"Copyright violation?!" Guenevere blurted.
"This impulse configuration was designed by my father," said Arthur, smiling in disbelief and/or diplomacy, "no matter who else came up with it independently."
"It matters under the law of this area of space," I insisted, "and I'm a deputy law/court officer in this jurisdiction." I grabbed an I.D. at random from my pocket and flashed it at Arthur, knowing damn well he couldn't read the language, then turned it off and put it away when Merlin and Nimue tried to see it. Actually there was less chance of them queering my scam than that the Benwick would. On the other hand, Arthur knew me and would probably play along if I was upfront with him. Nimue, too - and keeping officious Benwicks off my back was small potatoes compared to the real reason I needed her on my side. "Your majesty, it may be that I won't have to impound your ship -"
"Impound Excalibur?!" Guenevere shouted.
"- if I can hold an emergency hearing right now. Now, I'll need some assistance - Nimue," I called before Pudentiana said something innuendo-laden, "you're a disinterested party. I deputize you as my, uh, deputy deputy. Sire, if we might all confer in private a moment?" I bundled Nimue and Arthur into a corner without waiting for an answer.
"'Disinterested'," Nimue sniffed to me when we were alone. "I'm the most interested party you'll ever meet. Just now I'm interested in your assertion that a Camelotian drive design falls under the jurisdiction of Saxon intellectual property law as enforced by the Fairie holder of a Viking holorental card."
"Pudentiana must go back where she came from," I told them.
Pudentiana had died in the eponymous capital city of the planet Rome in May of the year now reckoned A.D. 59, sacrificing herself for her sister Aurora and saving the galaxy from the fallen god Gloria. In September her friends had used a powerful and far from squeaky-clean magic spell to bring her back to life; bad things made to happen by good people. They had assumed, not unreasonably, that her spirit was trapped in the hell dimension the portal to which her body had passed through. They'd assumed wrong.
Here was that Pudentiana now, timelost, on a fifth century space exploration vessel, still after four months shocky and disoriented. Not the least by my showing up.
But Nimue's comment that she'd "got to the bottom" of Pudentiana's story, and that it was all right, meant the time-traveler was also from a point in her personal timeline after she'd encountered Pudentiana's sacrifice but before she'd encountered Pudentiana's resurrection. She didn't know Pudentiana was destined to return to A.D. 59, by means of her friends' resurrection spell; and it would be dangerous to the timeline for me to tell something like that to a time-traveling major player like Nimue before she found out for herself. If you think it's handy to have an Avalonian sorceress around when you're trying to unravel a paradox, gods (And why else has Pudentiana been waiting four months for me to come along?), would it have been that much more trouble to pick one I could explain the anomaly to without tearing a new anomaly?
When I told Arthur and Nimue that Pudentiana had to go back, it was the only time I ever saw Arthur blink twice.
"She came back from death," Nimue objected. "Picked the right ship, too ..." I wasn't sure what she meant. Arthur gave me a commiserative dry look. Time travelers say things like that.
"She must," I said, voice low and lips hardly moving and teeth clenched.
I could have said, "I can't tell you that." I didn't know, after their past few days, saying that would've only pissed them off. I still didn't say it. I didn't want them mad, I wanted them scared.
"I could tell you," I said casually, "but then I'd have to kill you."
By this time Nimue had gone as far as she ever would in forgiving Genius for what Fabian had done to her, but she knew the line between Genius and Fabian could go fuzzy at need. And they both knew I had experience with time paradoxes: the physics geek; the day I lived human, then lived over; meeting Genuissa before I met her ... "What do you want us to do?" Nimue asked.
"Find a way to take her back."
"Oh, very good. I'll just nip off back to the CAVE and look up the spacetime coordinates of the afterlife."
"Find out how she got here, somehow," I hissed desperately, "and reverse it. Between the two of us, you're the better wizard; and Arthur and I have to keep up a distraction because she's not going to want to go, and because the crew of this ship wouldn't believe any of this if we told them. Oh, and Arthur, I need you to keep the Benwick off my back."
