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Traveler

By EdHuntley All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Fantasy

Chapter 1

                                     Traveler

He can show up anytime, anyplace, he’s known to those who have met him as the Traveler; a different time, a different place. He has no home, no country to call his own, he’s the Traveler through Time and Space.

1.

Stage coaches, wagons, horses, the noise, people milling around the English inn and stage coach house; a study in organized pandemonium. The coaches arrived on time at Sunbury-on-Thames from different points of the country, travelers getting off and on or changing stages. Carriages of the landed gentry picking up friends or family, or bringing them to meet the stage. It was England 1820, a new beginning for the British Empire, the Napoleonic years were behind them. England was the new power center of Europe. However, there was still the hazards of travel throughout parts of the country.

The Traveler stood to the side of his stage waiting for the rest of the passengers to walk over to board for the next part of the trip. A carriage drew up at the end of the line of carriages and coaches, the Traveler watched as the servant stepped down from the seat to open the door, the gentleman stepped out first, the servant stood by the door to help the lady down then a young girl who appeared nervous and unsure of herself. The girl’s first trip?

The woman and girl stood to the side out of the traffic as the man stepped inside the coach house then reappeared a short time later. The gentleman led the woman and girl across the coach yard to the coach. The traveler stood by waiting to have his baggage placed on the coach.

“Now remember your manners Rebecca,” the lady told the girl. “It’s impossible for us to send any one to escort you. Be very careful about talking to strangers. You write to us as soon as you get to Aunt Martha and Uncle James’ that you arrived safely.”

“Yes, Mama.” The girl who could not have been more than eighteen if that glanced toward the stranger as she hugged her mother one more time.

The man with them told her pointing to her hand bag. “You will have three overnight stays at inns along the way, you have more than enough money for along the way. And be especially careful of riff-raff and ruffians wanting a young girl for their pleasures.”

 “Yes, sir.” That piece of advice seemed to make the girl even more uncertain.

The man glanced toward the traveler, eyeing him with suspicion. They were sending the young girl across England from the London area to a town south of Manchester to her Aunt, her Mother’s sister. The girl had not seen her Aunt in several years.

“I really do not like that Rebecca is traveling alone unaccompanied, Mr. Taylor,” the woman protested wiping her eyes. “She’s too young to look out for herself.”

“There is not much choice, Mrs. Hartman. There are too many mouths to feed at home.”

The assistant coach driver placed the Traveler’s one large hand bag in the boot of the coach.

The driver started to take the large black bag from the Traveler.

He shook his head. “No if it is all right, I want to keep this with me. Personal.”

The driver inclined his head by way of curtesy to the Traveler. “Your wish, my Lord.”

Rebecca turned to look at her traveling companion.  She wondered if there would be anyone else on the coach besides her and the stranger. He was well dressed, a long black cloak, cane with silver cap, top hat. She wondered what type of man he was. She decided she would soon find out.  However, in that moment something passed between them. Exchanges of silent smiles and thoughts of they liked what they saw in each other.

The driver shrugged as the carriage driver handed the coachman the girl’s trunk to place in the boot.

“We’ll be leaving now, folks,” he said looking at his watch.

The gentlemen looked at the Traveler again, decided he did not like the idea of the young girl traveling alone. He went to the driver, gave him a business card and money.

“I am Logan Taylor, solicitor for the Hartman estate, I would appreciate it if you would kindly watch out for Miss Hartman. We have no choice but to send her to her Aunt near Manchester.”

The driver willingly took the money and card from the solicitor, he glanced toward the girl as the assistant was helping her in to the coach. He raised his brows looking at her.

“Certainly, m` Lordship.”

The Traveler watched the coach driver for a second then stepped in to the coach. Settling himself across from the girl he placed the bag next to himself, settling back for the trip, which would prove long and tiring.

The girl looked at the Traveler’s bag a moment wondering why the other would want to keep it close to him? An art piece maybe? A treasure? Her young adventurous mind came up with all sort of possibilities. Shrugging she took the book from her hand bag to read but she watched as the town quickly receded behind them and the only home she knew would soon lay behind her. Her nerves a jumble, settling herself for the long trip to Manchester and the North Country, she attempted to read her book, a romance novel. 

Rebecca looked up at the Traveler across from her. He smiled warmly to her tipped his hat to her then looked away. During the trip and their brief lunch stop he never looked at her except to turn his head watching the sides of the road, searching for something.  She tried to relieve the boredom of the journey by reading but she could not keep her mind on the story. The girl was again distracted by the stranger intently watching the sides of the road. He kept his hands on the bag that set between his legs. He did not let the bag out of his sight, even during the lunch stop at the village inn, the bag set close at hand.

They left the village behind riding through more farm land and passing through villages passing a large orchard they heard a shot the driver and assistant shouted, “Highway robbers!”

The Traveler said something under his breath at the same time shrugging the cloak and a jacket off. He held the black bag grasping a tab there was a tearing sound, then he said, “Guaranteed this is the last mistake these idiots make.”

Rebecca watched spell bound as the bag fell open. The Traveler pulled out two weapons

both with special slings that he slung on his shoulder. He could tell the driver was attempting to out run the highwaymen.

The Traveler yelled, “Forget it, dude yer wasting your time. Stop!” He grabbed on to the door on the left side of the coach, swung the door open as the highwaymen closed on what they thought would be helpless travelers. The door open, the Traveler stood on the foot board with the rifle, an FN FAL 7.62x51mm rifle and let go with fifteen rounds sweeping the rear from left to right. One rider not knowing what just happened rode up aside the coach as the Traveler pulled a revolver out from a specially designed pocket on his left hip with right hand and fired. The highwayman shocked had only seconds to realize his mistake attempted to shoot; the traveler shot him from the saddle.

