TEMPORAL OBSERVER CORPS FILES
When the journey's over
There'll be time enough to sleep
A.E. Houseman "A Shropshire Lad"
The man screwed in the final piece of metal that completed his invention. He sat back and stared at the contraption lying on the table. It was a small, thin box with buttons and read-out panels. A leather strap was attached so it could be worn at the wrist. The man smiled. This was a dream become reality. He pushed his wire-frame glasses higher on his nose, closer to his eyes. He had to tell someone and knew just the person.
He turned in his chair, faced the vid-phone and punched in the memorized number. The screen showed a picture of a man with sandy-brown hair and astonishing green eyes. He was an outdoors' man; that was easily seen in his weathered face. "Alan, it's Gil. I've just finished what may turn out to be my greatest accomplishment."
"Does that mean you'll finally leave that stuffy lab of yours?"
"I'm being serious."
"Okay. What's this great invention, then?"
"I can't tell you over the phone. How soon can you be here?"
"Five minutes. Can you wait that long?"
"Very funny. See you then."
Alan Kelly, ex-Military officer and part-time adventurer, tried to think of what was making Gilbert Connor so excited. His last invention didn't amount to much; an ectoplasmic detector, or something like that. Alan laughed remembering Gil trying to prove that his block of flats was haunted by a 20th century ghost.
He went to his floor's transmat, and, within seconds, he was knocking at Gil's door. "Who is it?" came a muffled voice.
"Gil, it's me." The door opened and Gil ushered Alan into the room. "What's this all about?"
"I've perfected a time machine," he said as he locked the door behind him. Alan laughed. "I'm serious."
"Just like you were about your sure-fire way to prevent ageing?"
"You killed five mice!"
"Okay, so I haven't always been successful, but this will work. I know it will."
Alan sat on the stool by the table and began to finger everything. "What kind of watch is this?"
"That's it. That's the machine." Gil was becoming excited.
"This is what kept you locked up for practically three years? A watch that not only tells time, but takes you with it?"
"It's a tremendous scientific breakthrough. No one has been successful with it yet."
"And you have? You've tested it?"
"The prototype. This is the perfected version." Gil opened a drawer. "Let me show you the differences." He pulled out a similar machine. "As you can see, the prototype is a little larger than the second. They have the same read-out, but, if you will notice the outside rim of the one you have, it acts as a homing device; it locates anachronisms."
"How does it do that?"
"It picks up on metals and fabrics that don't belong in that particular time. For example: gunpowder in Norman England. This way you know something is definitely wrong."
"That's ingenious. Have you tried it out? Does it really work?"
"In theory. I haven't had a chance to test it yet."
"I suppose that's where I come in." Alan picked up the prototype and strapped it to his wrist.
"I sent myself ahead a day, then back again. Alan, it was such a weird experience, I can't explain it." He reached for the machine and pressed a few buttons. "Try for yourself."
"Wait a minute!" Alan tried to take it off.
"After leading major battles, this should be child's play."
"I knew what I was up against then. Besides, How will I know I've travelled in time?"
"I've only set it for a few minutes. I'll start copying a poem: Kubla Khan by Coleridge. Know it?"
Alan wracked his brain to remember the 19th century poem. "'In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn a stately pleasure dome decree.'"
"This way you'll know. I'll start now. Just push the button on the left."
Alan did so and felt a queer, pulling sensation in the pit of his stomach. He knew he could start his own butterfly collection. If this is what a short distance felt like... He looked down at Gilbert and saw that he was writing the second section of the poem, the part where a woman was wailing for her demon lover. "Oh, my God," he said in an awed whisper.
"Are you convinced?"
"Do you realise what this means?" He stared at the band on his wrist. "All those historical questions that have plagued mankind throughout the centuries can finally be answered! It must be worth millions!"
"I've already had an offer for it."
"The Government has come to its senses, eh?"
"It was a private offer."
"You have told the Government, haven't you?"
"No? Why not?"
"Because I told him not to."
Alan turned to face the newcomer. He was about the same age and build as Alan, but there the similarities ended. The newcomer's face, though handsome, had harsh qualities; his hazel eyes assessing the man before him as if trying to find his weaknesses. "I should have know it was you, Mr. Cameron James. I see you brought your trained gorillas along," he said, taking in the two hulks James used as bodyguards. "How did you get in here, anyway? New toy?"
