Chapter One

IT’S A NEW SERIAL! But World Enough and Time is the first of a trilogy of time travel novels – and the serial starts today. Join Robin and Dean Parker, a sister and brother who travel back to return Elizabeth Wynford back to her native time. Oh, would that it were that simple. Roger York is busy trying to figure out how to get one step ahead of the trio, but he’s not the person to worry about. Donald Long is even more persistently chasing the three with definite intent to inflict harm. Visit this space every Friday for a new episode!

Desperation made people do some strange things. Roger York looked at the sleeping girl, then gently checked her pulse yet again. Endless days mapping DNA strings on the fastest machines in existence. Even more, months carefully searching for the perfect hiding place as others developed the tools to keep prying eyes away. All for an experiment that could take an innocent life that had no reckoning of the risk she was taking. Worse yet, Roger had little hope that it would succeed.

Roger ran his hands through his soft brown hair, not short nor long, cut so he could go as many whens as possible. He looked around the room, double-checking everything, especially the power sources. They would be all right. But what effect would the suspend an have on Elizabeth? Nobody had tried it over a hundred years, and Roger was bringing the girl forward five hundred and fifty plus.

The only thing more dangerous would be to bring her forward through the time drop. He’d drop in and wake her up every fifty years as it was. She seemed a strong, intelligent woman, in spite of her ignorance. Hopefully, her mind would be strong enough.

As he picked up his hand unit, he checked everything once more, then focused his mind on the coordinates for fifty years ahead. It was odd, but the timetron landed him within seconds of the coordinates he entered. It had never done that before. Must have been the power source so close. He brushed Elizabeth’s lips with his own. Her eyes flickered open. She smiled at him. He was smiling back. At least that part of this fool’s enterprise was working.

Each fifty-year jump felt better than before. Elizabeth showed no visible effects from her time asleep, nor did what few instruments Roger had show any. The special locks that prevented anyone from even thinking about entering the room were working perfectly. He left the 1990s almost bursting with joy.

Just a few years into the 21st century, a small ion retainer on the door fizzled and sputtered. The rest of the card flared up and died as quickly. A minute later, the door creaked open.

 

It wasn’t that Dean Parker was unintelligent. He did have brains. Even his older sister, Robin, admitted that. Dean’s problem was that he didn’t use them.

Exasperated, Robin watched the rest of the tour move further and further ahead through the medieval castle. Dean was not with them. There was no question about it, the twenty-one-year-old beach bum was what gave twenty-somethings a bad name.

“Hey, Robin!” Dean’s voice hissed behind her.

Robin jumped. “Damn it, Dean, where have you been?”

“You’re not going to believe this unless you see it.” Dean pulled at her arm. “Come on.”

“The tour is going that way. If we don’t go now, we’ll be lost in this ruin.”

“Robin, this is important, very important. Please, for me?”

Robin looked at her younger brother. Sun-bleached blonde hair capped the tanned face with the handsome square jaw and white even teeth. How he’d found a t-shirt big enough to be oversized on his broad shoulders, Robin had no idea. Underneath the shirt were dark plaid Bermuda shorts, and under them, beat up dock siders. His blue eyes shone down earnestly from his six feet, two inches of height.

Robin’s heart melted. “All right, what’s so important?”

Dean led her down the corridor the way they had come, and around a corner. Robin stopped him.

“Uh, Dean, doesn’t the sign on the door you’re opening say not to go in there?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Yeah, well, I didn’t read it. Come on.”

Before Robin could protest, Dean dragged her through an open door made of surprisingly fresh wood. Robin looked about the room, in wonder.

The room was filled with an unnatural brightness. Up against the middle of the far wall was a huge bed with thin gauze curtains hanging around it. On one side, the curtains had been pulled back. Next to the bed was a tall cabinet containing a flat monitor, a flat black plastic box with rounded corners and edges, and a closed metal box with a vertical door to one side. On top was another flat, black box, about the size of a portable computer keyboard.

To the left of the bed was a wall bearing one of the tall narrow windows with which all medieval castles were built. A young woman looked through it.

