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The Life of the World to Come (The Company Series #5) [NOOK Book]

Overview


From idea to flesh to myth, this is the story of Alec Checkerfield: Seventh Earl of Finsbury, pirate, renegade, hero, anomaly, Mendoza's once and future love.

Mendoza is a Preserver, which means that she's sent back from the twenty-fourth century by Dr. Zeus, Incorporated - the Company - to recover things from the past which would otherwise be lost. She's a botanist, a good...
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The Life of the World to Come (The Company Series #5)

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Overview


From idea to flesh to myth, this is the story of Alec Checkerfield: Seventh Earl of Finsbury, pirate, renegade, hero, anomaly, Mendoza's once and future love.

Mendoza is a Preserver, which means that she's sent back from the twenty-fourth century by Dr. Zeus, Incorporated - the Company - to recover things from the past which would otherwise be lost. She's a botanist, a good one. She's an immortal, indestructible cyborg. And she's a woman in love.

In sixteenth century England, Mendoza fell for a native, a renegade, a tall, dark, not handsome man who radiated determination and sexuality. He died a martyr's death, burned at the stake. In nineteenth century America, Mendoza fell for an eerily identical native, a renegade, a tall, dark, not handsome man who radiated determination and sexuality. When he died, she killed six men to avenge him.

The Company didn't like that - bad for business. But she's immortal and indestructible, so they couldn't hurt her. Instead, they dumped her in the Back Way Back.

Meanwhile, back in the future, three eccentric geniuses sit in a parlor at Oxford University and play at being the new Inklings, the heirs of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Working for Dr. Zeus, they create heroic stories and give them flesh, myths in blood and DNA to protect the future from the World to Come, the fearsome Silence that will fall on the world in 2355. They create a hero, a tall, dark, not handsome man who radiates determination and sexuality.

"Now," stranded 150,000 years in the past, there are no natives for Mendoza to fall in love with. She tends a garden of maize, and she pines for the man she lost, twice. For Three. Thousand. Years.

Then, one day, out of the sky and out of the future comes a renegade, a timefaring pirate, a tall, dark, not handsome man who radiates determination and sexuality. This is the beginning of the end.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Baker's trademark mix of serious speculation and black humor informs this solid addition to her time-travel series that began with 1998's highly regarded In the Garden of Iden, in which the botanist Mendoza, an immortal female cyborg employed by the rapacious Company, fell in love with a mortal while on a mission in 16th-century England. Tragically, her lover was then burned at the stake. Later in the series, during the 19th century, she fell in love with another man who could've been her first lover's clone. Baker centers this latest on Alec Checkerfield, an English nobleman of the 24th century and the third of Mendoza's physically identical lovers. We discover that Alec and his predecessors have been created by Company scientists as prototypes for a new line of cyborgs designed to replace the occasionally fractious models they've heretofore employed to do their dirty work. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the spoiled, childlike men who run the project badly underestimate both Alec and Mendoza. The author answers a number of questions raised in previous volumes, but the novel doesn't stand well on its own; new readers are advised to start with In the Garden of Iden. Agent, Lin Prentis at the Virginia Kidd Agency. (Dec. 9) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mendoza, a cyborg member of the Preservers, a 24th-century society dedicated to the recovery of important artifacts, falls in love with a handsome rogue named Alec Checkerfield and meets him (or his exact likeness) in several time periods until she commits murder in his defense and finds herself banished permanently to a prehistoric era. Returning to her popular series featuring characters from the Company, Baker expertly combines romance, myth, and high adventure. Recommended for libraries where Baker has a following. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another entry (The Graveyard Game, 2001, etc.), in Baker's superlative series about Dr. Zeus. That would be the company that discovered time-travel in the 24th century and immediately set about ensuring its own existence and enriching its stockholders by ransacking the past. In the inaugural volume, botanist Mendoza, one of a race of immortal cyborgs Dr. Zeus created to serve its interests, visited 16th-century England and there fell in love with charismatic scholar Nicholas Harpole (he was burned at the stake for preaching heresy). In 19th-century California, Mendoza loved English charismatic spy Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, who so much resembled Nicholas that they might have been twins. Edward died in a hail of bullets, but Mendoza, threatening to betray Dr. Zeus and in any event knowing too much, was exiled to the Back Way Back, 150,000 years in the past. Here, she endures 3,000 years alone-until, in a stolen time-shuttle, arrives charismatic Alec Checkerfield, the 24th-century's richest man, and dedicated, so he says, to destroying Dr. Zeus. Mendoza almost believes him . . . because he's Nicholas and Edward's triplet! The three, it turns out, are the genetic creations of childlike geniuses working for Dr. Zeus in 2350; they're supposed to be the first of a new breed, Heroes, designed to replace Dr. Zeus's hulking, outmoded Enforcers. But other, shadowy, manipulators within Dr. Zeus have different plans for Alec; and what happens in 2355, beyond which even Dr. Zeus's operatives cannot penetrate, is a mystery to all. An astonishing and thoroughly satisfying installment. What's more, Baker's overall concept and rationale, flawlessly sustained through five books, grows ever morespellbinding and impressive.
From the Publisher
Praise for The Life of the World to Come

"Another entry in Baker's superlative series about Dr. Zeus. . . . An astonishing and thoroughly satisfying installment. What's more, Baker's overall concept and rationale, flawlessly sustained through five books, grows ever more spellbinding and impressive."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Baker’s trademark mix of serious speculation and black humor informs this solid addition to her time-travel series.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“One of the most consistently entertaining series to appear in the late nineties. The novels read like literary pastiches—echoes of Heinlein and Robert Louis Stevenson fill this one—and the narrative pace matches that of most thrillers.”

Amazing Stories

“Returning to her popular series featuring characters from the Company, Baker expertly combines romance, myth, and high adventure.”

Library Journal

“Alec is quite a character, especially for the sedate twenty-fourth century, and in Baker’s skillful hands, his story is well told and engrossing.”

Booklist

“I really enjoyed Kage Baker’s, The Life of the World to Come, which reads like a novel from the future. Consistently surprising, Kage Baker mixes past, present, and imagination into a compelling novel. What 21st century writing should be like.”—R. García y Robertson

“Baker’s strong world-building and clever plotting make this an addictive read.”

Romantic Times Book Club

“The strengths of The Life of the World to Come are many. The structure of the novel, moving full circle and back and forth through time, is ingenious and deft, creating a mesmerizing chain of cause and effect, effect and cause, as in the best time-travel fiction….an excellent novel, and absorbing post-historical bildungsroman and an impressive upping of the “Company” sequence’s ante.”

Locus

Romantic Times Book Club
"Baker's strong world-building and clever plotting make this an addictive read."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429910446
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Series: Company , #5
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 410,397
  • File size: 427 KB

Meet the Author


Kage Baker has been an artist, actor, and director at the Living History Centre and has taught Elizabethan English as a Second Language. Born in 1952 in Hollywood, she lives in Pismo Beach, California, the Clam Capital of the World.

