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Delenda Est

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  • © Copyright Anderson
  • : 18/06/2007, : 18/06/2007. 98k. .
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  The hunting is good in Europe twenty thousand years ago, and the winter sports are unexcelled anywhen. So the Time Patrol, always solicitous for its highly trained personnel, maintains a lodge in the Pleistocene Pyrenees.
  Manse Everard stood on a glassed-in verandah and looked across ice-blue distances toward the northern slopes where the mountains fell off into woodland, marsh, and tundra. His big body was clad in loose green trousers and tunic of twenty-third-century insulsynth, boots handmade by a nineteenth-century French-Canadian; he smoked a foul old briar of indeterminate origin. There was a vague restlessness about him, and he ignored the noise from within, where half a dozen agents were drinking and talking and playing the piano.
  A Cro-Magnon guide went by across the snow-covered yard, a tall handsome fellow dressed rather like an Eskimo (why had romance never credited paleolithic man with enough sense to wear jacket, pants, and footgear in a glacial period?), his face painted, one of the steel knives which had hired him at his belt. The Patrol could act quite freely, this far back in time; there was no danger of upsetting the past, for the metal would rust away and the strangers be forgotten in a few centuries. The main nuisance was that female agents from the more libertine periods upstairs were always having affairs with the native hunters.
  Piet van Sarawak (Dutch-Indonesian-Venusian, early twenty-fourth A.D.), a slim, dark young man whose looks and technique gave the guides some stiff competition, joined Everard. They stood for a moment in companionable silence. He was also Unattached, on call to help out in any milieu, and had worked with the American before. They had taken their vacation together.
  He spoke first, in Temporal. "I hear they've spotted a few mammoths near Toulouse." The city would not be built for a long while yet, but habit was powerful.
  "I've bagged one," said Everard impatiently. "I've also been skiing and mountain-climbing and watched the native dances."
  Van Sarawak nodded, took out a cigarette, and puffed it into lighting. The bones stood out in his lean brown face as he sucked the smoke inward. "A pleasant loafing spell, this," he agreed, "but after a bit the outdoor life begins to pall."
  There were still two weeks left of their furlough. In theory, since he could return almost to the moment of departure, an agent could take indefinite vacations; but actually he was supposed to devote a certain percentage of his probable lifetime to the job. (They never told you when you were scheduled to die, and you had better sense than to try finding out for yourself. It wouldn't have been certain anyhow, time being mutable. One perquisite of an agent's office was the Danellian longevity treatment.)
  "What I would enjoy," continued Van Sarawak, "is some bright lights, music, girls who've never heard of time travel-"
  "Done!" said Everard.
  "Augustan Rome?" asked the other eagerly. "I've never been there. I could get a hypno on language and customs here."
  Everard shook his head. "It's overrated. Unless we want to go 'way upstairs, the most glorious decadence available is right in my own milieu. New York, say. ... If you know the right phone numbers, and I do."
  Van Sarawak chuckled. "I know a few places in my own sector," he replied, "but by and large, a pioneer society has little use for the finer arts of amusement. Very good, let's be off to New York, in-when?"
  "Make it 1960. That was the last time I was there, in my public persona, before coming here-now."
  They grinned at each other and went off to pack. Everard had foresightedly brought along some midtwentieth garments in his friend's size.
  Throwing clothes and razor into a small suitcase, the American wondered if he could keep up with Van Sarawak. He had never been a high-powered roisterer, and wouldn't have known how to buckle a swash anywhere in spacetime. A good book, a bull session, a case of beer-that was about his speed. But even the soberest men must kick over the traces occasionally.
  Or a little more than that, if he was an Unattached agent of the Time Patrol; if his job with the Engineering Studies Company was only a blind for his wanderings and warrings through all history; if he had seen that history rewritten in minor things-not by God, which would have been endurable, but by mortal and fallible men-for even the Danellians were somewhat less than God; if he was forever haunted by the possibility of a major change, such that he and his entire world would never have existed at all.... Everard's battered, homely face screwed into a grimace. He ran a hand through his stiff brown hair, as if to brush the idea away. Useless to think about. Language and logic broke down in the face of the paradox. Better to relax at such moments as he could.
  He picked up the suitcase and went to join Piet Van Sarawak.
  Their little two-place antigravity scooter waited on its skids in the garage. You wouldn't believe, to look at it, that the controls could be set for any place on Earth and any moment of time. But an airplane is wonderful too, or a ship, or a fire.
  Aupres de ma blonde
  Qu'il fait bon, fait bon, fait bon,
  Aupres de ma blonde
  Qu'il fait bon dormir!
  Van Sarawak sang it aloud, his breath steaming from him in the frosty air as he hopped onto the rear saddle. He'd picked up the song once when accompanying the army of Louis XIV. Everard laughed. "Down, boy!"
  "Oh, come, now," warbled the younger man. "It is a beautiful continuum, a gay and gorgeous cosmos. Hurry up this machine."
  Everard was not so sure; he had seen enough human misery in all the ages. You got case-hardened after a while, but down underneath, when a peasant stared at you with sick brutalized eyes, or a soldier screamed with a pike through him, or a city went up in radioactive flame, something wept. He could understand the fanatics who had tried to change events. It was only that their work was so unlikely to make anything better....
  He set the controls for the Engineering Studies warehouse, a good confidential place to emerge. Thereafter they'd go to his apartment, and then the fun could start.
  "I trust you've said goodbye to all your lady friends here," Everard remarked.
  "Oh, most gallantly, I assure you. Come along there. You're as slow as molasses on Pluto. For your information, this vehicle does not have to be rowed home."
  Everard shrugged and threw the main switch. The garage blinked out of sight.
  For a moment, shock held them unstirring.
  The scene registered in bits and pieces. They had materialized a few inches above ground level -the scooter was designed never to come out inside a solid object-and since that was unexpected, they hit the pavement with a teeth-rattling bump. They were in some kind of square. Nearby a fountain jetted, its stone basin carved with intertwining vines. Around the plaza, streets led off between squarish buildings six to ten stories high, of brick or concrete, wildly painted and ornamented. There were automobiles, big clumsy-looking things of no recognizable type, and a crowd of people.
  "Jumping gods!" Everard glared at the meters. The scooter had landed them in lower Manhattan, 23 October 1960, at 11:30 a.m. and the spatial coordinates of the warehouse. But there was a blustery wind throwing dust and soot in his face, the smell of chimneys, and....
  Van Sarawak's sonic stunner jumped into his fist. The crowd was milling away from them, shouting in some babble they couldn't understand. It was a mixed lot: tall, fair roundheads, with a great deal of red hair; a number of Amerinds; half-breeds in all combinations. The men wore loose colorful blouses, tartan kilts, a sort of Scotch bonnet, shoes and knee-length stockings. Their hair was long and many favored drooping mustaches. The women had full skirts reaching to the ankles and tresses coiled under hooded cloaks. Both sexes went in for massive bracelets and necklaces.
  "What happened?" whispered the Venusian. "Where are we?"
  Everard sat rigid. His mind clicked over, whirling through all the eras he had known or read about. Industrial culture-those looked like steam cars, but why the sharp prows and figurehead?-coal-burning-postnuclear Reconstruction? No, they hadn't worn kilts then, and they had spoken English....
  It didn't fit. There was no such milieu recorded.
  "We're getting out of here!"
  His hands were on the controls when the large man jumped him. They went over on the pavement in a rage of fists and feet. Van Sarawak fired and sent someone else down unconscious; then he was seized from behind. The mob piled on top of them both, and things became hazy.
  Everard had a confused impression of men in shining coppery breastplates and helmets, who shoved a billy-swinging way through the riot. He was fished out and supported in his grogginess while handcuffs were snapped on his wrists. Then he and Van Sarawak were searched and hustled off to a big enclosed vehicle. The Black Maria is much the same in all times.
  He didn't come back to full consciousness until they were in a damp and chilly cell with an iron-barred door.
  "Name of a flame!" The Venusian slumped on a wooden cot and put his face in his hands.
  Everard stood at the door, looking out. All he could see was a narrow concrete hall and the cell across it. The map of Ireland stared cheerfully through those bars and called something unintelligible.
  "What's going on?" Van Sarawak's slim body shuddered.
  "I don't know," said Everard very slowly. "I just don't know. That machine was supposed to be foolproof, but maybe we're bigger fools than they allowed for."
  "There's no such place as this," said Van Sarawak desperately. "A dream?" He pinched himself and managed a rueful smile. His lip was cut and swelling, and he had the start of a gorgeous shiner. "Logically, my friend, a pinch is no test of reality, but it has a certain reassuring effect."
  "I wish it didn't," said Everard.
  He grabbed the bars so hard they rattled. "Could the controls have been askew, in spite of everything? Is there any city, any when on Earth- because I'm damned sure this is Earth, at least- any city, however obscure, which was ever like this?"
  "Not to my knowledge."
  Everard hung onto his sanity and rallied all the mental training the Patrol had ever given him. That included total recall; and he had studied history, even the history of ages he had never seen, with a thoroughness that should have earned him several Ph.D.'s.
