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Time Vandal Series
Time Travel Science Fiction
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Time Travel Science Fiction
Elijah crouched behind the hedge at the edge of a field. He kept low to avoid being seen by the many groups of soldiers milling around on the valley floor barely two hundred yards away. The group closest to him numbered around ten, and seemed to be preoccupied with moving a stack of cannonballs onto the back of a horse-drawn cart.
He had his mini-binoculars unfolded and was looking down on the soldiers. Going by their uniforms he assumed they were General Kutuzov’s men.
"I very much doubt Kutuzov is even in command anymore," came the voice of Elijah’s A.I. Fuzzy over the ear bud in his right ear. The computer (and the T714 craft which housed it) were currently hovering some 5 miles above what Elijah knew as the Czech town of Slavkov u Brna, but which the world’s historians of his day knew as Austerlitz. "The Russian emperor would have long since arrived."
Elijah nodded, smiling grimly. "Messing everything up."
"Is it your contention," asked Fuzzy, "that had the command been left to General Kutuzov then Napoleon would have lost this battle?"
It was weird speaking in the past tense about an event that was about to unfold in front of one’s eyes. But it was par for the course for a man like Dr. Elijah Snow, who had his own time machine. It had been seven of his years since he last saw Mole, the boy who grew up to be King Arthur, and he was just now getting used to the idea. "No, not really," he said to Fuzzy.
"Napoleon has them by the short hairs. Remember, he’s been chasing them since Vienna." He pulled the binoculars from his eyes, turning them over in his hand and giving them a look of disdain. "These things aren’t worth a bucket of spit. They're practically useless. I can hardly see a thing."
Fuzzy’s voice answered, "You gave your good ones, the spyglass, to Harald." He was referring to Harald Blatan, or Bluetooth, the one-time king of all of Scandinavia. He had been Elijah’s traveling companion for a time. He was also one of Fuzzy’s all-time favorite humans. After the boy, of course.
Elijah lifted the binoculars back up to his eyes, training them on the French side. He wanted to see Bonaparte. That was, after all, the main reason he was here. Plus, he wanted to ignore Fuzzy’s last comment.
But Fuzzy was relentless. "It might not have been such a good idea to give them to him. Historically speaking, I mean."
Elijah nodded curtly, fully aware that Fuzzy couldn’t see him doing it. "They never found him. They never found his body. When we left the 21st century they had already been looking for it for decades." He scanned the horizon again. "They’ll never find him."
"So, we’re now using blind luck to justify taking grave risks." Fuzzy was irritated, Elijah could tell.
"You can’t change the future, Fuzzy." Elijah’s patience with this line of discussion was quickly running out. "You know that."
"No, but you can get an anvil dropped on your head by the universe for tempting time," replied the equally impatient computer. "Or so you’ve said many times to me."
Elijah looked up briefly into the clouds, then shook his head and went back to watching the troops. "I get the point. I won’t do it again. I promise." After a few moments he lowered the binoculars and looked at them again. "I see better without these things. I need to get closer." He folded them and put them in his messenger bag.
"I wouldn’t recommend getting any closer," replied Fuzzy.
Elijah started to turn, another sarcastic comment about who was in charge, etc., rising to his lips, when the corner of his eye caught a movement on his right, up the slope about twenty yards. It was a soldier, he realized, no more than seventeen or eighteen years old. He was crouched behind a bush and watching the Time Vandal.
Realizing he was seen, the soldier stood up and looked around. He was tall and thin, and had a thin wisp of a moustache over his lip. His eyes pleaded with Elijah to not make a noise.
Elijah walked slowly towards him, both hands held out on each side, palms up. "Tee Rus? (Are you Russian, in Elijah’s horrible version of the Russian language).
The soldier nodded.
Elijah whispered into his microphone, "Fuzzy, translate for me. What is your name? Are you a deserter?"
Fuzzy gave the translation back to Elijah, which he then repeated to the kid. When the kid answered, Fuzzy gave Elijah the translation back.
The soldier's head went down. "I do not want to die, but I am not a deserter. I got too drunk last night, and fell asleep away from the camp. This morning I overslept. Now I am afraid if I try to go back, they will shoot me as a deserter." He kicked a small pebble at his feet. "My name is Benka."
Elijah approached more closely. Only ten yards separated them now. "Don’t worry, I won’t tell them." He shook his head back and forth to the boy. "As you can see I am hiding from them, too."
Benka eyed Elijah and his strange garb. "How did you get here? There are scouts everywhere." His arm waved back to encompass all the fields and rolling hills behind Elijah’s position. "I am afraid they will catch me if I try to move in any direction." He cast his eyes down. "And I will never see my wife Doycia again."
