Here, the first two chapters, so you get an idea of what's going on.
#nearfuture #timetravel #interracial
1. NOTHING WRONG WITH PUNCHES
AURORA CITY, NOVEL CALIFORNIA
CLEPSYDRA PROJECT, BUILDING G
“I don’t know why they had to bring him back.”
“’Cause Singh’s the best.”
“Fuck you, Jagger. I am the best. That idiot forfeited the title when he quitted four years ago.”
“Oh, boohoo. Spare me your whining, Fondant. I still don’t understand why you hate your ex-partner so much.”
“I have my reasons.”
“Well, you gonna have to swallow your reasons ’cause the president specifically asked for him to return.”
“I’m pretty sure there was a lot of money and cock-sucking involved…”
Quinn Fondant knew this to be more than BS since it was precisely due to Veer Singh’s religious beliefs that their whole partnership (and whatever that partnership was becoming) had gone to the frigging toilet.
They were watching Veer talk to Ramsey, their team leader, through a two-way mirror. In any other facility this would have been a place for questioning suspects, but in Clepsydra Project it was just a way for team members to learn about their co-workers unobtrusively. Team Aegis was a six-member unit even though they were partnered in pairs. Unluckily for Quinn, his partner, Len Faludi, had died in a car accident the previous month, leaving the team incomplete.
“We all know you’re a perv and resolve everything with sex, but don’t put your methods on other people,” Jagger huffed, annoyed. He inserted a finger into the collar of his ill-fitting shirt and pulled as if the thing was strangling him.
Quinn’s demeanor was all a facade. It was his way of keeping his team at bay regarding his private life. If they thought he was a pervert they wouldn’t try to fraternize with him and thus leave him alone to nurse his aggravated heart. Being part gypsy helped a lot since, in Aurora, many of his quote unquote cousins had amassed great fortunes catering to the darkest pleasures of their fellow citizens. Although, he was the odd man out since his mother’s people looked at his fair hair (a gift from his Frenchy father) askance.
“You got that one right.”
“Huh?” Jagger looked at him perplexedly for a second (a half movement away from scratching his head) and hissed, “Fucking queen of non sequitur.”
For him it was a joke that every time his teammates wanted to make him feel special they used queen instead of Quinn. “At least I am not a size queen, like you, hotshot.”
“There’s nothing wrong with loving big boobs.” Jagger was a big guy, six-foot-two and brawny; known for his lack of fashion sense, his persistence in keeping those few sparse hairs on his head, and his love of petite women with giant chi chis.
A total wiener but good at his job.
Quinn chuckled, making a gesture like squashing massive breasts. “Sure, especially when you put them together and they look like a hunk’s ass.”
Jagger rolled his eyes. “We need to pay attention to their conversation.”
Inside the not-interrogation room, Veer laughed at something Ramsey said. Blinding white teeth and a complexion so fair (what was that they called it in India, wheatish?) that he didn’t exactly look Hindu. His dark hair was still thick and frigging wonderful, although a bit shorter than the last time they had seen each other. And that little, almost pencil thin mustache paired with the hair neatly trimmed on his chin was pissing Quinn off, triggering all kinds of things he shouldn’t be thinking of.
“For shits and giggles? It’s not like we don’t know him already,” Quinn growled at Jagger. The big man had joined the team a year before Veer abandoned them.
Before Jagger could come up with a suitable response, Veer and Ramsey stood up and shook hands.
“Thank God they’ve finished. Five more minutes around you, and I’d have punched you in the face,” Jagger murmured under his breath.
“And the crowd roars. Ahhhhh, ’cause you don’t have Hollander and Russo to cower behind… ahhhhh.” Quinn had his hands around his mouth, making the far away noises of an agitated mob at a baseball game.
He was the one with a punch (or three) reserved for Veer Singh.
2. THE DELICATE BALANCE
Same long, blond hair, same lean, muscular body, same mesmerizing, gypsy eyes. Quinn Fondant hadn’t changed much since the last time Veer had laid eyes on him. The permanent scowl on his face was new, though.
Four long years.
“Well, boys, you know Veer Singh, so introductions are unnecessary,” Ramsey commented in his crisp tone. He looked at his watch. “Russo and Hollander are about to return. Let’s go to the time chamber.”
Veer shook Jagger’s hand. The tallest of their team gave him a warm smile.
“Can I talk to you for a sec, Ramsey?” Quinn asked, giving his back to Veer as Veer moved to shake his hand.
