On The Corner of Galaxy and Fifth
Part Three of Five
by Rob Wynne and Jeffrey Williams
the darkness, a match was struck, illuminating the craggy
face of a bearded man in a dark, heavy wool coat. His nose was sharp
pointed, and his eyes spaced wide on his face, so that he appeared like
so much as an agitated chipmunk. The amber glow of the
danced and shimmered across his face, momentarily reflecting the moist
most random and unfaithful mistress is fate!"
he said melodramatically. "So beautiful in her charms, so
her vipered stings. For what appears at once to be sweetness
turns on its heels, revealing sadness and woe, and in so doing, breaks
spirit of the most devout and divinely noble."
match sputtered out, leaving behind only darkness.
Seconds later, another match was struck, this time resting in the
his other hand.
soft," he continued, walking forward slowly
and looking both ways for approaching danger, "the tricks of the
lie in wait for the unwary, to prick and tear at the flesh, to rip and
upon the bones of indiscretion. And even now," he quickened
pace, lowering his voice to an urgent growl, "as our heroes rest upon
dark and mysterious field, the forces of Time's General gather to crown
victor, or to lead them to the grave. This is my warning, my
prophesy," he paused. "My play." The match
into nothingness, leaving behind still darkness bathed softly by the
of the moon.
voice penetrated the murky shadows. "Er, I'm
sorry. What?" George stared curiously at the
bearded man who
was now standing directly in front of him.
gone with you!" the swordsman known as Horatio
yelled to the man, pressing a sack of coins into his hands and hurrying
towards the cemetery gates. "Take thy tales of woe and
elsewhere! Peddle thine ramblings in Verona
Province. They seem to
enjoy thy elocutionary confectionery much more so than the Great
me," George tapped Horatio on the
shoulder. "Who was that strange fellow?"
eyed George suspiciously, sizing him up as a
potential threat. Finally, he sighed and sheathed his sword.
Chorus," he said, returning to his master's
side. "A madman come to state the obvious yet
turned and glared at the departing figure. "Be gone!" he
yelled. "Infernal bard of perdition!"
beamed impishly at the tall blonde man who had helped
him to his feet. "Hamlet, my dear fellow!" he enthused to the
somewhat less-than-thrilled Dane. "It's so very good to see a familiar
know this cretin, milord?" Horatio asked
gruffly, gently lifting Mia to her feet.
me," George interrupted, putting a hand on
Horatio's shoulder, who eyed it as though it were fresh bird droppings,
"but did you say 'The Great Danes'? Did...did you say Verona
my," Mia absently looked Horatio up and down,
her eyes abeam. "Big strong fellow, aren'tcha....and in tights, no
ignored the three of them, turning to face the looming
stone walls of the castle. Trauma stood next to him, but neither would
other's eyes. Hamlet stood for a moment, concentrating on some distant
only he could see. Finally, he broke the silence.
pestilent wind hath brought thee to
Elsinore?" he murmured quietly.
pestilent wind indeed," Trauma agreed amiably.
"The time lines have been thrown into complete chaos. Come to think of
it," he continued, wiping the soot from his face, "they are rather
grimy at the present." He took a small step forward and pivoted on the
ball of his foot, so that he was now standing face to face with the
prince. "Do you think perhaps my companions and myself could impose
your majesty's good graces and hospitality?"
laughed nervously. "If I didn't know any
better," he said aloud to no one in particular, "I could have sworn
that Trauma just called that man Hamlet." He snickered. "Elsinore,
indeed!" He stared up at the high walls of the castle silhouetted
the pale moonlit sky.
stared morosely at George and Mia for a moment, then leveled
his gaze on Trauma. "My...hospitality," he said with difficulty, is
most freely given to you as well as your faithful friends." His words
carried no hint of enthusiasm
Trauma bubbled, bouncing up and down
on invisible springs in his heels.
the prince whispered. "Take these
weary travelers, make haste unto the feasting rooms, the halls of meat
wine. Then, with speed take my humble request to my lady the Queen,
might vouchsafe these three a fair and pleasant eventide." He took hold
Trauma's arm and raised his voice noticeably. "I will have a word with
in the dark and gloomy privacy of the castle grounds."
Madam." Horatio nodded curtly at George, and
smiled warmly to Mia. "Please, follow me, and thou shalt receive your
meter of food and drink, your fair measure of rest and comfort."
whatever you say," Mia bubbled. She winced in
pain and gingerly rubbed the knot on her head. Horatio gently took her
help her keep her balance. "Sorry," she murmured, throwing her head
back and staring dreamily up at him. "I hit a tombstone head-on when we
arrived." She giggled nervously. "So, do you know how to use that
George called out. "May I have a
word with you?"
broke away from the prince and strolled over to his
friend. "Whatever in the world may I do for you, George" he asked
I've admittedly been through a bit in the last
two days, but this..." He paused and stared up at the castle walls.
"Are you actually trying to tell me that this man is Hamlet?"
stared at him blankly. "Yes," he replied,
wondering what George's point was.
Prince of Denmark," George smirked.
thought for a moment. "Yes." he nodded
I realize I've said this about too many things
and been wrong, but here...here, I know. Trauma, Hamlet is fiction." A
weary smile marched across his face. "You cannot possibly expect me to
believe that the Timelines could plunge us into Shakespeare's play!"
looked puzzled. He furrowed his brow in concentration,
trying quickly to understand George's question. Suddenly, his eyes lit
realization dawned on him. "Oh, I see," he said happily, as if he had
suddenly solved some great riddle. "You thought he made that up!"
stared incredulously at Trauma, who grinned madly at
him.. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it when words refused
Finally, he shook his head, and turned to help Horatio carry Mia into
watched the small band recede, then turned to face the
stoic prince. "Now, Hamlet." he said easily. "What can I do for
Dane quietly led Trauma towards a lake a short distance
from Elsinore. The high clouds continued to make their slow march
skies, and wispy bands of fog hovered peacefully over the chill of the
countryside. A light frost crunched under their feet as they walked.
should not have come to Shakespearion IV,"
Hamlet finally offered. "The castle of Elsinore is a pit of vipers, a
dismal hole filled with spiders and vermin."
dear Lord," Trauma mused, rolling his eyes in
disgust. "You're not still
trying to decide whether or not to kill the king? I told you last time
met...He did it, without a doubt."
