This Time excerpt

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ONE

Monday, August 22, 1485
The battle of Bosworth
Bosworth Field, England

King Richard III spurred his steed through Ambion Wood, rejecting the advice of his generals to run from the battle. Two armies, one led by Lord Thomas Stanley and the other by Sir William Stanley, were positioned to support whoever won. Then King Richard broke line, forcing the Stanleys to show their fealty, taking the battle to Henry Tudor—king against usurper.

For a moment his thoughts strayed, and he saw not his select troops by his side or the battle before him, but Anne, his wife, now dead five months.

“Anne,” he whispered, reaching for her across the horse’s mane, but her image was gone.

He blinked and the battle came back into view. The balance was tipping to his enemy. He swept his gaze past the wood and saw Henry standing among his men. I will have you or I will be with Anne.

Sir John Cheyney loomed before him, blocking Richard’s charge. He swung his axe and sent this giant of a knight clattering to the ground.

With his select troops by his side, he fought on toward Henry’s camp, his blood hot in his veins. The challenger stood but a few feet away, protected by his knights and soldiers. Richard swung his axe savagely and inched forward. A horse screamed as it and its knight thudded to the ground.

The horror rose like bile in his throat as the legs of Sir Percival Thirwall, his standard bearer, were cut off.

Jesú! He still carries my banner.

His pulse hammered, matching the pounding of horses at his rear. Stanley’s army bore down and attacked—him.

No…they have turned against me!

Hands grabbed his reins and pulled; his warhorse was mired in thick mud.
“TREASON!” His courser crashed down and he was unhorsed. The mud pulled at him as he staggered to his feet.

Richard smashed his axe into the neck of a soldier. He tasted the man’s blood as it splashed through an opening of his visor. “TREASON!” he screamed, advancing through a blood-red rage. A blow crashed against his chest, stealing his wind. His armor pierced, Richard fell to his knees. The last sounds he heard were the shouts of Henry’s victory.

* * *

Saturday, August 21, 2004
Ambion Technologies
Portland, Oregon

Richard lay with his eyes shut, his body leaden. With the sounds of battle gone, his thoughts turned to his wife.

Anne, at last I have come to join our son and you for…

“Hey Mike, good job!” a man’s voice spoke, then some laughter from the same location.

The mirth jarred his senses. Am I not dead?

“Thanks, but it’s only half, isn’t it?” another asked. His voice bespoke of youth.
He heard men’s voices but could not interpret the dialect. He sensed their movement, but could not smell their bodies. The odors were strange.

“More than half. I have my grail, thanks to you,” the older voice said. “And I know something no one else does, I know exactly where the battle was fought.”

“But, don’t you need to recover your investment? It still has no commercial viability,” the younger voice said.

“Mike, I’ve every confidence in your abilities. You’ll solve it.”

“I-I’m not confident, Hosgrove. We are unable to keep anything sent into the past intact beyond thirty seconds.”

Richard’s body tingled as sensation returned. His head spun. He kept his eyes closed and listened.

“Wow, for such a well-muscled man, he appears positively gaunt,” the young man said.

“Uh, I see you’re using restraints on him. I guess it’s a good idea, but won’t that start things on the wrong foot?”

“I’ve given it some thought, and decided that it would be best if we explain things to him first. Then we can release the straps.”

“You’re the boss.”

Where were the sounds of battle, or if done, the groans of the wounded and dying? And why is there no stench of blood and shit and sweat? The language I’m hearing—what is it? Why is it familiar but strange? Where am I? It can no longer be Redemore, can it?

He opened his eyes for but a trice and was so blinded by the bright light; his eyes snapped shut in protest. His heart raced. He forced himself to listen.

“Mike, can we return him if we have to?” the older man asked.

“I don’t know. The timing was tricky enough as it was. I’m afraid to go back myself.”

“You wouldn’t have to go back, Mike, but check into it. Think of it as insurance.”

Did the older man call him Mike?

“Yeah, more like short-term insurance,” Mike said.

It is English! Why do I not comprehend?

The older man spoke again. “Katarina should have been here by now. She’s the only one who has studied Early Modern English to the depth that we’ll need.”

“When did you call her?” Mike said.

“Um, almost an hour ago. She said she’d leave right away. It would be just like her to get distracted. It’s starting to piss me off!”

“I bet she ran into some traffic,” Mike said. “It gets pretty busy around this time, even on a Saturday.”

Saturday? What was happening? He’d gone into battle on Monday. Had he just lost five days of his life?

As his head cleared, he dared to open his eyes. Prepared as he was, the light still assaulted him. He scanned the chamber. Much of what came into view was unfamiliar, but he could make out a long gray table to his left with six plain gray chairs around it. Overhead, the ceiling was partitioned into rectangles, some of which glared with a bright white light. He tried to sit up.

Jesú! I am tied down. I am a prisoner, but by whom? This chamber is not like any I have seen.

