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EXCERPT...

 

The short blade skidded across the oiled whetstone, grinding the stubborn metal into submission. Logan enjoyed doing his own work. The warrior guild offered sharpening services, included in the cost of membership of course, but Logan found the process of creating a razor-sharp edge calming to him. He placed the blade against his forearm and shaved a small patch of hair to test his work, the bald spot a vindication of his efforts. 
The weapon was sharp and ready for use. He glanced up at the time display and sighed. There were a few minutes left before suiting up for his match. Today Logan was going up against his new shield mate Phillip, and Phillip was a deadly fighter. 
He stood up and sheathed the knife before stretching his tall frame. At twenty-six he was already considered an experienced combat veteran, and he had the scars to prove it. After five years of fighting in ancient Britannia, Germania, Greece, and in the land of the Rus, Logan’s reputation was secure. He rubbed the inside of his left wrist, still sore after his recent time chip upgrade. The new model was bigger, square rather than slim and rectangular like the previous model. 
A gong sounded in the distance, alerting those warriors on deck that there were five minutes remaining to check in at the combat area. Logan buckled the wide, brown leather belt over his knee-length chain mail shirt. He reached to his right and grabbed the long sword, pulling the blade out just enough to see the edge. 
He knew it was ready, but checking again never hurt. Logan attached the sword and scabbard to his belt and bounced up and down to experience the weight and balance of his equipment. He’d fought countless battles and even more training engagements, but this was only the third time he’d dressed in the battle gear of a Norman knight. 
Footsteps alerted him to the approach of a fellow warrior. “Hey, there slacker!” 
Logan smiled then feigned irritation. “I may be a slacker, but I’m not fat.” 
Dawson laughed and smacked his friend a little too hard on the back. “Okay, Logan, I get it. Tall, skinny guys like you are always jealous of well-built examples of manhood. I accept your weak taunt and understand your pain.”   
Logan smiled despite his desire to fire back. He rubbed his shoulder and winced. “The insults are hard enough to suffer through. Did you have to smash my back that way?”
Dawson was an impressive specimen in any era. Tall, muscular, and with blond hair cascading to his shoulders, he was a warrior’s warrior. 
“You’re in for a pounding once Phillip gets hold of you. Apparently, that pile of chain draped over you isn’t worth a shit. Or like I said, you’re weak.”
Logan began to engage in the friendly banter then looked up at the time display. “Shit! I’m late! Great shooting the shit, brother, but it’s time to test your theory about this chain mail.”
Logan sprinted away from Dawson and rounded the corner, almost knocking over a guild administrator heading the other way. The administrator tossed out a curse word Logan didn’t catch as he continued his dash to the personal combat area. 
“Well, it’s about time, sleepy head!” Phillip was Logan’s current shield brother and sparring partner. Dawson and Logan were childhood friends, and they’d made many trips back in time together; but after almost losing Dawson in first century Britannia a few years earlier, Logan decided it was best for the two of them to fight with new shield mates. They’d arrived at the conclusion that their close friendship was interfering with their combat survival.  
Logan stopped just short of entering the fighting area, a zone marked on the floor defining where combat could occur. “Phillip! How the hell are ya, buddy? You look like you didn’t sleep.”
Phillip was swinging his Norman long sword in an easy arch, warming up his shoulder and getting tuned into the right mindset for a fight. “I slept fine, Logan. Woke up thinking of you laying on the floor over there begging for mercy.”
Logan stretched and pulled his own sword from its sheath. “That would be a first,” Logan tossed back. 
Phillip looked at the time. “Let’s get this over with. I have riding lessons next.”   
Logan nodded and moved to the far side of the combat area. Phillip stood on the opposite side and waited. He was a little shorter than Logan but as muscular as Dawson through the chest. He wore his wavy brown hair long and tied up on the top of his head, forming a top knot of sorts. His good nature was genuine, but Logan knew that in a fight his friend became a killing machine. 
The combat setting was a high-tech measuring environment. Each movement, weight shift, and gesture were tracked and recorded. Fighters had personal profiles on file for various fighting styles, depending on the requirements of each historical era. They also could program metrics for improvement, setting goals the system applied to each sparring event. If things went as planned, Logan and Phillip should improve every day.
The invention of time travel in the late twenty-first century had been concealed by the government for decades. In the early part of that century, scientists put forth a new and unique theory of time. They discovered that time was structured as a series of energy imprints on the universe--fixed by the laws of physics to the location where events occurred but preserved like photographs, one stacked on top of another from the beginning of time to the present. The corporation TimeMap Inc. soon was created by the government to map the time layers. Not long afterward, the first fully operational time chamber was invented to exploit these advances.
In the early twenty-second century, depression-driven suicide rates began to climb dramatically. Without fear or risk in the New Republic’s cradle to grave system of nurturing and protection, people had nothing to strive for. It appeared that the human race required risk to thrive and stay mentally grounded. Most, but not all, of the citizens were gleefully dormant and suffered no negative effects from the social experiment. Some were not that lucky.
Eventually, time travel was made available for the purpose of experiencing the risks of a bygone era. Time tourism flourished as thousands traveled to see a volcano erupt or watch a tsunami destroy great swaths of humanity. By merely “pressing” biological data through the “pages” of time, which were in truth more like the frame of a movie rather than a photograph, people could visit any time or location they desired. The warrior guilds were an early manifestation of this new industry. However, instead of visiting epic geological or historical events, the guilds offered a more personal and far more deadly form of entertainment.

Logan brought the sword hilt to his lips and kissed it before lowering the blade, completing his salute. Phillip mirrored the salute on his end, then stepped into the combat area. Once two fighters stood on the floor, the timer automatically gave them ten seconds before sounding the starting bell. 

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