Authors: John Dechancie
“So, nothing's new?” Linda asked Jeremy Hochstader.
“Not much,” Jeremy said. “I've just been fiddling, trying out some ideas.”
“Oh, moving the Earth portal around, for one.”
“I thought you had the ability to move it anywhere you wanted to in the Castle, or on Earth.”
“Yeah, I can pretty much do that. But I wanted to do a few more exotic things with it. And theoretically with any portal, to any world.”
The door to the laboratory opened and in walked Lord Incarnadine.
“Hey, it's the boss.” He took his feet down from the countertop.
“What's new, Jeremy?” Incarnadine asked.
“I was just talking to Linda about that.”
Incarnadine looked at her for a bit longer than necessary. Had he caught something strange in her eye?
“Jeremy, I wanted to ask you. Have you been doing any experiments lately?”
“Experiments? Not really. I've been
of things I wanted to try. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, when I got back to the Castle I thought I caught a hint of something cockeyed. Nothing big, no problems, butâUh, what were you thinking of doing?”
“Well, I got this notion that if you fiddled with the frequency of a portal a little, you couldâ”
“Whoa!” Incarnadine waved a hand. “Wait a minute, you don't want to do that.”
“No way, JosÃ©.”
Jeremy looked sheepish. “Ooops. I didn't realize it was that big a no-no.”
“It is a
no-no. You don't want to get into probability states, close variants of the same universe, that sort of thing. We've already had a few bouts of everybody's double running around the Castle causing mischief. Remember?”
“Boy, do I. Actually, I was going to talk to you about it first.”
“Glad you did. No, that's totally verboten. I should pass an edict about that. It's just about as bad as trying time travel. Paradoxes, closed loops . . . weird stuff. No, it's all bad business.”
“I'll take your word for it.”
“Jeez, just your
about it may be causing problems.”
“Because if you're thinking about it, one of your alternate selves might be actually doing it, off in some strange variant Castle somewhere.”
Jeremy whistled. “Wow. That's, like, really
“An unsettling notion, isn't it? So don't even daydream about it.”
“That's a tough order, sir.”
“I know. But do your best.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Good. YE FLIPPING GODS!”
Both Linda and Jeremy jumped.
“What is it?” Linda said.
The king looked stricken. “Linda, I completely forgot about your wedding!”
Linda let loose a relieved breath. “Oh, you scared me.” She began to giggle.
“What?” Incarnadine looked back and forth between his two guests. “What, what?”
“You didn't miss much,” Jeremy said, laughing.
“No? It completely slipped my mind. I am abjectly sorry, Linda. Did you get the gift?”
“I gave them all back. There was no wedding. Gene didn't show up.”
Incarnadine regarded her in all seriousness for a moment. Then he broke into laughter.
“I'm sorry,” he said finally.
“No, go ahead. Laugh all you want.”
“I didn't think that Don Juan would ever . . . Oh, but you must feel terrible.”
“Not at all. Uh, Your Majesty, could I speak to you in private for a moment?”
“Eh? Well, certainly.”
“See you later, Jeremy,” Linda said.
“And no monkey business,” the king warned him.
“Remember, this place still has a torture chamber, down in the cellar.”
“Look, it's about . . . you know, my official position around here,” Linda said when they were out in the corridor.
“Your . . . official position.” Incarnadine narrowed his eyes.
“Yeah. It was nice, you know, what happened. And though I really like you a lotâI mean, I'm . . . oh, hell, you know I'm in love with you. Despite that, I don't want to be your royal mistress. Or whatever you call it, on a permanent basis.”
Incarnadine opened his mouth. He closed it without saying anything.
“So, listen.” Linda ran a hand over the velour of his jogging suit. “It was nice. I just wanted you to know that. And if you ever show up in my bedroom again, I'm going to have a hell of a time turning you down. In fact, I don't think I'd want to turn you down. I probably wouldn't. But this thing aboutâOh, I don't know. I just don't want to be a little niche in your life. I wantâ”
Incarnadine nodded, smiling blandly.
Linda took a deep breath. “You know, I really don't know what the hell I want. I never have.”
Incarnadine shook his head, frowning.
“I guess I should really do something about that. Soon. Shouldn't I?”
Incarnadine nodded, and again his smile was noncommittal.
She kissed him. “Thanks again, Inky.”
She walked off down the hall.
He stood there for a long moment, reflecting on the world, the flesh, and various impish things.
“Right,” he said.
He walked slowly in the opposite direction, down the long stone corridor, still thinking, taking his time. A man should do this now and then. Most people hurry to early graves.
He stopped dead in his tracks.
All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this ebook or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright Â© 1994 by John DeChancie
Cover design by Open Road Integrated Media
This edition published in 2014 by Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
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