Elijah nodded, his eyes taking in Benka’s uniform. "You’re right, you’ll never make it past them. There are five on horseback not two miles from here, in the direction I’m guessing you’ve planned to go." He pointed and the soldier nodded sheepishly. "I’ll make you a deal," Elijah continued. "You give me that uniform, and I’ll give you a change of clothes and get you out of here."
A look of unbelief washed over Benka’s face. "How could you do that?"
Elijah grinned. "Never mind that. Where are you from?"
"Petrovichi. In Belarus."
Elijah nodded and sat on a nearby tree stump. He opened his bag. "Would you like to see your wife tonight? Taste her home cooking again?" He pulled out a flask and opened it, taking a long swig. He handed it up to Benka "Want some?"
Benka sat and took the bottle. "You’re talking crazy," he said. "Na-zda-ROV-yea." He shrugged and lifted it to his lips.
Elijah took that moment to lift a small syringe from its place on the inner wall of the bag. Just enough to knock the kid out. "Well, when we get to Petrovichi, you can apologize."
. . .
Fuzzy was beside himself. Hadn’t they just talked about this very thing? About tempting time? About getting involved when they need not do it?
Elijah was nonplussed, sitting at the console of his MTDM (mobile time displacement module) high in orbit. He was still wearing Benka’s uniform. Benka was laid out on the floor behind his seat, snoring loudly. "The kid won’t remember a thing, other than meeting me in a field." He punched in a few keys on the right hand keyboard. "Besides, it was the least I could do for the loan of this uniform. It got me close."
"Too close," came Fuzzy’s reply.
"I could have gotten even closer had you not ruined it." He looked up at the middle monitor. "That really pissed me off, I have to tell you. I have half a mind to lower your Assertiveness setting.
"You didn’t know I could make a dust devil, did you?" Fuzzy's voice was playful, but somehow serious.
"No, I most certainly did not." Elijah punched in a few more keys, this time stabbing the keyboard like a kid stabbing at hated peas with a fork.
"Well, an officer off to the right of and behind you had taken notice of your presence, just standing there and doing nothing. He was sending a guard over to you when I intervened."
Elijah looked back up at the monitor, his full attention now on the subject at hand. "I wasn’t doing nothing, I was taking video. Great video." When Fuzzy said nothing in response, he went on. "So it was that close?"
"It was that close. And it gets worse."
Elijah stiffened. "Worse?"
"I know who he is." Fuzzy’s voice was flat, emotionless. "Benka."
Oh no, came the thought to Elijah’s head, not again. "Go on."
"I ran him through face recognition to try to get a progenic match. To see if I could determine his family tree. I knew that his home village was Petrovichi, and he had spoken of his wife and gave her name, so I was able to better filter the results."
"A progenic match?" Elijah’s voice raised a notch. "I don’t think that’s a word."
"I tried to match him to his progeny, if he had any."
"Of course you did," Elijah said, sardonically, while he continued working at the console.
"You’re not going to like it." Fuzzy was clearly enjoying himself.
Elijah paused and half-turned in his chair to look down at the sleeping form of Benka. "No, I probably won’t." He steeled himself. "So who is he?"
"He is Benka Asimov, the great-great-great-grandfather of Isaac Asimov."
In the silence that followed Elijah’s head dropped slowly to his chest. He held that position a few moments, then started shaking it slowly to the left and to the right. "I had to save him. I didn’t have a choice. He would have been killed."
His face brightened suddenly and his head popped back up. "See? I just made sure that our history happened, that we had Isaac Asimov to write all those great stories." He smiled broadly. "Without me, the world would have been deprived of a great writer. I’m a hero. You’re welcome." He saluted the middle monitor above his head and went back to his console.
"You’re a very reckless man."
Elijah looked up again. "Aw, come on, Fuzzy. Don’t ruin this for me. I’ve got Isaac Asimov’s great-great-great grandfather in my care. I told him we’d get him home, and home is where we’ll get him." He went back to punching numbers into the keyboard. "Let’s go to Russia."
Fuzzy begin making calculations and plotting courses.
Elijah smiled and asked him to play back the footage of the battle from the ship’s cameras. He wanted to see the shots of Napoleon Bonaparte.
As Fuzzy did so, Elijah pulled a pen and a small piece of paper from his front pocket. He wrote the words ‘Name Your Son Israel‘ on the paper and folded it over twice, cupping it in his palm so Fuzzy wouldn't see. Asimov’s great-great grandfather was, after all, named Israel. Elijah just wanted to make sure he had the right guy.
Later on he would slip the note into Benka’s pocket, so he would find it later. Benka would have to get it translated from English, as unfortunately Elijah didn’t know how to write in Russian.
And he wasn’t about to ask Fuzzy for help.
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M. E. Bowling spent most of his childhood years shuttling between various Air Force bases in Europe and the United States. As a child in a military family, he attended 12 different schools before he was 14 years old.
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