As soon as they were up in the loft and heard the bedroom doors close down below, Ethan whispered. “Okay, I would say you have some serious explaining to do.”
Jill looked hesitant. There were two single beds in the loft and she sat on one and pointed at the other. “First things first. You sleep there or come the morning I’ll be a widow.” She looked like she meant it, and Ethan was in no position to argue. He felt disappointed, but he knew that was not the time for romance, so he sat on his bed and faced her. He gave her a moment to collect her thoughts, but the look that must have appeared on his face prompted a second comment.
“Being married is safer,” Jill said. “Some worlds still have slavery and worse, but marriage is considered sacred in most places. Otherwise, the risk of being separated is too great.”
“Earths. Other Earths,” Jill said, and Ethan reacted.
“But this is fantastic.” He jumped up and spoke too loud. He could not help it. His mind filled up with the possibilities. “I had no idea that Doctor Grimly was on to something so incredible. No wonder he wanted to keep it quiet until he was sure.”
Jill shook her head so Ethan shut his mouth and sat back down despite his excitement. “Doctor Grimly is a brilliant man, but there is a big difference between what he helped me do and what he actually knows.” Ethan raised his eyebrows. “I can’t believe that sweet old man wanted me to disappear right in front of your eyes.” She frowned.
Ethan hardly had to think before he responded. “I imagine he wanted a witness so he would not be accused of doing away with you and stuffing your body down the drain.”
Jill opened her mouth. “I had not thought of that,” she admitted.
“Very lovely, by the way,” Ethan said. “I would hate to see your body wasted down the drain.” He grinned.
Jill’s hand stopped inches from Ethan’s cheek. Ethan expected the slap, but Jill poked her finger on his nose instead. “You can keep those thoughts to yourself,” she said. Ethan was glad to see that she grinned more than frowned. Then Ethan had a sudden insight as things came together in his mind.
“I take it you are not from around here, er, my Earth I mean.”
“No. I am glad you are not stupid.” Jill seemed to feel that was important. “My Earth is a veritable Garden of Eden compared to yours. If I had paper and pencil I could show you the math.”
Ethan cracked open his briefcase and showed her the paper and pens, but immediately closed up the case again. “It wouldn’t do you any good. I’m plain English, remember?”
“Anglish,” Jill corrected him, and genuinely smiled. Then she nodded as if to say that she had come to a decision. “I’ll give you the two-minute version, but then sleep.”
“Fair enough,” Ethan agreed. He reached out to take her hand, to offer his encouragement, and she let him hold her hand for a minute before she pulled back.
“On my Earth, the Greeks invented the steam engine in the ancient time. I understand they did the same in your world, but the difference was in my world, there were some people who understood the implications of the discovery, and it was much earlier by about four hundred years. Within a hundred years of the discovery, there were steam ships in the Aegean. Alexander, the one you call the Great, he not only conquered the Persians; he ran rail lines from Ephesus to Susa, and all the way up the Silk Road to the land of the Ch’in. By the time Christ was born, we had already set foot on the moon, and by the time Mohammed was born, we had faster than light ships and had explored half the galaxy.”
“No.” Ethan breathed his sense of wonder, and it was hardly a breath compared to the storm of awe he was feeling.
“All right. I am exaggerating a little, but you get the idea. Anyway, we lived at your level of technology about two thousand years ago. It was about a thousand years ago that our technology was able to break into parallel earths, what we call the worlds. Doctor Grimly is at least a thousand years ahead of the curve on that technology, and we have had worlds technology for a thousand years beyond that, except I did not tell him enough for him to duplicate the work.”
“But how did you get here, I mean, there? To my Earth, I mean?” Ethan stumbled for the words and Jill looked sympathetic.
“I was stranded. It was an accident.” She shrugged. “It happens sometimes. I was the unfortunate one, but then I was lucky enough to be in a world where I could synthesize the means of escape in one way or another. It was like trying to build a dimensional transfer unit out of paper and string, but it worked.”
“Except I don’t believe these people invented the steam engine in ancient days,” Ethan pointed out. “I take it this is not your home.”
“No.” Jill let out a deep sigh. “Clearly we have not come to my Earth. I calculated a ninety percent chance of that happening, and now we do not have the means that I intended to bring, so we may be stuck here forever. God! Grimly should have known better. We were not ready to make the jump. I did not have my other equipment finished, but I guess he was rattled by you being there. That is a surprise. Nothing usually rattles him.”
“What!” Ethan shouted and stood again. He just caught up with the idea of being stuck there forever. He felt like shouting again, but he stopped his tongue, sat and returned to his quiet voice. “What? I saw you slip that watch thing into your pocket. Isn’t that the control thingy?”
“Wait. Wait. Wait!” Ethan repeated himself over and over, as he fumbled with his briefcase. Desperation made his fingers malfunction, but when he opened the case, he pulled out his laptop. “Will this do?” He asked.
Jill’s smile looked ecstatic. She knocked Ethan to the bed, flung her arms around him and gave him a big kiss, right on the lips.
“Perfect,” she said and pulled her head back, but she did not vacate her position immediately. She seemed to be thinking, which was a good thing because Ethan’s mind temporarily stopped functioning. She apparently made up her mind and kissed Ethan again, and not without some feeling. All too quickly, though, she was up.
“We need some copper wire.” She spoke, but appeared to be thinking out loud. “I need something I can turn into a USB plug.”
“Allow me,” Ethan said. His enthusiasm and sudden surge of adrenaline pushed aside his common sense and he rushed to the staircase and went downstairs before Jill could stop him. He tried not to creak the wooden steps or floorboards more than necessary, but he straightened up when he found that Lars was awake and poking around the kitchen, looking for a little more supper.
“Hungry?” Lars asked quietly and handed out the sausages.
Ethan shook his head, but he saw no reason to hide things. “I need some copper wire.”
Lars looked very curious, but found some copper tubing in a cupboard. He did not have to spell out what the copper tubing was for since the alcohol was mixed thinly with water both before and after dinner.
“I think something more like telegraph wire. I don’t suppose you have anything like that around here.”
Ethan smiled at his own cleverness. “I’ve got to use something to tie the witch to the bedposts.”
Lars stood still for a minute, and then guffawed. “I got rope,” he suggested.
Ethan shook his head. “Copper wire works best. Ropes burn.”
Lars guffawed again and then looked serious. “I thought iron was for witches.”
Ethan grinned again. “Got any iron wire as thin as the copper?” He asked. Lars shook his head. Iron wire was not made like that. “So copper it is.” Ethan sighed and shrugged. “But I guess I’ll just have to do my best without it.” He returned Lars’ slap on the back from earlier that afternoon and hurried back up the stairs to the sound of one more guffaw.
Jill met him at the top of the stairs, and hit him in the arm as hard as she could. “Stupid moron. You are going to get us both in trouble.” She growled at him and went straight for her bed, curled up under the big goose feather quilt and turned her back on him. In a few minutes, Ethan heard her breathing change to the soft, slow breath of sleep. He stayed up for a while, stared at her lovely head and hair, imagined thoughts he should not have been thinking, and tried to rub the pain out of his arm.
Next week: Guardian Angel 3-New Sweden, M, T, & W, published 8AM for a quick morning read to start your day… Don’t miss it.