Time for a Change

Time for a Change

By Brian Gallucci

The man was bent over his work and only heard the cavalry approach. The unmistakable sound of several, -probably twenty or thirty- horses galloping over the packed dirt roads that spread like a spider’s web away from the Duke’s castle into the outskirts of his realm. The man was working outside his small tent, several mismatched cloths sewn together, he was sharpening the arrow heads on his arrows. He was about to set out to hunt, for the meat preserved in salt, was running out. The grasslands of the Savannah stretched out as far as one could see, with only a few trees to provide shade from the hot sun.

The man glanced up from his work, whipping off beads of sweat that formed on his forehead from toiling all day in the mines. He squinted his eyes so he could see the riders, the setting sun behind them. There must have been at least thirty horses, all carrying a rider dressed in armor. The armor was chain mail-basically a mesh of chains that covered the entire body, except for a metal breastplate and helmet-which was fairly inexpensive for the Duke’s blacksmith to produce, but served its purpose. They rode in a V-shape, a center rider, presumably the captain for he wore plate mail armor: this consisted of several metal plates, covering the breast, shins, thighs, forearms, shoulders and a helmet, and covered in chain mail to protect the joints in between the plates. The Captain wore a grand helmet which had a pair of crafted metal eagle wings extending from the sides back, and a visor. He, and the three men on each side of him carried lances and shields. The lances fitted on the saddles which had a post, secured on with metal pins, that the lances rested on, but since it was only fit on with pins, it could rotate both horizontally and vertically, giving the Duke’s men and edge in combat. The remaining men who filled in the ranks behind the first seven carried sword and shield, although their swords were currently sheathed. Most had crossbows slung over their backs.

The man smiled slightly as the gallant forces of the Duke rode past, the Captain saluting the man who stood by the road. The man knew whatever force the Duke’s men rode off against would be in for a tough fight.

Rumors of war were spreading through the peasants and farmers homes, and whenever a stranger was met on the road, news of the supposed war was exchanged. Whoever the new invaders were, none seriously believed they posed a threat to the Duke and his mighty army. The new threat came from the mountains, from where the Duke’s mines were. They came for the diamonds, most agreed, and had succeeded in cutting off the Duke’s supply of diamonds. That’s when the cavalries were sent out, and this was third cavalry the man had seen pass by in the afternoon.

Heaving a sigh of sore muscles and lost stamina, the man picked up his quiver of arrows and went back inside his house, listening to the dying sound of the hoof beats as they rode off to face their enemy..

Jack sat in the dusty, dirt filled mines on an upturned cart that had been used to ship large chunks of rock that had diamonds in them. From there, the diamonds were removed from the rock, polished and sent to the large castle, even visible from here. What a sight, Jack thought as he gazed at the large stone tower that would probably be the owner’s. Windows lined the circular structure, a few still lit even way into the night, as it was.

Jack’s ‘business partners’ lay huddled asleep in their tents they had brought, a pile of cigarette butts lay outside the flap of one. In the center of the circle of tents was a small cylindrical device that had a small keypad running up one side of it, and a display on the other. The display read -1054 in bright green letters that partially lit the campsite. There was a second keypad and display, which showed their current co-ordinates. That thing still gives me the creeps, he though, like its cursed or someone’s watching us. After this run, I’m getting rid of it. Too much mucking about in this and we could really change the world back home.

Slung over his shoulder was an assault rifle, a fast, automatic, and very powerful weapon from his time, that made the ones used in this time look like kids’ toys. Around his waist was a belt that had clipped to it a dozen grenades. Another weapon that seemed to put the fear of God into the primitives they’d dealt with so far. Fastened onto his head, resting just above his eyes were a pair of night vision binoculars, which he shifted down over his eyes to take another scan of the mountain pass.

