Aphelion Issue 262, Volume 25
June 2021
 
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On The Corner of Galaxy and Fifth

Part Three of Five

by Rob Wynne and Jeffrey Williams


Chapter Sixteen

In the darkness, a match was struck, illuminating the craggy face of a bearded man in a dark, heavy wool coat. His nose was sharp and pointed, and his eyes spaced wide on his face, so that he appeared like nothing so much as an agitated chipmunk.  The amber glow of the flickering match danced and shimmered across his face, momentarily reflecting the moist gleam in his eyes.

"Oh, most random and unfaithful mistress is fate!" he said melodramatically.  "So beautiful in her charms, so painful in her vipered stings.  For what appears at once to be sweetness and glory turns on its heels, revealing sadness and woe, and in so doing, breaks the spirit of the most devout and divinely noble."

The match sputtered out, leaving behind only darkness.  Seconds later, another match was struck, this time resting in the fingers of his other hand.

"But soft," he continued, walking forward slowly and looking both ways for approaching danger, "the tricks of the firmament lie in wait for the unwary, to prick and tear at the flesh, to rip and gnaw upon the bones of indiscretion.  And even now," he quickened his pace, lowering his voice to an urgent growl, "as our heroes rest upon this dark and mysterious field, the forces of Time's General gather to crown them victor, or to lead them to the grave.  This is my warning, my prophesy," he paused.  "My play."  The match flickered into nothingness, leaving behind still darkness bathed softly by the pale light of the moon.

A 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.

"Be gone with you!" the swordsman known as Horatio yelled to the man, pressing a sack of coins into his hands and hurrying him towards the cemetery gates.  "Take thy tales of woe and despair elsewhere!  Peddle thine ramblings in Verona Province.  They seem to enjoy thy elocutionary confectionery much more so than the Great Danes."

"Pardon me," George tapped Horatio on the shoulder.  "Who was that strange fellow?"

Horatio eyed George suspiciously,  sizing him up as a potential threat.  Finally, he sighed and sheathed his sword.

"'Twas Chorus," he said, returning to his master's side.  "A madman come to state the obvious yet again."  He turned and glared at the departing figure.  "Be gone!" he yelled.  "Infernal bard of  perdition!"

Trauma 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 face again!"

"You know this cretin, milord?" Horatio asked gruffly, gently lifting Mia to her feet.

"Pardon 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 Province?"

"My, my," Mia absently looked Horatio up and down, her eyes abeam. "Big strong fellow, aren'tcha....and in tights, no less."

Hamlet ignored the three of them, turning to face the looming stone walls of the castle. Trauma stood next to him, but neither would meet the other's eyes. Hamlet stood for a moment, concentrating on some distant point only he could see. Finally, he broke the silence.

"What pestilent wind hath brought thee to Elsinore?" he murmured quietly.

"A 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 Danish prince. "Do you think perhaps my companions and myself could impose upon your majesty's good graces and hospitality?"

George 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 against the pale moonlit sky.

Hamlet 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

"Excellent!" Trauma bubbled, bouncing up and down on invisible springs in his heels.

"Horatio," the prince whispered. "Take these weary travelers, make haste unto the feasting rooms, the halls of meat and wine. Then, with speed take my humble request to my lady the Queen, that she might vouchsafe these three a fair and pleasant eventide." He took hold of Trauma's arm and raised his voice noticeably. "I will have a word with you in the dark and gloomy privacy of the castle grounds."

"Sir, 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."

"Oh, whatever you say," Mia bubbled. She winced in pain and gingerly rubbed the knot on her head. Horatio gently took her arms to 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 sword?"

"Trauma," George called out. "May I have a word with you?"

Trauma broke away from the prince and strolled over to his friend. "Whatever in the world may I do for you, George" he asked genially.

"Listen, 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?"

Trauma stared at him blankly. "Yes," he replied, wondering what George's point was.

"Hamlet, Prince of Denmark," George smirked.

Trauma thought for a moment. "Yes." he nodded cautiously. 

"Look, 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!"

Trauma looked puzzled. He furrowed his brow in concentration, trying quickly to understand George's question. Suddenly, his eyes lit up as 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!"

George stared incredulously at Trauma, who grinned madly at him.. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it when words refused to come. Finally, he shook his head, and turned to help Horatio carry Mia into the castle..

Trauma watched the small band recede, then turned to face the stoic prince. "Now, Hamlet." he said easily. "What can I do for you?"

The Dane quietly led Trauma towards a lake a short distance from Elsinore. The high clouds continued to make their slow march across the skies, and wispy bands of fog hovered peacefully over the chill of the countryside. A light frost crunched under their feet as they walked.

"You 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."

"Oh, 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 we met...He did it, without a doubt."

"But, I must have a sign, proof most conclusive!" Hamlet stopped and turned to face the castle, which was now a looming dark shape on the horizon, save for wisps of smoke from its chimneys and torchlight dotting small windows. Even so, the castle was imposing, towering above the 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 my fevered brain make welcome. I sometime wonder if I may still tell a hawk from a handsaw."