  "No," he said at last. "Kilted brachycephalic whites, mixed up with Indians and using steam-driven automobiles, haven't happened."
  "Coordinator Stantel V," said Van Sarawak faintly. "In the thirty-eighth century. The Great Experimenter-colonies reproducing past societies-"
  "Not any like this," said Everard.
  The truth was growing in him, and he would have traded his soul for things to be otherwise. It took all the strength he had to keep from screaming and bashing his brains out against the wall.
  "We'll have to see," he said in a flat tone.
  A policeman (Everard assumed they were in the hands of the law) brought them a meal and tried to talk to them. Van Sarawak said the language sounded Celtic, but he couldn't make out more than a few words. The meal wasn't bad.
  Toward evening, they were led off to a washroom and got cleaned up under official guns. Everard studied the weapons: eight-shot revolvers and long-barreled rifles. There were gas lights, whose brackets repeated the motif of wreathing vines and snakes. The facilities and firearms, as well as the smell, suggested a technology roughly equivalent to the earlier nineteenth century.
  On the way back he spied a couple of signs on the walls. The script was obviously Semitic, but though Van Sarawak had some knowledge of Hebrew through dealing with the Israeli colonies on Venus, he couldn't read it.
  Locked in again, they saw the other prisoners led off to do their own washing: a surprisingly merry crowd of bums, toughs, and drunks. "Seems we get special treatment," remarked Van Sarawak.
  "Hardly astonishing," said Everard. "What would you do with total strangers who appeared out of nowhere and used unheard-of-weapons ?"
  Van Sarawak's face turned to him with an unwonted grimness. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" he asked.
  The Venusian's mouth twisted, and horror rode his voice: "Another time line. Somebody has managed to change history."
  Everard nodded.
  They spent an unhappy night. It would have been a boon to sleep, but the other cells were too noisy. Discipline seemed to be lax here. Also, there were bedbugs.
  After a bleary breakfast, Everard and Van Sarawak were allowed to wash again and shave with safety razors not unlike the familiar type. Then a ten-man guard marched them into an office and planted itself around the walls.
  They sat down before a desk and waited. The furniture was as disquietingly half-homelike, half-alien, as everything else. It was some time before the big wheels showed up. There were two: a white-haired, ruddy-cheeked man in cuirass and green tunic, presumably the chief of police, and a lean, hard-faced half-breed, gray-haired but black-mustached, wearing a blue tunic, a tam o'shanter, and on his left breast a golden bull's head which seemed an insigne of rank. He would have had a certain aquiline dignity had it not been for the thin hairy legs beneath his kilt. He was followed by two younger men, armed and uniformed much like himself, who took up their places behind him as he sat down.
  Everard leaned over and whispered: "The military, I'll bet. We seem to be of interest."
  Van Sarawak nodded sickly.
  The police chief cleared his throat with conscious importance and said something to the- general? The latter answered impatiently, and addressed himself to the prisoners. He barked his words out with a clarity that helped Everard get the phonemes, but with a manner that was not exactly reassuring.
  Somewhere along the line, communication would have to be established. Everard pointed to himself. "Manse Everard," he said. Van Sarawak followed the lead and introduced himself similarly.
  The general started and went into a huddle with the chief. Turning back, he snapped, "Yrn Cimberland?"
  "Gothland? Svea? Nairoin Teutonach?"
  "Those names-if they are names-they sound Germanic, don't they?" muttered Van Sarawak.
  "So do our names, come to think of it," answered Everard tautly. "Maybe they think we're Germans." To the general: "Sprechen sie Deutsch?" Blankness rewarded him. "Taler ni svensk? Niederlands? Donsk tunga? Parlez-vous francais? Goddamit, habla usted espanol?"
  The police chief cleared his throat again and pointed to himself. "Cadwallader Mac Barca," he said. The general hight Cynyth ap Ceorn. Or so, at least, Everard's Anglo-Saxon mind interpreted the noises picked up by his ears.
  "Celtic, all right," he said. Sweat prickled under his arms. "But just to make sure ...." He pointed inquiringly at a few other men, being rewarded with monickers like Hamilcar ap Angus, Asshur yr Cathlan, and Finn O'Carthia. "No .. . there's a distinct Semitic element here too. That fits in with their alphabet."
  Van Sarawak wet his lips. "Try classical languages," he urged harshly. "Maybe we can find out where this history went insane."
  "Loquerisne latine?" That drew a blank.
  " 'i ?"
  General ap Ceorn jerked, blew out his mustache, and narrowed his eyes. "Hellenach?" he demanded. "Yrn Parthia?"
  Everard shook his head. "They've at least heard of Greek," he said slowly. He tried a few more words, but no one knew the tongue.
  Ap Ceorn growled something to one of his men, who bowed and went out. There was a long silence.
  Everard found himself losing personal fear. He was in a bad spot, yes, and might not live very long; but whatever happened to him was ludicrously unimportant compared to what had been done to the entire world.
  God in Heaven! To the universe!
  He couldn't grasp it. Sharp in his mind rose the land he knew, broad plains and tall mountains and prideful cities. There was the grave image of his father, and yet he remembered being a small child and lifted up skyward while his father laughed beneath him. And his mother ... they had a good life together, those two.
  There had been a girl he knew in college, the sweetest little wench a man could ever have been privileged to walk in the rain with; and Bernie Aaronson, the nights of beer and smoke and talk; Phil Brackney, who had picked him out of the mud in France when machine guns were raking a ruined field; Charlie and Mary Whitcomb, high tea and a low cannel fire in Victoria's London: Keith and Cynthia Denison in their chrome-plated eyrie above New York; Jack Sandoval among tawny Arizona crags; a dog he had once had; the austere cantos of Dante and the ringing thunder of Shakespeare; the glory which was York Minster and the Golden Gate Bridge-Christ, a man's life, and the lives of who knew how many billions of human creatures, toiling and enduring and laughing and going down into dust to make room for their sons ... It had never been.
  He shook his head, dazed with grief, and sat devoid of real understanding.
  The soldier came back with a map and spread it out on the desk. Ap Ceorn gestured curtly, and Everard and Van Sarawak bent over it.
  Yes, Earth, a Mercator projection, through eidetic memory showed that the mapping was rather crude. The continents and islands were there in bright colors, but the nations were something else.
  "Can you read those names, Van?"
  "I can make a guess, on the basis of the Hebraic alphabet," said the Venusian. He began to read out the words. Ap Ceorn grunted and corrected him.
  North America down to about Colombia was Ynys yr Afallon, seemingly one country divided into states. South America was a big realm, Huy Braseal, and some smaller countries whose names looked Indian. Australasia, Indonesia, Borneo, Burma, eastern India, and a good deal of the Pacific belonged to Hinduraj. Afghanistan and the rest of India were Punjab. Han included China, Korea, Japan, and eastern Siberia. Littorn owned the rest of Russia and reached well into Europe. The British Isles were Brittys, France and the Low Countries were Gallis, the Iberian peninsula was Celtan. Central Europe and the Balkans were divided into many small nations, some of which had Hunnish-looking names. Switzerland and Austria made up Helveti; Italy was Cimberland; the Scandinavian peninsula was split down the middle, Svea in the north and Gothland in the south. North Africa looked like a confederacy, reaching from Senegal to Suez and nearly to the equator under the name of Carthagalann; the southern part of the continent was partitioned among minor sovereignties, many of which had purely African titles. The Near East held Parthia and Arabia.
  Van Sarawak looked up. He had tears in his eyes.
  Ap Ceorn snarled a question and waved his finger about. He wanted to know where they were from.
  Everard shrugged and pointed skyward. The one thing he could not admit was the truth. He and Van Sarawak had agreed to claim they were from another planet, since this world hardly had space travel.
  Ap Ceorn spoke to the chief, who nodded and replied. The prisoners were returned to their cell.
  "And now what?" Van Sarawak slumped on his cot and stared at the floor.
  "We play along," said Everard grayly. "We do anything to get at our scooter and escape. Once we're free, we can take stock."
  "But what happened?"
  "I don't know, I tell you! Offhand, it looks as if something upset the Graeco-Romans and the Celts took over, but I couldn't say what it was." Everard prowled the room. A bitter determination was growing in him.
  "Remember your basic theory," he said. "Events are the result of a complex. There are no single causes. That's why it's so hard to change history. If I went back to, say, the Middle Ages, and shot one of F.D.R.'s Dutch forebears, he'd still be born in the late nineteenth century-because he and his genes resulted from the entire world of his ancestors, and there'd have been compensation. But every so often, a really key event does occur. Some one happening is a nexus of so many world lines that its outcome is decisive for the whole future.
  "Somehow, for some reason, somebody has ripped up one of those events, back in the past."
  "No more Hesperus City," mumbled Van Sarawak. "No more sitting by the canals in the blue twilight, no more Aphrodite vintages, no more-did you know I had a sister on Venus?"
  "Shut up!" Everard almost shouted it. "I know. To hell with that. What counts is what we can do.