The world came into focus in a green-tinted way, and he slowly panned right and left, then zoomed out to get an overview look. Bright flares of green on the right of the path, just before the mountains on either side narrowed, making it impossible to ride in any formation other than single file, indicated that there were men camped out there. Zooming in on the flares, and then panning his binoculars around, Jack proved his assumptions to be correct; there were five men standing watch, pacing back and forth, around a campsite that held thirty or more men and horses. Still no more serious weaponry other than swords and lances. The party before them, which Jack guessed was a scouting party, was armed similarly, but held only five in their ranks. Jack and his partners dealt with them easily enough, but their disappearance caused several other detachments, much like the one camped out near the pass, to be sent out. There were now three separate clusters of men and horses along the path. Jack knew they would have a fight on their hands if they did not leave, with their stolen diamonds, soon. But there was a problem with leaving.

A problem with their stolen time traveling device-one of many-was that no one knew how to open the portal to return home, once they had traveled back. Jack was the only one, it seemed, to ‘decide’ where and when to go in time. He thought of mines of gold, of diamonds, back in the past, far back when they would not be guarded well, and the machine went there. He never used the keypads, and had no idea what they were for. But he would think, and the small device would take them there through a brightly colored tunnel that left one feeling a severe case of motion sickness. But from then on the device would sit dormant for several days, until engaging once again, taking them back to their previous time period. Jack guessed this was some sort of safety feature, built in by the device’s creators.

What a naïve bunch, Jack thought, remembering the bizarre and startling day when a group of three men dressed in brown-what appeared to be-bath robes, appeared in a flash of light in Jack’s apartment. They had told Jack and his two room mates not to be startled, that they were from the future on a fact finding mission. Historians, basically. Soon Jack began asking questions about time travel, the limitations, about the device and so forth. The men obliged, telling and demonstrating how it worked, (without getting into the technical side, when pressed they said ‘an advancement in science’) but the men warned that they could not alter anything, physically, or influence anyone in other time periods, because that would ‘pollute’ the timeline; the ‘future’ they would return to then would not be the same. After learning all Jack needed, that it could carry up to fifty people in the tunnel, how to operate the device etc. he called his room mates aside. This is where the plan was hatched to return back to the past, to steal diamonds, and bring it into the future, and sell it. They could make a killing, and were. The three then set on the time travelers with a shotgun and two handguns. The travelers robes did not hide any armor, or shielding underneath, like Jack feared, apparently the men from the future had never thought that a fellow human being could be so ruthless. The shotgun blast split open the man holding the device; Jack’s room mates finished off the other two. No struggle.

Jack being the brains, and leader of the group, deduced that major mines of their time, would also be mines in the past. or should be. So the group had hit two mines, this was their third, with apparently no affect on their time. The stock market was down, some banks no longer existed, but Jack thought everything was fine.

This mine had been large, there were several shipments of unfinished diamonds ready to be sent to the castle near the entrance. Jack and the others killed off the workers, and hauled the sacs of diamonds back to where the device now lay.

One more day, Jack thought, that’s all it should take for the device to go off again, one more day. But, it seemed like in one take the armies only a few hours to reach the mines, and then Jack and his group would be facing some pretty tough odds.

The sunrise brought more than just light to the group, it brought an immediate attack. Jack had fallen asleep after several hours of watch, assuming the armies were staying put for the night, and even if they weren’t, he did not think they would be able to move stealthily. Jack was sleeping near the entrance, and normally he was a light sleeper. not this time. Last night he fell almost into a comma, almost instantly to, he did not even have the energy to warn another man to watch while he slept. He had assumed nothing would happen. He was wrong. When the first ray of sunlight entered the mine, several blares from trumpets sounded, echoing in the mine that woke Jack and his men roughly from their sleep.

"Damn it! They must’ve snuck up on us during the night! Quick, get." he was cut off as six men galloped in the wide opening in the mine, lances down. Jack could tell they were surprised that there were only eight opponents.

The horses charged fast, the sharp points of their lances pointed at Jack and another man to his left, Blair. Jack managed to roll to his right, bringing his assault rifle out as he did. Training from the military helped, and he quickly pulled the trigger, spraying bullets in front of him. Several thudded into the calves of the mighty war horse, a few peppered the animals neck and head. Although the beast was dead or dying, its continued momentum would be dangerous. The rider was trying to control the mount, not realizing how bad his steed had been hurt.

