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Here, There & Everywhere

an extract from the novel
by Chris Roberson


Chapter 13: Her Majesty

Here, There and Everywhere by Chris RobersonLondon, 1573
Subjective Age: 60 years old

From a distance, through the squalor and the milling crowd, Roxanne Bonaventure knew him at a glance. He was as out of place in these surroundings as she was; more so, given the time she'd spent establishing a name and reputation in the era. Neither belonged, but she at least was welcome. She was a traveller, but he was a castaway, or worse, an invader. She wasn't sure yet which.

Roxanne had spent the better part of her sixty years traveling the many worlds of the Myriad, and knew how to avoid disturbances if she wished. Talbot, however, was like a stone dropped into still water, the ripples of his passing spreading out in all directions. Roxanne watched for a moment as he blundered through the crowded streets, narrowly missing a bucket of slops emptied out an upper-storey window, elbowing passersby as he gaped at the scenes and structures surrounding him, almost tripping over his own feet every other step. The pack at his back was heavy, its style incongruous with the native clothes he affected. He'd only just arrived.

"Talbot," Roxanne said in a low voice as he passed by. "Edward Talbot."

He stopped short, startled, and spun on his heel to face her.

Roxanne leaned against a post, arms crossed casually over her chest. She wore a simple black dress and jacket in period style, her gray hair bound up in a bun at the back of her neck. Nothing out of the ordinary for the city at that time, but something in her look seemed to frighten Talbot. He backed away, clutching the shoulder strap of his pack nervously.

"W-who are you?" he stammered, edging further away.

"I'm the Ghost of Christmas Future, Talbot," Roxanne answered. She stepped towards him, reaching out a hand

"You ... ?" Talbot began, eyes darting from side to side. "You come from ... back there ... don't you? You've come to take me back."

Roxanne shook her head, her hand still stretched out to him.

"Only if you want to go," she answered.

"The ship," Talbot said, relaxing marginally. "The crash. It wasn't my fault." He paused. In a calm voice, dry and raw like a scab on a recent wound, he added, "The others are all dead."

"I know," Roxanne said softly, stepping forward and taking Talbot gently by the arm. "Let's go somewhere and talk."

A short while later, facing each other across a pitted tavern table, Talbot told her his story, and Roxanne told him hers.

"So with this device," Talbot said, "you can travel through time and space at will?" He reached toward the bracelet on Roxanne's wrist gingerly, as though afraid to touch it, as though it might burn.

"More or less," Roxanne answered, raising the jar of ale to her lips.

"Remarkable," Talbot enthused. "What I couldn't do with something like that." He drew up short, suddenly suspicious. "But I've never heard of the T.I.A. having anything like that."

"I've told you before," Roxanne said, setting the jar down with perhaps more force than was necessary. "I'm not with your Temporal Investigation Agency. From the sounds of it, I doubt I've ever even been near your home Commonwealth."

"So why seek me out?" Talbot asked. "Why now?"

"Because I was asked by a friend to look you up," Roxanne answered. "But that needn't concern you. What I need to know is this: Do you want me to take you home?"

Talbot laced his fingers together, and leaned forward.

"Do you mean to say I have a choice?" he asked. "That you won't try to force me to go with you?"

Roxanne shook her head, smiling. When she'd first seen him, she'd noticed how much younger than his years Talbot looked, no doubt the benefit of medical advances in his future era, but in that moment, wide-eyed, he looked even younger than before. Like a child being told he could spend the rest of his life at a theme park, envisioning endless summers of fun. She couldn't help but feel sorry for him.

"I won't force you to do anything," Roxanne answered. "Stay or go, it will be your choice, and yours alone. But you must understand the risks."

"Oh, I know all about them," Talbot answered, nodding eagerly. "I had to spend months in training before they'd let me come along on the timeflight, and I've been inculcated with all the necessary immunities, so with my knowledge of the period, I wouldn't have any problems at all."

"You're an historian," Roxanne admitted, "so you know all about the past, but the events you studied haven't happened yet. Before it happens, history is still the future. Who knows what might happen?"

Talbot chewed at his lip, listening but unconvinced.