"Ah, Captain Kelly, not even you can know everything," James said, easing himself into the room's only armchair. "I, too, should have realised you would be here. Who else would he call but his old childhood friend. As for how I entered, yes, it is a newly acquired invention."
Gil was embarrassed, having forgotten their feud.
"Cameron, what are you doing here? Don't you think you've ruined my life enough by causing my resignation?"."
"You flatter me, Alan. I had nothing to do with it."
"Nothing that could be proved."
"Enough about the past. Let me see this invention of yours, Dr. Connor."
Gil went to the table and showed him the watch. He was beginning to question his decision. Alan didn't trust Cameron. Everyone knew he had shady deals, but there was never any proof. Now, however, he was afraid to go back on his deal.
"How simple it looks, doctor. It does work? You wouldn't think of cheating me?"
"Don't insult the man's intelligence, James. He wouldn't dare cheat a man who could buy everyone on Earth five times over," Alan answered as he walked to the wall opposite James' henchmen.
"A wise choice." He slipped the band onto his wrist. "I assume these dials set the destination."
"Yes, and the read-out is shown here."
"Now a demonstration is necessary." He took it off and placed it on one of his bodyguards.
"Not going to try it yourself, Cameron? Add 'The First Man to Travel Through Time' to your claims?"
"I pride myself on being cautious, Captain. If something should go wrong, it won't happen to me." He began to push buttons.
"Let me show you how to program it," said Gil. "I'll set it for five minutes so you can observe. Just push the final button." The man disappeared. "The time is now 5:15."
Cameron sat down. "Are there any details I should know about?"
"There is a field present around the traveller once the final button is pressed and people within a 6-inch radius will be pulled along with him."
"Ah, that's why you pulled me away."
"You have an intelligent friend, Kelly. Too bad none of it rubbed off on you."
"We each have our special fields."
"I'm sure half the women of the city can attest to that."
Before Alan could retort, the time traveller returned wearing an expression that Alan thought he must have had when he returned. Cameron's eyes showed the excitement denied the rest of his face. "Excellent, Dr. Connor. I think my offer still stands."
"I'm not so sure," Gil said slowly.
"I'll raise it another 100,000."
"It's not that. I think I should at least let the Government know about it."
"You don't trust me? I'm not good enough for you?" He was getting worked up. "You've been listening to Kelly, haven't you? You shouldn't cross me by denying me something I want, doctor. I get very angry, don't I, boys?" His bodyguards advanced on Gilbert.
Alan had had enough. "You're nothing but a paranoid psychopath trying to make up for your own shortcomings! Playing upon the fears--and the greed--of those too scared to stand up to you!"
Cameron halted in his advance towards Gilbert. "You will be sorry you said that." He motioned for one of his henchmen to go to Alan.
"Someone had to tell you." The man moved forward and pushed Alan to the wall. "Resorting to violence, eh?" Cameron motioned for the man to do it again. The man shoved and as soon as Alan's arm hit the wall, he disappeared.
Cameron turned on Gil. "How did he do that? There was another machines, wasn't there? You told me there was only one! I don't like people who lie to me, doctor." The men closed in on Gil and beat him until he fell unconscious to the floor. Cameron and his bodyguards stood close together and went off through time in search of Alan.
* * * *
Alan was face-down in grass. He pushed himself up on his hands and knees and slowly looked around. He was kneeling in a field. He could see a hill, some woods, and marsh. He had no idea where he was, or, for that matter, when. He decided to walk to the top of the hill to see his surroundings. As he walked he realised he had to find some proper clothes. He was so deep in his thoughts that he did not see the three soldiers until it was too late.
"Halt!" He was surrounded by three swords, all pointing at his chest. The soldiers holding them had long hair, trimmed beards, and wore chain mail. Alan's arms went into the air. "What are you doing here?"
"Look at his clothes, John. He's probably one of Tudor's army from Brittany."
"What else could he be? Dressed like that I would certainly remember if I had seen him before."
"Can you fight, Breton, or is the prospect of fighting an Englishman too much for you?"
"I'm unarmed as you can see." From the conversation Alan learned that this must be England during the 1480's, the Wars of the Roses--the Lancasters represented by Henry Tudor, and the Yorks with King Richard III.