  "Look," he went on after a moment, "the Patrol and the Danellians are wiped out. (Don't ask me why they weren't 'always' wiped out; why this is the first time we came back from the far past to find a changed future. I don't understand the mutable-time paradoxes. We just did, that's all.) But anyhow, such of the Patrol offices and resorts as antedate the switchpoint won't have been affected. There must be a few hundred agents we can rally."
  "If we can get back to them."
  "We can then find that key event and stop whatever interference there was with it. We've got to!"
  "A pleasant thought. But...."
  Feet tramped outside. A key clicked in the lock. The prisoners backed away. Then, all at once, Van Sarawak was bowing and beaming and spilling gallantries. Even Everard had to gape.
  The girl who entered in front of three soldiers was a knockout. She was tall, with a sweep of rusty-red hair past her shoulders to the slim waist; her eyes were green and alight, her face came from all the Irish colleens who had ever lived; the long white dress was snug around a figure meant to stand on the walls of Troy. Everard noticed vaguely that this time-line used cosmetics, but she had small need of them. He paid no attention to the gold and amber of her jewelry, or to the guns behind her.
  She smiled, a little timidly, and spoke: "Can you understand me? It was thought you might know Greek."
  Her language was classical rather than modern. Everard, who had once had a job in Alexandrine times, could follow it through her accent if he paid close heed-which was inevitable anyway.
  "Indeed I do," he replied, his words stumbling over each other in their haste to get out.
  "What are you snakkering?" demanded Van Sarawak.
  "Ancient Greek," said Everard.
  "It would be," mourned the Venusian. His despair seemed to have vanished, and his eyes bugged.
  Everard introduce himself and his companion. The girl said her name was Deirdre Mac Morn. "Oh, no," groaned Van Sarawak. "This is too much. Manse, teach me Greek. Fast."
  "Shut up," said Everard. "This is serious business."
  "Well, but can't I have some of the business?"
  Everard ignored him and invited the girl to sit down. He joined her on a cot, while the other Patrolman hovered unhappily by. The guards kept their weapons ready.
  "Is Greek still a living language?" asked Everard.
  "Only in Parthia, and there it is most corrupt," said Deirdre. "I am a classical scholar, among other things. Saorann ap Ceorn is my uncle, so he asked me to see if I could talk with you. Not many in Afallon know the Attic tongue."
  "Well-" Everard suppressed a silly grin-"I am most grateful to your uncle."
  Her eyes rested gravely on him. "Where are you from? And how does it happen that you speak only Greek, of all known languages?"
  "I speak Latin too."
  "Latin?" She frowned in thought. "Oh, the Roman speech, was it not? I am afraid you will find no one who knows much about it."
  "Greek will do," said Everard firmly.
  "But you have not told me whence you came," she insisted.
  Everard shrugged. "We've not been treated very politely," he hinted.
  "I'm sorry." It seemed genuine. "But our people are so excitable. Especially now, with the international situation what it is. And when you two appeared out of thin air. ..."
  Everard introduced himself and his companion. That had an unpleasantly familiar ring. "What do you mean?" he inquired.
  "Surely you know. With Huy Braseal and Hinduraj about to go to war, and all of us wondering what will happen. ... It is not easy to be a small power."
  "A small power? But I saw a map. Afallon looked big enough to me."
  "We wore ourselves out two hundred years ago, in the great war with Littorn. Now none of our confederated states can agree on a single policy." Deirdre looked directly into his eyes. "What is this ignorance of yours?"
  Everard swallowed and said, "We're from another world."
  "Yes. A planet (no, that means 'wanderer')... an orb encircling Sirius. That's our name for a certain star."
  "But-what do you mean? A world attendant on a star? I cannot understand you."
  "Don't you know? A star is a sun like. ..."
  Deirdre shrank back and made a sign with her finger. "The Great Baal aid us," she whispered. "Either you are mad or.... The stars are mounted in a crystal sphere."
  Oh, no!
  "What of the wandering stars you can see?" asked Everard slowly. "Mars and Venus and-"
  "I know not those names. If you mean Moloch, Ashtoreth, and the rest, of course they are worlds like ours, attendant on the sun like our own. One holds the spirits of the dead, one is the home of witches, one...."
  All this and steam cars too. Everard smiled shakily. "If you'll not believe me, then what do you think I am?"
  Deirdre regarded him with large eyes. "I think you must be sorcerers," she said.
  There was no answer to that. Everard asked a few weak questions, but learned little more than that this city was Catuvellaunan, a trading and manufacturing center. Deirdre estimated its population at two million, and that of all Afallon at fifty million, but wasn't sure. They didn't take censuses here.
  The Patrolmen's fate was equally undetermined. Their scooter and other possessions had been sequestrated by the military, but no one dared monkey with the stuff, and treatment of the owners was being hotly debated. Everard got the impression that all government, including the leadership of the armed forces, was rather a sloppy process of individualistic wrangling. Afallon itself was the loosest of confederacies, built out of former nations-Brittic colonies and Indians who had adopted European culture-all jealous of their rights. The old Mayan Empire, destroyed in a war with Texas (Tehannach) and annexed, had not forgotten its time of glory, and sent the most rambunctious delegates of all to the Council of Suffetes.
  The Mayans wanted to make an alliance with Huy Braseal, perhaps out of friendship for fellow Indians. The West Coast states, fearful of Hinduraj, were toadies of the Southeast Asian empire. The Middle West (of course) was isolationist; the Eastern States were torn every which way, but inclined to follow the lead of Brittys.
  When he gathered that slavery existed here, though not on racial lines, Everard wondered briefly and wildly if the time changers might not have been Dixiecrats.
  Enough! He had his own neck, and Van's, to think about. "We are from Sirius," he declared loftily. "Your ideas about the stars are mistaken. We came as peaceful explorers, and if we are molested, there will be others of our kind to take vengeance."
  Deirdre looked so unhappy that he felt conscience-stricken. "Will they spare the children?" she begged. "The children had nothing to do with it." Eyerard could imagine the vision in her head, small crying captives led off to the slave markets of a world of witches.
  "There need be no trouble at all if we are released and our property returned," he said.
  "I shall speak to my uncle," she promised, "but even if I can sway him, he is only one man on the Council. The thought of what your weapons could mean if we had them has driven men mad."
  She rose. Everard clasped both her hands-they lay warm and soft in his-and smiled crookedly at her. "Buck up, kid," he said in English. She shivered, pulled free of him, and made the hex sign again.
  "Well," demanded Van Sarawak when they were alone, "what did you find out?" After being told, he stroked his chin and murmured. "That was one glorious little collection of sinusoids. There could be worse worlds than this."
  "Or better," said Everard roughly. "They don't have atomic bombs, but neither do they have penicillin, I'll bet. Our job is not to play God."
  "No. No, I suppose not." The Venusian sighed.
  They spent a restless day. Night had fallen when lanterns glimmered in the corridor and a military guard unlocked the cell. The prisoners were led silently to a rear exit where two automobiles waited; they were put into one, and the whole troop drove off.
  Catuvellaunan did not have outdoor lighting, and there wasn't much night traffic. Somehow that made the sprawling city unreal in the dark. Everard paid attention to the mechanics of his car. Steam-powered, as he had guessed, burning powdered coal; rubber-tired wheels; a sleek body with a sharp nose and serpent figurehead; the whole simple to operate and honestly built, but not too well designed. Apparently this world had gradually developed a rule-of-thumb engineering, but no systematic science worth talking about.
  They crossed a clumsy iron bridge to Long Island, here also a residential section for the well-to-do. Despite the dimness of oil-lamp headlights, their speed was high. Twice they came near having an accident: no traffic signals, and seemingly no drivers who did not hold caution in contempt.
  Government and traffic ... hm. It all looked French, somehow, ignoring those rare interludes, when France got a Henry of Navarre or a Charles de Gaulle. And even in Everard's own twentieth century, France was largely Celtic. He was no respecter of windy theories about inborn racial traits, but there was something to be said for traditions so ancient as to be unconscious and ineradicable. A Western world in which the Celts had become dominant, the Germanic peoples reduced to a few small outposts.... Yes, look at the Ireland of home; or recall how tribal politics had queered Vercingetorix's revolt.... But what about Littorn? Wait a minute! In his early Middle Ages, Lithuania had been a powerful state; it had held off Germans, Poles, and Russians alike for a long time, and hadn't even taken Christianity till the fifteenth century. Without German competition, Lithuania might very well have advanced eastward....
  In spite of the Celtic political instability, this was a world of large states, fewer separate nations than Everard's. That argued an older society. If his own Western civilization had developed out of the decaying Roman Empire about, say, 600 A.D., the Celts in this world must have taken over earlier than that.
  Everard was beginning to realize what had happened to Rome, but reserved his conclusions for the time being.
  The cars drew up before an ornamental gate set in a long stone wall. The drivers talked with two armed guards wearing the livery of a private estate and the thin steel collars of slaves. The gate was opened and the cars went along a graveled driveway between lawns and trees. At the far end, almost on the beach, stood a house. Everard and Van Sarawak were gestured out and led toward it.
