Posted on: 2010-05-13The vroom of his motorcycle echoed through the night. He turned around to catch a glimpse of his beloved on the seat behind him and felt her tighten her grip around his waist. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this," she shouted above the roar.
"Now, dearest, don't fret. We'll arrive at your base shortly. Your mother and father will, no doubt, pounce upon us as soon as we pull into the bay. Now, hang on; I intend to set a new space speed record." He revved the engine of his Gravitational Cosmic Velocipede and zoomed off into the darkness of the enclosed motorways.
It took only a few minutes for Darcy to cross the pocked surface and reach their destination. As predicted, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet waited at the small porthole window, anxious and eager for the safe arrival of their daughter. As patiently as possible, they passed the minutes before the young couple, newly relieved of their protective helmets and travel suits, entered the vestibule. Once the two walked into the room, Mrs. Bennet did indeed pounce on her daughter. "Oh, Lizzy," she wailed, "My nerves; I've been so worried. As we all know, to travel in The Dark is beyond dangerous."
"Mamma, I'm perfectly well," Elizabeth answered while gently pulling away from her mother's embrace. "I couldn't have been safer with anyone. Will's the best driver in the universe, and you know it."
With a sniffle, Mrs. Bennet turned to look at the imposing young man. "Well, I suppose that's true. He does have an excellent reputation for ..."
"Welcome, Lizzy," Mr. Bennet interrupted, feeling that he'd been excluded from the conversation for long enough. He smiled warmly at his daughter, then reached out to draw her into his arms. Releasing her, he asked, "After your journey, won't you and Will come join me for a nightcap?"
Elizabeth glanced at her fiancι and, upon seeing his slight nod, agreed. "What special surprise do you have for us, Papa? Mars-bloomed whiskey? Jupiterian-aged brandy? Or, will you treat us to your special store of Moonberry cordial?"
"Come and discover for yourself." As he led the way, he called over his shoulder to his wife, "We have some business to discuss."
"Why, I'll be along directly to join you and "
"No, this is a private matter between Will and me."
Her hands flew to her hips as she struck a defensive pose, "What about Miss Lizzy, then? Come, girl; you can help me finish replicating dinner."
Rolling her eyes, Elizabeth agreed. She leaned in, gave Will a quick kiss, and whispered in his ear, lowered to her mouth, that she'd join him as soon as she could. He let out a sigh of disappointment and nodded his agreement.
"Come, come, we haven't all night, you know." Mrs. Bennet bustled into her sleek and shiny kitchen. "Did I tell you tell you that I have a new replicator? It's said to be the fastest available. It provides the widest selection of meal options and arrived just a few hours ago." She walked to the far side of the room and stood at the appliance's side. "Here it is," she motioned toward it. Isn't it beautiful?"
Elizabeth nodded, at a loss for words. The item in question was a large, ungainly box created in one of the new, designer metals that cast off a purplish glow, with a touch screen replete with buttons in a variety of colors and shapes. "It's, um, it's lovely."
"Yes, it is, isn't it? What can I get you, Lizzy dear? A cup of tea or a Mercurian malt? Oh, I know, this button will provide the most delicious star tarts. Here, let me get you one." She leaned in and pushed the button, and as she did, a flash of light filled the room.
From a few feet away, shielding her eyes from the brightness, Elizabeth called out, "Mamma? Is that supposed to happen?"
She received no reply. Slowly, he arm still in front of her face, she opened her eyes. "Mamma? MAMMA? Where are you?" Frantically, she moved to the side of the machine, the light having returned to normal, but could find no trace of her mother. Without delay, she ran to her father's study and quickly explained what had occurred.
Her father smiled indulgently. "Are you certain, my dear; are you absolutely certain that your mother isn't playing a prank on you? You know how she loves to make people worry about her."
Elizabeth shook her head. "If she could pull this off, I'd like to know how. I stood between her and the door; no way could she get around me without my knowing about it. No, something, something happened that shouldn't have."
