“Nanette was his maid?” Alexis asked.
“Sort of. Her mother served as a maid to his brother’s family. Her mother’s mother served as a maid to his mother. Nanette was young, but the third generation serving the Fleming family.”
“You say was,” Lockhart pointed out.
“I mean is. I hope she still is, but I don’t know where she might be.” He held up his hands to forestall any further interruptions. “The professor calls Nanette his personal assistant and secretary. She has lovely handwriting, and the professor is rather absent minded. She is as sharp as a whip. I don’t imagine he would function well without her.”
“I can accept personal assistant,” Decker said, and cut a small piece of goat, though it really had not cooked well yet.
“So, there were four on the trip?” Lincoln asked.
“Six,” Evan said. “We had two graduate students with us. Charles Wallace Dodd, who goes by Wallace. He fell madly in love with Nanette. The other was Anthony Carter. A good man. Tony had an Italian mother, so travel to Rome felt like a trip home for him. It was an exciting time for all of us. There were several digs around the Roman countryside, and we had been invited to examine the artifacts and inscriptions and all that had been uncovered. Plus, the church, Saint Peters, had an archive with documents dating to the third or fourth centuries that they were willing to let us see.”
“Point of information,” Katie interrupted. “In 1905, knowledge was not fragmented like it is in our day. All sorts of things, like history, ancient languages, archeology, sociology, political science, anthropology, and more, came simply under the heading antiquities, or often just history. What was Professor Fleming’s area?” Katie asked.
“Theoretical. But he was looking for evidence. He wanted to understand how a functioning republic could devolve, as he called it, into a dictatorship so quickly and absolutely. He claimed the fall from republic to empire made no logical sense. I had to agree with him, in theory. He is concerned about the United States, but especially concerned about Europe, where monarchy was not so long ago, and the fledgling democracies are not yet strong. He is looking to catalogue the warning signs.”
“Hitler,” Lockhart suggested.
“Mussolini,” Katie did not disagree.
“Does Nanette have a last name?” Decker asked, his mind on a different subject.
“Miss Jones,” Ethan responded. “She was a great help to all of us. I hope she is still out there and all right.”
“But, how did you get to be here?” Boston asked, betraying a bit of impatience in her question.
“We were all in the house we rented, one afternoon. Lunchtime, in fact. Professor Fleming was talking about his theories. Mildred and I, and his students, and Nanette all listened intently, as you might expect, though he does tend to go on a bit, like a lecture, I suppose. Then the whole house started moving. We thought earthquake, but when the shaking stopped and we looked outside for the damage, we saw a real Roman marketplace, and plenty of people pointing and screaming. You see, we moved, and the whole house moved with us, to the exact time in history that Professor Fleming was talking about.”
“Ashtoreth experimenting with the Heart of Time,” Lockhart concluded. “She must have looked back a hundred years, listened in to what these folks were saying, and moved them to the very place they were talking about.”
“Not to be benevolent,” Alexis said.
“No,” Katie agreed. “She probably hoped these people from the future, with their knowledge and all, would start interfering with history and screw it all up.”
“Oh, no,” Evan said. “Once we realized where we were and what had happened, Professor Fleming made us all swear to observe and take notes, but not interfere, or reveal anything about the future. We all understood how dangerous that could be to future events.”
“Well, good for that,” Lincoln said, and Boston nodded vigorously.
“So, you lived in ancient Rome for nearly seven years before coming into the past?” Alexis wanted to get it straight.
“Five years,” Evan said. “We have been on the road for nearly two years, well, about eighteen months on the road and near four months in the last time zone.”
“You are wearing fairy weave,” Lincoln remembered. “Where did you get that?”
“King Bodanagus,” he said.
“Lincoln,” Lockhart pointed, and Lincoln turned straight to the database to look him up.
“I’ll explain,” Evan said. “We lived in the house for five years. People got used to us soon enough. Millie had some training as a nurse, since she was sixteen. She and I made some small living working with the local physics. Though I admit, I was not much of a chemist. I am better now. Tony found a potter’s wheel in the house, and made some good pots. We built a working kiln out back, and he experimented with different glazes. We opened the front room to be a small shop, since we were right there in the marketplace. Poor Tony was more interested in how the Roman Empire collapsed than how it came into being; but he said if he did not have the chance to study at the University, he always wanted to be an artist, so he seemed happy. Wallace was not good for much. He did some labor over the years. He tried several things, but he never brought much into the house other than the occasional prostitute.