"Excuse me, Mr. Genius," Guenevere interrupted us. She had been conferring with Lancelot during our conference. "Benwick is unaware of any authority governing this area of space."
"It's a new interstellar federation," said Nimue promptly.
"It must be quite new," said Lancelot.
"Very new," I said quickly. "And unstable," I added, conscious that they'd never hear of it again after today. "Might be gone next week."
"Which isn't to say interplanetary federations are necessarily a bad thing," said Merlin pointedly to Arthur. "Under the right ruler."
"Meanwhile, you wouldn't want to obstruct a law officer in the execution of his duties, would you?" I asked. I always try to speak in generalities after the first big lie, in case Saint Peter only tallies actual untrue statements. Not that I'll ever meet him anyway.
"It would seem the diplomatic thing to do, sire," Merlin said.
"A hearing?" Arthur asked me. I nodded.
"He's one of the good guys, sire," Pudentiana put in.
"And it's not like we can't just kick him back onto his dinky little ship and outrun him, if we want to, afterwards," Guenevere whispered to Arthur.
"You don't want to start out making the rest of the galaxy think you're as unruly as the Benwicks think, do you, your majesty?" said Isis.
"All right." Arthur, beset on all sides, did what he'd secretly already agreed to do for me. "As long as you understand I may not feel bound by your ruling," he added, playing himself to the hilt.
I grinned my salesman grin. "We'll plunge into that wormhole if it opens. Nimue, would you go to the CAVE and start on that research I asked for?"
"Right away, your honor," said Nimue, with only enough irony to lay it an inch thick on the Excalibur's entire exterior surface. "Come along, Isis." They left.
"Uh, sire, somewhere we can talk?" I suggested.
"My ready room," Arthur said, and led the way. Pudentiana was on my arm the whole trip, the sweeter now I knew it wouldn't last.
I beat Arthur to the seat behind the desk without seeming to rush. Once everyone was seated I found they were all looking at me to start the proceedings. (Well, Pudentiana was just looking at me.) I didn't have the faintest idea how to convene a court in an imaginary federation that both Saxons and Jutes would be members of. Then I remembered that I wasn't the one supposedly on trial here. "Well," I asked Arthur, "what do you have to say for yourselves?"
"That's bringing court to order?" Pudentiana giggled.
"I said we're new."
Arthur was already standing. If Camelot keeps giving their starships to guys like him they'll probably do all right.
"As you may know, on Camelot ignorance of the law is considered no excuse," Arthur started. "So I'm not going to go that way. 'I didn't mean to' may get you off for knocking over the lamp when you're nine - or it may not - but it certainly doesn't hold up in court.
"Neither am I going to say, 'We're sorry and we promise we won't do it again.' I'm not sorry and I probably will do it again, and I think I can speak for my crew on that.
"The basis of my defense is not to deny our infraction of this law, but to argue the injustice of the law itself."
Arthur began to pace in front of me at his desk, gesturing with his hands, keeping eye contact with me and smiling in a friendly way. "What are we out here for? We're out here for ideas. We're out here for community. We're out here for growth, for our own growth and to offer a hand to others for their growth. It's what intelligent beings do. We build on what's gone before. That's where civilization comes from.
"At issue is our right to freely exchange ideas in our community. Ideas of our own. Ideas of others. Every individual or species' natural desire. Our right to our chosen means of this exchange is being called into question, on the basis that the means is someone else's property.
"The purpose of intellectual property law, when it was invented on Earth anyway, was to encourage creators by guaranteeing the creator ownership of his own creation as it propagated through society. But what then when the creation propagates so thoroughly through society as to become a cornerstone of society? What then when inhibition of its use is inhibition of society? On Earth, intellectual property law was created with inherent time limits - because its true purpose was to see ideas make the transition to the public domain.