He flexed his hands and feet to test the bonds. He saw the odd attire on the two men, the taller a white-haired, barrel-chested man and the other, a young blond-haired man of slight build. He thought the younger one was Mike. He could not guess their heights while lying on his back, but could tell the older man was taller than the other by a half a head. The air had an odor that was unlike anything he had ever smelled.

“He’s awake,” Mike said.

“Good,” the white-haired man said and walked closer to him. He pulled a chair up and sat down. “You will have to trust that what I am about to say is true, Richard. It will come as a shock, but there is no good way to prepare you.”

“Jesú!” Richard exclaimed, straining against the fetters.

“Ah, he—”

The door burst open, interrupting the older man. A tall, slim lad entered the room. His skin was smooth and unshaven.

The older man rose and waved the lad over to his side. “You said you were going to leave immediately.”

“I did, Hosgrove,” a woman’s voice spoke from the lad’s lips. “Not only did they raise the bridge, but I’d forgotten about the construction on Burnside.”

Hosgrove? Is that his name?

When the new person stepped closer to Richard, he realized the lad was in truth a woman dressed like a man. Heretic.

“Why is he tied down?” She reached for the strap.

The scent of lavender clung to her, bringing Anne to mind. Some of the tension left his muscles.

“Hey wait!” Mike said. “You don’t know what he’ll do.”

The woman let go of the strap. “Okay, but we’re not going to keep him tied to this table much longer.”

Richard struggled to make more sense of the words that were spoken. It seemed the woman was advocating in his behalf. Mayhap he misjudged her.

She patted his hand and spoke slowly in his dialect. “Richard, we mean you no harm. I will prove it by releasing you if you swear that you will not try to harm us.”

Her accent was strange, and not all the words were meaningful, but he did understand her more than the others.

“I swear,” he said, studying the woman’s dark eyes, “I will not harm you.” His voice came out in a harsh whisper.

She tipped her head to the two men and they undid the ties. He quickly sat up, but his head spun and he lost his balance. He felt her hand on his arm, preventing him from falling back.

“They gave you something which is causing you to feel this way,” the woman said. “It will wear off quickly.”

He frowned. Trapped. His head pounded. If this were a chamber, it was small and cramped, but extremely bright to his eyes. Where was he? It was too clean for a prison.
His muscles were slow, barely able to heed his commands; he could not do anything to defend himself. They knew his name, but he was used to people knowing who he was. Still he could ask them some questions, and he understood the manly dressed woman.

“Tell me truly, where am I and who are you?”
The woman started to rephrase his query, but Hosgrove waved his hand. “His meaning’s plain enough. You just translate my explanation. I’m sure he won’t understand anything but a few words from me.

“You were about to be slain on Bosworth Field by Stanley’s army. We saved you from that fate.” Hosgrove fixed his watery blue eyes on Richard. “Through science and technology, which people of your time would undoubtedly call magic, we have brought you five hundred and nineteen years into the future. It is the twenty-first of August, 2004.”

Had he heard correctly? Stunned, he concentrated on the woman’s interpretation. Two-thousand and four? Impossible. He scanned the chamber again, seeing more of the unfamiliar than in his first survey. He could put none of what he saw into any context that he knew. He moved his hand to grip the dagger on his belt—the dagger and belt were gone. He pinched the bridge of his nose instead.

The man named Mike rounded the table and stood between him and Hosgrove. “Historical records state that you died that day on Bosworth Field,” Mike said. “But, we substituted someone who was already dead and pulled you into this time seconds before you would have been slain by Stanley’s army.” He moved closer.

Richard remained silent, concentrating on the woman’s interpretation. When he stood, Mike stepped in and jabbed his right hand at him. Richard hesitated a moment and then yanked Mike’s right arm and pulled the man’s back to his chest. He immobilized the slightly built man, pinning one arm between them and the other against Mike’s ribs.

Hosgrove called out, “Frank! Joe! Get in here NOW!”

“Return me or I will make your demon regret this day,” Richard said, injecting as much menace in his voice as he could.

The woman stood frozen by his side. The door banged open, and two men advanced toward him. They were both tall and so muscular that their garments seemed to strain in protest. One had spiky, brown hair that was so short you could see his pale white scalp. The other had a warm, honey-brown complexion, but his cold eyes could freeze a man as easily as the gaze from the gorgon. Saracen. Richard tightened his grip.

Mike twisted in Richard’s grasp. “Let me go, you’re breaking my arm!”

“Release him now,” the Saracen said.

By their deportment, Richard knew they were guards, despite their lack of armor and weapons.

The men approached him from either side. He was flanked and without weapons, save for the man he was holding. He saw a blur of motion to his right. Before he could move, the brown-haired man pressed a small, black cylindrical object against his bare arm. The object burned into his skin. He lost his grip on Mike and he fell, his muscles bunching in rapid spasms.

The woman knelt beside him, pleading, “Promise you will not do anything like that again. They have not hurt you. They will tie you up again if you refuse.”

“That’s ridiculous, Katarina,” Hosgrove said. “He lied to us before. Move out of the way so we can restrain him.”

