How Helen met ChristineDisclaimer: None of the characters are mine, but belong to Impossible Pictures™.
Helen Cutter was walking through London streets, her trusty backpack on her back, and an ash-field hollow in place of her soul. Stephen was dead. Helen had never realized it, but apparently, Stephen Hart occupied a greater part of her world than even she realized, and now he was gone for good.
"I killed him," Helen whispered desperately, "no, Leek killed him, no-" her thoughts were jumbled and despairing and Helen was shaken up: once again Nick proved to be the smartest of the two, once again Helen had failed, and this time she had lost for certain. "Stephen," she whispered carefully to herself, "you loved Nick. Damn it! Why did you love him?"
"Mrs. Cutter?" a polite, but determined masculine voice spoke off to Helen's side, startling her. "My superior would like to talk to you."
Initially, Helen's instinct had been to flee. She didn't like men in the uniform to begin with, and right now she just wanted to crawl somewhere and die, or at least go catatonic for some while. However, these men were armed, and Helen's sixth sense was telling her that some different strategy from her usual 'fight-or-flight' tactic was required. Therefore, she allowed herself to be led to a car that drove her to some official-looking building, where Helen was further led – this time inside and upstairs, to – Helen guessed correctly – an official-looking room.
Normally, by this time Helen would have been quite on edge, but right now she was still feeling numb, and so she was just led on, docilely, through the metal detector in the corridor and beyond. (Admittedly, since Helen's backpack was proofed against 20th century's metal detectors this action was pointless, but it was the thought that counted...)
Finally, Helen was in the office – a construction of metal and glass, permitted to let in just the right amount of sunlight and fresh air and no more, no more than the office's owner – a woman of roughly Helen's age or slightly younger, and in a much better cosmetic condition too.
"Mrs. Cutter?" the woman said, smiling just a bit too widely for Helen's taste. "I'm Christine Johnson, and I'm very happy to meet you."
"Really?" Helen said more neutrally than she usually did. She hated when somebody called her a Mrs. Cutter. She was a Doctor, damn it, just as Nick was, even if it was less known among the academic circles. "Why is that, Ms. Johnson?"
"Because I heard so much about you, mostly from Oliver Leek," Christine Johnson said, still smiling, "but from some other sources as well. From what I was able to hear, you're mainly a misunderstood and misjudged woman, so I want to offer you a job!"
"A job?" Helen thoughtfully repeated, "a job... I think I need to sit down."
"Please do," Christine Johnson said kindly, and Helen sat, shifting her backpack to the front of herself, and putting her hidden time anomaly manifestation device within a quick and easy reach.
"Please, go on," she told the other woman, and Christine Johnson began to speak.
"Mrs. Cutter," she repeated Helen's honorific incorrectly again, and this time Helen had to restrain herself from bristling, but Christine Johnson failed to notice that apparently, "let's be frank. Fate has been very cruel to you. Because of your husband's actions and the actions of his allies in the scientific world you've been denied your place there – because you were a woman, most likely. Now, however, it is time to fix that. Working with me – no, not with me, but with the branch of government that I represent, you'll be restored to your rightful position and receive your laurels both as a scientist and a time traveller. Plus, you'll be now on the equal footing with your abovementioned husband, and-"
As his boss's speech progressed, Captain Wilder began to frown: something was off.
Make no mistake, Christine Johnson's speech was good. It promised Helen Cutter recognition in the scientific society, a respectable position in the British government with possible commissions in the future, a chance to get one up over her estranged husband, but...
Almost from the beginning, Captain Wilder had his doubts about Helen Cutter buying what Christine Johnson was selling. Certainly, the other woman was interested in what Christine Johnson was saying, but Wilder couldn't shake away the feeling that it was the wrong sort of interest at all.
"Please, Ms. Johnson, stop," Helen Cutter suddenly spoke, and Captain Wilder stiffened: he liked less and less what was going on here. "I have a few questions to ask."
"Ask," Christine Johnson too sensed that something was off by now, but wasn't quite sure what. Neither was Wilder himself, if truth was to be told.
"So. You said that you knew Oliver Leek?"
"I know him, yes," Christine Johnson said slowly. "Why? What's he has to do with us? He's a good man-"
"He tried to take over Britain," Helen said curtly. "He tried to take over Britain, and he made a fool out of me by stoking my vanity using information that you provided for him, no doubt. You're a resourceful woman, Christine Johnson, resourceful and ambitious, and fortunately for me, I no longer need to work for anyone at all."
"You're refusing?" Christine Johnson tried to get her surprise under control, "you're refusing everything-"
"-that is not important to me," Helen Cutter shook her head. "Titles, recognition, and so on – none of that was ever important to me, not even before I went through my first time anomaly, and certainly not now. Therefore, Ms. Johnson, I'm refusing your offer, and not just because I disliked you at the first sight."
"That's regretful – for you," Christine snapped. "You're a too valuable source of knowledge: I cannot just let you go: the repercussions for Britain can be severe. Wilder!"
"Already on it, ma'am," Wilder made a sign, and several of his underlings entered the room. "Mrs. Cutter, will you go willingly with us or do we have to use force?"
Instead of a reply, a time anomaly manifested in the room, right on top of the table. "What the-?" one of Wilder's underlings exclaimed in surprise. That was the doom of him and his fellows: a future predator burst from the time anomaly and tore into them like a crazed, self-propelled razor, ripping them into some sort of cold cuts.
"Miss Johnson," Helen's voice was low and menacing, and as far as Wilder could tell, completely serious. "My Stephen died because of your man Leek, and I couldn't even avenge him, because Leek is dead. You, however, are not – not yet. Next time we'll meet, you will die, just as your man and my Stephen have died. Have a nice day!" With these words she stepped into the time anomaly and was gone.
"Delusional egomaniac, just as Oliver was – no wonder they got along for so long," Christine snorted. "Pity, she could've been useful. Wilder, have your men restrain this animal and secure the perimeter – we will succeed without Helen Cutter's help. Soon, she will find herself obsolete and regret ever messing with me!"
Captain Wilder didn't say anything. He just did what Christine Johnson told him to – as always. But deep inside of him, the doubts about the statement of Helen Cutter remained.End.