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Read an Excerpt


  EXTRACT FROM THE JOURNAL OF THE BOTANIST MENDOZA150,000 BCE (more or less)Rain comes on the west wind, ice out of the blue north. The east wind brings hazes, smokes, the exhalation of the desert on the distant mainland; and hot winds come out of the south, across the wide ocean.The corn and tomatoes like the west wind. The tall corn gleams wet like cellophane, the tomato leaves pearl and bow down. The onions and garlic, on the other hand, get sullen and shreddy and threaten mold in the rain. Poor old cyborg with a few screws missing—me—sits watching them in fascination.When I find myself giving my vegetables personalities, it’s a sign I’ve been sitting here watching the rain too long. Or the bright ice. Or the hazes or the hot thin stripes of cloud. Accordingly then, I put on a coat or hat, depending on which way the wind is blowing, and walk out to have a look at the world.What I have of the world. When I rise, I can walk down the canyon to my brief stony beach to see if anything interesting has washed up there. Nothing ever has. Out on the rocks live sea lions, and they groan and howl so like old men that a mortal would be deceived. I ignore them.Or I can walk up the canyon and climb high narrow hills, through the ferny trees, until I stand on rimrock in the wind. I can look along the spine of my island in every direction. Ocean all around, the horizon vanishing in cloud. No ships ever, of course—hominids haven’t yet progressed beyond clinging to floating logs, when they venture to sea at all.And I begin my day. Much to do: the planting or the harvest, all the greenhouse work, the tasks of replacing irrigation pipes and cleaning out trenches. A little work on projects of my own, maybe planing wood to replace such of my furniture as has fallen apart with age. I take a meal, if I remember to. I wander back down to the beach in the evening, to watch the little waves run up on the shore, and sometimes I forget to go home.One day a small resort town will be built on this stony beach, palm trees and yellow sand brought in on barges, to make a place as artificial as I am. The water will be full of excursion boats, painted bright. Out there where that big rock is, the one that looks like a sugarloaf, a great ballroom will stand. I would dearly love to go dancing there, if he were with me.Sometimes I torment myself by walking along and imagining the crescent of street lined with shops and cafés, gracious hotels. I can almost see the mortal children with their ice cream. I can almost hear the music. I sit down where there will be a terrace someday, complete with little tables and striped umbrellas. Sometimes a waiter has materialized at my elbow, white napkin over his arm, deferentially leaning from the waist to offer me a cocktail. He’s never really there, of course, nor will he ever be.But the other man will be here, the one I see only in my dreams, or behind my eyes as I watch the quiet water in the long hours. I have waited for him, alone on this island, for three thousand years. I think.I’m not certain, though, and this is the reason I have bound more paper into my book, vandalized another label printer cartridge, cut myself another pen: it may be that if I write things down I can keep track of the days. They have begun to float loose in an alarming way, like calendar leaves fluttering off the wall.I walked out this morning in the full expectation of thinning my tomato seedlings and—imagine my stupefaction! Row upon row of big well-grown plants stretched away as far as the eye could see, heavy with scarlet fruit. Well-watered, weeded, cared for by someone. Me? I swear I can’t recall, nor does my internal chronometer record any unusual forward movement; but something, my world or me, is slipping out of time’s proper flow.What does it mean, such strangeness? Some slow deterioration of consciousness? Supposedly impossible in a perfectly designed immortal. But then, I’m not quite mechanically sound, am I? I’m a Crome generator, one of those aberrant creatures the mortals call psychic, or second-sighted . I’m the only one on whom the Company ever conferred immortality, and I’ll bet they’re sorry now.Not that they meant to do it, of course. Somebody made a mistake when I was being evaluated for the honor of eternal service, didn’t catch the latent flaw, and here I am like a stain in permanent ink. No way to erase me. Though marooning me at this station has undoubtedly solved a few problems for them.Yet my prison is actually a very nice place, quite the sort of spot I’d choose to live, if I’d ever had a choice: utterly isolated, beautifully green, silent in all its valleys and looming mountains, even the sea hushed where it breaks and jumps up white on the windward cliffs.Only one time was there ever noise, terrible sounds that echoed off the mountains. I hid indoors all that day, paced with my hands over my ears, hummed to myself to shut out the tumult. At least it was over in a few hours. I have never yet ventured back over into Silver Canyon to see if the little people there are all dead. I knew what would happen to them when I sent that signal, alerting Dr. Zeus to their presence. Were they refugees from Company persecution? Did I betray them? Well—more blood on my soul. I was only following orders, of course.(Which is another reason I don’t mind being an old field slave here, you see. Where else should I be? I’ve been responsible for the deaths of seven mortal men and unknown numbers of whatever those little pale things were.)What the eyes can’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over, isn’t that what they say? And no eyes can see me here, that’s for sure, if I generate the blue radiation that accompanies a fit of visions, or do some other scary and supposedly impossible thing like move through time spontaneously. I am far too dangerous to be allowed to run around loose, I know. Am I actually a defective? Will my fabulous cyborg super-intelligence begin to wane? It might be rather nice, creeping oblivion. Perhaps even death will become possible. But the Company has opted to hide me rather than study me, so there’s no way to tell.I have done well, for a cast-off broken tool. Arriving, I crawled from my transport box with just about nothing but the prison uniform I wore. Now I have a comfortable if somewhat amateurish house I built myself, over long years, with a kitchen of which I am particularly proud. The fireplace draws nicely, and the little sink is supplied by a hand pump drawing on the well I drilled. I have a tin tub in my back garden, in which I bathe. Filled before midday heat rises, the water is reasonably warm by nightfall, and serves to water the lawn afterward. So very tidy, this life I’ve built.Do I lack for food and drink? No indeed. I grow nearly everything I consume. About all I receive from the Company anymore are its shipments of Proteus brand synthetic protein.(Lately the Proteus only seems to come in the assortment packs, four flavors: Breakfast Bounty, Delicate and Savory, Hearty Fare, and Marina. The first two resemble pork and/or chicken or veal, and are comparatively inoffensive. I quite like Hearty Fare. It makes the best damned tamale filling I’ve ever found. Marina, on the other hand, is an unfortunate attempt to simulate seafood. It goes straight into my compost heap, where it most alarmingly fails to decompose. There has been no response to my requests for a change, but this is a prison, after all.)Have I written that before, about the Proteus? I have a profound sense of déjà vu reading it over, and paused just now to thumb back through the book to see if I was duplicating a previous entry. No. Nothing in the first part, about England, and nothing in the afterword I wrote on my trial transcript. More of this slipping time business. Nothing has again been so bad as that day I paused in weeding to wipe my sweating face and looked up to see the row just cleared full of weeds again, and the corn a full foot taller than it had been a moment before. But nothing else out of whack! No sign of dust or cobwebs in my house, no conflicting chronometers.Yes, I really must try to anchor myself here and now. It may be a bit late for mental health, but at least I might keep from sinking into the rock of this island, buried under centuries, preserved like a fossil in a strata of unopened Proteus Marina packets. I suppose it wouldn’t have come to this pass if I’d seen another living soul in three thousand years who wasn’t a dream or a hallucination.If only he’d come for me.


I don’t know if I should write about him. The last time I did that I was depressed for years, roamed this island in restless misery end to end. Not a good thing to summon up a ghost when you’re all alone, especially when you’d sell your soul—if you had one—to join him in his long grave. But then, perhaps misery is what’s needed to fasten me securely to the world. Perhaps this curiously painless existence is the problem.If I look across the table I can see him standing there, as I saw him first in England in 1554: a tall mortal in the black robe of a scholar, staring at me in cold and arrogant dislike. We weren’t enemies long. I was very young and so fascinated by the mortal’s voice, and his fine big hands … I wake at night sometimes, convinced I can feel his mortal flesh at my side, hot as the fire in which he was martyred.So I look away: but there he is in the doorway, just as he stood in the doorway of the stagecoach inn in the Cahuenga Pass, when he walked back into my life in 1863. He was smiling then, a Victorian gentleman in a tall hat, smooth and subtle to conceal his deadly business. If he’d succeeded in what he’d been sent from England to do, the history of nations would have been drastically different. I was only an incidental encounter that time, entering late at the last act in his life; but I held him as he lay dying, and I avenged his death.Barbaric phrase, avenged his death. I was educated to be above such mortal nonsense, yet what I did was more than barbaric. I don’t remember tearing six American Pinkerton agents limb from limb, but it appears I did just that, after they’d emptied their guns into my lover.But when he lay there with blood all over his once-immaculate clothes, my poor secret agent man, he agreed to come back for me. He knew something I didn’t, and if he’d lived for even thirty more seconds he might have let me in on the secret.I really should ponder the mystery, but now that I’ve summoned my ghost again all I can think of is the lost grace of his body. I should have let well enough alone. The dreams will probably begin again now. I am impaled on his memory like an insect on a pin. Or some other metaphor …


I’ve spent the last few days damning myself for an idiot, when I haven’t been crying uncontrollably. I am so tired of being a tragic teenager in love, especially after having been one for over thirty centuries. I think I’ll damn someone else for a change.How about Dr. Zeus Incorporated, who made me the thing I am? Here’s the history: the Company began as a cabal of adventurers and investors who found somebody else’s highly advanced technology. They stole it, used it to develop yet more advanced technology (keeping all this a secret from the public, of course), and became very very wealthy.Of course, once they had all the money they needed, they must have more; so they developed a way to travel into the past and loot lost riches, and came up with dodgy ways to convey them into the future, to be sold at fabulous profits.Along the way, they developed a process for human immortality.The only problem with it was, once they’d taken a human child and put it through the painful years of transformation, what emerged at the end wasn’t a human adult but a cyborg, an inconveniently deathless thing most mortals wouldn’t want to dine at one table with. But that’s all right: cyborgs make a useful workforce to loot the past. And how can we rebel against our service, or even complain? After all, Dr. Zeus saved us from death.I myself was dying in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition when I was rescued by a fast-talking operative named Joseph, damn his immortal soul. Well, little girl, what’ll it be? Stay here and be burned to death, or come work for a kindly doctor who’ll give you eternal life? Of course, if you’d rather die …I was four years old.The joke is, of course, that at this precise moment in time none of it’s even happened yet. This station exists in 150,000 BCE, millennia before Joseph’s even born, to say nothing of everyone else I ever knew, including me.Paradox? If you view time as a linear flow, certainly. Not, however, if you finally pay attention to the ancients and regard time (not eternity) as a serpent biting its own tail, or perhaps a spiral. Wherever you are, the surface on which you stand appears to be flat, to stretch away straight behind you and before you. As I understand temporal physics, in reality it curves around on itself, like the coiled mainspring in a clock’s heart. You can cross from one point of the coil to another rather than plod endlessly forward, if you know how. I was sent straight here from 1863. If I were ever reprieved I could resume life in 1863 just where I left it, three thousand years older than the day I departed.Could I go forward beyond that, skip ahead to 1963 or 2063? We were always told that was impossible; but here again the Company has been caught out in a lie. I did go forward, on one memorable occasion. I got a lungful of foul air and a brief look at the future I’d been promised all my immortal life. It wasn’t a pleasant place at all.Either Dr. Zeus doesn’t know how to go forward in time, or knows how and has kept the information from its immortal slaves, lest we learn the truth about the wonderful world of the twenty-fourth century. Even if I were to tell the others what I know, though, I doubt there’d be any grand rebellion. What point is there to our immortal lives but the work?Undeniably the best work in the world to be doing, too, rescuing things from destruction. Lost works by lost masters, paintings and films and statues that no longer exist (except that they secretly do, secured away in some Company warehouse). Hours before the fires start, the bombs fall, doomed libraries swarm with immortal operatives, emptying them like ants looting a sugar bowl. Living things saved from extinction by Dr. Zeus’s immortals, on hand to collect them for its ark. I myself have saved rare plants, the only known source of cures for mortal diseases.More impressive still: somewhere there are massive freezer banks, row upon row of silver tubes containing DNA from races of men that no longer walk the earth, sperm and ova and frozen embryos, posterity on ice to save a dwindling gene pool.Beside such work, does it really matter if there is mounting evidence, as we plod on toward the twenty-fourth century, that our masters have some plan to deny us our share of what we’ve gathered for them up there?I wear, above the Company logo on all my clothing, an emblem: a clock face without hands. I’ve heard about this symbol, in dark whispers, all my life. When I was sent to this station I was informed it’s the badge of my penal servitude, but the rumor among immortals has always been that it’s the sign we’ll all be forced to wear when we do finally reach the future, so our mortal masters can tell us from actual persons. Or worse …I was exiled to this hole in the past for a crime, but there are others of us who have disappeared without a trace, innocent of anything worse than complaining too loudly. Have they been shuffled out of the deck of time as I have been, like a card thrown under the table? It seems likely. Sentenced to eternal hard labor, denied any future to release them.What little contact we’ve had with the mortals who actually live in the future doesn’t inspire confidence, either: unappreciative of the treasures we bring them, afraid to venture from their rooms, unable to comprehend the art or literature of their ancestors. Rapaciously collecting Shakespeare’s first folios but never opening them, because his plays are full of objectionable material and nobody can read anymore anyway. Locking Mozart sonatas in cabinets and never playing them, because Mozart had disgusting habits: he ate meat and drank alcohol. These same puritans are able, mind you, to order the massacre of those little pale people to loot their inventions.But what’s condemnation from the likes of me, killer cyborg drudging along here in the Company’s fields, growing occasional lettuce for rich fools who want to stay at a fine resort when they time-travel? The Silence is coming for us all, one day, the unknown nemesis, and perhaps that will be justice enough. If only he comes for me before it does.He’ll come again! He will. He’ll break my chains. Once he stood bound to a stake and shouted for me to join him there, that the gate to paradise was standing open for us, that he wouldn’t rest until I followed him. I didn’t go; and he didn’t rest, but found his way back to me against all reason three centuries later.He very nearly succeeded that time, for by then I’d have followed him into any fire God ever lit. History intervened, though, and swatted us like a couple of insects. He went somewhere and I descended into this gentle hell, this other Eden that will one day bear the name of Avalon. He won’t let me rest here, though. His will is too strong.


