Paul Gadzikowski

King Arthur of Time and Space

Prime Contact

Chapter 2

Excalibur log, supplemental, first knight recording: During King Uther's first contact mission on the planet of the Saxons, an object impenetrable to our sensors has teleported onto the ship. Sir Ector informs me that it has yielded passengers whom Prince Ban is escorting to the bridge.

"And this," said Ban, "is 'the sorceror Merlin'."

"How do you do," said Merlin, smiling, bowing, and taking Leodegrance's hand. The other three had only informally nodded or waved. Leodegrance appeared to be charmed despite her obvious suspicion of the strangers.

"So what brings you to the Excalibur?" Leodegrance asked.

"Our ship," piped up the young woman, Ygraine, with typical British literalness-as-humor.

"We don't mean to be any trouble." Helena spoke with little apparent hope.

"King's signalling, ma'am," interrupted Gorlois suddenly.

"Excuse me." Leodegrance turned to the intercom in the arm of the command chair. "Excalibur here."

"This is Uther." The king sounded tense. "I've met with General Cerdic, their High Council leader, who sent us the supralight message. It's an odd situation down here, though."

"How so, sire?" Leodegrance asked.

"These Saxons - their perceptions, their universe-view seems to be different than ours. I want you to send Ban down to backstop me."

"Perhaps," said Merlin, stepping around the chair to the intercom before Ban or Leodegrance could stop him, "we could help."

"Who's that?" said Uther. His inflection suggested that, but for Leodegrance listening on the line, he'd have used one of the colorful British metaphors in which he occasionally indulged when startled. "Who's on my ship?"

"Tourists," said Leodegrance. Ban admired her conciseness.

"Explorers," insisted Merlin into the intercom.

"Four humanoids," Leodegrance elucidated, "who claim to be time-travelers."

"If multiple perspectives are what you need," Merlin continued, "Helena and Demetrius are from ancient Greece, and my apprentice and I from the future of a world unknown in your time."

"Sire," objected Leodegrance, "we have no way of knowing who they really are."

"Have they shown any hostility?" Uther asked.

"No," said Leodegrance grudgingly. In fact they were quite civil.

"You can't stop us, you know," said Merlin. "We're not your subjects, are we, hm? We're not citizens of your government. If we wish, we can reboard our ship and take it directly to the planet's surface."

Merlin's last statement seemed to cause Demetrius and Helena to stifle smiles. Ban concluded that much but not all of what Merlin said was true. He did not bring any of this to Leodegrance's attention though. First of all, she will have observed it herself. Secondly, Ban was curious what the king would say.

"Send'em down with Ban and Jordanus," said Uther. Jordanus was the largest crewman on the Excalibur's current roster and frequently put on security duty. Obviously Uther wanted to keep an eye on the strangers while nevertheless making use of whatever service they might be genuinely offering. "Right away, Leodegrance; I'm not sure how long a recess I've got."

"Capital! Thank you, sire," said Merlin, breaking the connection and turning to Leodegrance, taking no note of her speechless annoyance. "Would you arrange transport for us please?"


Transport had turned out to be a teleportation device like the one Helena had experienced when the CAVE had landed on Hawaii. This one seemed to be slightly less advanced; instead of perceiving an instantaneous transition, she thought she felt a momentary tingling, and thought she saw an accompanying yellow sparkle in her peripheral vision.

King Uther struck Helena as being much like Demetrius: Friendly but no-nonsense. Commanding but easy-going. Tall, dark and handsome. He had an aide named Yeoman Caradoc, a young uniformed woman with a recording device such as Ban carried. The crewman of Cyclopean size who like Ban "beamed down" with them carried only a weapon such as the guards' in the cargo hold.

Demetrius had barely introduced the travelers to Uther and Caradoc when the Saxons reentered the room. They were humanoids, large, hirsute and swarthy. "So!" said the one in the most intricate costume, to Uther. "Finally you present a proper honor guard."

"Warrior society," whispered Merlin to Uther as Cerdic's people filed into the room to fill it. Helena too had noticed that the room's only decorations were bladed weapons with too many dark stains to be ceremonial. She suddenly realized that despite the lack of seating or conference table, this was the meeting room. Merlin's whisper continued - Helena catching it only because she was right behind Uther - rushed to be done with before the Saxons settled themselves. "He'll have been surprised that you arrived with so small a retinue. Now he's more impressed with you, but believes he has the upper hand if these are the best soldiers you can muster."

Uther seemed impressed with Merlin's analysis but hadn't time to comment. He nodded to Merlin and turned to Cerdic. "General, the British Kingdoms are an alliance of many planets who believe that strength comes from unity."

Cerdic nodded. "And whose unity is it?"

Uther was nonplussed by the question. He looked to Merlin, who answered Cerdic for him. "Unity means all have an equal say."

Cerdic frowned. "Strong peoples must have stong leaders. Strong leaders don't idle waiting for people to follow them."

"The strongest leaders," said Uther, "let the strongest people choose them."

Cerdic was impressed by this thought, though it seemed he didn't quite grasp it, nor did the other Saxons. "Wise words, perhaps," he said to Uther, "but if my strong people are to choose you for its leader, what are the benefits for them?"

"What do you need?" Uther asked.

Clearly none of the Saxons had expected this response. None of them but Cerdic seemed to believe it. "You must forgive our mistrust," said Cerdic. "We have had a bad experience with aliens recently."

Now Helena and the rest of Uther's party exchanged confused looks. This was new information. "What happened?" Merlin asked.

"We were on the verge of discovering interplanetary travel ourselves," Cerdic told them. "The aliens must have detected our drive in operation somehow. They came to our planet, and for some reasons of their own destroyed all the technical information and killed all the scientists. This was six years ago, and we have heard nothing of them since."

"That's terrible," said Uther. Ban was quietly relaying the story to the Excalibur, suggesting to Leodegrance that the ship go to yellow alert in case these aliens were anywhere near. "How can we help?"

"You can teach our people how to fly the ship we still have, and how to build more," said Cerdic.

"Sire," said Ban, so quietly that Helena only heard because she was right behind Uther, "such an intervention into a first-contact planet's internal affairs is unprecedented."

"And is that a good reason not to do it, hm?" Merlin whispered into Uther's other ear. "You can do a great deal of good for these people."

Uther gave a look each to Merlin and Ban before giving Cerdic his response. "I don't see why not," he told the Saxon leader. "It wouldn't go against any existing British law that I know of."

End of Chapter 2

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