"I'll lend you my sword," said the second soldier.
Alan took the sword and tested it in his hand. The balance felt good and he tried to remember all his lessons in medieval swordplay. When he was ready, he rolled up his sleeves and tested his footing. "Okay. Try me."
Although the actual words were lost on the soldier, their meaning was clear. He made a calculated charge, but Alan deftly blocked the blow. If it had connected, he would be lying unconscious. The soldier knew this was no Breton pansy. Every attempt to break Alan's guard was blocked and countered. It seemed no strain to Alan, but the soldier was beginning to tire. Alan then decided to take the offensive. He sped up his attacks and sent the soldier sprawling to the ground and his sword flying. Alan held his sword to the man's neck. "Guess I win." He gave his borrowed sword back to its owner. Astonished, he accepted it. The third helped the first to stand.
"Well fought, friend, for friend you are. A Lancastrian would have run me through." He held out his hand. "My name is John."
"That is Dickon who lent you his sword, and there," he said, pointing to the third, "is Will. Have you come to fight, then, Alan Kelly?"
"I don't know how he plans to fight without sword or armour, " said Will. "Mayhap, the king will need a messenger."
"A messenger? A man who can fight like that?" questioned John.
"Like as not, we'll find him some proper weapons and armour at camp," said Dickon.
Alan followed them over the ridge of the hill to their camp. There were soldiers and tents everywhere! There were three major standards and the most prominent, the white boar, belonged to Richard himself. The other two, he learned, belonged to the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Northumberland. His new-found comrades took him to the blacksmith who eyes his wiry frame. "I might be able to find something." He went to a pile of armour and picked out a chest piece. "Let me see how this fits."
Alan stood still as the smithy measured, pounded, and measured again, each piece of armour. Soon he had a complete suit--except for a helmet. Dickon had found a sword in the back and Will uncovered a dagger. "So, how do I look?"
John looked him up and down. "You should do well. For the time being, I think you can take it off. Nothing will happen until tomorrow."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Tudor hasn't taken advantage of first light today, so it won't happen until tomorrow."
"Enough of this," said Will. "Let's take Alan to our tent where he can shed his armour before he gets something to eat."
Inside their tent, Alan saw their own armour resting on stands alongside opposite a cot. At the head of each cot was a small banner proclaiming each man's family. "You're all knights," he said in awe. "Knights of the realm."
"Is that so surprising?" asked John.
"You didn't seem the type. Why are you associating with me?"
"Are you sure you're not a nobleman or knight yourself? You certainly fought like one."
"Then how did you come to fight so well?" asked Will.
"I ran away from home and took my father's sword--he fought at Wakefield--and learned how to defend myself. Unfortunately, I lost it."
"What made you want to join the king's army? Most of the men are leaving to join Tudor."
"I wanted to fight for my king. That is where my loyalty lies."
"That loyalty will be tested tomorrow." John patted him on the back. "Let's find out what there is to eat."
On their way out, Alan noticed a young woman near one of the larger tents. She was dressed in a simple gown of green which enhanced her fiery hair. "Who's that woman over there?"
Dickon saw where he was looking. "Ah, that is the Lady Eleanor, daughter of Sir ________."
"But what is she doing here if a battle is about to happen?"
"She rode with her father from _________. She wishes to stay, but he has plans to send her to Market Bosworth for safekeeping."
Damn! Alan had landed himself in the middle of Bosworth Field the day before the battle that heralded the end of the Plantagenet line. There was a strong chance he would die on the field. It then dawned on him that Cameron had the revised machine and would be able to track him down.
"Alan, is anything wrong?" asked John.
"No, I was just thinking." He shook his head. "What about that meal?"
As they were eating, a messenger told them that both the king and Norfolk would be breaking camp and moving to pre-arranged sites. "What about Northumberland?" questioned Will.
"He is going to stay at Sutton Cheney and wait to see what Lord Stanley will do."
They finished their meal and went back to their tent to prepare to leave. On their way, they encountered the Lady Eleanor being escorted to Market Bosworth. "Good day, milady," greeted John.
"Good day, Sir John. Sir Richard. Sir William." They each bowed their heads. "Who is this, good sirs?" she asked with a look at Alan.