  It was a rambling wooden structure. Gas lamps on the porch showed it painted in gaudy stripes; the gables and beam-ends were carved into dragon heads. Close by he heard the sea, and there was enough light from a sinking crescent moon for Everard to make out a ship standing in close: presumably a freighter, with a tall smokestack and a figurehead.
  The windows glowed yellow. A slave butler admitted the party. The interior was paneled in dark wood, also carved, the floors thickly carpeted. At the end of the hall was a living room with overstuffed furniture, several paintings in a stiff conventionalized style, and a merry blaze in an enormous stone fireplace.
  Saorann ap Ceorn sat in one chair, Deirdre in another. She laid aside a book as they entered and rose, smiling. The officer puffed a cigar and glowered. Some words were swapped, and the guards disappeared. The butler fetched in wine on a tray, and Deirdre invited the Patrolmen to sit down.
  Everard sipped from his glass-the wine was an excellent Burgundy-and asked bluntly, "Why are we here?"
  Deirdre dazzled him with a smile. "Surely you find it more pleasant than the jail."
  "Of course. As well as more ornamental. But I still want to know. Are we being released?"
  "You are...." She hunted for a diplomatic answer, but there seemed to be too much frankness in her. "You are welcome here, but may not leave the estate. We hope you can be persuaded to help us. You would be richly rewarded."
  "Help? How?"
  "By showing our artisans and Druids how to make more weapons and magical carts like your own."
  Everard sighed. It was no use trying to explain. They didn't have the tools to make the tools to make what was needed, but how could he get that across to a folk who believed in witchcraft?
  "Is this your uncle's home?" he asked.
  "No, my own," said Deirdre. "I am the only child of my parents, who were wealthy nobles. They died last year."
  Ap Ceorn clipped out several words. Deirdre translated with a worried frown: "The tale of your advent is known to all Catuvellaunan by now; and that includes the foreign spies. We hope you can remain hidden from them here."
  Everard, remembering the pranks Axis and Allies had played in little neutral nations like Portugal, shivered. Men made desperate by approaching war would not likely be as courteous as the Afallonians.
  "What is this conflict going to be about?" he inquired
  "The control of the Icenian Ocean, of course. In particular, certain rich islands we call Ynys yr Lyonnach." Deirdre got up in a single flowing movement and pointed out Hawaii on a globe. "You see," she went on earnestly, "as I told you, Littorn and the western alliance-including us- wore each other out fighting. The great powers today, expanding, quarreling, are Huy Braseal and Hinduraj. Their conflict sucks in the lesser nations, for the clash is not only between ambitions, but between systems: the monarchy of Hinduraj against the sun-worshipping theocracy of Huy Braseal."
  "What is your religion, if I may ask?"
  Deirdre blinked. The question seemed almost meaningless to her. "The more educated people think that there is a Great Baal who made all the lesser gods," she answered at last, slowly. "But naturally, we maintain the ancient cults, and pay respect to the more powerful foreign gods too, such as Littorn's Perkunas and Czernebog, Wotan Ammon of Cumberland, Brahma, the Sun.... Best not to chance their anger."
  "I see."
  Ap Ceorn offered cigars and matches. Van Sarawak inhaled and said querulously, "Damn it, this would have to be a time line where they don't speak any language I know." He brightened. "But I'm pretty quick to learn, even without hypno. I'll get Deirdre to teach me."
  "You and me both," said Everard in haste. "But listen, Van." He reported what he had learned.
  "Hm." The younger man rubbed his chin. "Not so good, eh? Of course, if they'd just let us aboard our scooter, we could make an easy getaway. Why not play along with them?"
  "They're not such fools," answered Everard. "They may believe in magic, but not in undiluted altruism."
  "Funny they should be so backward intellectually, and still have combustion engines."
  "No. It's quite understandable. That's why I asked about their religion. It's always been purely pagan; even Judaism seems to have disappeared, and Buddhism hasn't been very influential. As Whitehead pointed out, the medieval idea of one almighty God was important to the growth of science, by inculcating the notion of lawfulness in nature. And Lewis Mumford added that the early monasteries were probably responsible for the mechanical clock-a very basic invention-because of having regular hours for prayer. Clocks seem to have come late in this world." Everard smiled wryly, a shield against the sadness within. "Odd to talk like this. Whitehead and Mumford never lived."
  "Just a minute," Everard turned to Deirdre. "When was Afallon discovered?"
  "By white men? In the year 4827."
  "Um ... when does your reckoning start from?"
  Deirdre seemed immune to further startlement. "The creation of the world. At least, the date some philosophers have given. That is 5964 years ago."
  Which agreed with Bishop Ussher's famous 4004 B.C., perhaps by sheer coincidence-but still, there was definitely a Semitic element in this culture. The creation story in Genesis was of Babylonian origin too.
  "And when was steam (pneuma) first used to drive engines?" he asked.
  "About a thousand years ago. The great Druid Boroihme O'Fiona-"
  "Never mind." Everard smoked his cigar and mulled his thoughts for a while before looking back at Van Sarawak.
  "I'm beginning to get the picture," he said. "The Gauls were anything but the barbarians most people think. They'd learned a lot from Phoenician traders and Greek colonists, as well as from the Etruscans in cisalpine Gaul. A very energetic and enterprising race. The Romans, on the other hand, were a stolid lot, with few intellectual interests. There was little technological progress in our world till the Dark Ages, when the Empire had been swept out of the way.
  "In this history, the Romans vanished early. So, I'm pretty sure, did the Jews. My guess is, without the balance-of-power effect of Rome, the Syrians did suppress the Maccabees; it was a near thing even in our history. Judaism disappeared and therefore Christianity never came into existence. But anyhow, with Rome removed, the Gauls got the supremacy. They started exploring, building better ships, discovering America in the ninth century. But they weren't so far ahead of the Indians that those couldn't catch up... could even be stimulated to build empires of their own, like Huy Braseal today. In the eleventh century, the Celts began tinkering with steam engines. They seem to have gotten gunpowder too, maybe from China, and to have made several other inventions. But its all been cut-and-try, with no basis of real science."
  Van Sarawak nodded. "I suppose you're right. But what did happen to Rome?"
  "I don't know. Yet. But our key point is back there somewhere."
  Everard returned his attention to Deirdre. "This may surprise you," he said smoothly. "Our people visited this world about 2500 years ago. That's why I speak Greek but don't know what has occurred since. I would like to find out from you; I take it you're quite a scholar."
  She flushed and lowered long dark lashes such as few redheads possess. "I will be glad to help as much as I can." With a sudden appeal: "But will you help us in return?"
  "I don't know," said Everard heavily. "I'd like to. But I don't know if we can."
  Because after all, my job is to condemn you and your entire world to death.
  When Everard was shown to his room, he discovered that local hospitality was more than generous. He was too tired and depressed to take advantage of it. ... but at least, he thought on the edge of sleep, Van's slave girl wouldn't be disappointed.
  They got up early here. From his upstairs window, Everard saw guards pacing the beach, but they didn't detract from the morning's freshness. He came down with Van Sarawak to breakfast, where bacon and eggs, toast and coffee added the last touch of dream. Ap Ceorn had gone back to town to confer, said Deirdre; she herself had put wistfulness aside and chattered gaily of trivia. Everard learned that she belonged to an amateur dramatic group which sometimes gave Classical Greek plays in the original: hence her fluency. She liked to ride, hunt, sail, swim-"And shall we?" she asked.
  "Swim, of course?" Deirdre sprang from her chair on the lawn, where they had been sitting under flame-colored leaves, and whirled innocently out of her clothes. Everard thought he heard a dull clunk as Van Sarawak's jaw hit the ground.
  "Come!" she laughed. "Last one in is a Sassenach!"
  She was already tumbling in the gray surf when Everard and Van Sarawak shuddered their way down to the beach. The Venusian groaned. "I come from a warm planet. My ancestors were Indonesians. Tropical birds."
  "There were some Dutchmen too, weren't there?" grinned Everard.
  "They had the sense to move to Indonesia."
  "All right, stay ashore."
  "Hell! If she can do it, I can!" Van Sarawak put a toe in the water and groaned again.
  Everard summoned up all the control he had ever learned and ran in. Deirdre threw water at him. He plunged, got hold of a slender leg, and pulled her under. They frolicked about for several minutes before running back to the house for a hot shower. Van Sarawak followed in a blue haze.
  "Speak about Tantalus," he mumbled. "The most beautiful girl in the whole continuum, and I can't talk to her and she's half polar bear."
  Toweled dry and dressed in the local garb by slaves, Everard returned to stand before the living-room fire. "What pattern is this?" he asked, pointing to the tartan of his kilt.
  Deirdre lifted her ruddy head. "My own clan's," she answered. "An honored guest is always taken as a clan member during his stay, even if a blood feud is going on." She smiled shyly. "And there is none between us, Manslach."
  It cast him back into bleakness. He remembered what his purpose was.
  "I'd like to ask you about history," he said. "It is a special interest of mine."
  She nodded, adjusted a gold fillet on her hair, and got a book from a crowded shelf. "This is the best world history, I think. I can look up any details you might wish to know."
