Back in the lab, Dani was in a considerably lighter mood. She glanced at her eyescreen to check her schedule again. No changes. Good.
A real investigative recording awaited her. She caught herself humming again as she went to the shelves to retrieve Object 097113, which turned out to be a small iron padlock. She looked it over, trying to imagine its history. “What have you seen?” she asked it conversationally. “What have you heard and smelled, that might make them want to get sounds and scents from you?”
It hadn’t escaped her notice that the time frame she was about to bracket was within her own lifetime. Even if this hadn’t been a commissioned investigation, that aspect alone would be interesting. She smiled to think of Kat’s reaction if she knew. Anything more recent than a hundred years ago would make Kat start preaching privacy invasions. She placed the padlock within the imaging chamber, activating the seldom-used audio and olfactory recorders, and sealed the door.
The requested time frame was for a little more than five minutes. She waited for the sensory integration, set the viewing elevation, beginning time, and duration, then flipped the switch to begin.
Immediately, she realized her mistake. The view surrounded her on all sides as well as overhead. This was supposed to be a narrow angle, not a full-circle image! She reached to turn off the switch and start again when she caught something around S30E that startled her. A hand reached for the lock and jiggled it, evidently testing it to see if it was locked. Viewing and hearing it as she was, from the lock’s point of view, everything around her jiggled side to side, and the fingers obliterated pretty much everything else. Normally, she’d only be able to see the fingers, with the view angle that had been requested. But because of her mistake, she could see the whole hand. Apparently, the lock had held. As the hand retreated, she got ready to change the settings, when she saw the face behind the hand, and realized it was a face she recognized. That hand belonged to someone she knew very well: Marak Wallace.
She snatched her hand back from the screen. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Time searches were tedious, boring, and completely devoid of anything personal. How many times had she told Kat that?
Guiltily, she changed the settings to reflect her assignment. As she finished the five-minute recording, barely aware of the events she was seeing, she tried to console herself. It was an honest mistake. No harm done, right? It just felt really strange. She realized that, up to this moment, she hadn’t actually believed these images were of people who had lived and breathed, not really. They had felt more like characters in works of fiction.
But now? Her whole perception had changed.
She is currently planning the next book in The Chronography Records series, teaching four classes of high school math, and producing a yearbook.