Speak of the fall of Rome and it occurs!Or the fall of Dr. Zeus, for that matter.He has come again.And gone again, but alive this time! No more than a day and a night were given us, but he did not die!I still can’t quite believe this.He’s shown me a future that isn’t nearly as dark as the one I glimpsed. There is a point to all this, there is a reason to keep going, there is even—unbelievably—the remote possibility that … no, I’m not even going to think about that. I won’t look at that tiny bright window, so far up and far off, especially from the grave I’ve dug myself.But what if we have broken the pattern at last?Must put this into some kind of perspective. Oh, I could live with seeing him once every three thousand years, if all our trysts went as sweetly as this one did. And it started so violently, too.Not that there was any forewarning that it would, mind you. Dull morning spent in peaceful labor in the greenhouse, tending my latest attempt at Mays mendozaii. Sweaty two hours oiling the rollers on the shipping platform. Had set out for the high lake to dig some clay for firing when there came the roar of a time shuttle emerging from its transcendence field.It’s something I hear fairly frequently, but only as a distant boom, a sound wave weak with traveling miles across the channel from Santa Cruz Island, where the Company’s Day Six resort is located. However, this time the blast erupted practically over my head.I threw myself flat and rolled, looking up. There was a point of silver screaming away from me, coming down fast, leveling out above the channel, heading off toward the mainland. I got to my feet and stared, frowning, at its spiraled flight. This thing was out of control, surely! There was a faint golden puff as its gas vented and abruptly the shuttle had turned on its path, was coming back toward the station.I tensed, watching its trajectory, ready to run. Oh, dear, I thought, there were perhaps going to be dead twenty-fourth-century millionaires cluttering up my fields soon. I’d have a lot of nasty work to do with body bags before the Company sent in a disaster team. Did I even have any body bags? Why would I have body bags? But there, the pilot seemed to have regained a certain amount of control. His shuttle wasn’t spinning anymore and its speed was decreasing measurably, though he was still coming in on a course that would take him straight up Avalon Canyon. Oh, no; he was trying to land, swooping in low and cutting a swath through my fields. I cursed and ran down into the canyon, watching helplessly the ruination of my summer corn.There, at last the damned thing was skidding to a halt. Nobody was going to die, but there were doubtless several very frightened Future Kids puking their guts up inside that shuttle just now. I paused, grinning to myself. Did I really have to deal with this problem? Should I, in fact? Wasn’t my very existence here a Company secret? Oughtn’t I simply to stroll off in a discreet kind of way and let the luckless cyborg pilot deal with his terrified mortal passengers?But I began to run again anyway, sprinting toward the shuttle that was still sizzling with the charge of its journey.I circled it cautiously, scanning, and was astounded to note that there were no passengers on board. Stranger still, the lone pilot seemed to be a mortal man; and that, of course, was impossible. Only cyborgs can fly these things.But then, he hadn’t been doing all that expert a job, had he? So I came slowly around the nose of the shuttle, and it was exactly like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy, in black and white, moves so warily toward the door and looks across the threshold: then grainy reality shifts into Technicolor and she steps through, into that hushed and shocked moment full of cellophane flowers and the absolute unexpected.I looked through the window of the shuttle and saw a mortal man slumped forward in his seat restraints, staring vacantly out at me.Him, of course. Who else would it be?Tall as few mortals are, and such an interesting face: high, wide cheekbones flushed with good color, long broken nose, deep-set eyes with colorless lashes. Fair hair lank, pushed back from his forehead. Big rangy body clad in some sort of one-piece suit of black stuff, armored or sewn all over with overlapping scales of a gunmetal color. Around his neck he wore a collar of twisted golden metal, like a Celtic torque. The heroic effect was spoiled somewhat by the nosebleed he was presently having. He didn’t seem to be noticing it, though. His color was draining away.Oh, dear. He was suffering from transcendence shock. Must do something about that immediately.The strangest calm had seized me, sure sign, I fear, that I really have gone a bit mad in this isolation. No cries from me of “My love! You have returned to me at last!” or anything like that. I scanned him in a businesslike manner, realized that he was unconscious, and leaned forward to tap on the window to wake him up. Useless my trying to break out the window to pull him through. Shuttle windows don’t break, ever.After a moment or two of this he turned his head to look blankly at me. No sign of recognition, of course. Goodness, I had no idea whence or from when he’d come, had I? He might not even be English in this incarnation. I pulled a crate marker from my pocket and wrote on my hand DO YOU SPEAK CINEMA STANDARD? and held it up in his line of sight.His eyes flickered over the words. His brow wrinkled in confusion. I leaned close to the glass and shouted:“You appear to require medical assistance! Do you need help getting out of there?”That seemed to get through to him. He moved his head in an uncertain nod and fumbled with his seat restraints. The shuttle hatch popped open. He stood up, struck his head on the cabin ceiling and fell forward through the hatchway.I was there to catch him. He collapsed on me, I took the full weight of his body, felt the heat of his blood on my face. His sweat had a scent like fields in summer.He found his legs and pulled himself upright, looking down at me groggily. His eyes widened as he realized he’d bled all over me.“Oh. Oh, I’m so sorry—” he mumbled, aghast. English! Yes, of course. Here he was again and I didn’t mind the blood at all, since at least this time he wasn’t dying. Though of course I’d better do something about that nosebleed pretty fast.So I led him back to my house. He leaned on me the whole way, only semiconscious most of the time. Unbelievable as it seemed, he’d apparently come through time without first taking any of the protective drugs that a mortal must have to make the journey safely. It was a miracle his brain wasn’t leaking out his ears.Three times I had to apply the coagulator wand to stop his bleeding. He drifted in and out of consciousness, and my floaty calm began to evaporate fast. I talked to him, trying to keep his attention. He was able to tell me that his name was Alec Checkerfield, but he wasn’t sure about time or place. Possibly 2351? He did recognize the Company logo on my coveralls, and it seemed to alarm him. That was when I knew he’d stolen the shuttle, though I didn’t acknowledge this to myself because such a thing was impossible. Just as it was impossible that a mortal being should be able to operate a time shuttle at all, or survive a temporal journey without drugs buffering him.So I told him, to calm him down, that I was a prisoner here. That seemed to be the right thing to say, because he became confidential with me at once. It seems he knows all about the Company, has in fact some sort of grudge against them, something very mysterious he can’t tell me about; but Dr. Zeus has, to use his phrase, wrecked his life, and he’s out to bring them to their knees.This was so demonstrably nuts that I concluded the crash had addled his brain a bit, but I said soothing and humoring things as I helped him inside and got him to stretch out on my bed, pushing a bench to the end so his feet wouldn’t hang over. Just like old times, eh? And there he lay.My crazed urge was to fall down weeping beside him and cover him with kisses, blood or no; but of course what I did was bring water and a towel to clean him up, calm and sensible. Mendoza the cyborg, in charge of her emotions, if not her mind.It was still delight to stroke his face with the cool cloth, watch his pupils dilate or his eyes close in involuntary pleasure at the touch of the water. When I had set aside the basin I stayed with him, tracing the angle of his jaw with my hand, feeling the blood pulsing under his skin.“You’ll be all right now,” I told him. “Your blood pressure and heart rate are normalizing. You’re an extraordinary man, Alec Checkerfield.”“I’m an earl, too,” he said proudly. “Seventh earl of Finsbury.”Oh, my, he’d come up in the world. Nicholas had been no more than secretary to a knight, and Edward—firmly shut out of the Victorian ruling classes by the scandal of his birth—had despised inherited privilege. “No, really, a British peer?” I said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a real aristocrat before.”“How long have you been stuck here?” he said. What was that accent of his? Not the well-bred Victorian inflection of last time; this was slangy, transatlantic, and decidedly limited in vocabulary. Did earls speak like this in the twenty-fourth century? Oh, how strange.“I’ve been at this station for years,” I answered him unguardedly. Oops. “More years than I remember.” He looked understandably confused, since my immortal body stopped changing when I was twenty.“You mean they marooned you here when you were just a kid? Bloody hell, what’d you do? It must have been something your parents did.”How close could I stick to the truth without frightening him?“Not exactly. But I also knew too much about something I shouldn’t have. Dr. Zeus found a nicely humane oubliette and dropped me out of sight or sound. You’re the first mortal”—oops again—“soul I’ve spoken with in all this time.”“My God.” He looked aghast. Then his eyes narrowed, I knew that look, that was his righteous wrath look. “Well, listen—er—what’s your name, babe?”Rosa? Dolores? No. No aliases anymore. “Mendoza,” I said.“Okay, Mendoza. I’ll get you out of here,” he said, all stern heroism. “That time shuttle out there is mine now, babe, and when I’ve finished this other thing I’ll come back for you.” He gripped my hand firmly.Oh, no, I thought, what has he gotten himself into now? At what windmill has he decided to level his lance?Summoning every ounce of composure, I frowned delicately and enunciated: “Do I understand you to say that you stole a time shuttle from Dr. Zeus Incorporated?”“Yup,” he said, with that sly sideways grin I knew so terribly well.“How, in God’s name? They’re all powerful and all knowing, too. Nobody steals anything from the Company!” I said.“I did,” he said, looking so smug I wanted to shake him. “I’ve got sort of an advantage. At least, I had,” he amended in a more subdued voice. “They may have killed my best friend. If he’d been with me, I wouldn’t have crashed. I don’t know what’s happened to him, but if he’s really gone … they will pay.”Something had persuaded this man that he could play the blood and revenge game with Dr. Zeus and win. He couldn’t win, of course, for a number of reasons; not least of which was that every time shuttle has a theft intercept program built into it, which will at a predetermined moment detonate a hidden bomb to blow both shuttle and thief to atoms.This was the fate Alec had been rushing to meet when he’d detoured into my field. I could see it now so clearly, it was sitting on his chest like a scorpion, and he was totally unaware it was there. I didn’t even need to sit through the play this time; I’d been handed the synopsis in terrible brevity.“But what do you think you can do?” I said.“Wreck them. Bankrupt them. Expose what they’ve been doing. Tell the whole world the truth,” Alec growled, in just the same voice in which Nicholas had used to rant about the Pope. He squeezed my hand more tightly.I couldn’t talk him out of it. I never can. I had to try, though.“But—Alec. Do you have any idea what you’re going up against? These people know everything that’s ever happened, or at least they know about every event in recorded history. That’s why I can’t think for a second you were really able to steal that shuttle from them. They must have known about it in advance, don’t you see? And if they knew, it means they allowed you to steal it, and then—”“No,” he said, with grim and unshakable certainty. “See, I can’t explain—just take it on trust, babe, they may know everything but they don’t know everything about me. I found the chink in their armor. You could say I am the chink in their armor.”It was going to be the same old story, gallant Englishman going to his gallant death. Nothing I could do to change it at all.Was there?Was there?I shook my head. “Don’t say any more. I don’t want to know.”“You don’t need to,” he said, giving me that brief cocksure grin again. “Just wait here, and I’ll be back to rescue you. On my word of honor as a gentleman, Mendoza.” He widened his eyes for emphasis.“It’s a kind offer, señor,” I said. “But if I were to leave this station, the Company would know instantly. Besides, where would I go? I have no family. I have no legal identity.”Alec blinked. “But you’ve got to have a birth record at Global ID, at least.”Damned twenty-fourth-century databases. “Undoubtedly,” I lied, “but the Company had it erased when I was sent here. They’re that powerful, you know.”“That’s true.” He scowled. “We can fake you up an identification disc. I know people who do that kind of thing. It wouldn’t get you through customs anywhere, but … I know what’d do it! I could just marry you. Peers get everything waived, see?”I couldn’t think what to say. He got a slightly panicked look in his eyes.“A-and then afterward we could just get a divorce. They’re easy. I could find you a place to live and a job or something.”“Perhaps we could give it a try,” I said carefully. He cleared his throat.“I’m not just making the offer out of kindness, either. We could have some fun together.”I leaned down, unable to keep myself from his mouth any longer, and I kissed him. Actually I was going to do a lot more than kiss him—if I was going to throw my immortal life away for Alec, I’d have such an epic game of lust with him first as would make the fires of Hell seem lukewarm when I got there.He still kissed like an angel of God, making little surprised and pleased noises and groping feebly at my behind, but I felt his blood pressure going up, his heartbeat speeding dangerously, and the red numbers in my peripheral vision warned me to stop or I’d kill him. I pulled away, sitting up and stroking back his hair. “Don’t you go dying on me,” I gasped.