Trauma 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, with 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 endure these laborious productions? Good lord, man, you've invented contrivances even Lloyd Webber never dreamt of!"

Trauma 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.

"The 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 spirits, abuses me to damn me." He splashed some of the cold water on his face.

"Hamlet," Trauma began.

"New players arrived in town  yesterday," the prince added hopefully.

"Yes, 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."

"I'll have these players play something like the murder of my father!" Hamlet said, forcefully.

"Again," Trauma muttered under his breath.

"But don't you see!" Hamlet babbled. "The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience..."

"...of 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 yours." The Cheshire grin spread slowly across his face.

Hamlet exhaled a long, ragged breath. "Oh....god," he whispered, closing his eyes.

"Prince Hamlet," Trauma whispered conspiratorially. "I have a proposition for you..."


 

Chapter Seventeen

Shadows danced across the cold stone walls inside Elsinore Castle. George and Mia sat on the edge of a large bed, covered in animal furs. A food laden table had been pushed over in front of them, and they ate hungrily while servant girls, each of them no more than sixteen or seventeen years old, brought them more food and wine.

"Thanks, 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."

George raised his own goblet to her in a mock toast and smiled warmly. She clanked her metal cup against his and giggled. The light from the candlelight danced merrily in her eyes.

Standing impassively in the doorway, Horatio scanned the mostly empty hallways and waited for Hamlet's return. His demeanor suggested a Major-General who has been forced to watch over preschoolers.

"Are you alright?" George asked, as Mia put aside her plate and wrapped herself in the bearskin covering the bed. He rubbed the back of his head gingerly. "I know how you must feel. I hit those stones pretty hard myself."

"Oh, I'm ok," she smiled. Lowering her voice, she whispered out of the corner of her mouth, "I just hope I didn't embarrass Horatio. I kept saying those things, and I just couldn't seem to stop myself."

George 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. George smiled sardonically. "I promise you, I'm much more articulate than I appear."

Mia admired the way George's face changed when he was smiling. It was such a different expression than the dark scowl she'd seen in the previous hours. "Don't worry about it," she giggled. "Under your circumstances, I'd be pretty zonked too." She reflected on the events of the last few hours. "Actually," she realized, her smile fading into a blank mask, "I'm not really that far removed from your situation."

George gave her a concerned look. Sensing her melancholy, he attempted to change the subject. "So, what did you think of old Queen Gertrude?"

"She's 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?"

"Oh, everything." George said matter-of-factly. "As I recall, Hamlet's been tormenting both Gertrude and Claudius, trying to get them to betray some sign that they murdered his father."

Mia raised an eyebrow. She picked up the wine flagon and settled back onto the bed. "Oh? And how do you know so much about this?"

George shrugged. "Hamlet was one of my favorite Shakespeare plays."

Mia frowned. "Shakespeare?"

George gaped at her. "Don't tell me you don't read Shakespeare anymore!"

Mia shook her head emphatically. "No, we do, it's just that I don't get the connection. George, Shakespeare wrote his plays over a thousand years ago. What could that have to do with all this?"

"I don't know, but everything is precisely the way I remember from the play," he said. He took another sip of the wine, pausing briefly to enjoy the warm glow it left in his stomach. "Speaking of memory," he pondered, "that's been bothering me for quite some time."

"What has?" Mia asked, snapping out of her dark thoughts and bouncing upright.

"Well, Tom Boltz seems like he'd be a pretty hard person to forget, don't you think?" George pulled himself upright and wrapped his arms around his knees. "I don’t see how both you and Trauma couldn't remember who he was until we checked into the computers."

Mia frowned. Pursing her lips slightly, she blew a slight stream of air upwards, pushing a stray red lock of hair up out of her eyes. For a moment, she scanned the rafters of the high ceiling, as if searching for the answer to his question.

Finally, 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?"

George blinked. "Now, wait a minute," he flustered. "There's no comparison there. Thomas Boltz invented the faster-than-light engine! He united untold numbers of planets!"

Mia shook her head. "George, the inventor of the steam engine on Earth is no less a significant figure in his own way than Thomas Boltz." Standing up, she walked to the table which had the extra food left for them by the servants. Grabbing a leg of chicken, she turned to face him, leaning back against the edge of the table. "The steam engine united entire countries. The entire planet in some ways. Made your railroads work properly, that's for sure. It also allowed for massive industrialization, leaving people time for idle pursuits like inventing airplanes. If it wasn't for the steam engine, most of the technological advances of the twentieth century just don't happen." She picked at the drumstick for a moment, lost interest, and placed it down on the plate. "Besides, George, you tend to remember the motion of the thing, not the person who put the thing in motion."

George nodded thoughtfully. "So," he said with a slight grin, "who was the inventor of the steam engine?"

Mia 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.