Darcy could wait no longer and pushed past the other two to go investigate. He entered the kitchen and looked around, taking in the layout of the room. Elizabeth had come up behind him and rested her hand on his arm. "Where did this happen?" he asked without looking at her.
She waved her hand in the direction of the replicator. "Over there. Mamma intended to call up something for me to eat and, poof, she disappeared." She lifted the back of her hand to her lips in an effort to calm herself. "Do you do you think she's all right?"
"I'm sure she is," Darcy smiled down at her, noting that her father had joined them. "If you don't mind, I'll have a look around."
Mr. Bennet nodded, "Please do."
Striding directly to the contraption, Darcy looked at it carefully. "You say this is a replicator?"
"Yes, Mamma said it arrived earlier today." Elizabeth turned to her father, "Did she synthesize anything with it before we arrived?"
Her father shrugged. "I have no idea. Nothing for me."
Darcy dropped to his knees to better inspect the controls, reading the functions written upon each. Suddenly, he sucked in a breath. "Oh, no!"
Elizabeth flew across the room. "What? What is it? What did you find?"
Getting to his feet and brushing off the legs of his jumpsuit, Darcy faced her, placing a hand on each of her arms. He looked over her head at her father. "Sir, where did you buy this?"
Again, he shrugged. "I'm not sure. Fanny ordered it when she was out shopping one day. She didn't say where. Aren't there any papers or instructions or anything over there?"
Darcy looked around, but found nothing. He opened the cabinets and then the drawers on either side of the gadget, but discovered little, except for the expected Reware dishes and glasses.
"Will, tell us what you think," Lizzy prodded.
He tilted his head, drawing his lips to the side. "I'm not quite sure what to believe, but I don't think this is a replicator."
"No? Then what is it?"
"I " He paused and drew in a deep breath. "I think this is a time machine."
Elizabeth grabbed onto him to steady herself, then whispered, unbelievingly, "A time machine?
He nodded, and noticing Mr. Bennet turning pale, he took Elizabeth by the hand and hurried to the man's side. "Are you okay, sir? Can I get you anything, a chair, a glass of water, anything?"
The older man shook his head. "Is it possible?"
"I'm afraid, sir, that Mrs. Bennet may have bought this from a space vendor. They're known for being devious, and for the enjoyment they take in duping people. They're here one minute and on Neptune the next."
With a mournful wail, Elizabeth cried out, "What can we do? Should we call the authorities?"
"I've worked with time machines before; why don't you let me see what I figure out."
Father and daughter nodded in unison. "Very well, son, but do be careful."
"I will," Darcy said, smiling at the love of his life, "I promise you." Returning to the machine, Darcy pressed the button he believed would take him to the same location to which it had taken Mrs. Bennet. Again, the room filled with a blaze of light, blinding the two who remained behind. When it dimmed, they moved closer, finding no trace of the young man.
"Oh, Papa, what shall we do? What if they never return?"
He drew his daughter into an embrace, patting her back. "There, there, Lizzy; your young man will find your mother and bring her back, safe and sound. I have no doubts on the matter."
Darcy felt himself tumble and swirl in the clouded ether. He pulled his arms tightly about him, in the hope that he'd survive this adventure with breaking any bones. The plummet through time seemed interminable, but at last, he landed in a heap on a soggy clump of something green. Standing up and brushing himself off, trying to gain some sense of balance, he slowly turned around, viewing his surrounding. The images before him reminded him of pictures he'd seen on his history tablets in school. Green expanses spread before him and tall objects popped out of the ground. He drew in a breath and, in an effort to control his wildly flailing emotions, spoke out loud. "This must be Earth, and these must be oh, snurbit, what were they called?" Slowly, he began walking toward a small building in the distance, when he remembered, "Trees and grass, yes, that's it."
In a few minutes, he arrived at the portal and knocked. A kindly looking young woman answered, and he watched as her jaw dropped. He looked down at his attire then up at hers. He had not only crossed planets, but he had gone back in time. His blue skintight seemed an odd contrast to the girl's long, flowing gown. He stood dumbstruck.
