Jacky Clotilde appeared in a room. The only light was from a cloudy day outside, through a single drape-shrouded window. The bed was hastily made. The floor was mostly clear of dirty clothes. Two small piles of folded clothes sat atop small figurines and a couple of books on the dresser. A book sat on the bed. Its cover showed a young man with tousled dark hair and glasses, in a loose dark jacket of some kind, his hand in the air under what was presumably his name. Several other books bearing the same name but different covers sat on a simple bed table under a small unlit lamp.
Jacky looked around without moving. Satisfied (if that’s the right word), she stepped to the closet and peeked past the curtain: more clothes, and a jumble on the floor, and another jumble on the shelf just at her eye level. She turned in place. She took several slow breaths.
She looked at her ring. She raised an eyebrow at the pale blue stone, but she didn’t say anything to it.
She stepped to the window and looked out, parting the wispy drape ever so gently. A street on a cloudy morning. Ground vehicles parked, and one or two lazily rolling along, on their errands. A small mammal messing around high in the budding branches: she guessed it was late winter or early spring.
She waited. Nothing continued to happen.
Jacky raised her eyebrows and blew out some air. Gravity, oxygen content, chemical smell: it was just another version of her home world, or the world her home world was a dream about, an industrialized planet with the usual sun, the usual orbit, the usual mass, the usual atmosphere.
She was early. But she did not dare make another jump: she did not want to attract attention. And Time Warriors were always attracting attention: not from anyone they could easily squash, only from other Time Warriors or worse. In any case, a time warrior generally had a decent supply of time.
Jacky went to the bed. She picked up the book with the young man with tousled hair. She opened it, read a little, then closed it and looked at the others on the bed table. Picking up one of them, she glanced at its cover—a happy-looking chimerical beast of some sort, with two children sitting on it—and looked inside. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but presently she sat down, on the bed, in the same faint indentation that the tenant of this room had made after making the bed.
After some minutes flipping and leafing and backtracking, she started to put the book down, and then went back to reading. “No, that’s not right,” she said to herself. “It doesn’t work like that. If only it did, my life would be—!” She read a little more, then put the book down and picked up another, and then another, the thinnest of the pile.
This one she read straight through for some minutes. Jacky was good at some things and not so good at others, but she was always a fast learner of language and a fast reader. Soon she was halfway through the little book.
She stopped and shook her head. “That’s not it at all,” she said. “That’s not how it—!”
Still, she picked the little book back up and read some more. Then she read from another, and then another, starting in on the thickest one about two thirds of the way through.
This time she could not stop, although she muttered and shook her head. Then another, with a dark blue cover: she couldn’t make out what that was about.
After some time, a long time really, Jacky, who was reclining on the bed now, put the book down and got up. She stretched. It was heck being seven or eight centuries old. She went to the window.
It was past midday already. She looked at her ring. Then she looked around: there were two different clocks, and she worked out what they were saying. Time warrior. She knew all about time, but she didn’t have a lot of experience with clocks.
“Well,” she said to herself, and went back to the bed.
At some point, Jacky was back in the one with the young man waving at his name. She was quite caught up in it: she had stopped murmuring complaints about how unrealistic and wrong it all was. She was reading, gripping the book in her right hand, playing with her ring with her left thumb. She put the gem to her mouth, then noticed what she was doing and stopped, and a few minutes later she did the same thing. She stopped. She looked at the bed table and noticed a stick there, a straight tapered stick of dark wood. For a moment her heart raced, and then she smiled and picked it up, and holding it in her left hand she read on.
She heard the door downstairs. She looked up, but read some more. Then she heard feet on the stairs. She sighed, put the book down, and got up.
Seconds passed. Time is a funny thing.
The bedroom door opened. A girl of sixteen, with brown hair and brown eyes, came in and dropped her backpack. She was tired and unhappy. She pushed the door shut and looked at the bed. She looked around. The wand from her bed table: its point was in her face. It was held by a woman of no particular age, a woman with dark hair tied back, a woman in dark clothes and sensible boots, a woman whose blue eyes, in the gloom, almost matched the big gem on her ring. The woman smiled.
“My name is Jacky,” she said. “I would like you to accompany me.”
“What?” said the girl.
They both looked at the bed, where seven books were scattered from Jacky’s scattered reading. “At first I thought it was nonsense,” said the Time Warrior. She smirked. The girl looked back at her. “She’s got time all wrong. But then I think, maybe she has more right than I give her credit for.”
“You were waiting for me?”
“I was waiting for you. I, ah, did some reading.”
“Wait. You just read the entire series? You’d never read the Harry Potter novels before?”
“No,” said Jacky. “I rather like this Hermione person. But it’s you I’m here to recruit.”
“Who are you?” the girl asked. Jacky smirked again. The girl said, “Where are we going?”
“Well,” she said, “where we’re going, we’re not going by train, that’s for sure.” Jacky held up the wand. “I never use one,” she said. “But it’s fine with me if you do.”
“Wait,” said the girl. “Are you me, older?”
“No, no. Eye color doesn’t change, kiddo. Are you ready? You really don’t need anything else.”
They looked around the bedroom. “Am I coming back?” said the girl.
Jacky took a moment, and then said, very quietly, “Well, I didn’t.”