Righting Time by Kat Jaske
Pages 8 - 17 of the book
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“Stop!” The woman desperately flew over the chair. More like
leaped over it, clearing it by a wide margin. Almost better than an Olympic
hurdler, had she been of the mind to compare herself to that elite type
In her rush to get across the room, she stumbled, pitched forward, and
after a quick battle with her ringing ears regained her balance. Arriving
at the terminal, she snagged the man’s hand from the console with
In the same swift movement, she pushed him out of the way and placed
herself right before the console so she could have clear access to the
terminal. She didn’t even notice the man’s stifled grunt as
her attention was immediately riveted on the display readout.
Fingers flew over keys with nearly inhuman speed. Finally, there was
a content bleep, and the woman sagged onto the empty desk beside the computer.
“Next time when I tell you to do something, I expect my instructions
to be followed—immediately. I trust I make myself clear, Daryl.”
“But, Jala, I . . . nothing happened.
Jala rolled her eyes heavenward. Incompetent fool. Then she took herself
to task. He was really very young. Not to mention that if she didn’t
watch it, she would soon vent her temper upon him. And truly it was an
“innocent mistake,” but still, one that no one could afford
to make—Jala knew. Two deep breaths. She turned away and calmed
herself. Sometimes she forgot how very young she was. What with her mother
and all. But that was neither here nor there.
A tall, black-skinned man came to the woman’s side and placed a
hand on her shoulder. Slowly he shook his head, and in return Jala gave
Keith, her stepfather and mentor, a weak smile. “Daryl, we apparently
narrowly avoided a terrible disaster. When working with the time transductors,
no precaution can be overlooked. Not one. Not ever.
That’s why we use older, twenty-third-century computers. If the
machinery were any more sensitive, any little thing we said or did could
trigger a major time shift.” Then, there would go all their oaths
to protect the time stream, maintain its integrity, and to do nothing
more than observe. Not to mention, that meant years of psychological testing
and testing in general going to waste for one small mistake in time transducting.
No, the Guild of History and Time Observation was not an easy place to
get into in the first place, let alone work at.
“No!” The black-haired woman took a heavy step backward and
then rushed to another terminal. Let her be wrong. Dead wrong. That would
be better than the alternative.
Jala’s lastipants felt uncomfortably tight as if they were asphyxiating
her, but they were no tighter than they had ever been. She rerouted the
maxicoredrive circuitry with the same inhuman deftness she had managed
moments earlier and then accessed the mainframe. Defeated, the young woman
dropped her head face-first into her hands.
“Jala.” Keith’s voice was controlled despite his obvious
The twenty-nine, nearly thirty-year-old, woman scarcely lifted her head
and fixed her indigo eyes on Keith. “I wasn’t quick enough.”
The voice was devoid of inflection, but Keith knew her too well to be
quite fooled; she blamed herself regardless of the fact that she was not
responsible in this instance. “We have a major time disturbance
manifesting in the field,” she said, her voice remaining lifeless.
“Pinpoint it,” the black man ordered Daryl, and the young
man ran through several sequences after Jala fell back out of his way,
still stunned mute.
Uselessly his hands fell to his sides. His voice almost as flat as Jala’s,
Daryl said, “The major disturbance is centered in 2060 A.D. and
expands outward at a near exponential rate.”
“Major disturbance?” Keith and Jala echoed together. Perhaps
they were too shocked to say anything more coherent.
Daryl keyed through sequences again, conscious of Jala and the older
man watching over his shoulder, conscious of how little time there was.
“There are also fluctuations all throughout the time sequence.”
If it weren’t so disastrous, it would almost be funny.
Only through the exercise of extreme discipline and effort did Jala manage
to hold on to her poise and cool. Panic did no good; that point had been
vividly driven home to her by harsh experience over the course of her
ten years—unofficially—with the Guild of History and Time
Observation. Before long, the time fluctuations would manifest and the
true time—her time or her present—likely would be inextricably
altered. Right now, there was still some infinitesimal window of opportunity
to try for correction and containment.
“Find me the date of the first time fluctuation in the timeline
and pinpoint the locale on the main screen.” Jala took refuge in
decisiveness. Daryl nodded and did so swiftly. The trio turned to the
screen as a map blipped into place. It was a very old map. At a guess
Keith would place it at least eight hundred years old.
“Old-world France?” Jala questioned, and Daryl nodded as
the woman came close to the screen.
