The clothesline in the clearing looks exactly as Farley said it would. Farley is Farley Friday, my boss at The Agency. He sent me a message that said, Chronos is at his hideout outside the southern village of Tarleton, Other Portland, Universe 3268. One of our operatives has been watching the saltbox. He says there’s one pair of jeans hanging on the clothesline, along with a blue and white pinstriped man’s shirt and a blue and black plaid flannel shirt. That’s how we know he’s in there. You must be cautious in your approach, Agent 64! But remember, we’re counting on you to bring Time in, and a reminder, we want him alive. You only need to subdue him. You have your instructions.
Yes, Farley, i think, i have my instructions. I can’t help but roll my eyes. Farley has been with the Agency for ages. Every time someone asks him how many years, he has a different answer. I don’t think anyone knows for sure.. even Venus. She’s officially his boss. As far as i know, it’s been thirty years. That would make him about seventy, but Farley doesn’t look anywhere near that. The Agency typically doesn’t hire people to be top flight operatives unless they’re at least forty. It sounds discriminatory, but they like for us to have at least fifteen years previous similar experience. I’m thirty four and have worked for Farley for four years. They made a bit of an exception for me because i worked for Apollo for five years. I left that position because he and i had kind of a thing, and that’s a no-no. I think he should have been the one to resign from the position, but you know, he’s Apollo, after all. What was i going to do?
Wait, there’s someone walking from the house out to the yard, toward the clothesline. It’s a woman. I think it’s Lena, the oldest of the three Sister Fates! What’s she doing here?! She isn’t part of the plan! Well, she’s involved now, so my plan and Farley’s instructions won’t work.
I reach into my knapsack for the little black box containing the Thirty Seventh Carnelian ring. It’s how i communicate with Farley when i’m on assignments. I slip the gold ring on my right middle finger and twirl it twice. Farley! Come in, Farley! Farley, do you read?
Yes, i’m here, Paulette! But you forgot to say, over. You need to say over when you contact me.
I roll my eyes again. Yep. I’m talking to Farley. He’s a stickler about the little things. I say, Farley, i see Lena. She’s here! What should i do? I wasn’t expecting her. Do you think Chronos is inside? Over! Farley, are you still there? Over! I tap my ring a couple of times and twirl it again, but Farley is no longer on the line. I move closer to the house and behind another big tree. The maples are enormous in this Universe, and they’re in full leaf. It’s July here, at least as far as i know. It could also be October. This is why it’s so important that i capture Time and bring him home to Regular Portland. I have to focus on what to do now.
What is Lena doing? Wait.. she’s replaced the blue and white pin striped shirt with a bright purple velvet gown! Yes! That’s Lena all right. Why is Fate here at one of Time’s hideouts? Oh no! She sees me! I can’t think what else to do, so i turn and run. It’s a good thing my knapsack isn’t heavy. I can’t drop or lose it.
I look over my shoulder and see Lena running after me. She’s getting closer. Wow, she’s fast, considering her old age. She’s been around forever. She’s waving her arms at me…
Paulette! Stop! Why are you running? I know Farley sent you here. You can’t run from Fate! You’re going to fall!
And i think to myself as i try to run faster.. Lena sure is loud too. There’s that yell everyone talks about.
Well, she’s right about one thing. I trip over a huge maple branch within thirty seconds. I try to get up, but i can’t. I’m flat on my face, and Lena is standing over me. I roll over and look up into her eyes. I’ve never been face to face with her before.
She kneels, smiles at me, and holds my right hand. She taps the carnelian and twirls it twice. She says, close your eyes, Paulette.
I think, it’s not as if i can say no to Fate. So i close my eyes. Where are you sending me, Lena?
I’m sending you back to Apollo, but this time, he’ll work for you. You two have an important job to do…