"Alan Kelly, milady," he said with a bow. He looked up into one of the most beautiful faces he had ever seen: high cheekbones, straight nose, strong chin, and deep green eyes that sparkled. She smiled at him.
"You'd best hurry, milady. Your father would not want you to tarry."
"You are right, Sir John, as always. I shan't tarry in my return, either." She clucked to her horse and rode away.
Alan stared after her. Dickon laughed. "I think Eleanor has made another conquest. Come now, Alan. It is not healthy for a soldier to think of a woman when he is about to go into battle."
Alan turned to see the knights laughing at him. "It seems that the Lady Eleanor has the same effect on every man she meets."
"Yes, and very few get any closer than you just did," Will told him. "You would be best off to put her from your mind."
Alan agreed and he turned to see her horse fade in the distance.
* * *
That night Alan and his new comrades camped on the plain itself under Norfolk's banner. Being a veteran of numerous battles, Alan did not show the fear he felt inside. His fear was different from that of the ordinary 15th century soldier, the fear of dying. No, his was the fear of dying out of place, out of time. Granted, he knew the outcome of the battle, but not his own fate. He was not immortal, this machine could not prevent his flesh from being skewered on a medieval sword. He could leave when he saw the blade aimed at him! Yes, that was the solution! No, wait. Gil had said their was a field that stretched around the traveller in a 12-inch radius. Maybe he should pray--if he could remember how.
"You are quiet tonight, my friend," said John, walking over to his makeshift cot.
"Just thinking." Alan stretch his legs. "I think I'll go for a short walk to clear the cobwebs. Do you want to join me?"
"Certainly." John lifted the flap of the tent and they walked into the August night. "You are certainly behaving well on the eve of your first battle."
Alan laughed to himself as he remembered his first battle. Fresh out the Academy, he was sick when a soldier was killed next to him. He decided to take a fatalistic view of it all. "If a Lancastrian sword is meant for me, then there is nothing I can do but my best until it happens."
At the northeaster perimeter, they stopped. A mile ahead, John said, was the camp of William Stanley. To the south-east was his brother, Lord Stanley. "I wonder where the Tudor is? There's no sign of him."
"Could that be him?" Alan asked, pointing east. "Lights are starting to appear."
"It has to be. The White Moors. No wonder nothing happened today. I guess it's time we tried to get some sleep. We don't know what tomorrow will bring."
* * * *
25 August 1485 dawned. The sun shone off the armour and nearly blinded Alan so early in the morning. Dickon came over. "It appears that we will be leading the assault, followed by the King."
"Any sign of Northumberland?" asked John.
"No. He's probably watching from Sutton Cheney with a mug of ale in his hand. I doubt we'll see him."
The three knights mounted their horses which seemed to know that a battle was iminent for they were restless, tossing their heads and walking in place. "Sorry, but you'll have to go on foot," said Will. "Stay close to us, we should be able to help you."
They encountered the enemy just east of Ambion Hill, close to the spot where Alan "landed". The fighting was fierce and the soldiers were close. Alan fought for his life like he had never done before. After all, he knew what was going to happen. He saw another standard in the distance. He tried to remember the nobles Henry had on his side. It was Oxford, the Earl of Oxford. A shout went up in the Tudor ranks. Oh, no, not another one. This time it was Sir William Stanley.
"Kelly! Your back!" Dickon warned.
Alan turned to see a hulking foot-soldier wearing Oxford's crest bearing down on him. Alan brought his blade down to the man's arm, but the soldier moved aside and thrust his sword forward. Alan blocked it, then aimed for the shoulder. The soldier fell and Alan withdrew his sword.
"Bravo, Capt. Kelly. Why don't you try crossing swords with an expert?"
Alan slowly turned. Only one person in this time would call him "Captain". Cameron James was there. He was wearing black armour and bore no crest. Under his visor, Alan could just picture Cameron's self-satisfied smirk. "You found me."
"Dr. Connor's little machine is quite amazing. You should be quite proud of your friend's accomplishments."
"Oh, but I am." Alan wearily circled Cameron. "But I have other things on my mind right now."
