Copyright 2012, Robert G. Pielke
Published by Whiskey Creek Press LLC

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Sample Chapter For A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM: THE TRANSLATOR by Robert G. Pielke

Prologue

Edwin Blair
(July 6, 1863)

Edwin Blair’s headache ebbed and flowed as remnants of what-used-to-be clashed with the influx of what-now-is deep in the cavernous recesses of his mind. At least, he thought, as my memory evaporates in the passage of time, I should expect the rebellion of one against the other to do me less and less harm. Although no one was looking at him at the moment as he leaned against a shady tree, were they to do so they would perhaps have noticed a hint of bitterness on his visage as the word “time” passed through his ruminations. He had neither expected nor wanted any of the Pests to survive. For as long as he could remember, his mantra had been—and he chanted it to himself—the only good Pest is a dead Pest. With all of them dead, he reasoned, a new future would develop without the horrors these Pests would mete out. They simply wouldn’t exist in this modified future. But he soon realized this would bring about a self-defeating dilemma. They have to invade the planet where and when I come from. Otherwise, I’d never have come back to the past to stop them in the first place. He clenched his teeth at the thought and sighed. We can’t kill them all. Maybe that’s why previous attempts to change the future have failed—if there were any. It’s just not possible to exterminate them. Logic trumps everything. The surviving Pests change things. If they somehow escape and warn the all the others about what I’m doing, they could prevent me from doing anything at all, and I’d have to start all over. But I have to do something. He shuddered and looked off toward the fourteen imprisoned Pests. There’s one thing I know for sure, however. We don’t need their eggs.
With his valise safely stowed with President Lincoln’s personal belongings and guarded around the clock, he was reasonably confident the mission could be salvaged. But how? He adjusted his back against the trunk of the tree as an early morning mist became an un-refreshing drizzle, and turned the collar of his black leather jacket up around his ears. At least it’s quiet, he mouthed while scribbling into one of the notebooks he had given to John Hay. Using an unfamiliar quill pen, his words only on occasion approaching legibility, he wrote.

Everything now depends on you following through with your plan. You may have lied to the others about your intentions, but you can’t lie to me. If you are reading this, then we have been successful.

At least I think so. He looked up again, put the pen into the inkwell filled with a pale pink liquid sitting on the ground next to him and rubbed his eyes. Then again...will I even believe I wrote this to myself? He picked up the pen and tried to smile, looking this time toward several of his companions that were getting ready to consume coffee and a few hardtack biscuits, perhaps even some pudding. He nodded to them before returning to his journal.

Only the continuing threat of the Pests still lurking in the two prisms is supporting this truce. It’s more fragile than it appears. They think the danger is over, but it’s just begun.

John Hay noticed Blair’s glance from several paces away and pointed to his own steaming cup of coffee with raised eyebrows. He shouted, “Mr. Blair, can I get you some?”
“ Please.” Blair kept the volume of his own voice down, relying on an accompanying nod to be sufficient.
“ No hardtack yet, but there’s sugar. I’ll be back soon.” Hay strode off with Joseph Pierce at his side.
“ Thanks, John,” Blair muttered as he watched the two of them depart. Pierce was waving his arms with some sort of patterned repetition—no doubt trying to explain some complex Indian phraseology he thought might be useful. Washburne, Stanton and Pinkerton were nowhere to be seen. Probably already with Lincoln in his tent. He returned to his writing.

If I’ve really succeeded, then all these changes should be reflected in the historical records on the computer—the fight with the Pests and this truce—but if not then something’s gone terribly wrong.

He stopped writing for a moment and shook his head. I’ve got to get back into the computer soon. I shouldn’t have even turned it off. I don’t like logging in while people are watching. I should probably change the pass-code, but it’s based on my wife’s birth date so I’m not likely to forget it. Should I take the chance?

The only thing I know that’s changed is my memory. The historical records may not have changed at all, but I’m slowly losing my memory of them…and everything else too, it seems. My guess is that the changes I’ve made to the history I used to know so well are rapidly affecting future events—too rapidly. As a result, my memory about them is no longer referring to anything, yet it continues to try.

The sounds of hooves slogging through the rain-soaked grass and the clattering of wagons startled him but didn’t interrupt his writing.

The courier traffic is beginning to intensify, and as the circus gets larger it will become unmanageable. Maybe today Lincoln will issue the martial law decree he promised...or threatened…depending on one’s perspective.

He wasn’t planning to write much—just enough for his words to be a reminder of what he had to do. If I have to try again, I have to make sure these same people are included…did I write that list of four names to myself on a previous attempt? Was it me? If so, nothing has changed. Am I just repeating everything over and over in an infinite circularity? He paused and looked over what he wrote. How can I know? Have I written this before? I have no memory of earlier attempts…but that means nothing.
He stopped and pulled the list out of his jacket to look at it. The same as it used to be…or is it? How would I know? He drew a deep breath while rubbing his temples, his teeth gritted. I really have to find out somehow if any changes have occurred in the future. I have to get into the computer. I just may have to start over immediately. Another interruption ended his contemplation.
“ Mr. Blair! You’re in luck. There was fresh coffee...genuine coffee, to boot! I watched a soldier crush the beans with a rifle butt. And there were a few hardtack puddings, too.” John Hay trudged through the sodden grass, placed the steaming cup and plate on a rock behind Edwin Blair, and then put his hands on his hips. “’Tis good to have the Tycoon amongst us, though he’s a bit jarred by the Hellcat’s carriage accident a few days ago. But, as suspected, Mrs. Lincoln has earned her reputation. The very ground she fell upon was too terrified of her to do her any serious injury.” Then, laughing, he added while looking skyward once more, “How are you this gloomy morn? It may rain again, judging from the clouds.”
“ I’m puzzled, John.” Blair picked up the coffee then paused to shake his head.
“ As you usually are, sir.... Why this time?”
“ It’s that...” Blair took a swig of the black brew. “Yeow!” He promptly spit it out. “It’s scalding!” People nearby glanced over at him, shocked at the sound. “And it tastes terrible.”
Hay laughed and shook his head. “I never did see anyone quaff hot coffee before. Quaffing’s for cold beer. And it tastes better too.”
Blair swirled his tongue around the roof of his mouth, wincing and muttering curses under his breath. After a moment, he ventured a much smaller sip. “When I first met you in the President’s office, if you had remembered me being here before, that would have been very odd, right?”
“ It sure would have, Mr. Blair! It would have been impossible!” Hay rolled back, laughing. “No one remembers you from before. You were a real top sockdolager to us all then.”
Blair eyed Hay directly and just above a whisper said, “Someone remembers me.”
Hay scrunched his brow. “Who?”
Blair inclined his head toward the prisoners’ enclosure. “That Pest.”

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