After eighty years of total war the remnants of humanity on the Nayarit Line struggled to survive in sealed domes, surrounded by radioactive wasteland and genetically engineered viruses. It was in the last, desperate years of the war that the first trans-temporal portal was developed at Chiqu, a small research facility on the west coast of North America. As the domes finally failed and civilization collapsed around them, Iapura led fifty-three survivors from Chiqu to found a new empire on a parallel Earth; an Earth where, in 1884, Russian and English armies faced each other across America’s Great Plains, totally unprepared for the technology of the invading Nayarit.Over the next ninety years Iapura’s Empire expanded steadily across a series of parallel Earths, absorbing and conquering until it included over fifty-four separate lines. Finally, however, with its technology stagnant and its ruling Council riven by dissent, the death of Manet, First Leader of the Cross-Temporal Empire will set the Council onto a slow and irrevocable slide into civil war.
Perusia — Etu Line
April 1979 (95AE)
Ivy swore as her boots slipped on the damp rock, the rope tightening under her arms as she scrambled to find a foothold. Unfortunately, cavalry boots were turning out to be worse than useless for rock climbing.
“How is he?” she called, trying to make herself heard over the sound of the waterfall, craning her neck to see around the overhang that blocked her view. The rocks were covered with moisture, making the descent doubly dangerous as she tried to keep as much of her weight off the suspect rope as possible.
There was a pause as one of her squad went to look and she took the chance to catch her breath, flexing her fingers which were turning blue with cold. It was freezing within the funnel, despite her jacket.
“Still there, Troop Leader,” came the eventual answer from her Corporal.
“Onwards and downwards,” she muttered to herself, wishing she knew how much farther she had to go.
“Leader, are you still there?” It was the squad’s radio operator.
“Where else would I be?” she said irritably, her attention fixed on working out a way over the next outcrop.
“Don’t know,” he said, unfazed by her reaction. “I just got a message from the fort. A message came in for you from Continental Headquarters.”
“And?” she called, not really paying any attention. She’d finally worked out the path she was going to take and had carefully started to lower herself by her arms, her feet struggling for purchase on the slick rock. The rope tightened before she could get a foothold and she swore, wishing she wasn’t so short. “Slack,” she called. The rope was loosened and she almost lost her hold before her feet found the ledge.
“You haven’t told me what the message is,” she called when she was safe.
“Maybe this isn’t the best time,” came the reply.
“Just tell me what the damn message was,” she snarled. Why did life have to be so difficult?
“They didn’t say.”
Her hand slipped and her chin slammed into the rock. She swore again.
“You all right Leader?”
“No,” she said, feeling the blood already starting to ooze from the cut. At least the blood was warm.
“Doesn’t matter,” she said, raising her voice to cut through the sound of the water. She hoped there wasn’t anything wrong at home. Still, if she didn’t get her mind back on the climb the whole question could become moot.
By the time she reached the bottom her hands were numb, and her legs shaking from exhaustion. The young goatherd lay on a narrow ledge, almost at her feet, half-in, half-out of the pool into which the waterfall dropped before disappearing into a thin crevice in the rock. The ledge, slippery with moss, had been worn dangerously smooth by the water, while the din from the waterfall made it difficult to think.
He looked about ten but could have been younger; kids grew up quickly around here. As she pulled him the rest of the way out of the pool she tried to check his pulse but was unable to feel anything through the numbness in her fingers. She was just straightening up when she was startled by the faint flutter of his eyelids.
OK, so he was still alive, she thought, but looking back up the funnel of rocks above her she realized that in their rush to get someone down here they hadn’t exactly worked everything through. The plan had been simply to pull the two of them up together, but the difficulty of the descent had already proved that to be impossible. And then there was the rope. In theory 3/8thinch sisal should be able to manage their combined weight, but that was when new and this was anything but. Indeed it was because she hadn’t wanted to risk anyone heavier that she was there. She wasn’t going to entrust both their necks to a jury-rigged harness and a rope that should have been replaced years ago.
The obvious solution was to wait for the reinforcements she’d sent for from the fort, but she doubted the kid would survive that long. Looking up she could just make out the Corporal peering down at her from the top of the rocks.