“I won’t,” he promised. He had got hold of the end of my braid and was tugging at it in a plaintive way. “But I’d really, really like to have sex with you. If you’ve no objections or anything.”Caramba! Did he use that line on other women? But I’d bet it worked for him every time. Who could resist that earnest look in his eyes when he said it? How was I going to stop myself from ripping open that suit of fish-mail he was wearing and murdering him with carnal bliss?Meteorological data coming in. Had that been thunder, or God snarling at me? I babbled out some kind of promise to Alec and went to the window to confirm visually.Disturbed air. Domed clouds racing down the sky, all my surviving corn plants staggering and fluttering as a gust of hot wind came rushing across them, carrying a smell of wetness and electricity. Crickets began to sing.“There’s a cloud front advancing,” I told Alec. “Have you brought rain, like the west wind? I think we’re going to have a summer storm.”“Cool,” said Alec. Christ, I wanted to jump him then and there.But he was ill and he needed protein, needed fluids, needed rest I do have some basic programming that insists I serve the mortal race, even if I bypass it now and then to kill one of the poor little things; so I poured Alec a glass of iced tea and set about preparations for feeding him.“What do you do here, all the time?” Alec said, as I returned from the garden with some produce.“I grow vegetables,” I said.“Who eats ’em all? Not you all alone.” He sipped his tea and looked at it in surprise. “This is real tea!”“Thank you. You obviously know about Dr. Zeus; do you know anything about the Day Six resorts?” I unloaded what I was carrying onto my kitchen table: tomatoes, corn, peppers, cilantro, garlic, onions. He knitted his brows.“They’re like one of those urban myths, only they’re really real,” he said. “Like Dr. Zeus. Everybody knows there’s supposed to be some company that has time travel and can get you absolutely anything you want, but it’s just a rumor. Which is what they probably want us to think! And the Day Six places are the same way. Somebody did a Weird Stories thing on holo about one. This guy goes back in time to party and screws up history by stepping on a bug or something.” He had another sip of his tea.“Ah. Well, that’s a fable, because history can’t be changed.” I worked the hand pump to rinse off the tomatoes and peppers. “But the resorts do exist, just as Dr. Zeus exists. In fact, Dr. Zeus owns them. Nice little string of hotels, rather unexceptional except that they’re all located in 150,000 BCE. Or thereabouts. All of them in virgin wildernesses where long-extinct mammals can be observed gamboling, from behind the safety of an electronic perimeter field.“You’re from the future, Alec, you must have lived in steel canyons all your life. How much would you pay to be able to swim in waters that had never been polluted, or watch a herd of mammoths grazing?”“In all the stories, time travelers wind up as lunch for velociraptors,” he said.“All the dinosaurs are extinct in this time. Anyway: Dr. Zeus has quietly built up a select secret clientele in the twenty-fourth century. They pay fortunes, annual incomes of small countries, I’m told, to be rocketed backward through time to carefully landscaped virgin paradises where they can relax by the pool and breathe clean, clean air.” I selected a knife and began slicing up the tomatoes.“The only problem is—time travel is hard on the human body. Even the drugs that protect people make them ill. So when they arrive from the dismal future, these millionaires and heiresses can do no more than nibble at a lettuce leaf or two. Therefore Dr. Zeus makes damned sure the resort keeps all manner of trendy greens for salad on hand, and therefore I labor in the sun on this agricultural station.” I whacked a beefsteak tomato in half, imagining it was some Company CEO’s head.“But that’s awful.” Alec tried to sit up, looking outraged. “That means you’re not only their prisoner, you’re their slave!”He was an idealist, then. Disapproved of slavery, did he? And him a titled gentleman. Just the sort of wealthy young man who comes to loathe his birthright and goes off to die for somebody else’s freedom.“I suppose I am,” I said carefully. “But I may as well be of some use to somebody, don’t you think? And it’s not so bad. They don’t call for produce very often. I have a lot of time to work on my own private research.”“What’s your research?” Alec said.I told him all about my quest to perfect maize plants. I don’t think he understood one word in three of botany talk, and when he wrinkled his forehead and attempted to follow my lecture he looked like a puzzled dog. But he was awfully polite about it, unlike the other Future Children I’ve known, and said gallant things about how worthwhile my project was.We talked for a little while on the subject of making one’s life count for something, and I expected a manifesto from him on the need to actively oppose the evils of Dr. Zeus. I was surprised; he just talked about his life. Despite his grand title, it appears there were some unfortunate circumstances attending his birth again. Some poor girl seduced by the sixth earl and then abandoned? I’d hardly have thought the wretched Future Children had enough blood in them to carry on like that, but apparently mortal nature hasn’t changed so much.As near as I could make out, the girl went mad and was locked up. Alec seems to have grown to manhood with a devastating sense of his own worthlessness, not surprisingly. I wonder if Nicholas and Edward carried similar burdens of unearned guilt on their backs? Was that what fueled Nicholas’s drive to martyrdom, Edward’s selfless work for an empire that abandoned him? I was too young and foolish to see this in Nicholas, too rushed to see it in Edward; but I see it now. And Alec’s failed at two marriages, apparently, and has steered through his life in increasing emotional isolation. Is that why he’s always alone when I meet the man?When he saw he’d affected me, blurting out his wretched story, he made amends by changing the subject entirely and told me about the adventures he’s had, as I kneaded the masa for our commonplace supper of tamales.And what adventures he’s had! I begin to see that I have been somewhat mistaken about Future World. It seems he hasn’t grown up in steel canyons at all. It seems that there are still wild places in the twenty-fourth century, still gardens and forests that don’t stink of machine exhaust. Best of all, it seems that the mortal race has not entirely followed the crabbed and fearful lead of its Company scientists, people like Mr. Bugleg of loathsome memory.Though they are, all of them, undeniably childish. Future Children indeed. My own dearest love has bought himself a pirate ship, if you please, and spends most of his time sailing around in the Caribbean and other ports of call on what we used to call the Spanish Main! And there he indulges his urge to be virile and bad, like pirates in every film he’s ever seen, and he’s become a smuggler! Mostly of things like wine and cheese, though they’re illegal enough in the twenty-fourth century.And yet I think in this he must come nearer to living a real life than the other mortals of his time, who (as far as I was ever able to tell) spend their lives hiding in their rooms, playing electronic games.Still, he has found a far less harmless and silly way to rebel, hasn’t he, by going on a crusade against Dr. Zeus? Dangerous to think about.Anyway. Such lovely stories he told me, about Jamaica under the tropical stars, parrots and gold doubloons. How happy I was to think of him playing Errol Flynn among the shrouds and ratlines. This ship of his must really be something to see, a full-rigged sailing vessel utilizing twenty-fourth-century technology, sort of an enormous retro yacht. He has some kind of complex computer system running all the rigging apparatus, for there’s no crew at all apparently.It’s as though he were able to lose himself in Treasure Island , escaping from his unhappiness by making the wild sea and the pirates come to life for him—except that instead of his imagination, he’s used enormous sums of money and technology. What am I to make of such a brave new world?Who cares? It was enough for me to watch the way his face lit up when he described his adventures, watch his expressive face and gestures conveying his stories perfectly even in that thug’s idiom of his. The man should have gone on the stage, I always thought, and what a preacher he’d made!And he sang for me. He had been describing how his ex-wives had hated his singing, the repulsive harpies. I was overwhelmed with a sudden memory of Nicholas singing, making some Tudor bawdiness sublime with his dark tenor. So I begged him to sing something, and he obliged with old sea songs, blood-and-thunder ballads that somehow reduced me to a weepy mess.At last he reached up his hand and pulled me down beside him, and there I lay hearing his voice vibrate in his chest and throat. We were shortly embracing again, me scanning frantically to see if his brain was likely to explode this time. It was of course impossible that after three hours of rest and a glass of iced tea the man should be completely recovered from transcendence shock, but he was.He was twiddling experimentally with the fastenings of my coveralls, and I was wondering how his mail-suit unzipped, when something seemed to occur to him. He lifted his mouth from mine and looked down at me. “Er—”“What is it?” I said, desperate lest he should stop.“You’re a virgin, I guess, yeah?”Have I mentioned that the man is prone to scruples at the most inconvenient times?Of course I’m not a virgin, but I do have this sort of immortal self-repairing body, see, and in the three hundred and then three thousand years that had elapsed between our respective couplings, there had been more than ample time for a tiny unimportant membrane to grow back. Christ, I could have grown a leg back in that amount of time.“Yes,” I said. “It’s all right, though. Please.”But now he was self-conscious, and the gorgeous python that had materialized down one leg of his suit shrank a little. “Can I use your shower?”Mother of God! Had I mentioned he’s very clean in his personal habits as well? And me without a shower.I was stammering to explain about my pathetic tin washtub when we both realized it had been raining outside for some time, warm summer rain. I directed him out into my back garden and hurried to fetch him a clean towel.He always has enjoyed bathing. Something Freudian relating to guilt, perhaps? Edward seemed to have some sort of personal dirt-repellent force field, of course, but I remember the way Nicholas used to revel in clean water and soap.When I opened the door and stepped out under the overhang, Alec had already snaked out of the mail-suit and was sitting in the tub, wearing only that torque. He was leaning back into the rain with an ecstatic expression on his face, letting it soak into his lank hair, which was becoming even lanker. The tub was rather low and didn’t obscure much of his nakedness, and I made a small involuntary pleading sound.He opened his eyes and looked at me. For a moment he seemed wary, defensive; then grinned his sidelong grin.“Would you, er, like to bathe, too?” he asked, all suavity, gesturing invitation as though the tub were ever so capacious. I don’t remember how I got out of my clothes and across the garden, it happened so fast.It was insane. The storm was beating down on us, the tub was impossibly tiny, and I was worried about that long back of his—but oh, how that man could kiss. We writhed ineffectively for a few minutes before he simply stood up in the tub and hoisted me into the air as though I weighed no more than a feather. He is phenomenally strong. I slid down, pressed against his body, and he thrust his face into my breasts with a whoop of inarticulate glee. The rain bathed us, and the fragrance of the garden was sweet.God, God, God.I believe I was in the act of offering Him my soul, or whatever a thing like me has, if He’d only let this moment stretch out into eternity, when my groping hands found the pattern of electronic wire just under the skin of Alec’s shoulders.God?I leaned forward over the top of Alec’s head and looked down. It was like the most beautiful tattoo you can imagine, an intricate pattern of spirals and knotwork in dull silver, winging out over both his shoulder blades and twining up the back of his neck. But it was wire, installed subcutaneously and tapping somehow into his nervous system and brain. So that’s what the torque was for? I touched it gingerly and had a momentary disorientation, a view of my own breasts seen from—well, not the angle I was used to, anyway.“Alec, darling,” I said cautiously, “this is a rather unusual tattoo you have.”He said something in reply, but under the circumstances it came out somewhat muffled. I bit my lower lip and said: “I beg your pardon?”He lifted his face to look up at me. “You know how I told you I’ve got this big custom cybersystem, to work the rigging on my ship? This is how I run it. I’m a cyborg, have been since I was eighteen.”Gosh, what a coincidence!Though of course what he means by cyborg and what I would mean by the same word are entirely different things.He looked alarmed until he realized I was laughing, and then he chuckled companionably and went back to what he’d been doing as I gasped out, overwhelmed by the cosmic joke:“Oh, perfect—!” And then I thought I’d been struck by lightning, because the flash of revelation was very nearly that blindingly bright. I seized his face in both my hands and tilted it up to stare into his eyes. “What year did you say it was where you come from?”“Er … 2351,” he said, polite but confused.“But that’s only four years from—” I said, and then the whole mystery of my beloved came together. An extraordinary man, with extraordinary abilities, who bears a grudge against Dr. Zeus. A cyborg, and not a poor biomechanical slave like me but a free agent, with both the ability and the determination to slip through the Company’s defenses and do the impossible. And what was that blue fire playing around our bodies? Oh, dear, it was Crome’s radiation. Was I seeing the future?And I didn’t know the half of it yet.I laughed and laughed. Then I writhed down and we embraced. Somehow or other we wound up on the lawn with the bath overturned beside us, and he was on top of me, peering down through the lightning flashes. He was looking into my eyes as though he’d only just recognized me.And how good was it, what we did there on my tidy little lawn? I’ll tell you. If I suffer in darkness for a thousand years because of what I did afterward—I won’t care.


