Ah, Anja! When I wrote this I had no idea how pivotal she was going to turn out. She’s made a bit of a monumental mistake here, and she will pay for it all the remainder of her long life. Such is youth.
December 27th, 1091
The night was clear, with a hint of aurora creeping down from the far north and making the heavens dance. Geir sat out in the bitter cold, waiting, as he had waited for a week now. This was the day of maximum probability, although he’d wait another two weeks before giving up. The scientists attached to the Project had been quite vague about just how sure they were of their equations at the energy levels required for the Device. And there was another thing, did he remember correctly? It took effort, now, even to dredge up the Norwegian words and concepts, so long had he thought and spoken only in Old Norse, and about ships and swords and sex, at that, none of your quantum mechanics. But if he did remember correctly, there was a small (or large, depending on which scientist you spoke to) chance that only the earliest transfer would work as planned, and the others would be left in limbo, or transfer to other histories. In a way he wasn’t quite sure he didn’t want that. It would be good to speak to an Yngling again – a real one, with the training and the genes, not these proto-Ynglings who had only the attitude and not much of that. But on the other hand he’d been a long time alone in this foreign country, and to him it was no longer foreign. It had taken him a week with nothing but thinking to do, to realise it; but the fact was that he had gone native. He looked at these Norse, and he saw no difference between Yngling and stril; he saw only Norse or southerner, just as they did. There was no reason his friend Torvald should be denied the right to speak at Ting; he was a brave man and wise with experience. The warriors here were Ynglings (of the sort they had around here) in all but name, and even the free farmers were fine comrades, men he had no least hesitation in fighting beside. It was not right to plot to subjugate them, to make their children nothing more than the neck-bowed strils who had served his every whim in the uptime. And besides that, he had children now, children of the Yngling blood, but without the name.
His head snapped up at the sudden crackling sound, and he turned in time to see the last of the lights fade away. Transfer! A kilometer away at most, but – he sighed – uphill of him, not down. His knees were going to hate him, but he broke into a run nonetheless. (Am I not an Yngling? he thought, with a certain degree of irony. He wasn’t quite sure, anymore, what he was, inside where it counts; but at any rate he was certainly the fittest fifty-year-old in the world at the moment.) He reached the transfer point panting, but his replacement was still looking about, taking stock of things. He stopped up in shock as he saw his – no, her – face.
She smiled. “Hi, Geir. Five minutes, no see.”
Even through his confusion he had to smile at her joke; she could always make him smile. Five minutes, indeed, since they had gone into their separate chambers of the Device – or twenty-five years, depending on how you looked at it. But never mind that, why was Anja here and not Henrik? No women were supposed to be sent back any earlier than 1400, the planned society wouldn’t be ready for it yet.
“Why you and not Henrik?”
“I hacked the config files.”
Her smile grew into a grin. “To be with you, of course!”
He stared at her, not sure where to begin. By the time he finally collected his wits enough to speak, her grin had faded away and she was beginning to look a bit worried. “Anja… are you telling me that you buggered up the planned transfer order, all our careful training, just for the chance to sleep with me? Me twenty-five years older than last time I saw you, at that? You, you…” Words failed him; it was clearly not a good idea to call an Yngling twenty-five years younger than him an idiot bitch, but he couldn’t think of any other term.
“I thought you’d be a bit more flattered than that.” Definite storm clouds gathering now. This was getting out of hand; he’d forgotten what touchy bastards uptime Ynglings were, and all his skills for dealing with the constant dominance games were a quarter century rusty.
“Well, yes, of course I’m flattered, it’s just that I’m fifty years old and I feel every one, and I’m married besides!”
“To who, some stril sow? Dump her, I’ll bet I’m better in bed anyway. And what do I care about fifty? It’s not your youthful energy I want you for.”
That cut to the quick. Ragnhild of the loving smile and three strong sons, a “stril sow”? He very nearly went for Man-biter, but remembered in time that Anja could run circles around him. He couldn’t keep all his feeling out of his face, though, and Anja went very still, as Ynglings do just before the attack. Still, something of his burning fury must have impressed her, for after a few seconds of locked gazes she looked away, and spoke quietly. “Oh. So that’s how it is.” Her shoulders slumped, just an inch. “I’m sorry, then; my words were uncalled-for.”
It was a long walk back to the coast.