10.29.15.GILDEDAGEBIG

The Gilded Age
By Lisa Mason
1
Fortune Cookies at the Japanese Tea Garden

Out of a tense and arid darkness she steps, her skirts sweeping across the macadam. Her button boot wobbles on the bridge over the brook in the Japanese Tea Garden. “Steady,” the technician whispers. The shuttle embraces the ancient bridge in a half-moon of silver lattices. The air is susurrous, tinged with menthol, cold. The shuttle hums. High overhead, the dome ripples in a fitful gust. Zhu Wong listens for final instructions. None come. Dread quickens her pulse. She closes her eyes and waits for the moment it takes to cross over.

And then it’s happening–the Event sweeps her across six centuries.

Odd staccato sounds pop in her ears. The Event transforms her into pure energy, suspends her in nothingness, then flings her back into her own flesh and blood. And she stands, unsteadily, her button boot poised on the bridge over the brook in the Japanese Tea Garden. A brand-new bridge. The scent of fresh-cut wood fills her senses.

“Muse?” she whispers to the monitor. Fear stains her tongue. Tension gathers behind her eyes. Her skin feels fragile. Her heart batters her ribcage, her lungs clench. Now she feels the Event just like they said she would. Again, “Muse?”

“I’m here, Z. Wong,” the monitor whispers. Muse nestles behind Zhu’s left ear between scalp and skull. “We’re here.” Muse automatically checks for points of reference. Alphanumerics dance behind her eyelids. Coordinates are confirmed. “We’re fine.”

But she’s not fine. The tension moves to Zhu’s sinuses, and a soft ache starts to throb.

She opens her eyes. Dappled sunlight shocks her, an azure sky dazzles. Birds cheer, foliage rustles. Sights seem magnified, sounds amplified as if she’s returned from the dead. The herbal scent of eucalyptus infused with a floral perfume nearly overwhelms her. The tension, the ache turn into full-blown congestion. She sneezes once, sneezes again violently. Her eyes spurt tears.

Bang, bang, bang! Odd staccato sounds? Now earsplitting blasts and the stink of gunpowder.

Zhu drops to her knees, evasive action instinctive at the sound, the stink of gunfire. Her breath rasps in her throat. Her fingers twitch, reaching for the handgun she kept strapped beneath her right arm for so many years it was like another limb. Its absence now, an amputation.

She fights panic. Damn! No gun, no decent cover. What a sitting duck she is, perched on the bridge. She blots her eyes on her sleeve and tries to rise, but her feet tangle with the skirts. She stumbles, moving as if hobbled. The ankle-length layers of silk and cotton cushion her knees against abrasion, but not impact. Pain shoots through her kneecaps. There will be bruises.

“Stay calm, Z. Wong,” Muse whispers. “The loud abrupt sounds suggest combustible explosives, not projectiles aimed at you.”

“What?”

“It’s the Fourth of July. Independence Day, United States of America.”

Zhu crouches, uncomprehending.

“Those are fireworks. San Franciscans always celebrated the Fourth of July in Golden Gate Park. The park was public then. Correction. The park is public now.”

“Independence Day, of course.” Zhu has never celebrated America’s Independence Day. She’d never been to America at all till she was conscripted for the Gilded Age Project.

“This is long before private cosmicist interests acquired the parkland and installed the dome.” Muse’s whisper calms her. Confirmation coordinates continue matching up like winning lottery numbers.

Well, all right. She glances up, squinting. How well she recalls the milky PermaPlast dome rippling overhead as she stepped in the tachyonic shuttle. How wonderful to see the sky with no dome!

“But the dome is old, too, isn’t it, Muse?”

“In your Now? Oh, yes. The dome has been in place since the 2100s when the stratosphere had thinned so dangerously that undomed lands were ruined by excessive radiation. Z. Wong,” Muse says patiently. “This is 1895.”

  1. 1895. Zhu bows her head, struck with awe. Then it’s true. They did it. She has t-ported six hundred years in the past.

“Please, Z. Wong,” Muse says. “You haven’t much time before the rendezvous. Get up. Walk around, stretch your legs.”

Zhu frees her skirts, managing not to rip the delicate fabric. How did women ever tolerate such constrictive clothing? Lurching to her feet, she sneezes violently again. “Muse, what’s the matter with my sinuses?”

“Unknown. An allergic response.”

“I’m not allergic to anything.”

“Pollen?”

“No, never.”