The coach driver saw the six highwaymen lying dead on the road. The Traveler dropped from the open door to the ground, fixed the sling on his shoulder, walked back along the road the weapon poised for action. The driver and assistant were stunned by what they had seen.

Rebecca, living the sheltered life of the landed gentry of her city was shocked to see the dead highway robbers lying on the road. The Traveler walking back cautious of the dead men. She had no idea what to make of this macabre scene.

The Traveler nudged a couple bodies.

Walking back to the coach he stopped to look over his shoulder as one, faking death started to sit up with the flint lock pistol pointed at the stranger. Rebecca screamed. The Traveler spun around with his weapon firing from the hip. The highwayman was hit several times in the chest and went back down firing the weapon straight up. He was dead when he hit the ground. 

The Traveler looked over the bodies again then walked back to the coach climbing in he said to the driver, “Let’s get outta here.”

The driver looked back as the door closed as if that were putting a final word on the attempted robbery.

“You alright. Miss?” he asked his voice low but concerned for her.

“Yes, my Lordship,” she said with a weak voice.

Turning his attention back to the side of the road. The only time they made eye contact was as he shifted his concentration they would briefly make eye contact, his dark brooding eyes would meet her hazel ones, she would feel a brief flutter of her heart, a young girl infatuated by an older man. Just that one incident is all it took for her to imagine him as the character in her book – tall, dark, and handsome. A young girl’s day dream.

Rebecca could not take her young eyes off the Traveler the rest of the afternoon.

Her young mind working the problem: Who is he? Where is he from? Is this all he does? She mulled over the questions but did not want to appear intrusive. Maybe he’d tell her before the trip was over.

The Traveler tended to business, watching the sides of the road. His focus beyond the coach broken by the shift of his attention from one side to the other, his hands working automatically on his weapon without seeing. She lifted her eyes enough to watch what he was doing. She could tell there was purpose in his movements, no move was wasted.

The Traveler was amused by the girl watching what he was doing. He studied her without her realizing what he was doing. He was able to better study her then before. He liked what he saw. Looking out the side of the coach looking for possible ambush points, he wondered why her parents allowed her not to be chaperoned. No maid, no one older than her to travel with her. It was unusual in polite society that a girl traveled by public transportation by herself, especially in these days. Even in this time for England not every man was a gentleman toward a girl.  

The Traveler reloaded the weapons putting them away in the bag, zipping it up. They looked at each other with nervous amusement.  Rebecca tried to return to her book but couldn’t, this was too much like one of her romance novels. In her young mind despite herself, she imagined him, the handsome stranger, her a damsel in distress, the evil highway robber barons – now she was living her dream. She was still a young girl at heart.

She sneaked a peak at the stranger from time to time. He was still intent on the sides of the road. No this man was no dandy trying to impress a young girl with his false prowess. He was silent, thoughtful, a determination in his dark forbidding eyes that she had rarely seen in men other than her father. Her heart fluttered, skipped a beat when he would turn his attention from one side of the road to the other. For a breath their eyes would meet, she would pretend to look back at the book, but not seeing it, she would lift her eyes to look at him. Ever since the attempted robbery he had not spoken but to assure she was alright.

The rest of the day was uneventful. Close to evening they arrived in a sizable town with a first class inn. The Traveler saw three other coaches drawn up to the inn. He had a sneaking suspicion about this night.

The coachman opened the door. “We’ll be staying here the night, my Lord and Lady. Another driver and assistant will take you through tomorrow.”

“Good, thank you,” said the Traveler as the girl stepped down from the coach first.

Rebecca waited until the other joined her, they walked into the inn together. The Traveler walked up to the counter to request the rooms for them.

Servants gathered the Traveler’s bags and the girl’s trunk taking them inside. The proprietor looked over the counter at them assuming they were together.

“Two rooms – single please, kind sir” said the Traveler.

“Oh? One,” said the other. “I am sorry, my Lordship but the inn is full up tonight.”

The Traveler casually looked back at the girl. “One room, miss is all he has left.”

The girl turned white as a sheet at the thought. Everything her mother warned her about traveling alone, men who would take advantage of a young innocent girl by herself flooded back on her.

Shoring up her resolve, Rebecca knew she had no choice. Woodenly she nodded she did not know what to do and there was no body there to help her understand the system. She knew she’d be assuming a risk sleeping with a strange man in the same room; this was the farthest situation from her mind. She could only imagine what that could lead to. Rebecca started to nervously take the money out her mother and the solicitor gave her for the journey, her hand shaking as if a palsy suddenly afflicted her at that moment.

The Traveler put his hand on hers. “I’ll take care of this, Miss.” He paid and signed for both of them.

She looked up at him as she held the coins in her hand. “But …”   The Traveler ignored her protest as he laid the exact fee on the counter. A maid took the room key and went ahead to open the room door. Servants took the bags and trunk up to the room. The Traveler offered his arm to the girl.

“Please.”

She accepted they followed the servants to the second floor and their room.

With sly grins, the servants fixed a blanket down the middle then left. The Traveler tossed his hat and cloak and cane on to the bed. Rebecca took her bonnet and cape off carefully laying them aside.

The Traveler introduced himself. “By the way miss, I’m Steven Patrick, Major, International Time and Safety Police, United Federation.”

Rebecca shivered alone with a strange man, putting some space between herself and Steven Patrick, she said, “I am afraid I have never heard of it, my Lordship.”

“You won’t. Not for two hundred years.” Stepping around the blanket where the girl could see him. “Supper?”