James knew what he meant. "True. We each have something the other wants." He thrust his sword forwards, but Alan was prepared. He deftly blocked it and continued for James' arm. After a few more similar moves, each showed signs of weakening. James was the first to draw blood. A blow landed on Alan's shoulder where there was no protection. The pain was so intense, he fell to his knees. James advanced and prepared for the killing blow, but was prevented by a sword knocking his blade aside. Alan looked up and saw John fighting Cameron. Alan tried to stand, holding the sword in his left hand. He swayed as he advanced to fight.
"You're too weak," protested John, as he saw him approaching. "You'll give him every advantage."
Cameron was sly and bided his time. He knew John would turn towards Alan, and when he did... James delivered the mortal blow and John fell. Alan glared at James who then disappeared into the battle. Alan knelt beside John. "Hold on, friend. You have to be there for the victory celebration."
"No, I'm beyond that." He coughed. "Take my sword. Don't say anything. I want you to have it. Hopefully, it will serve you as it has me." He smiled as Alan picked it up. "Good lad. For St. George and England!" With a rallying battle cry, he died.
"I'll get him for you, John," Alan vowed. "He'll have me to answer to."
* * * *
Alan wasn't sure how, but he made it back to camp. There seemed to be wounded everywhere. He staggered to the tent he shared with the three knights and proceeded to take off his armour. He could see the blood on the chain mail. A slight groan escaped his lips as he attempted to separate the mail from the wound. He grit his teeth and pulled. He nearly passed out.
"Check the tents," he heard a voice order. "There might be survivors."
Fearing Lancastrians, Alan moved beside the tent flap and held John's sword in his left hand. He wasn't going without a fight. The flap opened and Alan raised the sword. A soldier entered and Alan stepped forward. "Drop you sword and turn around slowly. No tricks." The man did as he was told and Steven was relieved to see Will.
"Alan, you're alive." He took the sword from him. "Barely, by the looks of you. Let me help you." Will eased Alan onto his cot. "You stay here while I get some bandages."
"John's dead," he said softly.
"I thought so. I recognised the sword."
"He came to help me, Will. If only I hadn't left myself open."
"Don't worry yourself. He went out fighting to save the life of a comrade, the way a knight should leave this world. Now, lie back and rest."
Alan closed his eyes and tried to forget the look on John's face, but knew it was impossible. He now had another reason to track down Cameron and take him back to the 24th century. He could feel himself floating away. Loss of blood. "God, I don't want to die now, not here."
"Ssshhh, you won't die," a feminine voice told him. A cold cloth was laid on his forehead.
He opened his eyes and saw Eleanor leaning over him. "Sweet Angel of Mercy."
"Please, Master Kelly, I am no angel, my father can attest to that. I have only cleansed your wound and bandaged you." She turned to Dickon. "Can you get him some water?"
"Yes, milady." He bowed and left.
"Once you get away from here, you must rest. You have lost much blood."
A young, weary soldier rushed into the tent. "King Richard is dead! The Lancasters are chasing down all his soldiers! We must leave!"
Alan started to rise. "Lie still. You need some help," cautioned Eleanor.
"You certainly do, Captain."
Alan turned to the flap. "Cameron. Come to finish me off?"
"Now, Alan, not in front of the lady." Cameron came forward to stand beside Eleanor. "Quite a lovely thing, too."
Alan looked at him, hatred in his eyes. "'A horse, a horse. My kingdom for a horse.'"
Cameron recognised the quote from Shakespeare and replied "'God and your arms be praised, victorious friends; The day is ours, the bloody dog is dead.'"
Eleanor stared in disbelief. These two men apparently knew each other, yet they spoke so strangely. What could they have in common? "Surely, sir, you can see this man is wounded. Even as an enemy knight, you must assure him comfort."
"Feisty, isn't she? Of course I know he's wounded, I inflicted it. For another thing, I am his enemy, but not a knight. I was thinking of killing him, but you, my dear, should prove more fun." He grabbed her by the arm and yanked her to her feet.
Alan sat up slowly, grabbed his sword, and stood. "Cameron, leave her out of this. She has nothing to do with our quarrel."
"I never knew you were so gallant, Kelly. A true officer and a gentleman. I wouldn't dare harm such a beautiful face." To emphasise this point, he softly ran his finger across her cheek. "I think she'll make a lovely companion. Besides, she should keep you from doing anything rash to regain a certain trinket."