Jack did not waste anymore time or bullets finishing off the rider, if he was lucky, he would not die when the horse crashed. The rider would be luckier still if he did not get pinned underneath the horse, break a leg, or be flung from the saddle.

Blair was less fortunate. He carried a shotgun, which was slow to fire. Getting up on one knee, he managed a single burst from his gun before the lance tip impaled him, cutting through his un-armored body with little resistance. His one shot did count though, hitting the rider’s left side, punching through the chain mail, and blowing away half his body. The rider slid off, still clutching the lance that stuck through Blair.

Jack’s men, some still in boxers, had emerged from their tents, weapons firing. They set up a network of crisscrossing bullets that sprayed out towards the approaching cavalry. Horses began to collapses, pitching riders, some already dead, others doomed. Some riders were shot off their mounts. Some horses were too wounded to continue the charge. Other riders lost arms or legs to heavy weapons fire, taking them out of the fight. It was a bloody scene. A massacre.

If it were not for the sheer number of cavalry, it would have been no contest. One horses and rider got through, only wounded, and found a man in their sights. The rider had a sword which he brought down in a low arc as they rode passed. The rider’s victim crumpled to the ground, his head rolling a few feet before stopping. Then both horse and rider were shredded with gunfire.

Jack pulled out a grenade and tossed it at the approaching masses. The explosion took out four sets of horse and rider, either by shrapnel, or the initial blast.

"Move farther into the tunnels! The horses won’t be able to follow!" yelled Jack over the gunfire and screams. Jack’s men obliged and started a combat-retreat. They shuffled backwards, then fired an outburst, then shuffled more.

One man, Paul, was either unlucky or stupid. He shuffled back several steps, went to fire, but found his uzie out of bullets. As he pulled another clip free from his belt and ejected the spent one, a rider on a collapsing mount pulled free a crossbow. As his mount collapsed to its knees, the rider had the single bolt loaded. The others were busy shooting at the maniacal riders who were charging on foot, shields out in front of them in a surprisingly effective defense.

Paul reloaded the uzie and lifted his head to finish off the rider whose horse he had just shot up, when the crossbow bolt stuck him in the throat. He made a slight gurgling sound as he fell back, lifeless. Other riders began loading their crossbows, even using fallen horses as cover. Soon they were in an organized pattern. Several would spring up and fire, creating a volley of bolts, and duck to reload when the second group would spring and fire. This created an almost unending wave of bolts.

Jack felt a bolt stick him in the leg, and winced in pain. He fired his weapon with one hand, while clutching the time device in the other. Never before had they met such organized resistance. Most of the men had given up trying to haul the sacs of diamonds, and left them behind, opting for mobility instead. One still clutched his, but he was being left behind, and soon the volleys of bolts struck him time and time again, until he looked like a human pincushion.

That left Jack, and four other men. They were now getting out of effective range of the crossbow bolts, and Jack and his men began picking off the foolish riders who tried to get closer. Jack set down the time device, and unclipped another grenade. He pulled the pin and lobbed it under hand at the largest cluster of riders. With a satisfying ‘boom’ bodies, and some parts of bodies, flew in all directions. The riders seemed unwilling to follow them further into the mines, perhaps the riders feared a trap.

Just then there was a high pitched whine sounding similar to finger nails on chalkboard that sent shivers up Jack’s spine. The riders were thrown into confusion as blinding white light burst out in all directions from the small device that Jack held. He placed it on the ground, and soon a sphere of white light grew from it. The sphere grew bigger, then shrank half the distance it grew, then grew some more, and shrank some more. The sphere looked like it was vibrating because of this, but it still continued to grow steadily, and Jack stood aside. First one man, than another went into the sphere and back to freedom. Jack and Dave, the only two left were firing off their weapons to keep the riders at bay.

