Peter followed Dael’s thoughts and smiled. She’d underestimated the time span by more than a factor of three. By this world’s reckoning, he’d been here ten years now, yet he suspected it was only as many seconds by his time.
He dared not go back and find out.
The beginning had been easy. He woke in this strange place and, not understanding the situation, had created things haphazardly, just as he thought of them. Arriving with an ill-defined wish for a world without war and ecological disaster, his mind had translated it into the gentle tyranny of Dael’s people with their total control of human development and the immortality to cherish sustainability. This world was paying for those early mistakes, but he’d grown more careful since. He could still do anything he chose, but thinking a thing into existence brought consequences as the implied logic extended itself to touch everything. He had to correct those early mistakes, but remained bound by them as firmly as the rest of his creation.
The wrongness that triggered Dael’s expulsion had come from his passing thought that her race could easily die of boredom. He’d no sooner thought it than the dying started. Both races must be given the liberties he’d spent his whole life defending.
Dael was his chance to make that happen.
He’d thought his mistakes irredeemable and was content to build resistance slowly, recruiting a suitable nucleus of individuals in hidden settlements throughout the only habitable land in this world, a band of islands ringing the equator. Then a thought outside his creating had startled him, and he’d tracked it down to Dael. A year of observation confirmed her potential and he had a plan.
Samara would be his ally. Her earthy responses would accentuate the qualities he needed Dael to develop if she was to become the mother of this world’s liberation. Torred would play his part in preparing her, but they needed time.
Dael would soon identify their location. Her race had charted this world thoroughly for their trading vessels, and the northern archipelago had been her responsibility. She’d been on an annual tour of inspection when Torred grabbed her. A little mathematics and she’d know how far they’d traveled and pinpoint this island. It would answer some of her questions as to how he’d concealed the settlement. She would suspect he’d suborned the Elite administering the area. He hadn’t, but it would do no harm for her to believe it. Her confusion would help him. He must keep all the balls in the air, all the time.
He smiled, remembering the time he had tried to learn the art of juggling. One of the Bavarian legionnaires stationed with him in the Route Quatre fort in Indochina was a former circus clown and had insisted on using the needle-sharp sword bayonets of their Lebel rifles. He’d done well in the beginning, keeping six bayonets aloft in a glittering whirl of steel until repeated draughts of issue wine had intervened. Half the men in the bunkroom carried wounds before they’d put him to bed.
What was his name? Karel would’ve remembered. He’d been there.
A wave of nausea reminded him to concentrate on the present. He put away his memories. Thinking about the part of him dying in the darkness increased the drag from his own world. It was hard enough to fight as it was.
He focused, grateful he’d found “a task not unbecoming”.
The words weren’t quite right. Like much of the poetry he carried in his head, his mind retained the thought rather than the exact words of Tennyson’s Ulysses, but the sentiment fitted.