Cara Constara had a good job. Of course, it wasn’t her dream exactly, that forever remained becoming a world-famous rock star, but it paid well and at least she got to travel.
She was sauntering down the dusty street curb, her shoes clacking on the sidewalk as she let her hand swish at the skirt of her dress. It was a bright day in a new bright year in the brightening city of New York.
Steel sculpted buggy’s, the grandparents of cars, rolled along with horns honking; middle-aged men sat behind their wheels. All grinning like the monopoly man as their vehicles parted the crowds on the street, tipping bowler hats to silk swathed ladies as they passed. The city was an interlacement of life as the world stepped tentatively into the 20th century, as yet unscarred by the Great War to come.
Cara slid through the current of people; men striding, boys dashing and women strolling under the shade of parasols. They moved in a stream, an intersecting system of paths over the cobbled road, but Cara was unperturbed. She stepped to her own beat, waltzing through the crowd to the tune of a song. The music humming in her ear from the air pod hidden behind her treacle curls.
She’d never given time travel that much thought when she was younger, leaving the nerding out over Doctor Who and Star Trek to her younger brothers. She’d never given it much thought until the Agency found her.
No one knew how the Agency found its traversers, only that it was never wrong.
No one knew how many were employed, but Cara’s mind had always leant towards, not many at all. You didn’t need a lot of people to detangle a paradox after all.
Either way, she’d never met anyone else.
They were a service who had dealt so much with myths and mystery that they had become one. At the time for a job, a Traverser would receive a black card with a date, time and place on it. Sometimes they’d also receive a suitcase with the appropriate garments for their travels inside. Then all it took was a simple click of a pen that couldn’t write and you were there, the coordinates always pre-planned. Obscurity was the logic that ran the service; the less you knew about your job, the less chance you had of messing it up.
Cara paused at the street curb, her next job wasn’t until that night. She was humming, tapping her foot to the latest beat playing through her brain. Then, behind her, she didn’t expect what she then heard.
Barely a note behind, an echo.
No, not just an echo. An echo with class.
She turned and saw him. A young man, a violin against his shoulder, playing a song quite literally ahead of its time. His eyes were closed as the music spiralled above the bustle of the streets, swaying to the rock hit as he drew it out as a harmonic melody across the instrument's strings. And all she could do was watch as ‘Killer Queen’ debuted 6 decades early, note for note.
There came a moment of silence when the man looked up to find that Cara had stopped humming; only standing there staring at him. He bunched his shoulders as if he was shrugging off an uncomfortable coat and looked down to the pavement, dropping his bow to his side. Caught out.
Cara looked at him. Clothes powdered with dust and his hair like wheat. He looked like the city dressed in a jacket and cap.
She tapped her foot, nodding her head slightly, holding onto the rhythm through the tumult of life around them. Enraptured by this oddity of time, she parted her lips and let her voice get away with her.
The young man looked up and his bow instinctively moved across the violin’s strings at the sound of the song. A flash of life’s joy sparked in his eyes as they cleared the air of clamour and fuss with music. Cara spoke no lyrics, she’d never had the best memory, but this played no hindrance to the smooth dance of notes.
Once the song had drawn to a close the young man bent down and started packing away the violin in a case resting at his feet. “I’ve played many songs but I’m glad I played that one.”
“It’s a catchy tune,” said Cara, her cheeks had brightened whilst she sang.
“Where’s it from?” the young man asked as he slung a tattered bowler hat onto his head, “I’ve never heard anything like it.”
The first rule of being a traverser; no spoilers.
Cara swayed on her heels and shook her head, focusing on her tightly strapped boots beneath her maroon skirt. “It just popped into my head.”
“The name’s Harvey, Harvey Nodds.” the man held out a hand, slim but firm from playing the violin. “I have a show later tonight. It’s only a dollar for entry.”
“Sorry, I have plans.” Cara’s lips tightened, holding onto the smile. “Bad timing.”
Harvey rubbed his neck, chuckling slightly, “I should’ve guessed. My muses are always fleeting.”
Cara felt warmth flush through her cheeks. This had been a surprise, and such a nice one too; those were rare. Harvey had started to walk, allowing the crowds to carry him away as he waved a faint farewell.
She did only have one job to do, and the nights were long in New York City.
“I’ll keep an ear out for you!” she called over heads, catching sight of his violin case and his grinning reply.
A new song started humming from the air pod in her ear, but she cupped her hand around the tiny device and slid it into her pocket, leaving the sounds of the city to wash over her. Cara shook her head and walked across the street. Above her in the sky the sun grazed against the skyline, the buildings dwarfs to what they’d grow to be.
She had work to do and she doubted the Agency would take excuses.
Twilight soon descended over the city, like a blanket unfurling over the world with a tapestry of stars pricked out on the heavy velvet.
There was something about walking in the night that Cara could never quite describe. It was impossible to feel a chill or sense of lostness as she walked down the illuminated sidewalk of the city, the path less crowded than it was I daylight but twice as lively. She’d never felt lost in the dark as a matter of fact, she was at home; as much a thing of the night as the shadows.
Cara entered a glow-fringed bar, dusty lamps just dull enough to hide its patron's faces. She kept her hand clamped firmly around her handbag as she shifted through the room, past sluggish smiles and laxed hands nursing drinks. Eventually, she mounted a set of steps that led to a higher level of the building that overlooked the bar.
Shadows hanging off her like a cape, Cara allowed her hand to slip into her purse, her blood sent buzzing as her fingers slide across the deadly metal of what hid inside.
Cara knew little of what paradox she was missioned to prevent that night, but the Agency’s methods were always the same. It was safer that way and what needed to happen had already happened.
Beneath her was a stage, the only illuminated stretch of floor in the building. This was one of the easiest jobs she had ever been assigned, all she had to do was wait and enjoy the show until her target waltzed out in front of her.
A silence hummed through the crowd and the room's attention turned to the stage. A heartbeat thrummed in her ears, whether it was her own or her target approaching, Cara didn’t know. Her hand tightened and eased the glistening weapon from her purse, finger curled and poised and steady as it had always been.
She rose the barrel to angle down, gloom shrouding her actions, but at a violins song, sound stopped working.
She couldn’t hear anything, make sense of anything. Their sidewalk duet was the only thing that played to her ears as a bow ran across tight strings. Dread’s ice-cold grip freezing her hand and tightening around her throat.
The foreign song enthused the audience, exciting cries from the crowd as Harvey let the UK hit rollout across the stage. He looked up to the balcony and smiled when he saw her. Cara felt her lips curl listlessly in reply.
A mistake, she’d made a mistake. No, it had been the Agency; hadn’t it?
None of that mattered. Her line of work wasn’t searching for a paradox’s cause, it was solving them.
Cara closed her eyes to the violins harmonies. Suppressing a rising choke, she released her own resounding ring, soon followed by a blood splatted panic.
Cara Constara sat in the shadow-smogged corner of a dusty tavern; 1539, Germany.
An illuminated white light came from her phone, hidden under the table as, with shaky fingers, she deleted ‘Queen’ from her music playlist.
She could never work when listening to music anyway.
A/N - I haven't written that much recently and boy does it show here. I used a prompt that I saw on instagram since this was basically to help me get back in my writing routine.
Anyway, all I ask for is criticism, please, I really need it!