I must have a sign, proof most conclusive!"
Hamlet stopped and turned to face the castle, which was now a looming
shape on the horizon, save for wisps of smoke from its chimneys and
dotting small windows. Even so, the castle was imposing, towering above
misty plain like a giant on the rampage. "The question consumes me! the
Ghost hounds my nightly watch. Sleep, O most peaceful sleep, does not
fevered brain make welcome. I sometime wonder if I may still tell a
hawk from a
stared incredulously at his companion.
"Hamlet," he said simply, as if explaining to a small child,
"you know exactly what happened. It was Uncle Claudius, in the tower,
the ear-poison. Game over. I mean, the Ghost told you so, repeatedly,
over..." Trauma paused for breath, "and over, and over, again and
again and again." He stared out over the silvery waters of the lake.
"How many plays must you stage? How many times must everyone here
these laborious productions? Good lord, man, you've invented
Lloyd Webber never dreamt of!"
suddenly winced in pain, as visions of "Hamlet:
The Musical" intruded on his thoughts. He quickly shoved them into a
closet in the corner of his mind and hastily slammed the door.
spirit I have seen," Hamlet interjected,
"may be a devil, and the demons hath power to assume pleasing shapes.
Perhaps," he continued, kneeling down to touch the waters, "out of
mine own weakness and melancholy, as they are quite potent with such
abuses me to damn me." He splashed some of the cold water on his face.
players arrived in town yesterday," the
prince added hopefully.
I'm not surprised," Trauma said wearily.
"Word gets about. They probably tell each other, 'Go to Elsinore. Some
daft prince up there will buy anything you sell."
have these players play something like the murder
of my father!" Hamlet said, forcefully.
Trauma muttered under his breath.
don't you see!" Hamlet babbled. "The
play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience..."
the king." Trauma finished. "Yes, we've
been through all this before." Exasperated, he knelt down next to the
prince. "Do you know what you need," he said slyly. "You need a
vacation, something to distract you from this sordid business of
The Cheshire grin spread slowly across his face.
exhaled a long, ragged breath. "Oh....god,"
he whispered, closing his eyes.
Hamlet," Trauma whispered conspiratorially.
"I have a proposition for you..."
danced across the cold stone walls inside Elsinore
Castle. George and Mia sat on the edge of a large bed, covered in
A food laden table had been pushed over in front of them, and they ate
while servant girls, each of them no more than sixteen or seventeen
brought them more food and wine.
love." Mia smiled, accepting another
flagon of wine. "I don't normally indulge myself in this sort of thing,
but I think tonight I'll make an exception."
raised his own goblet to her in a mock toast and
smiled warmly. She clanked her metal cup against his and giggled. The
from the candlelight danced merrily in her eyes.
impassively in the doorway, Horatio scanned the
mostly empty hallways and waited for Hamlet's return. His demeanor
Major-General who has been forced to watch over preschoolers.
you alright?" George asked, as Mia put aside
her plate and wrapped herself in the bearskin covering the bed. He
back of his head gingerly. "I know how you must feel. I hit those
pretty hard myself."
I'm ok," she smiled. Lowering her voice, she
whispered out of the corner of her mouth, "I just hope I didn't
Horatio. I kept saying those things, and I just couldn't seem to stop
laughed out loud. "Yes, well, I seem to have
developed a bit of a speech impediment over the last two days, myself.
'Er…what?', 'Can…can…can you tell
me…?' 'I d-don't f-f-follow'" Mia
doubled over with laughter and fell onto her side, snorting slightly.
smiled sardonically. "I promise you, I'm much more articulate than I
admired the way George's face changed when he was
smiling. It was such a different expression than the dark scowl she'd
the previous hours. "Don't worry about it," she giggled. "Under
your circumstances, I'd be pretty zonked too." She reflected on the
of the last few hours. "Actually," she realized, her smile fading
into a blank mask, "I'm not really that far removed from your
gave her a concerned look. Sensing her melancholy, he
attempted to change the subject. "So, what did you think of old Queen
a sour old thing, isn't she? Just kept staring at
the walls and shaking. She barely even acknowledged us at all." She bit
her lip nervously. "I wonder what's the matter with her?"
everything." George said matter-of-factly.
"As I recall, Hamlet's been tormenting both Gertrude and Claudius,
to get them to betray some sign that they murdered his father."
raised an eyebrow. She picked up the wine flagon and
settled back onto the bed. "Oh? And how do you know so much about
was one of my favorite Shakespeare plays."
gaped at her. "Don't tell me you don't read
shook her head emphatically. "No, we do, it's just
that I don't get the connection. George, Shakespeare wrote his plays
thousand years ago. What could that have to do with all this?"
don't know, but everything is precisely the way I
remember from the play," he said. He took another sip of the wine,
briefly to enjoy the warm glow it left in his stomach. "Speaking of
memory," he pondered, "that's been bothering me for quite some
has?" Mia asked, snapping out of her dark
thoughts and bouncing upright.
Tom Boltz seems like he'd be a pretty hard person
to forget, don't you think?" George pulled himself upright and wrapped
arms around his knees. "I don’t see how both you and Trauma
remember who he was until we checked into the computers."
frowned. Pursing her lips slightly, she blew a slight
stream of air upwards, pushing a stray red lock of hair up out of her
a moment, she scanned the rafters of the high ceiling, as if searching
answer to his question.
she snapped her head down and leveled her gaze on
George, who was watching her patiently. "Let me ask you a question. Who
invented the steam engine?"
blinked. "Now, wait a minute," he flustered.
