Zorikh nursed his mug of hot spiced apple cider, refusing to look at Theodora as she devoured her tiramisu. “Rifting always makes me hungry.” She spoke around a mouthful of ladyfingers. “So…” she straightened and looked at him with what a Saxon must have regarded as a very businesslike manner. She appeared to Zorikh as if she were about to demand him for a tenth of every one of his paychecks. “You now know what a Rifter is. You now need to know why.” She patiently took the time to straighten her placemat and silverware before continuing. “Humankind has been Rifting for millennia, since before the people who made these sank to the bottom of the sea with their cities.” she tapped the coat packet in which her Sadja lay. Zorikh suddenly felt his own silver bracelet heavy and cold under his coat. “I assume they made them to study history, to answer questions. It always starts that way doesn’t it? Qwests for knowledge. Yet there are those who used the Sadja to their own ends. It’s not surprising. People are selfish and greedy.” She paused for another forkful of pastry. “If it weren’t for that small truth, there would hardly be any stories worth writing, no movies, and practically no comic books.” She raised her eyebrows at his attempt to say something. She continued. “These privateers usually are harmless. They tend to keep to petty thievery. Unearthing buried treasures or robbing tombs after a burial. Egypt is a favorite target. Yet there are some that seek to change history to suit themselves.”
By this point Zorikh had settled into a pattern of listening to her words, rejecting her claims, and inwardly wincing each time her fork separated another neat morsel from her desert. Every mouthful that she chewed served to drive home to Zorikh that she wasn’t playing around, or crazy, or in any way wrong in what she told him. He cringed when she ordered an apple crisp sundae.
Theodora stared impatiently at her empty plate and scowled ever so slightly. “Now, about changing history,” she said. “this is harder than it sounds. History is resilient, it turns out. People follow natural laws, as do the rest of the world’s creatures. Therefore, small ripples in the way of things do not usually cause ill effects. Yet there are some willing to push events so far askew that action needs to be taken to prevent or correct the offense. Ahhhh!” Her sundae had arrived. She ate happily while Zorikh digested what she had told him.
“So…” Zorikh began slowly, like a bear learning to ride a bicycle, “that’s uh…” he forced himself to say it. “…that’s where we come in.” Theodora’s chocolate fudge smile did little to comfort him. In fact, he felt suddenly lightheaded. “I think I’m going to be sick.” Their waiter, ‘Topher, noticed Zorikh’s unease and glided to their table.
“Are you all right sir? Do you need a bromo or something for your stomach? Tylenol?” ‘Topher asked, orange dredlocks bouncing concernedly.
Theodora motioned for him to stand behind Zorikh. “He’ll be just fine, it’s just his body reacting to his mind’s revelation that time isn’t as linear as he’s been brought up to believe. When he passes out, please keep him from hitting his head.” Zorikh felt the waiter’s hands on his shoulders. They were soft hands, and surprisingly strong. He usually hated touchy-feely guys, but the support comforted him this time; he melted into the back of his chair, allowing ‘Topher to hold him steady. His head swam. The last thing he saw before he blacked out was Theodora’s face, patiently watching him.
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