  And tell me what I must do to destroy you.
  Everard sat down with her on a couch. The butler wheeled in lunch. He ate moodily, untasting.
  To follow up his hunch-"Did Rome and Carthage ever fight a war?"
  "Yes. Two, in fact. They were allied at first, against Epirus, but fell out. Rome won the first war and tried to restrict Carthaginian enterprise." Her clean profile bent over the pages, like a studious child. "The second war broke out 23 years later, and lasted ... hm ... 11 years all told, though the last three were only a mopping up after Hannibal had taken and burned Rome."
  Ah-hah! Somehow, Everard did not feel happy at his success.
  The Second Punic War (they called it the Roman War here-or, rather, some crucial incident thereof-was the turning point. But partly out of curiosity, partly because he feared to tip his hand, Everard did not at once try to identify the deviation. He'd first have to get straight in his mind what had actually happened, anyway. (No ... what had not happened. The reality was here, warm and breathing beside him; he was the ghost.)
  "So what came next?" he asked tonelessly.
  "The Carthaginian empire came to include Hispania, southern Gaul, and the toe of Italy," she said. "The rest of Italy was impotent and chaotic, after the Roman confederacy had been broken up. But the Carthaginian government was too venal to remain strong. Hannibal himself was assassinated by men who thought his honesty stood in their way. Meanwhile, Syria and Parthia fought for the eastern Mediterranean, with Parthia winning and thus coming under still greater Hellenic influence than before.
  "About a hundred years after the Roman Wars, some Germanic tribes overran Italy." (That would be the Cimbri, with their allies the Teutones and Ambrones, whom Marius had stopped in Everard's world.) "Their destructive path through Gaul had set the Celts moving too, eventually into Hispania and North Africa as Carthage declined. And from Carthage the Gauls learned much.
  "A long period of wars followed, during which Parthia waned and the Celtic states grew. The Huns broke the Germans in middle Europe, but were in turn defeated by Parthia; so the Gauls moved in and the only Germans left were in Italy and Hyperborea." (That must be the Scandinavian peninsula.) "As ships improved, trade grew up with the Far East, both from Arabia and directly around Africa." (In Everard's history, Julius Caesar had been astonished to find the Veneti building better vessels than any in the Mediterranean.) "The Celtanians discovered southern Afallon, which they thought was an island-hence the 'Ynys'-but they were thrown out by the Mayans. The Brittle colonies further north did survive, though, and eventually won their independence.
  "Meanwhile Littorn was growing apace. It swallowed up most of Europe for a while. The western end of the continent only regained its freedom as part of the peace settlement after the Hundred Years' War I've told you about. The Asian countries have shaken off their exhausted European masters and modernized themselves, while the Western nations have declined in their turn." Deirdre looked up from the book, which she had been skimming as she talked. "But this is only the barest outline, Manslach. Shall I go on?"
  Everard shook his head. "No, thanks." After a moment: "You are very honest about the situation of your own country."
  Deirdre said roughly, "Most of us won't admit it, but I think it best to look truth in the eyes."
  With a surge of eagerness: "But tell me of your own world. This is a marvel past belief."
  Everard sighed, switched off his conscience, and began lying.
  The raid took place that afternoon.
  Van Sarawak had recovered his poise and was busily learning the Afallonian language from Deirdre.They walked through the garden hand in hand, stopping to name objects and act out verbs. Everard followed, wondering vaguely if he was a third wheel or not, most of him bent to the problem of how to get at the scooter.
  Bright sunlight spilled from a pale cloudless sky. A maple was a shout of scarlet, a drift of yellow leaves scudded across the grass. An elderly slave was raking the yard in a leisurely fashion, a young-looking guard of Indian race lounged with his rifle slung on one shoulder, a pair of wolfhounds dozed under a hedge. It was a peaceful scene; hard to believe that men prepared murder beyond these walls.
  But man was man, in any history. This culture might not have the ruthless will and sophisticated cruelty of Western civilization; in fact, in some ways it looked strangely innocent. Still, that wasn't for lack of trying. And in this world, a genuine science might never emerge, man might endlessly repeat the cycle of war, empire, collapse, and war. In Everard's future, the race had finally broken out of it.
  For what? He could not honestly say that this continuum was worse or better than his own. It was different, that was all. And didn't these people have as much right to their existence as-as his own, who were damned to nullity if he failed?
  He knotted his fists. The issue was too big. No man should have to decide something like this.
  At the showdown, he knew, no abstract sense of duty would compel him, but the little things and the little folk he remembered.
  They rounded the house and Deirdre pointed to the sea. "Awarlann," she said. Her loose hair burned in the wind.
  "Now does that mean 'ocean' or 'Atlantic' or 'water'?" laughed Van Sarawak. "Let's go see." He led her toward the beach.
  Everard trailed. A kind of steam launch, long and fast, was skipping over the waves, a mile or two offshore. Gulls trailed it in a snowstorm of wings. He thought that if he'd been in charge, a Navy ship would have been on picket out there.
  Did he even have to decide anything? There were other Patrolmen in the pre-Roman past. They'd return to their respective eras and....
  Everard stiffened. A chill ran down his back and congealed in his belly.
  They'd return, and see what had happened, and try to correct the trouble. If any of them succeeded, this world would blink out of space-time, and he would go with it.
  Deirdre paused. Everard, standing in a sweat, hardly noticed what she was staring at, till she cried out and pointed. Then he joined her and squinted across the sea.
  The launch was standing in close, its high stack fuming smoke and sparks, the gilt snake figurehead agleam. He could see the forms of men aboard, and something white, with wings. ... It rose from the poopdeck and trailed at the end of a rope, mounting. A glider! Celtic aeronautics had gotten that far, at least.
  "Pretty," said Van Sarawak. "I suppose they have balloons too."
  The glider cast its tow and swooped inward. One of the guards on the beach shouted. The rest pelted from behind the house. Sunlight flashed off their guns. The launch headed straight for the shore. The glider landed, plowing a furrow in the beach.
  An officer yelled and waved the Patrolmen back. Everard had a glimpse of Deirdre's face, white and uncomprehending. Then a turret on the glider swiveled-a detached part of his mind guessed it was manually operated-and a light cannon spoke.
  Everard hit the dirt. Van Sarawak followed, dragging the girl with him. Grapeshot plowed hideously through the Afallonian soldiers.
  There followed a spiteful crack of guns. Men sprang from the aircraft, dark-faced men in turbans and sarongs. Hinduraj! thought Everard. They traded shots with the surviving guards, who rallied about their captain.
  The officer roared and led a charge. Everard looked up from the sand to see him almost upon the glider's crew. Van Sarawak leaped to his feet. Everard rolled over, caught him by the ankle, and pulled him down before he could join the fight.
  "Let me go!" The Venusian writhed, sobbing. The dead and wounded left by the cannon sprawled nightmare red. The racket of battle seemed to fill the sky.
  "No, you bloody fool! It's us they're after, and that wild Irishman's done the worst thing he could have-" A fresh outburst yanked Everard's attention elsewhere.
  The launch, shallow-draft and screw-propelled, had run up into the shallows and was retching armed men. Too late the Afallonians realized that they had discharged their weapons and were now being attacked from the rear.
  "Come on!" Everard hauled Deirdre and Van Sarawak to their feet. "We've got to get out of here-get to the neighbors...."
  A detachment from the boat saw him and veered. He felt rather than heard the flat smack of a bullet into soil, as he reached the lawn. Slaves screamed hysterically inside the house. The two wolfhounds attacked the invaders and were gunned down.
  Crouched, zigzag, that was the way: over the wall and out onto the road! Everard might have made it, but Deirdre stumbled and fell. Van Sarawak halted to guard her. Everard stopped also, and then it was too late. They were covered.
  The leader of the dark men snapped something at the girl. She sat up, giving him a defiant answer. He laughed shortly and jerked his thumb at the launch.
  "What do they want?" asked Everard in Greek.
  "You." She looked at him with horror. "You two-" The officer spoke again. "And me to translate....No!"
  She twisted in the hands that had closed on her arms, got partly free and clawed at a face. Everard's fist traveled in a short arc that ended in a squashing of nose. It was too good to last. A clubbed rifle descended on his head, and he was only dimly aware of being frogmarched off to the launch.
  The crew left the glider behind, shoved their boat into deeper water, and revved it up. They left all the guardsmen slain or disabled, but took their own casualties along.
  Everard sat on a bench on the plunging deck and stared with slowly clearing eyes as the shoreline dwindled. Deirdre wept on Van Sarawak's shoulder, and the Venusian tried to console her. A chill noisy wind flung spindrift in their faces.
  When two white men emerged from the deckhouse, Everard's mind was jarred back into motion. Not Asians after all. Europeans! And now when he looked closely, he saw the rest of the crew also had Caucasian features. The brown complexions were merely grease paint.
  He stood up and regarded his new owners warily. One was a portly, middle-aged man of average height, in a red silk blouse and baggy white trousers and a sort of astrakhan hat; he was clean-shaven and his dark hair was twisted into a queue. The other was somewhat younger, a shaggy blond giant in a tunic sewn with copper links, legginged breeches, a leather cloak, and a purely ornamental horned helmet. Both wore revolvers at their belts and were treated deferentially by the sailors.