She looked at him surprised switching from one topic to the other so easily. “Thank you. I’m famished.”

“My treat. Come on.”

“But …”

The Traveler turned to the girl putting a finger on her nose, “Don’t argue.”

Rebecca was momentarily shocked at being touched by the Traveler even on the nose. A cool grin was quickly replaced by a brief smile from Steven.

He slung the black bag on his shoulder picked up the cane then held an arm out to her, “Shall we?”

Steven opened the door guiding Rebecca to the hallway locking the door they went down stairs. At the bottom of the stairs he offered his arm to Rebecca and led her toward an empty table. Rebecca took the chair opposite him, Steven held the chair for her as she seated herself; he took the seat with his back to the wall.

A waitress quickly approached the table. “What can I get you my Lady and Lordship?”

“Rebecca?”

“Wine please.”

“Wine, a rose` and ale, please.” 

The bag set close to him through the entire meal. Steven kept Rebecca off the subject of where he was from and his purpose for being there. Following supper, like husband and wife, they went back to the room.

Steven closed and secured the door turning the key sideward so it could not be pushed out onto a piece of paper and slide back under the door. Rebecca waited on her side of the blanket for Steven to lock the door. Feeling the bed wiggle then a thump – thump of his boots hitting the floor told her she could begin changing.  She gathered up her things stepping behind the privacy screen to change then stopped. Her face was flush. Touching her face she felt the warmth of embarrassment. Now she didn’t know what to do. She was confused; too many issues and suddenly, contradictions.  Looking toward the ceiling her upbringing did not prepare her for this. Feeling tears on her face she quietly cried. She was alone and no one she knew or whether to trust anyone. She was away from home and her mother’s guidance.

Hoping Patrick was a gentleman, she pulled the chemise and slip off laying them aside to put on a light night gown leaving on the pantaloons.   

A voice called from across the room. “Rebecca, I got news for you – not to scare you or embarrass you because I’m in the room with you, but where I come from, two hundred years from now, I’ve seen less on girls then what you have on now.”

Rebecca blushed bright crimson again. ‘Now why did he bring up that subject?’ she wondered puzzled by the comment. ‘Or was it to assure me of something I need to know?’ She did not know what to think. The blanket was up shielding her from Steven’s sight.  Pulling the night gown on Becky hurried to the bed quickly getting under the covers and pulling them to her chin.

Turning her back to Traveler, she said in a quiet voice, “Good night, Steven.”

“Good night, Becky.”

Their backs to each to each other the blanket hung in the middle of the bed. Sleep eluded Rebecca for a time. She lay awake staring at the window wishing she were home with her brother and sisters. But it would not be until next year that she would see any relief. Her brother was joining the navy as an ensign that would leave only her sisters at home. Maybe she could go home herself. She missed her sisters and their incessant chatter. Or was she really looking for a different life then her privileged position?

Steve could not help but think of the young girl beside him. Despite his chaste life, he was feeling something for her. Was this the love he felt for a girl long ago but he chose the service and the life of a Traveler. Over the course of the years as a Traveler he’d had his share of girlfriends just like the other members of the group had girlfriends and boyfriends. He fell asleep thinking of the girl beside him. To say the least, he mused, she was beautiful, the hazel eyes, the long light brown hair bordering on a tawny shade.

The peace of the night was suddenly broken by -- snick -- whump!

Steven awoke in a fury, “What the hell!? Get this goddamn thing off me!”

Fighting to get the covers off himself Steve only made matters worse. Rebecca woke from a sound pleasing dream wondering what was going on. Scared by the noise she looked over in the dark to see Steven struggling with something. Lighting the bedside lamp the blanket lay across Steve in a way that he was having trouble getting free. Rebecca pulled the blanket off him.

“Okay?”

A sigh he said, “Yeah, thanks.” Picking up the end of the string he showed Rebecca. “Whose bright idea was it to use kite string anyway?”

Rebecca looked at the piece of string in Steven’s hand. Shrugging, in a weak voice she said, “Dunno.”

Rebecca’s young eyes fastened on Steven’s exposed chest, the strong muscular chest that authors wrote about in the romance novels. The hero of the story, an Adonis god was dressed but he exuded a male strength. The girl caught her breath then looked away, her face red with embarrassment yet she could only imagine how he really looked.

Disgustedly Steven tossed the blanket on the floor. “Let’s just get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be another long tiring day.”

Turning his back on her, he pulled the blanket up to his bare shoulders and went back to sleep. Rebecca lay under the covers gazing at Patrick puzzled. He was not acting, as her mother warned her about. Most men with a young girl in a situation like this would have the girl in bed with them to use them for their own perverted pleasures.

Turning the lamp out she turned her back to Steven pulling the blanket to her chin again; she tried to put some space between them. Her dreams that night were of her with Steven protecting her. Was she feeling something toward this strange man? She didn’t know him, he didn’t know her. She wondered, did he feel the same about her?

2.

Rebecca looked out one side of the coach, Steven the other. Seated on the bench opposite them was an older couple, a squire and his wife. The squire quietly dozing as the lady read a book; however, Rebecca was too excited to read. She was helping Steven to watch for highwaymen along the route.  Out of sight of the others they held hands, Rebecca liked the feel of Steven’s strong hand holding her delicate one that seemed to fit into his like a hand in to a glove.

Their infatuation began that morning when they realized they felt an affection toward one another. Steven was like an older brother toward the girl. She liked attention but she was looking for more than that from him.

As she studied the forest they were passing through her mind drifted. She imagined herself fighting highwaymen and other “bad outlaws” beside Steven. She didn’t care if her mother raised her to be a “lady”, she’d be like Steven. They’d write books about their exploits.