The woman, her concern growing, asked, "May I help you, sir?" She pulled away from the door, readying to close it in the face of the unusual personage standing before her should he demonstrate any threat.
"Forgive me for showing up on your pad apron in," he again glanced down at his clothing, "such inappropriate dress. I'm afraid I hadn't planned to come this way."
"I beg your pardon? How does one arrive at our cottage in Devonshire without intending to?" She tipped her head in question.
"It's a long story. I I may I ask you a question?" She nodded. "Have you by any chance seen a woman in a similar outfit to mine around here?"
Here eyes grew wide. "A woman wearing that?"
"As I said, it's a long story."
"Elinor? Who was at the door?" An older woman came up behind the younger one and, placing a hand on her shoulder, looked out to see the man in the odd garments. Shaking herself and moving to stand in front of her daughter, she addressed the man. "I am Mrs. Dashwood, and this," she finally managed to get a good look at him and swallowed hard, "this is my eldest daughter."
Darcy nodded his greeting.
"And, if I may ask, you are?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Will Darcy."
"What may we do for you Mr. Darcy? It is most unusual for us to receive callers not of our immediate acquaintance."
"I'm sorry for interrupting you, but I was looking for a woman, about your age. She'd have been dressed similarly to me."
Mrs. Dashwood looked him up and down, a frown upon her lips.
"I realize that I'm dressed most unusually for your time, but, and I don't mean to frighten you, I come not only from another time, but another place."
Quickly stepping back, Mrs. Dashwood pushed her daughter further behind her and began to close the door. Will quickly slid his foot between it and the jamb. "Please, you must believe me. I mean you no harm."
The woman's face clearly showed all the thoughts that skittered through her mind. She looked at him again; easily assessing that he hid no weapons upon his person, for there were no pockets or other contrivances in which to disguise them. She again stepped back, this time motioning for the person before her to enter.
"I thank you, Mrs. Dashwood. I promise, I mean you no harm. I'm merely looking for my soon-to-be mother-in-law. We had a an an accident earlier, and she seems to have wandered off."
"I am sorry to hear that. I pray she was not harmed." Will shook his head. "What makes you think she might be in this locale? Do you live in the vicinity?" They moved into the small parlor, and she motioned for him to take a seat.
"No, we live remarkably far away," he answered as he eased into the chair. "I'd be happy to explain the particulars to you, but they're rather rather involved. I'd prefer not waste time when I could be searching for Mrs. Bennet."
"Mrs. Bennet?" She clutched at her breast.
"Oh, you tease me, sir. Your costume is part of a game, perhaps a theatrical, is it not?"
Darcy cocked his head in confusion. "I'm afraid I don't understand."
"Mrs. Bennet lives but down the road. You obviously came to the wrong cottage. The roads in Devonshire can be rather confusing, I admit. Come, I will gladly direct you to her."
"Pardon me, she lives down the road?"
"Yes, of course." She smiled at him. "May I ask, sir, which of her daughters you intend to marry?"
Thoroughly confused, he blurted out Elizabeth's name without a thought.
"Oh, she is a delightful girl. I congratulate you on your choice. Of course, all the Bennet girls are lovely in their own way."
He stood more confused than before, and murmured his agreement, thinking it for the best. "Well, I should be on my way. If you'll excuse me?"
In turn, she stood. "Wait, you cannot go out like that, I beg you. You have no idea what schemes some might endeavor if they spied you attired as such. Please, allow me to ask my servant to provide you with something more appropriate."
Will, having few options, acquiesced. It did not take long before he was on his way. In his new, far less comfortable garments, he approached another small cottage set high above a lake. He sucked in a breath and knocked.
"Coming, I am coming. Oh, where is Hill? My nerves will be the end of me." The door opened and facing him stood Mrs. Bennet, wearing an old-fashioned dress covered with a multitude of lace. She looked up and seeing who stood before her, she shrieked, "Oh, Will, it is so good of you to visit."
"Come in, come in; let me ring for some tea."