“France in 1641, eight hundred and seventy-three years ago, to
be exact,” Daryl enlightened his companions. Jala punched a button
and another section of the screen leaped to life. United States of America,
2060. Those dates were linked. Linked very closely. Jala’s eyebrows
drew together in deep thought. Without needing to be told, Daryl set about
determining exactly how they were related.
At the same moment, Keith and Jala lifted their heads and an understanding
look flashed between them. “Something or someone from 1640 or 1641
was thrust forward to the year 2060,” they said together. “Make
that, a person from 1640 was thrust forward, but a secondary major time
disturbance occurred in 1641, then was manifest further in 2060,”
Jala said as she scanned over the data Daryl had discovered.
“But who was pulled from the seventeenth?” Daryl asked. Brilliant,
now he was asking obvious questions, sitting like the proverbial bump
on a log and doing nothing. At times like this, youth and inexperience
had their drawbacks.
Jala brushed a tendril of her shoulder-length hair back and relieved
the young man. “Let’s find out.” Deftly her hands ran
over the terminal board center, and she scanned the information more quickly
than Daryl had thought humanly possible, but then again, the woman was
known to be the fastest and most accurate reader in history. In fact,
she redefined the term photographic memory and had redefined sheer physical
motor speed of the human body, come to think of it. Some would have called
it an unfair advantage. Jala took it in stride. Most days.
“Wait. Stop there. No, back,” Keith said, curious about something
his daughter had overlooked. He put his finger to the name. “That’s
our man, someone called Herzog Konrad. He’s responsible for the
major compromises of the time continuum.” Sometimes he found it
paid to go on instinct.
“You’re sure?” Jala inquired and Keith nodded. He had
years more experience in this than the woman. She didn’t argue further.
If Keith were sure, she’d trust his judgment. Not that there was
time to quibble.
“Now we need to stop him from compromising the flow of time. Anyone
know the man?” Keith spoke again.
“He was a one-time, ‘minor’ Prussian noble under Frederick
William the Great Elector,” Daryl replied. “Other than that,
the records indicate he simply made a lot of money, which he invested
in building up his estates and Brandenburg-Prussia. At least, before history
started changing, that was the case.” Daryl checked the banks. “There’s
nothing more on him, not even a description. No one has yet gone back
to observe in the early half of the seventeenth century. At least not
in France or Prussia.”
“It looks like I’ll be taking that trip, gentlemen.”
Jala slipped a veston on, grabbed two packets and thrust them in her pocket,
and headed directly for the time chamber.
“Jala.” Keith’s voice was up fractionally. A warning
even Jala didn’t ignore, despite her desperate determination. “You
can’t go back to 1640 and find the man before he was yanked. You
could change history further. Nor can a woman just go to seventeenth-century
France. The customs and prejudices are too deep-seeded.”
“Give me a viable alternative.” She glanced at the chrono.
Desperation was a distinctly uncomfortable feeling. For the moment, she
fought it. “You have some seven minutes before everything as we
know it changes.”
Silence. Tense. Enveloping.
Finally, Daryl suggested, “We have the exact date he disappeared
from his native time and the date of the major disturbance in 1641. Find
someone from the same period and set them against him. Possibly bring
them to 2060 with us to retrieve this Konrad.” Keith and Jala looked
at him as if he were beyond crazy. “Famous musketeers. Athos, Aramis,
D’Artagnan, and Porthos. I know you are somewhat familiar with them.
Aramis’ wife is your great-grandmother many times removed, if I
Daryl knew he wasn’t imagining the great pride Jala took in Laurel
d’Anlass being an unusually independent woman for her time and leader
of Louis XIII’s—immediately followed by Louis XIV’s—secret
spy network. Another blip of information flipped across the screen. Jala
caught it and understood why 1641 had been so warped. Laurel d’Anlass
had died before she made all her contributions. That was not the way it
was supposed to happen! Now it was personal.
Jala let her jaw go slack. She twirled the chair and dashed for the time
chamber. “Let’s go, gentlemen, to just before the time disturbance
in 1641. We’ve got some musketeers to find before everything we
know ceases to exist.” Jala spoke more calmly than she thought possible
when confronted with the prospect of Laurel’s premature death in
1641—more likely untimely murder by someone who knew what effect
she would have in the future years—an effect that would reach her
present in roughly two minutes. Not to mention, the sheer scope of the
havoc the alterations to the timeline would wreak. No more time to debate
The three dashed—only sparing a moment to grab one final parcel—into
the chamber, and Jala twirled several knobs and pressed a sequence of
buttons. The trio vanished. They might never have existed—just as
the control room no longer existed and never would unless they set time
right. Time may have been and was resilient, but even the main timeline
could not stand up to such massive tinkering as this Konrad had launched.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
France, 1641 A. D.
