Chapter 1

Marcus had to pay the ultimate price. As usual it dealt with a woman, no, a girl this time. It was not what it seemed though. This time the Emperor's daughter was not a conquest, she was, she was... , and she was special. He had fallen love with her and from what he saw, she with him.

Nothing would have happened to her. Her guards had burst in and took her away. Marcus was held then made to appear before a tribunal. There he could only say the truth. The prefect made the comment that it was the same story Rasney had told. That fact saved his life.

No common soldier would ever be welcome to be a son-in-law. There soon followed a new assignment for Marcus. He understood why he was now expendable, but not why an entire Legion would be sacrificed. He began to make plans. Someone or something too was watching, a smile and grin on that unseen face.

Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; had mixed feelings about this solution. Marcella, his wife, had insisted a war on Carthage was due. She thought Claudius would lead it. He elevated Marcus, gave him command with the comment that any man his daughter would like, had to have some skill in war, after all her mother seemed to thrive on it.

It was a full Legion. 10,000 men, 6,000 auxiliaries (Slingers and Archers), 1,800 Calvary, tents, wagons, cooks, merchants, artisans and an assortment of the proverbial 'camp' followers.

Claudius was unsure what to do. Putting an end to this upstart would have been easy. There was something, however, in the face of his daughter he had never seen before. She did not defy him, pout, and rage or show any temper. She merely said. "Father you will do as you will, but tell me, would a man like Marcus not make a good husband or must I wed one of those you choose for me?"

Marcus made no plea either. His comment was that it was true his life up until then was not stellar. When, by chance, he met and understood more about Rasney, he was watching over her until her guards came. She was unlike anyone he ever knew and made him feel she was who he had been waiting for all his life. Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; based on everything he found out could not decide what to do. Knowing how devious his wife was he had an idea to thwart her plans whatever they were.

Marcus would go to Carthage, not to try to conquer a nation with only one full legion but to verify what Claudius had been told. Not many, if anyone in court could be trusted, the death of the last three rulers were a testament to that. The people were getting tired of the Palace intrigues too. Perhaps, just perhaps his daughter and this Marcus would make a better pair to rule than Marcella and her lovers.

The times would not allow several dozen legions to leave Rome and to start a war with Carthage. One legion would not draw attention, nor would a new commander where rumors could link him to the Emperor and his daughter. Claudius was seeing things a different way now. A better way for him he thought.

Thinking he was about to die, Marcus dressed in his finest uniform and emerged from his house. The guard, the Elite Praetorians was not expected. At journey's end was the Emperor. The soldiers around him were some he knew and new officers from the 12th. It was recently reformed and brought up to full strength and more. The addition of merchants, tradesmen and several hundred artisans made it one of the few self-sustaining units. This was not an execution, he felt.

A scarlet cape, silver-gold helmet crested with red horsehairs were presented to him now.

"I present you the 12th, your Legion Commander."

'By the gods' he thought. He must be dreaming.

The Emperor called him forward, handed him a ring, swords and wax filled tablet with his orders.

"In this day, there are very few an Emperor may trust to speak the truth. Make my choice not to be rid of you a welcomed decision Marcus. You seem to have a supporter close to me. When, and if you get back, we will speak again and perhaps there is more for you here."

In the background, Rasney looked on, a smile on her face. The frown and look of hate on Marcella's was also there to see.

A small group of soldiers had been added to the 12th. These were not those that had been planted by Marcella to insure a failure of the trip, but hand picked Praetorians, selected by the Emperor himself. If this upstart was intended to be mated to his daughter, he wanted him to have a fair chance and he knew Marcella was seldom fair.

Claudius had arranged a few more changes. One notable one was that the ships to transport the 12th were not Roman. An envoy had been sent to Carthage to request passage. It had been based on the Emperor's request that this visit needed the very best ships and sailors available. Carthage gladly agreed. Carthaginian ships meant that this was not an invasion force. More so, it might be a conciliatory gesture on the part of Rome to bridge the fears and mistrust fostered by the 'Punic Wars'.

Marcella was livid, the people celebrated. They too were tired of war with Carthage. Other, more hated foes were about. If this front were secure, many in Rome would be pleased. Centuries of battle, frivolous conflicts and 'insane' Emperors like Caligula coupled by barbarian tribes invading had a sobering effect. Many people wanted change, some wanted things the way they used to be.

Our friend, the watcher, had waited for just this kind of opportunity to change the future.

