Continuum by Shanna Lauffey by Shanna Lauffey - Read Online

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Continuum - Shanna Lauffey

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Chapter One

Living in a small town is an art that must be learned from birth. For city people like myself, it might be possible to infiltrate the closed society of a small community, where people know everything about one another from spending all of their lives in each others’ pockets, but the immigrant will never become a full member of the township. Never.

I knew all of this when I led Marcus to a small town in northern Idaho. I chose the town because it was familiar. My aunt had lived there for many years, invisible amongst a small population that had forgotten after forty years that she hadn’t been born there, especially after she had three children who were. All of them were gone now... my aunt to mortality and her children to their own life adventures. I hadn’t seen the town myself for more than thirty years before we arrived, but it had changed very little.

I had needed a place to rest; to allow the continuum to find balance again so that my time shifting abilities would return to me in full measure. Spending too long in the 1970s had taught me the consequences of spending too long in the distant past the hard way and I had exiled myself to hayseedville this time in order to recover from the strain. Marcus had come along because he needed to learn about his own abilities and I was the only teacher he was likely to find.

A Time Shifter who cannot move through time or space feels like a cripple. Better that I should lose the use of my legs than the simple ability to change the moment of time within which I dwell or the freedom to travel from one place to another at a thought.

Though distance shifting had become dangerous because our pursuers had found a way to track us, regaining my time shifting abilities meant that I had only to slip into the past to a time before the tracking started to reclaim freedom of movement.

Ten months of keeping myself to myself in a place where the locals had little to do but to look for something to gossip about had taken its toll. It wasn’t just the boredom, though that was immense since I dared not socialize in the local bars lest someone who once knew me should be present.

The greater cost of my enforced rest was the time that I suddenly had on my hands to think about all that had happened and to feel the effects of an invasion not only into my life, but into the lives of all of my people. If I had ever questioned my motivations for trying to stop the atrocities of the weeks before my exile, the answer would have been that what happened to my people affected me personally, as well as everyone I had ever cared about.

I have been accused of being emotionally cold, but I feel. Perhaps I even feel more acutely than the average person, and that is why I have learned to respond to a crisis without acknowledging the emotions that accompany tragedy. When several of my people were killed and dissected in Chicago, I responded by doing what was in my power to warn others and to stop further killings, but it was only later, after a few weeks in my self-perpetuated exile, that I was able to cry for those who had lost their lives. I didn’t know any of them personally, but it hit me on a soul-deep level because they had been Harekaiian, my people. The Time Shifters.

Over the intervening months I had felt many emotions, but now what I felt the most was fear.

Marcus sat astride an Appaloosa horse, wearing a beige Stetson hat and looking for all the world as if he had grown up doing ranch work, except for his distinctively black attire. Driving the few head of cattle into the fenced enclosure where they could graze freely had become a regular routine for him. For someone who had been a city boy all his life, he had adapted to country life far too easily.

He was just closing the wooden gate when he felt a disturbance in temporal stability. He smiled, noting that his work with Kalli over several months was beginning to pay off. Through the aetheric connection between them, his sudden awareness of her told him that she had just returned from a distant time. Kalli’s time shifting abilities were returning to normal at last. Though he was happy on her behalf, he was also very aware of what it would mean for his own progression. In the months that they had worked together to uncover the depths of his latent abilities, he had never attempted more than a two day shift. With Kalli back in full operation, they could now experiment further afield.

Marcus closed the gate and continued with his other tasks for the afternoon until quitting time. Nothing was far away from anything else in Rathdrum. The town was far too small, and feeling smaller all the time. Marcus walked home as he had been doing every day since securing the ranch hand job, to the small apartment that he shared with Kallie on Highway 53. The aged, green apartment building next to the Shady Bar & Grill suddenly felt depressing. That was the first clue that Marcus noticed consciously. He suddenly had a feeling that it was getting to be time to move on.

All at once everything fit together. With winter coming, work would soon dry up. Kallie was shifting normally again. Both of them were getting stir crazy in the one-horse town and some of the trouble they had been having with the locals was getting more uncomfortable by the day, not least of all the attentions of a young waitress called Chrissy, who had obvious designs on Marcus. The fact that the townspeople had been led to believe that he and Kallie were man and wife didn’t appear to make a difference to these small town rednecks, and in fact some of them seemed to see it as a challenge to try to drive a wedge between the couple.

That was the most ironic factor. Marcus and Kallie had shared a few kisses, many of them intentionally in public, but nothing more. Their portrayal of marriage was a sham. Kallie had suggested it when they had first come to the town in order to avoid the dynamics that would inevitably occur when a new, single female appeared in one of these isolated communities. The quirk of it was that Marcus knew that she was attracted to him as much as he was to her, but Kallie had kept him at arm’s length because of the work they had to do to train his latent time shifting abilities. The frustration of it all had been tremendous over the months while they had lived together.

Hey. The North Carolina drawl was unmistakable. Chrissy appeared from around the corner of the apartment building as Marcus approached, as if she had been waiting for him. I don’t think your ol’ lady is in, she don’t answer the door. I got some fresh huckleberry pie reserved at the restaurant if you want to come over to let me buy you dinner.

Chrissy was persistent, he had to give her that. She also knew how to tempt a man. Marcus was sure that the one thing he would miss about this backwoods Hellhole was the huckleberry pie at CJ’s restaurant.

She might have stepped out for a while, Marcus answered. Probably to get me some huckleberry pie for after dinner, since she’s expecting me. If it had been anyone else he would have winked, but not at Chrissy. She had an irritating tendency to jump at any scrap of encouragement. Marcus kept his expression neutral and hopped up the stairs, feeling uncomfortable about the need to be rude to the reprobate girl.

She was nothing but trouble... too much trouble. Marcus was sensible enough to avoid her, even ignoring a man’s natural needs when she all but offered herself openly. He even gave her a wide berth whenever they happened to be in Stein’s Market at the same time, lest he be too close the next time she got caught shoplifting.

Marcus entered the small apartment and found Kallie sitting on the pale sofa that had seen better days, waiting for him with a big smile on her face. She was wearing nondescript blue jeans and a patterned blouse that made her look very much like a local. A bottle of his favorite beer sat on the coffee table, frosty from refrigeration, next to an ordinary beer glass. Kallie was already sipping dark red liquid from a wine glass.

Is this a celebration? Marcus asked redundantly.

Kallie nodded her head in the affirmative.

When have you been?

1979, she answered him. Just for the afternoon, but no side effects at all. I thought we might go out tonight, after dinner.

Where to?

Spokane, if you don’t mind driving. Kallie virtually glowed as she made the suggestion. Marcus wondered what she had up her sleeve this time.

Okay, but it will be dark by the time we come back.

Kallie gave him her most mischievous smile.

That depends on when we come back. She winked at him suggestively.

They enjoyed a simple dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes with mixed vegetables together, while Marcus wondered what was in store for him that evening and what significance might be attached to Spokane, Washington. He knew that people in the towns in northern Idaho often drove over the border for supplies when they couldn’t source them in Coeur d’Alene, which was much nearer. Still, it was just over thirty miles across the state line to what was undeniably a big city, even though the local residents had a lot more attitude in common with small town Idaho than with the Californians in Los Angeles. Marcus had learned over time that all the northern states were one big land of country folk who, when they heard mention of being from California, always answered with the same catch phrase; "That’s a nice place to be from." The emphasis on the word ‘from’ said volumes.

Kallie cleaned up the dishes after dinner, then slipped into the velvet skirt and silky top that she had worn for most of the