She could have been twenty. She could have been twelve. She was short, about five one, and pleasantly rounded. Her light blue dress was rough wool, with an extremely full skirt and matching bodice. The under blouse had very full sleeves and tied at the wrists. It had been pulled up to tie around the neck, but the ties were loose. Her reddish-brown hair was gathered into a bun at the back of her head, with the side parts left loose and curly.

She turned and saw Robin and Dean. “Oh! You’ve returned.”

“Yeah,” said Dean. “I brought my sister. This is Robin.”

The girl looked at Robin skeptically. Robin’s mouse brown hair was cut short and she was wearing jeans with a fitted t-shirt over them. Not the most feminine of outfits.

The girl bobbed a curtsy. “Are you a sorcerer, too?”

She had a strong Southern accent as if she was from West Virginia.

“A sorcerer?” asked Robin, when she found her voice.

“Indeed. You must be one,” the girl replied. “This is a magic chamber. How else could you enter it? It travels to many magical places. At least, they seem magical. Especially the last one. I did see great silver birds in the sky, and strange colorful animals that move so fast!”

“But we’re not sorcerers,” said Robin. “Who are you, and what land are you from?”

“My name is Elizabeth Wynford.” She curtsied again. “And I am from Kent, in England, a village called King’s Church on Rother. My father has a small holding there.”

“King what? Where the heck is that?” asked Dean.

“In Kent, which is south, on the other side of London from here,” Robin told him. She checked her watch. It was two thirty-three. The next tour would start at three, but Robin wasn’t sure she wanted to see the first part of the castle all over again. “What do you want me to do?”

Dean shrugged. “Help her.”

Robin groaned.

“So she’s a candidate for a rubber room,” Dean said. “Is it fair to leave her here all locked up?”

“Well, Dean, maybe she’s supposed to be here.”

“Come on, Robin. Didn’t you hear the tour guide? Nobody’s lived here for over five hundred years.”

“What? You were listening?”

“It happens. We gotta help her.”

Robin looked at Elizabeth. “Are you really locked up here?”

Elizabeth thought it over. “In truth, I’ve never tried the door. I was brought here by a magician named Roger. He puts me to sleep, then moves the chamber. He’s very kind. He wakes me up and we talk. But he never lets me see the lands outside the chamber. In truth, I don’t believe he ever will. This is the first time I am awake without him here. Did he send you?”

“Nah, we never heard of him,” Dean said. He turned to Robin. “Well?”

“I suppose we can turn her over to the authorities,” Robin sighed.

“But she’s an American. Listen to that accent.”

“The accent…” Robin paused as something tugged at the back of her mind. Either the girl had done a lot of research or the unbelievable was somehow true. It couldn’t be.

But at that moment, Robin saw the headphones on the bed. They looked like fine, plastic calipers with white pads, sort of like the ones used on heart monitors, on the ends. Robin picked them up. Tiny tubes ran together to the cabinet and plugged into the machine on the bottom. There were tiny air bubbles in the tubes near the white pads. Robin followed the tubes to the machine and opened the door. Inside were two bags made of a material Robin had never seen in all her history of engineering. The bags looked and acted like plastic, but had the cool smoothness of glass. They contained liquids, one perfectly clear, the other a light green.

Robin looked at the monitor. Six panels filled the screen. Four appeared to be monitoring Elizabeth, including one that noted that the food source had been handled, but the seals were unbroken. The fifth noted the presence of two life forms without known aura prints. The sixth said “Home Base, ready.”

Robin looked at the keyboard-sized box. As soon as she touched it, lights for the keys she expected glowed quietly. Without quite knowing why, she touched the sixth panel, then the keyboard where the number nine would be on the keyboards she knew. Three nines appeared after “Home Base.” Robin touched one of the nines. It disappeared. Without thinking, she hit enter on the keyboard.

Blinding light surrounded her. Robin felt as if she were being sucked into herself. A long second later, she was standing in a darkened room. The light grew to where Robin could see clearly. The room looked like a refugee from the Star Trek set. The walls were covered by white panels. On an adjacent wall were inset panels that were light blue doors, Robin thought. Next to one of the doors was a tall dark blue box-like structure that reminded Robin of an armoire. Up against the wall facing the other door was a dark blue table. Above that simple white shelves displayed numerous antiques, among them what looked like an iPod music player that had been taken apart and wired to an old-fashioned coffee grinder.