“I need the other rope,” she shouted, indicating the rope and holding up two fingers. The Corporal nodded, and a moment later the end of the squad’s second rope came slithering over the edge of the cliff towards her.
“I hope this is going to work,” she muttered to herself as she pulled the boy up into a sitting position.
Her fingers were too numb to undo the rope around her chest so she pulled out her knife and cut through the knot. Then, after tying both ropes about the boy’s chest, she carefully worked her way around the pool as far as she could with the second rope. She got about a quarter of the way round before she ran out of ledge, but looking up she thought it might be enough. Pulling the rope she was holding tight she gestured for Macros to start pulling the boy up with the other rope. With Ivy guiding the ascent, and putting just enough pressure on the rope to keep him away from the face of the rock, they managed to get him to the top of the funnel without further damage. Finally, as she saw willing hands reach out to haul him over the edge of the cliff, she let out her breath, surprised to find how tense she’d been.
It wasn’t long before the Corporal’s head reappeared over the edge of the cliff, and a moment later the squad had taken up the slack in her own rope. Compared to the climb down the climb back up seemed to take almost no time at all, and it wasn’t long before she stood on solid ground again.
“Well-done Troop Leader,” the Corporal said, as he handed her back her kepi.
Ivy nodded, pleased at the compliment from someone with five times as much active service as she had. “How is he?” she asked as she replaced the kepi over her short, blonde hair.
“He’s alive. The medic is checking him over. Here, you better get out of that jacket,” he said as she started to shiver. “Horus,” he called, “we need a blanket here.”
As she struggled to get out of the jacket she noticed a deep tear down one sleeve and wondered how she’d managed to do that. Accepting the blanket from Horus she wrapped it thankfully around her shoulders. “Where is he?”
“Upon the road.”
She nodded and headed back to the road where she found the medic working to splint the boy’s leg while his sister, who had flagged them down as they returned to the fort, hovered uncertainly nearby. There was a sudden clatter of hooves as Mathilda, the fort’s second-in-command, rode up with the requested assistance.
“Troop Leader Clemhorn, it looks like you’ve been busy,” Mathilda said with a grin, looking down on her. A full-blood Mohican, she wore her long hair in a plaited bun today.
“A bit of rock climbing,” Ivy said. “Did you bring the ambulance?”
“They were just harnessing up when we left. I didn’t want to wait for them though as your message sounded urgent. It looks like you didn’t need us after all.”
“It seemed better to be safe than sorry,” Ivy said, her teeth starting to chatter.
Mathilda frowned. “I think you should take the Troop Leader back to the fort,” she told the Corporal. “I can finish off here.”
“I’m perfectly all right,” Ivy said.
“Maybe now, but in fifteen minutes it’s going to be another question. And you might want to get that cut looked at,” she said, leaning forward to inspect Ivy’s chin.
Instinctively Ivy touched her chin, blanching as she took her hand away and saw the amount of blood on it.
The medic, who had just finished with his bandaging, looked up. “Leader?”
“I’m fine,” Ivy snapped. Why was everyone trying to mollycoddle her?
“And just who’s the medic in this squad?” he said, coming over to have a look. “Nope, needs stitches,” he pronounced, turning her face to the light. “We’ll wait till you’re back at the fort though. In the meantime I’ll put a couple of butterfly stickers on it to hold it.”
Ivy fidgeted as he rummaged in his pack.
“Stop it,” he told her sternly. Two stickers later he turned to Corporal. “She’s all yours.”
The Corporal snapped to attention. “Leader.” He indicated her mount.
Ivy scowled, admitting to what was obviously turning out to be a full on conspiracy. “I’ll see you back at the fort,” she told Mathilda.
“When you see the ambulance, tell them to hurry it up,” Mathilda said. “I’d like to get back before dinner.”
“Will do.” Irrationally, having a task to do made her feel a little better.
A fine mist had started to descend over-the-top of the mountains as they broached the last of the hills blocking their view of the fort. As the massive, pink limestone walls of Fort Perusia came into sight Ivy pulled her mount in for a moment to look down on the purpling Umbrian plain spread out below her, the sheer beauty of the scene almost causing her to catch her breath. Paradise on Earth. Unfortunately, like most paradises, this one had its snake. In this case it was her commanding officer, Force Leader Jules McKenzie.