"There's no comparison there. Thomas Boltz invented the
engine! He united untold numbers of planets!"
shook her head. "George, the inventor of the steam
engine on Earth is no less a significant figure in his own way than
Boltz." Standing up, she walked to the table which had the extra food
for them by the servants. Grabbing a leg of chicken, she turned to face
leaning back against the edge of the table. "The steam engine united
entire countries. The entire planet in some ways. Made your railroads
properly, that's for sure. It also allowed for massive
leaving people time for idle pursuits like inventing airplanes. If it
for the steam engine, most of the technological advances of the
century just don't happen." She picked at the drumstick for a moment,
interest, and placed it down on the plate. "Besides, George, you tend
remember the motion of the thing, not the person who put the thing in
nodded thoughtfully. "So," he said with a
slight grin, "who was the
inventor of the steam engine?"
grabbed an apple and polished it on the front of her
shirt. "How should I know, love?" she shrugged. "It's your
planet, not mine." She winked at him and took a bite out of the apple.
laughed, and threw a pillow at her, which she ducked
easily. It's odd, he thought, that I should find it so easy to talk to
someone so different to me. He pulled himself back from this
examined the large, stone room. It had been quite cold outside, and
a fire blazed in a gigantic fireplace nearby, George couldn't help but
the wind seeping through the walls.
funny," he said, "these places always
look so solid and imposing, but you get inside them and the drafts are
know," Mia said between mouthfuls. The cold
having been brought to her attention, she shivered and wrinkled her
Leaving the apple core on the table, she slipped back to her bed and
furs around her.
strode back into the room. "Milady. Sir."
He gave George only a quick glance before returning his gaze to Mia.
is my own solemn duty, borne of my sworn and unbreakable oath to my
Queen, that I must without fail, upon the appointed hour, serve my time
the battlements. Mine hour hath come, and I must take my leave of you
both." He methodically doused each of the four torches, leaving only
roaring fire to bathe the room in an orange glow.
you go," George said, "do you know where
with my lord Hamlet," Horatio replied.
"Indeed, they were just moments ago sighted through the cold fog by
lake, deep in thought and what is assuredly a most vexing
He bowed to Mia and started to leave the room, pulling the door almost
behind him before cracking it again for a moment. "It occurs to me
conversation must be neigh incomprehensible. My lord Hamlet is not
your companion, to hear him speak, hath read from a dictionary most
door pulled closed behind him.
deep within a pile of furs, George heard Mia's voice.
"I get the distinct impression that Horatio doesn't much like
stared at the shapely pile of furs which at the moment
was more or less Mia, and forced himself to think pure thoughts. "When
this whole thing calms down," he said, "I'm going to ask Trauma what
happened the other times he's been here." He felt his eyes grow heavy
the warmth of the blankets and the fire enveloped his weary body, and
drifted off to sleep.
tossed and turned in her blankets, exhausted but unable
to get comfortable. The bed was soft enough, but her stomach still felt
knots as she stared at the ceiling and reflected on the events of the
of her past flashed past her in the flickering shadows
cast by the fire. She thought about her home on Terra Alpha,
one her mother and father lived in now. It was an old colonial style
made from actual wood, and it sat high up on the banks of the narrow
ran its way through the valley between the Thistle and Shamrock
ranges. Mia had only been there a few times, on vacation from the
she remembered how very peaceful the cottage had been to her. She now
it, or indeed, even the valley, still existed.
quietly, she unwrapped herself from the blanket and
tiptoed over to the fireplace. She stood for a moment, transfixed by
leaping crackling of the wood as the flames danced to and fro across
But her fatigue quickly got the better of her, and she realized that
one way or
another, she was going to have to get some sleep.
she whispered to herself.
back at the beds, she reached a decision and padded
over to where George lay. Quietly, she slipped under the covers next to
pulled the fur tight around her body. The warmth of another human
nearby lulled her at last into a quiet and peaceful sleep.
it's decided then," Trauma said, rising from a
crouch and straightening his tie.
the Dane said, his eyes focused on the
ripples a gentle breeze was softly cascading across the moonlit waters.
"But this matter of which you speak, it is a most vexing and terrible
affair. Who may tell if the solution will be good or vile in the sight
heaven? I must think on this longer. We both must consider carefully
of action we commit ourselves and our comrades to." Hamlet breathed a
heavy, melancholy sigh. "I fear the decision is one which requires a
deal of careful and deliberate consideration."
turned away from him briefly, and his entire body
coiled slightly as he tried to control his temper. He turned, forcing
up at the corners, and clenched his teeth tightly. "Prince Hamlet,"
he soothed, "I'm afraid we don't
to work through these details in your own time
is…understandable…but it's just
not…practical here and now."
the possible consequences of rushing forth into action
without deliberate forethought are unfathomably fraught with danger and
consequences of not doing so, my dear man, are
greater than any possible damage we could manage if we try and repair
rift," Trauma argued passionately. "But we must do this now, or we
won't be able to do it all."
still standing by the waterside, breathed deeply of
the chill night air. Both figures were now thoroughly enveloped by a
drifting patch of fog, and far above their heads, the moonlight
to the ground in slender, diffuse rays, and played patterns on the
turned to Trauma, his cold blue eyes locked forcefully
upon the face of the off-worlder "And you swear upon all that is good
beautiful in your life that you will, without fail or wavered resolve,
through with your oath?"
swear," Trauma said, lifting a hand to his
chest, "that upon completion of this task, I will do every thing that
smiled a dark, melancholy smile. He pulled his sword
from its scabbard and held it parallel to the ground between himself
companion. "Swear upon my sword," he commanded, "that all
conditions of our solemn agreement shall be met in toto."
rolled his eyes and threw his hands into the air.
"Hamlet," Trauma fumed, "I have done a great many things in my
life that I am not proud of, but I have never once broken my word."
Hamlet said firmly, lowering his
voice to a whisper. "Swear…swear your solemn
oath…upon this sword."
air about them began to swirl violently, and a dark,
spectral voice echoed from across the lake. "Swear upon his sword!"
it called, seemingly from within the very bowels of Hell.
right, all right already!" Trauma yelled.