"I can reach it!" exclaimed Dave, "that last sac of diamonds, I can reach it. Cover me." With a daring-or stupid-rush, Dave headed for the last sac of diamonds. The riders seemed unable to shoot facing the bright white light, so instead they charged, all out, at the two remaining men. Seeing this, Jack pulled out another grenade and lobbed it in their paths. This killed several, and sent others halting the charge cowering behind their shields warily, and sent others still running for the exit. More charged, rallied by their Captains. Jack ran to meet Dave, and stood in front of him, firing and reloading, retreating and firing.

Most of his shots seemed to be striking shields, punching large dents, sometimes holes in them, but rarely killing the owner. The men came closer and closer, one sent a sword slash across Jack’s raised arm before being gunned down.

Dave hollered, and then stepped back into the portal, still firing, his last shots striking a armored figure in the head, shattering both helmet and skull, and sending them in a spray of metal, bone, brain and blood. Jack was stepping back, still firing, catching a few more advancing men in the legs, below their shields. Jack felt like time was going in slow motion, like he could not move nearly as fast as he would like, and that others around him were moving swiftly. . It felt like time was working against him.

Jack felt the cool sensation as his leg entered the portal, and was almost in when a wild man, wearing no armor at all and carrying a mace swung it right at his head. Jack fired, until the gun was empty-only four shots-into the man, the first was high, only nicking his left shoulder. The second and third struck his collar bone then a few inches above his heart. The third and fourth drilled into his heart, killing him. The man’s mace came short, only scraping his cheek, and smashing into his nose. There was a dull crack as it broke, spraying blood and twisting his nose.

Jack screamed in pain as he fell back into the portal.

The world now seemed to be falling away from him, getting smaller and smaller, more and more blurry, the white light almost all but blocking it out.

Jack screamed still in the void as he hurtled forward through time, back to the 90’s.

And Jack could not shake the feeling that the face of the man looked like him. A relative?

His family were not from Africa, where this place would become.

His family were originally Dutch.

There were Dutch in Africa, way back. they had mining cities there. It couldn’t be.

In the void Jack had time to think, and remembered back in his schooling, when he was learning about Canadian history. He remembered learning about the Boer War, where Canada as a part of Britain, went to war against the Dutch for a part of Africa, where the Dutch were mining diamonds and other precious metals.

His family was Dutch.

That man? A relative?

Fuck! The thought resounded in his mind. If he, some how, just killed his great, great, great, very great grandfather of his great, great, great grandfather, of his father, then when he returned to the 90’s, he would not exist. According to the time travelers. He would have been erased. There would be no memories of him. Not even in the men he traveled with. and he would cease to be. No! It can’t be! What were the chances of that actually happening?!?! No!!!!

He had what seemed like an eternity to scream in the void as he hurtled back towards his time.

It only seemed like an eternity.

It was not an eternity.

Time, at least for him, had run out and Jack entered back in his time, back in his apartment, where he had originally started the device, and his very being shattered, like all the molecules of his entire body were being pulled in an infinite number of directions for a split second before he was neutralized.

And time re-aligned itself.

And the plans for killing the time travelers never came about, his room mates, lacking the leader with the plan, never tried for the time device.

And nothing from the past was stolen.

His room mates answered the questions by the strange men in brown tunics, and they left, as peaceful as they came, one trying, but failing, to cover a smirk on his face as he crossed one word of a list, of names as it appeared: Jack. Then they stepped through the portal and were gone.

The End

Copyright 1997 by Brian Gallucci

Homepage: http://tor-pw1.netcom.ca/~gallucci/sciencefiction.html

Brian can be e-mailed at: gallucci@netcom.ca

About the Author: Brian Gallucci is still attending high school, and enjoys writing short stories, mainly science fiction, as well as working on a full-length novel, entitled Evolution. This novel is now in its third and final stage of being re-written.

Other works of Brian Gallucci appear on a forum for X-Com literature at: http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/3169/kansai.htm

Any comments about the story are welcome.

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