The Weaver of Time's Tapestry has finally suceeded in twisting the threads of history into a new shape; the Luftwaffe have pushed the RAF to the brink, and the invasion barges have reached the beaches of Sussex and Kent. Britain wakes up to the nightmare of the Wermacht unleashed in Southern England. As the desperate battle to hold up the invasion rages it is left to a few indivuals caught up in the panic and chaos to piece together what has really happened - is this the culmination of a plan that has taken centuries to play out, a plot from the future to change the past forever? Stephen Baxter's historical thriller series crashes into the 20th century with a terrfying vision of mechanised war and political atrocity unleashed on English soil. This is the climax of one of the most thoughful and involving series of novels that have brought history alive like no other.
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Stephen Baxter is the pre-eminent SF writer of his generation. Published around the world he has also won major awards in the UK, US, Germany, and Japan. Born in 1957 he has degrees from Cambridge and Southampton. He lives in Northumberland with his wife.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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Table of Contents
‘As mapped by myself; in which the long warp threads are the history of the whole world; and the wefts which run from selvedge to selvedge are distortions of that history, deflected by a Weaver unknown; be he human, divine or satanic ...’
FRIAR GEOFFREY COTESFORD OF YORK
The Prophecy of Nectovelin
(Free translation from Latin, with acrostic preserved.)
Ah child! Bound in time’s tapestry, and yet you are born free
Come, let me sing to you of what there is and what will be,
Of all men and all gods, and of the mighty emperors three.
Named with a German name, a man will come with eyes of glass
Straddling horses large as houses bearing teeth like scimitars.
The trembling skies declare that Rome’s great son has come to earth
A little Greek his name will be. Whilst God-as-babe has birth
Roman force will ram the island’s neck into a noose of stone.
Emerging first in Brigantia, exalted later then in Rome!
Prostrate before a slavish god, at last he is revealed divine,
Embrace imperial will make dead marble of the Church’s shrine.
Remember this: We hold these truths self-evident to be -
I say to you that all men are created equal, free
Rights inalienable assured by the Maker’s attribute
Endowed with Life and Liberty and Happiness’ pursuit.
O child! thou tapestried in time, strike home! Strike at the root!
The Menologium of the Blessed Isolde
(Free translation from Old English, with acrostic preserved.)
The Testament of Eadgyth of York
(Free translation from Old English.)
(Lines revealed in AD 1070)
In the last days
To the tail of the peacock
He will come:
The spider’s spawn, the Christ-bearer
And the Dove will fly east,
Wings strong, heart stout, mind clear.
God’s Engines will burn our ocean
And flame across the lands of spices.
All this I have witnessed
I and my mothers.
Send the Dove west! O, send him west!
(Lines revealed in AD 1481)
The Dragon stirs from his eastern throne,
The Feathered Serpent, plague-hardened,
Flies over ocean sea,
Serpent and Dragon, the mortal duel
And Serpent feasts on holy flesh.
All this I have witnessed
I and my mothers.
Send the Dove west! O, send him west!
The boy slept beside the calculating engine.
Rory walked into the room. The sleeper, Ben Kamen, lay slumped over his desk, bulky volumes of physics journals opened around him, pages of foolscap covered with his spidery Germanic handwriting.
Crammed full of the components of the Analyser, the room smelled sharply of electricity, an ozone tang that reminded Rory of the wind off the Irish Sea. But this was Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he was in MIT, an oasis of immense concrete buildings. He was a long way indeed from Ireland. Nobody knew he was here, what he was doing. His heart hammered, but his senses were clear, and he seemed to see every detail of the cluttered, brightly lit room.
He turned away from Ben to the bank of electromechanical equipment that dominated the room. The Differential Analyser was an engine for thinking. There were tables like draughtsmen’s workbenches, and banks of gears and wheels, rods and levers. This clattering machine modelled the world in the spinning of these wheels, the engaging of those gears. Earlier in the day Rory had fed it the data it needed, carefully tracing curves on the input tables, and manually calculating and calibrating the gear ratios. He ripped off a print of its results. The Godel solutions were ready.
And Ben Kamen was ready too. Sleeping, Ben looked very young, younger than his twenty-five years. There was nothing about him to suggest his origin, as an Austrian Jew. One hand still held his fountain pen; the other was folded under his left cheek. His features were small, his skin pale.
Rory looked over what was assembled here: the brooding machine, the boy. This was the Loom, as he and Ben had come to call it, a machine of electromechanics and human flesh which - so they believed, so their theories indicated - could be used to change the warp and weft of the tapestry of time itself. And yet none of it was his, Rory’s. Not the Vannevar Bush Analyser which was being loaned to the two of them by MIT; they were students of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton, and they had come here to Cambridge ostensibly to run complex relativistic models with the Analyser. Not the dreaming boy himself - and still less the contents of his head. All that Rory O’Malley owned was the will, to bring these components together, to make it so.
Rory pulled a lock of black hair back from Ben’s brow. He wore it too long, Rory thought. Ben didn’t stir, and Rory wasn’t surprised. The sleeping draught he had poured into Ben’s midnight coffee was strong enough to ensure that. Ever since their time together serving in the International Brigade in Spain Rory had always been fond of Ben, poor, deep, intense Ben. But he needed him too, or at least the peculiar abilities locked up in that head of his. Rory saw no great contradiction in this mixture of manipulation and affection. He was intent after all on nothing less than a cleansing of history, a reversal of the greatest crime ever committed. What was a little subterfuge compared to that?
