Time for Alexander

Excerpt from The Road to Alexander, book I in the Time for Alexander series.

“My son, go find a fitting kingdom; Macedonia is too small for you.”                                             ~ Philip of Macedonia to his son Alexander

“…And if you’re still not convinced that I have won the kingdom, fight me for it again, I shall be ready. But don’t run away, for I will follow you to the ends of the earth. ”                                         ~  Extract of a letter from Alexander to Darius (King of Persia)

“Tempus edax rerum” (Time destroys everything) – Ovid                                                          ~ Saying written in gold above the door in the Sending Room at Tempus University, Institute of Time Travel and Study.

Prologue

There are several tombs purported to be of Alexander the Great. Only I know the real one. I will tell you this much: it is a simple tomb carved in hard stone. Inside, there are the relics of a legend. There is a gold cup in the shape of a winged lion. There is a large round shield, supposedly magic, that once belonged to the great hero, Achilles. There is a long braid of pale hair. There are many well-read letters in an ebony box, for he loved mail, and there is an ancient scroll that, when carefully unrolled, reveals a copy of the Iliad. He was never without it.

He was buried alone, since he died before any of us. For that, I will always curse him. My prayer had ever been to die before him. We would have all preferred to die before he did, for we all loved him. He was our sun, our god, and the reason we lived. Without him, the world appeared much darker and smaller somehow, than it had before.

Alexander: the name is a whisper in the room, merging with the shadows. There is still an echo of him; an echo that lasted for three thousand years. Sometimes I can almost feel him standing next to me. Blue light from the glass lamp makes strange shadows on the wall, and I pause as I write this. Night is falling, and soon lions will come to the water to drink. I love to sit on the porch and watch them. My terrace is set well back from the lake, but on a hill, so I can see all the way down the coast to the river, and sometimes I can catch a glint of the sea beyond. It is a timeless place; a place where the gods have their banquets, and where man and beast still live in perfect harmony. It will change. All will change.

I am getting old now, and my hand sometimes trembles and refuses to hold the pen. Getting old bothers me more than I thought it would, but the thought of dying holds no fear for me. I even look forward to it, for you see, how can I be afraid to die? In three thousand years I will be born again. I will win a prestigious award and choose to interview a legend. In three thousand years I will return to Alexander, and the story will go on. The story will never end. I am looking forward to meeting Alexander again.

Chapter One

I didn’t want to go back in time with my head shaved, but the fashion consultant ignored my protests. She put the razor to my head and swept off my hair. That should have been a warning, but I’d ignored the signs.
I couldn’t get any of my so-called friends from Tempus University to pick me up. They’d stopped speaking to me when I’d been chosen for the prize. The only flat I could afford, after giving my money to a charity foundation, was in a crappy section outside town and there was no zip-tram nearby. None of the hover-taxis I called were free, so I had to walk to the station.
When I finally got to the Time Travel Institute at Tempus University, the fashion consultant gave me a dress that felt like it had been woven from nettles and the most uncomfortable sandals in the world. The sandals, the fashion consultant informed me, were made by a shoemaker-slash-historian from plaited grass imported directly from the Euphrates riverbanks.

Then the fashion consultant shaved me bald and gave me a horrible wig. In another room, a surgeon gave me a shot that was supposed to protect me from all the known illnesses of the time, including pregnancy and rabies. Then he implanted a tradi-scope above my left ear, missing the first time, and giving me a fearsome headache. I didn’t complain. I needed the tradi-scope to understand all the languages I would hear.
Finally, when I was deemed presentable for 333 BC, the fashion consultant escorted me to the centre of the Institute of Time Travel, where I climbed onto the massive seat carved from a block of pure quartz crystal that would send my atoms spinning through time.
A nurse paused next to me and looked at the glowing screen by the cylinder of frozen nitrogen. ‘Only a few more minutes before you get vaporized,’ she said.
I leaned back in the freezing chair and pretended to yawn. Above all, a time-travelling journalist must be in control of his or her emotions. Emotions clouded judgment. Emotions were marks against you at Tempus University. Sentiments were stomped out and clinical thinking was put in their place. I was trained to observe and to ask pertinent questions, all the while remaining detached. The Time-Travel Institute was not about to spend millions of dollars to send people back in time to have them fall apart and blither.

Lightning crashed and thunder shook the building. On the glass dome above my head, rain poured like a waterfall, the sound deafening. More lighting jagged across the sky, and the white-coated scientist standing next to me glanced upwards. “Right on time.” He checked his watch and then motioned curtly to a nurse standing nearby. “Four minutes.”

I shifted, my bones aching. The ice-cold, quartz-crystal chair beneath me seemed to vibrate with every lightning flash. Time travel uses lightning, and takes so much power that only one individual can voyage each year. The entire planet’s energy system dims for the hour it takes to send the voyager. The renown of the program and its consequences are such that none can ignore it. In a short time, I would be among the most famous people in the world.