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Authors: Jack McDevitt

Time Travelers Never Die

BOOK: Time Travelers Never Die
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
 
Novels by Jack McDevitt
ANCIENT SHORES
ETERNITY ROAD
MOONFALL
INFINITY BEACH
TIME TRAVELERS NEVER DIE
 
 
The Academy (Priscilla Hutchins) Novels
 
THE ENGINES OF GOD
DEEPSIX
CHINDI
OMEGA
ODYSSEY
CAULDRON
 
 
The Alex Benedict Novels
 
A TALENT FOR WAR
POLARIS
SEEKER
THE DEVIL’S EYE
 
 
Collections
 
OUTBOUND
CRYPTIC: THE BEST SHORT FICTION OF JACK MCDEVITT
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
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Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
 
eISBN : 978-1-101-15125-9
1. Time travel—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3563.C3556T56 2009
813’.54—dc22
2009031016
 
 
 
 
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

For Barry Malzberg,
for his encouragement
Acknowledgments
My appreciation to Ginjer Buchanan, who’s been an essential part of these projects for almost a quarter century; to Bert Yeargan and Joe Garner, who showed me the way around a dentist’s office; to Sara and Bob Schwager, who made their presence felt to a degree previously unknown; to Ralph Vicinanza, for his continued support; to Athena Andreadis, who acted as guide and translator at Alexandria; to Robert Dyke, who kept me on track. And, of course, as always, to Maureen.
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
 
—LONGFELLOW, “A PSALM OF LIFE”
PROLOGUE
THEY
buried him on a gray morning, unseasonably cold, threatening rain. The mourners were few, easily constraining their grief for a man who had traditionally kept his acquaintances at a distance. The preacher was white-haired, feeble, himself near the end, and Dave wondered what he was thinking as the wind rattled the pages of his prayer book.
“Ashes to ashes—”
Shel had been the first time traveler. Well, the second, really. His father had been first. But of all the people assembled at the funeral, only Dave was aware of any of that.
He stood with hands thrust into his coat pockets. He’d buried friends before—Al Caisson after he’d been struck down by an aneurysm, and Lee Carmody, who’d fallen out of a tree at Scout camp. But neither loss had been this painful. Maybe because Shel had seemed so
alive
. Maybe because he and Shel had shared so much. It was true the guy had been odd, sometimes annoying, unpredictable. Selfish, even. He didn’t have a lot of friends. But on that final day, Dave realized that he’d
loved
him. Had never known anyone like him.
“—In the sure and certain hope—”
Dave wasn’t all that confident about a resurrection, but he knew with cold clarity that Adrian Shelborne still walked the earth in other ages. Even up ahead somewhere. Shel had admitted to only brief jumps downstream, nothing beyond a month or so, just enough to satisfy his curiosity. But Dave had sensed recently that he was hiding something. Shel, he suspected, had gone deeper into the future than he’d admitted.
Not that it mattered anymore.
The preacher finished, closed his book, and raised his hand to bless the polished orchid-colored coffin. The wind blew, and the air was heavy with approaching rain. The mourners, many anxious to be about the day’s business, bent their heads, queued up, and walked past, placing lilies atop the coffin. When it was done, they lingered briefly, murmuring to each other. Helen stood off to one side, looking lost.
Lover with no formal standing. Not even known to Jerry or the other family members. She dabbed jerkily at her eyes and kept her gaze riveted on the gray stone that carried his name and dates.
She looked his way, and their eyes touched.
The mourners began walking toward their cars, exchanging a few last words, starting the engines, driving away. A few seemed reluctant to leave. Among them, Helen.
Dave strode over and joined her. “You okay?”
She nodded yes.
Shel had never understood how Dave had felt about her. He used to talk about her a lot when they were upstream. How she’d enjoy Victorian London. Or St. Petersburg before the first war. And, of course, he’d never shared the great secret with her. That was always something he was going to do later.
For that matter,
she
had never understood how Dave felt. He’d introduced her to Shel and stood by while he walked off with her. Dumb.
It occurred to him that maybe he was getting a second chance. The thought no sooner entered his mind than a flush of guilt ran through him. He pushed the idea away.
Still—
She was trembling.
Her cheeks were wet.
“I’ll miss him, too,” David said.
“I loved him, Dave.”
“I know.” He caught her arm. “Let’s get out of here.”
They started toward the road. Tears leaked out of her eyes. She stopped, tried to say something, tried again. “I would have liked,” she said, when she’d regained a degree of control, “to have had a chance to tell him how much he meant to me. How glad I was to have known him.”
“He knew, Helen. He was obsessed with you.” She sniffle d, wiped her eyes. “Are you going back to the house for coffee?”
“No. I think I’ve had enough.”
“Why don’t you let me take you home?”
“It’s all right,” she said. “I’ll be okay.” Her car was parked near a stone angel.
Linda Keffler, Shel’s boss for a good many years, came over and expressed her condolences. “We’ll miss him,” she said.
She obviously had no idea who Helen was, so David introduced them. “They were close friends,” he said.
“I’m so sorry, dear. To lose him like that—”
Helen didn’t try to speak. She just stood, trying to control her emotions.
Linda looked a bit weepy herself. “Let me know,” she said, “if there’s anything I can do.” Then she was striding toward her car, moving quickly, anxious to be away.
When she was gone, Helen started for her own car. Dave walked with her. “When you get a chance,” she said, “give me a call.”
He opened her car door for her. She got in, started the engine, and lowered the window. “Thanks for everything, Dave.”
She raised her left hand in farewell and drove slowly away. She had known so much about Adrian Shelborne. And so little.
 
 
 
JERRY
was Shel’s older brother. He wasn’t much like Shel. He smiled more easily and was more aware of what was going on around him. He’d been staring down at the coffin, which waited on broad straps for the workmen who would lower it into the ground. When he saw that Helen was gone, he came over. “Dave,” he said, “I appreciate your coming.”
“No way I wouldn’t have.”
“I know. I know you guys were pretty close.” He took a deep breath. “It’s hard to believe.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry, Jerry.”
“You coming over to the house?”
“Yeah. I could use a drink.”
They shook hands, and Jerry walked away. Dave thought how superficial the guy was. This was the first time he could recall that Jerry had actually seemed to care about anything important. If Shel’s father had taken him into his confidence, had given him access to the converter as he had Shel, he wouldn’t have known what to do with it.
Jerry ducked his head and climbed into his limo. He pulled out into the road and scattered a few pigeons.
Dave took a deep breath and turned away. Hard to believe. Gone now. Shel and his time devices.
They’d been destroyed in the fire. Dave had the only surviving unit. Safely hidden in his sock drawer. When he could summon the will, he’d get rid of it, too. Let it go.
 
 
ON
the way home, he turned on the radio. It was an ordinary day. Peace talks were breaking down in Africa. Another congressman was being accused of diverting campaign funds. Domestic assaults had risen again. The economy wasn’t doing well. And, in Los Angeles, there was a curious conclusion to an expressway pileup: Two people, a man and a woman, had broken into one of the wrecked vehicles and kidnapped the driver, who was believed to be either dead or seriously injured. They had apparently made off with him.
BOOK: Time Travelers Never Die
6.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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