"I don't know whether this Lezpyiq is a person or some sort of corporate entity. If Lezpyiq is a living person or more than one, I have no quarrel with them receiving due compensation for propagation and use of their idea.
"But if this Lezpyiq is some committee or commercial concern comprised of no remnant of the actual creator or creators of the design, then that cornerstone of that society is being inhibited, and the law that enforces that inhibition is doing precisely the opposite of what intellectual property law was conceived to do."
The guy was going great guns. He was sure convincing me. So I noticed right away when he suddenly froze where he was standing. "Uh, there's something wrong with your king, guys," I said. When no one answered I noticed that they were all frozen too, even Pudentiana.
There was a white light growing in the center of the room. Luckily for Arthur he had been frozen at a different point in his pacing route, or this thing would have materialized on top of him ... if it was material. It was dazzling, but it wasn't. It was as if I had been granted a god's breadth of perception but was still constrained to physically take it in with my own bodily senses. As that description occurred to me I remembered also where I'd originally heard it: Britannica describing her ascension the first time she'd been promoted to the next plane, while I was twenty thousand leagues under the sea.
I was starting to make out a humanoid form in the center of it when it spoke. "The lady summoned us on your behalf."
Lady? Oh, Nimue had been Lady of the Lake, ruler of Avalon, once. Us? Come to think of it, I did seem to see two figures alternating, one bigger and probably male and one slighter, bustier and bald. And something else? Something boxy? "Yes. What do you know about this one's being in this time?" I pointed to Pudentiana.
He/she/it (the it was some kind of machine, I could see as they became more focussed) looked at Pudentiana. "She is a Champion," said the male aspect. "There is a disturbance in the continuum in this spacetime, a suitable challenge for a Champion." I didn't know it then but this disturbance was what had involved Nimue with Arthur's ship. There was another temporal anomaly going on, something it was going to take the power of Avalon itself to fix. But that wasn't the issue on the table.
"You brought her here," I induced. "That means you can put her back."
"That is waste of a Champion," said the female aspect. "She has not advanced enough to ascend higher yet. She requires more challenges overcome." When it was male it appeared in a familiarish jumpsuit.
"Is that a Camelot fleet uniform?"
"Of a sort. We were on Excalibur. Or are." He shook his head over the lack of verb tenses to describe time travel concepts. "Language is such a clumsy tool."
"Yeah, yeah." The higher Champions always say that. "It's just that I know her advancement challenges to lie along another path, which she is to find without your assistance."
Somehow the machine aspect (you know, it looked like one of the Greeks' early unmanned probes) contrived to look from Pudentiana to me. Then the male and female aspects appeared at once and spoke simultaneously. "She is safe, warm, complete with you. And you her. Why do you turn this away?"
"Because that time is still in the future for her," I said. Then I swallowed and added, "And in the past for me."
I guess that persuaded them, either to my argument or to look for themselves into whatever noncorporeal crystal ball they used to verify the things mere mortals told them. They almost looked sad. "So be it," said the machine.
"Uh - and it might smooth things over if you adjusted the memories of the people of this time as if she'd never been here, besides the king," I added quickly. Arthur wouldn't relish having to explain to everyone what happened to one of his crew, resigned or not, when she'd vanished in the middle of his oration. I purposefully made no request regarding Pudentiana's memory. No one from Rome, including Pudentiana, had ever discussed with me whether Pudentiana came back from her A.D. 59 death with any memories. I didn't want to risk meddling with them - as I already said, I was here to repair a time anomaly, not cause one.
But they saw my question, now that they were looking at my soul already. "She shall remember impressions only," the female assured me. "It is time," the male announced.
"Goodbye, Pudentiana," I said. The white light faded, and when it was gone Pudentiana was gone too.
When he came back to himself Arthur seemed to have lost the thread of his argument. It didn't matter; the door buzzed, Arthur and I both called, "Come!", and Nimue and Isis entered.