"Your ship is destroyed, and you're all alone," Roxanne went on. "You couldn't even make it to the moon, much less halfway to Proxima Centauri. Without that rotating cylinder, I'm your only way home."

Talbot drummed his fingertips on the rough wooden surface of the table, thinking furiously.

"But to come all this way," he finally said, his tone desperate, "and leave before my studies have even begun. So many great days ahead, significant events, and I'd be turning my back on them all."

"Possibly," Roxanne said, guarded.

"What if ... " Talbot began, and then broke off. He grew excited, an idea forming. "You say you can go anywhere, and anywhen, with that device of yours, yes?"

Roxanne nodded.

"So it would be no trouble for you then ... " he said, more to himself than to her. He snapped his fingers. "Yes, that might work. What if you were to leave me here, and just go immediately to some point in the near future? Some years hence, perhaps? That would give me more than enough opportunity to complete my research, while virtually no time would have passed for you, and then you and I could return to the future together."

Roxanne said nothing, but narrowed her eyes fractionally.

"Oh, please," Talbot pleaded. "I know it must be a terrible imposition, but it would mean so very much to me. To get to see the first flowerings of the greatest era in human history with my own eyes, and not from a video monitor in low orbit over the planet. To see it as it happens!"

"How will you live?" Roxanne asked in a quiet voice. "How will you feed and house yourself?"

"Oh," Talbot answered. "I've got serviceable skills, a knowledge of languages and local customs. I could always get a job. And if worst came to worst, I could always fabricate some period currency using the equipment I salvaged from the wreckage." He motioned to the anachronistic pack which lay at his feet.

"They don't treat counterfeiting lightly in these centuries, you know," Roxanne observed, but Talbot dismissed the concern with an imperious wave. "So that's your decision, then?" she asked.

Talbot nodded, but didn't seem to be listening. He was already busy making plans, mapping out strategies and listing highpoints to visit.

Roxanne picked up her jar of ale, and drained it to the dregs.

"Very well," she said, pushing away from the table and rising to her feet. "I'll wish you luck, and see you in a few years. Shall we say ... how many? Two? Three?"

Talbot jumped to his feet, shouldering his heavy pack, eager to begin.

"Five," Talbot said, then rushed to add, "no, six. Eight." He paused, doing quick calculations. "Ten," he finally announced, nodding fiercely. "Yes, ten years."

Roxanne whistled low, shaking her head.

"All right," she said reluctantly. "A decade it is. But I should warn you to tread cautiously. You should be careful what rules you break, and whom you offend."

"Oh, I will," Talbot called back over his shoulder, already on his way towards the door. "Just think," he said in his eagerness, as much to himself as to her, "Christopher Marlowe is only eleven years old right now."

"So is Shakespeare," Roxanne answered, lifting her wrist and opening a temporal bridge directly before her.

"Who?" Talbot asked, half turning, but by then Roxanne was already gone.

Mortlake, 1583

Two men were in the upper chamber of the house, the candle on the mantle guttering. The younger of the two, corpulent and wearing a black cap close-fitting and pulled down low, was seated on a green chair, the convex black mirror on the short table before him. The older, long beard and flashing eyes, sat at the desk along the far wall, a great folio book open beneath his hand. As they spoke, first one and then the other, the older man recorded every particular, quill flying with incessant scratches over the foolscap.

"Look unto the kind of people about the Duke in the manner of their diligence," the younger man said, his voice strange and fluttering.

"What do you mean?" the older man asked, glancing up sharply from his labors. "His own people? Or who?"

"The espies."


"All. There is not one true."

"You mean the Englishmen."

"You are very gross if you do not understand my speech."

"Lord!" the older man implored. "What is thy counsel?"

"I hate to interrupt," came a new voice from the corner, "but I need a moment of your time."

Roxanne strode into the center of the room.

"Oh, dear spirit," the older man said, leaping from his desk and falling to his knees. "Am I to be vouchsafed a visitation of our celestial sponsor Madini? Oh, what great felicity!"

The younger man, at his table, did not move.

"I'm afraid not," Roxanne answered, apologetically. "I'm quite mundane, I must confess." She motioned to the younger man. "I'm here on the Queen's business, and need to speak to your assistant."