Movement among the trees caught Rebecca’s attention. “Steve! There among those trees.”

Becky gestured toward the trees and several shapes emerging from their hiding place.

The Squire woke up, his wife suddenly hyperventilating with fright as another shot was fired at the coach, the round penetrating the thin wall between the husband and wife narrowly missing Steve’s head.

“Good going, Becky.” Quickly shedding the cloak and jacket he told Rebecca, “Slide under me to this side of the coach…” At the same time he unzipped the bag pulling the rifle out. Flicking the safety off, he said to the Squire and his wife, “On the floor…!”

The Squire and his wife got down as Steven opened the door, he passed the revolver to Rebecca. “Some heavy fire power.”

Standing on the foot board Steven positioned the rifle as a rider rode close to the coach. The rider was surprised to see Steven hanging out the door something in his hands. At first it did not connect with the outlaw the other was holding a weapon until he opened fire, the first five rounds shooting the outlaw out of the saddle.

The driver slowed the coach. Steve dropped off the foot board quickly moving to the side. Rebecca had the other side covered with the revolver. She opened the door as Steven did standing on the foot board. Before leaving the inn Steve gave Becky a quick lesson in how use the weapon. The revolver loaded was a heavy weapon for the girl to handle but she rested the barrel on the open window of the door.

The others reined in their horses, one of the highwaymen shot at Steve. His mistake. Steven opened up on them with a sweep of the semi-automatic rifle killing the entire group except for one.

The outlaw looked around at the others lying on the ground one man took out an entire gang. In shock he stammered, “Who are you?”

Steve grinned evilly as he stared at the other. “Well now that depends, punk, two weeks ago I could have been your best buddy. But now seeing things are a bit changed, by tonight I may be yer worst nightmare.”

The other door to the coach stood open. A movement distracted the highwayman. Steve quickly pulled the rifle’s bolt back letting it snap forward – click-clack! “I wouldn’t if I were you. Problem is, dude a man has gotta know his limitations, cause you haven’t gotta enough rounds to equal the seventy-five I got.”  He knew it had to be Becky. “Oh, add to that the six rounds in that revolver she has – So I’d suggest you get off that horse, squat and tell me you’re a criminal.”

The highwayman looked frantically from the girl holding a pistol to the other holding a strange weapon.  He wheeled his horse around, took a shot over his shoulder at Steve, the bullet zipped past his head.

“I wish he hadn’t done that.”

Steve lifted the rifle to his shoulder sighting through the sighting scope fired just as Rebecca fired one bullet at the outlaw with the revolver.

The highwayman tumbled from his horse. “Scratch another outlaw,” Steve said drolly jacking the charging handle back he locked the bolt in place. Walking over to Becky he put his fingers under her chin lifting her lips to his. “You’re a natural. Remind me to teach you how to use a semi-automatic next time we’re alone.”

“You know I will.”

Steve leaned down to passionately kiss the girl. The revolver hung from her hand as Steve kissed her. The girl knew in that second her fate was sealed with Steven’s. She was in love. She knew now she wanted to be a Traveler with Steven too.

Stars exploded in Rebecca’s eyes that morning.  She could just imagine what this was leading to as he pressed the revolver back into her hand. He said quietly, “I’ll give you a semi-automatic you can manage with ammunition loads.”

Rebecca looked into those deep dark eyes of the man she was falling in love with.

“I want to go with you, Steven. I – I love you!”

Looking at her, Steve said in a near whisper in her ear in all seriousness, “Not here. We’ll discuss it later. And I love you too – my girl.”

“Your girl. My man,” she quietly repeated. “My man.”

He kissed her again. Becky walked beside Steve back to the coach, her feet barely touching the ground, she was walking on a pink cloud of love. The driver and assistant awed by Steve’s use of the weapon looked at the gang lying scattered dead on the road. They swallowed hard seeing the girl holding the revolver in her hand.

The Squire and his wife picked themselves up off the floor of the coach when Steve and Rebecca returned. The door was open as Steve helped Rebecca back in the coach.

The old squire asked in an awed voice, “Who are you, sir that you can do these things?”

Allowing a cool smile he said, “Rather complicated, sir.”

Steve’s attitude put off any further questions as he pulled the magazines to reload, checked the weapon, then put the rifle back in its bag. Rebecca reloaded the revolver then slipped it in to the side of her dress. The two looking out the window told the old couple they did not entertain any questions. The old couple watched the two across from them with incredulity.

3.

Following a quiet supper and drinks in the tap room, of the market town inn Steve and Becky went up to their room. The door closed and locked Becky let Steven lay her down on the bed to love and hug her. That day they had found each other – their true soul mates. No longer was she a scared young girl but with a mature man she was young woman with a man to call her own.

Sitting up touching her nose, Steve said, “Listen babe, I need to teach you how to use that nine millimeter. That semi-automatic is not like the revolver.”

Smiling, Becky liked it he used the term ‘babe’ to her. Laying back she reached up to pull Steve back to her. Kissing him she impulsively said, “Teach me everything you know.”

Grinning he said, “How about if I just make an Amazon of you?”

“Anything so long as we are together.”

Becky sat up to take the nine millimeter semi-automatic out of her pocket that Steve gave her before they went to supper. Steve gave her a quick instruction in using the weapon. She was quick to learn and within a short time she was proficient with the weapon. Steve gave her four clips of ammunition to go with it; she loaded one into the weapon.

He said with pride, “Now you’re lock and loaded and ready for action.”

They undressed sitting on the bed, the blanket around their legs. Becky slipped on the thin white cotton gown, in front of Steve, her long light brown hair hung loose about her shoulders.