  "What the devil?" Everard looked around once more. They were already out of sight of land, and bending north. The hull quivered with the haste of the engine, spray sheeted when the bows bit a wave.
  The older man spoke first in Afallonian. Everard shrugged. Then the bearded Nordic tried, first in a completely unrecognizable dialect but afterward: "Taelan thu Cimbric?"
  Everard, who knew several Germanic languages, took a chance, while Van Sarawak pricked up his Dutch ears. Deirdre huddled back, wide-eyed, too bewildered to move.
  "Ja," said Everard, "ein wenig." When Goldilocks looked uncertain, he amended it: "A little."
  "Ah, aen litt. Gode!" The big man rubbed his hands. "Ik halt Boierik Wulfilasson ok main gefreond heer erran Boleslav Arkonsky."
  It was no language Everard had ever heard of- couldn't even be the original Cimbric, after all these centuries-but the Patrolman could follow it reasonably well. The trouble came in speaking; he couldn't predict how it had evolved.
  "What the hell erran thu maching, anyway?" he blustered. "Ik bin aen man auf Sirius-the stern Sirius, mit planeten ok all. Set uns gebach or willen be der Teufel to pay!"
  Boierik Wulfilasson looked pained and suggested that the discussion be continued inside, with the young lady for interpreter. He led the way back into the deckhouse, which turned out to include a small but comfortably furnished saloon. The door remained open, with an armed guard looking in and more on call.
  Boleslav Arkonsky said something in Afallonian to Deirdre. She nodded, and he gave her a glass of wine. It seemed to steady her, but she spoke to Everard in a thin voice.
  "We've been captured, Manslach. Their spies found out where you were kept. Another group is supposed to steal your traveling machine. They know where that is, too."
  "So I imagined," replied Everard. "But who in Baal's name are they?"
  Boierik guffawed at the question and expounded lengthily his own cleverness. The idea was to make the Suffetes of Afallon think Hinduraj was responsible. Actually, the secret alliance of Littorn and Cimberland had built up quite an effective spy service. They were now bound for the Littornian embassy's summer retreat on Ynys Llangollen (Nantucket), where the wizards would be induced to explain their spells and a surprise prepared for the great powers.
  "And if we don't do this?"
  Deirdre translated Arkonsky's answer word for word: "I regret the consequences to you. We are civilized men, and will pay well in gold and honor for your free cooperation. If that is withheld, we will get your forced cooperation. The existence of our countries is at stake."
  Everard looked closely at them. Boierik seemed embarrassed and unhappy, the boastful glee evaporated from him. Boleslav Arkonsky drummed on the tabletop, his lips compressed but a certain appeal in his eyes. Don't make us do this. We have to live with ourselves.
  They were probably husbands and fathers, they must enjoy a mug of beer and a friendly game of dice as well as the next man, maybe Boierik bred horses in Italy and Arkonsky was a rose fancier on the Baltic shores. But none of this would do their captives a bit of good, when the almighty Nation locked horns with its kin.
  Everard paused to admire the sheer artistry of this operation, and then began wondering what to do. The launch was fast, but would need something like twenty hours to reach Nantucket, as he remembered the trip. There was that much time, at least.
  "We are weary," he said in English. "May we not. rest awhile?"
  "Ja deedly," said Boierik with a clumsy graciousness. "Ok wir skallen gode gefreonds bin, ni?"
  Sunset smoldered in the west. Deirdre and Van Sarawak stood at the rail, looking across a gray waste of waters. Three crewmen, their makeup and costumes removed, poised alert and weaponed on the poop; a man steered by compass; Boierik and Everard paced the quarterdeck. All wore heavy clothes against the wind.
  Everard was getting some proficiency in the Cimbrian language; his tongue still limped, but he could make himself understood. Mostly, though, he let Boierik do the talking.
  "So you are from the stars? These matters I do not understand. I am a simple man. Had I my way, I would manage my Tuscan estate in peace and let the world rave as it will. But we of the Folk have our obligations." The Teutonics seemed to have replaced the Latins altogether in Italy, as the English had done the Britons in Everard's world.
  "I know how you feel," said the Patrolman. "Strange that so many should fight when so few want to."
  "Oh, but this is necessary." A near whine. "Carthagalann stole Egypt, our rightful possession."
  "Italia irredenta," murmured Everard.
  "Never mind. So you Cimbri are allied with Littorn, and hope to grab off Europe and Africa while the big powers are fighting in the East."
  "Not at all!" said Boierik indignantly. "We are merely asserting our rightful and historic territorial claims. Why, the king himself said, ..." And so on and so on.
  Everard braced himself against the roll of the deck. "Seems to me you treat us wizards rather hard," he remarked. "Beware lest we get really angered at you."
  "All of us are protected against curses and shapings."
  "I wish you would help us freely. I will be happy to demonstrate to you the justice of our cause, if you have a few hours to spare."
  Everard shook his head, walked off and stopped by Deirdre. Her face was a blur in the thickening dusk, but he caught a forlorn fury in her voice: "I hope you told him what to do with his plans, Manslach."
  "No," said Everard heavily. "We are going to help them."
  She stood as if struck.
  "What are you saying, Manse?" asked Van Sarawak. Everard told him.
  "No!" said the Venusian.
  "Yes," said Everard.
  "By God, no! I'll-"
  Everard grabbed his arm and said coldly: "Be quiet. I know what I'm doing. We can't take sides in this world; we're against everybody, and you'd better realize it. The only thing to do is play along with these fellows for a while. And don't tell that to Deirdre."
  Van Sarawak bent his head and stood for a moment, thinking. "All right," he said dully.
  The Littornian resort was on the southern shore of Nantucket, near a fishing village but walled off from it. The embassy had built in the style of its homeland: long, timber houses with roofs arched like a cat's back, a main hall and its outbuildings enclosing a flagged courtyard. Everard finished a night's sleep and a breakfast which Deirdre's eyes had made miserable by standing on deck as they came in to the private pier. Another, bigger launch was already there, and the grounds swarmed with hard-looking men. Arkonsky's excitement flared up as he said in Afallonian: "I see the magic engine has been brought. We can go right to work."
  When Boierik interpreted, Everard felt his heart slam.
  The guests, as the Cimbrian insisted on calling them, were led into an outsize room where Arkonsky bowed the knee to an idol with four faces, that Svantevit which the Danes had chopped up for firewood in the other history. A fire burned on the hearth against the autumn chill, and guards were posted around the walls. Everard had eyes only for the scooter, where it stood gleaming on the door.
  "I hear the fight was hard in Catuvellaunan to gain this thing," remarked Boierik. "Many were killed; but our gang got away without being followed." He touched a handlebar gingerly. "And this wain can truly appear anywhere its rider wishes, out of thin air?"
  "Yes," said Everard.
  Deirdre gave him a look of scorn such as he had rarely known. She stood haughtily away from him and Van Sarawak.
  Arkonsky spoke to her; something he wanted translated. She spat at his feet. Boierik sighed and gave the word to Everard:
  "We wish the engine demonstrated. You and I will go for a ride on it. I warn you, I will have a revolver at your back. You will tell me in advance everything you mean to do, and if aught untoward happens, I will shoot. Your friends will remain here as hostages, also to be shot on the first suspicion. But I'm sure," he added, "that we will all be good friends."
  Everard nodded. Tautness thrummed in him; his palms felt cold and wet. "First I must say a spell," he answered.
  His eyes flickered. One glance memorized the spatial reading of the position meters and the time reading of the clock on the scooter. Another look showed Van Sarawak seated on a bench, under Arkonsky's drawn pistol and the rifles of the guards. Deirdre sat down too, stiffly, as far from him as she could get. Everard made a close estimate of the bench's position relative to the scooter's, lifted his arms, and chanted in Temporal:
  "Van, I'm going to try to pull you out of here. Stay exactly where you are now, repeat, exactly. I'll pick you up on the fly. If all goes well, that'll happen about one minute after I blink off with our hairy comrade."
  The Venusian sat wooden-faced, but a thin beading of sweat sprang out on his forehead.
  "Very good," said Everard in his pidgin Cimbric. "Mount on the rear saddle, Boierik, and we'll put this magic horse through her paces."
  The blond man nodded and obeyed. As Everard took the front seat, he felt a gun muzzle held shakily against his back. "Tell Arkonsky we'll be back in half an hour," he instructed. They had approximately the same time units here as in his world, both descended from the Babylonian. When that had been taken care of, Everard said. "The. first thing we will do is appear in midair over the ocean and hover."
  "F-f-fine," said Boierik. He didn't sound very convinced.
  Everard set the space controls for ten miles east and a thousand feet up, and threw the main switch.
  They sat like witches astride a broom, looking down on greenish-gray immensity and the distant blur which was land. The wind was high, it caught at them and Everard gripped tight with his knees. He heard Boierik's oath and smiled stiffly.
  "Well," he asked, "how do you like this?"
