Nexus Point - Meridian Series - John Schettler
Nexus Point - John Schettler
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NEXUS POINT
TRAILER

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Excerpt - From “Nexus Point”  (c) John Schettler, 2003

Here’s a sneak preview of  a scene where Kelly and Maeve begin to track down the source of a new breach in the Time Meridian they have discovered. Kelly is explaining some new research systems he has installed to try and track the history...

“The GUI will display a chronological time line for you over there.” He pointed at Research Terminal 3. “I’ve been comparing data blocks as they come in from the Golems—checking all key dates and events. If the information on this fetch seems consistent with the data I stored earlier, then I’ll have the system color that segment of the chronology green. When there’s variance, discrepancy or outright conflict in the data, the system will shade the bars in different colors: yellow for minor stuff through orange to red. If you see black, then we either have a data void on that period, or an outright conflict. This way we can actually look at the time line and see where things start to go fuzzy on us. I’m going to keep my Golems very busy, so we’ll be getting a constant stream of new information from the net as it exists in real time—to use a phrase.”

 Maeve was delighted. “Kelly, you’re a genius! Is it only history and political events and such, or can I query things like religion, literature, art, music and the sciences?”

 “It’s the whole damn Internet—or at least the essence of what’s out there as we speak. Ask anything you like.”

 “Sounds like this colorized chronology is a good place to start.” Maeve settled into the swivel chair, adjusting the armrests and stretching before she stared at the keyboard. “But how does it work?”

 “Just hit the F1 for a general display and enter your dates. Use the TAB key to start a specific query on any given year or year grouping. A menu will come up and you can search for key events in any of the disciplines you mentioned a moment ago.”

 “History first,” she rubbed her palms together, her mind beginning to feel its way through the situation, assessing what she needed to do. “I’ll have a look at the last two thousand years or so. Do I enter negative numbers for dates before the Birth of Christ?” A nod from Kelly confirmed that and she thought for a moment. “Let’s see… we had better check in on the Prime Movers first. I’ll go from –1 BC to the present. That will cover Christ, Muhammad, Luther’s Boys and most of the key history that would effect us here.”

 “You’ll miss the Buddha,” Kelly noted.

 “I’ll get back to him later. For now I want to see if anyone’s fooling around with Western Civ. I’d hate to see the look on old Professor Porter’s face if he has to re-write all his course notes at the University. Those dates will give me a good chunk of Rome, the Byzantines, Barbarian invasions, the rise of the Islamic Caliphates, the Medieval period and everything after.” She had the numbers in and was pleased to see the screen display as it began to trace out a green color bar starting with the first year BC and working forward. She sighed with immediate relief. “Looks like Christ was born in Bethlehem, right on schedule.”

 “Halleluiah!” Kelly mimicked a typical television preacher, a bit of a Southern twang in his tone of voice.  The chronology made its way slowly forward as the CPUs in the research systems ran comparison checks on the two data banks at the speed of light. The progress still seemed agonizingly slow to Maeve. After about five minutes she had worked her way through the first century AD, her mind ticking off events by recollection. “The Romans look solid,” she said. “Nero, Titus, Hadrian…all looking good.”

 The time line continued forward, solid green, to Maeve’s great satisfaction. “Here come the Goths,” she said as the line swept through the second century into the third. “They’ll sack Athens and Sparta any second now.”

 “Don’t forget the Persians,” Kelly put in.

 “Oh, I won’t. Right now Rome has its hands full with the Lombards, Saxons, Franks, Picts, Scots, Germans and the Huns will show up soon enough. You say all is well as long as I get green here, right?” She pointed at the timeline. “You don’t have any surprises for me, do you, like shades of emerald to lime and so on?”

 “Nope. Any variation will go to yellow at once. See that meter in the upper left hand of the screen? It will tick off calendar years, and you can toggle it down to months if you need to take a closer look at something. Any discrepancy will be flagged and put into this box here.  Think of it like a penalty box denoting the bad years. You’ll be able to go right to that specific year and initiate a deep pattern search to vector in on the data.”