Darcy didn't move. In a cool and controlled voice, he asked, "Mrs. Bennet, would you care to explain what's going on?"
"Oh, do come in. People around here are so nosy. Come in, have a cup of tea, and I'll explain it all." She bustled toward the fire. "Oh, first, let me send the girls out. I don't want them to know anything about this um you." She left Darcy standing in the hallway while she moved to the parlor door. "Mr. Bingley," she called out, "may I ask a favor?"
Darcy heard the man's reply. "Without a doubt, ma'am. What may I do for you?"
"Would you be so kind as to take the girls down to the lake? I fear they've been cooped up in the house for far too long and some fresh air would do them all a world of good."
"It would be my pleasure; I assure you."
"Do go out that way," Mrs. Bennet gestured.
Darcy heard a scuffle of feet as everyone rose and exited the room.
Mrs. Bennet soon joined him and, without delay, led him down the hallway into a small library. After following him in, she closed the door behind them and leaned against it as if for support. "Mr. Darcy," she breathed. "What are you doing here?"
"The bigger question is what are you doing here."
"Well, it is complicated."
"Is it?" He raised his eyebrow in challenge.
"Yes," she drew out the word.
"Why don't you explain from the beginning?"
And so she did. When she reached the end, the beginning from Darcy's point of view, he sat in stunned silence.
"Mr. Darcy Will do say something," the woman prompted.
Shaking himself, he turned to her. "I'm afraid I don't know what to say. I may never know what to say." Again, he fell into a thoughtful silence before rousing himself. "You orchestrated the whole thing with the replicator, I mean, time machine?"
"You have a whole other family here, in this time and place?"
Shyly, she whispered, "I do."
"You've been time traveling for all these years and cheating on your husband and family back home?"
She shrugged. "Yes, I imagine you could put it that way."
"But but why?"
"It's hard to make someone like you understand, but I felt as if I belonged here. Of course, I could not leave my family above, so I, well, time-shared my families. My husband here is quite understanding, and the one at home equally so."
"But that's bigamy!"
"Wait, let me introduce you to my husband." She rose and quickly exited the room, returning a few moments later with a gray-haired may in tow."
"Mr. Bennet, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Darcy. He's a friend of Elizabeth's."
The older man approached the younger one. "Pleased to meet you, sir. How do you know my Lizzy?"
Darcy gulped, his eyes nearly bulging out of his head. The man who stood before him was the spitting image of the Mr. Bennet he'd left behind. That their children seemed to have similar names stunned him further. Able to stammer out little more than a "my pleasure," Darcy gaped.
"Do sit down." Mr. Bennet motioned to a chair near the window.
Darcy followed his instruction. Lifting his eyes to take in the view as he ordered his thoughts, he gasped, for running across the lawn, he saw Elizabeth, his Elizabeth, the one he'd left at home with her father, but this one wore a dress that reached to her ankles, rather than a form-fitting jumpsuit. Shaking his head, attempting to clear from his mind the figments he saw before him, he sputtered, "How? Why?"
"There, there, young man, you have taken a bit of a turn. Sit back and close your eyes. I shall have Mrs. Bennet call for some tea."
"No," he shouted, jumping to his feet. "Tell me; tell me how this can be?"
"Oh, Will," moaned Mrs. Bennet, "it began long ago. The girls were small, and I was beyond weary of the demands of the children and the household and all that went with them. One day, I told Thomas that I needed a change. Well, to make a long story short, after some time, he came up with this idea. He replicated himself and the girls and transported them, and me, here. It is a much less complicated time. I like not having to worry about my daughters dashing here and there all over the universe. When I am here, life is much simpler. I have servants to deal with the things I dislike, and my biggest worry is finding good, stable husbands for my girls. When I find myself growing tired of it all, I zap myself back to the moon and spend time with my family there."
"But but if you've been doing this for years, why today, with Elizabeth there? What? How?" He dropped back into the chair and lowered his head into his hands. "My poor Elizabeth."
"Do calm yourself, sir," said the replicated Mr. Bennet. "I will not have you upsetting my wife."
