“The inland road is better maintained,” Bodanagus said, and surprisingly, everyone could hear him. “But the coastal road is a bit shorter. I recommend the coast. I don’t know how long you will have, but at the very least, if I die before you get there, you may find the time gates shifted to some god-forsaken wilderness, and it may take you a year or more to get there. So, please hurry.”
“Why are you so convinced you are going to die?” Lockhart asked.
“My age. A feeling. I have been through this before, you know. And yes, it is the worst. Dying is not something I recommend.”
“Any idea who you will be in your next life?” Boston asked. Bodanagus stared at her and it made her feel uncomfortable. Fortunately, it only lasted a second.
“I know Lincoln looked it up, despite my prohibition,” Bodanagus said. “Bad as an elf.”
“I married one,” Lincoln said, and Alexis took his arm to snuggle.
“So I recall,” Bodanagus said. “But honestly, Boston. I never seem to know who I will be next life, but I think I may be born a woman. That much may be true, strange as it seems to me in my present condition. As a man, I cannot imagine what it might be like to be a woman.” Bodanagus shrugged. “I only hope I make a good woman.”
“No complaints so far,” Lockhart said, with a smile.
“Bed ridden today,” Bodanagus said. “He should have stayed in bed a week ago and not strained himself. Alexis,” Bodanagus spoke to the nurse. “He should be in hospice already.” Alexis nodded. “He may be the first to go. He might not last a week. I am sorry, Nanette. I understand the loss of a loved one. Grief takes time.”
“Millie and Evan?” Sukki asked, and then turned a bit red when everyone looked at her. She remained the same shy and unassuming girl she had been and becoming human did not change that. All that changed was now they saw her red face, where before, the glamour hid that fact.
“Millie and Evan will be just fine. You need not worry about them. But you need to get going. I have to walk across the whole city to get home now, and I would like to get there before dark. Come to think of it, you might reach the time gate before I get home. This long walk might be what kills me, old man that I am…” Bodanagus disappeared and the Princess came to take his place, his armor adjusting automatically to her. “…Poor baby,” she said, with a Greek accent. “I can do some walking and let Bodanagus practice being a woman.”
“Hey,” Boston shouted. “You’re not pregnant.”
The Princess nodded. “Back home, I may be giving birth right now. Who knows? But I never travel through time pregnant, or wounded, or whatever. There’s a mystery for you. Well, I should not say never. But no, my abs are properly ripped, and I am ready for action, even if that consists of simply walking where old men do not want to tread.”
“Best abs in the business,” Lockhart said with a mighty grin. Katie almost slapped his arm, but Lockhart thought to add, “After my wife, of course.”
“Gaius Julius Caesar,” the Princess said. “I assumed you guessed.”
Katie nodded her head, like she did guess. The Princess thought to use that knowledge to say something important.
“Well. at the risk of sounding like Bodanagus, a grumpy old king, listen up.” She put command in her voice. “Julius Caesar, someone that important to history, is exactly the kind of person you need to avoid at all costs. Sometimes, that may not be possible. Granted. But at least, please don’t tell them anything about the future, or even hint that you know how things may turn out. Even if the person is facing imminent death. Please don’t say anything. Am I getting through to you?” People nodded in silence, and Boston had elf-wide eyes, and her jaw hanging, like the words hit her more in the gut than the head.
But Katie had something more to say. “At least I don’t think Caesar’s political enemies will recognize you like that.”
The princess smiled again and almost said thanks, before she looked down at herself. “My armor is too distinctive, unless Bodanagus and I have the same tailor, which we do. Now, be off with you.” She raised her beautiful smile to smile at them all. “I got boots, and they were made for walking.” She came down the steps and waved. “See you later.” She walked off without looking back.
“Go,” Lockhart said, and the travelers left Rome behind.
It took seven days to reach Pisa, and another three to the time gate in Genoa, but they encountered a problem in Genoa. The time gate stood in the middle of a busy street.
“I don’t understand,” Tony admitted.