What in the . . . Porthos reined back on his horse, slowing her with
a deft touch. The large man scanned the expanse, watching for the unusual
burst of light to repeat itself. Nothing. Except for the oddest feeling
he’d ever experienced, or quite near the oddest, and his horse seemed
to mirror the same sentiment. Something very strange indeed was going
Slowly, step-by-step, the musketeer urged his mount forward to investigate
the disturbance. Several voices mingling together caught his attention.
Voices speaking a language he couldn’t begin to decipher. The man
stopped. No charging in. Find out what he could first and then decide
what to do from there. Aramis would be proud. Caution was, after all,
part of that man’s credo.
Jala did not pause in her unbuttoning of the dress. Sometimes she really
hated the time chamber’s default program, regardless of how necessary
it was for the computer to automatically change one’s garb to the
garb of the period to which one was going. “I told you before, if
you don’t want to see what I’m doing, don’t look,”
she informed her two companions. Occasionally her stubbornness got the
better of her, a fact that rather annoyed her.
“Jay, women of the time wear corsets, or at least many of them
do. And for all intents and purposes you must be a woman of the times,
just as Daryl and I must do our best to be men of the times. You can’t
just take it off.” It was Keith who spoke, trying to appeal to her
logic. Knowing Jay, though . . .
This time his appeal did not work. Not that he had really expected it
to. Already the woman was undoing the stays of the corset and lifting
the obnoxious, evil thing from her body, to quote her words. Given, it
was a much less restraining corset than those of the time, but . . . how
could women have ever let themselves be imprisoned in these things? The
rationale was beyond her, and she had no desire to try to comprehend the
warped rationale. Into the underbrush she kicked the vile contraption.
Later she’d fall back to her well-disciplined behavior.
“That’s because you don’t have to wear the vile thing,”
she countered. “I will not wear it. This dress is uncomfortable
enough with all its infernal layers. I hardly need a corset to make it
more unbearable. Stuff it, Keith. I will wear the dress, but without the
torture device. My waist is adequately small—very small by most
standards. Now could one of you be so kind as to help me button this dress?”
She was a good contortionist, but her body was tired after its trip, and
her rampaging emotions were only carefully held in check.
The younger man stepped forward and buttoned up the dress quickly. Jala
really didn’t care a whole lot for modesty sometimes. Daryl shuddered
to think what men of the current time would have thought of a woman half
undressing for them, taking off a corset and then asking one of them to
help her fix her dress.
Task complete, Jala reached down and retrieved the veston. At least the
chamber never modified the veston, or they’d all be in real trouble
right now. The woman took a small, scarcely visible microtranverl and
inserted the minuscule object underneath the flap of her ear.
Immediately she offered a similar object to each of her companions. “Please,
don’t argue. None of us had time to learn the language of seventeenth-century
France. We’re justified in using these until we can pick up the
language ourselves.” Not that she intended on staying that long
in the 1640s, April 1641, to be more precise. Plus, without them, communication,
forget discreet, would be next to impossible. Jala did not add the comment,
for the fact was more than evident to both men.
Quickly the men followed her action and inserted the device inside their
own ears. Jala was right. “Oh, and Daryl, pull that hat down more
so it shadows your face. These people aren’t too fond of Asians,
and you’ll need to do part of the talking, so let’s keep your
race quiet for a while.”
Daryl found it wise to comply. Besides, he had never before been sent
on a true time trip. He certainly didn’t want to make any more stupid
mistakes because of ignorance, considering it was he who had caused the
major disturbance to the timeline in the first place. A tragic mistake
he was having a hard enough time coping with. Not to mention, Jala actually
liked being in charge.
Keith signaled his companions from this point on to be very careful what
they said or did, as the words would momentarily be put into language
the people of 1641 would readily understand, at least after the device
heard some of the language of the time. The man glanced at Daryl. He wondered
if the youngster had any clue how to use the ancient rapier strapped at
his side. True, Daryl had been a weapon’s specialist, but whether
he had ever actually used such an arm Keith didn’t know.
Keith extended his hand, and the woman placed the veston in it. Quickly
he tucked the veston in the pack the time chamber had provided them. He
looked them all up and down. At least they looked somewhat like they belonged
here, though a black man, a young fighter, and a tall—by standards
of the time—short-haired woman were not what one saw everyday in
seventeenth-century France. At that point the threesome stopped and stood.
They had, to put it mildly, no clue as to how they could proceed.