Reaching forth, he placed his hands over Hamlet's on the hilt of the
weapon. "I swear upon this great bloody sword that I will uphold each
all of the conditions you and I have made this night!" He lowered his
voice. "I swear upon the soul of the Deltran and the memory of the
Lost Ones -- I shall not break my oath."
startled as the two locked eyes momentarily. The
moonlight gleamed in Trauma's eyes, and he clinched Hamlet's hands
he completed his oath in a sotto voce
whisper. Finally, he let go of the sword, and Hamlet closed his eyes.
deeply, he returned the blade to its scabbard.
paced disapprovingly. "There, are you happy now?
Grief! I can see which parent your stubbornness comes from," he
as they turned and disappeared into the fog, walking in the general
again, the lake was quiet and still. The only sound was
the quiet lapping of the water against the frost-laden bank. For
minutes, the calm was undisturbed, then a sudden wind blew from nowhere
the lake. At first, the surface merely rippled beneath the disturbance,
then began churning as the wind whipped the waters into a miniature
swirled the foggy air around the center of the lake. In minutes, the
fog had coalesced
into a shimmering hole, from which a lone figure plunged into the
* * * * *
fire in the hearth was down to embers, but its warmth
still permeated the room. Trauma slipped in quietly, closing the door
him. Slipping off his shoes so as not to make a sound, he crept over to
sleeping companions. George and Mia lay peacefully together, her arm
over his body as they shared a deep and blissful slumber. Trauma smiled
himself, and pulled the fur blankets forward to cover their bodies
walked over to the fireplace, and stood watching as the
embers flickered and shimmered like hundreds of fireflies filling a
a heavy evening rain. Slowly, he raised his right hand and gazed into
depths of the pulsing crimson jewel set into his time ring. The soft
of the embers combined with the dark red jewel brought out the lines in
Trauma's face as his furrowed his brow and reflected on the task ahead.
Finally, he broke from his reverie, sighed softly, and walked back to
pausing briefly to gaze down upon his sleeping friends.
the sake of your children," he whispered.
"may we do this right."
to his own bed, he wrapped himself in the thick
blankets and fell instantly into a deep and powerful sleep.
dark figure pulled itself from the murky, frigid waters of
the icy lake near Elsinore. Shivering and exhausted, he walked slowly
small stand of trees a quarter-mile from the lakeshore. Leaning against
tree for support, he strained to see through the dense fog and the pale
forest before entering the thicket. Quietly, he began gathering wood
together in the center of a small clearing in the tiny grove.
the small pile was complete, he reached into his pocket
and produced a small sphere. He fumbled briefly with it, shaking
long, phlegmatic coughing spells and a cramped grip brought on by his
into the frigid Elsinore lake. With great difficulty, he squeezed the
causing a brief spout of sparks to fizzle from the top. He squeezed the
second time, then a third and a fourth, but each time the sparks failed
sustain themselves. Pumping the sphere furiously, he howled with rage,
giving up and hurling the sphere into the misty darkness. For the first
he began to feel real fear.
is the one who plummets from the sky," a
voice called from nearby. A second later, a match was struck. The
figure leapt into the branches of a nearby tree.
and wet," Chorus continued, "he clings
to fervent hope, depending upon the wondrous and strange engine in his
deliver him from vicious night." Bending down, he expertly lit the
under the fire logs, despite the dampness of the leaves and small
wisps of white smoke wafted gently into the air, and an orange glow
spread amid the tiny branches.
dark figure jumped down from the trees and started
intently at the craggy face of his benefactor.
Chorus said rapidly, lighting a second
match with an idle flick of his wrist, "is the one who, while fate
unfortunate in the fall, is doubly blessed with allies in strange
you trying to say you mean me no harm?" the
trenchcoated figure asked warily, crouching closer to the growing fire.
match extinguished itself, but the tiny bonfire had already begun to
light about the clearing. Cautiously, he crept closer to the flames,
the heat to permeate his drenched attire. "How do you people stand the
chill here? It is impossible to believe anyone could function in this
cold." He stared into the face of Chorus, who was now strangely quiet ,
his eyes studying the strange appearance of the man who had fallen to
moment ago, you were spouting a constant stream of nonsense, and now
gave the dark figure a vague, empty stare. Flickering
sparks of thought danced in his eyes, as he searched for the proper
Reaching into his coat pocket, Chorus removed a small box of matches
several of them beneath small wristbands on each hand. Deftly, flicking
wrist and propelling a match over a piece of sandpaper affixed to the
lit match emerged quickly in his fingertips.
but this figure falling through damp and mysterious
night vapors, puzzled the mind and deceived the eyes. Yea, his form was
strange, his face covered with waxen shine and stretched loosely about
trenchcoated man startled, and pawed urgently at the back
of his head and neck. Discovering something out of place, he carefully
down upon his curiously waxen neck, and the humanoid features of his
returned to normal.
you, friend," he sneered at Chorus, whose
match had once again burnt out. "The sealing compound doesn’t
take well to
water." He sat closer to the fire, disdainfully examining
face. "Raving lunatic, aren’t you?" he grinned. "You
won’t, speak unless a match is burning in your hand."
looked confused. The encounter was not turning out the
way he had hoped.
man in the trenchcoat laughed heartily and leaned back
upon a nearby tree. "That device, on your wrists. Unmitigated
must remember them for future usage." He smiled evilly. "I doubt
you’ve filed any sort of patent on them."
Chorus first pulled out the bag of coins Horatio
had given him, shaking them loosely in front of the dark stranger. When
failed to produce the desired effect, he struck another match and leapt
other side of the fire.
tale of woe can I tell," he said, "of
others who fell like shooting stars from the heavens, and unto the
of Elsinore did go."
man sat bold upright. "Others?? There were others
who came here tonight?" A wicked smile etched itself upon his face.