The woman stood, and Richard felt something cold and hard against his wrists. The two guards jerked him to his feet and pulled his arms tight behind his body.

As his control returned, the pain in his arm moved from his muscles to the bone, while the stress on his wrists and shoulders served to aggravate it. He twisted his body trying to ease the pain in his shoulders and tugged hard against the restraints on his wrists.

“Richard! Stop struggling. You’re hurting yourself,” she said.

He stood rigidly still and clenched his jaw. His body ached.

“Get those cuffs off him now, Hosgrove,” she said. “I don’t understand why you went to all this trouble and expense, only to treat him like this. Maybe he thought he had to defend himself. He probably didn’t understand that Mike was only trying to shake his hand.”
Hosgrove paused. “Tell him, Katarina, that if he tries anything like that again, we won’t be so gentle. We’ll do more than stun and cuff him.” He turned to the guards standing by. “Return to your posts.”

Richard shrugged his shoulders once his hands were free. “What do you want of me? Why am I here?”

“For me, you are the grail, the source,” Hosgrove said.

“How can that be?” Richard asked, frowning. “I am not Christ. How dare you blaspheme our Lord and savior?”

“My apologies, I didn’t mean it literally,” Hosgrove said. “Tudor was the victor at Bosworth. Because of that, history was revised to agree with his version of events. You’ve been vilified for over five hundred years. You are the only one who knows your thoughts and what really happened. This is why we had to bring you to the future and not someone else. Besides, you’d be dead if we hadn’t.”

Katarina used the more familiar English to transform Hosgrove’s statement, but the similarity between the languages was apparent.

“I am very sorry for what we are putting you through. We have handled this badly.” She paused. He let her hold his hand in hers, stroking his bruised wrist. “You don’t even know our names. I am Katarina Parvic, the older man is Evan Hosgrove, and he,” she pointed to the slight, blond man, “is Michael Fairchild. I know this does not mean anything to you, but at least you now know our names. Please call me Katarina.”

“You say this is a future time, and in truth, I see things for which I have no comprehension.” He fingered the hem of the shirt they had dressed him in while he was unconscious. “Five hundred years! How can I believe?”

“I know,” Michael said, kneading his arm. “We can show you a newspaper. Today’s date is printed at the top of each page. You’ll be able to tell by the way it’s printed and other things about it that we are telling you the truth.” He opened the door and left the room.

Michael returned just as Katarina finished translating. “I had a copy of The Oregonian at my desk. I figured it would do for starters.” He dropped the newspaper on the table, and shuffled through it for a few seconds, setting some pages aside.

“Come with me.” She pointed to the table with the paper.

Richard stood and saw she towered over him as much as his brother, Ned, had. He’d ignored her height before, but now, despite his situation, he needed to ask.

“Katarina, how tall are you?”

She laughed. “I’m just over six feet, but I may seem taller because my shoes have a heel.” She took her shoes off and stood facing him. “Is this less of a shock to you?” She laughed again.

She exceeded the height of the tallest woman he had known.

Katarina kept her shoes off until they sat down at the table.

The images jumped out at him before he saw the print. These were not the highly decorative illustrations that he remembered in bibles or Psalters. The images were all in color, and the people in them appeared real, not like the portraits he had. He ran his fingers over them, and they were flat. There were no ridges or bumps, other than the texture of the paper. But it was much thinner and more uniform than the paper he had handled. He tore his eyes away from the pictures to the print, and read the large plain type of the twenty-first century date to the left of the banner.
He closed his eyes, willing the images to vanish.

Katarina’s fingertips brushed his back. “Are you all right?” she asked.

He opened his eyes. “I am lost.”

“Look, Richard,” Hosgrove said. “We explained it all to you. You have to give it time. You’ll adjust.”

Katarina started to translate, but he stopped her. He stood up and placed his fists on the table and leaned over Evan Hosgrove.

“You dare to be familiar?” His voice took on his accustomed authority. “You will call me, Your Grace. You will bow before me.”

Michael slunk down in his chair, hugging his arms. Hosgrove glared at Katarina, eyebrows knitting together.

“I think we need to take a break, Hosgrove.” Katarina turned to Richard. “Please let me explain some things to you that will help you feel less lost. Will you allow me to do that, Your Grace?” She touched his arm with her hand.

He drew back from Katarina and glowered at Hosgrove. “They must leave, Madam.” He saw fear cross Katarina’s features to be quickly replaced by a guarded expression. “I swore, Katarina. Do you not trust me?”

“Hosgrove, Michael,” Katarina said, nodding to them both. “I’ll be all right. It’s getting late, and I need to work with him on language. Why don’t you two go now and leave me with him?”

“Are you sure?” Michael asked.

“Yes, Michael. Anyway, security’s here so don’t worry.”

“I think you ought to have this,” Hosgrove said, holding up the black cylindrical object.
“Are you out of your mind? I think that would be the last thing I should have in my hands,” she said.

Hosgrove jammed it back into his pocket and stormed over to the door with Michael two steps behind him. “Don’t mess this up Katarina,” came Hosgrove’s parting shot.

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