Lincoln explained. “When we go through the time gate, the gate activates and stays active for a minute or so after the last of us goes through. We have inadvertently had people follow us, and it is terrible watching them age forty or fifty years all at once, and we have not tested it to see if they return through the gate, whether or not they will get young again.”
“The danger is someone may follow us through,” Katie said, plainly.
“We might check with the magistrate and see if he can keep people back until the time gate deactivates again.”
“But, why don’t people… Why doesn’t everyone activate the time gates when they walk up to them?” Nanette asked.
Elder Stow and Boston shook their heads, and Boston explained this one. “As near as we can figure, something needs to be out of time to activate the gate. You came here from 1905. You are out of sync with this time period. You can activate a gate without effort, that is, without doing anything special. It is like the gates are ready and waiting for you between here and where you belong. Normal people are already where they belong in time, so the gate does not activate for them.”
“I see, sort of,” Nanette said.
“It makes sense,” Tony agreed.
“You have to get close to the gate, like right up to it to activate it, though,” Lincoln added. “It isn’t going to open, generally, just because you are in the area.”
“Thank God,” Alexis said. “I can only imagine leaving a trail of dead people through time.”
“My father and mother,” Elder Stow turned to Lockhart and Katie. “I believe I can make a screen wall which will keep the people away from the gate while we go through, and if I go through last, I can bring the wall and set it flush against our side of the gate until the gate deactivates.”
“That might work,” Katie said, but she looked at Lockhart.
Lockhart slowly nodded all the same. “We go with it, for now, and hope it works. If not, we will need to consider other options. Until now, the time gates have been mostly in wilderness areas, or at least mostly away from people. We can’t count on that to continue. I just pray we never find the time gate lodged in someone’s living room.”
The travelers went through in the morning, and Elder Stow’s screen device appeared to work.
Two days later, in Rome, Mark Anthony got delayed entering the Theater of Pompey. Bodanagus, the Celtic outsider of no family, got waylaid the night before by a dozen men. He killed six of them, including the centurion from the gate, before he fell. By the time Evan and Millie confirmed the death of Bodanagus, and Millie cried, Caesar fell.
When Evan, the physician, and his nurse Millie arrived at the theater, the physicians Strabo and Pontus were already there.
“I count twenty-three stab wounds,” Strabo said.
“This one, do you think?” Millie pointed to Caesar’s chest.
“What?” Pontus asked.
“This second stab wound here in the chest is the one that killed him,” Evan said.
“How can you be certain?” Pontus asked.
“It pierced the heart,” Evan said.
“Once the heart stops pumping, that is pretty much it,” Millie explained.
Strabo nodded. “You see?” he said to Pontus, and turned to Evan. “I don’t know where you gained your medical knowledge, but I learn something from you every time.”
“Yes,” Pontus agreed, and looked closely at the stab to the heart. “That is rather obvious, now to think of it. I will be sure it is mentioned in the report.”
Mark Anthony came in leading Calpurnia, and the doctors quieted and took a step back. Calpurnia went to Millie and cried on her. “First your professor, a true soothsayer, who warned him to beware this evil time. Now, my stubborn husband who would not even listen to me. What are we going to do?” Millie cried with her, and for many reasons.
“No,” Evan said at the same time. “Even a whole fleet of Egyptians could not make him suitable for viewing. I can only recommend cremation.”
“But one sight and the people will rise up and ruin the dogs who did this.” Mark Anthony got hot.
Even with Bodanagus gone, Evan had learned enough not to tempt history. He felt the indignity and anger and wanted to let the people see the work of the assassins. He felt much like Anthony spoke, but he knew better, and said so. “The sight of Caesar in this condition might cause people to despair. Better he be taken up by the flames of righteousness, and better to let the memory of the people be shaped, not by sight, but by your words.” He did not need to say anything else. Anthony showed the light of understanding. There would be a second Triumvirate. There would be civil war. Thousands would die, and Evan and Millie would weep as the Republic died.
It is a race from Syria to Bethlehem to stop the gunmen, only Candace has already taken the child and they are headed Down to Egypt. Monday. Happy Reading