  "Why... it's wonderful." As he grew accustomed to the idea, the Cimbrian gathered enthusiasm. "Balloons are as nothing beside it. With machines like this, we can soar above enemy cities and rain fire down on them."
  Somehow, that made Everard feel better about what he was going to do.
  "Now we will fly ahead," he announced, and sent the scooter gliding through the air. Boierik whooped exultantly. "And now we will make the instantaneous jump to your homeland."
  Everard threw the maneuver switch. The scooter looped the loop and dropped at a three-gee acceleration.
  Forewarned, the Patrolman could still barely hang on. He never knew whether the curve or the dive had thrown Boierik. He only got a moment's glimpse of the man, plunging down through windy spaces to the sea, and wished he hadn't.
  For a little while, then, Everard hung above the waves. His first reaction was a shudder. Suppose Boierik had had time to shoot? His second was a thick guilt. Both he dismissed, and concentrated on the problem of rescuing Van Sarawak.
  He set the space verniers for one foot in front of the prisoners' bench, the time unit for one minute after he had departed. His right hand he kept by the controls-he'd have to work fast-and his left free.
  Hang on to your hats, fellahs. Here we go again.
  The machine flashed into existence almost in front of Van Sarawak. Everard clutched the Venusian's tunic and hauled him close, inside the spatiotemporal drive field, even as his right hand spun the time dial back and snapped down the main switch.
  A bullet caromed off metal. Everard had a moment's glimpse of Arkonsky shouting. And then it was all gone and they were on a grassy hill sloping down to the beach. It was two thousand years ago.
  He collapsed shivering over the handlebars.
  A cry brought him back to awareness. He twisted around to look at Van Sarawak where the Venusian sprawled on the hillside. One arm was still around Deirdre's waist.
  The wind lulled, and the sea rolled in to a broad white strand, and clouds walked high in heaven.
  "Can't say I blame you, Van." Everard paced before the scooter and looked at the ground. "But it does complicate matters."
  "What was I supposed to do?" the other man asked on a raw note. "Leave her there for those bastards to kill-or to be snuffed out with her entire universe?"'
  "Remember, we're conditioned. Without authorization, we couldn't tell her the truth even if we wanted to. And I, for one, don't want to."
  Everard glanced at the girl. She stood breathing heavily, but with a dawn in her eyes. The wind ruffled her hair and the long thin dress.
  She shook her head, as if to clear it of nightmare, ran over and clasped their hands. "Forgive me, Manslach," she breathed. "I should have known you'd not betray us."
  She kissed them both. Van Sarawak responded as eagerly as expected, but Everard couldn't bring himself to. He would have remembered Judas.
  "Where are we?" she continued. "It looks almost like Llangollen, but no dwellers. Have you taken us to the Happy Isles?" She spun on one foot and danced among summer flowers. "Can we rest here a while before returning home?"
  Everard drew a long breath. "I've bad news for you, Deirdre," he said.
  She grew silent. He saw her gather herself.
  "We can't go back."
  She waited mutely.
  "The ... the spells I had to use, to save our lives-I had no choice. But those spells debar us from returning home."
  "There is no hope?" He could barely hear her.
  His eyes stung. "No," he said.
  She turned and walked away. Van Sarawak moved to follow her, but thought better of it and sat down beside Everard. "What'd you tell her?" he asked.
  Everard repeated his words. "It seems the best compromise," he finished. "I can't send her back to what's waiting for this world."
  "No."Van Sarawak sat quiet for a while, staring across the sea. Then: "What year is this? About the time of Christ? Then we're still upstairs of the turning point."
  "Yeh. And we still have to find out what it was." "Let's go back to some Patrol office in the farther past. We can recruit help there."
  "Maybe." Everard lay down in the grass and regarded the sky. Reaction overwhelmed him. "I think I can locate the key event right here, though, with Deirdre's help. Wake me when she comes back."
  She returned dry-eyed, though one could see she had wept. When Everard asked if she would assist in his own mission, she nodded, "Of course. My life is yours who saved it."
  After getting you into the mess in the first place. Everard said carefully: "All I want from you is some information. Do you know about... about putting people to sleep, a sleep in which they may believe anything they're told?"
  She nodded doubtfully. "I've seen medical Druids do that."
  "It won't harm you. I only wish to make you sleep so you can remember everything you know, things you believe forgotten. It won't take long."
  Her trustfulness was hard for him to endure. Using Patrol techniques, he put her in a hypnotic state of total recall and dredged out all she had ever heard or read about the Second Punic War. That added up to enough for his purposes.
  Roman interference with Carthaginian enterprise south of the Ebro, in direct violation of treaty, had been the final roweling. In 219 B.C. Hannibal Barca, governor of Carthaginian Spain, laid siege to Saguntum. After eight months he took it, and thus provoked his long-planned war with Rome. At the beginning of May, 218, he crossed the Pyrenees with 90,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry, and 37 elephants, marched through Gaul, and went over the Alps. His losses en route were gruesome: only 20,000 foot and 6,000 horse reached Italy late in the year. Nevertheless, near the Ticinus River he met and broke a superior Roman force. In the course of the following year, he fought several bloodily victorious battles and advanced into Apulia and Campania.
  The Apulians, Lucanians, Bruttians, and Samnites went over to his side. Quintus Fabius Maximus fought a grim guerrilla war, which laid Italy waste and decided nothing. But meanwhile Hasdrubal Barca was organizing Spain, and in 211 he arrived with reinforcements. In 210 Hannibal took and burned Rome, and by 207 the last cities of the confederacy had surrendered to him.
  "That's it," said Everard. He stroked the coppery mane of the girl lying beside him. "Go to sleep now. Sleep well and wake up glad of heart."
  "What'd she tell you?" asked Van Sarawak.
  "A lot of detail," said Everard. The whole story had required more than an hour. "The important thing is this: her knowledge of those times is good, but she never mentioned the Scipios."
  "The who's?"
  "Publius Cornelius Scipio commanded the Roman army at Ticinus. He was beaten there all right, in our world. But later he had the intelligence to turn westward and gnaw away the Carthaginian base in Spain. It ended with Hannibal being effectively cut off in Italy, and what little Iberian help could be sent him was annihilated. Scipio's son of the same name also held a high command, and was the man who finally whipped Hannibal at Zama; that's Scipio Africanus the Elder.
  "Father and son were by far the best leaders Rome had. But Deirdre never heard of them."
  "So ..." Van Sarawak stared eastward across the sea, where Gauls and Cimbri and Parthians were ramping through the shattered Classical world. "What happened to them in this time line?"
  "My own total recall tells me that both the Scipios were at Ticinus, and very nearly killed. The son saved his father's life during the retreat, which I imagine was more like a stampede. One gets you ten that in this history the Scipios died there."
  "Somebody must have knocked them off," said Van Sarawak. His voice tightened. "Some time traveler. It could only have been that."
  "Well, it seems probable, anyhow. We'll see." Everard looked away from Deirdre's slumbrous face. "We'll see."
  At the Pleistocene resort-half an hour after having left it for New York-the Patrolmen put the girl in charge of a sympathetic Greek-speaking matron and summoned their colleagues. Then the message capsules began jumping through space-time.
  All offices prior to 218 B.C.-the closest was Alexandria, 250-230-were "still" there, with 200 or so agents altogether. Written contact with the future was confirmed to be impossible, and a few short jaunts upstairs clinched the proof. A worried conference met at the Academy, back in the Oligocene Period. Unattached agents ranked those with steady assignments, but not each other; on the basis of his own experience, Everard found himself the chairman of a committee of top-bracket officers.
  That was a frustrating job. These men and women had leaped centuries and wielded the weapons of gods. But they were still human, with all the ingrained orneriness of their race.
  Everyone agreed that the damage would have to be repaired. But there was fear for those agents who had gone ahead into time before being warned, as Everard himself had done. If they weren't back when history was re-altered, they would never be seen again. Everard deputized parties to attempt rescue, but doubted there'd be much success. He warned them sternly to return within a day, local time, or face the consequences.
  A man from the Scientific Renaissance had another point to make. Granted, the survivors' plain duty was to restore the "original" time track. But they had a duty to knowledge as well. Here was a unique chance to study a whole new phase of humankind. Several years' anthropological work should be done before- Everard slapped him down with difficulty. There weren't so many Patrolmen left that they could take the risk.
  Study groups had to determine the exact moment and circumstances of the change. The wrangling over methods went on interminably. Everard glared out the window, into the prehuman night, and wondered if the sabertooths weren't doing a better job after all than their simian successors.
  When he had finally gotten his various gangs dispatched, he broke out a bottle and got drunk with Van Sarawak.
  Reconvening next day, the steering committee heard from its deputies, who had run up a total of years in the future. A dozen Patrolmen had been rescued from more or less ignominious situations; another score would simply have to be written off. The spy group's report was more interesting. It seemed that two Helvetian mercenaries had joined Hannibal in the Alps and won his confidence. After the war, they had risen to high positions in Carthage. Under the names of Phrontes and Himilco, they had practically run the government, engineered Hannibal's murder, and set new records for luxurious living. One of the Patrolmen had seen their homes and the men themselves. "A lot of improvements that hadn't been thought of in Classical times. The fellows looked to me like Neldorians, 205th millennium."