Finding and convincing certain musketeers to travel forward in time was
not exactly something done on a regular basis, nor something you could
just ask a passerby.
Some leaves rustled, and Jala swirled to face the direction of the sound.
A spring breeze lifted a tendril of her hair. The woman didn’t notice;
she was more intent on the rider who was emerging from behind the shelter
of the trees.
He said something very quickly. Gibberish. Jala’s look remained
blank and he spoke again. To her great relief the microtranverl kicked
in swiftly. Already after those few brief words it knew and had assimilated
“Are you lost?” the large bearded man asked.
Jala cast her eyes toward the ground. Hopefully Daryl would realize this
was his domain—actually his role. He did. “The next best thing
my, good sir,” Daryl replied, almost surprised to hear himself speaking
flawless old French. “Could you perhaps be so kind as to tell us
where we are and where we might be able to purchase some horses?”
Porthos leaned over his saddle horn, folding his hands in front of him.
“You’re about four leagues outside of Paris. And that’ll
be the closest place you can find horses of any quality,” the musketeer
replied, still very wary of the strangers, and much less talkative than
was usual for him. There was something odd about them other than the fact
a negro was with them, and one simply did not see very many negroes in
“Thank you much, my good sir,” Daryl replied. An awkward
silence enveloped the foursome. Apparently the big man had had enough
of them, and he prepared to go.
Jala hurried several steps forward, thankful she did not trip over her
skirts and end up kissing the ground—or trying very clumsily to
worship God. “Please wait, monseigneur,” the woman
said, her tone as submissive as she could make it. His dark eyes met hers.
“We have very much lost our direction and would be grateful for
your able assistance.” The man fingered the sash he had tied around
his head and said nothing. “It’s a lovely sash,” Jala
told him demurely.
His face broke out in a grin that reminded Jala of a certain Cheshire
cat she had once read about. “It was a gift from the Queen of America.”
Confusion lit her eyes. “I was unaware there’s a queen in
the new world. I had thought it was nothing other than colonies.”
Porthos waved his hand dismissively. “A common misconception, madame.
But anyway, what is it you would ask of me?”
Keith glanced at his stepdaughter. He could almost see and hear the cogs
rapidly turning in her mind. At the same time, he didn’t really
want to know what story the woman would concoct, though his telepathic
talent would undoubtedly be able to tell him so this time. Sometimes she
reminded him of his own younger days.
“My companions and myself lost our horses to footpads some two
days past. Thus I fear we are sadly late for an appointment, and she must
be very worried about us by now.”
“She?” Porthos raised an eyebrow.
“Oui. Mademoiselle la marquise de Langeac, Laurel d’Anlass,
is expecting us. We’d be ever so much in your debt if you could
guide us to her or direct us to someone who can.”
“What may I ask is your business with Mademoiselle Laurel?”
“I would much rather not discuss the matter out in public, monseigneur,”
Jala remarked. “Suffice it to say, it is a matter very dear to her
heart and could well concern her personal safety.” The large man
looked unconvinced. Jala cast desperately for something, anything, and
latched onto a name. “I do not suppose that you are familiar with
Herzog Konrad of Brandenburg-Prussia. ’Tis concerning him,”
the woman concluded.
“Actually,” a rakish glint lit his eyes; the name minus the
title brought back memories. “I believe I am quite familiar with
the man. Entrust me with your message, and I can take it to mademoiselle
la marquise myself.”
“That I cannot and will not do, monseigneur. Mademoiselle
Laurel would not take it well if I delivered the message to any other
than her. And well you know that fact if you are even remotely familiar
with the lady.”
How right the dark-haired woman was. That would never be Laurel’s
style, especially if the matter were an urgent one. Slowly Porthos nodded
his head. “I am well acquainted with the marquise. I personally
can take you to her. But if I may be so bold as to inquire after your
“You may call me Jalene and this is Daryl and Keith,” she
gestured to each of her companions, barely hiding her surprise at the
way the microtranverl altered her companions’ names. She should
have expected it, though, especially considering her experience with time
travel. “And we have the great pleasure of meeting . . .”
He swept the hat from his head and gave it an exaggerated flourish. “Why,
I am none other than the great Porthos, known far and wide. Ah, I can
see my reputation precedes me,” he commented. Porthos placed the
hat back on his head, not bothering to tuck the sash under it. He looked
at each of the three. Now, it was time to see what the great Porthos could
do about this little situation. Saperlipopette, he loved his
job. Beat boredom any day of the week.
* * * * * * * * * * *
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