“Like most bad decisions, it began with drinks,” said The Huygens as she moved to the springtime window.
She traced a pattern on the glass. It rippled and the scene changed to a biergarten in the late afternoon. Women and men, dressed in simple but colorful clothes sat around tables, eating, and drinking.
“Die Nachdenkliche Katze“, she said with a smile, “We all used to sit around, argue and drink.”
L’Horloge’s eyes widened.
“Is that Ambrose Bassot?”
“Yes, a lot of fun until he had too much. Then he got very emotional.”
“The father of advanced mathematics?”
“He had a lot of regrets.”
“All math-related but it was impossible to follow what he said when he was in his cups.”
“Maurice Culillier, the poet, Lilou Gagnuex the painter, Blaise Reinhart, the composer, Petr Yan- “
“Yes, yes,” she interrupted, “I had noteworthy friends but to me they were my drinking companions, and the people I slept with.”
“So, you all…?”
“Most of them. Well, a lot of them.”
“That’s not in the history books.”
“It’s too bad, it would make history a lot more interesting. There’s where it started.”
A younger version of The Huygens placed a small bronze box on the table and opened it. Inside was a metal and wood rectangle. With a flourish, she produced a tiny key inserted it in the object and wound it up. After removing the key, she tapped it and the rectangle unfolded into a small model of an aero-thopter.
With a musical whir, it took to the air and flew around the biergarten, weaving amongst people and steins, executing barrel rolls and loop de loops, finally landing on The Huygens’ open hand where it refolded into its original shape.
Applause and congratulations followed.
“Everyone seems quite impressed.”
Standing at the other end of the table from The Huygens was a large man with a wild shock of black hair, beard sans mustache, and bright blue eyes. He clapped slowly.
“Antonio Portela, or as I called him, Tone.”
“And quite a man,” she said with a growl.
“His treatise, ‘The Importance of Rational Thought’ is still taught at universities,” said L’Horloge attempting to change the subject.
“Well done H, well done,” said Antonio.
“It was a pet name he called me,” said The Huygens.
L’Horloge thought the idea of the great minds of the past using pet names a bit disconcerting so he simply nodded.
The Huygens in the window rolled her eyes at her sometimes lover.
“How have I offended the very nature of the existence today?”
“Metal and wood should not fly like a bird,” he replied.
“Yet, they just did.”
“I did not say could not. They should not.”
“Once again, you are the enemy of progress!”
Antonio tapped the side of his head.
“Improve your thinking, that is true progress.”
“What’s the point thinking for its own sake?”
“Thought can change anything.”
“I’m thinking of hitting you in the head with a stein!”
“Why must you always resort to threats?”
“Not always. Just with you.”
The others all laughed at that. Even Antonio joined in.
“I cannot argue with that.”
“Now that calls for another round!”
A waiter brought them all steins of beer. The Huygens raised her drink and said, “To a heartbeat of peace!”
“To a heartbeat of peace!” toasted everyone.
“In the interest of peace, will you destroy that flying device?” asked Antonio.
“Why would I?”
“Because it could be used for ill intent.”
The Huygens grabbed a knife off the table and pointed it at Antonio.
“This knife could be used to cut a piece of delicious cheese or it could be stabbed into your backside!”
“What will it be?”
“Fortune favors you since I’m more hungry than angry.”
With that, she sliced some cheese and popped it into her mouth.
“So, you admit that in the wrong hands anything could be dangerous?”
The rest of the notables all began to shout for the two of them to either shut up or go back to their rooms.
“You all agree with her?” asked Antonio.
“As far as the rest of us are concerned,” stated Lilou Gagnuex, “We’re on the side of good drink and food with some music if we can get it!”
“Here, here!” added Ludo Moutet, the noted sculptor.
“I surrender!” declared The Huygens.
“As do I! As long as someone gets the next round,” added Antonio.
More drinks arrived, and everyone continued to have a good time laughing, talking, and even singing.
“I don’t understand,” said L’Horloge.
She traced something on the window and now the scene was early evening. The Huygens and Antonio were sitting next to each other.
“This is something you cannot improve,” he said.
“I thought I was doing that right now.”
“By sharing my company with you of course!”
“Very generous of you.”
“I thought so,” she replied and drained her stein.
“Even so, it is valuable because it is finite. Time is the most precious thing.”
“Ugh! You sound like a lovesick poet!”
“Your sparkling company aside, no one can control time.”
“Are you challenging me?” she said with a smile.
“Because I might just do it.”
He stared into her eyes and quietly said, “You are the most intelligent person I’ve ever met but even you can’t bend time to your will.”
“I do love a challenge,” she smirked.
“If you care for me- “
“A lovesick, adolescent poet!”
“I’m not jesting.”
“Since you think it’s beyond even me, you have nothing to worry about.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes. Finish your drink and let me take you home.”
The Huygens tapped the window and it turned back to the springtime view.
“That’s how it started.”
“You made the Penultimate Device because your lover said you couldn’t?”
“Back then, it was very important to be right. All the time.”
“That’s a terrible reason to meddle in the temporal fabric,” whispered L’Horloge.
“As I said, I’m not proud of what I did. There were… repercussions.”
“I’m not going to tell you.”
“He was right. Antonio was absolutely correct. I should’ve never tried. I wish I could stop myself but it’s too late.”
They both stood in silence.
“Couldn’t you use the Penultimate Device to go back and stop yourself?”
She laughed, “That was the first thing I tried when everything went wrong. It just made things worse. Fixing it was almost impossible, but I managed to avert a catastrophe.”
“I’ve read much of the history of that time. There’s no mention of a chrono-disaster.”
“You wouldn’t have. That’s the point.”
“So was I.”