The woman stood before the Council, her eyes steady as she looked back at the nine men in front of her. The raised, semi-circular table they sat behind had obviously been built for no other reason than to intimidate all who stood before it. In this, it was effective. The silent room was equally intimidating, far grander than the normal municipal courtrooms she’d seen—full of lavish oak trimmings and a lofty Latin phrase, written in gold lettering above the seated men. Ut sementem feceris ita metes. As you sow, so will you reap. She wondered what this room was typically used for.
She had not been offered a chair. The Agency uniform she was loaned fit too tight, so she probably wouldn’t have been able to sit anyway. The Council was clearly not concerned with her comfort. After all, she was the reason they’d been summoned form their beds at this ungodly hour.
“I know you must be suspicious of me,” she said, willing her voice into steadiness. “After all, I am not technically supposed to exist. According to your records, I was never born. But I am here nonetheless and I have information you want. I know what happened to Isabella Jaramillo.”
The nine men did not speak, but the sound of all of them simultaneously leaning forward in their chairs echoed throughout the cavernous room.
“Like all of you, I’ve devoted my career to traveling in time. And on my most recent trip, I met a woman who, in my world, had never existed. She did not belong in the twenty-first century of my birth. Nor did she belong in the century in which I met her.”
“So she is alive?” The man who spoke was visibly older than the others, withered and plainly dying. He wore the collar of a priest, and she vaguely wondered why a religious person would be there.
“Not anymore, Father. Isabella breathed her last breath centuries ago. But I am not here to tell you about her – not really. I am here to tell you what she told me.”
Describing her experiences was difficult for her. The urge to jump immediately to the important parts overwhelmed her. But for clarity's sake, she knew she must put the events chronologically as she had experienced them. The men continued to observe her, their stares chafing like wool.
“I will admit I was confused by Isabella. She seemed to have a history completely foreign to my own. She was from 2114, a full forty years after my origination date. That was an excellent reason for me not to know her. But other things she said,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “troubled me. So I asked her about her country, its history. Her version of events could not have come from the correct timeline. Hearing Adolf Hitler was a famous painter and that there was no second Great War was enough to convince me action must be taken. Extreme though it may be.”
She took a breath. The hostility in the room would get worse before it got better, but right now the men just looked confused—all but one.
“Did Isabella tell you how she came to be Lost?” the middle-aged man with the salt-and-pepper hair and the bandaged forehead asked—the man who had, until this moment, carefully avoided looking into her eyes. Rather he had sat quietly, holding a worn slip of paper in his left hand. She read his name plaque in front of him, even though she didn't need to. She already knew who he was; he was the one she had to fear most. For he knew her as well.
“Yes, Alfredo. Your daughter told me everything I needed to know.”
His grip on the paper in his hand tightened and he looked up at her, pure loathing in his eyes.