The Bridge Of Time
The cold wind that blew across the bridge made me feel as ancient as the structure I was standing on. Leaning against the stone rail, I closed my eyes, imagining the clunk of horse hooves striking the stone, the rattle of chains, and the shouting over the clatter made by wheels of the chariots as they came across the bridge. I opened my eyes, but there was nothing to see but the distant horizon. I looked down at the roadbed at the grooves from hundreds of wooden wheels covering the same ground day after day for centuries.
A distant clatter caught my attention. I gazed about, but I was alone on this bridge. There it was again—but more distinct. I remembered the same rattle when I had the vision a few minutes ago. No, it couldn’t be. The days of Roman chariots were long gone, but that didn’t explain what I heard.
The sound became louder as the minutes wore on. Something appeared at the far end of the bridge, and even at that distance, I could make out the shape of a horse and chariot with rider. It occurred to me that I had no weapon or way to defend myself if I had to, but it was too late to worry about that.
I watched, transfixed, as the figures came towards me. Time stood still as the horse and chariot made their way to where I stood. I hadn’t moved a muscle in the entire time. The horse’s whinny, the chains rattling, and the wheels clattering across the stone echoed down the river. I could see the chariot driver, but I didn’t recognize him. There was no reason for me to know him. I wasn’t alive back then.
The horse stopped a few feet in front of me, whinnied, and nodded his head up and down. I admit I was frozen in place, shocked at what I saw. Instinctively I reached to pet the horse, who lowered his head for me to rub his forehead.
The man spoke. “He likes you.” The white horse continued to muzzle my shoulder while I rubbed his face. “You are Captain Jarvis?”
I nodded, not sure how to respond.
“We’ve been looking for you.”
“Looking for me?”
The captain and I assumed he was a captain because the plume color on his helmet seemed oblivious to the fact that I was wearing a modern dress.
“If I may ask, Who is looking for me?” I rubbed the horse’s head as he seemed to enjoy the attention.
“I’m not at liberty to say, sir. Please come with me.”
“I see.” Letting go of the horse, who nudged me one more time for a final rub on the side of his face.
The back of the chariot was open, with only a chain strung across it to keep the rider from falling out the back. He’d unhooked the chain, and I stepped up into the chariot. I grabbed the handles mounted along the front panel. There was barely room for both of us. Once situated, the driver gave a sharp command, and the horse turned on a dime. The chariot’s wheels barely moved as the cart spun around quickly, and we faced the that he had come. The chariot bounced over every rock and pebble in the road, and I felt every bounce of the small wooden wheels. I concentrated on staying upright and ignored the route we took.
It had been decades since I’d been back to Earth. Earlier trips had me investigating several problems the planet always seemed to have. Each time I stayed for extended periods, often hundreds of years, but I had always stayed in whatever timeline assigned.
I am Captain Jacob Jarvis. While I’m qualified to fly anything from a bi-wing plane to the space shuttle, and I’ve flown most of them at one time and another, I’d never been on a contraption like this. Space travel had not prepared me for a ride on a Roman chariot.
In between bounces and jounces, I studied my companion. He looked like the Roman soldier my research had said he should be. Several questions surfaced as I held on for dear life. He’d known my name and, by extension, probably knew who I was, and he hadn’t been surprised to see me standing on the bridge.
Of course, how I got on that bridge was another matter entirely. But at the moment, I was focusing on staying alive to find out where he was taking me.
While I’d spent many centuries on Earth in multiple times and guises, I’d never been here during the Roman empire era, so my knowledge of the time was minimal. We arrived at a city that didn’t look like any Roman city I’d read about or seen in a movie. Tents resembling a cross between dome tents and various styles and shapes I’d seen in my travels over the centuries sat on the outskirts. A glance around told me the people populating them were equally varied as their shelter.
Something was going on. How could people from many centuries live together and not notice their differences in clothes and speech? Given what I know of humans, they rarely tolerate others who are different from them, especially ethnic differences.
The chariot passed the tent town and continued to the center of the village or town. I wasn’t sure what to call it. The buildings were more substantial, made of adobe, stone, and wood. There didn’t seem to be a general theme or style in any of the buildings. There were carts and wagons of various sizes and shapes from different eras.