 “God, I just love this Kelly! How did you dream this up?” Maeve was beaming as Alaric the Goth and Attila began to devour the fringes of the Roman Empire. Italy was invaded while she was warming up her coffee and barbarians clotted the Apian Way as she stirred in the cream. Rome fell while she struggled to get the cellophane off a bag of Fig Newtons. By the time she had returned to her seat the Western Roman Empire had come to an end, the Vandals moved in, and the value of real estate dropped considerably in Italy and Sicily. Her line looked perfectly normal, green and solid as the Byzantine Empire began to spar with Persia in the Sixth Century. The Persians soon moved into Syria and overran Egypt as the line moved into the Seventh Century.

 “Looks like Muhammad has started things rolling in his neck of the woods,” she said. “The Arabs will be militarizing by now and pushing north into Palestine and the butt of Asia Minor.”

 “No problems yet?” Kelly came over to look at the screen.

 “Not if this thing works as advertised,” said Maeve. “Look. While Europe languishes the Islamic Caliphs are spreading their credo like wildfire. The call of the muezzin will be sounding in India to the East and echoing from the cobblestones of Lisbon in the West soon.”

 Kelly squinted at the line as it traced through the eighth century. “Looks like Charles Martel stopped them at Tours and Portiers,” he said. “No variations at all yet, and those were some pretty significant years.” The line was still solid green at it reached 900 on the chronology.

 “Expecting trouble?” Maeve gave him a quick glance, wondering what was on his mind.

 “Well,” he explained, “given the fact that we set back the greatest blow ever conceived and executed against the West by the Muslim world, I was wondering about other crisis points in that conflict.”

 “You mean Palma?”

 “Sure,” said Kelly. “Just consider what the world would have been like in the future if we hadn’t stopped those wave sets from smashing the Eastern Seaboard.”

 Maeve gave him a nod of agreement. “It’s conceivable that the United States would have been finally eclipsed on the world stage—assuming Europe got off with relatively little damage.”

 “Europe would have survived, but with the US literally swept out of its position as the World’s Imperial  watchdog, the Islamic states may have consolidated in opposition to the European Union.”

 “They would have lost their biggest customer,” Maeve put in.

 “Hell, California and the entire West Coast would not have been effected by Palma. But they’d have their hands  full rebuilding the east for decades to come. I suppose Graves could have told us all about it.”

 “Did he?” Maeve raised an eyebrow, realizing that she had violated her own credo in asking Kelly about his brief sojourn with Mr. Graves in the future.

 “Nope. He was very tight lipped about the history. In fact, I think they were totally amazed with what happened after the Palma mission. I mean, they were desperate, right? So we have to assume the world was spinning down into something really bad by then. Who knows what was going on. Maybe there was a nuclear war, or some bio-terror plague once these radicals got the bit between their teeth.”

 “History is little else than a picture of human crimes and misfortunes, said Voltaire.” Maeve raised a finger, gratified that all the ill deeds and foul play were still in order on her screen.

 “I like Henry Ford better,” Kelly offered. “History is bunk. He gets right to the point, and I suppose they must have had quite a shock when we ran our little mission. Imagine what it must have been like for them when everything suddenly changed! They would have had an entire new world to walk into, and hundreds of years of history to re-learn.”

 “Were they that far ahead in time?” Maeve took one more step out onto the ice, and then promised herself she would stick with the past.

 “They wouldn’t tell me,” Kelly finished. “I suppose you would be the first to understand why, Miss Outcomes and Consequences.”

 As they talked the time line rolled on, passing one centennial Meridian after another. History receded in its wake, quietly unchanged and safe under the gloaming dust of memory. Maeve began to feel much better as she watched the screen.

