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Authors: Mark London Williams

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BOOK: Trail of Bones
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So I remain in Sally’s tent, where I have
been left unguarded. I trust that the enhanced lingo-spot, the
plasmechanical translation device I was given during my stay on
K’lion’s home world, will continue to record my experiences as a
sort of living journal.

Yet I miss writing on my own scrolls. So
much has changed and so quickly.

Including, apparently, the lingo-spots
themselves. They are suddenly more
, more electric, as
if they — like Clyne’s ship — were taking on a life of their

At least, when I hear echoes coming from the
lingo-spots that seem in no way connected to the conversation I am
having, that is what I fear.

I hope I get to see Eli soon.


“Are you from Ethiopia?”

“What, young miss?”

“Are you an Ethiopian queen? On a royal
visit?” I’d heard the one named Jefferson referred to as
“president,” a Roman-sounding title, which I assumed meant he
presided over a law-making body, perhaps even a senate. It stood to
reason, then, that this striking African woman, piloting her own
wooden carriage, might also be a leader.

“Are you some kind of ruler? I want to
understand what world I’m in.”

“My Latin doesn’t move that quickly,” she
said, straining to hear me. “Do you know French?”

French? It wasn’t an Earth-tongue I’d
encountered, if this was indeed the same Earth. But she repeated
the question in what I assume was that tongue, and parts of it were

“A queen?” I said again, still in Latin,
more slowly, pointing to her.

There was a silence.

It was filled, not with sound, but Mr.
Howard’s sharp looks. He didn’t like the idea of my talking with
Sally. Queen Sally.

When he turned away, I knew I was going to
have to do something that allowed us to whisper, even with all the

Show me.

Who said that?

I looked around. Only Sally and I were

But my lingo-spot was really tingling.

Show me.

This time I spun round so fast at the unseen
voice that Sally jumped, jerking on the reins, causing the horses
to rear up.

Show who? What?

Sally struggled to regain control of the

“What are you trying to do, child?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. Again using
Latin. I was praying to find someone else connected to that voice.
I didn’t want to think that the lingo-spot could be acting… on its

Explaining any of this to Sally — or even
myself — would have to wait.

“Thea,” I said, tapping myself on the

“Thea…” Sally repeated. “That’s your

I nodded.

“But you’re… you’re a runaway slave. Aren’t

“No.” I shook my head. “Alexandria…” I tell
her, sounding out the name of my home, hoping she will

Her eyes widen in recognition. “That’s close
to where I live.”

Then she
from Africa! A princess
or a queen! I hoped I could make her understand.

She smiled in a sad way. “Yes, but we live
in a different part of Virginia. In Monticello. I’m one of Mr.
Jefferson’s slaves. Though I expect he would prefer the word
. Except there’s not a whole lot of
it. On my part.”

I had never heard of Virginia before. Sally
also told me that Jefferson was the leader of his people, the
Americans, who were also Eli’s people, so perhaps we were close to
his home and not near mine after all.

But why was there another Alexandria in this
province of Virginia? What happened to the first one,
Alexandria, since the fire?

Sally didn’t know about any fires, “except a
small one in the kitchen last year.” But she did tell me that
Jefferson the president was currently far from Alexandria, or any
place in Virginia, since he was traveling in secret with a team of
adventurers led by two captains named Lewis and Clark.

The captains and their men were off on a
“great exploration,” financed by Jefferson in order to find “secret
routes to the ocean, and maybe look for giants.”

Sally didn’t think there really were giants,
but Jefferson had developed a fascination with unearthing skeletal
remains. He’d become obsessed with trying to understand the past,
and therefore the future, by examining mysterious bones, both
ancient and enormous, belonging to mysterious creatures. Creatures
that seemed as unknowable as the gods — half animal, half human —
that were worshipped back in Egypt.

