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Science fiction giant Keith Laumer delivers a fast-paced, wry adventure of time travel and twisted realities in three classic interwoven tales as a regular Joe from our Earth fights against an alternate version of himself who has become a tyrant in an alternate timeline.
American Brion Bayard is abducted on the streets of Stockholm, and thrust into what he believes is a truck. He’s relieved to find his captors very apologetic, and very British—that is, until they began speaking about nations of which Bayard has never heard.
His captors were from Earth, yes. But not his Earth.
Turns out that there are countess parallel Earths, each different, where history has taken every possible turn—and there are even more uninhabitable worlds, destroyed by the misuse of cross-time travel.
Bayard discovers that the Earth he has now been thrust into, the Earth of the Imperium, is at war with a dangerously aggressive parallel Earth that has taken a wrong turn somewhere in time and whose ruler is...a parallel version of Bayard himself! Now Bayard’s mission is clear: to prevent his alternate self from destroying the new plane of reality that he now calls home, the Imperium.
|Product dimensions:||4.32(w) x 6.62(h) x 1.34(d)|
About the Author
A legendary creator of space opera and military science fiction adventures, Keith Laumer was a captain in the U.S. Air Force and later an officer in the U.S. diplomatic corps, serving throughout the world—all of which activity provides a solid background for his crackling adventure tales as well as his justly famous epic satirical comedies featuring Retief, the galaxy’s canny, two-fisted diplomat. Also among Laumer’s best-loved creations are the Bolos, gigantic tanks controlled by artificial intelligences who fight to protect mankind against both alien and human enemies.
Read an Excerpt
By Keith Laumer Eric Flint
Baen BooksCopyright © 2005 Keith Laumer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWorlds of the Imperium
I stopped in front of a shop with a small wooden sign which hung from a wrought-iron spear projecting from the weathered stone wall. On it the word ANTIKVARIAT was lettered in spidery gold against dull black, and it creaked as it swung in the night wind. Below it a metal grating covered a dusty window with a display of yellowed etchings, woodcuts, and lithographs, and a faded mezzotint. Some of the buildings in the pictures looked familiar, but here they stood in open fields, or perched on hills overlooking a harbor crowded with sails. The ladies in the pictures wore great bell- like skirts and bonnets with ribbons, and carried tiny parasols, while dainty-footed horses pranced before carriages in the background.
It wasn't the prints that interested me though, or even the heavy gilt frame embracing a tarnished mirror at one side; it was the man whose reflection I studied in the yellowed glass, a dark man wearing a tightly-belted grey trench-coat that was six inches too long. He stood with his hands thrust deep in his pockets and stared into a darkened window fifty feet from me.
He had been following me all day.
At first I thought it was coincidence when I first noticed the man on the bus from Bromma, then studying theatre announcements in thehotel lobby while I registered, and half an hour later sitting three tables away sipping coffee while I ate a hearty dinner.
I had discarded that theory a long time ago. Five hours had passed and he was still with me as I walked through the Old Town, medieval Stockholm still preserved on an island in the middle of the city. I had walked past shabby windows crammed with copper pots, ornate silver, dueling pistols, and worn cavalry sabres; very quaint in the afternoon sun, but grim reminders of a ruder day of violence after midnight. Over the echo of my footsteps in the silent narrow streets the other steps came quietly behind, hurrying when I hurried, stopping when I stopped. Now the man stared into the dark window and waited, the next move was up to me.
I was lost. Twenty years is a long time to remember the tortuous turnings of the streets of the Old Town. I took my guide book from my pocket and turned to the map in the back. My fingers were clumsy.
I craned my neck up at the stone tablet set in the corner of the building; it was barely legible: Köpmangatan. I found the name on the folding map and saw that it ran for three short blocks, ending at Stortorget; a dead end. In the dim light it was difficult to see the fine detail on the map; I twisted the book around and got a clearer view; there appeared to be another tiny street, marked with crosslines, and labeled Skeppar Olofs gränd. I tried to remember my Swedish; gränd meant alley . Skeppar Olof's Alley, running from Köpmangatan to Trädgårdsgatan, another tiny street. It seemed to lead to the lighted area near the palace; it looked like my only route out. I dropped the book back into my pocket and moved off casually toward the Alley of Skeppar Olof. I hoped there was no gate across the entrance.
