Жанр книги: Научная Фантастика
Robert A Heinlein To Sail Beyond The Sunset

During the fifty-odd years on my personal time line from my rescue in 1982 to the start of the Time mission which aborted into my present predicament on this planet I spent time equal to about ten years in the study of comparative history, in particular the histories of the time lines that the Circle of Ouroboros attempts to protect, all of which appear to share a single ancestral time line at least through AD 1900 and possibly through to about 1940.

This sheaf of universes includes my own native universe (time line two, code Leslie LeCroix) and excludes the uncounted but far more numerous exotic time lines - universes in which Columbus did not sail for the Indies (or failed to return), ones in which the Viking settlements succeeded and ‘America' becomes ‘Great Vinland', ones in which the Muscovite empire on the west coast clashes with the Hispanic empire on the east coast (worlds in which Queen Elizabeth dies in exile), other worlds in which Columbus found America already owned by the Manchu emperors - and worlds with histories so exotic that it is hard to find even a remote ancestral line in common with anything we can recognise.

I am almost certain that I have slipped into one of the exotics. .. but of a previously unsuspected sort.

I did not spend all my time studying histories; I worked for a living, supporting myself first as a nursing assistant, then as a nurse, then as a clinical therapist, then as a student rejuvenator (all the while going to school), before I shifted careers to the Time Corps.

But it was this study of histories that caused me to think about a career in Time.

Several of the time lines known to ‘civilisation' (our name for ourselves) appear to split away about 1940. One cusp at which these splits show is the Democratic National Convention of 1940 at which Mr Franklin Delano Roosevelt either was or was not nominated by the Democratic Party for a third term as President of the United States, then either was or was not elected, then either did or did not serve through to the end of the Second World War.

In time line one, code John Carter, the Democratic nomination went to Paul McNutt. .. but the election to Republican Senator Robert Taft.

In the composite time lines coded ‘Cyrano', Mr Roosevelt had both a third and a fourth term, died in his fourth term and was succeeded by his vice-president, a former Senator from Missouri named Harry Truman. In my own time line there was never a senator by that name but I do remember Brian speaking of a Captain Harry Truman whom he knew in France. ‘A fighting son of a gun, ' Briney called him. ‘A real buzz saw. ' But the Harry Truman whom Brian knew was not a politician; he was a haberdasher, so it seems unlikely that it could be the same man. Briney used to go out of his way to buy gloves and such from Captain Truman. He described him as ‘a dying breed - an old-fashioned gentleman. '

In time line two, code Leslie LeCroix, my own native time line and that of Lazarus Long and Boondock, Mr Roosevelt was nominated for a third term in july 1940, then died from a stroke while playing tennis the last week in October, thereby creating a unique constitutional crisis. Henry Wallace, the Democratic nominee for vice-president, claimed that the Electors from the states that went Democratic were bound by law to vote for him for president. The Democratic National Committee did not see it that way and neither did the Electoral College - and neither did the Supreme Court - three different points of view. Four, in fact, as John Nance Garner was President from October on. .. but had not been nominated for anything and had bolted his party after the July convention.

I will return to this subject as this was the world I grew up in. But note that Mr Roosevelt was stricken ‘while playing tennis'.

I learned while studying comparative history that in all other time lines but mine Mr Roosevelt had been a poliomyelitis cripple confined to a wheel chair!

The effects of contagious diseases on history are a never ending subject for debate among mathematico-historians on Tertius. I often wonder about one case, because I was there. In my time line Spanish influenza killed 528. 000 US residents in the epidemic of the winter of 1918-19, and killed more troops in France than had been killed by shot and shell and poison gas. What if the Spanish flu had struck Europe one year earlier? Certainly history would have been changed - but in what way? Suppose a corporal named Hitler had died? Or an exile who called himself Lenin? Or a soldier named Pétain? That strain of flu could kill overnight; I saw it happen more than once.

Time line three, code Neil Armstrong, is the native world of my sister-wife Hazel Stone (Gwen Campbell) and of our husband Dr Jubal Harshaw. This is an unattractive world in which Venus is uninhabitable and Mars is a bleak, almost airless desert, and Earth itself seems to have gone crazy, led by the United States in a lemming-like suicide stampede.

I dislike studying time line three; it is so horrid. Yet it fascinates me. In this time line (as in mine) United States historians call the second half of the twentieth century the Crazy Years - and well they might! Hearken to the evidente:

a) The largest, longest, bloodiest war in United States history, fought by conscript troops without a declaration of war, without any clear purpose, without any intention of winning - a war that was ended simply by walking away and abandoning the people for whom it was putatively fought;

b) Another war that was never declared - this one was never concluded and still existed as an armed truce forty years after it started. .. while the United States engaged in renewed diplomatic and trade relations with the very government it had warred against without admitting it;

c) An assassinated president, an assassinated presidential candidate, a president seriously wounded in an assassination attempt by a known psychotic who nevertheless was allowed to move freely, an assassinated leading Negro national politician, endless other assassination attempts, unsuccessful, partly successful, and successful;

d) So many casual killings in public streets and public parks and public transports that most lawful citizens avoided going out after dark, especially the elderly;

e) Public school teachers and state university professors who taught that patriotism was an obsolete concept, that marriage was an obsolete concept, that sin was an obsolete concept, that politeness was an obsolete concept - that the United States itself was an obsolete concept;

f) School teachers who could not speak or write grammatically, could not spell, could not cipher;

g) The nation's leading farm state had as its biggest cash crop an outlawed plant that was the source of the major outlawed drug;

h) Cocaine and heroin called ‘recreational drugs', felonious theft called ‘joyriding', vandalism by gangs called ‘trashing', burglary called ‘ripping off', felonious assault by gangs called ‘mugging' and all of these treated as ‘boys will be boys', so scold them and put them on probation but don't ruin their lives by treating them as criminals;