Saturday, March 26, 2022
You’ve reached The Armadillo Files. We now resume your regularly scheduled program.
Random Reader Things
This episode features three random reader things from a non-blogging reader in Maryland who wishes to remain anonymous. They worked nicely for the latest setting, and helped me get to writing this episode. Those things are: knight, robe, and necklace.
Previously in The Armadillo Files
Dilly and Fang “landed” in a cave that appears to be in tenth century Bagdad. They ran afoul of Ali Baba’s wicked brother, Cassim. He’s a greedy guy who might have sold them into slavery, given the chance. Fortunately, Fang remembered reading Cassim’s dossier. Hmmm… that may or may not have anything to do with the fate of the missing Calutron Girls in the 1940s. Only the “things” know for sure. Frankly, I have no idea. By the way, it turned out Ali Baba is a woman.
You can find all the past chapters by going to the categories on the right side of the screen. Click on Armadillo Files.
27 — What side-effects?
Nervously, I watched in the direction the wild-eyed man had gone. My eyes returned to the black-haired woman when she spoke.
“Try not to be concerned about my shameful excuse for a brother,” she started. “He is greedy and wicked, but not too difficult to control.”
“Maybe for you,” Fang interjected. “But his dossier is a mile long. He might not be as skilled as a Sarasin knight, but I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley.”
Fang was the farthest thing from a tough guy. Plus, he rarely took things seriously. If Cassim gave him even a little concern, then I was frightened. Suddenly unsteady, I eased back down to the cave floor.
“What thieves was he talking about? Maybe we should go somewhere else. Wait a minute… Ali Baba… you don’t mean that you’re the Ali Baba,” I asked the woman, dumbfounded.
“You are correct,” she replied with a mischievous glint in her dark eyes. “Sadly, even in your time it will be a long while before people do not automatically assume that one with fame or power — or even humble Prime operatives are men.”
A distant shriek came from outside. It was followed by a crash and a volley of curses. I jumped. However, Ali Baba only heaved an annoyed sigh.
“If you will pardon me. The thieves require too much supervision. I shall return directly,” she remarked and flowed out of the cave in billowing silks.
Fang was somewhere in the shadows. I heard him shifting wooden crates and muttering about not being suitably dressed.
I stood carefully, making sure I was steady. Then I straightened my blue striped gown and adjusted the big bow, which happily came into fashion replacing the bustle. I thought about the woman’s pantaloons and silk robe. That triggered a worrisome thought.
“Please tell me that we are not in tenth century Bagdad,” I called out to Fang and his affirmative reply made me groan. “Did whoever is messing with time and the Manhattan Project really come this far back in history to change the outcome of WWII? That must have taken a great deal of complex, detailed planning.”
“I thought so at first, but now I’m not so sure. He, or maybe she, might have come back here to hide,” Fang began. “You know… running into Cassim makes me wonder if the timeline of the Calutron Girls wasn’t just altered. It’s possible that the girls might have been pulled out of the timeline — kidnapped. Going this far back would be a good place for the enemy to hold them without screwing up any of his other plans.”
“Do really you think the brother of a Prime operative could be involved in all this?” I asked, following the sound of his voice farther into the cave.
“Cassim has a history of that kind of thing. But don’t necessarily mean him. It’s just that seeing him caused me to think of the scenario,” he explained. “Come here and help me look, Dilly. I need to find that metronome.”
I found him sitting beside an open crate, trying on a pair of curly-toed shoes. They were bright orange velvet. He held up one foot and used it to make a circle in the air.
Mention of the metronome gave me pause. I vaguely remembered Fang saying something about one while I struggled back to consciousness. I asked what he meant.
“Prime facilities keep metronomes for… Umm, in case of side-effects,” he paused and looked at me uneasily, then lifted my hair to look at my ears. “They’re still okay.”
“What are you doing?” I said, batting his hand away. “And what do you mean by side-effects. Of what?”
His mouth tightened. It was obvious that he didn’t want to talk about it. I had to push the issue.
