An Interrupted Journey

Must use the following: butterfly effect, vulture, cramp, industry, purge, scruple, snorkel, snitch, warning, unless
Originally posted on my Ko-fi

“Don’t think I’m happy about this, Agent Beech.” Steven maintained a stubborn frown, eyebrows drawn as he stared straight at the road ahead. 

Holly reclined back in her seat and let out a long sigh. “Can you please just call me Holly? It’s been three months already; it’s not like we’re still on the clock.” She laughed at the idea. “Can you imagine? I could finally buy myself a place in the Inner Sector with that kind of money all at once.” 

Steven didn’t answer, but continued to scowl at the road. 

“Look, if you’re so upset about this, why did you come?” 

He glanced over at Holly briefly. “You would have gone anyway. I came to make sure you don’t do anything stupid.” 

“Me? Stupid? I wouldn’t even dare step on a butterfly.” 

Steven rolled his eyes. “It’s not butterflies I’m worried about.” 

Holly blew a puff of air from her cheeks, but she couldn’t really blame him for being cautious. The butterfly effect was a real concern, and while they were pretty sure they’d managed to maintain the timeline so far, every day that passed presented more room for error. 

But Holly couldn’t stand being cooped up, hence the snorkelling gear in the backseat and the ocean just visible far down the road. 

“You treat this whole industry like it’s a game,” Steven said suddenly. “Time is serious business.”

“I know that.” Holly flicked a stray hair out of her face. “But when you sign up to recover a precious artefact from the past before it goes missing and instead end up stuck in the ever-so-dreary 21st century, you have to make do. I have no scruples about living a life here when there’s no guarantee we’ll ever get back home.” 

“But this isn’t protocol. We’re supposed to stay in one spot and use our communicators to contact—”

“They’re not coming, Steven.” Holly looked over at him, almost feeling sorry for the poor guy. “We didn’t even get a warning, which means that even they didn’t know what was happening. Maybe the President finally decided to purge the—”

Thunk. Something large and covered in feathers landed directly on the windshield, cracking it instantly. Steven slammed on the breaks, pitching Holly forward. The locking seatbelt knocked the breath out of her. 

The thing rolled up the windshield, then back down to the hood of the car as the vehicle came to a stop. Steven jumped out and went to take a look. Holly regained her breath and followed at a more leisurely pace. When she examined what had hit them, she laughed. 

“Talk about stepping on a butterfly—you just ran over a vulture!”

“I didn’t run it over,” Steven said, staring at the bird. “I think it was already dead when it hit the car.” His expression darkened as he examined the crack that had already spread tinier fissures throughout the glass, like a spider slowly spinning its web. 

Holly raised a hand. “Don’t worry, I’m no snitch. If we do ever get home, I won’t breathe a word about this.” 

Steven glared at her. Sometimes, she was pretty sure he wanted to punch her in the face. So far, though, he’d held out. 

“We’ll have to take this to a shop nearby, then walk.” Steven pulled out his phone and started typing. 

Holly looked off into the distance, the beach still a good few miles away. “Walk? But I’ll get a cramp!” 

He didn’t even glance up from the screen. “We have to, unless you just want to sit here and do nothing. That would suit me fine.” 

Holly rested her hip against the side of the car and crossed her arms. “If this wasn’t so random as a dead vulture landing on the windshield, I’d almost believe that you planned this.”

For a moment, Holly thought that Steven hadn’t heard her, but then one corner of his mouth barely twitched up into a smirk. 

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