They noted Pudentiana's absence - not being "people of this time" whose memories the higher Champion would have adjusted according to my request. Merlin would still remember Pudentiana being here too, but Arthur would update him. Then Nimue came over to me and - without having been told - made quiet buzzing noises in my ear to make it look like she was telling me what she'd found out about the imaginary local copyright law. Maybe she was trying to put me on the spot, to see how I'd deal; but in fact I'd already concocted the story I was going to use to resolve this.
"Thanks, Nimue," I said when she was done. I rose from Arthur's chair and said to him with embarrassment, "I, uh, seem to have exceeded my authority. I'm deputized to enforce the laws, but I'm informed that there are lisences I don't possess without which I'm not legally qualified to say that your impulse configuration is a Lezpyiq."
"So we're off the hook?" Arthur asked.
"Well, I'm duty-bound to report you to the authorities," I said. "... if, when I depart, I still believe you're running a Lezpyiq."
"I know several configurations which are, so to speak, public domain," Nimue butted into the act. "More efficient battery usage than the Lezpyiq, too."
"So, after all this hooting and hollering," Guenevere summarized, "all you're going to do is help us with our situation and leave - which is what we all wanted in the first place."
"Uh, yeah," I admitted. It really was a little embarrassing.
"Well, shoot," said Guenevere.
"Perhaps," Lancelot offered to her, "you can understand a little better now how Benwicks feel about dealing with humans."
"Maybe if you'd just help us with our situation and leave, we wouldn't -"
"Guenevere," Arthur cut her off, giving both knights a Not in front of company look. "Nimue, Mr. Genius, let's do it."
Merlin saw us back to my ship's bay for a private goodbye with Nimue and Isis before escorting them back to the CAVE.
"Thanks for your help," I said to Nimue when I'd related my conversation with the triple header.
"I appreciate your higher being's concern," said Nimue, "but the anomaly in this time zone isn't something Pudentiana would likely have been able to handle, and is already in good hands anyway."
"I'm surprised you weren't more surprised to see her," Isis told Nimue. "It was only a few days ago, our chronology, that we were at her funeral."
Nimue shrugged it off. "As our mere presence on the Excalibur here and now has attested, I do sometimes meet people or things out of sequence. As for Pudentiana being unexpectedly in the wrong time zone, the sort of thing does happen. Next time you see Queen Dierdre, ask her about Rip Van Winkle. Now if I were to see Pudentiana on Rome in late A.D. 59, that'd be another matter."
She turned to me. "I was more surprised to see you. According to Avalonian researches, no Fairie in all the empire survived the Christianization and the sack of Rome."
"Not your average Fairie," I reminded her.
"Low friends in high places, eh?" Apparently it was some later Nimue with whom I helped ensure that anyone was alive on Rome after the sack.
"I gotta go."
"Goodbye." Fortunately Avalonians aren't any bigger on goodbyes than I am; we turned and went our seperate ways. After the first couple of centuries you learn to concentrate on the hellos instead, I guess.
Once under weigh again I reflected on the difference between us. Whatever else this other anomaly had done, it seemed to have brought Merlin and Nimue together again. Yeah, and me and Pudentiana too ... but only to tear us apart. Again. Story of my life - every time she comes into my life she only gets torn away.
The thing is, she never really leaves.
The cause of Nimue's emnity with Fabian, and Genius's "meeting Genuissa before I met her", are described in the as yet unwritten King Arthur in Time and Space verison of the fanfiction story Angels and Aces; in which untold tale Genius seems already familiar by Pudentiana's Baneship with Nimue and the sort of time muddles she gets into, but in which the reason for Genius' familiarity is not adequately explored.
The first recorded assertion that no Roman Fairie survived the
Christianization of the empire is in my first KAITAS/PUDENTIANA crossover
Everything in Threes.
Genius' tale of the sack of Rome, or at least the conclusion of it, will appear in the as yet unwritten King Arthur in Time and Space version of the fanfiction story The Circle of Time.
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