"See here," the older man answered, bristling and rising up. "I have left standing instructions with the staff and my wife, the lady of the house, that we are not to be disturbed when performing our actions, so I'll ask you to ... " He paused, looking at the locked and bolted door, and then glanced to the windows, still closed with the heavy drapes tied fast over them.

"Kelly?" the older man said, turning to his companion with mounting confusion. "Can you account for this apparition?"

"I beg your pardon, Doctor Dee," the young man answered, climbing reluctantly to his feet, "but if I might have a moment alone with this ... lady ... I believe I can get to the bottom of it."

Roxanne smiled, but kept silent.

The older man looked from one to the other, his eyes narrowed, and slowly made for the door.

"I will be just without, in the hall," he told the young man, his eyes fixed on Roxanne. "But I will allow only a brief span, and then I will have an explanation from you."

Turning on his heel, his long robes swirling around him, the older man unlocked and threw open the door, closing it with a resounding thud as he passed.

"So," Roxanne began, dropping into the chair at the desk, crossing her legs casually, "it's Kelly now, is it? I'd forgotten."

"Has it been ten years?" Talbot said, beginning to pace. He slipped a finger under the edge of his close-fitting cap, scratching the side of his head. He stared off into the middle distance, and bitterly added, "It seems so very much longer."

"I keep pretty close tabs on the time," Roxanne answered.

"So you've come back to me at last," Talbot went on, pacing faster. "And where were you before, when I stood in the Lancashire pillory? Where were you when I was mutilated?"

Roxanne responded with a sympathetic look, leavened with a slight shrug.

"You knew the risks, Talbot," she answered. "I warned you about counterfeiting, didn't I?" She paused, and then added, "I was sorry to hear about the ears, though."

Talbot made a dismissive noise, his hand drifting absently to the cap on his head.

"So you've come to take me back, have you?" he said, crossing his arms and fixing Roxanne with a stare.

"Only if you ask me to," Roxanne answered. "But I have other business, I'm afraid. Bad news you won't want to hear."

Talbot regarded her coolly.

"What do you mean, 'bad news'?" he asked.

Roxanne shook her head.

"Not yet," she answered. "I don't want to spoil the mood. Let's talk of other matters first, you and I." She uncrossed her legs, and leaned forward. "Let me first ask you two questions. In your former life, before your shipwreck here in this era, you were a historian, and a general man of letters. Tell me, Talbot, did your studies extend to the arena of quantum physics?"

Talbot looked at her blankly.

"No," he finally said, flatly, when it became clear Roxanne was waiting for some sort of response.

"In that case, I take it that you are unfamiliar with the axiom which physicists call the Uncertainty Principle?"

Talbot, after a significant pause, shook his head.

"No," he said. "That is, yes, I am unfamiliar with whatever the devil it is you're talking about. But what is this to me?"

"I won't bore you with the details as expressed on a quantum level," Roxanne went on, ignoring his question, "but when stated in a larger scale it translates, roughly, to this: 'The act of observing something affects the state of the thing observed.' Are you with me so far?"

Growing increasingly frustrated and confused, Talbot nodded fiercely.

"Now we reach my second question, Talbot," Roxanne said, stepping nearer his seat, towering over him. "You've insinuated yourself into the life and home of John Dee these past months, after so many years of wandering and observing quietly from the shadows. Why?"

Talbot sat glowering, his hands in white-knuckled fists on the arms of the chair.

"You ... " he began, then stopped. He blinked, and swallowed hard. "You have no idea how frustrating it is, for someone like me, to be near greatness and not see it. To know that somewhere, behind closed doors, the pivotal events of history are playing out, while I'm stuck filling ampoules with useless powders and potions for hypochondriacs who'll be dead of the plague in a year no matter what."

Talbot pounded his fists on the chair's arms.

"To come so far," he continued, louder. "To suffer so much ... " He broke off, and ripped the cap off his head. "To suffer!" he repeated. "And to still know nothing!"

Roxanne sighed. She looked at the lumps of scar tissue on either side of his head, the cost of passing base coins.

"So instead?" she prompted.

Talbot, in response, leapt to his feet and wheeled on the black mirror and table.