For instant as Steve looked at her, it was as if the wind were taken from him, he could not help but gape at the girl’s nearly perfect figure, a Grecian goddess.

Admiring Steve with her hazel eyes he sat beside her in only his briefs explaining to her the life of a ‘Traveler’ tracing down Time and Space criminals. Some of the highwaymen, he later explained, they took out over the past couple days were Time and Space criminals taking advantage of England’s current unrest.

“Yes it’s fun the first year being able to see Rome under Julius Caser then Augustus, see Greece in its Golden Years as it really was, India, China, France during each it’s heyday, but it gets tiring after a while. No place to call home, no real friends, you want to chuck it all and stay somewhere even in a time you are comfortable with, somewhere you can put down roots. That alone is important to a person.”

Becky felt herself near tears. “I don’t care, Steven. Can I be with you? Please, Steven I love you!”

Steve knew it was possible. Other Travelers had picked up companions who traveled with them. In some ways it had proved beneficial having someone from an era move through a period to keep them out of trouble. Above all, a companion to travel with.

Becky’s plea, Steve knew was from the heart, not her mind.

“First off we’d have to see what your aunt and uncle have to say. It would be easy for me just to say ‘yes’. Technically you are still your mother’s daughter, your aunt and uncle are expecting you – and if I take you with me, and no explanation, they’ll think I kidnapped you.”

Kidnapping was a sobering thought. Steve explained it from the 20th and 21st century definition. She hugged Steve tightly.

In just days the girl came to love Steve and he let her into his life.

Steve drew her down under the covers holding her close to him. Becky thrilled this attention and love. Throwing all admonishments to the wind she hugged up to the man older than her who fell in love with her. When her father fell ill and passed away she found herself on her own. Being the oldest of a brother and three younger sisters and most able to travel alone, it was decided Rebecca would make the trip to Manchester to her Aunt and Uncle. Although at first her mother was against the idea of Rebecca not having an escort. The solicitor explained it would have cost the family a fortune for a maid or other person to travel with her. Her mother with no source of income was financially on thin “ice” as it was.

Lying with her head on Steven’s shoulder felt natural. This is what a young girl dreamt of, Rebecca’s fertile imagination visualizing a man like Steven who would take her as his lover. Steve held her for a few minutes soon they were asleep holding each other. It had been another exhausting day.

As sleep over took Rebecca she could no longer visualize life without Steven. No matter what, she would stand beside the man she loved. She thanked God for the purpose that had driven her here—to this place and this man and this moment in time—quivered into a certainty as a tidal wave of insight crashed through her mind. She found her calling in life.

4.

The next two nights on the road, Rebecca pretended to be Steve’s wife, wearing gloves they hid that she did not have a ring on her finger, but she vowed she would remedy that situation soon. Rebecca had become used to sleeping with Steven and being like a wife to him. A sense of possessiveness had set in. Rebecca clung to his arm at the stops, she was letting the world know she found “her man”.

They arrived at the cross roads town of Stretford, a short distance south of Manchester where her Aunt and Uncle met her. Becky hung on to Steven at the stage stop feeling overwhelmed by the activity around the inn.

The coach house was alive with the bustle of people, coaches and teams of horses milling about. Coaches with people coming from the south and east and north of England stop there so driver teams and as needed, horse teams could be changed, passengers coming and going, baggage and mail going on to Manchester or west. Becky clung to Steven not sure what to do. They moved to the coach house hoping her uncle would look there for her.

“Where are they?” she wondered looking around at the multitude of people. It appeared as if she had never left Sunbury–on-Thames.

Her uncle was looking for a young girl traveling by herself. Steve stayed close to Becky their bags piled at their feet. They waited until an older man and woman with a girl about Becky’s age approached them from the crowd.

“Rebecca?” he asked, tipping his hat to her looking at Steve with suspicion, eyeing the black case he carried.

“Aunt Martha -- Uncle James -- Lara!” she greeted them with kisses and hugs. Grasping Steven’s arm, she said trying to control herself, “Aunt Martha -- Uncle James this is Steven Patrick. He saved us from highway robbers twice, coming up from London.”

The girl, Becky’s cousin Lara, was another hazel eyed and brown haired beauty looked up at Steven with admiration.

“Really,” they said together.

Uncle James said with a cough and nod, “Well, my dear you must tell us about it on the way home.”

“Thank you, sir for standing with our niece,” the woman said coolly to Steven the slight smile evaporated as fast as it appeared.

Unconsciously, Rebecca clung to Steve’s arm with a firm grip. James was surprised by the girl’s

determination to stay with the stranger.

“Uncle James, would it be alright for Steven stay with us a couple days. He’s a traveler,” Rebecca said without realizing it she was still hanging on to his arm.

James and Martha looked at each other with apprehension then reluctantly accepted. The girls were happy. Lara admired Steven, Becky who could not help herself grasped onto Steven’s arm pulling him toward the carriage. It was a silent message to her cousin, ‘He’s mine.’

In the last three days the girl became attached to Steven not letting him out of her sight.

Becky whispered to Lara, “I’ll tell you about him later.”  

James nodded to the carriage. “Well, shall we? It’s still a long ride ahead to Greenfield Manor.”

To James and Martha’s dismay, the Traveler, Steven Patrick found himself squeezed between the two girls, the case between his feet.

Becky had to restrain herself from holding Steven’s arm during the trip back to her Uncle’s estate, Greenfield Manor. She chattered about how Steven gunned down two gangs of highwaymen, he bravely tells a highwayman, ‘This is your last mistake.’ James noticed Steve blush with embarrassment at his niece’s tales. He wondered, with a knowing smile how much was truth and how much was a young girl’s fantastic story.