Regretfully she turned her attention back to the thick, stone walls that enclosed the top of the hill. Built several hundred years ago by the Hallstatt, it now housed the 96thMounted Infantry of the Clemhorn 72ndBattle Group. Despite its present owners, there remained clear evidence of its previous occupants in the form of the massive stone griffin crouched on top of the main gate’s enormous, granite lintel.
“Leader?” the Corporal prompted.
“Sorry Corporal,” Ivy said. It was obvious he wanted to get back.
She had almost finish unsaddling her mount when the fort leader came storming into the stables.
“Just what the hell did you think you were doing?” Jules demanded, almost apoplectic with rage.
“My job,” she said defensively, noticing the quick departure of the Corporal through the stable’s far doors.
“It’s not your job to pull stupid stunts like that,” he said, almost bouncing with anger. “You’re a Troop Leader not some bloody grunt.”
Ivy had never seen him like this before. She considered apologizing, simply to defuse the issue — but stuff him, it was her job. Nona had drummed that into her enough as she was growing up. Pulling the saddle off she staggered under the weight. The climb must have affected her more than she knew.
“I didn’t have any choice,” she defended. “Someone had to make the climb and I was the lightest. If Mathilda had been there she’d have made the same decision.”
“Mathilda’s father is not the bloody World Leader,” he said, failing to notice the stagger.
“I don’t see why that should make any difference,” she said, as she swung saddle up and onto the rail.
“Then you’re even stupider than I give you credit for.”
All right, she thought, perhaps her father being World Leader did make a difference, but it shouldn’t have.
“I want you packed up and ready to leave tomorrow,” he said.
She froze. “What?”
“Mathilda will look after your Troop as well as her own until I can get a replacement.”
“Force Leader,” she protested, tears pricking her eyes. “That’s not fair!”
“No, it’s not fair. There are probably hundreds of other Troop Leaders more suitable for promotion than you but Continental Headquarters in its infinite wisdom has ruled otherwise. From now on though you’re going to be someone else’s responsibility. ” He stared at her for a moment longer before, with a snort and angry shake of his head, turned on his heels and stalked out.
Ivy stared after him, furious tears stinging her eyes. What was she supposed to do now — how was she going to explain this to her father? Suddenly the effects of the climb, coupled with Jule’s tirade, were all too much, and leaning back against the wall she allowed herself to slide to the ground.
Mathilda found her there fifteen minutes later, still propped up against the wall of the wooden horse box.
“I was wondering what you were doing,” the senior Troop Leader said. “I thought you’d have been celebrating by now.”
Ivy looked up at her through tear reddened eyes. “What?”
Ivy looked at her, puzzled.
Mathilda stared at her. “He didn’t tell you?”
Mathilda swore. “Just what did Jules say?”
“That he was shipping me out tomorrow.”
Fora moment Mathilda looked as though she was ready to turn and storm out of the stable to have it out with the fort commander, before realizing there was a more immediate priority. Squatting down she looked Ivy in the face, forcing eye contact. “You’ve been promoted,” she said. “That’s why you’re leaving.”
“To Force Leader,” Mathilda said reassuringly.
Promoted? Ivy replayed Jules conversation about life not being fair. So that’s what he was talking about. “He said I was stupid,” she said.
“Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.”
“He hates me.”
Mathilda started to open her mouth to argue that statement, then closed it.” More fool he. Just be thankful you’re out of here then.”
“Why have I been promoted?” She’d dreamed about it, being able to leave this damn fort with the coveted two stars on her shoulder. But Jules was right, there were hundreds of others more entitled than she was.
“Because you’re a damn good officer. The troops respect you and you get things done. And you’re not a shirker; I mean look at that stunt you pulled today.”
“Jules said it was stupid.”
“I thought we’d agreed Juleswas stupid.”
Unable to help herself Ivy gave her a small smile.
“That’s better,” Mathilda said.
