Island in the Sea of Time

Island in the Sea of Time by S. M. Stirling

Book: Island in the Sea of Time by S. M. Stirling Read Free Book Online
Authors: S. M. Stirling
thought on the island, and apart from food and blisters, people don’t talk about much else. Then there are the dissenting minority churches; the Satan-did-it, and the Government Secret Project slash Conspiracy. And a new eclectic faith, the Saucer People Are Part of the Conspiracy.”
    “I’m in the minority,” she said ruefully. “I comprehend the vastness of my own ignorance. I’m morally certain that whatever caused the Event was deliberate, at least in the sense that a chemical plant blowing up is deliberate. The whole thing was too . . . too artificial not to be the result of intent, even if it was an accident, some machine somewhen going off half cocked, or whatever, somewhere and somewhen. The precise ellipse around the island, for instance. But apart from that I’ve got no earthly inkling what happened. I did have a wild idea . . .”
    “What?” he said eagerly. “Tell me.”
    She rubbed a hand across the cover of the book. “I thought . . . well, how do we know this is the same universe, exactly, as the one we left? I decided to try to remeasure the physical constants, to see if anything had changed.”
    “And everything’s exactly the same, as far as I can determine—I don’t have much in the way of equipment, you understand. Gravity, electrical resistance, they’re all the same. For that matter, solid-state electronics wouldn’t work here if the constants were very different.” She sighed. “As I said, I’m beginning to comprehend how much I don’t know.”
    “Socrates thought that was the beginning of wisdom,” Ian said.
    Doreen’s mouth twisted wryly. “It’s the beginning of uselessness,” she said. “I mean, you know a lot of things that are useful. History’s your specialty. What earthly use is my degree here?” She propped her head on a palm. “I suppose I could teach school, or something of that nature. Maybe a self-defense course, if I can get back in the swing—I used to do that sort of thing. The only really useful thing I’ve done since the Event is figure out exactly when we were.”
    “You’ve come up with a number of good ideas,” Ian said stoutly, patting her hand. “Which is more than most of the selectmen. The only thing they did was manage to acquire some popularity before the Event, totally irrelevant now. You helped with the navigation tables and saved invaluable time.”
    “What is relevant?” Doreen said moodily, sipping at her coffee. “Certainly not my plans for an academic career. Did you know, I wanted to be a ballet dancer once?” She looked down at herself and sighed. “When I was six. But even then it was obvious I’d never have legs up to my armpits.”
    Ian shrugged. “I’ve had an academic career,” he said. “Not the same field, of course. At least you don’t have to worry about cutbacks now.”
    She looked up at him. “You don’t seem as . . . disoriented as most of us.”
    “Cofflin and the captain aren’t, much,” Ian said. “Which is fortunate, because it’s keeping us alive. As for me, well, I’m a historian, and here we are in capital-H History. I didn’t have any close ties at home, so . . .”
    He stirred the coffee and looked at the rear of the spoon. Made in Japan . Nothing much made in Japan right now except pots . . . Jomon? No, that was thousands of years before this . He shivered slightly. It could awe you, the sense of years before years, lives before lives, the sheer depth of history, even at the best of times. Right now . . .
    He cast off the feeling. “I wanted to be a science fiction writer myself,” he said. “I even wrote a few books—fantasy really, under a pen name. Then there was this car accident, my wife was killed . . .”
    “I’m sorry,” Doreen said. It seemed to be genuine. She patted his hand.
    “Frankly, we were about to get divorced. Then I got a teaching position, which was an incredible stroke of luck when you consider the market for classical-era historians, and never had

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