  Everard nodded. That was an age of bandits who had "already" given the Patrol a lot of work. "I think we've settled the matter," he said. "It makes no difference whether they were with Hannibal before Ticinus or not. We'd have hell's own time arresting them in the Alps without such a fuss that we'd change the future ourselves. What counts is that they seem to have rubbed out the Scipios, and that's the point we'll have to strike at."
  A nineteenth-century Britisher, competent but with elements of Colonel Blimp, unrolled a map and discoursed on his aerial observations of the battle. He'd used an infra-red telescope to look through low clouds. "And here the Romans stood-"
  "I know," said Everard. "A thin red line. The moment when they took flight is the critical one, but the confusion then also gives us our chance. Okay, we'll want to surround the battlefield unobtrusively, but I don't think we can get away with more than two agents actually on the scene. The baddies are going to be alert, you know, looking for possible counter-interference. The Alexandria office can supply Van and me with costumes."
  "I say," exclaimed the Englishman, "I thought I'd have the privilege."
  "No. Sorry." Everard smiled with one corner of his mouth. "No privilege, anyway. Just risking your neck, in order to negate a world full of people like yourself."
  "But dash it all-"
  Everard rose. "I've got to go," he said flatly. "I don't know why, but I've got to."
  Van Sarawak nodded.
  They left their scooter in a clump of trees and started across the field.
  Around the horizon and up in the sky waited a hundred armed Patrolmen, but that was small consolation here among spears and arrows. Lowering clouds hurried before a cold whistling wind, there was a spatter of rain; sunny Italy was enjoying its late fall.
  The cuirass was heavy on Everard's shoulders as he trotted across blood-slippery mud. He had helmet, greaves, a Roman shield on his left arm and a sword at his waist; but his right hand gripped a stunner. Van Sarawak loped behind, similarly equipped, eyes shifting under the wind-ruffled officer's plume.
  Trumpets howled and drums stuttered. It was all but lost among the yells of men and tramp of feet, screaming, riderless horses and whining arrows. Only a few captains and scouts were still mounted; as often before stirrups were invented, what started to be a cavalry battle had become entirely a fight on foot after the lancers fell off their mounts. The Carthaginians were pressing in, hammering edged metal against the buckling Roman lines. Here and there the struggle was already breaking up into small knots, where men cursed and cut at strangers.
  The combat had passed over this area already. Death lay around Everard. He hurried behind the Roman force, toward the distant gleam of the eagles. Across helmets and corpses, he made out a banner that fluttered triumphant red and purple. And there, looming monstrous against the gray sky, lifting their trunks and bawling, came a squad of elephants.
  War was always the same: not a neat affair of lines across maps, nor a hallooing gallantry, but men who gasped and sweated and bled in bewilderment.
  A slight, dark-faced youth squirmed nearby, trying feebly to pull out the javelin which had pierced his stomach. He was a slinger from Carthage, but the burly Italian peasant who sat next to him, staring without belief at the stump of an arm, paid no attention.
  A flight of crows hovered overhead, riding the wind and waiting.
  "This way," muttered Everard. "Hurry up, for God's sake! That line's going to break any minute."
  The breath was raw in his throat as he jogged toward the standards of the Republic. It came to him that he'd always rather wished Hannibal had won. There was something repellent about the frigid, unimaginative greed of Rome. And here he was, trying to save the city. Well-a-day, life was often an odd business.
  It was some consolation that Scipio Africanus was one of the few decent men left after the war.
  Screaming and clangor lifted, and the Italians reeled back. Everard saw something like a wave smashed against a rock. But it was the rock which advanced, crying out and stabbing, stabbing.
  He began to run. A legionary went past, howling his panic. A grizzled Roman veteran spat on the ground, braced his feet, and stood where he was till they cut him down. Hannibal's elephants squealed and blundered about. The ranks of Carthage held firm, advancing to an inhuman pulse of drums.
  Up ahead, now! Everard saw men on horseback, Roman officers. They held the eagles aloft and shouted, but nobody could hear them above the din.
  A small group of legionaries trotted past. Their leader hailed the Patrolmen: "Over here! We'll give 'em a fight, by the belly of Venus!"
  Everard shook his head and continued. The Roman snarled and sprang at him. "Come here, you cowardly...." A stun beam cut off his words. He crashed into the muck. His men shuddered, someone wailed, and the party broke into flight.
  The Carthaginians were very near, shield to shield and swords running red. Everard could see a scar livid on the cheek of one man, the great hook nose of another. A hurled spear clanged off his helmet. He lowered his head and ran.
  A combat loomed before him. He tried to go around, and tripped on a gashed corpse. A Roman stumbled over him in turn. Van Sarawak cursed and dragged him clear. A sword furrowed the Venusian's arm.
  Beyond, Scipio's men were surrounded and battling without hope. Everard halted, sucked air into starved lungs, and looked into the thin rain. Armor gleamed wetly as a troop of Roman horsemen galloped closer, with mud up to their mounts' noses. That must be the son, Scipio Africanus to be, hastening to rescue his father. The hoofbeats made thunder in the earth.
  "Over there!"
  Van Sarawak cried out and pointed. Everard crouched where he was, rain dripping off his helmet and down his face. From another direction, a Carthaginian party was riding toward the battle around the eagles. And at their head were two men with the height and craggy features of Neldor. They wore G.I. armor, but each of them held a slim-barreled gun.
  "This way!" Everard spun on his heel and dashed toward them. The leather in his cuirass creaked as he ran.
  The Patrolmen were close to the Carthaginians before they were seen. Then a horseman called the warning. Two crazy Romans! Everard saw how he grinned in his beard. One of the Neldorians raised his blast rifle.
  Everard flopped on his stomach. The vicious blue-white beam sizzled where he had been. He snapped a shot, and one of the African horses went over in a roar of metal. Van Sarawak stood his ground and fired steadily. Two, three, four-and there went a Neldorian, down in the mud!
  Men hewed at each other around the Scipios. The Neldorians' escort yelled with terror. They must have had the blaster demonstrated beforehand, but these invisible blows were something else. They bolted. The second of the bandits got his horse under control and turned to follow.
  "Take care of the one you potted, Van," gasped Everard. "Drag him off the battlefield-we'll want to question-" He himself scrambled to his feet and made for a riderless horse. He was in the saddle and after the Neldorian before he was fully aware of it.
  Behind him, Publius Cornelius Scipio and his son fought clear and joined their retreating army.
  Everard fled through chaos: He urged speed from his mount, but was content to pursue. Once they had gotten out of sight, a scooter could swoop down and make short work of his quarry.
  The same thought must have occurred to the time rover. He reined in and took aim. Everard saw the blinding flash and felt his cheek sting with a near miss. He set his pistol to wide beam and rode in shooting.
  Another fire-bolt took his horse full in the breast. The animal toppled and Everard went out of the saddle. Trained reflexes softened the fall. He bounced to his feet and lurched toward his enemy. The stunner was gone, fallen into the mud, no time to look for it. Never mind, it could be salvaged later, if he lived. The widened beam had found its mark; it wasn't strong enough at such dilution to knock a man out, but the Neldorian had dropped his blaster and the horse stood swaying with closed eyes.
  Rain beat in Everard's face. He slogged up to the mount. The Neldorian jumped to earth and drew a sword. Everard's own blade rasped forth.
  "As you will," he said in Latin. "One of us will not leave this field."
  The moon rose over mountains and turned the snow to a sudden wan glitter. Far in the north, a glacier threw back the light, and a wolf howled. The Cro-Magnons chanted in their cave, the noise drifted faintly through to the verandah.
  Deirdre stood in darkness, looking out. Moonlight dappled her face and caught a gleam of tears. She started as Everard and Van Sarawak came up behind her.
  "Are you back so soon?" she asked. "You only came here and left me this morning."
  "It didn't take long," said Van Sarawak. He had gotten a hypno in Attic Greek.
  "I hope-" She tried to smile-"I hope you have finished your task and can rest from your labors."
  "Yes," said Everard, "we finished it."
  They stood side by side for a while, looking out on a world of winter.
  "Is it true what you said, that I can never go home?" Deirdre spoke gently.
  "I'm afraid so. The spells...." Everard swapped a glance with Van Sarawak.
  They had official permission to tell the girl as much as they wished and take her wherever they thought she could live best. Van Sarawak maintained that would be Venus in his century, and Everard was too tired to argue.
  Deirdre drew a long breath. "So be it," she said. "I'll not waste of life lamenting. But the Baal grant that they have it well, my people at home."
  "I'm sure they will," said Everard.
  Suddenly he could do no more. He only wanted to sleep. Let Van Sarawak say what had to be said, and reap whatever rewards there might be.
  He nodded at his companion. "I'm turning in," he declared. "Carry on, Van."
   The Venusian took the girl's arm. Everard went slowly back to his room.
  • © Copyright Anderson
  • : 18/06/2007, : 18/06/2007. 98k. .
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