George 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 thought and examined the large, stone room. It had been quite cold outside, and even though a fire blazed in a gigantic fireplace nearby, George couldn't help but notice the wind seeping through the walls.

"It's funny," he said, "these places always look so solid and imposing, but you get inside them and the drafts are terrible!"

"I know," Mia said between mouthfuls. The cold having been brought to her attention, she shivered and wrinkled her nose. Leaving the apple core on the table, she slipped back to her bed and pulled the furs around her.

Horatio strode back into the room. "Milady. Sir." He gave George only a quick glance before returning his gaze to Mia. "It is my own solemn duty, borne of my sworn and unbreakable oath to my King and Queen, that I must without fail, upon the appointed hour, serve my time upon 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 the roaring fire to bathe the room in an orange glow.

"Before you go," George said, "do you know where Trauma is?"

"Still with my lord Hamlet," Horatio replied. "Indeed, they were just moments ago sighted through the cold fog by yonder lake, deep in thought and what is assuredly a most vexing conversation." He bowed to Mia and started to leave the room, pulling the door almost closed behind him before cracking it again for a moment. "It occurs to me their conversation must be neigh incomprehensible. My lord Hamlet is not well, and your companion, to hear him speak, hath read from a dictionary most rare."

The door pulled closed behind him.

From deep within a pile of furs, George heard Mia's voice. "I get the distinct impression that Horatio doesn't much like Trauma."

George 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 as the warmth of the blankets and the fire enveloped his weary body, and he drifted off to sleep.

Mia tossed and turned in her blankets, exhausted but unable to get comfortable. The bed was soft enough, but her stomach still felt tied in knots as she stared at the ceiling and reflected on the events of the day.

Bits of her past flashed past her in the flickering shadows cast by the fire. She thought about her home on Terra Alpha, particularly the one her mother and father lived in now. It was an old colonial style cottage, made from actual wood, and it sat high up on the banks of the narrow river that ran its way through the valley between the Thistle and Shamrock mountain ranges. Mia had only been there a few times, on vacation from the library, but she remembered how very peaceful the cottage had been to her. She now wondered if it, or indeed, even the valley, still existed.

Sighing quietly, she unwrapped herself from the blanket and tiptoed over to the fireplace. She stood for a moment, transfixed by the leaping crackling of the wood as the flames danced to and fro across the hearthstones. 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.

"Bother," she whispered to herself.

Glancing back at the beds, she reached a decision and padded over to where George lay. Quietly, she slipped under the covers next to him and pulled the fur tight around her body. The warmth of another human sleeping nearby lulled her at last into a quiet and peaceful sleep.


 

Chapter Eighteen

"So, it's decided then," Trauma said, rising from a crouch and straightening his tie.

"Perhaps," 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 of heaven? I must think on this longer. We both must consider carefully the course of action we commit ourselves and our comrades to." Hamlet breathed a heavy, melancholy sigh. "I fear the decision is one which requires a great deal of careful and deliberate consideration."

Trauma turned away from him briefly, and his entire body coiled slightly as he tried to control his temper. He turned, forcing his grin up at the corners, and clenched his teeth tightly. "Prince Hamlet," he soothed, "I'm afraid we don't have….that….kind….of….time. Your desire to work through these details in your own time is…understandable…but it's just not…practical here and now."

"But the possible consequences of rushing forth into action without deliberate forethought are unfathomably fraught with danger and foul, foul villainy."

"The consequences of not doing so, my dear man, are greater than any possible damage we could manage if we try and repair the rift," Trauma argued passionately. "But we must do this now, or we won't be able to do it all."

Hamlet, still standing by the waterside, breathed deeply of the chill night air. Both figures were now thoroughly enveloped by a lazily drifting patch of fog, and far above their heads, the moonlight filtered down to the ground in slender, diffuse rays, and played patterns on the water.

Hamlet turned to Trauma, his cold blue eyes locked forcefully upon the face of the off-worlder "And you swear upon all that is good and beautiful in your life that you will, without fail or wavered resolve, carry through with your oath?"

"I swear," Trauma said, lifting a hand to his chest, "that upon completion of this task, I will do every thing that we agreed to."

Hamlet smiled a dark, melancholy smile. He pulled his sword from its scabbard and held it parallel to the ground between himself and his companion. "Swear upon my sword," he commanded, "that all conditions of our solemn agreement shall be met in toto."

Trauma 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."

"Nevertheless," Hamlet said firmly, lowering his voice to a whisper. "Swear…swear your solemn oath…upon this sword."

The 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.

"All right, all right already!" Trauma yelled. Reaching forth, he placed his hands over Hamlet's on the hilt of the massive weapon. "I swear upon this great bloody sword that I will uphold each and 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 Seven Lost Ones -- I shall not break my oath."

Hamlet startled as the two locked eyes momentarily. The moonlight gleamed in Trauma's eyes, and he clinched Hamlet's hands tightly as he completed his oath in a sotto voce whisper. Finally, he let go of the sword, and Hamlet closed his eyes. Breathing deeply, he returned the blade to its scabbard.