He pulled a scrap of paper from his jacket pocket. It bore a poem of sixteen lines in English, translated roughly into Latin. He scanned it one last time. This was the core of his project, a mandate to history laden with all the meaning and purpose he could cram into it. Now these words would be sent out into the cosmos, crackling along Godel’s closed timelike curves like Morse dots and dashes on a telegraph wire - all the way from the future to the past, where some other dreaming head would receive it. All he had to do was to read to Rory, read out the Gödel trajectories computed by the Analyser, read the bit of doggerel. That was all, like reading to a child. And everything would change.
Ben stirred, murmuring. Rory wondered where in the many dimensions of space and time his animus wandered now.
Rory began to read. ‘“Ah child! Bound in time’s tapestry, and yet you are born free/Come, let me sing to you of what there is and what will be ...’
The boy slept beside the calculating engine.
Julia Fiveash seduced Ben Kamen. No, she consumed him.
She took him inside three days of her arrival in Princeton from England. He couldn’t have stopped her if he’d tried. He wasn’t a virgin, with men or women, but after she pushed him to the carpet of his room and wrapped him in her long English limbs he felt as if he had been, before.
The second time they made love it was actually in the study of his mentor, Kurt Gödel. And Ben started to fret about her motives.
He lay on Gödel’s sofa, his jacket pulled over his crotch for modesty. Julia, boldly unclothed, stalked around Gödel’s room, flicking through the papers on his desk, running her delicate fingertip over the books on the shelves. Many of the books were still in their boxes, for Gödel had not been here long; reluctant to leave his beloved Vienna, he had hesitated until the last possible minute, when the Nazis had already started to roll up Europe like a giant carpet.
Julia’s golden hair shone in a shaft of dusty sunlight. She was tall, her limbs long and muscular, her belly flat, her breasts small; she walked like an animal, balanced, confident. Her body was the product of a lifetime of English privilege, Ben thought, a life of horse-riding and tennis, her sexuality mapped by one healthy Englishman after another. She had conquered Ben as easily as the English had conquered much of the planet.
He longed for a cigarette, but he knew he dare not light up in Gödel’s own room.
He plucked up his courage to challenge her. ‘What are we doing here, Julia? What do you want?’
She laughed, a throaty sound. She was twenty-eight, three years older than he was; her age showed in her voice. ‘That’s not a very nice question. What do you think I want?’
‘I don’t know yet. Something to do with Gödel. You used me to get you in here, didn’t you? Into this study.’
‘Can you blame me for that? Kurt Gödel is the world’s greatest logician. He’s building a new mathematics, so they say. Or dismantling the old. Something like that, isn’t it true?’
‘You’re a historian. You’re attached to Princeton University, not this institute of math and physics. Why would you care about Gödel?’
‘You’re ever so suspicious, aren’t you? But those suspicions didn’t make you fight me off. He’s such a funny little man, isn’t he? Short and shabby with that high brow and his thick glasses, scuttling like a rabbit in his winter coat.’
‘He’s been known to take lovers among his students. Despite his unprepossessing looks. I mean, he’s still only in his thirties. Back in Vienna—’
‘The first time I spotted Gödel he was walking with Einstein. Now you can’t miss Einstein, can you? Do you know, he was walking in carpet slippers, out in the middle of the street! Is he friendly with Gödel, do you know?’
‘They met in 1933, I believe. Friends - I don’t know. Einstein is the most exotic of the European beasts here in this American zoo, I suppose. But even Einstein had to flee Hitler.’
‘Ah, Hitler! I’ve been in his presence, you know.’
‘Hitler’s. I shook his hand. I wouldn’t claim to have met him, exactly; I doubt he remembers me at all. I was an exchange student. I wanted to see for myself what the Germans were up to, rather than swallow the usual horrid propaganda. The transformation of that country from economic ruin in just a few years is remarkable. They made us very welcome. Hitler has a very striking presence; he has a way of looking through you. Goebbels, on the other hand, pinched my bum.’
‘And now you’ve all come scuttling here, haven’t you? Running from the monster, all the way to America.’ She wrinkled her nose. ‘Such a poky, dusty room, to be lodging a world-class mind. Gödel should have come to Oxford. Einstein too. Better than this. I mean, they have cloisters built of brick! Bertrand Russell says that Princeton is as like Oxford as monkeys could make it.’ She laughed prettily.
‘Perhaps Einstein and Gödel feel safer here than in an England which contains such people as you.’
‘You’re not very nice to me, are you, all things considered? Anyway Gödel would be under no threat in the Reich. He’s not even a Jew.’ She began plucking books from the shelf, and flicked through their worn pages.
Ben gathered his clothes from where they had been scattered on the floor, and began to pull them on. ‘You’ve had your fun. Maybe it’s time you told me what you want from me.’
‘Well, there are rumours about you,’ she said smoothly. ‘You and your professor. Look at these titles. Being And Time by Martin Heidegger. An Experiment With Time by John William Dunne. On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time, Edmund Husserl. You worked with Gödel in Vienna, and now that he is here at the IAS you’re starting to work with him again, aren’t you? But not on the outer reaches of mathematical logic.’ She glanced at a pencil note on the flyleaf of the Husserl, scrawled by Gödel himself. ‘My German is still poor...
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