Mrs. Bennet chimed in, "It was an accident, truly an accident. The Time Transporter 1260 arrived this morning. It serves not only as a time machine, but as a replicator and waste vaporizer. It is meant to serve as a space and energy saver. By the time you and Lizzy arrived, I had not had time to read all the instructions. First thing, I made sure I knew how to set coordinates and immediately programmed in my destination, but I didn't get much further than that. I did think I knew which buttons to push for simple snacks, but," she shrugged, "I guess, I did not."
Will sat still for a moment, allowing his mind to process all he'd heard. Time travel wasn't a new means of transportation; it'd been around for centuries and had evolved, leaps and bounds, from the early versions which often moved only a portion of a creature from place to place, leaving the remainder behind for later rejoining, which didn't always work. Most people, however, used the devices for quick and easy movement around the planetary systems for work and pleasure. He'd never heard of anyone creating two identical families in different times and locations.
"You say that Mr. Bennet the one I know is aware of," he motioned to the couple and out the window at the rest of their family, "this?"
She bobbed her head.
"And what of Elizabeth, my Elizabeth, and her sisters, do they know?"
Mrs. Bennet smiled, "Well, no. I think some of them wonder about my frequent absences. They do not seem to believe my story about working as an intergalactic healer in the outer systems, but none of them have ever seriously questioned me."
"What should I tell them at home?"
"Oh, that, as usual, I shall return in a few days. I never remain here longer than a week, do I Mr. Bennet?"
"Rarely," answered her husband.
"Of course, add that I am well, but busy." She paused, seeming uneasy. "Do you know your way back, Will?"
"I'm not sure I know anything at the moment, but I think I'll manage."
"May I bring you some tea or a bit of something to eat before you leave?"
"Ah, no, thanks. I think I'd best be going. I should stop on the way and return these clothes," he tugged at the lapels of the jacket, "to Mrs. Dashwood."
"Mrs. Dashwood?" asked Mr. Bennet, her eyes growing wide.
"Yes, I stopped there first, and she kindly helped me find you and lent me these to cover my skintight."
"Oh, dablurt. I hope she will not gossip about you and your connection to us," cried Mrs. Bennet. "That could ruin the girls' reputations."
Darcy rolled his eyes. "I believe I'm more interested in the well-being of your other set of daughters." He took pity on her and decided to inform her of how Mrs. Dashwood had found him attired. "She assumed that I dressed to participate in a play or the like, so I doubt you'll have too much trouble. Now, if you'll excuse me, I fully intend to return to the moon and calm your family there." He let out a disgusted breath. "I'd really like to know one day what you were thinking with all of this."
Darcy didn't wait for an answer. He rose and barged out into the daylight. With purposeful strides, he returned to the Dashwoods to thank them for their assistance and return the clothing he'd borrowed from their manservant. That task completed, he headed back toward where he'd first landed, only to realize that he had no means of return. In all the upset, he hadn't remembered to take a portable unit with him. He cursed himself for his stupidity. He now had no choice but to return to the Bennets. Surely, if Mrs. Bennet frequently moved from temporal period to temporal period, she'd be able to assist him.
He began the trek back to the cottage as evening descended. Fearing the deathly chill of the moon's Dark, he hastened his steps, cautious that no one see him in his anachronistic clothing. Not wishing to disturb the family within, he walked around the house, until he found the window of the library. He tapped on it to draw Mr. Bennet's attention. Instantly, the man rose and opened the tall window, providing the younger man entry. "I did not expect to see you again, at least not so soon."
Darcy explained his dilemma. Mr. Bennet, not familiar with his wife's time movement contraption, poured the younger man a stiff drink and headed off to find his spouse. He did not return immediately, but when he did, he appeared with his wife, who carried a plate of food. She placed it on the table next to Will. "I am sorry it took so long, but Hill announced dinner. We had no choice." She motioned to the food. "Please, you must be very hungry by now. Do eat."
Darcy had been too involved in the travails of the day to notice, but he found that he was, indeed, beyond hungry, famished.
