
She burst into an evil grin. “Every. Single. Detail.”
Damn. I forgot Tome could read the strings and see exactly what happened. Curse him and his talent.
A few hours later all five of us had convened back at the broken couch to look at Harmony’s work. She had painted what she and I had seen in the future, spreading the mountains, beach and mansion over several different canvases. Each one showing the moment its features were consumed (I don’t know if that’s the right word for what this is but I’ll go with it) by the blue flames. It would have been easier for Tome to read the string and have Jimmy link our minds to see it, but obviously that wasn’t possible. Because the string had turned to ash. And Jimmy was dead.
“So, that’s ‘timefire’, is it Pete?” I asked, turning to look at him. Sitting on the couch with his knees tucked up to his chest, he nodded. “Timefire.”
“But what the hell is it?” Lix asked, clearly agitated. “I tried jumping to a point further forward that this, but I can’t. I don’t know if I’m being blocked, or if I’ve caught what you’ve got…”
“For the last, time, its not a disease” I groaned, clutching my stomach. It still felt as if someone had squeezed my insides, which felt very unpleasant.
“Bottom line is, we don’t know what’s going on” Harmony cut in. “It’s not like there’s been an incident like this before in the history books. So what can we do?”
“We go to find someone smarter than us” Tome suggested from behind me. There was a pause, and I realised everyone’s eyes were trained on my location. It took me a second to realise what Tome meant.
“Oh, come on. No way. I can’t go see him. Last time we spoke I almost got him killed, and then he tried to kill me. We’re not on great terms any more. Send Lix. He likes her.”
Lix raised her eyebrows for a second, and then let them drop. “You’re the one who’s seen this stuff. You go. Fine, I’ll come along if you really need someone to hold your hand through this.”
“We’ll all go. He likes Harmony for her memory, and if he’s as unpredictable as in previous years then you might need me” Tome stood up straight, arms crossed over his chest.
“Madman!”Pete shouted, and I could only look at him and feel the irony of his statement.
“You’re right, Pete. Let’s go visit the madman.”