“Nanette became the toast of the town. The wealthy, even some senators, paid her to attend their parties, so they could hear her wisdom, and get their sons to propose to her. She always brought Professor Fleming. They were all a bit afraid of the professor. He got credited with being a great magician, and soothsayer. He fudged the rule about not talking about the future. He said he was the only one who knew what would be safe to say, and what would not be safe. He flat out broke the rule when he told Pompey and the senate that Caesar would not stop at the Rubicon.”
Lincoln interrupted. “Bodanagus. About eleven zones in the future, after this one. A king of the Nervii. He fought Caesar to a standstill before they made peace. He went with Caesar to Egypt and prophesied there about Egypt’s fall. He came to Rome and tutored young Octavian in the way of kings.”
“The Kairos gets in the middle of everything,” Katie said, and the others could not tell if she meant that as criticism or praise.
Boston defended her god. “Only to make sure things turn out the way they are supposed to.” She checked her instincts, in her mind and heart. Some were different from her old human instincts. Some were new, but one of the strongest told her she needed to not mess with history.
“Anyway,” Alexis made the conversation pause before she turned to Evan. “Go on.”
“Not much to tell. We survived. We met Bodanagus after the first year, when Caesar came to town, briefly. Bodanagus strongly underlined Professor Fleming’s rule about not revealing the future, but then he left us to our own devices. He made a contribution, so we wouldn’t starve. He helped me join the physician’s guild, after he examined my chemistry and Millie’s medical knowledge to be sure, as he said, that we did not know anything dangerous. He got Tony into the potter’s guild, so we would not have to worry about some guild members coming and breaking all our pots. Caesar himself signed the appointments. Then he left us alone. He went off with Caesar to Spain. Then he came and said hi, but went off again to Illyria, and then Egypt. I don’t understand. Who is he?” Everyone looked at Lockhart.
“The Kairos is a person,” he began, and stalled, so Katie picked up the story.
Lockhart continued. “Sometimes, he says it is like being on a treadmill…or she. Sometimes he/she calls himself/herself just an experiment in time and genetics.” Evan shook his head. He had no idea what genetics were.
“The point is,” Katie said. “The Kairos gets born as a know nothing baby, but inevitably at some critical historical point. And like Valencia, she has to keep history on track, like it’s her job.”
“To make history come out the way it is supposed to come out,” Boston interjected.
“But how does the Kairos know how it is supposed to come out?” Evan asked.
“He remembers the future, or some future lifetimes anyway,” Lockhart concluded.
“Remembers the future?” Evan still shook his head. “But you said the Kairos is born a know nothing baby.”
“Yes,” Katie said. “And grows, and fits in with family and community, and becomes a solid member of the society, and learns and develops talents and skills, and has her or his own personality. At some point after puberty, as the Kairos says, the walls of time begin to fall and memories of at least one past life and one future life begin to return.”
“The Princess and the Storyteller are nearly always there,” Lockhart said. “Maybe always, and Doctor Mishka and Diogenes are often there as well.”
“Wait,” Evan said. “I met a Diogenes coming here. And I remember Bodanagus mentioning a Doctor Mishka. I did not know who that was.”
“The Kairos,” Katie said, and they waited, while Evan thought it through.
“Deep inside, the same being in two different persons,” Alexis encouraged him.
Another ship flew overhead, or maybe the same ship returned. Lockhart said time to move, and everyone packed up lunch and headed out.
Back in the saddle, Lincoln had another question. “So, you didn’t say how you came to be here.”
“Bodanagus, or rather a friend of his, Athena. She seemed a fine Greek lady. When Caesar went to Africa, as he said, to clean up the mess, Bodanagus came back to Rome to oversee young Octavian’s education. I don’t know if he and Caesar had a falling out, or what. But at that time, Bodanagus explained to us about the time gates and the time zones, and Athena gave us all chestnuts. One side was green, and the other red, though we were the only ones who could see the colors. Now that I think on it, that was rather odd. Also, he asked Athena to stabilize the gates in their present location for us. He called her Minerva once.”
“The goddess,” Boston interrupted with a smile and a nod.
“Hush,” Alexis shushed her. “Go on,” she told Evan.
Evan took a deep breath. Calling the woman a goddess almost made sense when it came out of the mouth of an elf. “Anyway,” he continued. “The green side always pointed to the past time gates, and the red to the future gate. It worked a bit like a compass, pointing green ahead and red behind.”
“What about the professor?” Lincoln asked.
“Professor Fleming did not plan on going anywhere. He said he had to be there to tell Caesar to beware the ides of March.”
“Funny,” Lincoln said, though no one laughed.