Claire’s hair was brown with red highlights, and she had nice eyes.
“What does that mean?” asked Andy, for whom Claire had high hopes.
“Maybe one day I will get you to my lab, and show you,” she told him.
After that, the evening went well.
They had six good months together, though she never seemed to have enough time for him.
“My work comes first,” Claire told herself. “Once I’ve had a breakthrough, there will be time for us.”
Then, just when she was really making progress with her research, another woman lured him away. This was made especially galling by the fact the other woman was herself.
“But he’s my boyfriend,” Claire protested.
“Yes, but he was mine, too,” future Claire pointed out. “Also, I have this fancy gun from the 28th century.”
“What does it do?” asked Claire, interested despite herself.
“Drills through time,” future Claire explained. “Look.”
“Ooo, pretty,” admired Claire. “And what...argh!”
But even as she plummeted into the time hole, she couldn’t really hate future Claire for pushing her. Part of her was just cheered that some future version of her had achieved her research goals.
“What’s that?” asked the serf, in an archaic regional dialect.
“Time Catapult,” replied Claire tersely.
She pulled the lever, and was quietly disappointed when the mechanism collapsed inwards into an embarrassingly small and short-lived time vortex.
“Bugger,” she said.
The principles were there, it was the local materials which were letting her down.
She had tried so hard, she had poured so much effort into her work. And yet she was still not there. She still couldn’t do it. And she had to do it, or else there would be...
Then she had an idea.
She gathered up all her spare bits of equipment - everything that might possibly be used to make another Time Device Of Some Description - and chucked them down a handy well.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” asked the serf.
“Who does, really?” Claire replied. “Sometimes you just have to give it your best guess.”
“And your best guess involves...?” asked the serf.
“Giving up,” explained Claire.
She sat down.
“And that’s going to work...how?” asked the serf.
“Not how,” corrected Claire. “When. And the answer is...”
There was a puff of fundamental particles, and a woman with flowing grey hair and sparkly skin appeared.
“Now, now, now,” said the woman severely. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Who is she?” asked the serf.
“Father Time,” explained Claire. She hesitated. “Well, the personification is traditionally male, but...”
“Progress,” said the woman curtly. “Now what’s this ‘giving up’ nonsense?”
“What it says on the can,” said Claire. “I’m done. I’m out.”
Mother Time narrowed her eyes.
“Oh, no you’re not,” she said fiercely.
“Yup,” said Claire, laying herself down in on the ground and letting out a contented sigh.
“You can’t give up!” chided Mother Time. “If you do that, how are you ever going to get back to your own time, and win back what’s-his-face?”
“I’m not,” said Claire simply. “I’m quite happy with this bloke.”
The serf waved nervously. Mother Time frowned, and blasted him with a ray of frozen moments. The serf went reeling backwards into a time loop.
“No - you’re - NOT!” Mother Time growled. “You’re getting back to your bloody work, pronto!”
“Or else?” said Claire sweetly.
“Or else you’ll never be there to steal Andrew and zap you back in time in the first place, obviously!” snapped Mother Time. “It’s time paradoxes 101! And it’s bad news, I can tell you!”
“Not for me,” said Claire. “I don’t look after the very fabric of time, after all. Not my responsibility. Think I’ll just relax and watch that silly bugger for a bit.”
The serf waved nervously from his time loop. He was doing it rather a lot.
There was the sound of teeth grinding.
Mother Time was not best pleased.
“Fine,” said Mother Time at last. “You win. I suppose one of us has to act responsibly.”
Claire grinned at her, and held out her hand.
Mother Time leaned in an odd direction, and minutes and seconds tumbled around them.
“I’m only doing this once,” Mother Time grumbled. “After this, you’re on your own.”
The minutes rattled into hours, then days, weeks and years started howling past.
At last, Mother Time leant back. In her hand she held something Claire recognised. It was nifty-looking.
“Nice one,” she said, picking up the time gun from the 28th century.
“Fine,” said Mother Time, ungraciously. “Just be sure to sort out this mess. I hate bloody paradoxes.”
She waited until Mother Time had gone before using the gun to un-peel the serf from the time loop.
“Urgh,” said the serf. “I feel like I was just hit by a thousand Tuesday.”
“I know the feeling,” Claire sympathised. “Falling through a time hole’s not much fun, either.”
Then she lifted the nifty-looking gun, and took a deep breath. It was time to win back her man.
It was time, she thought, to make some time for him.
The beautiful illustration used for this story is by Leo Colonna - many thanks!