By great good fortune the water under the tamales had not quite boiled away by the time we went back inside, and the house was filled with the earthy smell of corn. I lit lamps and pulled on an old shirt to set out our supper. He wrapped a towel around his middle and sat down at my rough-hewn table, watching me lay places for us. Two places, after all this time.Once, long ago, I’d laid out an intimate supper for two, just like this. We had sat together in a tiny circle of light at an old wooden table, in our own little world, as beyond in the darkness the wind howled and a hostile fate prepared to tear us to pieces the minute we stepped outside the circle.It isn’t really a happy memory. Nicholas had been sullenly desperate and I had been fearfully desperate, a good little cyborg feeling real qualms about running away with a mortal man. Before that night ended my heart had been broken irreparably, and Nicholas, furious and terrified, was running to meet his death. Thank you, Dr. Zeus.But I’m an old wicked cyborg now, aren’t I? Long past desperation. And how sweetly the rain beat on the roof of my house, and how snug and dry we were in my lamplit kitchen as the blue evening fell, and how sleepy and calm we were there together.And calmly, over our supper, I did the first of the things that will damn me if I’m ever caught. I told Alec, in great detail, all about the Silence in 2355, together with some rather necessary bits of temporal physics to enable him to use that shuttle effectively. So very classified, and I divulged it! He knows, now, Dr. Zeus’s fear of the unforeseen apocalypse; he knows his window of opportunity, and what to plan for over the next four years. Whatever his plans may be.I gather he has some kind of ally he calls the Captain, who is apparently the captain of his ship, though I’m a little confused on this point because I also had the impression he sails alone. But this Captain may be dead, which is one of the things he’s gone off to resolve/revenge.The talk depressed him. He reached across the table and took my hand as we spoke. What kind of emotional life has he had? I could cheerfully kill his ex-wives, I think.Oh, yes, I’ve changed. But I would burn in Hell for his dear sake.I may yet.He helped me wash the dinner dishes, and we hung his thermal underclothes up to dry before the fire, and at last we climbed into my narrow, creaking bed. Last time I’d lain in a real bed with him, he’d been Edward, and we’d been on the run all day and were too exhausted to do more than drift off to sleep together. Not this time! The bed has a permanent list to starboard now, and we were lucky it didn’t collapse in extremis . I really ought to fix it, but I can’t bear to. Just looking at it makes me smile.He warmed me right through, my mortal lover, and afterward drifted off to sleep in my arms. I lay watching him by the light of the fire. I might have lain there studying him all night, newly fascinated by all the details I’d never forgotten: the cleft in his chin, the funny swirled patterns in the hair on his arms.But the night wasn’t mine to idle away so pleasantly.I rose and pulled the blanket up around his shoulders. He sighed, reaching for me. I slipped out into the rainy night, to do the second thing for which I will surely suffer one day.The shuttle lay dark and abandoned, its sprung hatch gaping open in the rain. I looked in and saw the tiny green lights on the control panel, dimly illuminating the access port. I made my assault, forced it to give up the secret I wanted.The bomb was wired under the pilot’s seat, of all obvious places. It was a tiny white Bakelite box that might have been anything, a fuse relay, a power seat servomotor, a container of breath mints that had fallen down under there and been forgotten. I knew better. I found the tool kit and snipped its vicious little wires, swung the shuttle’s hatch shut, carried the bomb back with me through the gray rainy night and flung it into my compost heap. It’s there now, as I write. It may yet be live and deadly, it may have been ruined by the rain and the muck; but it will never kill Alec, which is all that matters.I came back and reentered paradise, slipping into the firelit room where my love slept safe. Third time lucky, mortal man, I thought.He woke when I climbed back in beside him, grumbled a little, reached out his arms to pull me in close and tucked me under his chin, just as Nicholas used to do. I lay awake awhile longer, fighting conditioning nightmares; but I know them for the false programmed things they are now, and they can’t scare me. I fell asleep at last, soothed by the rhythm of his heartbeat.