As he scooped a forkful of what he guessed to be some type of meat into his mouth, Mrs. Darcy explained how she intended to assist him in returning to his proper time and place. "The travel unit I have here is rather ancient. I am afraid I cannot send you directly home, for it is not powerful enough. You will need to travel in increments. Let me think." She began pacing across the carpet and back. "First, I will send you to the early 21st century; that is about the limit my machine here can handle. From there, I think you can jump the rest of the way back. I'm sorry, but that's the best I can do."
He inhaled deeply then nodded. "It's better than getting stuck here." He looked up to find Mr. Bennet glowering at him. "It's it's not that this isn't a delightful place, it's just, well, I want to go home and find Elizabeth."
The older man calmed, walked over, and patted Will on the shoulder. "I understand. I know how it feels each time my Fanny returns to the future." He turned and smiled tenderly at his wife.
"Whenever you are ready, let me know," she informed Will. I shall go and start programming." She left the two men alone.
"Darcy stared at the drink in his hand. "Doesn't any of this bother you?"
"Why would it? It is not as if she is really living with another man. I am he. I am certain he feels much the same."
"And your children?"
"They have their wonderful mamma and know she loves them. What have they to worry over? No, this works well for everyone."
Looking up at the ceiling, Darcy wondered where he'd find the courage to tell the Elizabeth he knew and loved about all he'd discovered about her mother. If he managed to share with her this new knowledge, he wondered if she would think he'd lost his mind. He shook his head, realizing that he'd never be able to inform her of the events that had occurred after he'd left her. He rose, took his leave of Mr. Bennet, and following that man's directions, found Mrs. Bennet in the stillroom behind the house.
"Quickly," she ordered. "I have everything set. Here," she indicated a pile of clothing on a bench, "put these on. They should allow you to fit in at your first stop without drawing notice."
He quickly donned the shirt and trousers.
"Good, now comb your hair back." She handed him a comb, but when he looked unsure of what to do with it, she grabbed it from his hand and pushed him down to sit. She set to work pulling his hair into a style she felt would not set him off from others at his first destination. "There! That's better." She handed him a small device, a portable time travel unit, and explained what he would need to do with it. She assured him that she had entered the coordinates for her home on the moon and that all he need do after landing in the 21st century was to push two buttons to initiate the remainder of his journey home.
He indicated his understanding.
"You must stand here." She pulled back a small carpet to reveal a large, rusty platform inset into the floor. "When I leave the room, you push the red button on the wall. Nothing else, only the red button."
He nodded and moved into position.
She stepped up to him and pulled his head down. "You take care of my girl, and I will return in a few days. We will speak more then." Placing a quick kiss on his cheek, she turned and hurried away.
Will took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and jammed down on the button. In less time than it took him to blink his eyes, he began careening through temporal space at a dizzying speed. His landing at the end of the trip was surprisingly gentle. Apparently, the older instrument of time travel was gentler in both send off and set down than the more modern ones. He decided not to complain, but looked around to discover himself standing in a noisy queue of excited people. From somewhere, he heard a disembodied announcement:
Welcome to Sea World Orlando's Shark Encounter. Carefully step onto the moving walkway and enjoy the wonders that surround you in our underwater tunnel. It's the largest underwater viewing tunnel anywhere in the world. For your safety, please stay on the walkway at all times. Thank you from your friends at Sea World.
Confused, he followed directions and stepped on the moving walk, grabbing onto the handrail to gain his balance as he lurched forward. Soon, he found himself in a cool, dark tunnel surrounded by water and sea life separated from him by a wall and ceiling of glass. Children around him ooed and aahed, and some squealed in fear as a massive shark swam overhead. Will relaxed and enjoyed himself for the first time in hours. He thought there couldn't be any harm in taking a few minutes to relax before his next harrowing adventure. He leaned against the handrail and enjoyed the creatures, large and small, ominous and tame, and the other travelers that surrounded him. The youthful exuberance of several of the small children made him smile. He reached out and, for a moment, placed his hand on the glass as a hammerhead shark swam near. He sighed, thinking it most unfortunate that such beasts did not exist in his time. Pollution of all sorts had long ago destroyed life in the oceans of Earth. This view of what had once existed reinforced his long held belief in responsibility to the environment, wherever he lived. In just a few minutes, he followed the young family in front of him off the walkway, stumbling only slightly as he disembarked.