"Tell me more…"
streamed into the room through the tiny windows,
warming Mia’s face. She stirred, stretching lazily to work
the kinks out of her
back and shoulders. George was lying next to her, his arm casually
across her waist. She remembered waking momentarily when Trauma had
last night, and George’s eyes had flickered briefly. She was
certain he had
seen her lying next to him, but he had simply smiled and gone back to
slipped out of bed and padded down the corridor. She
found a servant girl, who led her to an adjoining room where she was
bathe. Clean and refreshed, she sat in front of a mirror and tried
to do something useful with her hair, which steadfastly refused to
Finally, she tied it back in a ponytail with a length of ribbon she
one of the dresser drawers. She turned her head from side to side,
not going to make the fashion vids,"
she giggled, slipping on a dark purple gown the servants had left her.
barely avoided clashing with her red hair.
the time she returned to the room, both George and Trauma
were awake and freshly washed up. George was now wearing clothing that
resembled Hamlet’s, while Trauma was attired in his usual
outfit, despite the
fact that it was thoroughly damp. She raised an eyebrow at his rumpled
and chuckled politely.
make no compromises to anyone’s sartorial sense, my
dear," he said simply, shrugging his shoulders apologetically.
you had them wash your clothes, but won’t give them
time to dry them?" she asked.
always, madam, your powers of perception are
astounding," he smiled. "However, sartorial selection is quite the
least of our current worries. We have a great deal of work to do, and
precisely is the plan?" George asked.
leapt onto a nearby bench and stretched his arms
grandly. "The plan," he exhorted, "is to get our dear Mia up the
to computer room and load in those library cards."
George and Mia gaped at him. "Computers?"
George asked incredulously. "In Elsinore? But surely…"
people in the Danish Province are rather a bit like
the Amish on Earth or the Highlander Colonists on Terra Alpha. They
purposely eschewed the use of technology in favor of a simpler life,
complicated by the demands that modern industrial development
upon a society." Trauma hopped down from the bench, grinning madly at
George. "However, this being a seat of government, and since someone
rather kindly got them a rather good deal on some very top of the line
hardware," his grin broadened slightly, "for a small commission, of
course -- they elected to make an exception. Hamlet has already assured
the system will be at our disposal."
threw the door wide and gestured his companions into
Mia said, turning to block Trauma as he
entered the hallway. "We have a computer. But what's the plan? What am
going to be looking for?"
collected papers and minutiae of Thomas Eugene
Boltz," Trauma said, artfully dodging around her so that he was leading
the way. "We need to find out everything we can about the meeting
Boltz and the officials at Boling and Fortinbras. Everything, down to
minutes, the planning notes, the sketches and diagrams, as well as any
items that he may have used at the meeting."
then?" George asked.
then," Trauma replied, pulling open a wooden door
with a carving of a keyboard burned into its oak surface, revealing an
ascending staircase. "we're going to that very meeting, where Prince
Hamlet will perform the role of Thomas Boltz!"
bounded up the stairs, leaving a shocked Mia and
George behind to stare at each other in disbelief.
* * * * *
computer room was located high in a tower in the northern
corner of Elsinore castle. Tall oak cabinets lined the walls of the
tape spools spinning on pulley-driven motors. In the precise center of
room, an intricately carved mahogany desk had been erected; a huge
mounted in its center stretched almost to the ceiling. George noticed a
bewildering array of keys and buttons carved into the polished wood. On
other side of the mirror, another set of keys and buttons was arrayed
the trio entered, a man stood up from one of the consoles
and walked over to meet them.
Trauma cried happily as the two shook
hands. "How long has it been?"
is a wicked mistress, Trauma Martin."
Polonious replied. "For surely, not enough hours and weeks have passed
this land since last we had occasion to meet."
stifled a giggle as Trauma attempted to puzzle out the
welcome. "Yes, well, I'm very glad to see you too," he finally said
earnestly. "How's this old system holding up?"
well as can be expected, with support so far afield.
'Tis certain to hold up much better if it is left untampered by
dear man, I understand how you feel, but we really
are pressed for time, and…"
ye should wish to submit unto this operator a job to
process, output via vellum copy shall be delivered posthaste unto your
boggled. "Batch processing? That is primitive."
shot him a dark glare and began to protest when
Hamlet arrived in the room, carrying two large chests. "Polonious,
people have my authorization to use these facilities."
took him aside and whispered urgently, "Prince
Hamlet, that is not wise. Never a borrower nor a lender be…"
prince held up his hand and calmly replied, "No, my
friend. It is indeed of the utmost import that these gentlemen are
access, for the night falls quickly and there is little day to waste."
well," Polonious grumbled, "but on your
own head be it." Turning to Trauma, he scowled and said, "The system
is at your disposal."
nodded wisely as he surveyed the room. George wandered
about, running his hands across the wooden cabinets and examining the
run through wooden tubing to the center console.
"This is a
computer?" he finally exclaimed.
a state of the art one, at that," Trauma said.
"I had to have a little custom cabinet work done to fit into the decor,
but it's otherwise a terrific example of TPA computing prowess."
shook her head in amazement. "How in the world did
you get it?" she marveled.
Sitting at the main console, she tapped a few keys. The mirror suddenly
shimmered and her reflection was replaced by a windowed terminal. She
"OS-Epsilon? Trauma, this is a library
had the grace to look slightly embarrassed.