Trauma paced disapprovingly. "There, are you happy now? Grief! I can see which parent your stubbornness comes from," he complained as they turned and disappeared into the fog, walking in the general direction of Elsinore.

Once again, the lake was quiet and still. The only sound was the quiet lapping of the water against the frost-laden bank. For several minutes, the calm was undisturbed, then a sudden wind blew from nowhere across the lake. At first, the surface merely rippled beneath the disturbance, but then began churning as the wind whipped the waters into a miniature tempest and 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 frigid waters.

* * * * *

The fire in the hearth was down to embers, but its warmth still permeated the room. Trauma slipped in quietly, closing the door behind him. Slipping off his shoes so as not to make a sound, he crept over to his sleeping companions. George and Mia lay peacefully together, her arm draped over his body as they shared a deep and blissful slumber. Trauma smiled to himself, and pulled the fur blankets forward to cover their bodies completely.

He walked over to the fireplace, and stood watching as the embers flickered and shimmered like hundreds of fireflies filling a gully after a heavy evening rain. Slowly, he raised his right hand and gazed into the depths of the pulsing crimson jewel set into his time ring. The soft amber glow 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 the bed, pausing briefly to gaze down upon his sleeping friends.

"For the sake of your children," he whispered. "may we do this right."

Retiring to his own bed, he wrapped himself in the thick blankets and fell instantly into a deep and powerful sleep.


 

Chapter Nineteen

A dark figure pulled itself from the murky, frigid waters of the icy lake near Elsinore. Shivering and exhausted, he walked slowly towards a small stand of trees a quarter-mile from the lakeshore. Leaning against a nearby tree for support, he strained to see through the dense fog and the pale moonlit forest before entering the thicket. Quietly, he began gathering wood and leaves together in the center of a small clearing in the tiny grove.

Once the small pile was complete, he reached into his pocket and produced a small sphere. He fumbled briefly with it, shaking violently from long, phlegmatic coughing spells and a cramped grip brought on by his immersion into the frigid Elsinore lake. With great difficulty, he squeezed the ball, causing a brief spout of sparks to fizzle from the top. He squeezed the ball a second time, then a third and a fourth, but each time the sparks failed to sustain themselves. Pumping the sphere furiously, he howled with rage, finally giving up and hurling the sphere into the misty darkness. For the first time, he began to feel real fear.

"Poor is the one who plummets from the sky," a voice called from nearby. A second later, a match was struck. The trenchcoated figure leapt into the branches of a nearby tree.

"Cold and wet," Chorus continued, "he clings to fervent hope, depending upon the wondrous and strange engine in his palm to deliver him from vicious night." Bending down, he expertly lit the tender under the fire logs, despite the dampness of the leaves and small twigs. Slow wisps of white smoke wafted gently into the air, and an orange glow began to spread amid the tiny branches.

The dark figure jumped down from the trees and started intently at the craggy face of his benefactor.

"Fortunate," Chorus said rapidly, lighting a second match with an idle flick of his wrist, "is the one who, while fate deems unfortunate in the fall, is doubly blessed with allies in strange places."

"Are you trying to say you mean me no harm?" the trenchcoated figure asked warily, crouching closer to the growing fire. The match extinguished itself, but the tiny bonfire had already begun to cast its light about the clearing. Cautiously, he crept closer to the flames, allowing 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 earth. "A moment ago, you were spouting a constant stream of nonsense, and now utter silence…. Curious…"

Chorus gave the dark figure a vague, empty stare. Flickering sparks of thought danced in his eyes, as he searched for the proper words. Reaching into his coat pocket, Chorus removed a small box of matches and placed several of them beneath small wristbands on each hand. Deftly, flicking his wrist and propelling a match over a piece of sandpaper affixed to the band, a lit match emerged quickly in his fingertips.

"O, 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 the head?"

The trenchcoated man startled, and pawed urgently at the back of his head and neck. Discovering something out of place, he carefully pushed down upon his curiously waxen neck, and the humanoid features of his face returned to normal.

"Thank 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 Chorus’s bearded face. "Raving lunatic, aren’t you?" he grinned. "You can’t….no, won’t, speak unless a match is burning in your hand."

Chorus looked confused. The encounter was not turning out the way he had hoped.

The man in the trenchcoat laughed heartily and leaned back upon a nearby tree. "That device, on your wrists. Unmitigated ingenuity. I must remember them for future usage." He smiled evilly. "I doubt you’ve filed any sort of patent on them."

Frustrated, Chorus first pulled out the bag of coins Horatio had given him, shaking them loosely in front of the dark stranger. When this failed to produce the desired effect, he struck another match and leapt to the other side of the fire.

"Another tale of woe can I tell," he said, "of others who fell like shooting stars from the heavens, and unto the gentle arms of Elsinore did go."

