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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Aeons (The Infinity Engines Book 4)

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Four years after the Nihil and the Order has a new threat. A clay tablet is discovered at an excavation in Knossos, Crete. The text is written in a language that no one can decipher, but the Nazis have come to claim it and Napoleon sends his own Savants Temporal to the Minoan tomb. Meanwhile something ancient is infecting the descendants of the great houses of Europe.

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Aeons (The Infinity Engines Book 4)

Aeons (The Infinity Engines Book 4) Book Read Online Chapter One

[The Great Library]

Caitlin was sitting in her office, hidden behind a fortress of books piled high on her desk. She should have been enjoying the latent energies of the dusty tomes, excited by the opportunity to explore the centuries of uncharted timelines contained within them, but she couldn’t concentrate. Something else was bothering her.

There was nothing specific that she could put her finger on, but the irritability had grown over the last few days now, like a scratch she couldn’t itch.

And it was getting worse.

Caitlin had been feeling out of sorts all that morning and when Penwynn, her new assistant, burst in with the news of a new discovery in Knossos, she had bitten the woman’s head off for entering without knocking. The look of shock on her happy little face was still painful to recall. Caitlin apologised later, but it was inexcusable and totally out of character.

She found stupid little things really annoying: the order of the books stacked on her shelves, the way the morning sun made patterns on her desk, the overpowering smell of Penwynn’s perfume from the outer office.

So she decided it was time to reorganise.

It was usual practice for the newly-appointed Head of the Library to insist on changes. Every curator began their term of office by imposing their personality on the collection, some with radical and wide-ranging consequences. Caitlin hadn’t gone so far as to initiate a dreaded re-indexing of the stacks, but that wasn’t off the table, once she had got her own space in good order.

Taking one book from the top of the pile, she read the title.

‘La Chanson de Saisnes by Jean Bodel.’

She closed her eyes, feeling the worn leather of the twelfth-century binding, letting its chronology slip through her fingers. The centuries rolled back as she wove into its timeline. The epic poems of Charlemagne, written at the time of the First Crusades, unwound temptingly, reminding her how much she loved medieval France and how she and Josh could really do with a holiday.

It would be their four-year anniversary next month and she wanted to do something special. Something that would distract Josh from his relentless search for a way to cure his mother.

‘Hey,’ Sim’s voice broke Caitlin’s reverie. ‘You off somewhere?’

Her eyes snapped open. ‘No,’ she replied, putting down the book. ‘Well, yes, maybe. I was thinking about taking Josh away somewhere, just for the weekend.’

Her stepbrother smiled, sliding a stack of books aside so he could sit on the desk.

‘Ah, yes. Four years of marital bliss.’

She scowled at him. ‘Don’t start that again.’

‘Well, it’s about time he made an honest woman of you!’

‘What does that even mean?’

Sim shrugged. ‘No idea. I’m guessing it’s something to do with the Victorians.’

‘I don’t need a ring on my finger. What I do need is someone to sort all of this out!’ She waved at the piles of books scattered around the room. ‘Master Dorrowkind’s cataloguing of the indices was eccentric to put it mildly.’

‘Pressures of the new job getting to you already?’

She laughed, pointing to the enormous diary open on the desk. ‘Do you know how many meetings I’ve had in the last week? There are at least four department heads trying to resign over my appointment; a whole sub-guild of classicists threatening to go on strike and that’s before we get to the fact that every librarian and his grandmother seem to think they have a better idea of how to re-index the collection than I do.’

As she spoke, a list of new messages appeared across the pages. Inscribing themselves across the smooth vellum in fluid copperplate, as if being written by an invisible hand.

Sim watched the notes move down the page.

‘I heard there was a minor altercation last week.’

‘Minor altercation! Master Ellerton tried to set fire to the lost scrolls of Herculaneum. Honestly it’s like managing a bunch of school children, not respectable senior academics.’

He folded his arms. ‘Well, if anyone can get them under control it’s you. Your grandfather would be very proud of you. Youngest librarian to ever wear the chains,’ he said, nodding to the heavy necklace of thin safety chains hanging on the back of her door.

She rubbed her neck, remembering the weight of them during the investiture ceremony. ‘They’re purely ceremonial. No one could ever actually use those on the stacks.’

‘Which brings me to the reason for my visit,’ he said, his eyes glinting as he took out his almanac. ‘My graduation is less than two weeks away and you’ve been avoiding my messages.’

‘I’ve been a little busy,’ she replied.

‘Are you and Josh coming?’

Caitlin reached for her diary. ‘I’m pretty sure I can,’ she said, flicking through the pages. ‘Josh might be harder to pin down. You’re probably seeing more of him than I do.’

‘Not me. He spends all of his time with Eddington. There are rumours he’s close to finishing the engine.’

She sighed. ‘He’s been saying that for nearly a year.’

‘Are you two okay?’

Caitlin found it impossible to lie to Sim, he knew her too well. There were no secrets between them and he used to joke that it was probably best she became a librarian because he could read her like a book.

‘We would be, if we ever saw each other for more than ten minutes. He comes in to bed in the middle of the night and leaves before breakfast. Sometimes I don’t think he even notices that I am there.’

‘Well in his defence, the infinity engine is an important project.’

‘So are people!’ she snapped. ‘All he seems to bloody care about is the Napoleon test!’ There were tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.

‘And the future of humanity,’ Sim reminded her.

‘I know, sorry. It’s just that sometimes the Order seems to take all of him and there’s nothing left for me.’

Sim put his almanac away and held out his hand. ‘Cat, why don’t you come and stay at the house for a couple of days? Lyra would love to see you and Mum has an entire pod of Spinosaurus in the baths. They make the most amazing symphonies at feeding time.’

Caitlin wiped the tears away with her sleeve like a ten-year-old.

‘Does your father still cook the boar every Wednesday?’

‘And most other nights. Mum and Lyra have persuaded him to go meat-free on Mondays.’

She stood up and closed her diary. ‘Fine, let’s go. I’m starving.’

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