However, James and Martha glanced at Steve with suspicion looking at the case he was holding between his feet. Steve felt both self-conscious and uneasiness from Becky’s accolades.

James said with a trace of caution, “Tell me, sir where do you come from? You are obviously not from London or even this area.”

“Well first, I am from the US – United States – but not the US that is now. I’m from the twenty-first century – or, roughly two hundred years from now.”

Becky was proud of her “Traveler” man. She had heard these stories when she and Steven were alone at night. Sometimes they made love and talked long in to the night.

“Then may I ask what is that, sir?” James asked pointing to the bag at Steven’s feet.

He unzipped the bag. “I’ll show you the whole thing later if I may. Not now in a carriage.”

“True, that is amazing.” James breathed as he looked at the rifle with scope, Steven holding it so they could see it.   

Steven explained the future was not the Utopia envisioned by certain people.

“It’s the war of the month club for several years ...” Steve did not paint a “rosy” picture of the future for the family. The trip back to the Greenfield was subdued as he described the era he had come from.

They arrived back at the manor just before supper.

The girls changed as the three adults settled in with wine before the meal was served.

Becky was taken upstairs to her cousin’s room to change and freshen up for supper.

“Becky you must tell me all about this Steven Patrick.”

“Well he is from the future a policeman he said traveling from one time to another. He’s been places like ancient Rome, Greece and seen people like Julius Cesar, Hannibal, Queen Elizabeth – so many places, so many people.” She took the nine millimeter from her pocket. “And he gave me this for my protection.”

Lara’s jaw sagged. “What – what is it?”

“A nine millimeter for my protection. Careful it’s loaded – a seven round magazine, an eighth round is in the chamber.”

Lara backed away holding up her hands pushing the pistol away as if she were face to face with a poisonous snake. “I don’t want to see it anymore.”

Becky slipped the automatic back in her dress pocket. Lara was aghast that her cousin used such things. What Becky wanted to do was not sport. She was more than determined to go through the Time ether with Steven, knowing full well her fate lay ‘Traveler’ and with whom. She’d leave with Steven when he continued his travels, regardless where. 

“What else did he show you?” Lara asked nervously. As she pulled the chemise off.

“He didn’t really show me a whole lot, being a Traveler they don’t have a chance to settle down like ordinary people. They’re always on the move.”

“They get to see strange new places.” 

James and Steven sat in the drawing room before supper. The two girls came down dressed for supper.

They arranged themselves at the table, Steven took Lara’s brother’s place, an ensign in the Navy and at sea at the moment. During supper they turned to more pleasant topics the Traveler was familiar with. James and Martha slipped in questions about the future, Steven attempted to answer them as simply and directly as possible. He knew without a doubt the servant’s would be listening and repeating everything he said, whether in context or out of context.

With wine for the women and whiskey and pipes for Steve and James, they gathered around the hearth in the front room. James, curious again asked Steven about the weapon. Steven held up a finger then unzipped the bag. Taking the rifle out, he dropped the pin wheel of three magazines, pulled the bolt out. “This is an FN FAL, seven point sixty-two millimeter semi-automatic rifle. Each one of these magazines or banana clips holds thirty rounds right now this pin wheel setup holds ninety rounds. I can do some damage to somebody’s ego with this rifle.”

James eyes were round with disbelief as Steven reeled off the statistics on the rifle. He passed the rifle to James, James handling it as if he were given a rare Ming Vase or piece of lead crystal to hold. Steven engaged them with more stories of the future, interspersing them with tales of man’s exploits in reaching the moon and Mars then Jupiter’s outer planets. The rifle lay between James and Steve disassembled, parts laid out to show how it operated.

The two girls captivated by Steve’s stories of the future and what it would hold for future generations.

Smiling lightly he said, “And I hate to burst any bubbles, no the moon is not made of green cheese and there are no moon men its airless, barren as a desert. And there is no such thing as men or monsters from Mars, unless you want to consider from my time people living there.”

Lara asked her mind suddenly fascinated by the idea of living on another planet, “There are people living on Mars?”

“Special radiation proof shelters or underground. The surface without a special suit and helmet, exposed you’ll cook.”

A maid was pouring more tea for the ladies and a butler was pouring more whisky for the men when the front door burst open.

“Hands up!” a highwayman yelled at the people. “This a robbery!”

The women screamed. Becky looked to Steven for guidance. James moaned, Steve stood signaling Becky to cover him, eyeing the fire place poker. The servants cowered in the corner by the stairs to the second floor.

Three more masked men pushed through the open door as Steven moved to the fireplace.

“Ah, now this is getting to be a damn habit,” Steven said picking up the poker waving it around feigning poking at the fire. Turning to face the three, he said, “By the way, I hope you guys know how to use those pistols you got there? Cause if you don’t, I’d be more than happy to show you.”

The first was puzzled by the one man’s cool demeanor facing them down. The other three made for a comic opera appearance trying to look fierce waving their pistols and swords around.

Attempting to regain his command over the situation, the first highwayman raised his pistol at Steve. “Drop it!”

Becky had her hand in her dress pocket on the semi-automatic ready to draw the weapon as Steven taught her. She wasn’t about to let anything happen to her lover.

“Oh, you mean this?” Steve flung the poker at the leader hitting him in the chest following through with three hand-over-hand flips that brought his feet into the faces of two of the stunned highwaymen slamming their heads back against the wall. The leader was instantly killed by the poker, the two had their heads cracked against the door frame and door their faces crushed killing them, pistols and swords fell from their hands. Steve came up in front of the third pulling the pistol from his hand throwing it aside, spinning him around, pulling him down across his knee breaking his back.