The man sat bold upright. "Others?? There were others who came here tonight?" A wicked smile etched itself upon his face. "Tell me more…"


 

Chapter Twenty

Sunshine 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 draped across her waist. She remembered waking momentarily when Trauma had entered 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 sleep.

Mia slipped out of bed and padded down the corridor. She found a servant girl, who led her to an adjoining room where she was able to bathe. Clean and refreshed, she sat in front of a mirror and tried desperately to do something useful with her hair, which steadfastly refused to cooperate. Finally, she tied it back in a ponytail with a length of ribbon she found in one of the dresser drawers. She turned her head from side to side, appraising her reflection.

"Definitely not going to make the fashion vids," she giggled, slipping on a dark purple gown the servants had left her. It just barely avoided clashing with her red hair.

By the time she returned to the room, both George and Trauma were awake and freshly washed up. George was now wearing clothing that eerily 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 attire and chuckled politely.

"I make no compromises to anyone’s sartorial sense, my dear," he said simply, shrugging his shoulders apologetically.

"So you had them wash your clothes, but won’t give them time to dry them?" she asked.

"As 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 we must begin immediately."

"What precisely is the plan?" George asked.

Trauma 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."

Both George and Mia gaped at him. "Computers?" George asked incredulously. "In Elsinore? But surely…"

"The people in the Danish Province are rather a bit like the Amish on Earth or the Highlander Colonists on Terra Alpha. They have purposely eschewed the use of technology in favor of a simpler life, less complicated by the demands that modern industrial development invariably places 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 me that the system will be at our disposal."

Trauma threw the door wide and gestured his companions into the hallway.

"Alright," Mia said, turning to block Trauma as he entered the hallway. "We have a computer. But what's the plan? What am I going to be looking for?"

"The 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 between Boltz and the officials at Boling and Fortinbras. Everything, down to the minutes, the planning notes, the sketches and diagrams, as well as any other items that he may have used at the meeting."

"And then?" George asked.

"And 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!"

Trauma bounded up the stairs, leaving a shocked Mia and George behind to stare at each other in disbelief.

* * * * *

The computer room was located high in a tower in the northern corner of Elsinore castle. Tall oak cabinets lined the walls of the room, large tape spools spinning on pulley-driven motors. In the precise center of the room, an intricately carved mahogany desk had been erected; a huge mirror mounted in its center stretched almost to the ceiling. George noticed a bewildering array of keys and buttons carved into the polished wood. On the other side of the mirror, another set of keys and buttons was arrayed about another seat.

As the trio entered, a man stood up from one of the consoles and walked over to meet them.

"Polonious!" Trauma cried happily as the two shook hands. "How long has it been?"

"Time 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."

Mia 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?"

"As well as can be expected, with support so far afield. 'Tis certain to hold up much better if it is left untampered by visitors unauthorized"

"My dear man, I understand how you feel, but we really are pressed for time, and…"

"If ye should wish to submit unto this operator a job to process, output via vellum copy shall be delivered posthaste unto your chamber."

George boggled. "Batch processing? That is primitive."

Polonious shot him a dark glare and began to protest when Hamlet arrived in the room, carrying two large chests. "Polonious, these people have my authorization to use these facilities."

Polonious took him aside and whispered urgently, "Prince Hamlet, that is not wise. Never a borrower nor a lender be…"

The prince held up his hand and calmly replied, "No, my friend. It is indeed of the utmost import that these gentlemen are given access, for the night falls quickly and there is little day to waste."

"Very well," Polonious grumbled, "but on your own head be it." Turning to Trauma, he scowled and said, "The system is at your disposal."

Trauma nodded wisely as he surveyed the room. George wandered about, running his hands across the wooden cabinets and examining the cables run through wooden tubing to the center console.

"This is a computer?" he finally exclaimed.

"And 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."

Mia 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 frowned. "OS-Epsilon? Trauma, this is a library computer!"

Trauma had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. "Well, they were going to throw it out, weren't they? Eventually. I just took the liberty of moving it off-grounds for them. Saved them a bundle, for all the thanks I got."

She shook her head in amazement, and slipped the library access card out of the pouch on her belt. Scanning the wooden desktop, she located a small slot and slipped it in. A few clicks and whirrs from the surrounding cabinets were the only indication that anything was happening, and finally, a new window appeared on the mirror:

Timelines Project Authority Library
Reference Department Data Collection
** Authorized Access Only **

 

"Well," she said. "we're in." Mia began tapping furiously at the keyboard. "So, what shall I go after first?"

Trauma 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 those should be collected in the Library Archives. Also, any video, audio, or other accounts of the Oslo meeting." Straightening up, he scuttled around to the other terminal and began typing furiously.

"Look, 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 aren't twins. That only happens in bad novels."

Trauma 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 Boltz was a bit of a recluse, anyway, and very few people ever met him face to face -- even less so before he became famous. I doubt if one man in a thousand could place him in a lineup.  Besides which," he grinned slyly.   "from all accounts, Boltz was a moody, domineering aristocrat with a morbid sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic.  I don't think we could possibly have cast an actor more suited "

Polonious gaped at Hamlet. "Perchance mine ears deceive me, that I mishear the contrivance of this cunning serpent. Surely, thou doth not mean to wrap thyself in the visage of another? Hamlet, Hamlet, to thine own self be true!"

