This is a prologue, containing no game information, but explaining how there come to be Yngling agents in 1066.
August 14th, 2206
Great Game timeline
“It is intolerable. It shall not stand.”
Geir whispered the motto to himself. It had seemed a very reasonable one ten years before, when the Secret Hird had found him. Now, sitting on ancient Dovre mountain, watching the little bright sparks of the weapon satellites sweeping over Norway, he wasn’t so sure. As a teenager he’d known all the ephemerae, had been able to pick out the Chinese from the Norwegian, Greek from Spanish. But the numbers had multiplied beyond any human mind’s ability to memorise, and in any case he’d been busy with the work. Always the work.
“Hi Geir. Thought I might find you out here.”
He turned, half-smiling – he was always glad to see Anja, certainly, but he’d also wanted to be alone. Whether the Device worked or not, it was going to be the last time he saw the satellites. But Anja was irrepressible and impervious to hints, so he might as well resign himself to being jollied out of his mood, will he or no. She sat down beside him, taking his hand.
“Last night for satellites.”
“Yes. If it works.”
“Last night for us, at any rate. Though there’ll be stars, I suppose.”
“Not the same without you.”
They sat in silence for a while, watching the trails, hundreds of them, outnumbering the fixed stars. Most were Chinese. The Norwegian Empire was not big enough to compete in every field. Space was important, certainly; but so was bio research, and grav-lasers, and suppressors. And quantum devices, of course. Especially quantum devices.
“Twelve hundred years. What do you think they’ll be like?”
“You should know,” Anja smiled. “You’re the direct descendant.”
Geir smiled back, half-hearted; he knew perfectly well that his direct descent from Olav Yngling – real blood, generation after generation, in the male line, with no single law-Yngling or jumped-up stril soldier – was half the reason Anja slept with him, and at least two-thirds the reason the Secret Hird had recruited him. There were not many left of the pure blood these days, and the distinction meant less and less – except in the Secret Hird.
“Pfft. Well, anyway, I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.”
“If it works.”
They sat again in pensive silence for a while. It wasn’t really possible to test the Device, after all, not on any large scale. Certainly, they’d been able to send mice, and even humans, back in time a few hours, without any apparent harm. And in theory it should scale up just fine. But that was the same theory that showed the energy requirements going up quadratically with the time distance, which they’d confirmed in experiment; and when you multiplied the already vast energy needed for just a few minutes’ jump by that, the only way to power the Device was to quite literally set off antimatter bombs under the mountain, and extract the energy from them. Which did have the advantage that if the Device didn’t work, they’d never know about it. Although the rest of the world would. The bombs didn’t quite amount to a Doomsday device; there was enough raw energy in them to crack the Earth open, but they had to be placed just so to be useful as power sources, and that limited their explosive effect. But certainly Dovre mountain would be spread over most of Norway as radioactive dust.
“I wonder…” Anja trailed off.
“If they’ll know?”
“The Chinese and whatnot. They’ll be wiped out by the time-change. I wonder if they’ll have time to realise?”
“One final Yngling backstab? Hah. I’d love to see their faces. But no, the effect should be instant – well, spread at lightspeed. Unless the Branch Theory is the right one, of course, and then they won’t notice at all.”
“I suppose. Maybe we should have made it public, just to watch them stew.”
“Eh. They’d hardly let us get away with that. There’s a reason we have a treaty forbidding this kind of thing. They’d launch the Imperial Nightingales two seconds after ‘Quantum Device’ was out of your mouth.”
“Come now. This is the Chinese bureaucracy we’re talking about. We’d have an hour, at least.”
“Mmm, maybe. They’re quick enough when they’ve got reason to be. Anyway, not our decision.”
There was another silence; then Anja turned to him and pulled him down on top of her, and for a while an older magic than that of the Device ruled on the side of Dovre mountain.
But only for a while.