We didn’t get out of bed for two full hours next morning. We did everything I’d ever done with Nicholas, who’d been amazingly adventurous for a late medieval fellow, and everything I’d ever done with Edward, who was a Victorian gentleman, which says all I need to say about his personal tastes. The bed sagged ever further toward a happy death.Then we got up and I made him breakfast.“I hope you like tacos,” I said, spooning the hot filling into corn tortillas. “This seems so inadequate! I seldom dine in the morning, myself, just a roll or something to keep the coffee from killing me. No tea, no kippers, no sardines even. Nothing for an Englishman, but then I never expected to meet one here.”“That’s okay,” said Alec. He accepted a taco and bit into it cautiously. “It’s not bad. What is it?”“Proteus Breakfast Bounty,” I told him with a sneer. “It approximates sausage. Not inspiring, but sustaining. The tortillas, at least, are real.”“I like ’em,” he said.“You are a gentleman,” I said, pouring him out a mug of coffee. I poured a cup for myself and sat down across the table from him. “Well, then. Here we are.”“Mr. and Mrs. Checkerfield’s Brunch Club,” he said. God, it sounded strange in my ears. Mrs. Checkerfield? Or Lady Finsbury! Pretty good for somebody who began life in a one-room hut, eh? Child of Spanish peasants who owned maybe two goats and three fig trees? Too surreal to contemplate. I took a careful sip of coffee and said quietly:“If you knew how often I’ve wished you were sitting right there—”“I can’t be what you wanted,” he said. “You must have wished for somebody a lot better looking, in shining armor.”“No. You yourself are the man of my dreams, senor. I think we’ve met before, in some previous lifetime.”“You believe in that stuff?”“Not really,” I said. “Do you?”He shook his head, wolfing down the last of the taco.“Were you raised in any religion?”“Nope,” he said. “I was always taught that’s for bigots and crazies. Not something you do if you’re going to be a respectable member of the House of Lords, which I’ve never been anyway so who cares, right? But, you know. My stepmother got into the Ephesians, and they’re kind of scary.”“That’s what I’d always read.”“You read, too? They do a lot of good, though, for poor girls, so I guess they’re okay. And my nurse was into something, I guess it must have been Orthodox Vodou. I think she took me to some of their services when I was small. That was nice, I remember, all the dancing, and those bright people coming out of nowhere like that.”Yes indeed, Nicholas, I thought, you’ve come a long way.“Can I have another of those?” he inquired. Imagine someone actually liking Breakfast Bounty. But then I don’t suppose he’s ever eaten meat.“Please,” I said, pushing the plate across to him. “I made them for you. So, religion’s not your thing, is it? What about politics?”“I don’t vote.”“No? Not very English of you, if you’ll pardon my saying so.”“I can’t stand England,” he said wearily. “It’s gray and it’s cold and it’s … it’s just so sad. I couldn’t wait to leave, and I hate it when I have to go back. You should see the absentee fines I pay every year to the House of Lords! You don’t want to live there, I hope?”“Oh, no.”“Good. You want to go see Spain again, though? You must not have seen it since you were little.”What a strange idea. “I wonder if I’d recognize it at all?” I said at last.“It’s fun there. Everything’s really expensive, but you can get real fish in the restaurants and there’s a festival day, like, every other week. I was there one time at—what’s that big party the Jews throw, where they dress up and there’s, er, a street carnival? Noisemakers and stuff? It’s in the spring, anyway, and there’s this big whatchacallem, temple thing—”“A synagogue?”“Yeah! A synagogue in, er, Santiago—”“Santiago de Compostela?” I was stunned.“Yeah! That’s the place. Anyway it’s great. Families build these booths all along the street and watch the dances and parades, and you can just go from booth to booth, drinking and eating and talking to people. The ones who understand English, anyway. And there’s bullfights with topless girls! Amazing acrobats. They flip over the bulls like they were on springs or something. And then they have this thing at the end where they burn the parade floats.”“Not the people?” I just couldn’t get my mind around this, somehow. Poor old Spain, freed at last from ancient sorrow and cruelty?“Nah, they never have accidents. We should go sometime. You’d like it.” He looked at me a little anxiously. “Though we can go anywhere you want, babe. Anywhere that’ll make you happy.”“I’ll be happy,” I said, reaching across the table and clasping his hand. “You’re not religious, you don’t care about England, and there’s a synagogue in Santiago de Compostela! We can go places or we can live on your ship. I don’t care.”Assuming, of course, I can skip forward through time into the future—impossible, but apparently not for me. Could I really just sail away with Alec, on an eternal holiday in the twenty-fourth century?Though of course it wouldn’t be eternal, because he’s a mortal. But I think if we could just once live out a peaceful life together, I could accept anything that came after that. Why have I felt this way, from the first moment I laid eyes on this big homely man? God only knows.He lifted my hand and kissed it. “We’ll go as soon as I’ve finished up this stuff I’m doing,” he said.“Ah, yes. This stuff you’re doing,” I said, looking down into my coffee, focusing on cold practical matters to keep from launching myself over the table at him. “There are some things you should know before you attempt to pilot that shuttle back to the twenty-fourth century. Somewhere on board, there ought to be little containers of the drug you have to take before time traveling. It looks like iodine, and I’ve heard it’s sometimes packaged to look like Campari. Do they still make Campari?”“Yes. I saw those.”“It’s not Campari, but if you pour fifty milliliters into an equal amount of gin or vodka, you won’t know the difference. You must drink it down, or risk death a second time when you activate the time transcendence field. I must tell you, I can’t imagine how you were able to sit up and talk coherently only a couple of hours after your arrival, let alone get that magnificent erection.”He snickered in embarrassment.“And you need to enter the proper algorithm into the time drive. I can do that for you now, but you’ll have to know more about piloting the damned thing before you try to take it anywhere else.”“If my friend’s still alive, he may have that data.” Alec reached for another taco.“He was going after Dr. Zeus’s database?” I felt ice around my heart. “Oh, Alec. There aren’t even words for how dangerous that is.”“We did it once already and got out okay,” Alec said. But I buried my face in my hands.“Don’t tell me, darling. The less I know, the safer you’ll be.”We lingered over breakfast. He helped me wash up again. I helped him into his armored suit that had been airing out on a hook by the door all night, like a sealskin temporarily abandoned by its owner. I wanted to see if we might contrive a way to make love while he was encased in it, but he’s a man on a mission, after all, with places to go and things to do.The rain had stopped and the clouds blown away by the time we walked back to the shuttle. It was going to be a hot day. Steam was already rising up from the sparkling fields. When we got to the shuttle and Alec stood there staring up at it, I could tell from the look on his face he was uncertain what he was supposed to do next.So I drove the third nail into my coffin.I leaned close to him and put my arms around his neck. “You’ll remember,” I said, finding the torque with my fingers. “It’s just the effect of the crash. Calm down. Think.” I tapped into his database and nearly passed out at its immensity. If he were to download even half of what he has access to, my brain would burst. But I did experience the world through his senses for a moment, and that was nearly as disturbing.He has … SENSES. His hearing, his eyesight, touch, are all hyperacute and informative. He draws in a breath of air and its component scents tell him more about where he is than even a hunting dog could discern, at least as much as an immortal like me. He sees farther into certain light ranges than a mortal is supposed to be able to, and the sensitivity of his skin … no wonder he likes his physical pleasures.Is my mortal darling even human? I wondered.I always thought he’d make a better immortal than any of the people the Company ever chose, and now I know it for a fact. If only his skull fit the optimum parameters!I mustered my thoughts and probed for the information he needed. There it was; he simply hadn’t learned how to access it yet. I pulled it up and said: “I have the impression that the cyborgs who normally pilot these ships access them through a file with a designation of TTMIX333.” I fed it to him surreptitiously. “Does that sound right?”His brain took it with remarkable ease. I felt him gasp in pleasure as it all made sense, suddenly. He began to download from me, lifting a subroutine for fast access by content with such speed I felt like a wrung-out sponge.“I think—Hey!” he said in delight, as the hatch popped open. I teetered back from him, dizzy and frightened.“There you are,” I said, determined to sound cheery. “You see? You had it in your memory all the time. Dear me, though, this fancy carpet’s gotten soggy.” I climbed inside and stopped, staring as he climbed in after me.Fancy carpet indeed. What luxury! I hadn’t bothered to look around much when I’d been in here removing the bomb.Floral pattern in the carpet and the beautifully cushioned passengers’ seats. Drink rests, crystal vases set in the wall, for God’s sake, full of pink roses! Spacious, lots of head room for anyone but Alec. Tasteful color scheme. Minibar. Entertainment console. All this to keep the Future Children happy on their weekend escapes from their own world. Not how we immortals travel. I was sent to this station in a raw-edged metal box barely big enough to accommodate my body. It couldn’t be bigger, we were always told. The extra time-field drag would take more energy, cost more money, which couldn’t be spared for inessentials like comfort.What did it cost to send this shuttle through time even once?Is this why we’ve worked so hard all these years? To pay for things like this?Alec bent down and flung wide the etched glass doors of the minibar. “Check this out. Six different fruit juices and three kinds of real booze. Illegal as hell, and I should know.” He chuckled. “Bombay Sapphire, Stolichnaya and—hey, here’s the magic potion.” He held up a dummy bottle of Campari. All nicely disguised as a cocktail, so Future Children would never know how dangerous their pleasure excursions really were.I was so angry I could barely trust myself to speak, but while he gulped down his bitter cocktail I managed to explain about taking the earth’s rotation and orbit into account, for one travels through space as well as time and you must run as fast as you can to remain in one place, whenever you get there. Alec knit his brows in comprehension—he may not be able to read very well, but he seems to be brilliant at math—and ordered the shuttle to set its course. It promptly obeyed him.The warning lights began to implore us to close the hatch, and the gas canisters gave their initial hiss as the valves engaged. I wasn’t ready to lose him yet! But I’d be a danger to him in more ways than he could imagine if I went along. I backed toward the hatch, and he held out his hand.“Remember,” he said. “I’m coming back for you.”“Meminerunt omnia amantes,” I said, falling into an old habit.“What?” He stared. “Was that Spanish? What did you say?”Still no World Language in his century, I note. Must be the nationalist backlash.“Lovers remember everything,” I translated. “I was speaking Latin.” He got that worried-dog look again.“What’s Latin?”My God, the progress of human knowledge.“Like, Latin American?” he asked.“Close enough, dear,” I said ruefully, but then the Klaxons really began to protest about the hatch and I couldn’t stay. I dove back, kissed him one last time, and fled through the hatch before I doomed us both.I ran around to the window where I’d seen him first. He was fastening himself into his seat restraints. He saw me and mouthed I love you in silence. I shouted it back to him, over the scream of the engines and the turbulence, until I was hoarse. He leaned forward, staring out over the console as the shuttle began to rise and I reached up my hands toward him, watching until the yellow gas roiled and hid him from my sight.Up and up went the shuttle, a perfect ascent, and then it rotated and became a streak of silver, leaving my time with just the barest thud on the insulted air. No master pilot could have done it better, no immortal cyborg with a thousand years’ training, but I’d only had to show Alec once.What have I done?I told myself, as I walked back to the house, that it could have been worse. Nicholas would have roared off with that shuttle to carpet-bomb the Vatican, and I shudder to think what Edward would have done with it. Alec, however, is an arrested child who won’t even vote. Digging for pirate treasure is his idea of a good time.And even if he succeeds in his quest—would the world be such a terrible place without the Company’s obsessive control? Dr. Zeus has been in power since Time began. What if nobody was running the world? Maybe all those lost art treasures could go into museums, instead of the collections of rich men. Maybe those rare beasts could be turned loose into that strangely depopulated future world, to survive or not on their own merits.Speaking of rare beasts … are you ready for the punchline, now?The first thing I did on returning to my little abode was to collect DNA samples from the abundant evidence Alec, ahem, left of his presence. Hair on the pillow and all that. Ran a few tests. What a surprise.He’s a tetraploid. Like my maize cultivars. Double DNA. Ninety-two chromosomes. The only tetraploid hominid who ever existed was the (understandably) extinct Homo crewkernensis , known only from a few odd-looking bones and, of course, Company operatives who went back through time to see what could possibly have left such long femurs in the fossil record … hmmm.What did the operatives report? That they found a small population with a barely viable gene pool, living at the southwestern edge of the ice sheet that covered England. Decided they were some kind of Homo heidelbergensis community that had been isolated long enough for distinct speciation to occur. Dutifully recorded their extinction, once the ice sheet melted and Homo crewkernensis were able to move east, where they encountered tribes with whom they could not interbreed successfully (lethal recessive affected the females) and who objected to their territorial aggression.I wonder if the Company saved any of their genetic material?Oh, we’ve gone way, way beyond any romantic metaphysics to do with reincarnation, haven’t we? Alec is no member of any human race I’ve ever encountered. Fancy my never suspecting that in all these centuries, eh? I don’t know what he is, but what I do know about him is far too much for the Company’s liking. And I already knew more than was safe … I am so doomed.… You know, when I was a mortal child, my mother sold me to a band of wicked strangers. They told me I’d be married to a great lord. When I finally peered into the room where they were hiding my betrothed, what was there?Only a straw man, a thing braided out of wheat of the field, the bright-ribboned Lord of the Corn, destined for the festival bonfire. Maybe the strangers meant to sacrifice me with him. Maybe my inescapable fate has always been, one day, to burn in that fire.But it’s been almost a week now, and nobody’s come for me yet.I suppose it all hinges on how closely I’m being monitored, whether my auditory and visual intake is being recorded and analyzed somewhere or just recorded and stored. It might be years before some bored clerk decides to have a look at what I’ve been doing. Who knows whether Alec will have succeeded in his quest by that time? I might never be found out.If, on the other hand, analysis is instantaneous—then I’m certainly going to learn whether or not Dr. Zeus has devised a way to grant its weary immortals the gift of death. Is this crawling sensation fear for myself? How novel.And if what I’ve done has really set in motion the events that will lead to the end of the world, I’ll deserve whatever the Company does to me. It would be a pity, really. I’d have liked to have made that sad mortal happy, sailed away with him on his absurd pirate ship and been Mrs. Alec Checkerfield. Don’t want to think about that too much.On the other hand, if Alec fails, dies as Nicholas and Edward died—perhaps his hungry soul won’t need to come back for me, if I too am hit by the bolt of Dr. Zeus’s wrath. Can I go through that doorway of fire, where Nicholas waited for me?It’s so strange, waiting to see.


