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Volume Four
Of The
Adventures Of Conrad Stargard


I'd like to thank Phillip C. Jennings for his kind help in proofreading this series, and for his many valuable suggestions on improving it.


We're coming, you Mongols,
We're coming to kill you.
We're coming, you Mongols,
We're coming to die!

And your blood and our blood
Will fertilize meadows,
And our sons will plough them
And grain will grow high!  

—Krystyana's hymn 


"Whoopee shit! . . . It's finally happening," she said. "A hundred years of tracking protohuman migration patterns on the African plain and it's finally over! It feels so good that I almost don't hate your guts anymore!"

"Well, don't get too carried away. You deserved every minute of it for dumping the owner's cousin into the thirteenth century when the guy didn't even know that time travel existed. And you deserve twice that for getting me messed up in it. Now get your scrawny body in the box. Time's running short!"

"Eat your heart out! I'll have my old sexy body back, and I'll take bubble baths and while you're eating carrion, I'll gorge for weeks on lobster thermidor and New York cheesecake and—"

He sealed her into the stasis chamber, then watched the readout over the temporal transport canister count down to zero.

The tone sounded and he opened the canister, pulled out his new subordinate without glancing at him, and started to slide his previous superior in. It was expensive to hold the canister in 2,548,850 BC, so doctrine was to make the transfer as quickly as possible.

She was almost in when something struck him as being very, very wrong. He took a closer look at the body he had just extracted. He gagged, retched, and vomited on the floor. Then he switched off his boss's stasis field.

"—Cherries Jubilee! Hey! What the hell is this? What am I still doing here? You're holding up the canister, you ass! Do you realize what that costs?"

"So the owner has lots of money but you only have the one life. I figured I didn't hate you that goddamn much."

"You're not making any sense; get me out of this time period! I've waited long enough!"

"Anything you say, lady, but take a look at what just came out of the canister and then ask yourself if you really want to get into it."

She stared at him and then at the other stasis chamber.

The body within was shriveled and dried. It was laying on its side, a look of horror on its face. Its fingernails were all ripped off as if the man had tried to claw his way out before his air was exhausted.

"His stasis field must have failed," he said.

"But that's impossible! You know that's impossible! The circuitry for the stasis field is always built inside the field itself. Time doesn't exist inside the field, so how could the circuitry possibly have had time to fail?"

"Yeah, I know. But I still say that something is screwed up somewhere. The trip here takes six years subjective, and he had maybe two hours of air in the can. But that's not the big question. The biggie is whether or not you want to take the trip back. Me, I wouldn't risk it."

"Well, this chamber that I'm in hasn't failed. Why should it fail just because the other one did?"

"You know better than that, bitch. You're in the same damn chamber he's in. Right after sending you back, I got to send the empty chamber back to yesterday. It makes for a quicker turnaround that way. But I ran a self-check on it last night and it checked out perfect. So make up your mind. You're costing the owner a million bucks a second."

"Screw the owner," she said, squirming out of the chamber. "I'm not going anywhere till I see a live body crawl out of this thing!"

"Then help me get this dead one into your chamber. We gotta let the people uptime know what the problem is and we don't have much time to do it. Getting the body should be explanation enough!"

"Why not just ship him in the one he came in?"

He got the surprisingly light corpse into the other canister. "Lady, your big problem is that you're dumb."

He sent the canister back uptime and waited for a reply.

He waited for a long, long time.


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