 “Can I assume that if the history database is unaltered, then most other key areas will have good integrity? I mean, do I have to run literature queries to check in on folks like Chaucer  and all, or should I assume the Canterbury Tales are safely inscribed in Middle English somewhere as long as I get a good green line through the thirteen hundreds?”

 “I would say so,” said Kelly, “but I’m sure you’ll want to run checks in the literature database as well when we finish this. The system can do your inventory on Shakespeare for you in about thirty seconds—line by line.”

 “Love you, Mister!” Maeve’s eyes gleamed. It was as if a great burden had been lifted from her shoulders. Now she didn’t have to worry that the whole of the world was kept safe in her head, with endless rounds ahead of her as she struggled to remember each poem, each novel, every page of the history she knew so well. Now they could check anything, at any time, from the safe sanctuary of the Nexus while the Arch spun out its quantum mystery below them. She felt wonderfully light, instilled with great energy and vigor as she watched the years tick by. So far there was not a single discrepancy between the two history data sets, and she was very relieved.

 “Here comes the Twelfth Century,” she chimed. “At this rate one last cup of Peet’s should get me to the turn of the second millennium.”

 “What fun that was,” said Kelly. “Y2K was a big no show, but the fireworks were great, and the stock market was even better.” He snatched up Maeve’s mug and went off to the kitchenette to see what was left in the coffee pot. When he returned he was surprised to see her leaning in to the screen and biting tentatively at the nail of her right index finger. He looked at the screen. “Something come up?”

 “Not sure…” Maeve was quietly watching the Meridian, and she squinted up at the lights. “The fluorescents are a pain on these monitors. Is that yellow, or just a screen glitch?”

 Kelly felt a pulse of adrenaline in his gut. He knew at once that they had probably encountered their first variation. Sure enough, by the time he reached Maeve’s side and set down the coffee mug, the penalty box was filling up with numbers. He leaned in to spy the first crucial year. “Eleven eighty-seven,” he breathed. “Hang on a second. I’m going to shift some system resources your way and focus CPU power on that spot. Everything was green up until that year, right? Keep an eye on the line and we can switch to monthly data checks. What was going in back then?” He threw Maeve a question, preferring to have her musing on the history instead of worrying over the spots of yellow that were popping into the time line with increasing regularity.

 Maeve closed her eyes a moment, running her own Golems through her memory to recall the key events of the late Twelfth Century. Byzantine History was her old college major, so she found safe ground there at once. Issac Angeles II was Emperor in Constantinople and he was already quarreling with the Pope by 1185. Frederick was consolidating his power in Central Europe, and Phillip II Augustus held France in the West. The Crusades were well underway, in fact most of Tripoli and Palestine as far south as Sinai had been in Christian hands for some ninety years. The Crusades! Her pulse quickened as she realized the year 1187 was a pivotal year in that history.

 “Can we start a single year query on eleven eighty-seven?” She raised her voice so Kelly could hear her in the next room.

 He huffed back, pointing at her keyboard, clearly excited. “Hit your F12 function key. I just put the Arion Mini on this baby and told the Golems to start honing on that time segment for live data feeds. No sense having them fetch stuff on the Romans when we have a clear violation right here. What’s up?’

 “The Crusades,” said Maeve, folding her arms. “The Second has been finished for some time, but the Third is about to be born—unless this changes things.”

 “What?” I thought we went over this during the first mission run up. Nordhausen was adamant that the Crusades were too complex to tamper with. He said: History has it’s imperatives. I’m afraid they simply must occur.” Kelly mocked a bit to make his point, imitating Nordhausen.

 “History is bunk,” she gave him back Henry Ford in reprisal. “We’ve all seen to the truth of that.” That look of self-recrimination was building in her eyes again, a yawning, vacant doubt that dispelled her elation and re-stoked the anxiety that had plagued her for months past. “When you get right down to it you can mess with something like the Crusades as easily as anything else, and apparently somebody is giving it the old college try.”

You can read an extended excerpt of Nexus Point on Smashwords.com

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