Alan saw the truth in this and let the blade drop to his side. "There's no way you can get away with it."
"Ah, but there is. You see, I will always know where you are. You're the one who won't be able to get away."
At this moment, Dickon and Will returned to the tent to help Alan and Eleanor prepare to leave. Distracted, Cameron turned to face the two knights. Alan took advantage of this and pulled Eleanor out of his grasp and raise his sword. Dickon and Will also raised their swords. Alan smiled knowing he had the upper-hand. "You were saying, Cameron? You killed their comrade and they have the right to avenge him. If they don't get you, I will."
Cameron drew his sword and readied himself. "Are you going to let your friends fight for you, or will you face me yourself?"
"Gladly." He advanced, sword raised.
"You mustn't," protested Eleanor. "Your wound will bleed again."
Alan ignored her and circled Cameron, on the defensive. Cameron, however, knowing his opponent's weakness, hammered him with blow upon blow that forced him to the ground. Will and Dickon tried to block him from leaving, but he ran past them warning, "There is no escape for you, Kelly. One way or another, I'll get the better of you."
Dickon and Will made to chase him. "Don't bother," said Alan as Eleanor helped him up. "You'll never catch him." Alan knew he would just vanish into another time.
Dickon came forward to help Eleanor with Alan. "We have to leave here now. We haven't much time."
"Go take Eleanor to her father and save yourselves. You're more important than I am."
"My father is dead," whispered Eleanor.
"I'm sorry. Do you have relatives?"
"An aunt and uncle in Leiscester."
"Take her there, then," Alan told the knights.
"What about you? You don't expect us to leave you?" said Will.
"Surely, he will be easy on a wounded man."
"Maybe. We really don't know much about him," said Dickon.
"Good. Then go now. Take Eleanor away from this and hide yourselves. I'll be fine." He watched them mount and ride out of camp. He then fed the co-ordinates into the time machine and headed back for Gilbert's lab.
* * * *
After a short bout of disorientation, Alan looked around the lab. The place was a mess! Papers, chairs, and tables were lying on the floor. There was no sign of Gil. Alan was worried. What had Cameron and his bully-boys done? "Gil, where are you? It's Alan!" he called.
He heard a feeble reply and rushed to him. Gil was lying on the floor, bruised and bloody. He smiled weakly. "I knew you'd be back."
"Cameron did this to you?" Alan asked as he tried to make him comfortable. "Let me call a doctor."
"No." Gil lifted his hand to stop him. "There's no need. There's nothing he can do." He coughed. "How could I have been so blind. The man's an absolute maniac."
"Don't blame yourself. I can show your plans to the Government and they'll build some to track down Cameron."
"Will they really, Alan? Or will they use it for themselves? No, Alan, I want you to burn everything concerning it."
Alan reluctantly agreed, and, as he stood, Gil saw the sword. "Medieval England?"
"Battle of Bosworth Field," Alan answered as he gathered the notes. "Another grudge against Cameron. He killed a knight who came to help me. This is his sword and I've vowed to kill Cameron with it."
"Well, you'll attract a lot of attention in the wrong time with that."
"What do you expect me to do?"
"In the cabinet to the left of the vid-phone is a transmuter. You can use it to change the appearance of anything you take with you. Cameron will have a harder time tracing you."
"Will it be able to change the machine?"
"Great." He went to the cabinet and pulled out what looked like a pen. "Is this it?"
"Yes. There's one problem. You can't control what the objects will turn into." He began to cough faster and a speck of blood appeared on his lips.
Alan rushed over. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Just...burn... the,...notes," he panted.
Alan found a metal container, placed all the notes inside, and put a match to it. As he watched them burn, he thought he heard sirens. Gil did as well. "Go...now...Called...help...after...Cameron." There was a pounding at the door. "Go...friend...please." He coughed and more blood rose to his lips. Then he was still.
A tear ran down Alan's cheek as he closed the lids over Gil's blue eyes. Yet another reason to kill Cameron. The pounding on the door made him see his position clearly. The police would want him for murder! He was the last to enter the room through the door since Cameron had his own transporter. Now he understood what Cameron meant by no escape. The police would get him here while Cameron would get him in every other time. All he had to do was catch Cameron and bring him back before he was caught himself. All he had to do.