No one seemed to take a second notice of a white horse pulling a chariot with two differently dressed people in it as we passed through the streets. I wasn’t sure whether to be troubled or relieved by the lack of attention. We pulled up to a large adobe building, sunlight bouncing off the smooth sides. A large canopy stretched over the main doors giving some shade from the heat of the afternoon sun.
The earliest I’d been here was in the sixteen hundreds. Thinking about that time reminded me of Deidre, her flaming red hair, and her passion for life. I smiled to myself at the memory. I didn’t have much time to dwell on past adventures as the captain escorted me to a large meeting room.
Several people sat at long wooden tables scattered around the room. The table furthest from the door appeared to be the head table. The low hum of conversation halted the second we entered the room as all eyes looked at me.
“Sir, Captain Jacob Jarvis, sir.” The Roman guard announced very formally. With that, he turned on his heels and disappeared the way we’d come.
Taking what little I knew of the situation into account, I took a deep breath and walked toward the head table.
“Sir, Captain Jacob Jarvis, reporting as requested.”
I wasn’t sure who I was reporting to, but I thought it best to continue the tone that Captain had set when he announced me. It was then that I had a chance to look around. At the head table sat several familiar faces.
To the far left sat the roman general Augustus, and next to him was a face I knew too well. Zoman. I’d heard rumors that he might be involved in the situation on Earth. Like everyone else in the room, he wore clothing from his time period. As I looked around the room, I realized that a historian would love seeing the various time periods of a planet all in one place.
I waited for someone to call the room to order. People were sitting around talking in small groups and milling around. The weirdest thing was, as I watched a man dressed in a nineteen-thirties suit talking to a man from the seventeen-eighties, neither seemed to notice the others’ clothes or the other differences in their appearances. In some ways, this was good. I could imagine the situation if they started acting like normal humans, who generally don’t trust people who are different. But the bigger question was what was going on. How did all these people get here? And why?
I glanced at Zoman again. He knew who I was, and he knew I knew him. Who had summoned me and why?
A minute later, there was the dull thud of banging on the head table. Silence fell over the room, and everyone sat down. I stood where I was.
“WE understand that you’re an expert on these matters.”
“Ah, sir, an expert would be an overstatement, but I do have some experience with this kind of problem.” I didn’t tell him who I thought started the whole thing—Zoman. Or that the solution was to restart the Earth and essentially reboot the space-time corundum in this sector of space. Even then, I wasn’t sure it would work. I’d only seen it done once, about a thousand years ago.
Many other questions came to mind as I tried to figure out how to restart Earth without killing everyone on it. Why did we land in the Roman Empire, and what were the ramifications of that alone? It also worried me about the long-term effect on space and time.
Something like this doesn’t just happen without a lot of help. I knew Zoman was behind it, But I wasn’t sure why, although I had my suspicions—having run into him before and bested him several times over. This was personal. Most of the galaxy knows my affection for planet Earth and my exploits here. There were gigabytes of files on my interactions with humans, particularly several redheaded females with whom I’d crossed paths in my times here. So, this was an easy target to get to me. Well, he got to me. I would deal with Zoman after I figured out how to save the planet.
Several hours later, I was back on my ship. I convinced them I had a way to reverse the time warp that had taken over the planet. The truth was, I had sort of an idea, but even that was worth a try.
After studying the planet and the moon’s rotation, I found an anomaly that made it spin faster than it should, throwing everything into a tailspin and out of time. It still didn’t explain a lot, but it was a start. It was more than possible. I couldn’t thoroughly explain what was happening or why to everyone, but that was a problem for another time. I needed to return the Earth to its correct time and place. Stopping the Earth’s rotation was a huge undertaking, and I couldn’t do that with the equipment I had onboard my ship. I observed the Earth’s core and realized it spun erratically and at different speeds and directions. The time warp was the least of the Earth’s problems. At the rate the core changed direction and speed, so erratically, the Earth would soon explode into a fireball of smoke and gasses that would send the crust and everything on it into a blazing wall of life and death instantly into space. And the Earth would no longer exist.
Now that I identified the core issue, what did I do about it? Using the scanners on my ship, I looked for any unusual magnetic forces that hadn’t been here before. Comparing the data from my previous trips to Earth, I found a new force affecting the Earth and its moon, causing it to deviate from its time-honored path around the planet. After several trips around the Earth and the moon, I located a rogue satellite in a far orbit around both.
