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Stephen Baxter


Time's Tapestry

AD 1492

'As mapped by myself; in which the long warp threads are the history of the whole world; and the wefts which run from selvedge to selvedge are distortions of that history, deflected by a Weaver unknown; be he human, divine or satanic…'


The Prophecy of Nectovelin


(Free translation from Latin, with acrostic preserved.)

Ah child! Bound in time's tapestry, and yet you are born free

Come, let me sing to you of what there is and what will be,

Of all men and all gods, and of the mighty emperors three.

Named with a German name, a man will come with eyes of glass

Straddling horses large as houses bearing teeth like scimitars.

The trembling skies declare that Rome's great son has come to earth

A little Greek his name will be. Whilst God-as-babe has birth

Roman force will ram the island's neck into a noose of stone.

Emerging first in Brigantia, exalted later then in Rome!

Prostrate before a slavish god, at last he is revealed divine,

Embrace imperial will make dead marble of the Church's shrine.

Remember this: We hold these truths self-evident to be -

I say to you that all men are created equal, free

Rights inalienable assured by the Maker's attribute

Endowed with Life and Liberty and Happiness' pursuit.

O child! thou tapestried in time, strike home! Strike at the root!

The Menologium of the Blessed Isolde

AD 418

(Free translation from Old English, with acrostic preserved.)


These the Great Years

Whose awe and beauty

Light step by step

An Aryan realm


The Comet comes

Each man of gold

In life a great king

Nine-hundred and fifty-one


The Comet comes

Number months thirty-five

See the Bear laid low

Nine-hundred and eighteen


The Comet comes

The blood of the holy one

Empire dreams pour

Nine-hundred and thirty-one


The Comet comes

In homage a king bows

Not an island, an island

Nine-hundred and seven

of the Comet of God

in the roof of the world

the road to empire

the glory of Christ

in the month of June.

spurns loyalty of silver.

in death a small man.

the months of the first Year.

in the month of September.

of this Year of war.

by the Wolf of the north.

the months of the second Year.

in the month of March.

thins and dries.

into golden heads.

the months of the third Year.

In the month of October.

at hermit's feet.

not a shield but a shield.

the months of the fourth Year.


The Comet comes

Great Year's midsummer

Old claw of dragon

Nine-hundred and twenty-one


The Comet comes

Deny five hundred months five

Even the dragon must lie

Nine-hundred and five


The Comet comes

Less thirty-six months

Know a Great Year dies

Nine-hundred and twenty-six


The Comet comes

A half-hundred months more.

Match fastness of rock

Nine-hundred and eighteen


The Comet comes

End brother's life at brother's hand.

Noble elf-wise crown.

The north comes from south


Across ocean to east

Men of new Rome sail

Empire of Aryans

New world of the strong

in the month of May.

less nine of seven.

pierces silence, steals words.

the months of the fifth Year.

in the month of February.

Blood spilled, blood mixed.

at the foot of the Cross.

the months of the sixth Year.

in the month of July.

the dragon flies west.

Know a new world born.

the months of the seventh Year.

in the month of September.

At the hub of the world

against tides of fire.

the months of the eighth Year.

in the month of March.

A fighting man takes

Brother embraces brother.

to spill blood on the wall.

and ocean to west

from the womb of the boar.

blood pure from the north.

a ten-thousand year rule.

The Testament of Eadgyth of York

(Free translation from Old English.)

(Lines revealed in AD 1070)

In the last days

To the tail of the peacock

He will come:

The spider's spawn, the Christ-bearer

The Dove.

And the Dove will fly east,

Wings strong, heart stout, mind clear.

God's Engines will burn our ocean

And flame across the lands of spices.

All this I have witnessed

I and my mothers.

Send the Dove west! O, send him west!

(Lines revealed in AD 1481)

The Dragon stirs from his eastern throne,

Walks west.

The Feathered Serpent, plague-hardened,

Flies over ocean sea,

Flies east.

Serpent and Dragon, the mortal duel

And Serpent feasts on holy flesh.

All this I have witnessed

I and my mothers.

Send the Dove west! 0, send him west!


APRIL 1940


The boy slept beside the calculating engine.

Rory walked into the room. The sleeper, Ben Kamen, lay slumped over his desk, bulky volumes of physics journals opened around him, pages of foolscap covered with his spidery Germanic handwriting.

Crammed full of the components of the Analyser, the room smelled sharply of electricity, an ozone tang that reminded Rory of the wind off the Irish Sea. But this was Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he was in MIT, an oasis of immense concrete buildings. He was a long way indeed from Ireland. Nobody knew he was here, what he was doing. His heart hammered, but his senses were clear, and he seemed to see every detail of the cluttered, brightly lit room.

He turned away from Ben to the bank of electromechanical equipment that dominated the room. The Differential Analyser was an engine for thinking. There were tables like draughtsmen's workbenches, and banks of gears and wheels, rods and levers. This clattering machine modelled the world in the spinning of these wheels, the engaging of those gears. Earlier in the day Rory had fed it the data it needed, carefully tracing curves on the input tables, and manually calculating and calibrating the gear ratios. He ripped off a print of its results. The Godel solutions were ready.

And Ben Kamen was ready too. Sleeping, Ben looked very young, younger than his twenty-five years. There was nothing about him to suggest his origin, as an Austrian Jew. One hand still held his fountain pen; the other was folded under his left cheek. His features were small, his skin pale.

Rory looked over what was assembled here: the brooding machine, the boy. This was the Loom, as he and Ben had come to call it, a machine of electromechanics and human flesh which – so they believed, so their theories indicated – could be used to change the warp and weft of the tapestry of time itself. And yet none of it was his, Rory's. Not the Vannevar Bush Analyser which was being loaned to the two of them by MIT; they were students of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton, and they had come here to Cambridge ostensibly to run complex relativistic models with the Analyser. Not the dreaming boy himself – and still less the contents of his head. All that Rory O'Malley owned was the will, to bring these components together, to make it so.