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did die. It was a me from some other subjective timeline, I hope, although it could possibly be a me from
my own subjective future, so I avoid that time slot. As to whether the Mongols were killed at Sandomierz
or Chmielnick, well, in a thousand years it won't make any difference. Maybe the historians will argue
about it, maybe not."
"Isn't it confusing with a lot of you running around?" I said.
"No more than it is for you. There was one of you at Chmielnick, after all. And none of this shredding
was ever noticed until you came along."
"Is that why you waited a year after the battle before talking to me? To wait for the shredding to settle
down?"
"Yes, of course," he said.
"Then why do you come now on the eve of another battle? Won't that cause problems?"
"This thing with the Crossmen isn't a battle, it's an execution, and they were all dead before you got back
to your trailer. But now, if you are through with that chocolate eclair, we'll give you a medical checkup."
In a side room that had been locked before there was a thing that looked like Spock's coffin, with an
attached keyboard. In it was a frightening number of mostly concealed tubes, needles, and little knives.
"Are you sure that you know how to work this thing?" I said.
"Relax. It happens that among other thing, I'm a doctor of medicine. In nine hundred years you become
a lot of things. Get in."
I didn't love the idea, but I'm supposed to be a hero, so I got in. The lid came down on me, and it got
dark, and then the lid came up, and I got out.
"There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Tom said.
The first thing I noticed was my eyesight. I could see as well as I could when I was a teenager. I put a
hand over my left eye, and I could see out of my right. I wasn't half-blind anymore!
"It turned out to be easier to regrow a whole new right eye rather than trying to repair the severed optic
nerve. And from there it was only a matter of hitting another button to regrow them both," Tom said.
"Your arthritis is gone, along with your hemorrhoids, and so is a small cancer that you didn't know
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about.. Your immunizations have been updated, and I've done a general rejuvenation treatment on you.
You look the same, but your ladies will be able to tell the difference."
"Wow. I feel great! You did all that in a few seconds?"
"No, it took me three hours to set it up, and inside the machine's time field you spent four months on the
program, or your body did. There wasn't any point in boring your mind with the procedure, so I shut that
down for the duration. "
"Huh. Well, thanks, Tom."
"No charge. All part of the service. You've been a pain in the ass, but the trouble you've caused has
been the first decent challenge we've seen in centuries. What's more, what you have done is very
important. Think about it. A whole new world! A whole doubling of the human experience! As time goes
on, this branch will develop its own arts, its own sciences, and its own technologies. What new music will
they play, what new insights will they have, what new things will they build? I tell you that there are
glorious possibilities here, and we intend to explore them! Maybe we'll even try to split one off for
ourselves."
"Well, don't rush it, Tom."
"We never have to hurry. Well, now, do you. feel ready to go back to the world you've created?"
Maude left the room, and I said, "In a minute. Just a few more questions. What is it with this servant of
yours? She's one of the strangest women I've ever met."
"Well, that's why! She's not a woman. She's a bioengineered creation, just like that neohorse I gave you.
They were designed in the same studio and have much in common chemically. She's not a modified
human if that's what you're worried about. I'd never allow anything like that. Her equivalent of DNA was
built up entirely out of simple chemicals, and she was designed to be attractive, industrious, and
completely contented with her lot. Human servants are naturally resentful, doing a demeaning job.
Wenches work out much better."
"She has a lot of Anna's traits? Racial memory and all that?"
"Oh yes, along with multiple births and a similar sensory apparatus. She doesn't need a neohorse's
remarkable digestive system, though, being designed for a civilized environment, and she can talk, of
course, whereas if a horse talked to one of our field researchers, it could get him into trouble. But
basically, the two designs are similar except for outward appearance. "
"Interesting. I suspected something like that. Another thing. Once my life was saved by some golden
arrows coming down out of the sky. Was that your doing?"
"Who else?"
"Who? God, of course."
"Don't be absurd. There's no such thing."
"You're so sure of that? Maybe that's why you can't change the time stream. Have you ever thought of
praying?"
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"I'm not even going to answer that one, Conrad."
"Huh. One last question. The afternoon before I rode your time machine, I met a girl at a seed store, a
redhead. She was supposed to meet me that night, but she didn't. What happened to her?"
"Somehow I knew you'd ask that. She wanted to come, but her installation director got word of a
surprise inspection the next day by the assistant secretary for agricultural research. Her whole outfit spent
the night cleaning the place and waxing the floors."
"Huh. I'd forgotten what bureaucracies were like."
"If you say so. Don't you know that they do the same thing at your factories before you show up?"
"Perish the thought! I'll put an end to that! Oh, yes. You've been telling me what a wonderful person I
am. Could this wonderful person have a present or two to take back with him?"
"Like what? You want the wench?" [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]