"So instead," he parroted back, mocking, "I made my own opportunities. My computer, salvaged from the wreckage, easily passed as a supernatural object, dispensing secret wisdom from my historical databases on the period. The curved screen of the liquid crystal display becomes a magic mirror in Dee's eyes, the machine code of the system's processes some angelic script." He paused, and then added, not a little proudly, "It's all in the presentation."

"So you found in Dee something of a willing dupe," Roxanne answered, "someone with a weakness for the arcane that you could use to gain access to the corridors of power."

"I wouldn't say 'dupe', perhaps," Talbot replied, shrugging, "but yes, something like that."

Roxanne smiled.

"But it hasn't exactly worked, has it?" she asked.

Talbot's shoulders slumped, and he looked away.

"No," he answered, bitterly. "Dee keeps me cooped up here all hours, his personal seer, while he ferries back and forth to court, spreading the good word. I've only seen the Queen once, and then only from a far window." He paused, sighing. "Oh, imagine the things I've already missed, the grand decisions she's made."

Roxanne reached out a hand, laying it on Talbot's shoulder.

"It won't happen, Talbot," she said, as gently as she could manage.

Talbot looked up at her, confused.

"I wasn't lying when I said I was on the Queen's business," Roxanne said. "I told you to be careful whom you offended, but I'm afraid that you didn't listen."

"The Queen?" Talbot asked, incredulous. "How could I have offended her?"

"Like I told you before," Roxanne answered, "I was asked by a friend to look you up. Elizabeth doesn't much care for your influence on her advisors."

Talbot narrowed his eyes.

"Now we come to my bad news," Roxanne went on. "As she's been unable to convince Dee to part company with you, she's called him to court less and less over the past months. Now, she's gone so far as to instruct her staff that they are to respond to none of Dee's requests until you are out of the picture. And if Dee can't be at her side when events of great importance occur, you can be sure that you have no chance whatsoever."

When she'd finished, Talbot looked on her silently, scowling. Slowly, his scowl grew into a smirk, and he began to chuckle.

"You think I didn't know?" he asked, his tone sharp. "You think that Dee doesn't rush home and tell me everything he's seen and heard since last we were together? I knew that he wasn't welcome at court any longer, though before now I hadn't known precisely the reason why. But it hardly matters. I've made other plans."

Talbot sank back into his chair, leaving Roxanne to look down at him questioningly.

"There are other princes and prelates of note in this era, after all," Talbot went on. "Elizabeth will not rule forever, and when she dies, someone else must naturally take the throne. I have, you must admit," he indicated the black curve of his computer's liquid crystal display with a flick of his hand, "some useful information in this regard. The 'angels' have been advising Dee, through my useful mediation of course, that it might be to his benefit to seek service in some foreign court for a time. There are surely other courts more receptive to Dee's talents ... to say nothing of mine. The angels and I have been focusing our attentions on a certain Duke, currently visiting London and soon to return home, who has already developed a keen interest in our celestial conversations." He paused, and then added, "I understand Bohemia is quite nice this time of year."

Roxanne stood over him in silence for a long moment, her look softening.

"I take it you won't be leaving with me," she said simply.

Talbot answered with a curt shake of his head.

"Another decade then?" Roxanne asked. "I'll check on you in another ten years?"

"Certainly," Talbot replied grandly. "Why not? Who knows the grand heights to which I'll have climbed by then?"

Roxanne raised her arm, glancing at the bracelet on her wrist.

"I'll remind you of my two questions, and their answers," Roxanne said, as the reflective sphere of the bridge opened in the room's center. "And I hope you're more careful in the next decade than you've been in the last."

Roxanne reached out her hand to brush against the surface of the bridge, and Talbot was left alone.

Prague, 1593

The man stood on the high parapet, rough stones slicked by the cold rain drizzling down from an unforgiving sky. The intermittent bursts of lightning which divided the darkness flashed on the ribbon of white dangling from the overhanging cornice, dingy sheets tied into a chain and knotted every foot. The chain vanished in darkness as it trailed down the wall. It was uncertain whether it fully reached the ground, or halted somewhere in between.

The man looked up to the window ledge from which he'd climbed, to the makeshift ladder of bedsheets, to the dim recesses of the ground far below.

