Dani slid the fusion rods into place, griping at Henri to start cycling the chronotron.
"Seriously Dani," he warned her, "relax. It's four hours to the jump, and our gear is just about set up. What are we supposed to do until then? Hit one of the parties?"
"No," Dani admitted with a sheepish smile. "I guess not. I'm just, y'know, excited..." She looked down and started fiddling with the buckles on her straps. Henri smiled.
"Ah, look at you," he said, shaking his head. "When we first got together, you thought I was insane to do this. Threatened to break it off if I didn't stop doing it. Now you're busting your seams to get to your first jump."
They smiled at each other, and Henri tucked an errant lock of her hair up into her skintight agesuit. "Wouldn't want just that strand turning grey, would we?"
"That's enough of that, the both of you. I didn't agree to let girls into the club to watch you two make out at every available opportunity." A rakish young man entered the room, futzing with his palmtop. "If I wanted to see that, I'd start going to class again." He waved his hand at them and slid the palmtop into a sealed pouch on his belt. "And put your masks on, unless you want your faces to be older than the rest of you."
"Shut up, Henri."
"Up yours, Doug."
"Wait," Dani said, mask halfway to her face. Henri already had his in place, sealing him into his agesuit. Dani looked between him and Doug. "Don't we still have, like, four hours?"
Doug grinned with one corner of his mouth. It wasn't quite a smirk, and Dani was convinced this was simply the best Doug could do with regard to a smile. "I assumed you'd be excited about your first jump," he said, "so I slid us all forward to just about midnight."
"I didn't think we could do that," Henri said, surprised.
"Tonight we can," Doug answered. "Time travel is easier at the fulcrum between years. It's why Dani waited until New Year's Eve to make her first jump."
"Oh yeah," Henri said, laughing. "Man, remember that jump we had in 2000? Made it to just a few millennia shy of the Big Bang on our third jump before the tether snapped us back."
"How far do you think we'll be able to go?" Dani asked as Henri made one final check of their gear.
Doug scratched his chin, pondering the horizon. "Hmmm. I'd say, what, a couple of million, both ways, give or take?"
Henri nodded. "Yeah. I'd say that's about right. Though I'm thinking of going forward first, if no one minds."
Henri and Doug attached each other's calendar-packs, then Henri approached Dani with hers. "Here," he said, offering to attach it to her harness.
She turned her back to him and he set about inserting tubes and wires from the pack to her agesuit and back. "What is this again?" She tried to keep the nervousness out of her voice.
"It's a motor Doug and I built, that moves through 4th-dimensional space, keeping itself anchored to the time of its 3rd-dimensional origin."
"What?" Dani looked at him, lost. She'd read the research, but her Masters was in history. She only knew as much science as she absolutely had to.
Henri smiled. "Essentially, it has a safety feature built in so you can't get lost. Once I turn it on," he flipped a switch, and Dani felt an odd tug at her back. It was slight, and not uncomfortable. "You're tethered to this time and place." He and Doug turned theirs on, and Dani thought she could see, out of the corner of her eye, a long spiraling cord linking them to the main part of the time machine. When she turned to look directly at it, there was nothing.
"Ready?" Henri asked her, taking hold of her hand.
She squeezed his hand tight and nodded, grinning from ear-to-ear. "Yeah."
"Then let's go."
The future opened up before them, and they leapt into it. Tethered to the now by a strand of solid time, they fell swiftly toward tomorrow.