Rain again today, but I think it’ll blow out later, and another astonishing thing has happened.Got up this morning and took my usual perambulation down to Avalon Bay, and something had washed up on the beach. I could smell it long before I got there, though it really isn’t so badly decomposed as all that, but, you know—fish stink.Except this isn’t a fish, exactly. It’s an ichthyosaur! And to think I told Alec there were no dinosaurs in this time period.You can keep your stupid coelacanths. There it is, large as life, which seems to have been 7.5 meters long. I’ve taken a full hour of holo footage, from every possible angle. I managed to turn it over with a shovel, which was unfortunate because I promptly lost my breakfast (much more decomposed on that side) but this gave me a good view of its skeletal structure for the camera. So much for its being extinct! I really should get some DNA samples before the seabirds get it all. Actually I should signal for a Company ichthyologist, I suppose, but under the circum—Ship has arrived out front. Not Alec’s stolen shuttle. Maybe Dr. Z fish specialist come to see discovery?


Oh dear. There are uniformed security techs searching through my compost heap.My own beloved, it would have been fun. Good-bye Alec Edward Nicholas. Quia fortis est ut mors dilectio dura sExtract from the Text of Document D6 Maye 157933 deg 20 min The two ilands here shewn as La Victoria & San Salvador, Moone hath sighted at nine o’clock today. We determined to try whether da Silva spake truth or no, or rather spake the lye concerning this Ile of Divells, that this was a devise to conceal rich store of plate hid in the caves hereabouts.Wherfore we lay off San Salvador to the windward, but I lyked it not so well, ther being no convenyent shoare but onely great clyffes. I was not minded to go on a fooles exspedycyone; but Moone swore great oaths he should bring back gold bollyone yf I pleased to lett him take the pinnace & som two or three good fellows that durst go, being not afeard, whether of divells nor men. I gave orders therfore (that he should) lower the pinnace & away. With him went Carie & the Kentishman Crokeham, who hath ever madly sworn & thirsted after Spaynysh bloode, & I thowght it best to lett him go his ways. We then lay at anchor vntyll three o’clock, Iohn & I painting the whiles the passage between the two ilands. From the main top then Legge descried the pinnace returning. When it came nigh enough Moone cryed that we should up anchor & away for the Ile was truly full of divells and fowll poysons. We took them up in the pinnace, Moone & Carie much afeard & Crokeham in a sound, & with them a boxe or kist of great weight. This boxe when opened was found to carry som manner of brasse plate & suche as I will nott name herein save that Dee hath the same at his house in Mortlake, as I haue seen with mine own eyes. Ther were besides som glasse vialls & two lyttell bottels that had benn alyke filled with sherrisacke as they thowght, but Crokeham had oped & drunk one of the same thence fallen dead drunk or poysoned, we knew not which.This much hath Moone & Carie sworn, thow questioned together & apart: that they went into the iland & climbed a long hill, seeing nether caves, nor divells, nor plate, but onely goats. That Crokeham, desiring we should haue fresh meate, gave chase to the said goats, & had laid hands upon one, but that it vanished into air lyke a thing bewitched. They did then stare and tremble, the whiles they could plainly hear the hooves of the said goat strikyng stones but saw him not.Then a horrible wonder, for as Crokeham stretched forth his hand, it seemed gone off his arm as though he were made mutilate, though he felt no blow nor paine; & upon drawing it backe he saw he was hoooll & well, his hand as good as it was before.Wherfore they knew ther was som divellish illvsione here & Crokeham, though he boast overmuch, yeat he is no coward, & was minded to try what was concealed in this iland. He did walk forrward & both Moone and Carie do sweare they saw him goe as thow the earth gaped under him, thow yeat they did hear him speakyng, yeat they saw him not They sowt to follow him & after 3 paces beheld him again & beheld too a cave mowth lyke a mine that men haue made, which sure the illvsione was to conceal.Wherin they went a lyttell ways & beheld a lampe, but what manner of lampe it was they connot tell, but that it was not candle nor rvshlight nor in any manner what light we vse to haue, but onely lyke a white windoe in the tunnell wall, through which light shone but no thing could be seene, & it was more lyke the moones beams then sun.& farther, that ther were dwarfish divells lying dead therabout, that fell to ashes when Crokeham smote one with his foote. & farther, that the said boxe was ther. Wherfore Crokeham took it up and they left that place, being not minded to see any farther thervnto.Now they fell to quarreling who should open the said boxe, whether they should themselves ther by reason of any danger that myght lie therin, or bring it a board first. At last Carie gave order Crokeham should open (the box).& seeing therin no treasure, & being as they thowght themselves cheated {for that they did not knowe how Dee & Waylsinghamme bid me take especyall care to find the verie same when I lay at Mortlake} they were sorely vexed; & that Crokeham swore he would tast of the sacke, & broke the seal one 1 bottel & drank it off straight. Therafter he grew hotte, & cryed the divells were come alive after them {though Moone & Carie could see none suche} and ran before them to the pinnace, wher on a sudden he sounded and lay lyke 1 dead. Thither haue they come in fear of their lives, rowing hard & bearing him along in the bottom of the pinnace.Now haue I geuen order they shall tell no tale of this to any, being questioned privily, but most especyallye Iohn Douty, & the boxe I haue made safe, nor shall Flettcher tell of the same. Upone Crokeham haue we set watch, as it is now nine o’clock at night & he waketh not, but lieth as dead still.9 Maye, 1579This fearful marvel I mvst set down, that Crokeham who was poysoned in San Salvador hath not yeat waked, but lieth asleepe yeat, & worse, though it myght not be worse an he were wakyng. This Crokeham was in Rochester to see the holy Martyrs burn, wherby you may know he is not yonge, but even a man of mine own age, & bore som white in his bearde & bore divers scars beside, for he hath fought bravely against Spayne since that he saw the Martyrs die, seekyng ever means to quarrel for their sakes. Lo, since that he hath lain thus, all his scars are gone. So is the snow melted out of his beard, which is grown soft & small lyke the beard of a boye. & Flettcher who hath the care of him hath prated that that Ile shall be called in our mappe Insula Endymione, but I haue geuen order he shall hold his fooles tong lest he engender fear in the saylers, & Crokeham hath benn lain alone in Iohn’s cabin lest more talke betyde.12 Maye, 1579That Crokeham who hath grown yonge sleepeth yeat, & though he be yonge still he is yeat not well, for he be much reddened in the face & breathes him hard lyke a whale blowing. I haue seen this in men with too greate effvsione of blood to the brain or as doctors call (it,) grosse apoplectickal humours. Wherfore I am in som dowte whether to physicke him with bleeding or no, lest that he be weake and dye therby, or that the poysone that is in him should fowllly contaminate vs all.Flettcher saith belyke the sacke was som draughte as thatte devised by Paracelsvs to make a manne yonge again, & as proofe of this tells me it be knowen that Spayne hath sowt suche in the natural watters of Florida, the which I knew afore, but I told him nott, onely that he should speak noe carelesse word therof. Privily I doe consyder with myselfe whether it is not so, & the bottel had suche a draughte therin; & that Crokeham had come to noe harm had he not drunke it all incontynent, but by excesse is strucke down. Yf it be so, Dee mvst haue the other (bottle) to prove. Belyke the draughte, yf tempered with som more gentler physicke, may yeat serve to grant long youthe to our soverign Ladie, to the lasting checke of Spayne.Wherfore I haue locked the said boxe safe away, noe man but I to know wher vntyll {As Christ Jesu grant} I see Deptford & maye convey it to Waylsynghamme, wher he shall do as he thinks most mete. I haue sworn to Flettcher his face that an he prate more in this, he shall be soundly whipt.19 Maye, 1579This daie dyed Crokeham, at two o’clock in the morning, after a great palsie that shook him upwards of three owers. Had I never met him afore but onely at the last ower I would haue said & sworn that the poor knave were a boye of syxeteen, though he is fowllly dead for all that. I gave order he should be made away privily, Moone and Carie to bring the round shot & wynding sheete & bear all. This was done & we commytted him to the sea & Flettcher spake the office for the dead, spedelley & quiet in the dark. & at first lighte I spake to the saylers and said: That the manne was dead, by poyson as we thowght, throw his rash want of forethowght, but noe strange thyng attended his going as som myght unwisely saye. & this they well understood & drew off their cappes but murmured nott, wherat I was well pleased.Copyright © 2004 Kage Baker Teaser copyright © 1997 by Kage Baker
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  • Posted February 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Company Novels continue strong