In the year 2963, most of the world had been destroyed. For more than 600 years, science and the few remaining survivors strove to remedy what had happened. They were committed, like the pig was in making bacon, and they were desperate. They knew what a paradox was, anything, they surmised was superior to what was left. At worst, nothing might be left. That was preferable even.

There were several points in time where a positive effect might occur. Most anything was preferable to prevent Nero coming to power, anything.

The trip to Carthage went better than any expected. They too were tired of war. Not much remained and they saw some hope in this non-aggressive legion's visit.

The watcher used the return trip to make his first change; and it would exceed even his expectations for a change.

They were transported to an area in the future to be known as Venice. When they debarked those ships they recognized nothing, thinking they had been betrayed by the Carthaginian sailors the were about to slaughter them when a small well-tanned man yelled for them to stop. His voice seemed more a thought and all stopped.

"The Emperor has been betrayed, not you. Marcella has used her wiles to have the Emperor's legions attacked. Rome will be fine but many more barbarians are on their way and ready to attack our homelands. If they are successful, many of our friends and families will be killed or taken as slaves.

That they were where they were was second to what was being said. There was mostly disbelief. I might have resulted in panic until from behind the man a girl stepped out. It was Rasney and many recognized her.

"My father, the true Emperor needs you, his best legion. Everyone has moved heaven and earth to see you here, especially this man. Many would say that what faces you soon would be impossible. What you will be shown others will call magic or the work of the devil. Whatever it is, I know you will do your duty, my father expects nothing less of you. Some may die, we may not even be victorious but 'we' ask you to try. You are my father's best, bravest and most loyal legion. I think your Commander may even be inspired if I stay also, which I will do. This man next to me comes to help us. He is from far away and brings weapons and armour that, if you fight, will make everything my father wants for us to happen. You 20,000 must defeat more than 350,000 invaders. For your homes, your friends, your country, my father and me, do your duty. I wish to marry my husband in Rome when we all return in triumph."

Was there anything more to say, could anyone not obey, do ones duty, even if it ended in death, it would be honourable. 'J43' did not want anyone to die. If change could be brought about here, he knew the rest should be easier.

"I have weapons, armour and a few things like your chariots and siege devices, only more powerful."

'Time was of the essence' so everything had been modified as a 'point and shoot' item. Even tanks and artillery were changed so ammunition, loading and sighting was fully automated. Armour was the latest in articulate mesh and servo enhanced movement. No ancient weapon could penetrate that. A polymer headpiece was added as well as visual displays from aerial platforms with targeting as well as counter measures available to the few who could be trained. 30th century technology against year one opposition, it was not expected we would lose.

The Roman soldier never looked ahead at the enemy; they looked to their right to protect the man next to them. It was not so much different now just only the first two lines in formation held shields. They were not as before. Line one held tall and wide clear polymer sheets. They rested on the ground and inter-locked with those next to them. The second line held similar sheets, this time above their heads. None of this was necessary but it gave confidence to the men and was a formation they were used to, the armour suits would stop the advance of elephants.

The rest of the formation was instructed to look to an enemy, pull the trigger and shoot. Friend/Foe devices had been embedded with the armour of our troops and try as they might a weapon would not, could not be used to hurt our side.

Tanks and artillery took longer to bring on-line. The tanks protected our flanks and the rear. Gunners were instructed to stay in place and keep shooting the bad people. This they did with some vigor. The use of this kind of artillery could be likened to 'manna from heaven'. It was sent miles from the line and for more than 20 miles(32.187 km), a constant shower of bombs killed men and animals. In three or so hours, the 'fight' ended. Aerial surveillance could identify no groups of targets. We sustained no losses and the surprise on the faces of the soldiers still standing in formation was priceless. It had been a good day. Rome would no longer have the enemy to worry about. It was not needed to say anything. The Centurions stated shouting, "On to Rome"; we have a bride to take home. We wonder who the lucky groom will be!"

The march on Rome became more an entrance. The 10th, 15th, 20th and 32nd legions joined us on the way. The Emperor had protected Rome. Several regions were seized by the rebels then liberated by the aforementioned troops. Marcella had not survived. Surprise, surprise.

Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; no longer considered his future Son-in-law as he once had, the return of the 12th with no loss as well as a new ally in Carthage would be well received by all.

'J43' was as emotional as any robot might be. He had made the first move. He would see what any unforeseen result might occur.

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Story tagged with:
Time Travel / Robot / DoOver / Slow / Military /