Prologue

167 6 10

University of St Andrews, Scotland, 2051

"Dad, I'm bored," Clove whispered into her father's ear. It was nearly dinnertime and Clove was starving, but the evening talk − a very long and technically complicated speech that her mum, Jen, was giving to a group of fellow scientists at her university − wouldn't finish for another half an hour. Her parents had insisted she come, even though she had been in the middle of a Sim with her best friend, Meg. Apparently, aged eleven, she wasn't allowed to stay at home on her own, even if she promised not to move from the sofa the whole time they were gone.

" ," her dad, Tom, said. He patted Clove's arm consolingly. "The exciting bit is coming up."

Clove didn't see what could happen to make this evening interesting. It was annoying, and the exact opposite of exciting.

The lab was a lot tidier than usual. Whenever she'd come down to the basement to visit her parents at work in the past, it had been a mess of wires, discarded circuit boards and empty cardboard boxes. Once she could have sworn she saw a mouse nest inside an old computer case, but her dad had resolutely denied it.

Clove tried very hard to tune back into the speech, which was about some kind of grant the university had just received to further fund her mother's research. ". . . there are, of course, still many issues to be overcome," her mum said, "especially with regard to radiation leakage. However, a huge amount of progress has been made. In fact, the rest of the group and I are delighted to be able to give you a demonstration of the technology here this evening."

The crowd gasped.

"If you would all like to gather round." Her mum sat down at a large computer in the centre of the laboratory. It was connected to an enormous piece of equipment that took up half of the lab. moved in closer to watch, wine glasses in hand, as Jen started running a program on the computer screen.

Clove snuck a glance at the buffet table, which was set up near the entrance. There were chocolate eclairs. Surely no one would notice if she started eating now. She had to listen to her parents talking about work every .

A blonde teenage girl saw Clove eyeing up the buffet table and winked at her. Clove twisted back around, trying not to blush at being caught out.

Her dad nudged her arm. "Look, Clove."

Clove reluctantly turned to see her mum type a final command into the computer. Noise filled the lab − a whirring groan that seemed to shake the walls and vibrate the air. The scientists shifted, expectantly, and then Clove saw what they were all staring at.

A light had gone on in some sort of glass box in the piece of equipment attached to her mum's computer. Sitting in the centre of the box was a single red rose. The noise was coming from that machine and it grew louder until Clove could feel the vibrations in her eardrums and chest. The wine glasses trembled, adding a faint high-pitched screech to the sound.

Everyone seemed to be holding their breath. As Clove watched, the machine's noise cut off all at once, and the rose—

The rose disappeared.

Everyone in unison. There was a moment of complete silence. Another moment. Then the air inside the glass box shuddered and blurred. When it cleared, the flower had reappeared.

Clove couldn't believe what she'd just seen. Around her, the audience burst into enthusiastic applause.

Her mum stood up from the computer, a proud smile on her face. "What you just witnessed was the world's first ever public demonstration of time travel."

Clove drew in a sharp breath. Time travel? She hadn't realized that was what her parents were working on. She hadn't even known time travel was possible.

Her mum was talking again. "It has taken many, many years of research by a dedicated team of physicists and computer scientists to get to this point, and our work has only just begun. The current technology only operates on a small scale, in terms of both object size and time travelled. With our new research grant, we hope to improve the equipment to allow for travel of living objects, and through time periods of more than a few seconds. We will also target the biggest issue with the current technology: survival." She gestured back to the glass box.

Clove's mouth gaped . The rose's once vivid red petals had curled up and faded to a putrid brown, the stem was shrivelled and black. The rose was dead.

"Radiation levels experienced during the transfer are too high for anything to survive," her mum explained. "We will need to eliminate this issue in order to achieve our ultimate goal: human time travel. But I have high hopes that we will all be back here in several years to celebrate just that success."

The crowd burst into applause once more. Clove, completely overwhelmed with amazement, clapped as hard as she could. Once everyone had quietened down, her mum began answering scientific questions about the equipment, but Clove wasn't listening. She couldn't take her eyes off the time machine and the rose inside it. Her mum and dad had built an actual time machine.

As Clove watched a petal slowly fall from the flower, she made herself a promise. When she was older, she was going to work here with the machine – even if it meant spending all her free time between now and then studying. Then one day, when she'd helped to get the machine working, she was going to be the first person to travel through time.


  ***I hope you enjoyed this sample! To read the rest of Clove's story, you can buy the book THE LAST BEGINNING online at any book retailers, or visit my website laurenejames.co.uk for more behind-the-scenes info!***  

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