“It’s not because of my father?” Ivy asked, unable to hide her fear that all the hard work she’d done for the past three years, the absolute crap she’d put up with from Jules for the past two years had meant nothing, that in the end it had all come down to who her father was.
Mathilda shrugged. “Does it matter?” She paused. “Ah, I see it does.” She tilted her head. “Perhaps,” she admitted. “But I don’t think you’ll find anyone in the fort who begrudges you the promotion.”
“Except Jules,” Mathilda amended. “You’re bright, and you’ve worked twice as hard as any other Troop Leader I’ve ever met. You’ve never taken advantage of your position, and I know you aced the selection test. I’d say it was well earned.”
Ivy tried another smile. It still hurt. “He could have just said.”
Mathilda shrugged. “Forget Jules, we’ve got a party to organize.” Standing back up she offered Ivy her hand. “Come on Force Leader, let’s get you cleaned up.”
Ivy accepted the hand gratefully. “Force Leader’s got a nice ring to it,” she admitted.
“Tellme about it. I’m sure it will start to pall after five years though,” Mathilda said with a grin. “In the meantime Force Leader, let’s party!”
Cempoala — Etu Line
July 1979 (95AE)
Conrad watched the bedroom door nervously, waiting for it to burst open and for Papanzin to come storming through.
All he had said was that he had to return to Leolie for the Festival and wouldn’t be back for a couple of months and she’d started throwing things. He considered the small cut on the back of his hand sourly. He was lucky she had such lousy aim, otherwise the damage could have been even worse.
At least one of his problems might have solved itself. He’d been wondering how he was going to end his relationship with Papanzin, and now it looked as though it had been taken care of for him. He gave a wry smile — if it hadn’t been so damn serious it might even have been funny. Here he was; thirty-two, maybe three times her weight and at least a foot taller than her, and she had him cowering in his room.
The gods knew how Papanzin’s father was going to react. He was fairly laid-back as fathers generally went, but as Tlatcani and head of Cempoala’s city council he did have a certain standing to maintain. And a public screaming match between his daughter and the supposed Continental Leader for all of South American was going to have repercussions no matter how you looked at it.
Things seemed to have quietened down, so he cautiously stuck his head round the door to check the courtyard outside. No one was there, which was highly unusual in itself. At this time of day there should always be at least a couple of servants around. The broken pottery that littered the red brick floor when he made his escape had been cleared away, although they hadn’t been able to do anything about the large stain that now marred the mural of the ball-game on the far wall. He winced when he caught sight of the empty pedestal standing next to the door; the vase that had stood there until less than thirty minutes ago had been over a thousand years old.
Ashe stepped out of the room, Achicauhtli, his personal secretary, appeared in the far doorway. “Do you need anything Leader Clemhorn?”
Conrad shook his head. “Has she gone?”
“I’ll be in my office then.” He still had a lot of paperwork to catch up on.
“Offcourse Leader,” Achicauhtli said equably, ever the perfect secretary.
An hour later Conrad was reading the latest report on the Tumbez railway extension, when Achicauhtli knocked on the door.
“Yes?” Conrad said, looking up, unhappy at the interruption. The report suggested the project was almost back on schedule, but he was concerned at some of the costings.
“Nezahual has asked to see you.”
“He’s here?” The thought of facing Papanzin’s father was almost as bad as facing Papanzin herself.
“Show him in then,” Conrad said regretfully, putting the report to one side.
“Leader Clemhorn?” Nezahual said uncertainly.
“Come in Councilor,” Conrad said, standing up to greet him. “Can I offer you a hot chocolate?”
“Thank you,” the small Campaolan said.
“Achicauhtli, two chocolates. Please, take a seat,” Conrad told the Councilor.
Nezahual waited until Conrad had resumed his seat before sitting down. As they waited uncomfortably for Achicauhtli to reappear with the chocolate Conrad wondered if the Campaolan had any rules for this sort of situation. He suspected they had; they had rules for almost everything else. It would be helpful to know what they were though.
It was so unfair, he thought. Generally his relationships came to an amicable and often profitable conclusion for the other party. This was the first time a breakup had involved such. . .passion. And it wasn’t as though he had ever lied to Papanzin. He’d always told her their relationship wasn’t permanent. Where had she got the idea that he loved her? He had never told her that. He’d told her he liked her, enjoyed her company, but never that he loved her.
