“What are you thinking about?” Samantha asked as she ran her fingers through Tim’s hair.
“Nothing pressing,” Tim replied, his eyes locking onto hers. “Why do you ask?”
“You seemed distant for a second, that’s all,” she replied, leaning down to kiss him gently on the tip of his nose. “I just wanted to make sute you were okay.”
“I’ve never been better,” Tim said, feeling an itch on his cheek. “Would you be a dear and scratch my right cheek, just below the eye?”
Samantha smiled, lifting herself onto her elbow as she gently used her fingernail to scratch him. She smiled as he let out a sigh of relief.
“Is that better?” she asked him, teasing him by biting his lower lip.
“Yes, it really is. You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to scratch one’s nose with your wrists bound like this,” Tim replied, tugging on the restraints.
“I’m pretty sure I can imagine,” Samantha said, reaching up and pulling the velcro strap free on his left hand.
“Already?” he protested, “But we hadn’t even gotten to the good part yet.”
“We have work to do,” Samantha said with a wink as she pushed herself off the bed and grabbed her neatly folded clothes from the nearby chair. “Get dressed and I’ll see you in my office.”
Tim undid the other three restraints and grumbled to himself as he threw his legs over the side of the bed. There were so many better things for him to do, and none of them involved work unless of course you counted Samantha. He pulled on his pants and buttoned his shirt before approaching the door to their secret getaway. With a sigh he3 pushed through the door into the hallway of the brightly lit office. He squinted against the assault and cringed at the sight of other people.
“Morning, Tim,” Billy said as he passed him. “Jesus, you look like you’ve seen better days. Rough night on the Verified Project?”
“Yeah,” tim muttered with a nod as he turned down the hall for the break room. He would need coffee in mass quantities if he was going to be expected to perform his duties for the day.
“Lucky prick,” her heard Billy mutter as he walked away.
Tim retrieved two cups of coffee, one for himself and one for Samantha, and proceeded to the elevators to head for the top floor. He boarded the elevator taking a haul off his coffee that would have made most people cringe. The near scalding liquid hurt like hell, but he felt an overwhelming desire to drink all of it before he reached the top floor.
With the pleasantly pretentious voice he expected, the elevator informed him that he had arrived on the top floor as the doors opened revealing his desk as well as Samantha’s. The only two desks on the whole floor, surrounded by glass and whiteboards that allowed them to concentrate entirely on the task at hand.
“You look like hell,” Samantha said as she looked up and saw the bags under his eyes.
“The temporal shift is still a little rough. I don’t know how you deal with it,” Tim said.
“I’ve been dealing with it for a long time,” Samantha said with a shrug as she took a sip of her coffee. “Nearly four hundred years will get you used to almost anything.”
“Four hundred?” Tim asked, not sure if he should believe her.
“Temporal shifts,” Samantha said with a shrug. “I don’t choose the side effects, but I can’t complain. I’ve reached the top of the company, and become the best in the world in our field. No one can do what I do as well as me.”
“That’s a nice way to stay humble,” Tim teased as he pulled up his chair across from her.
“What? You’ll be here with me soon enough,” she said with a smile.
“Can I ask you a question?” Tim said as he tapped the spacebar on the keyboard to wake the computer.
“Sure,” Samantha replied, leaning back in her chair. “Though I can tell you, if I get rougher in there you might die. You definitely like it to hurt.”
“That’s not what I was going to ask,” Tim said shaking his head.
“Oh, what’s on your mind?” she asked leanign forward, concern written on her face.
“Why me?” Tim asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Why did you choose to bring me in there? What was so special about me?” Tim asked. “I know there are still plenty of people in the company that are better at their job than me. Why would you bring me into the shift with you?”
“I thought that was obvious,” Samantha replied. “You’re better than you think, and humility is one quality that cannot be trained. You either have it or you don’t.”
“Can I ask another?” Tim asked.
“How did you find it?” Tim asked.
“The first CEO of the company, David Rebawn created it, actually,” Samantha replied. “Purely on accident. I was only an entry level designer the day it sprang into existence. I was walking down the hall and was pulled inside.”
“I didn’t think it worked that way,” Tim said.
“It doesn’t anymore. I had to change some things about it to make it work the way it currently does,” Samantha said. “Mr. Rebawn entered the shift a year or so after I was in there, though it had been only a few seconds on the outside. He was convinced that he could bring me back, but ultimately overestimated his abilities.”
“What does that mean?” Tim asked.
“The rift tore him apart when he tried to stop the maelstrom from being what it was, though he did get close,” Samantha said.
“So, has it been four hundred years inside the shift, or outside?” Tim asked, wanting to change the subject.
“Oh, it’s been much longer inside the rift. Apparently, because I spent so much time in there, my body has essentially stopped aging. It’s not a bad side effect, right?”