Authors: H. Beam Piper & John F. Carr
A Pequod Press Adventure Novel
All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2010 by Pequod Press
Original Cover Art—Copyright © 2010 by Alan Gutierrez
This book may not be reproduced or transmitted in whole or in part, in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, scanning, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author.
“Time and Time Again” by H. Beam Piper first appeared in
in April, 1947.
by H. Beam Piper first appeared in the February & March 1955 issues of
Astounding Science Fiction
The “Interlude” and “Back From the Dead” (Part III) by John F. Carr appear here for the first time.
Some minor additions and some stylistic changes have been made to the original text of “Time and Time Again” and
for clarification and continuity to our style book.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2010
V 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
The Complete Paratime
Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen
Great Kings’ War
Siege of Tarr-Hostigos
The Fireseed Wars
Blinded by the bomb-flash and numbed by the narcotic injection, he could not estimate the extent of his injuries, but he knew that he was dying. Around him, in the darkness, voices sounded as through a thick wall.
“They mighta left mosta these Joes where they was. Half of them won’t even last till the truck comes.”
“No matter; so long as they’re alive, they must be treated,” another voice, crisp and cultivated, rebuked. “Better start taking names while we’re waiting.”
“Yes, sir.” Fingers fumbled at his identity badge. “Hartley, Allan; Captain, G5, Chem. Research AN/73/D. Serial, SO-23869403J.”
“Allan Hartley!” The medic officer spoke in shocked surprise. “Why, he’s the man who wrote
Children of the Mist
Rose of Death
He tried to speak and must have stirred; the corpsman’s voice sharpened.
“Major, I think he’s part conscious. Mebbe I better give him ‘nother shot.”
“Yes, yes; by all means, sergeant.” Something jabbed Allan Hartley in the back of the neck. Soft billows of oblivion closed in upon him, and all that remained to him was a tiny spark of awareness, glowing alone and lost in a great darkness.
The Spark grew brighter. He was more than a something that merely knew that it existed. He was a man, and he had a name, and a military rank, and memories. Memories of the searing blue-green flash, and of what he had been doing outside the shelter the moment before, and memories of the month-long siege, and of the retreat from the north, and memories of the days before the War, back to the time when he had been little Allan Hartley, a schoolboy, the son of a successful lawyer, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
His mother he could not remember; there was only a vague impression of the house full of people who had tried to comfort him for something he could not understand. But he remembered the old German woman who had kept house for his father afterward, and he remembered his bedroom, with its chintz-covered chairs, and the warm-colored patch quilt on the old cherry bed, and the tan curtains at the windows, edged with dusky red, and the morning sun shining through them. He could almost see them now. He blinked. He
For a long time, he lay staring at them unbelievingly, and then he deliberately closed his eyes and counted ten seconds, and as he counted, terror gripped him. He was afraid to open them again, lest he find himself blind, or gazing at the filth and wreckage of a blasted city, but when he reached ten, he forced himself to look, and gave a sigh of relief. The sunlit curtains and the sun-gilded mist outside were still there.
He reached out to check one sense against another, feeling the rough monk’s cloth and the edging of maroon silk thread. They were tangible as well as visible. Then he saw that the back of his hand was unscarred. There should have been a scar, souvenir of a rough-and-tumble brawl of his cub reporter days. He examined both hands closely. An instant later, he had sat up in bed and thrown off the covers, partially removing his pajamas and inspecting as much of his body as was visible.
It was the smooth body of a little boy.
That was ridiculous. He was a man of forty-three; an army officer, a chemist, once a best-selling novelist. He had been married, and divorced ten years ago. He looked again at his body. It was only twelve years old. Fourteen, at the very oldest. His eyes swept the room, wide with wonder. Every detail was familiar: the flowersplashed chair covers; the table that served as desk and catch-all for his possessions; the dresser, with its mirror stuck full of pictures of aircraft. It was the bedroom of his childhood home. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed. They were six inches too short to reach the floor.
For an instant, the room spun dizzily, and he was in the grip of utter panic, all confidence in the evidence of his senses lost. Was he insane? Or delirious? Or had the bomb really killed him; was this what death was like? What was that thing, about “Except ye be converted, and become as little children…”?
He started to laugh, and his juvenile larynx made giggling sounds. They seemed funny, too, and aggravated his mirth. For a little while, he was on the edge of hysteria and then, when he managed to control his laughter, he felt calmer. If he were dead, then he must be a discarnate entity, and would be able to penetrate matter. To his relief, he was unable to push his hand through the bed. So he was alive; he was also fully awake, and, he hoped, rational. He rose to his feet and prowled about the room, taking stock of its contents.
There was no calendar in sight, and he could find no newspapers or dated periodicals, but he knew that it was prior to July 18, 1946. On that day, his fourteenth birthday, his father had given him a light .22 rifle, and it had been hung on a pair of rustic forks on the wall. It was not there now, nor ever had been. On the table, he saw a boys’ book of military aircraft, with a clean, new dust jacket; the flyleaf was inscribed:
To Allan Hartley, from his father, on his thirteenth birthday, 7/18 ‘45.
Glancing out the window at the foliage on the trees, he estimated the date at late July or early August, 1945; that would make him just thirteen.
His clothes were draped on a chair beside the bed. Stripping off his pajamas, he donned shorts, then sat down and picked up a pair of lemon-colored socks, which he regarded with disfavor. As he pulled one on, a church bell began to clang. St. Boniface, up on the hill, ringing for early Mass; so this was Sunday. He paused, the second sock in his hand.
There was no question that his present environment was actual. Yet, on the other hand, he possessed a set of memories completely at variance with it. Now, suppose, since his environment was not an illusion, everything else was? Suppose all these troublesome memories were no more than a dream? Why, he was just little Allan Hartley, safe in his room on a Sunday morning, badly scared by a nightmare! Too much science fiction, Allan; too many comic books!
That was a wonderfully comforting thought, and he hugged it to him contentedly. It lasted all the while he was buttoning up his shirt and pulling on his pants, but when he reached for his shoes, it evaporated. Ever since he had awakened, he realized, he had been occupied with thoughts utterly incomprehensible to any thirteen-year-old; even thinking in words that would have been so much Sanskrit to himself at thirteen. He shook his head regretfully. The just-a-dream hypothesis went by the deep six.
He picked up the second shoe and glared at it as though it were responsible for his predicament. He was going to have to be careful. An unexpected display of adult characteristics might give rise to some questions he would find hard to answer credibly. Fortunately, he was an only child; there would be no brothers or sisters to trip him up. Old Mrs. Stauber, the housekeeper, wouldn’t be much of a problem; even in his normal childhood, he had bulked like an intellectual giant in comparison to her. But his father—
Now, there the going would be tough. He knew that shrewd attorney’s mind, whetted keen on a generation of lying and reluctant witnesses. Sooner or later, he would forget for an instant and betray himself. Then he smiled, remembering the books he had discovered, in his late teens, on his father’s shelves and recalling the character of the open-minded agnostic lawyer. If he could only avoid the inevitable unmasking until he had a plausible explanatory theory.
Blake Hartley was leaving the bathroom as Allan Hartley opened his door and stepped into the hall. The lawyer was bare-armed and in slippers; at forty-eight, there was only a faint powdering of gray in his dark hair, and not a gray thread in his clipped mustache. The old Merry Widower, himself, Allan thought, grinning as he remembered the white-haired but still vigorous man from whom he’d parted at the outbreak of the War.