Regina Mills was a world-renown author. She had an ongoing series about a group of time travellers chasing a villainous group throughout history, and people just couldn’t get enough of her characters and stories.
And so, an enormous fanbase grew out of the love people of all ages had for the group of five misfits, their shenanigans, and the world that she had created. She attended conventions, did signing events, and participated in Q&A sessions.
But Regina had a secret.
You see, despite the fact that she had all these great stories in her mind about her characters, and that she was just itching to unleash them out into the world, her publishing agent had other plans.
“A hiatus? But I’m nearly done with the next book!”
The woman across from her, a simpering pencil-pusher by the name of Mary Margaret, sighed. “I know, but the public loves your books! You give them another one now, and you’ll finish the series too soon, not to mention you won’t give your readers enough time to process everything.”
Regina’s mind mentally flashed to the thousands of notifications she had received since the previous book had come out over half a year ago, of fans begging for more, or as they colloquially put it: ‘I will DIE if I don’t find out what happens to Andy!’
But, she merely smiled and nodded. “Of course. Let me know when you’d like the manuscript.”
“Oh, give it a year or so. If anyone asks, writer’s block is your friend,” Mary Margaret added a little flourish at the end , like they were best buddies sharing a secret. “And you can even mention it at your interview tomorrow.”
Mary Margaret beamed and stood up, holding her hand out for Regina to shake. “Great! And again, congratulations - this latest one is a huge success, the numbers are through the roof!”
“And I have Blanchard Publishing to thank for that,” Regina monotonously responded with a practiced smile that, while convincing, wasn’t genuine, and shook the proffered hand.
She wasn’t lying though, Blanchard Publishing had given her relative freedom in writing the stories she wanted to write. As this was her first contract, she didn’t want to rock the boat too much.
It was already enough of a miracle that she, a completely unknown author with her first manuscript, had managed to get a contract with Blanchard Publishing, one of the most famous publishing houses in the world. And that wasn’t even mentioning the fact that she was out and proud, and her Latina heritage to boot. All of that certainly would have made her a less profitable candidate by traditional standards. But they took her in and allowed her to start a series that would take the world by storm.
It was just better if they didn’t control her publishing schedules, or tweak some of the plot lines, among other things.
But, small victories.
And anyway, it wasn’t like she couldn’t find another outlet to express herself.
What no one knew about Regina Mills was that she moonlighted as a fanfic writer. Yes, for her own books.
Of course, she wasn’t about to publish the actual stories from the books, but she found out via Twitter that apparently a lot of people loved getting to see the in-between moments. Or plot variations. Stuff that didn’t and wouldn’t happen in the book.
There were parts of her stories that she had had to cut short for the sake of her quota, where she was told that they just didn’t need to include that scene, or they just wanted the story to go somewhere else, to ‘add more drama’.
And so Regina created a fake username, an account on Fanfiction Net and Archive of Our Own, and just put up her little stories. Nothing ever too long, just drabbles, as she found out they were called.
She never said anything or divulged anything about herself in the notes, she had her private messages turned off, never responded to reviews, and she had no other social media accounts for her alter-ego. She originally had her doubts that anyone would actually read them, it was mostly her way to just put it out into the world, as her mother had suggested. But surprisingly enough, she had an incredible amount of reviews and favourites and follows, with people anxiously wanting more.
And now that she had an entire year, she figured she could have some fun with her fans.
Excerpt from Book One of the Time Chasers
“I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve gathered you here today,” said the impeccably dressed man standing in the middle of the warehouse. His tailored three piece suit, neatly trimmed beard and short, gelled hair screamed money and power.
Kate blinked, adjusting her stance, hoping her leather jacket hid the collapsible escrima sticks she had brought. She wasn’t dumb to respond to an anonymous invite to rendezvous in a mysterious warehouse without bringing some sort of weapon. “I’m not a betting woman, but I’d be ready to put down money that you’ve been waiting your whole life to say that line.”