"I hope you're not thinking of jumping," came a voice at his back, "when I've traveled so far just to see you."

"I had not decided yet, my lady," the man answered without turning. "I'm still not convinced which of my options will bring me the least pain."

Roxanne approached on sure feet, until she was within arm's reach.

"I take it the past decade has not gone well for you, Talbot," she said.

"Among your many gifts," he answered archly, "you can count understatement as one."

Roxanne reached out, and gently touched his elbow.

"So many things have gone wrong," Talbot continued, clenching his hands in tight, ineffective fists at his sides, his gaze fixed on the abyss before him. "I thought to see such wonderful things. Marlowe and his fellow agents, traveling the countryside incognito as a troupe of players, forging alliances for their queen with the Protestant princes of Europe. Raleigh, extending the crown's reach into the western hemisphere, driving out the Papist Spaniards and French and creating a new nation alongside the Indigenes. Elizabeth, crowned Holy Roman Empress and made ruler of three continents. And what have I seen?" Talbot spat on the cold stones at his feet. "Base politics, spite, and the insides of prisons."

"I warned you," Roxanne answered tenderly. "By observing we change the thing observed. You must tread carefully in these eras, and that which is yet to be is still undecided."

Talbot turned slowly, and Roxanne was unable to say whether the streaks down his cheeks were from teardrops or the falling rain.

"This is no longer the world you knew," Roxanne continued. "You stepped off the path of your worldline long ago. The heroes of your history, here, are little more than footnotes. Christopher Marlowe died only weeks ago, murdered over the matter of a bar tab. Raleigh's colony was a failure, and he is discredited and disgraced, to be executed for treason against the crown as soon as Elizabeth's successor takes the throne. There will be no grand union of natives and colonists under the banner of Gloriana in the Western Hemisphere. The long era of peace and cooperation that you called home, the line of philosopher-kings, the enlightened nation-state of Pan Europa, the progressive Commonwealth of New Atlantis across the sea ... all of them here no more than a dream, if even that."

Talbot seemed to falter, losing his feet, and Roxanne reached out a quick hand to steady him.

"All ... " he began. "All of it gone?" His mouth gaped, and he deflated, limp. "My world ... my history ... my future? Because of me?"

Roxanne smiled, a little sadly, and shook her head.

"No," she answered. "Not gone. Not really. Just somewhere else, another worldline orthogonal to this."

Roxanne's hand still on his elbow, Talbot slipped down to his knees, folding his hands together in an attitude of prayer.

"Please," he said simply, his voice barely audible over the sound of rainfall on cold stones.

"This is the lesson most people never learn," Roxanne said, bending down to bring her face a handbreadth from his. "The world is what we make it, better or worse. Observing a thing changes it, whether past, present or future. What one man can do, for good or ill, can scarcely even be measured, and yet it happens every day."

"Please," Talbot repeated, taking Roxanne's shoulders in his hands. "Please, I want to go back. To go home. Can I? Can it be done?"

Roxanne straightened up, and nodded.

"We'll have to go the long way, back again and then forward, but we can manage." She stretched out her arm toward him, and a flash of lightning glinted on the silver of the bracelet at her wrist. "All you have to do is take my hand."

"Yes," Talbot said softly, reaching out and taking her hand in both of his. He stood painfully on worn joints, and repeated louder, "Yes. Take me with you."

Roxanne nodded, and the temporal bridge irised open in the air between them.

"I'm sorry I didn't listen," Talbot said, gripping Roxanne's hand tighter still. "I should have listened."

"Yes, you should have," Roxanne said, sadly. "Come on, Talbot. Let's take you home."

Roxanne lifted up their hands, hers and Talbot's together, touched the reflective surface of the bridge, and they were gone.


© MonkeyBrain, Inc 2005, 2006.
Here, There and Everywhere was published by Pyr in April 2005.

Chris Roberson's novels Here, There and Everywhere (April 2005) and Paragaea (May 2006) are published by Pyr; his anthology series Adventure (vol 1, November 2005) is published by Monkeybrain Books.
Here, There and Everywhere by Chris Roberson Adventure, vol 1, edited by Chris Roberson Paragaea by Chris Roberson

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