"Well, they were going to throw it out, weren't they? Eventually. I
took the liberty of moving it off-grounds for them. Saved them a
all the thanks I got."
shook her head in amazement, and slipped the library
access card out of the pouch on her belt. Scanning the wooden desktop,
located a small slot and slipped it in. A few clicks and whirrs from
surrounding cabinets were the only indication that anything was
finally, a new window appeared on the mirror:
Reference Department Data Collection
** Authorized Access Only **
she said. "we're in." Mia began
tapping furiously at the keyboard. "So, what shall I go after first?"
leaned over her shoulder, placing a hand flat against
the desktop and another on her shoulder to steady his balance. "We need
his papers. Boltz took extensive notes of his meeting in Oslo, and
be collected in the Library Archives. Also, any video, audio, or other
of the Oslo meeting." Straightening up, he scuttled around to the other
terminal and began typing furiously.
isn't all this just a bit silly?" George
asked. "I mean, I suppose
there's maybe a passing resemblance between Hamlet and Boltz, but they
twins. That only happens in bad novels."
cocked his head to one side, contemplating George's
objection as he typed. "Yes, well, Rudolph Rassendyll was a bit much to
hope for, hmmm? Still, we'll dye his hair properly and he'll do. Tom
a bit of a recluse, anyway, and very few people ever met him face to
even less so before he became famous. I doubt if one man in a thousand
place him in a lineup. Besides
which," he grinned slyly.
"from all accounts, Boltz was a moody, domineering
a morbid sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic.
I don't think we could possibly have cast an actor more
gaped at Hamlet. "Perchance mine ears deceive
me, that I mishear the contrivance of this cunning serpent. Surely,
not mean to wrap thyself in the visage of another? Hamlet, Hamlet, to
self be true!"
that I need not venture thusly into such a mad
scheme, but needs must when the devil drives, Polonious."
devil indeed milord, for thou should well mark what
occasion did you last have to deal with such a treacherous avatar."
concern is well appreciated, my friend, but he and
I have," Hamlet paused, "an understanding…."
grace upon you, my prince, that well you know
what you do." The two men walked into an adjacent room and out of
Mia cried from her console after a while.
"I've found the Boltz papers, but there's an odd security screen
well, I suspect that's our friend Ellis trying to
locate us. No matter, we'll have all we want and be long away before
trace us here, if they can even manage the Timelines right now." he
replied. "Just get those papers. I've almost got Mr. Boltz here some
Trauma spoke, Hamlet emerged from the side chamber. His
blonde hair was now a dark brown, grayed at the temples in a fair
of Boltz's drivers license. Polonious walked behind him, fretting
stopped typing suddenly. "Trauma," she called,
"there's a second challenge screen!"
Trauma said, standing up and pacing around
the desk to Mia's console. "That's peculiar, why would they put
Suddenly, a look of horror flashed across his face. "Quickly! Download
everything….everything! We haven't a moment to lose!"
* * * * *
of miles away, a computer screen in a darkened room
began winking a silent alarm. A shadow fell across the screen, and a
uncoiled to tap upon the attached keyboard. The alarm disappeared from
screen, and moments later, a message began flashing on the terminal:
ERASING ARCHIVE FILES
TEB0001.001 - TEB2000.999
dark figure shuffled away, chortling softly to itself.
* * * * *
delicate fingers flew across the keyboard as she
franticly issued her orders to the remote computer. George marveled at
screen as pages upon pages of data rapidly flickered across its surface.
the lot of it," she finally sighed, locking
her cramping fingers together and flexing them, trying to restore
her aching tendons. "I've got it in the buffer, anyway, except for the
screen was now blank but for a single persistent warning:
File Not Found.
file did you miss?" George asked curiously.
smiled humorlessly. "Mr. Boltz's obituary,
fifty-eight years out of date." He said grimly. "Still, we should
have here what we need. Well done."
began sorting through the downloaded files, sending odd
bits of them to the printer for Hamlet to study for his role. Trauma,
meanwhile, finished creating the forged identification and passport for
is Mr. Boltz's wallet," he said, handing the
small leather billfold to the prince. "It's got all you need for your
including a round trip plane ticket from Seattle to Oslo. This folder
the information you'll need to know to impersonate Mr. Boltz once we
With any luck, the storms in the Timelines will have calmed enough we
down somewhat near our destination in time to get you on that plane."
Hamlet said, suspiciously.
plane. It's a device, flies through the air, moves
people to and fro." Trauma said easily. "They're great fun, you'll
dids't not speak of this before. A change in our
bargain it must be, for I made no such vow to walk into the belly of a
beast of my own will, casting life and limb into peril!"
well, that's all well and good, but if you don't
arrive in Oslo by plane, someone's going to notice." Trauma insisted.
not to be a wet blanket, Trauma, but isn't there
one small problem with this whole plan?" George said suddenly.
disengaged himself from the prince and turned
nonchalantly. "Not such as I am aware, Mr. Pembroke. I have considered
every last detail."
one. Won't the local authorities be a bit
suspicious of someone showing up to take a plane who's supposedly been
considered that when formulating my attack on this
problem, George. There are two reasons why I don't think that's very
First, as I said before, Boltz was rather reclusive, and known to
sight from time to time. It's unlikely he had any important engagements
to leaving for Oslo, so it's quite possible that no one would have
the body in the laboratory for days or even weeks."
looked skeptical. "What's the other reason?"
grinned. "Our good friend Mr. Ellis. The Temporal
Enforcement Agency have no idea how
they are going to fix the problem, but I seriously doubt they would
Boltz's body to be found by the authorities. So far, the only damage to
timelines is based on the fact that Boltz never convinced Boling and
to build the 808. While catastrophic in the results column, it's much
minor in what's known to temporal scientists as the "point of
effect". Once several million people know
that Boltz is dead, the jig will be very well and truly up."
removed a small shimmering disk from a slot in the
desktop, while Mia retrieved her library access card and slipped it
her pouch. "Well, then," he said. "Let us be on our way, shall
four travelers began down the stairs. George, in the
rear, stopped suddenly, and turned to face Polonious. "Trust me on
sir. Do not, under any circumstances, hide anywhere behind draperies or
that cryptic warning, George hurried down the stairs to
catch up with his companions, leaving a puzzled Polonious staring
* * * * *
after they departed down the stairs and made their
way to the front door, a hand appeared in the window of the computer
trenchcoated man, wheezing for breath, pulled himself into the room and
back against the wall, panting furiously. He had spent the better part
afternoon scaling the sheer high walls of Elsinore in a desperate
engage his elusive quarry. Fuming that they were no longer there, he
breath and hurried down the stairs.