My shadow waited a moment, then followed. Slowly as I was ambling, I gained a little on him. He seemed in no hurry at all. I passed more tiny shops, with ironbound doors and worn stone sills, and then saw that the next doorway was an open arch. I paused idly, then turned in. Once past the portal, I bounded up the alley at top speed. Six strides, eight, and I was at the end and darting to the left toward a deep doorway. There was just a chance I'd cleared the alley before the dark man had reached the entrance. I stood and listened. I heard the scrape of shoes, then heavy breathing from the direction of the alley a few feet away. I waited, breathing with my mouth wide open, trying not to pant audibly. After a moment the steps moved away. The proper move for my silent companion would be to cast about quickly for my hiding place, on the assumption that I had concealed myself close by. He would be back this way soon.
I risked a glance. He was moving quickly along, looking sharply about, with his back to me. I pulled off my shoes and without taking time to think about it, stepped out. I made it to the alley in three paces, and hurried out of sight as the man stopped to turn back. I was halfway down when my foot hit a loose stone, and I flew the rest of the way.
I hit the cobblestones shoulder first, and followed up with my head. I rolled over and scrambled to my feet, my head ringing. I clung to the wall by the foot of the alley as the pain started. Now I was getting mad, and to hell with strategy. I heard the soft-shod feet coming, and gathered myself to jump him as he came out. The footsteps hesitated just before the arch, then the dark round head with the uncut hair peeped out. I swung a haymaker-and missed. He darted into the street and turned, fumbling in his overcoat. I assumed he was trying to get a gun, and aimed a kick at his mid-section. I had better luck this time; I connected solidly, and had the satisfaction of hearing him gasp in agony. I hoped he hurt as bad as I did. Whatever he was fumbling for came free then, and he backed away, holding the thing to his mouth.
"One-oh-nine, where in bloody blazes are you?" he said in a harsh voice, glaring at me. He had an odd accent. I realized the thing was some sort of microphone. "Come in, one-oh-nine, this job's going to pieces ..." He backed away, talking, eyes on me. I leaned against the wall; I hurt too bad to be very aggressive. There was no one else in sight. His soft shoes made whispering sounds on the paving stones. Mine lay in the middle of the street where I had dropped them when I fell.
Then there was a sound behind me. I whirled, and saw the narrow street almost blocked by a huge van. I let my breath out with a sigh of relief. Here was help ...
Two men jumped down from the cab, and without hesitation stepped up to me, took my arms and escorted me toward the rear of the van. They wore tight white uniforms, and said nothing.
"I'm all right," I said. "Grab that man ..." About that time I realized he was following along, talking excitedly to the man in white, and that the grip on my arms was more of a restraint than a support. I dug in my heels and tried to pull away. I remembered suddenly that the Stockholm police don't wear white uniforms.
I might as well not have bothered. One of them unclipped a thing like a tiny aerosol bomb from his belt and sprayed it in my face. I felt myself go limp. I was still conscious, but my feet dragged as they hauled me around to the back of the van, up a ramp, pushed me into a chair. I was dimly aware of the ramp being pulled in, the doors closing. I was fading but not yet out; I shouted after them, but they didn't answer. I heard more clicks and the sounds of things being moved; then the purr of an engine. There was a sensation of motion, very smooth, nothing more. I tried to yell, gave it up. I gathered my strength and tried to get out of the chair; I couldn't make it. It was too hard to keep my eyes open. My last thought as consciousness left me was that they could have killed me there in the deserted street as easily as they had kidnapped me.
Excerpted from Imperium by Keith Laumer Eric Flint Copyright ©2005 by Keith Laumer. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Keith Laumer's Worlds of the Imperium is excellent. Laumer was a talented writer and produced many great books.