Science Fiction/Fantasy, 325 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud
Blurb: The Civil War is just beginning in the 1861 universe and the technologically superior Khysid Army is poised for invasion and predation. Towsen and his friends must find a way to fight this invader. Rhea Benton holds one key to the motives behind the invasion and she must get it across battle lines to Towsen in Richmond. But you can't alter history in any universe without consequences and there is another key. Hidden alliances are forming on other fronts and another woman in Maryland has had a vision of strange allies and the help they will bring.
"Find her. Kill her and do it before she gets to Richmond," Val ordered, nearly out of breath with rage. "At least that will reestablish the baseline probabilities." Val sounded uncertain. "She is somehow involved in this."
Kester felt his mind analyze the implication. "There's nothing that should cause such a reaction. She hasn't led me to any additional linkages."
But even as Kester spoke, he felt uncertain about his course of action. Val was planning to escape from the army and leave him with whatever mess he was concocting. Val may be dense and lack imagination, but he was an extremely capable mathematician. Kester wracked his mind to think of what they could have done to cause the present imbalance. Yesterday he would have believed only killing Lincoln or Davis at this point in the history of this particular universe would cause such a result.
"Is that cross temporal resonance the reason?" Kester asked, remembering what Val had inadvertently told him. He thought Val had that under control.
"Not by itself. I'm not certain that such a combination could even cause what I'm measuring." Val's thoughts drifted off along some avenue of exploration. After a minute he abruptly returned. "We'll change plans for now," he said more to himself than Kester. "You find her."
Kester nodded and thumbed the power off. He glanced toward the burning house collapsing inward, spewing smoke and glowing ashes into the air. His men were watching it crumble in the flames. Soon they would remove any trace of their presence in the area. He wondered if it had been wise to kill the farmer. Had his rage gotten in the way of his reasoning? It was standard policy to get rid of any witnesses, since it was believed such actions did little in the scheme of things. He wondered if that belief was accurate.
For the first time in his career, Kester questioned what he had been taught about interactions among universes. Val had let it slip that it was possible to dampen temporal resonance. The Sixth Level was concealing invasion plans and committing a nearly intact Jewel for a Source Gate. Val seemed to think Hazen had in some manner activated the Realities. How Hazen managed to do that while dead, Kester could not even guess.
But Kester sensed that it was almost as if the people in this universe were thwarting him by acting at another level of Reality. They were incapable of such actions. Even he was incapable of such actions. How then could a nineteenth-century universe possess even rudimentary knowledge of Para-temporal Physics? It had to have started with Hazen, as Val had said, but where, when and most especially, why?
Kester spoke aloud as if to reassure himself of past events. "Once we have this universe, the people in it will be of little consequence." But he spoke without conviction. His men turned to see what he was saying and he waved them away.
What was he worried about? Rhea Benton was not used to hardship. She would seek help soon. And when she did, he would find her. Yes, he would find her long before she made it to Richmond.