"Would that I need not venture thusly into such a mad scheme, but needs must when the devil drives, Polonious."

"A devil indeed milord, for thou should well mark what occasion did you last have to deal with such a treacherous avatar."

"Your concern is well appreciated, my friend, but he and I have," Hamlet paused, "an understanding…."

"God's grace upon you, my prince, that well you know what you do." The two men walked into an adjacent room and out of hearing.

"Trauma!" Mia cried from her console after a while. "I've found the Boltz papers, but there's an odd security screen here."

"Yes, 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 they can 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 new identification."

As Trauma spoke, Hamlet emerged from the side chamber. His blonde hair was now a dark brown, grayed at the temples in a fair approximation of Boltz's drivers license. Polonious walked behind him, fretting nervously.

Mia stopped typing suddenly. "Trauma," she called, "there's a second challenge screen!"

"Eh?" Trauma said, standing up and pacing around the desk to Mia's console. "That's peculiar, why would they put two…" Suddenly, a look of horror flashed across his face. "Quickly! Download everything….everything! We haven't a moment to lose!"

* * * * *

Millions of miles away, a computer screen in a darkened room began winking a silent alarm. A shadow fell across the screen, and a tendril uncoiled to tap upon the attached keyboard. The alarm disappeared from the screen, and moments later, a message began flashing on the terminal:

ERASING ARCHIVE FILES
TEB0001.001 - TEB2000.999

 

The dark figure shuffled away, chortling softly to itself.

* * * * *

Mia's delicate fingers flew across the keyboard as she franticly issued her orders to the remote computer. George marveled at the screen as pages upon pages of data rapidly flickered across its surface.

"That's the lot of it," she finally sighed, locking her cramping fingers together and flexing them, trying to restore mobility to her aching tendons. "I've got it in the buffer, anyway, except for the last one."

The screen was now blank but for a single persistent warning: File Not Found.

"Which file did you miss?" George asked curiously.

Trauma 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."

Mia 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 Hamlet to carry.

"Here is Mr. Boltz's wallet," he said, handing the small leather billfold to the prince. "It's got all you need for your trip, including a round trip plane ticket from Seattle to Oslo. This folder has all the information you'll need to know to impersonate Mr. Boltz once we get there. With any luck, the storms in the Timelines will have calmed enough we can set down somewhat near our destination in time to get you on that plane."

"Plane?" Hamlet said, suspiciously.

"Yes, plane. It's a device, flies through the air, moves people to and fro." Trauma said easily. "They're great fun, you'll enjoy it."

"You 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 flying beast of my own will, casting life and limb into peril!"

"Yes, well, that's all well and good, but if you don't arrive in Oslo by plane, someone's going to notice." Trauma insisted.

"Um, not to be a wet blanket, Trauma, but isn't there one small problem with this whole plan?" George said suddenly.

Trauma disengaged himself from the prince and turned nonchalantly. "Not such as I am aware, Mr. Pembroke. I have considered every last detail."

"Save one. Won't the local authorities be a bit suspicious of someone showing up to take a plane who's supposedly been dead for two days?"

"I considered that when formulating my attack on this problem, George. There are two reasons why I don't think that's very likely. First, as I said before, Boltz was rather reclusive, and known to vanish from sight from time to time. It's unlikely he had any important engagements prior to leaving for Oslo, so it's quite possible that no one would have discovered the body in the laboratory for days or even weeks."

George looked skeptical. "What's the other reason?" he asked.

Trauma 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 have left Boltz's body to be found by the authorities. So far, the only damage to the timelines is based on the fact that Boltz never convinced Boling and Fortinbras to build the 808. While catastrophic in the results column, it's much more 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."

Trauma removed a small shimmering disk from a slot in the desktop, while Mia retrieved her library access card and slipped it back into her pouch. "Well, then," he said. "Let us be on our way, shall we?"

The four travelers began down the stairs. George, in the rear, stopped suddenly, and turned to face Polonious. "Trust me on this, sir. Do not, under any circumstances, hide anywhere behind draperies or curtains. Ever."

With that cryptic warning, George hurried down the stairs to catch up with his companions, leaving a puzzled Polonious staring dumbfounded after him.

* * * * *

Shortly after they departed down the stairs and made their way to the front door, a hand appeared in the window of the computer lab. The trenchcoated man, wheezing for breath, pulled himself into the room and stood, back against the wall, panting furiously. He had spent the better part of the afternoon scaling the sheer high walls of Elsinore in a desperate attempt to engage his elusive quarry. Fuming that they were no longer there, he caught his breath and hurried down the stairs.