“Prime operatives have to be prepared physically for time travel. If regular humans time travel more than once in a blue moon, there can be… side-effects,” he admitted, and I gasped. “Don’t freak out, Dilly. The metronome can sort of re-regulate the human system. Besides, the effects won’t kill you or anything. It might cause minor changes to your appearance. But it’s really no big deal.”
“No big deal? I might know whether or not it’s a big deal if you were making a lick of sense!” I declared and took a calming breath.
“Maybe it’s in there,” I suggested pointing to a boulder that stood against the wall. “I heard a big stone moving while I was waking up. If there’s a hidden door, like at the Lost Sea cave, that should be the place for it. How are you going to open it?”
Bounding to his oddly clad feet, Fang planted a kiss on my cheek and exclaimed that I was a genius. He started waving his arms at the boulder.
“Now… what was it?” he muttered. “Oatmeal!” he shouted flourishing his arms, but nothing happened. “Fruit Loops! Come on… Ah… Cheese grits! No? I know it’s something about breakfast. Ah! I remember. Bagel!”
“Do you mean open sesame? Isn’t that the magic word?” I asked wryly.
“Shhh! Don’t call her!” he cried in dismay, prancing a circle in those orange curly shoes. “That’s not a magic word. It’s her name!”
Stone rumbled and the boulder slowly moved aside. A woman bent to come through the opening. She was over seven feet tall and strongly built. When she looked at Fang, her eyes lit.
“Dilly Faraday, meet Sesame,” Fang introduced and promptly swooned.
♦ ♦ ♦
“Tatu Pinkerton! My habibi, it has been so long!” the towering woman exclaimed in a voice that was unexpectedly demure.
Sesame scooped up Fang in one arm. Ignoring his faint, she cooed all the while. Or maybe she was used to that behavior from him. He opened one eye to steal a look at her and quickly closed it again.
“Oh, so be it. I know you dislike public displays of affection,” Sesame said and gently let Fang to the cave floor.
“Are you a genie?” I asked in awe, causing her and Fang both to giggle. “Give me a break. I just met manatees with dominion over time itself. It’s not out of like for me to ask about genies.”
“I am no djinn,” she piped. “I have no great magic, but I do have great strength. I am the opener of the secret cave.”
“Sesame, Dilly needs a metronome,” Fang told her with a discrete look at me that seemed to suggest that the woman should not tell too much.
She tilted her head, flashy gold earrings swinging. She looked behind me at the big bow of my gown.
“It is somewhat difficult to tell with that bow to hide things. However, I do not think it has gone very far. Not yet…” Sesame murmured.
“What are you two talking about?” I wanted to know.
The extremely tall woman disappeared into the expanse of the secret part of the cave. I looked at Fang, ready to shake him to make him explain. However, she quickly returned. Smiling, she held a necklace.
“We do not have a metronome, but this should help. It will delay any time travel side-effects,” she added as she bent to put the chain around my neck.
A small, but intricately cased watch hung from the gold chain. I put it to my ear. There was a rhythmic tick, but much slower than that of a clock. It made a quiet hum. It was also warm to the touch. I gazed up at Sesame, bewildered.
“A necklace-watch?” I asked both curious and worried. “Is it important that I keep track of time?”
“It is not an ordinary clock. It works similarly to the metronome. It should delay the effects of time travel. You should wear it at all times,” she assured me.
“What side-effects?” I cried again, and louder that time.
♦ ♦ ♦
Now we know about the metronome… but side-effects for Dilly? Tune in next time. Hugs on the wing!
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Breaking News: Through the magic of the Time Manatees, today I’m in two places at once! I’m honored to visit Dan Antion’s virtual bar for a discussion about what’s behind the characters in Dead of Winter. Click over and join us.
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Journey 13, The Harbor is now available! The 14th novelette will conclude the series.
Dead of Winter — All the Journeys
Universal Purchase Links
Journey 13, The Harbor
Journey 12, Goddesses
Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment
Journey 10, Pergesca
Journey 9, Doors of Attunement
Journey 8, The Lost Library
Journey 7, Revenant Pass
Journey 6, The Fluting Fell
Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls
Journey 4, The Old Road
Journey 3, the Fever Field
Journey 2, Penllyn
Journey 1, Forlorn Peak
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2022 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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