    To the story. The Graveyard Game felt unfocused, like nothing more than a transition; The Life of the World to Come does not have that problem. It's still told from the third-person, and does jump around in time, but it is entirely the story of Alec Checkerfield. Like In the Garden of Iden, it is a coming-of-age novel in the classic sense -- we see Alec from his very generation through to a major trial-by-fire and a falling in love. The one major issue I have with this novel, however, is the world Baker created for Alec to come of age in.

    The future she has envisioned is pretty dire. It has been through several apocalypses of various sorts, and the few people that are left have emerged incredibly privileged, with advanced technology and all the resources of the planet at their disposal. As we got a glimpse of in Sky Coyote and The Graveyard Game, they have taken the supposedly moral high road on so many issues that they have completely whitewashed their own existence -- no real food (all stimulants and animal products are banned), no real sex, an abhorrence of violence of any kind, and all that extends so far that they can't even read books about such things, so they also have none of the cultural awareness that would at least come with education through literature. This means that they are perennial children, and Alec, as a product of that culture (though he naturally rebels against it) remains a child throughout as well.

    Mendoza's previous two lovers were men with great strength of character, as noted in the description; Alec seems so weak compared to them that I highly doubt Mendoza would love him if he weren't genetically identical to her other loves. (Baker does provide a neat little explanation of why Mendoza fell so quickly for all three of the men, however, so maybe I'm wrong about that.) This makes the novel much less involving on an emotional level than the previous four, because all of the previous ones (yes, even the transitional The Graveyard Game) were imbued with passion -- in the two from Mendoza's perspective, passion for Harpole and Fairfax; in the other two Joseph's and Lewis' passion for Mendoza. The Life of the World to Come was more abstract. It moved the plot forward immensely, and I giggled at all the right places, but there were no moments that sank into my chest and made me feel. Even Alec's trial-by-fire seemed somewhat academic -- Alec himself simply wasn't mature enough to grow as I would expect from it.

    But I would still strongly recommend this series, and I would still say that The Life of the World to Come is stronger than The Graveyard Game. Baker's prose is consistently good, the story moves along quickly, the ideas are fun to play with, and (best of all) each novel is a complete story arc that nonetheless moves forward the larger series story arc. This novel introduces some new players to the game (and I loved the Captain -- if more had been from his perspective I think Baker would have captured the passion of the earlier books in his love for his boy Alec) and gets us much closer to finding out what happens in 2355. I am still looking forward to each book, which is pretty darned good for a series of this length, I think.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

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    Fantastic sf story

    In the twenty-fourth century, Dr. Zeus, Incorporated discovered time travel. However, rather than benefiting humanity, the firm plundered history taking valuable artifacts so the shareholders became wealthy. One of the top agents the botanist Mendoza fell in love with an apparent sixteenth century English native only to watch him die at the fiery stake; next Mendzoa fell in love with his doppelganger in nineteenth century Hollywood only to see him murdered. This time the cyborg killed the culprits. Threatening to expose Dr. Zeus while grieving, the firm exiles her to 150,000 BCE (¿More or Less¿)........................ The millenniums pass as Mendoza waits for rescue until the arrival of a time-shuttle piloted by the twenty-fourth century, one of the wealthiest people in the world Alec Checkerfield. He is a triplet to her deceased beloveds and wants to destroy Dr. Zeus. Mendoza wants to believe him as he is identical to her two loves, but has doubts about his sincerity and questions three men born in different centuries over a millennium looking like identical triplets. Dr. Zeus must be involved but how?......................................... Each book adds to the complexities of the previous novels yet keeps the underlying theme and principles, and Mendoza consistent as no series (at least that this reviewer can think of) has previously accomplished by book five. THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME is an excellent entry that can stand alone yet enhances the story lines from the previous tales making them and this entry even more enjoyable and multifaceted. If a reader was stranded in 150,000 BCE with one series of novels to accompany them, Kage Baker¿s masterpiece would be on most sci fi fans¿ short lists........................... Harriet Klausner

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