the corridor, Polonious was just returning from the front
gate, having seen Prince Hamlet depart with his dubious companions. He
his head sadly at the sight of them running headlong across the plain,
madly in the air in an futile attempt to leap into a hole in the sky
caromed wildly across the terrain. Finally, the one named Trauma had
approach precisely, and the four of them disappeared in a flash of
was reaching for the door of the computer tower, in order
to secure it from trespassers, when he heard footsteps coming down the
stairs. Odd, he thought, no one should be up there. He started to
slip behind one of the
nearby tapestries that lined the walls, but he recalled George's urgent
warning, and froze with momentary indecision. A man wearing a wide
and a dark trenchcoat bounded off the steps, muttering softly to
hushed, angry tones.
eyes locked immediately on Polonious, and he hurried over
to him, pressing him back against the wall. "Where are they?" he
are who? Who are you?"
are Trauma Martin and his companions? I must find
just departed for some other realm, the like
of which I can scarce imagine."
the mysterious figure howled. "Gone to
where? Where did they go?"
terrified by this strange interloper, tried to
slip away. "Guards! Guards!" he called out, attempting to dash around
his assailant and run for the safety of the stairs.
was a blinding blur of movement and a flash of silver,
and then a final searing pain which indicated the intruder's identity
longer be a concern to Polonious. Wiping the bloody knife on the inside
coat, the trenchcoated shadow listened briefly for the pounding boots
guards before hurrying off down a tapestry girded corridor. Ground knew
closer now to his quarry than ever before. He would not fail to find
once more on the timelines, Trauma and his companions
found themselves buffeted by severe winds and flying debris, snowy
and jagged particles the size of cricket balls which rather alarmingly
to be fragments of a timeline itself.
it possible for these things to break?" George
yelled to Trauma, pointing to the shimmering white pathway below them.
his eyes to protect them from the dense cloud of
dust they were passing through, Trauma nodded. "It takes an
force to destroy a timeline," he screamed. "Unfortunately, a
maelstrom like this one very easily generates that sort of force." As
to emphasize his words, a nearby timeline suddenly shattered as an arc
temporal energy coursed through it, sending dagger-like shards hurtling
do we do if the one we're on breaks?" George
asked, shouting to be heard of the din.
the last fifteen to twenty seconds of your
life," Trauma yelled back, suddenly gagging on a mouthful of dust,
yourself with whatever higher power you
think might be listening."
How bloody comforting,
George thought, riveting his eyes on the line beneath his feet.
the end of the line, Hamlet stood stoically, whispering
words that none save himself could hear. Mia stood between them,
of their arms with an iron grip. For reasons she could not adequately
she was not really afraid, but the two men did make rather convenient
against the savage elements.
all felt as though hours passed on that ride through the
timelines. In fact, hours did, punctuated by near misses and leaps from
line, before they finally fell headlong into a warp tube. As they
through the tube and were spit out of the Cat's Cradle by the timelines
into the ethereal transfer point that stood between that in-between
what he thought of as reality, George suddenly understood why Trauma
suddenly ordered them to each hold a piece of Hamlet's luggage in front
a scene which had become all too familiar to George, like
some great cosmic joke played once too often, the four of them were
into an alley directly in front of a very sold brick wall. The impact
extraordinarily jarring and aggravated previous impact-related injuries
travelers had sustained, but the luggage was able to absorb the worst
lay together for a moment in a tangled heap, catching
their breath. Finally, Trauma lifted himself to his feet and dusted off
clothing. Holding the now completely flattened luggage at arm's length
of him, the impossibly wide Cheshire grin slowly reappeared.
live," he said gleefully, "you
learn." With a flourish, he helped Mia to her feet.
need to find the date," she said practically.
"I have no confidence in those lines to get us anywhere."
as always, my dear girl," Trauma said,
bounding toward the end of the alleyway.
scrambled to his feet. "I don't see how we're
going to get anywhere else," he said wearily, "if the timelines keep
getting the chop." He helped Hamlet clamber to his feet.
why he's gone to find the date," Mia
said. "If we're not in the general vicinity of this Seattle place, of
we're not in the correct time frame, or if we're too late for the
she paused thoughtfully, "then we've got to try it again, and quickly
before the whole system collapses."
three of them emerged from the alleyway onto a bright
sunlit street. Cars zipped by on their way to untold destinations, and
distance, a tall thin tower dominated the skyline.
sun hath not crept far into the heavens,"
Hamlet said, gazing up at the sky. "Morning it doth appear most truly
you get on the plane," George said to Hamlet,
"do us all a tremendous favor -- read every
word of the in-flight magazine." He caught sight of Trauma
front of a newspaper dispenser, and led his two companions to join him.
6! November 6, 2016. Good. Excellent."
Trauma said to no one in particular. "It is verily a miracle. Kind
sir," he said, suddenly stepping in front of a passing businessman.
"I'm terribly sorry, but do you have the time?"
gentleman glanced quickly at his watch. "8:54
AM," he said hurriedly, "and I don't have any change." He ran
off down the street.
thank you!" Trauma yelled after him
before returning to the others.
the verdict?" Mia asked?
nine in the morning, local time," Trauma
smiled. "November 6th, 2016. The paper carried The
Seattle Times" on its masthead."
said George enthusiastically.
