Paul Gadzikowski

King Arthur of Time and Space


Chapter 2

"His DNA is half Avalonian," said Guenevere, peering at the readouts on Galahad's scanner bed in the medical ward. The patient had been changed out of the bloodspattered uniform that was now in two parts, into a ward coverall. "He still has only one heart - but now it's in the upper rather than the lower thorax. A brand spanking new secondary respiratory system ...

"There was no sign of this before!" Guenevere said. "Any of it!"

"The Avalonian genome," said Merlin uncomfortably, "has been known to assert itself in half-breeds to a varying degree with each rejuvenation."

"There are many Avalonian half-breeds?" Galahad asked.

Merlin cleared his throat. "I, uh ..." Merlin coughed. "I myself only know of one other."

Arthur knew what Merlin wasn't saying, but everyone else in the ward was waiting for the sorceror to drop the other shoe.

"I am," said Merlin, "half British."

"That would explain a great deal," Galahad said into the silence.

Guenevere had responded to the revelation, not with just surprised silence, but by turning a scanner on Merlin. "There's no British DNA in your genome."

"Check my retinal tissue," Merlin said. "That's all that never changes."

"Wait a minute!" Guenevere snapped her fingers in sudden enthusiasm. "There was British DNA in your first body! You even only had one heart then."

"I didn't know you'd ever scanned my first body."

"I didn't. This was in Lancelot's father's report from the first time the CAVE landed on the Excalibur, back in Uther's day when Ban was still a prince."

"I didn't know you'd seen the classified version of that report," said Arthur, startled. Of course as Queen she was entitled if she asked, but she'd never asked.

Guenevere's enthusiasm died away in confusion. "I guess I did, once. I don't, um, remember." (A week from now Guenevere would confess to Arthur that what she'd remembered now was not reading Ban's report herself but Lancelot's reading of it when he made captain's rank.)

"The Benwick genome is the dominant between Benwick and British," said Merlin, a little more at ease now that he had got his confession off his chest, "as Lancelot's case shows. The Avalonian genome is stronger still. It was nearly edged out by the British in my first body, but has been much more successful with all my subsequent rejuvenations. Galahad's Benwick heritage managed to occlude the Avalonian entirely in his first body, but now it's in retreat. It may or may not retreat any further with successive rejuvenations.

"I say - where is Lancelot?"

Arthur felt the chasm yawn open before him again. "Lancelot is dead, Merlin."

"Dead? How?" Merlin seemed horrified. Even given the respect Merlin had for Lancelot as a fellow scientist, he was overreacting.

A hope rose in Arthur's heart: was Lancelot's death at the Grail planet somehow in contradiction to history as Merlin knew it? If it was, it would have to be unhappened! Arthur described the circumstances to the sorceror enthusiastically. Guenevere interrupted and joined in almost immediately, apparently following Arthur's train of thought.

"Oh! Oh," said Merlin. "Terribly sorry for your loss, of course."

"Thank you," said Guenevere, confused now. So was Arthur. Suddenly Merlin was wholly uninterested; as if Lancelot were just suffering from a mild illness from which there was every reason to believe he'd recover.

Arthur turned away from the chasm again, not even bearing to look at the expression which the dashed momentary hope must have left on Guenevere's face. "Galahad - do you have any idea how you ...?"

"None, Sire."

"Pardon me if this is a stupid question," said Merlin with that tone of voice people use when they don't think the question is stupid, "but mightn't we ask your parents?"

"I don't know who my parents are, Merlin," said Galahad. "My origins are lost in the past. I was discovered on a Benwick outpost 11.4 standard years after its destruction by Viking 'pirates', myself of approximately ten standard years of age. Having no memories of any life previous to my solitary life there, I was assumed to be offspring of ... of a colonist and a pirate."

"Who 'discovered' you?" Merlin asked.

"H.M.S. Excalibur," said Galahad. "Specifically a landing party led by Science Officer Lancelot and Nurse Elaine of Corbin and Astolat. Lancelot adopted me as his ward under Benwick law. Elaine resigned from the Round Table fleet to raise me, and when I was of age Lancelot took leave of absence from the Round Table to train me in the Benwick way of chivalry.

"So you see, Merlin, I have no knowledge of my parents."

"Well, I think it's high time you found it!"

"But," Guenevere said, "he just told you his origins are lost in the past!"

"I am a time traveler," said Merlin. He turned to Galahad. "Come to that, so are you.

"We'll get in the CAVE and go back to your outpost."

End of Chapter 2

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