To James and Martha’s horror, in that instant a weapon suddenly appeared in Becky’s hand. Taking a two hand stance Becky moved to the side covering Steven as he took down the fourth outlaw. Lara saw there was no hesitation in Becky using the weapon she had shown her earlier. They watched the girl run to Steve’ side, kneeling beside him as he shot one highwayman from his horse who was watching for anyone else; Becky shot the other running toward the house a pistol and sword drawn the bullet hitting him in the chest flipping him backward pistol and sword flew from his hands.

Steve looked around, his night vision destroyed by the house lights but he was satisfied all were accounted for. He leaned over, in front of the others he kissed her. “Like I said, you’re a natural.”

The family was too upset to sleep. Steve was too wired. He knew following the Napoleonic Wars it was a rough and tumble time for England readjusting to a peace time economy. Almost all the displaced men were discharged British Army veterans from the punitive expedition against Napoleon’s Grande` Armee at Waterloo in Belgium. It was rare they would meet three gangs of highway men like this in less than one week. But many were unemployed and restless needing money, any one’s money and time traveling criminals took advantage of this unrest.

The servants dragged the bodies out near the stable to be buried at day light.

3.

Steve paced around the house in an agitated mood. He had since quickly reassembled the rifle, did a function check and reloaded. Inside, Lara and a maid tended to Martha in her bedroom who was suffering a near nervous breakdown from the incident. Steven wanted a cigar or cigarette to smoke but he had to remind himself the red glow could be seen a “mile” away.

The night was ink black. Looking up at the sky Steven guessed it was a new moon phase; just as good for his purposes.  It took him several minutes to get his night vision back after being inside, despite the oil lamps in the parlor he had to give himself a few minutes until he could make out shapes. The servants had taken the last of the dead highwaymen to the stable for burial in the morning. Someone would ride back to the town to get a minister for the burial. In America, the west that would end up an option.

A soft hand slipped around his waist. Becky pulled the cloak tighter about her slender frame. She laid her head against Steve’s side her grip on him tighter not letting go of “her man”.

“Steve, may I ask you something?”

“Sure.” He slipped a hand about her slender waist holding her close he kissed the top of her head smelling the rose` perfume in her hair.

Standing on her toes she kissed him. “Steve what are you going to do after this?”

Steve thought a second. He knew the girl had fallen in love with him. His leaving she would be devastated. Drawing in a deep breath, hugging her tighter, he said, “My work is done here in this time period. I need to move on.”

“Where to?” Tears forming at her eyes she turned to face him his features like cut stone, almost hard to see in the dark.

“Wherever they send me.”

“I want to go with you!” Becky cried pressing her head against his chest. She knew she’d asked it before but she had to ask it again.

Holding her tight putting his face on her head drawing deeply of the intoxicating scent of her hair. Right or wrong somebody would get hurt if the wrong decision were made.

“Have you talked to your uncle and aunt about this?” He knew the girl’s answer already.

Becky had to be truthful with him. He would see through any stories she told him. Shaking her head. “No,” she buried her face in her chest.

“Okay. I’m not in a hurry to go anywhere tomorrow anyway. You need to have a serious talk with them. I know you want to go with me wherever I go. But it’d be wrong of me to take sides in this matter. Your aunt is out of it right now, isn’t she?”

“Yes. A servant went to get a doctor for her.”

“I did see a rider go out of here earlier.”

There was a tree near the house. Steve took Becky over to it sitting, holding the rifle across his legs he put an arm around her comforting the girl as she softly cried.

“No matter what I want to go with you,” sobbing Becky insisted the words strong with the girl’s emotions.

Steve took from that remark the girl had fallen hard for him. She had already proven she was no drawing room flower entertaining at high teas, ladies clubs and living the life of the “rich and famous”, the ease and comfort of doing nothing all day. She was willing to forego all the comforts of high born society to follow him wherever he went.

“Hone,” he said giving her a gentle squeeze of love, “You know it would be wrong of me to say yes or no. I have to take a neutral stand on this. Whatever you do is up to you. If you come with me that’s your choice. ”

Becky looked up to see her uncle crossing the yard to where she and Steve were sitting under the tree. James inclined his head toward the house. She kneeled to kiss Steve in front of her uncle, stood bending her head she passed him going back to the house to check on her aunt.

“`Evening, Jim,” Steve said looking up at him.

Jim settled on the grass beside Steven. “Good evening. Thank you for what you did tonight. Thank God you were here. You dispatched those thieves quickly. I’ve never in my time seen fighting like that.”

Puffing on the pipe a minute he stared off into the night.

“You won’t or unless you go to the orient you might. It’s called mixed martial arts. It includes various disciplines and styles of fighting. The training makes you prepared for whatever your opponent throws at you.”

“I see.” Taking another draw from the pipe he said, “I see Becky has taken to you in a short time.”

Steve was prepared for James to confront him on the issue. “Yes.”

“I understand she wants to travel with you.” James made the remark more a statement then a question.

Steve guessed that had to come from Becky talking to Lara; girl talk.

“Yes. I’ve explained to her it’s a hard life and I’m on the move, others of our unit are on the move. It’s hard to settle down in one area for very long. But, she insists she’s up to the life of a ‘Traveler’.”

Jim nodded. “You gave her a weapon I see.”

“Yes. Right now with the Yorkshire Revolt in the towns of Huddersfield and Barnsley is not really settled, and vagrant veterans of the war are still roaming about, a young girl needs something to protect herself.”