Such bones were found here, where
Jefferson’s camp is made, near the great rivers Sally calls the
Ohio and the Missouri. Jefferson’s plan was to accompany Lewis and
Clark to the Missouri in order to “say goodbye, and find more
femurs” in Sally’s words. “Mr. Jefferson says he’s eager to learn
the truth about America.

“Here’s one truth.” She looks over at me as
she continues to guide the horses. We still have to raise our
voices to hear each other, but Sally’s not worried about Mr.
Howard. “ I have been Mr. Jefferson’s friend for many years, and I
know that he cares for me, too. But I am not able to leave his
house as a free woman. As a plain American citizen. As a true
friend. And now, you won’t, either. I wonder what Mr. Lewis and Mr.
Clark can find that will change the truth about that?”


“You there! Girl!”

I’m snapped out of my reverie. It’s Mr.
Howard, at the entrance to the tent.

“Sally wants you. She needs help.”

Help for Eli?
I look around to
see if there’s anything I should gather up.

“No time for dawdling. The boy is getting

I follow Mr. Howard outside.

I’m worried and scared, like I was for my
mother. But when I think of Eli, there’s another feeling, too. In
my stomach.

One I’ve never had before.

One that makes me realize I really don’t
want to lose him.




Chapter Three

Eli: Incognitum

May 1804


I think I just talked with Thomas Jefferson.
And I think Thea has been in to see me, too. But I was feverish
when both things were happening, so I can’t be sure.

And feverish or not, I don’t know which is
more surprising.

“What is happening in America that two young
people show up out of nowhere, claiming to be lost, on such an
otherwise pleasant afternoon?”

I’m pretty sure I heard Jefferson say that.
He kind of likes to talk with extra words in his sentences.

“I won’t let anything happen to you.” That
was Thea. She was dabbing cold rags on my head at the time.

As far as I could tell.

But even if it wasn’t a dream, she’s gone
now, and there are guards outside the tent to keep me from leaving.
I don’t think I’m under arrest. I just don’t think they know what
to do with me yet.

And if I told them the truth — that I’m from
the future, that I’ve been tangled up in time after an accident in
my parents’ lab, that I was whisked back to ancient Alexandria
where I met Thea, and that I bumped into Clyne, a talking dinosaur,
while crossing the Fifth Dimension, time-traveled again to 1941, to
World War II, to look for my mother, and then back to King Arthur’s
England to keep his sword Excalibur out of the hands of Nazis — if
I told them all that, well, I don’t know where they lock people up
who they think are crazy or dangerous, but I bet they’d think there
was something a little more wrong with me than just “fever.”

I’m still not sure how we got here: Last
thing I remember clearly is crossing the Fifth Dimension again
after saving Excalibur— all of us, Thea, Clyne, and me— in the
Saurian time-ship from Clyne’s planet. But our German prisoner,
Rolf Royd, the Dragon Jerk kid, managed to escape when the ship
itself started to… come
somehow. And in all the
confusion, in the swirls of color and time and possibility that
move around you when you time-travel, we were tossed directly
through the Fifth Dimension, like three Alices —four, if I have to
include Rolf — going down separate rabbit holes. And then we

Here. Where they don’t study American
history in books, because they
American history, and
where I don’t think Alice and the rabbit have even been written
about yet. And you can forget about the movie and game

They don’t even have baseball.

They don’t even have Barnstormers! No Comnet
games at all!

No wonder they had so much time to be
historical and do famous stuff.

But wherever this is, whatever’s going on, I
have to find Thea again, and then figure out if Clyne is anywhere
close by. Or any
close by, for that matter.

But it won’t be easy. If Thomas Jefferson is
president, that means I’ve landed way way back, even before
Eisenhower and maybe both of the Roosevelts. Prehistory. When all
the guys on stamps and money are still walking around, breathing

So far back, they don’t even have
powered cars. And maybe not trains. I’ll
have to check.

But hey, that means there isn’t any DARPA
yet either— no Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. No Mr.
Howe overseeing Dad’s experiments, no military goons to keep watch
over me, with their corny “Danger Boy” codename, and all their
time-travel plans.

