Connie Willis - Blackout

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Connie Willis - Blackout

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Connie Willis - Blackout - описание и краткое содержание, автор Connie Willis, читайте бесплатно онлайн на сайте электронной библиотеки Mybrary.Ru
In her first novel since 2002, Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Connie Willis returns with a stunning, enormously entertaining novel of time travel, war, and the deeds—great and small—of ordinary people who shape history. In the hands of this acclaimed storyteller, the past and future collide—and the result is at once intriguing, elusive, and frightening.

Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser, Mr. Dunworthy, into letting her go to VE Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. And seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who has a major crush on Polly, is determined to go to the Crusades so that he can “catch up” to her in age. 

But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments for no apparent reason and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history—to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control.

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Blackout - читать книгу онлайн бесплатно, автор Connie Willis

Thank goodness. “Here’s your train, Theodore,” Eileen said, kneeling to button his coat. She hung his gas-mask box around his neck. “Your name and address and destination are on this paper.” She tucked it in his pocket. “When you get to Euston, don’t leave the platform. Your mother will come out to the train to fetch you.”

“What if she ain’t there?” Binnie asked.

“What if she got killed on the way?” Alf said.

Binnie nodded. “Right. What if a bomb blew ’er up?”

“Don’t listen to them,” Eileen said, thinking, Why can’t it be the Hodbins I’m sending home? “They’re teasing you, Theodore. There aren’t any bombs in London.” Yet.

“Why’d they send us ’ere then?” Alf said, “’Cept to get us away from the bombs?” He stuck his face in Theodore’s. “If you go ’ome, a bomb’ll prob’ly get you.”

“Or mustard gas,” Binnie said, clutching her throat and pretending to choke.

Theodore looked up at Eileen. “I want to go home.”

“I don’t blame you,” Eileen said. She picked up his suitcase and walked him over to the slowing train. It was full of soldiers. They peered around the blackout curtains in the compartments, waving and grinning, and jammed the platforms at both ends of the cars, some of them half hanging out over the steps. “Come to see us off to the war, ducks?” one of them called to Eileen as the car slowed to a whooshing halt in front of her. “Come to kiss us goodbye?”

Oh, dear, I hope this isn’t a troop train. “Is this the passenger train to London?” she asked hopefully.

“It is,” the soldier said. “Hop aboard, luv.” He leaned down, one hand extended, the other clutching the side railing.

“We’ll take good care of you,” a beefy, red-faced soldier next to him said. “Won’t we, boys?” and there was an answering chorus of hoots and whistles.

“I’m not taking the train. This little boy is,” she said to the first soldier. “I need to speak to the guard. Can you fetch him for me?”

“Through that mob?” he said, looking back into the car. “Nothing could get through that.”

Oh, dear. “This little boy must get to London,” she said. “Can you see that he arrives there safely? His mother will be at the station to meet him.”

He nodded. “Are you certain you don’t want to come as well, luv?”

“Here’s his ticket,” she said, passing it up to him. “His address is in his pocket. His name’s Theodore Willett.” She handed the suitcase up. “All right, Theodore, up you go. This nice soldier will take care of you.”

“No!” Theodore shouted, turning and launching himself into her arms. “I don’t want to go home.”

She staggered under his weight. “Of course you do, Theodore. You mustn’t listen to Alf and Binnie, they were only trying to frighten you. Here, I’ll climb up the steps with you,” she said, trying to set him on the bottom rung, but he grabbed her around the neck.

“No! I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too,” she said, trying to loosen his grip. “But just think, your mum will be there, and your own nice bed and toys. Remember how much you’ve been wanting to go home?”

“No.” He buried his head in her shoulder.

“Whyn’t you just toss ’im onto the train?” Alf suggested helpfully.

“No!” Theodore sobbed.

“Alf,” Eileen said. “How would you like to be tossed into the middle of a lot of people you didn’t know to fend for yourself?”

“I’d like it fine. I’d make ’em buy me sweets.”

I’ll wager you would, Eileen thought. But Theodore’s not as tough as you. And, at any rate, she couldn’t toss him. His hands were locked around her neck. “No!” he shrieked, as she tried to pry his fingers loose. “I want you to go with me!”

“I can’t, Theodore. I haven’t a ticket.” And the soldier who’d taken Theodore’s suitcase had disappeared into the car to stow it, and there was no way to get it or the ticket back. “Theodore, I’m afraid you must get on the train.”

“No!” he screamed, right in her ear, and tightened his grip around her neck, nearly strangling her.


“There, that’s no way to carry on, Theodore,” a man’s voice said, nearly in her ear, and Theodore was abruptly off her neck and in his arms. It was the vicar, Mr. Goode. “Of course you don’t want to go, Theodore,” he said, “but in a war we must all do things we don’t want to do. You must be a brave soldier, and-”

“I’m not a soldier,” Theodore said, aiming a kick at the vicar’s groin, which he deflected neatly by grabbing Theodore’s foot.

“Yes, you are. When there’s a war, everyone’s a soldier.”

“You’re not,” Theodore said rudely.

“Yes, I am. I’m a captain in the Home Guard.”