In the corridor, Polonious was just returning from the front gate, having seen Prince Hamlet depart with his dubious companions. He shook his head sadly at the sight of them running headlong across the plain, hopping madly in the air in an futile attempt to leap into a hole in the sky which caromed wildly across the terrain. Finally, the one named Trauma had timed his approach precisely, and the four of them disappeared in a flash of light.

He 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 brimmed hat and a dark trenchcoat bounded off the steps, muttering softly to himself in hushed, angry tones.

His eyes locked immediately on Polonious, and he hurried over to him, pressing him back against the wall. "Where are they?" he hissed.

"Where are who? Who are you?"

"Where are Trauma Martin and his companions? I must find them!"

"They…they just departed for some other realm, the like of which I can scarce imagine."

"Gone?" the mysterious figure howled. "Gone to where? Where did they go?"

Polonious, 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.

There was a blinding blur of movement and a flash of silver, and then a final searing pain which indicated the intruder's identity would no longer be a concern to Polonious. Wiping the bloody knife on the inside of his coat, the trenchcoated shadow listened briefly for the pounding boots of the guards before hurrying off down a tapestry girded corridor. Ground knew he was closer now to his quarry than ever before. He would not fail to find them again.


 

Chapter Twenty-one

Riding once more on the timelines, Trauma and his companions found themselves buffeted by severe winds and flying debris, snowy white flakes and jagged particles the size of cricket balls which rather alarmingly appeared to be fragments of a timeline itself.

"Is it possible for these things to break?" George yelled to Trauma, pointing to the shimmering white pathway below them.

Squinting his eyes to protect them from the dense cloud of dust they were passing through, Trauma nodded. "It takes an extraordinary force to destroy a timeline," he screamed. "Unfortunately, a maelstrom like this one very easily generates that sort of force." As if to emphasize his words, a nearby timeline suddenly shattered as an arc of temporal energy coursed through it, sending dagger-like shards hurtling in all directions.

"What do we do if the one we're on breaks?" George asked, shouting to be heard of the din.

"Use the last fifteen to twenty seconds of your life," Trauma yelled back, suddenly gagging on a mouthful of dust, "and…and….blech!!….and reconcile yourself with whatever higher power you think might be listening."

How bloody comforting, George thought, riveting his eyes on the line beneath his feet.

At the end of the line, Hamlet stood stoically, whispering words that none save himself could hear. Mia stood between them, clutching each of their arms with an iron grip. For reasons she could not adequately define, she was not really afraid, but the two men did make rather convenient shields against the savage elements.

They all felt as though hours passed on that ride through the timelines. In fact, hours did, punctuated by near misses and leaps from line to line, before they finally fell headlong into a warp tube. As they plunged through the tube and were spit out of the Cat's Cradle by the timelines and into the ethereal transfer point that stood between that in-between realm and what he thought of as reality, George suddenly understood why Trauma had suddenly ordered them to each hold a piece of Hamlet's luggage in front of them.

In a scene which had become all too familiar to George, like some great cosmic joke played once too often, the four of them were catapulted into an alley directly in front of a very sold brick wall. The impact was extraordinarily jarring and aggravated previous impact-related injuries the travelers had sustained, but the luggage was able to absorb the worst of the kinetic energy.

They lay together for a moment in a tangled heap, catching their breath. Finally, Trauma lifted himself to his feet and dusted off his clothing. Holding the now completely flattened luggage at arm's length in front of him, the impossibly wide Cheshire grin slowly reappeared.

"You live," he said gleefully, "you learn." With a flourish, he helped Mia to her feet.

"We need to find the date," she said practically. "I have no confidence in those lines to get us anywhere."

"Prudent as always, my dear girl," Trauma said, bounding toward the end of the alleyway.

George 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.

"Precisely why he's gone to find the date," Mia said. "If we're not in the general vicinity of this Seattle place, of if we're not in the correct time frame, or if we're too late for the flight," she paused thoughtfully, "then we've got to try it again, and quickly before the whole system collapses."

The three of them emerged from the alleyway onto a bright sunlit street. Cars zipped by on their way to untold destinations, and in the distance, a tall thin tower dominated the skyline.

"The sun hath not crept far into the heavens," Hamlet said, gazing up at the sky. "Morning it doth appear most truly to be."

"When 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 standing in front of a newspaper dispenser, and led his two companions to join him.

"November 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?"

The 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.

"Excellent, thank you!" Trauma yelled after him before returning to the others.

"What's the verdict?" Mia asked?

"Nearly nine in the morning, local time," Trauma smiled. "November 6th, 2016. The paper carried The Seattle Times" on its masthead."

"Terrific," said George enthusiastically. "Hamlet, your flight leaves at one, so that gives us just enough time to get you to the airport."

Hamlet 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 the distance.

* * * * *

Some hours later, Hamlet sat in the boarding area of Seattle-Tacoma airport, waiting the departure of Flight 400 to Oslo. He was very uncomfortable with the very idea of boarding the plane, air travel not having been among his previous experiences. He fretted nervously with his luggage, and tugged uncomfortably at his alien attire.