“Yes it would seem so. So you know about it then, I take it?” He drew on his pipe a minute using the silence as a time to think about his next comment. Steve nodded. Jim said in a lower voice, “This is between you are me you understand. It does not go any further than this.” He glanced over at Steven in the dark. Looking over his shoulder he saw the household was settling down for the night, what was left of it. The lamp in Lara’s room was still light. He could only guess what the two young girls were talking about. “Since Rebecca’s father passed away last month she was sent to live with us. I agreed more out of charity because she is my niece, my sister-in-law’s child, and these are hard times we’re living in. Rebecca was sent to us to care for. Her mother spent a small fortune of her money to send Rebecca half way across the country. Point being, we’re not much better off our selves. And I don’t know what to do.”

“Mind if I ask what you do, sir?”

“Shipping.”

“Ouch. No wonder. Yeah, that revolt among other problems for the country doesn’t help much does it?”

“No.”

The lamp in Lara’s room was finally extinguished late. The two girl’s lay in bed staring at the ceiling, not even any light from a moon slipped in to light the room.

Lara said in a soft tone hoping no one heard her, “You would leave with the Traveler?”

Nodding, Becky glanced sideward at her cousin. She nodded. “Yes. I love him. I want to be with him.”

“It’s like a boy in the village I love but to Papa he’s not of the same station we are. He would forbid me from ever marrying him.”

“That’s cruel.” Becky had to consider herself lucky. “If it were not for Aunt Martha and Uncle James, I would go away with Steven when he leaves.”

Turning away Becky sank lower under the blankets. Lara looked over at the other, although she was unable to see Becky’s expression, she knew by the sound of her voice that she wanted to be with him.

“You haven’t talked to Papa yet have you?”

Shaking her head, Becky fought back the tears. “No. I didn’t have a chance. I think he wanted to talk to Steve alone.”

Lara knew that her parents took Becky in because she was family. They did it out of charity for the girl. They could have said no. And then she was sent here, or supposedly by herself and the ‘Traveler’ assured she made it okay. She reasoned Becky would follow the Traveler no matter what.

Late the next morning, Steven using one of the gang’s horses which they probably stole was preparing to leave. In the back of his mind he wondered if Becky talked to her Uncle and Aunt.  In the end she’d most likely run away with him anyway. She wouldn’t be the first nor the last to do that. The last couple times she showed real courage in the face of opposition, as he called her a ‘natural’.

“Leaving?” Jim said crossing the stable yard.

“Yes. My time here is up.” They shook hands. “I haven’t heard out of Becky yet, so I imagine she’ll be staying with you and Martha.”

“Yes, we’ll make do. Lara’s brother joined the Navy as an ensign so he’s out of the house, one in.”

“Good. Good. It’s called the empty nest. When you write to your son tell him to watch out for the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean, they don’t care who they pick a fight with, all they’re interested in is the ransom they think they can get for the ship’s crew.”

“That’s what I’ve heard.”

“They made the mistake with United States in 1805 and got their collective asses kicked for their trouble.”

Jim smiled at the comment. “Yes was quiet a row, wasn’t it. Well good luck – Traveler. And thank you again for what you did last night.”

They shook hands, the Traveler mounted and rode away from the stable and Greenfield Manor. It was a sad moment, he may not have the girl with him now, but he reasoned, “Maybe it would be best.”

Becky packed a few things in a bag, gave the rest of her dresses and things to Lara. They kissed good-bye. Lara wishing she had the strength Becky had to run away with the man she loved. Becky slipped down the back stairs past the kitchen and servants who were preparing the mid-day meal.

She could see the stables from the back door. Tears streamed down her face as she watched Steven ride away from Greenfield unaware she was following.  Jim walked down the short hallway to the front of the house. Becky watched to be sure then ran out the back door to the stables. One thing she was fortunate about, her father taught her how to properly saddle a horse. The problem was the side saddle she used was back at Sunbury-on-Thames and her mother had not packed any of her riding cloths.

It seemed to take forever to saddle the horse. The stable boy was not around nor the stable master. She had to struggle with the saddle herself. If anything were wrong, then Steven could help fix it later. Assuring the girth was tight, she tied the bag on hiking the dress up between her legs; although uncomfortable she rode out the yard gate after the Traveler.

Jim walked back to the door his pipe clamped in his mouth he watch Rebecca ride out the back gate. He knew who she was going after. She was free, free as the wind to do as she chose. He knew her mother would soon worry about her welfare, but he could handle that. There was no turning the clock back now, too late. Rebecca disappeared beyond the rise of ground and over hanging trees along the road and was soon gone from sight.

The butler ran up to him. “Shall I go after her, yer Lordship?”

Shaking his head, Jim took the pipe from his mouth blowing the smoke out, he said calmly, “No, John, let her go. She wouldn’t be happy otherwise. No one will stand in the way of what she wants from life; her decision. She wants the Traveler. I’ll handle her mother.”

The hooves of the girl’s horse pounded a steady rhythm on the hard packed dirt road leading east toward Manchester.  The horse’s mane and tail stretched out like steamers. The Traveler was in sight, her heart quickened with happiness and a flood of emotions.

The Traveler was a half mile down the road riding toward Prestwich, north of Manchester. Steven heard a lone voice call his name.

“Yup. She’s determined.”

Steve stopped turning the horse to watch as Becky rode toward him at a gallop. The cloak billowed out behind, the bonnet loose hanging by the chin strap, her long tawny hair flowing back like a streamer. To Steve, Becky was all girl.

“Steve…! Steve …! Wait!”

Steve dismounted as the girl rode up to him.

Reining in the horse, Becky jumped off flinging herself into Steven’s arms kissing him passionately. She cried, “I love you, Steven! I want to be with you!”

Steve said around the girl’s kisses, “An A Team,”

“An A Team.”

  #  #  #

 

   


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