“A time machine!” Robin gasped. “What else could this thing be? Where the hell am I?”

She scanned the room. On the table was another flat monitor with a keyboard like that in the castle. The monitor was already on, but there were only two panels. One noted the presence of a humanoid life form without a known aura print. At the top of the second panel was: “XY17, HOME BASE, TIME: 14:46, DATE: 21990714.”

“2199?” Robin mumbled. “Oh, my god!”

Almost two hundred years in the future, if the date was to be trusted, and given how Robin had arrived, there was no reason not to. This was either the strangest dream Robin had ever had or… It had the solid feel of waking, the vibrancy.

“Shit howdy,” Robin grumbled. “How do I get back?”

Tentatively, she typed a couple letters on the keyboard. They appeared in the monitor’s second panel next to a blinking cursor. She looked quickly for a backspace key but found none. She touched the two letters on the screen and literally rubbed them out. The cursor remained blinking.

“Cool.”

She typed “Elizabeth” just to be typing something. Sure enough, coordinates appeared on the screen, plus a map of England that blew up to show the neighborhood the castle was in. Robin checked her watch. The liquid crystal diodes had gone crazy and broken figures were swimming all over the face. But she had just checked the time before she’d been… transported. She entered the date she’d left and the time at two forty-eight. She touched the second panel and hit enter.

Another blinding light and she found herself back in the castle room, gasping.

“You are indeed the most powerful sorcerer!” Elizabeth gasped, backing away.

“Fuck!” said Dean.

“It worked!” Robin crowed. “Hot damn, it worked! Deanie, this is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen in my life! It’s beyond belief.”

“Fuck,” said Dean.

“Is that all you can say?”

“What the hell do you want?” Dean groaned. “One minute you’re playing with that computer, and then you disappeared into thin air! Three minutes later, you’re back. Hell, it was like ‘Bewitched’, or something.”

“It’s a time machine, Dean!” Robin yelled. “An honest to goodness time machine. H. G. Wells. Quantum Leap. This is it. The real article. Dean, I was in the future! Two hundred years from now!”

“That’s impossible.”

“You saw me disappear. What else could explain this set-up?”

“Well, it sure as hell isn’t ‘Candid Camera’. What are we gonna do?”

“This is a good question.” Robin saw Elizabeth backed into a corner. “You okay?”

“You are so powerful. The spell you uttered…”

“It wasn’t a spell. It was the machine.” Robin grinned. “I’m no sorcerer. Honest. The machine just did it.”

Elizabeth thought it over with all her might. “That is what Roger says. But I’ve never seen him disappear like that. Perhaps it is because I am asleep when he goes.”

“Probably.” Robin reached out to the frightened girl. “Look, I don’t hurt people, and I’m certainly no sorcerer. Do you want us to wait here for Roger to show?”

Elizabeth looked out the window longingly. “You are at least as powerful as Roger is. And I do want to see the marvelous land outside. Will you take me?”

“Sure,” said Dean.

“Wait,” growled Robin. She pulled Dean aside. “Let’s think this one through. She has no I.D. Look at how she’s dressed. She’s going to freak out there.”

Dean chuckled. “Hello? She’s already freaked, Robin. Maybe we should take her to the embassy in London and find out who her folks are.”

“Dean, her folks have been dead for something like four hundred years.”

“Huh?”

Robin turned to the girl. “Elizabeth, what year were you born?”

“The year of Our Lord, sixteen hundred and twenty-three.”

“She’s cracked,” said Dean.

“Wrong, hockey-puck.” Robin faced off with him. “She really is from the seventeenth century. Don’t you get it? She’s been sleeping? This Roger guy is from the way distant future and has put her on suspended animation to bring her forward for some reason.” She turned back to Elizabeth. “Did Roger say why he brought you here?”

“Just that he needed me,” she replied simply.

Robin snorted. “I’ll bet.”

Dean struggled. “Robin, this doesn’t make sense. I mean, time travel’s impossible, isn’t it?”

“Now, it is. But there’s no reason to believe it won’t happen in the future. Hell, there are people in this day and age trying to work out ways to make it happen. And it must be they get it, because of all this.”