Locking onto the satellite, I prepared to destroy it but hesitated. I didn’t know what would happen to the planet when the satellite was not affecting the core. Would the core return to its proper rotation, or would it continue to spin uncontrollably? I had no choice but to fire. It took several blasts from my defensive weapons to destroy the satellite. Eventually, it went up in a ball of fire, quickly extinguished by the lack of oxygen in space, resulting in a floating pile of debris.
I was almost afraid of what I’d find when heading back to the planet as quickly as possible. Coming back from the back of the moon, I was relieved to see the small blue world still where I’d left it. It hadn’t exploded but rotated as if nothing had happened. I scanned the planet, and nothing seemed any different than before, and radio communications were routine as if nothing had happened. I had expected that.
I watched the reading on the core, and it seemed to slow down to normal behavior but was still somewhat erratic, but the moon had returned to its original orbit path. I had expected that it would, but the Earth’s core was a problem. I need to stabilize it into its normal churning behavior. Another magnetic force change could do it, but it also could make it worse. I quickly dismissed that idea. Playing with large magnets was not a good idea. I decided to wait and see what happened. There was little I could do anyway. Either the core would stabilize and resume proper rotation on its own, or it wouldn’t, and if not, the outcome would likely be catastrophic. Either way, my next stop was back to the planet.
There had been no set time or place to return to the planet. I headed for the coordinates that I had landed at initially and once again, stood on the same stone bridge that I had stood on earlier.
But this time, there seemed to be a different feel to it. The same bumps in the road I had noticed before were there, but new marks on the stones were visible on the stones—tire tracks from a modern vehicle. I was undoubtedly in the right place, but was it the right time? I could only hope. If time and space were now normal, there was little else for me to do here, except—except for Zoman. I had to deal with Zoman.
It was almost dusk when a lone figure appeared at the end of the bridge. I couldn’t determine who it was until he came much closer, but I suspected who. In the bright sun, I realized that it was indeed Zoman. He had finely chosen to confront me.
He wore the robes he’d worn when I saw him earlier at the roman conference. A new adornment was a belt with several objects hanging from it.
I was still wearing the casual button-down shirt and slacks of modern dress. Of all the clothing I’d worn over the centuries that I’d been here this was by far the most comfortable and easiest to wear. But no time for worries about comfort as I watched him cross the bridge to meet me in the middle. I sure wasn’t moving to meet him. He’d caused this mess and now was his reckoning time. There was no need to stand on ceremonies anymore. I faced him squarely in the middle of the bridge.
We stood a couple of feet apart and faced each other. I could feel his breath as he waited for me to act.
“This is about Deidre, isn’t it?”
He glared at me. “She should have been mine.”
I remember he was obsessed with her at the time. He’d been my backup on this mission, but I didn’t call on him. He knew my feeling towards her. Hell, the whole galaxy knew my feeling for her. I’d caught heat from my superiors over my relationship with a human and the ramifications of it. But it had worked out eventually.
But Zoman didn’t take her rejection of him well and had sworn he’d get even. My repeated visits to the planet over the centuries made his resentment even more personal. He had planned to destroy the Earth and everyone I loved on it and me along with it.
“You knew they would send me. You wanted me dead and didn’t care if you took an entire planet out with me.”
He nodded yes.
“And you were prepared to die right along with it.”
“Yes, if that meant you knew I was responsible.”
I pressed a button on my wrist com. “You get all of that?”
The tiny speaker squawked. “Yes.”
Within seconds, a cadre of armed personnel appeared from nowhere, took Zoman into custody, and disappeared into nothing as they beamed aboard a ship waiting in orbit.
I stayed on Earth for several more months, monitoring the core and the moon’s orbit to ensure I was ready in case of any lingering issues. Over time the Earth’s core returned to normal, and the time-space continuum was restored.
I could rest easy that the descendants of my precious Deidre’s great-grandchildren were safe on Earth, my second home.
About the Creator
Baby Boomer, Writer, Connoisseur of all things Classic: Movies, Television, Music, Vinyl, Cars, also a lover of technology.
I write stories that bend genres and cross the boundries of time and space.
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