He stepped out into bright sunshine and a heat and humidity that nearly overwhelmed him. On the moon, everyone wore solar-powered, temperature-controlling suits when out in The Light. While the muggy atmosphere in this area of Earth was uncomfortable, he quickly realized that it held no danger. He walked around the grounds of the area, rolling up his sleeves as he did, trying to discern his location. All he could comprehend was that he was in some sort of entertainment arena. They had them at home, underground, but he'd never been to one out in the open. He quite enjoyed it. Perhaps he would bring Elizabeth here for their honeymoon. He thought she might find amusement and enlightenment in the area. They'd need to discuss it when he returned.
Letting out a large yawn, he realized that he had begun to succumb to the tiredness of a long and trying day and determined to complete his travels. He glanced around to find an out of the way spot where his disappearance might go unnoticed. He soon came upon a stand of bushes and slipped behind them. He waited, holding his breath, to see if anyone sounded an alarm over his actions. When no one did, he filled his lungs with air and simultaneously hit the buttons Mrs. Bennet had indicated. He swiftly began free falling. His eyes scrunched tightly against the rapidly shifting surroundings, in his mind he rehashed all he'd learned from the Regency-era Bennets. Of all the people he'd ever met, he'd have never guessed that Mrs. Bennet would be the one to take on such a life.
With an "oof," he landed flat on his back on something soft. He sat up and realized he had fallen directly in the stream of an airbed. He silently congratulated his future mother-in-law for her excellent navigational skills and vowed to tell her so when she returned. He flopped back down and closed his eyes, allowing his heart rate to return to normal. He eased off the flow of air, removed the clothing he'd needed to don, and moved out of the room in search of the family that lived in the house. Not readily discovering anyone, he called out in a soft sing-song, "Eliz-abeth?"
Receiving no reply, he again called her name, more loudly. This time, she came running and threw herself into his arms. "Oh, Will, you're back!" She hugged him with all her might. "I'm so glad." She lifted her face and kissed him soundly.
He laughed at her enthusiasm. "I'm sorry; was I gone long?"
"Not really, but I worried. Did you find my mother?"
"I did, but she didn't return with me."
"You know?" With difficulty, he swallowed.
"Yeah, my dad told me everything after you left. I feel awful that you had to go on such a useless chase."
"It wasn't useless. I had a great time; well, at least part of it was great. Let's go get something to eat, and I'll tell you all about it."
"Oh, Will, we can't."
"The replicator isn't a replicator, remember?"
He chuckled softly. "Oh, right." Stopping to think for a minute, he came up with an idea. "Why don't we hop on my bike and go to my place. Mrs. Reynolds will be more than happy to whip up something for us with no worries about time travel."
"You don't think she'll mind? I mean, it's late."
"Sweetheart, that's why I pay her." He grabbed her hand and pulled her along behind him. As they walked along the corridor leading to the docking bay, he added, "You know that Mrs. Reynolds is like a mother to me; she won't mind replicating for us. Okay?" He stopped and faced her, smiling.
She returned his smile. "Okay, if you're sure."
As they suited up to go out into the harsh environment, Will promised to tell her as much as he could about her mother when they reached his padflat.
When she replied that she could hardly wait, he pulled her to him and whispered, "Have I got a story for you."
She pulled back and quirked an eyebrow. "Really? Start telling me, now."
"Well, it involves a motorcycle, a time machine, sharks, and a lovely little area in 19th century Devonshire, England on Earth. I think you'll find it most amusing."
"I'm sure I will. Oh," she slapped him playfully on the chest, "you have such an imagination."
He began to laugh, but his amusement was quickly forgotten when his beautiful Elizabeth reached up and captured his lips with her own.