Marie had no idea what some of the listed professions were. However that was what advisers were for; she simply had to find one who was from the proper era to interpret. The most exciting discovery so far was Omar, a man ancient in both his era of origin and the number of years he had lived in The Place. Omar was inside the Library of Alexandria as it burned. When he saw the flames, he started grabbing scrolls, hoping to save at least something. He did not escape the flames, but when he arrived in The Place he still had all the scrolls with him.

One of the professions listed on the initial census was “warth filler” which turned out to be something from ancient Egypt. The warths apparently produced an electric current. However the woman who had once been a warth filler had no idea how the warth actually worked. In The Place, she was a flower seller, a profession she loved and enjoyed.

There were samples of technologies from Minoan civilization as well as advanced science from Moose’s time and beyond. Many of them Marie had never heard of.

“The challenge is…” Nyota mused “…the more advanced the technology is, the more dependent it is on other technologies.”

“And we’re incomplete. We have many people with pieces of advanced knowledge, but they don’t know how to manufacture all the parts,” said Marie.

Marie looked around the Inn. They had gradually taken over the entire building, but it was obvious some other facility would have to be found. Representatives from The Town and every other community in The Place were constantly coming and going, reporting on changes and asking questions. Between the two of them, Marie and Nyota had so far been able to give everyone at least a partial answer, even if that answer was “That’s the first we’ve heard about that…but we should look into it.”

Every night Marie collapsed into bed exhausted. At least she was no longer alone. With Galen she had found a love that completed her in ways she’d never even realized she needed. It was like the breakthrough of their sexual connection had led to greater and greater levels of intimacy. He had proposed only a few days after their night in The Cottage. Marie did hesitate, but only because there were so many strange new things happening around them. But Galen was her rock and her strength, and it made more sense to go through the changes with him by her side than to deny herself something she deeply desired just because she was afraid of the unknown.

The Castle was close to the horizon when they watched from The Tower. When they stood on the balcony at The Cathedral Saint Denis, it was often difficult to see at all.

One morning Marie awoke with a strong urge to look at The Castle.

“No. Not now. Not yet.” Galen insisted, then proceeded to ravish her senseless.

After thoroughly enjoying her ravishment, she eventually got her way. Galen carried Sophie up the stairs since her little legs couldn’t handle the long climb very well. At the top, they found Moose, Nyota, and Lark already gazing at The Castle in the distance.

“It’s almost on the horizon now. It’s hard to make out the individual parts,” said Nyota.

Marie shivered in the cool morning air, and Galen wrapped his arms around her. Sophie and Lark peered through the railing, somehow quiet, as if they realized something important was about to happen. Marie strained to see The Castle, and Moose handed her a small telescope.

Although The Castle looked different every day, they’d never seen it actively change. But it was changing now. New towers were rising behind it as the towers closest to them faded or shrank. It was as if it was slowly creeping away from them.

After an hour, there was nothing more to see. The last of the towers had disappeared over the horizon.

“I’d suggest we take the shuttle, and see where it’s gone, but something tells me it won’t be there,” said Moose.

“Perhaps we should take the shuttle…” Galen was gesturing to something that had appeared closer, in the place where The Castle had stood when it was still close to them. Marie looked through the telescope, but whatever it was it wasn’t nearly as tall as The Castle had been.

“Yes…” Marie looked up at Moose. “Please, let us take the shuttle.”

Her heart raced with anticipation. There was something familiar about it, but she could not pinpoint just what it was. All she’d been able to see beyond the hills and trees was that there was some kind of building there.

Sitting behind Moose as he piloted the shuttle, Marie grasped Galen’s hand tightly. Her knuckles grew white as she looked down, recognizing the shape of the building even though she’d never before seen it from the air.

They landed in the courtyard, and stepped out into the morning sun. Although the smells and sound of many fountains wafted over the air, it seemed deserted, uninhabited…

…but new. Like her Trianon had been new.

Marie retraced the steps she’d taken when she was still only a teenager, betrothed to the Dauphin of France. In those days, she had been filled with both hope and fear, knowing that although she had been made welcome, not everyone was happy with the idea that their future queen was a daughter of the Emperor of Austria.

On this day, Marie was again filled with both hope and fear. But she climbed the steps, and entered the Palace of Versailles, confident that this time, with these people, they would use the gifts they were given to make a safe and happy new life for all.

What Would Have Been

What Would Have Been is a short story (or novella… who knows?) that I am publishing one chapter at a time… as I write it. It’s a fun exercise for me, and hopefully a bit of entertaining reading for you!

This is the end. I did leave it open, so I could write more stories later if I want. Meanwhile, I like to think that they all lived happily ever after.

…with perhaps just an adventure or two along the way.

This story is dedicated to the Janes. The real ones and the fictional, the ones who survived, and the ones who didn’t. For all of you.

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