To cover his thoughts Conrad took a cautious sip of the bitter, spicy chocolate Achicauhtli placed on the table in front of him. Laced with vanilla the froth on its surface coated his moustache, and he wiped it off on the back of his hand.
“Thank you,” Conrad told his secretary.
With a nod Achicauhtli backed out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Nezahaul cleared his throat nervously. “My daughter has asked me to apologize for her outburst earlier today.”
Caught by surprise Conrad felt some chocolate go down the wrong way and it was a minute or so before he had recovered enough to wave off Nezahual’s offer of help. “I’m sorry, Nezahaul,” he said. “I was expecting her language to be more along the lines of — you can tell that fat prick where he can stuff it.” Paraphrasing some of the language she’d used earlier that afternoon.
Nezahaul flushed, embarrassed, and Conrad almost burst out laughing. She had!
“Please, Conrad,” Nezahaul said. “Perhaps we could at least pretend she had apologized.”
“I understand,” Conrad said. It was a question of appearance. From the outside Campaolan culture appeared quite macho. In reality, however, the city’s females had a lot more freedom in their personal relationships than one might suspect. But still appearance was important. “How is she?”
“Still furious. Her mother is with her.”
“She is extremely passionate, is our Papanzin, very like her mother in that respect. And I suspect there is also the matter of pride.”
Conrad nodded. “Will she be all right?”
“In time.” Nezahaul took a sip of his own chocolate. “I understand you are returning to Leolie for a couple of months,” he said, referring to the time-line’s capital.
“Yes, for the Festival of Livas. I leave next week.”
From his expression it was obvious Nezahaul wanted to say something and Conrad raised any eyebrow. He had never met a more astute politician than Nezahaul, perhaps even better than his father, and he wondered what his concern was. “You have a problem with that?” he asked.
“Not a problem as such, but I was thinking it would be useful for you to visit Papantla on the way. Vanilla production is well down on last year’s output.”
Conrad nodded thoughtfully. Although vanilla was a significant income source for the fiefdom, it wasn’t important that he personally check on it and he suspected Nezahaul was trying to get him out of the city as soon as possible; perhaps to prevent another confrontation with his daughter.
“If I were to do that I’d need to leave tomorrow to give me enough time to get to the Festival before it started,” Conrad said.
Nezahaul surveyed him levelly.
Conrad gave a pained sigh. “Very well,” he said. “And you’ll tell Papanzin?”
“Then if that is all Councilor, if I am to leave tomorrow there is a significant amount of work I still to do.”
“Of course Leader,” Nezahaul said quickly, placing his mug on the side table as he stood up.
“I will see you on my return.”
“If I could ask when that might be?”
Conrad shook his head. He wasn’t going to let Nezahaul completely run his life. “I can’t say at this stage, it will obviously depend on my father, the World Leader,” he said.
“Of course,” Nezahaul hurried to agree.
Conrad watched Achicauhtli lead the Nezahaul out, before returning to the report he had been reading. At least that problem seemed to have sorted itself, and with luck, by the time he returned. Papanzin would have got over him.
About The Author
ANDREW spent his high-school years in the school’s library lost in the worlds of Andre Norten, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. Reading in turn led to writing, with the first draft of the Garden Adventures originally completed to read to his two sons at night. Now his children have left home he lives in Perth with his wife, one dog, and sixty four gold fish.
Andrew’s first published short story (A Messenger to the Dragon) appeared in Aurealis – Australian Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1992. In 2016 he signed a three book deal with Canada’s Peasantry Press for a series of three young adult (middle grade), action Science Fiction adventures. The open ended series is a combination of Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries and Andre Norton’s juvenile speculative fiction and is to be released in 2019.
A passionate reader of Alternate History Clemhorn Nightfall is the first of a series of books set in the Cross-Temporal Empire.
For more information visit Andrew’s author page.
Book 1 of the Clemhorn trilogy
The moral rights of Andrew J Harvey to be identified as the author of this work have been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author or publisher.
Copyright 2018 Andrew J Harvey