"What you're going to do, Robin," said Nimue, "is you're going to get your people aboard Straight and True, contrive a plasma leak -"
"I beg your damned pardon," said Robin of Locksley.
Joan Little woke slowly and reluctantly to the sound of the comm panel. Someone was calling her title and name with no regard for her beauty rest. Someone was being very persistent about it. Someone, she decided as she finally activated the comm, would pay for it. "Who is this?" she said with a weary impatience that spoke of doom to all who heard.
"Farmer, tactical officer," came the reluctant answer. Little Joan recognized the voice now.
"This better be good, Farmer," Little Joan said, growling through a yawn.
"The sorceress is here," said Farmer.
"- take Straight and True into the wormhole -" Nimue continued.
"Nimue!!" Robin rose from his desk. Through his open office doors in which Nimue was standing, he could see his command staff trying to decide whether to cart Nimue off to lockup. Tuck had shown up early for her shift on the Sherwood Station Ops deck as usual, and Will Scarlett was here probably still from last night, but Little Joan wasn't in yet. Nimue's young traveling companion Sir Pelleas was standing at the turbolift, leaning against one wall, as always reminding Robin suspicously of old King Pelleas under whom Robin had served as a page on the Lone Isles. "Would you mind explaining -"
"I'm afraid there isn't time."
"Make time, time-traveler."
Nimue was a tall, skinny blonde in a borderline clownish suit, topped off with a narrow-brimmed hat and an umbrella whose handle was shaped like an ankh. Not inherently an imposing figure at all. Yet at times - and suddenly now was one of those times - she could put on an aura of power commensurate with a being who traveled Time as naturally as Robin rode the elevator.
"Do you trust me, Robin?" Nimue said.
Robin sighed. "I suspect you're aware that standing Crowns' orders where you're concerned are to accede to any reasonable request -"
"I promise I shall explain. But on the move!"
"Give me something."
"The sorceress?" Little Joan said.
"Here at Ops," Farmer responded.
"I'm on my way," said Little Joan, bolting out of her bed. She slipped into her uniform and coronet and out of the door in record time.
"I've spent a great deal of time involving myself in British affairs," said Nimue, as Robin exited his office to join her, "and Merlin before me."
"Which, standing orders notwithstanding, is a mixed blessing," said Robin.
"I'm aware that knight commanders often think so," said Nimue, not without humor. "One of the incidents in which Merlin was involved - as you must be aware, despite the abridgements made to the public record - was the Excalibur-prime's incident at Craig-y-Ddinas."
"You assisted Lancelot in the retrieval of Arthur's away team from Evilspace," Tuck noted from the science station.
"Assisted?" Nimue snorted.
"Nimue," Pelleas warned. Nimue returned to the subject.
"It wasn't just an evil universe - it was a parallel universe. Another Arthur, another Lancelot."
"Another Robin. Another Little Joan. She was there a year ago and I was there a month ago," Robin said. Nimue was trying to shoo him toward the elevator but he proceeded only at his own pace. "The same place - but different. How did Arthur describe it? A 'moral inversion'."
"A bit glib, that," said Nimue. "Never mind. Another each of all Britons, as far as we know - but no Avalon; no Glastonbury. That goes a long way to explain how much bloodier its history is."
"No Avalon," Robin said. "That means no sorceress meddling in the course of British events ..."
Nimue halted where she stood, a few meters shy of the elevator, inducing Robin to stop with her. "That's what I thought. I was wrong."
"Oh? If not you, then ...?"
Little Joan fidgeted impatiently as the elevator platform rose her and her escort to Ops. Farmer was there, looking apprehensive, undoubtedly at what he imagined may be the penalty for waking her. But Little Joan only had eyes for the sorceress. Her arrival at the station always meant trouble - and opportunity.
She walked directly up to the time-traveler. "Well," she said, "what have we here?"
"My dear Sherriff," said Morgan le Fey. "How good to see you."
To Chapter 2
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