“Yeah, right.” The look on Dean’s face grew even more pained. “It doesn’t make sense. Elizabeth talks like she’s from Georgia or something like that.”

“No, I’m from Kent,” Elizabeth protested.

“We know,” Robin told her, then turned to Dean. “Her accent is what cements it. The theory is that the way people talked in Shakespeare’s time and a little bit later is more like the Appalachian dialect from West Virginia. People there were very isolated for centuries and still use terms and rhythms very close to Shakespearean language. If Elizabeth were faking it, she’d be more likely to use a current English accent.”

“Woh.” The thought made its way through Dean’s brain. “So now what do we do?”

“I don’t know.” Robin wandered about the room. She stopped by the cabinet, and curious, picked up the portable keyboard.

“I’d like to see the land outside,” said Elizabeth.

The lights suddenly dimmed and brightened.

“Shit, that’s what happened right before you got back!” yelped Dean.

He grabbed Elizabeth’s hand and ran from the room. Robin ran also, just barely remembering to shut the door behind her.

It took a moment for the man who appeared in the room to get his wind back. He whipped around. Already the monitor had tracked his aura print. It wouldn’t matter once he had the girl. But the bed was empty. He brushed his dark blonde hair out of his eyes.

The bed was empty. All the suspend an equipment was there. But the girl was obviously gone. The lights dimmed and brightened. He turned.

“Hello, Roger,” he said, trying to feign a smile.

Roger, still gasping from the drop, shook his head. “Donald, what are you doing here?”

“Just checking on the project.” Donald put on his most innocent grin.

He was an average size man, somewhat shorter than Roger, fair where Roger was darker. Though both were predominately Caucasian, their features blended well in a whole host of cultures.

Donald watched Roger carefully. But Roger was far more interested in the girl’s disappearance than why Donald was there.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Roger said, mildly. He glared at the monitor. “It wasn’t my idea not to authorize you for the project and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“I wasn’t saying anything.” Donald smirked. For all the two men looked the same age, Donald was considerably younger.

Roger ignored him and checked the bed.

“I don’t have her, if that’s what you’re wondering,” Donald said.

“Damn!” Roger enlarged the fifth panel on the monitor. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Damn lock.”

“No aura prints?” Donald moved behind the other man to where he could see the screen. “Oh, unknown. That will make them easy to find.”

“Donald, leave,” Roger growled as he went back to checking equipment.

“A thousand pardons, oh mighty one.” Donald’s bow was anything but sincere. “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t have had your girl in the first place.”

Roger turned on him. “By getting her charged with witchcraft? That made it very easy. And discreet, too.”

“She never saw me.”

Roger groaned and went back to checking equipment. “You’re just lucky no one saw you start that fire in the gaol. I’ll have enough to do to regain her trust because I know her shame.”

“Well then, maybe I could—”

Roger’s glare cut Donald short. He shrugged.

“Maybe I’ll just look around a while.”

Roger ignored him.

Donald walked casually out of the room, but once outside, he dashed down the corridor. Whoever had the girl couldn’t have gotten far. But which way had they gone?

Back in the room, Roger sighed. Even though Donald seemed to have accepted the Board’s ruling on this experiment, Roger strongly suspected Donald was not feeling nearly as conciliatory as he pretended. It was no accident that the two of them had arrived so closely together.

Roger glanced at the door. More worrisome than Donald was that the keyboard and base unit had been used, and the hand unit was gone. Oh, and Elizabeth was gone. Roger glared at the base unit keyboard.

Thousands upon thousands of years of recorded history and in only seventy-five of them would it occur to a mundane that a keyboard, that primitive mess laid out to literally slow people down, not to mention a keyboard under glass, that this bleeding antique technology could control something. So naturally, that’s when the ion lock failed.

And one of the two strangers who had gotten into the room had had enough savvy to figure the base unit out, which meant a mundane knew it for what it was, creating an anomaly on top of Elizabeth being outside the castle during the wrong when. Only another time traveler could actually use the hand unit. But the lost unit meant yet another anomaly and Roger shuddered to think what would be involved in cleaning up that mess on top of all the others. Sighing, he hit the key for home.

Anne Louise Bannon

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