The man nodded, self-assured. “I have actually.”
The other three people in the room were just watching the exchange silently as if they were trying to gauge the situation before interacting.
In fact, no one had said a word since they had come in. They had arrived at the warehouse a few minutes ago, one at a time, and once all four of them were standing there awakwardly, the door opened, and the well-dressed man before them beckoned them in.
He guided them through the maze of crates and machinery to the clearing where they now stood.
“Why are we here?” asked the only other man in the room. He was a tall, dark-skinned man with a set jaw. In Kate’s mind, she figured he was military by the way he held himself.
“Yes, I am about to get to that, Captain. My name is Jagmeet Singh. You can call me Jag. Before I begin though, I must ask you all for your utmost discretion; this isn’t for the faint of heart, and this is dangerous work.”
Another woman, so pale that Kate had to wonder if she’d ever seen the sunlight, piped up, “Are we being recruited for something illegal?”
Jag sighed and let out a wry chuckle. “There is no legality, either one way or another, for what I’m about to tell you, Ms. Greene.”
“I’m not about to get involved in shady stuff,” said the last woman. She was dark-skinned, and had long dreads gathered into a ponytail. She was wearing a sensible navy blue pantsuit along with some fashionable though altogether impractical heels. Clearly she had been grappling with whether or not to come to this meeting and had decided to do so after a long day at the office , if Kate had to guess.
“It’s not shady...at least, not in that way.” When Jag saw that his guests were all looking at him strangely still, he decided to change tack. “Look. You are all experts in your field. I have searched all over the country for people with your specific skill sets. Just my luck that all four of you are here, nearby, and therefore saves me the cost of paying for lodging.
“I need your help with a delicate matter that requires each of your area of expertise. It is top-secret, and you are free to leave at any time. I just ask that you listen to me before passing judgment.
“If you decide that you’d still rather not do this, then no hard feelings, and we can part as unlikely friends.”
Kate snorted. “You are just full of pop-culture references, aren’t you?”
Jag looked at her, and deadpanned, “Et tu, Kate? You seem to recognize them pretty easily.”
With a huff, Kate crossed her arms. It’s not her fault that her niece wanted Kate to watch movies together with her.
“Anyway, are we all still here?” No one moved, maybe everyone was too curious to do so, and Jag smiled, a bit more assured. “Good. I need all of you to help me with a specific problem: Rogue time travellers .”
“Time travel?” asked the woman with dreads in disbelief.
“Yes, Dr. Reif, time travel.”
Dr. Reif scoffed incredulously. “You are on something else. Time travel isn’t real.”
“I wouldn’t be so quick to judge,” Jag countered.
“I would. You clearly know who I am. A respected historian, and believe me, if people were travelling to the past, it would’ve been well-recorded by now.”
“Or would it?” Jag asked. “If time had been changed, you wouldn’t know anything about it. I promise I can prove it to you.”
The other man finally spoke again. “Okay, then prove it. I’m not buying into this either, nor do I understand what I’m doing here. I mean, I can see what a historian is doing here, but I’m a military strategist that has left active duty. What do you need me for?”
Jag took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He pointed around the room in turn and explained. “Dr. Laila Reif, respected historian and professor at Harvard. Kate Chase, martial arts trainer and weapons specialist. Ella Greene, linguistic expert in over a dozen languages. Finally, Captain Dean Kayes from the US Military. I can assure you that all of you are needed in some way. For now, follow me.”
He led the way to a metal container. “Behind these doors is a time machine. It can seat five, and while I will go with you guys this time around, I will be running point from the present in subsequent missions. Now, Captain Kayes, if you’d like to lend me a hand?”
The other man stepped up and helped Jag to unlock the container, behind which sat a…
“Seriously? A beat-up Honda Civic? What, was the DeLorean not in the budget?” Kate asked, unamused.
A small chorus of chortles was heard from the rest of the group.
“As I said, don’t be so quick to judge. Appearances are deceiving. Now, follow me.”