Which means the guys here shouldn’t be too
hard to duck: They won’t have Night Vision goggles, or laser-guided
stun guns, so I can start looking for Thea as soon as I crawl out
the back of the tent.

Wait. Bayonets. They
bayonets. They have funny clothes and long coats, and bayonets on
the end of their rifles. And a couple of them just walked in. With
the president.

“Taking leave of us, young squire?”

Jefferson spoke those words to my butt. My
head was already poking out the back of the tent. Now I’m turned
around, my arms are in the air, and those bayonets are looking
pretty sharp.

Jefferson waves the soldiers away.

“I suspect I am not in too much jeopardy,”
the president tells them. “You may return to your posts outside. I
will send out an alarum if the squire attempts another escape.”

“What if he has another suspect hat,

Jefferson nods. “I intend to ask him about
that. Now please leave us alone.”

Jefferson looks for a place to sit, and
pulls over a short barrel. He squints at some writing on the side.
“Hmm. One of Captains Lewis and Clark’s barrels of whiskey found
its way into our supplies. I should return it. I suspect they will
need all the spirits and Godspeed they can muster.”

Jefferson sits down on top of the barrel and
looks at me. He’s big. Well, lanky and tallish. Probably big enough
to play basketball. At least, at this point in history. Everyone
else seems pretty short. Do they even have basketball? Or do they
just play soccer?

“Are you, in fact, an American?”

The question catches me off-guard. I’m not
sure if it’s supposed to be an insult, or what.

“Yes, sir, I am.”

“Then might you know who I am?”

“Well, you’re Thomas Jefferson. You were

He gives me a quizzical look. “I
president, young squire. Not that being president is necessarily
the most desirable thing, mind. And since you know my name, who
might you be?”

“Eli. Eli Sands.”

“You seem very comfortable talking to a
president, Master Sands.”

“Sir, if I told you the reasons I’m not
quite as shocked as I ought to be, you wouldn’t believe me.”

Jefferson cocks his head. I don’t think my
part of the conversation was going like he expected. “I am glad,
young squire, that presidents can be trusted and regarded as
equals. That is as it should be. But I prefer not to talk politics.
Enough of that awaits me at home, when reelection time comes round.
What brings you out west, young man?”

“Pardon me, Mr. President, sir.”

“You may call me Mr. Jefferson.”

“Mr. President Jefferson, sir. But I thought
I heard we were somewhere around Missouri?”


“So we aren’t in the West.”

“How not?”

“The West is California, sir. Oregon.
Washington. Utah. Arizona. Hollywood. Las Vegas. And my own

“Some of those names are Spanish
territories. Some are Russian. Some I’ve never heard of—Hollywood?
In any case, none of them is part of America. As yet.” He shook his
head. “And where is home for you, my strange young foundling?”

“In the Valley of the Moon. Near San
Francisco. California.”

“The Moon, you say? And California, another
name from a fairy tale, I believe.” Jefferson pauses. “That girl,
that escaped slave, who helped heal you. She is known to you?”

“You mean Thea?”

“Her slave name appears to be Brassy. A
runaway from New Orleans. Are you claiming she is yours?”

? My
Now I am shocked, for completely different reasons, which maybe he
still wouldn’t believe. “You mean, because Thea’s skin is a little
darker than mine, you think—?”

Now it was my turn to cock my head. People
say you can’t know the future, but history always throws surprises
at you, too. I was going to have to be careful: this was another
tricky part of the past to be stuck in.

“Mr. President—“


“President Jefferson. I’m sorry. But that
question kind of offends me.”

Jefferson now stares at me as if I was some
kind of Barnstormer character. He stands, finds an old cracked mug
in the tent, kneels by the barrel, pops a big cork plug from near
the top, tips it, pours a little, pushes the cork back in, sets the
barrel straight — then sits on it again.

BOOK: Trail of Bones
3.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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