"Hamlet, your flight leaves at one, so that gives us just enough time
get you to the airport."
gave George an uneasy frown as Trauma summoned a taxi
to the curb, and the four of them piled into the back and sped off into
* * * * *
hours later, Hamlet sat in the boarding area of
Seattle-Tacoma airport, waiting the departure of Flight 400 to Oslo. He
very uncomfortable with the very idea of boarding the plane, air travel
having been among his previous experiences. He fretted nervously with
and tugged uncomfortably at his alien attire.
had insisted they stop at a department store and get
both himself and the Dane some appropriate attire. Hamlet understood
function of the breeches, the vest, and the jacket, but he simply
understand George's insistence he tie a colorful silk noose around his
Luckily, no one questioned their use of Tom Boltz's credit cards.
he heard the number of his flight called, and he
grabbed the suitcase and briefcase that George had also selected for
him at the
mall. He jostled into the queue forming at the gate, showed his
paperwork to a
cheerful flight attendant, and strolled towards the long jetway which
the terminal to the entrance of the plane. Halfway there, he stopped to
body of the plane towered over him, dwarfing everything
in the near vicinity. The nose of the aircraft featured a cartoonish
of the Norse thunder god, Thor, flying along behind his hammer,
could make out the two decks of the huge passenger aircraft, and he
the six immense engines which hung off the wings.. Hamlet recognized it
the printouts Trauma had forced him to begin studying on their way into
'Tis perhaps a sign of
fate victorious smiling upon our venture, he thought. A promising portent indeed.
allowed himself an uncharacteristic smile as he boarded
Nordic Airlines Flight 400 to Oslo, and took his seat in the first
section of the Airframe AF-400, the first airplane ever designed by
* * * * *
half a world away, Trauma, George and Mia were
walking a street in the heart of Oslo, Norway. Somehow, Trauma had
navigate them through space, skirting the edges of the timelines to
slightly bruised and battered. A
stop in a youth hostel had allowed them to tidy, if not completely
bodies and their clothes, although the cost of the room and a local map
taken the last of their currency.
Norway! Land of the midnight sun! Welcome to
downtown Midgaard!" Trauma enthused as they made their way towards the
hotel that "Tom Boltz" would be checking into shortly.
just glad to be done travelling for a while,"
Mia said, clutching George's arm lightly as they walked down the
boulevard. She was grateful George had insisted they each purchase a
coat in Seattle, or she'd be freezing by now. "I never liked the
much when they were sane. This time storm is completely impossible."
only it were, my dear girl, if only it were,"
Trauma clucked, strutting down the street as though he were a
emperor returned to his homeland. A brisk wind blew his hair back from
and whipped his tie about his head. "I fear, however, that it was
improbable. Nothing is impossible, really. It's just that many things
difficult to believe." He
for a moment to survey the marvel of the Norwegian winter, basking in
from here on out, it will happen here. Of that, I am virtually certain."
looked around him as they paced down the street. He
had a difficult time believing that they were more than 15 years into
future from the earth he knew.
he said suddenly. "Just out of curiosity,
not that I mean to do anything you see, but I was just
stopped, whirling around in his tracks to face his
companion. George ran straight into him.
what was it that your fertile little imagination
was pondering, Mr. Pembroke?" he asked pleasently, as though George's
thoughts were the most interesting thing on the planet to him at that
I was rather wondering what I'm
doing right now. The real me, I mean, in 2016."
easy," Trauma replied. "You're walking
down a city street in Oslo, Norway."
frowned. "No, really. I meant the me back in
London. Surely I'll be there come now."
you won't, Mr. Pembroke. Time doesn't work that
way. You see, time is very much like a river, which is a cliche,
it's true. If you pick up a cup full of water at this point," he
with his left hand, miming dipping a cup into a stream, "and then
it over at this point…" Transferring the invisible cup to
his right hand,
he poured it out again. "That water does not pass through the points in
yes, I can see that. But presumably, once this is
over, I'll return home, and then I will pass through time normally
shook his head. "Well, see, that's why I dislike
using simple minded cliches to describe time. They always leave you
for metaphors. Think of what you call the present, or what a temporal
would call the 'perpetual now', as a divide in the river, with an
number of streams branching off of that point. Each represents a
'true' time. Of course, all the universes free will combined determines
way the timeline will wind, but the main thrust of this is that if you
again, you won't be returning to a home which has Thomas Boltz dead and
galaxy collapsing around your ears, see?"
think so. And so at any moment, the choice you make
determines what course that all of time will take?" George pondered.
small measure, yes. Delightful, isn't it? All that
power in such a small world. Still, some events are more important that
and that's why the past is so closely guarded by the Authority." Trauma
smiled broadly. "But Temporal Science 101 is so ghastly dull. If you
really want to know more, I could recommend a book or five for you. A Quantum Primer by E. Bolan Gerpuppy,
of course, and The Science of Time
Merrill Clark are both excellent…."
continued to rattle off the names of books to George,
who felt his eyes quickly glazing over. Unseen by the three, across the
a shadowing figure crouching in a darkened alley had taken notice of
had managed to somehow catch the erratic portal and
leave Shakespearion IV, fighting his way across the disintegrating
Norway, 2016. He had been limping through the streets of Oslo for hours
searching desperately for the Karl Johans Center, and leaving a barely
discernable trail of green blood in his wake. That was where he would
meddlers. He knew that Martin had some plan to try and reverse the
and Control had so carefully manipulated. Now that victory was close,
not going to allow their new Galactic Order to be foiled.
deep within the dark folds of his coat, he produced a long silver
rounded barrel already glowing in anticipation of releasing its deadly
Ground raised the rifle to his shoulder and placed a masked eye on the
Holding the stock of the deadly gun steady, he lined Trauma Martin's
the crosshairs, and gently thumbed the latch of the safety into the
To be continued...
© 1998,2007 by Rob Wynne and Jeffrey Williams
Robert Wynne ("Doc") is a gentleman rogue and a scholar of truth. He has been, at alternate times, a writer, an editor, a salesman, a teacher, a freelance computer consultant and a charming vagrant. He currently works as a Systems Administrator for an Atlanta area ISP, and in his spare time enjoyed gaming and figuring out ways to get cheap airline tickets. You can reach him via e-mail at email@example.com.
While herding a sturdy diesel across the highways of life Jeff Williams dreame d of becoming a writer. In between haunting railroad yards he scribbles cryptic notes on slightly-used paper napkins and posts them off to his colaborator, Rob Wynne. They brainstorm these abstruse anagrams into the tales that you've just been reading. And people say the youth of America have no goals in life. You can reach Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.