George had insisted they stop at a department store and get both himself and the Dane some appropriate attire. Hamlet understood the function of the breeches, the vest, and the jacket, but he simply didn't understand George's insistence he tie a colorful silk noose around his neck. Luckily, no one questioned their use of Tom Boltz's credit cards.

Finally, 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 led from the terminal to the entrance of the plane. Halfway there, he stopped to admire the aircraft.

The body of the plane towered over him, dwarfing everything in the near vicinity. The nose of the aircraft featured a cartoonish caricature of the Norse thunder god, Thor, flying along behind his hammer, Mjolnir. He could make out the two decks of the huge passenger aircraft, and he marveled at the six immense engines which hung off the wings.. Hamlet recognized it from the printouts Trauma had forced him to begin studying on their way into the airport.

'Tis perhaps a sign of fate victorious smiling upon our venture, he thought. A promising portent indeed.

He allowed himself an uncharacteristic smile as he boarded Nordic Airlines Flight 400 to Oslo, and took his seat in the first class section of the Airframe AF-400, the first airplane ever designed by Thomas Eugene Boltz.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, half a world away, Trauma, George and Mia were walking a street in the heart of Oslo, Norway. Somehow, Trauma had managed to navigate them through space, skirting the edges of the timelines to arrive only slightly bruised and battered.  A quick stop in a youth hostel had allowed them to tidy, if not completely clean, their bodies and their clothes, although the cost of the room and a local map had taken the last of their currency.

"Ah, 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.

"I'm just glad to be done travelling for a while," Mia said, clutching George's arm lightly as they walked down the bustling boulevard. She was grateful George had insisted they each purchase a winter coat in Seattle, or she'd be freezing by now. "I never liked the timelines much when they were sane. This time storm is completely impossible."

"If only it were, my dear girl, if only it were," Trauma clucked, strutting down the street as though he were a victorious emperor returned to his homeland. A brisk wind blew his hair back from his face and whipped his tie about his head. "I fear, however, that it was merely improbable. Nothing is impossible, really. It's just that many things are too difficult to believe."  He paused for a moment to survey the marvel of the Norwegian winter, basking in its splendor.  "No, whatever happens from here on out, it will happen here. Of that, I am virtually certain."

George looked around him as they paced down the street. He had a difficult time believing that they were more than 15 years into the future from the earth he knew.

"Trauma," he said suddenly. "Just out of curiosity, not that I mean to do anything you see, but I was just wondering…"

Trauma stopped, whirling around in his tracks to face his companion. George ran straight into him.

"And 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 moment.

"Well, I was rather wondering what I'm doing right now. The real me, I mean, in 2016."

"That's easy," Trauma replied. "You're walking down a city street in Oslo, Norway."

George frowned. "No, really. I meant the me back in London. Surely I'll be there come now."

"No, you won't, Mr. Pembroke. Time doesn't work that way. You see, time is very much like a river, which is a cliche, excepting that it's true. If you pick up a cup full of water at this point," he gestured with his left hand, miming dipping a cup into a stream, "and then deposit 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 between."

"Well, yes, I can see that. But presumably, once this is over, I'll return home, and then I will pass through time normally there, won't I?"

Trauma shook his head. "Well, see, that's why I dislike using simple minded cliches to describe time. They always leave you grasping for metaphors. Think of what you call the present, or what a temporal scientist would call the 'perpetual now', as a divide in the river, with an infinite number of streams branching off of that point. Each represents a potential 'true' time. Of course, all the universes free will combined determines which way the timeline will wind, but the main thrust of this is that if you go home again, you won't be returning to a home which has Thomas Boltz dead and the galaxy collapsing around your ears, see?"

"I think so. And so at any moment, the choice you make determines what course that all of time will take?" George pondered.

"In small measure, yes. Delightful, isn't it? All that power in such a small world. Still, some events are more important that others, 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 by Merrill Clark are both excellent…."

Trauma continued to rattle off the names of books to George, who felt his eyes quickly glazing over. Unseen by the three, across the street, a shadowing figure crouching in a darkened alley had taken notice of them.

Ground had managed to somehow catch the erratic portal and leave Shakespearion IV, fighting his way across the disintegrating timelines to Norway, 2016. He had been limping through the streets of Oslo for hours now, searching desperately for the Karl Johans Center, and leaving a barely discernable trail of green blood in his wake. That was where he would find the meddlers. He knew that Martin had some plan to try and reverse the events he and Control had so carefully manipulated. Now that victory was close, he was not going to allow their new Galactic Order to be foiled.

From deep within the dark folds of his coat, he produced a long silver firearm, its rounded barrel already glowing in anticipation of releasing its deadly charge. Ground raised the rifle to his shoulder and placed a masked eye on the sight. Holding the stock of the deadly gun steady, he lined Trauma Martin's head into the crosshairs, and gently thumbed the latch of the safety into the fire position….

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 doc@america.net.

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 jtwrccc@aol.com

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