Muse pauses. “Perhaps a response aggravated by the Event. I will analyze. In the meantime, you’ve got a handkerchief.” Helpful Muse is becoming impatient. “Please, you have less time now.”

Zhu finds the embroidered square of cotton in her leather feedbag purse. Her hands shake. She can’t get over the impression someone was shooting at her as she stepped out of the tachyonic shuttle. She looks around, alert and wary.

The shuttle has been installed at the historic location they call the Japanese Tea Garden in New Golden Gate Preserve. Zhu smiles, secretly glad the shuttle has vanished from her sight. She never liked the photon guns aimed like assault weapons. The pretty calcite crystals that did unpretty things. The banks of blinking microbots slaved to vast offsite servers. Then there was the chronometer, the savage hook-like heads of the imploders. The whole thing was militaristic, foreboding.

And the Event?

Thanks to a fiendishly clever technology invented by the Luxon Institute for Superluminal Applications, the Event instantaneously transformed the matter of her body into pure energy and transmitted that energy faster than the speed of light.

Flinging her body and soul from July 4, 2495 to July 4, 1895.

Did the Event actually work? Oh, yeah. She honks into the handkerchief. The hard curving stays of her corset—slender steel strips covered in black satin—dig into her ribs. Quickly, before anyone notices, she stoops and flips up her skirts, examining her knees. No blood leaks through the thick black cotton stockings. Excellent. She starts smoothing back the slip, the skirt, the overskirt, the traveling cloak, all in shades of pale dove gray.

“I beg your pardon, miss, but may I assist you?”

Zhu glances up.

A young man stands, startled, wringing his large mottled hands and staring open-mouthed at her calves. His bright blond muttonchops and clean-shaven chin shape his face into sort of a peculiar square. He’s combed his yellow hair back over his scalp, lets it fall to the shoulders of his black frock coat. A scarlet polka-dot tie throttles his starched wing collar. He’s tilted his porkpie hat at a rakish angle, carelessly unbuttoned his vest in the afternoon heat. Quite the dandy with his bawdy grin and stink of gin. Has his way with the ladies, no doubt.

But his concerned expression closes up like a slamming door when he glimpses Zhu’s pale golden complexion, her black hair and wide cheekbones. Her slanting eyes, the irises gene-tweaked green.

“Why, thank you, sir. Yes, you may.” She extends her hand for him to assist her off the bridge. Gray lace mitts cover her palms, wrists, and forearms, leaving her fingertips bare.

He doesn’t take her hand. No, he frowns, turns without another word, and strides away. He glances at her over his shoulder with eyes of ice.

“Too bad, Muse,” Zhu says to the monitor. She pulls the veil down from the brim of her Newport hat and ties it beneath her chin, shielding her face from the sun. From other prejudiced eyes. “I guess he didn’t want to assist a Chinese lady.”

“You’re not a lady, Z. Wong.” Muse says, the monitor’s tone as cold as the young man’s glance. “You’re a fallen woman.”

The cover, by San Francisco artist Tom Robinson, is styled to look like an 1890s billboard.

The Gilded Age is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, and Smashwords.
The Gilded Age
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

So there you have it, my friends. Bantam published this as The Golden Nineties. Yes, I changed the title. I think the new title is better. (Wish I’d thought of it in the first place….)

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Time Travels to San Francisco (boxed set of Summer of Love and The Gilded Age). On US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, India, and Japan.

Arachne (a Locus Bestseller). On US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle in France Kindle, Germany Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Spain Kindle, Mexico Kindle, Brazil Kindle, India Kindle, and Japan Kindle.

Cyberweb (sequel to Arachne). is on US Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Brazil Kindle, France Kindle, Germany Kindle, India Kindle, Italy Kindle, Japan Kindle, Mexico Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, and Spain Kindle.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (“A must-read collection—The San Francisco Review of Books). On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

The Garden of Abracadabra (“Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy . . . I want to read more!) On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Celestial Girl, A Lily Modjeska Mystery (Five stars) On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Shaken On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Hummers On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

Daughter of the Tao On US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in AustraliaFrance, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Every Mystery Unexplained On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

Tomorrow’s Child On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

The Sixty-third Anniversary of Hysteria On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

U F uh-O On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

Tesla, A Screenplay On US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

My Charlotte: Patty’s Story On Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Netherlands, and Mexico.

“Illyria, My Love” is on US Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Germany Kindle, France Kindle, Spain Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Japan Kindle, Brazil Kindle, Mexico Kindle, and India Kindle.

Please visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

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