“We’re talking.” Ramsey arched an eyebrow but didn’t stop walking. Building C wasn’t that close.
“It’d be in the best interest of Team Aegis if you partner Mr. Singh with one of the other guys.”
“And why would I do that? You’re the one without your other half.”
The growl that came out of Quinn was one Veer knew well.
“Yeah, that answers my question.” Ramsey didn’t even look at Quinn. “I’m not going to disrupt the delicate balance of each pair just because you feel whiney today, Fondant. Besides you were partners with Singh before, you can pick it up where you left it.”
“Let’s be professionals.” Veer offered his hand again as they entered the elevator. This time Quinn could not avoid it without being blatantly rude.
The murderous look Quinn gave Veer as they shook hands would have made any other man shake. The only thing it did to Veer was make his resolution to go through this ordeal firmer.
I can do this. I know I can do it.
The creepy background music felt like the soundtrack of Veer’s partnership with Quinn. One part Carmina Burana, two parts Phantom of the Opera, two pinches of A Nightmare on Elm Street and a hot lot of Gladiators Gone Wild.
Metal doors slid open with a soft whoosh, and Quinn hurried as far as he could from Veer without separating from the group. Veer sighed inwardly. They walked through the crowded lobby, people moving fast in all directions, an organized chaos— completely different from the one inside Veer. Still in silence, they crossed the tall glass entrance into a sunny morning. It should have been a starless night full of gray storm clouds for the way they mutely moved toward the building where the most treasured jewels of the government changed the course of history.
All seven buildings (from A to G) looked like the headquarters of any corporate business, but unlike most reflective glass towers, these were not just heavily armoured but could withstand an actual nuclear explosion once their doors were closed. They were in the middle of the city, and this was not a military complex, but the powerful weapons and shields protecting those jewels were so subtle regular citizens had no clue of what was happening in it.
Fingerprints and retina scanners acknowledged their identities, and they boarded another elevator inside Building C. The three time machines were on the seventeenth floor. One minute into the four-minute ascension, Jagger asked, “So Singh, what have you been up to?”
“Worked with Mossad as a consultant for two years, then went back to Punjab to help my grandfather manage some business.”
“Your grandfather the Maharaja!?” There was a bit of fangirl tone in Jagger’s question.
“Yep,” Veer said.
The doors opened with a ding.
“You’ll know all about Singh’s princely adventures as soon as we finish our meeting,” Ramsey offered casually as they were fingerprint and retina checked once more outside the middle time chamber, Octo. The other two, Septem and Novem had their exterior red lights on.
Quinn snorted again.
Guards in Kevlar body suits nodded at them somberly.
“Do you have a problem, Fondant?” Veer poured all the things tormenting him into his aggressive tone.
“No. Do you?”
They were nose to nose, eyes narrowed, fists closed, and chests puffed.
“Hey, you two, stop it.” Ramsey pushed them apart. “I have no doubt that Fondant might have a boner for you, Singh, but I know your religion forbids extramarital sex. So unless you two gonna hitch it, fucking cut it out. I don’t have time for BS.” He pushed a thick finger into Quinn’s forehead. “Behave. The rumors that Faludi’s death wasn’t an accident but a suicide will not help you if Singh issues a complaint. Capish?”
The people inside the chamber, which was a vast circular space covered in computers and monitors and all kinds of giant gadgets, had been looking at them as if they were ready to place bets. As soon as Quinn and Veer separated, there was some sort of collective telepathic “Boooh” within the chamber.
An alarm went off, and, thirty seconds later, the time capsule’s titanium door slid upward, expelling hisses and fumes. Russo, naked, covered in sweat, with his reddish hair plastered to his forehead, stood up from his squatted position and staggered out; the door closed behind him with a bang. An assistant put a robe over him and gave him a bottle full of rehydrating liquid. He was somewhat thinner than how Veer remembered him but looked fine.
Two minutes later, Hollander was puking all over the entrance of the time capsule as he crawled out. Veer was surprised by the two massive red dragon tattoos covering Hollander’s arms. Those were new.
“I told you not to eat that effing lamb!” Russo yelled from where he sat like a prize fighter between rounds, and the assistant massaging his shoulders reinforced that image.
“Oh, shut up.” Hollander cleaned the dribble on his mouth with the back of his hand as another assistant helped him to walk toward Russo.
Team Aegis was back together.