“Well, she’s not,” Theodore said, pointing at Eileen.

“Of course she is. She’s the major-general in charge of evacuees.” He saluted her smartly.

He’ll never buy it, Eileen thought. Nice try, Vicar, but Theodore was asking, “What sort of soldier am I?”

“A sergeant,” the vicar said. “In charge of going on the train.” There was a whoosh of steam, and the train gave a lurch. “Time to go, Sergeant,” he said, and handed him up into the arms of the red-faced soldier. “I’m counting on you to see that he reaches his mother, soldier,” the vicar said to him.

“I will, Vicar,” the soldier promised.

“I’m a soldier, too,” Theodore informed the soldier. “A sergeant, so you must salute me.”

“Is that so?” the soldier said, smiling.

The train began to move. “Thank you,” Eileen called over the clank of the wheels. “Goodbye, Theodore!” She waved to him, but he was talking animatedly to the soldier. She turned to the vicar. “You’re a miracle worker. I could never have got him off by myself. Thank goodness you happened to be passing.”

“Actually, I was looking for the Hodbins. I don’t suppose you’ve seen them?”

That explained why they’d vanished. “What have they done now?”

“Put a snake in the schoolmistress’s gas mask,” he said, walking out to the edge of the platform and looking over it. “If you should happen to see them-”

“I’ll see that they apologize.” She raised her voice in case they were under the platform. “And that they’re punished.”

“Oh, I shouldn’t be too hard on them,” he said. “No doubt it’s difficult for them, being shipped off to a strange place, so far from home. Still, I’d best go find them before they burn down Backbury.” He took another searching look over the edge of the platform and left.

Eileen half expected Alf and Binnie to reappear as soon as he was out of sight, but they didn’t. She hoped Theodore would be all right. What if his mother wasn’t there to meet him, and the soldiers left him alone at the station? “I should have gone with him,” she murmured.

“Then who’d take care of us?” Alf said, appearing out of nowhere.

“The vicar says you put a snake in your schoolmistress’s gas mask.”

“I never did.”

“I’ll wager it crawled in there by itself,” Binnie said, popping up. “P’raps it thought it smelt poison gas.”

“You ain’t gonna tell Mrs. Bascombe, are you?” Alf asked. “She’ll send us to bed without our supper, and I ain’t ’alf starved.”

“Yes, well, you should have thought of that,” Eileen said. “Now, come along.”

They both stood stubbornly still. “We ’eard you talkin’ to them soldiers,” Alf said.

“Mrs. Bascombe says nice girls don’t talk to soldiers,” Binnie said. “We won’t tell if you don’t tell ’er what we done.”

They’ve both long since grown up and been sent to prison, Eileen told herself. Or the gallows. She looked around, half hoping the vicar would reappear to rescue her and then said, “March. Now. It will be dark soon.”

“It’s already dark,” Alf said.

It was. While she’d been wrestling Theodore onto the train and talking to the vicar, the last of the afternoon light had faded, and it was nearly an hour’s walk to the manor, most of it through the woods. “’Ow’ll we find our way ’ome in the dark?” Binnie asked. “Ain’t you got a pocket torch?”

“They ain’t allowed, you noddlehead,” Alf said. “The jerries’ll see the light and drop a bomb on you. Boom!”

“I know where the vicar keeps ’is torch,” Binnie said.

“We are not adding burglary to your list of crimes,” Eileen said. “We won’t need a torch if we walk quickly.” She took hold of Alf’s sleeve and Binnie’s coat and propelled them past the vicarage and through the village.

“Mr. Rudman says jerries ’ide in the woods at night,” Alf said. “’E says ’e found a parachute in ’is pasture. ’E says the jerries murder children.”

They’d reached the end of the village. The lane to the manor stretched ahead, already dark. “Do they?” Binnie asked. “Murder children?”

Yes, Eileen thought, thinking of the children in Warsaw, in Auschwitz. “There aren’t any Germans in the woods.”

“There is so,” Alf said. “You can’t see ’em ’cause they’re ‘idin’, waitin’ for the invasion. Mr. Rudman says ’Itler’s goin’ to invade on Christmas Day.”

Binnie nodded. “During the King’s speech, when no one’s expectin’ it, ’cause they’ll all be too busy laughin’ at the King st-st-stammerin’.”

And before Eileen could reprove her for being disrespectful, Alf said, “No, ’e ain’t. ’E’s goin’ to invade tonight.” He pointed at the trees. “The jerries’ll jump outa the woods”-he lunged at Binnie-“and stab us with their bayonets!” He demonstrated, and Binnie began kicking him.

Four months, Eileen thought, separating them. I only have to put up with them for four more months. “No one’s going to invade,” she said firmly, “tonight or any other night.”

“’Ow do you know?” Alf demanded.

“You can’t know something what ain’t ’appened yet,” Binnie said.

“Why ain’t ’e going to?” Alf persisted.

Because the British Army will get away from him at Dunkirk, Eileen thought, and he’ll lose the Battle of Britain and begin bombing London to bring the British to their knees. But it won’t work. They’ll stand up to him. It’ll be their finest hour. And it will lose him the war.

“Because I have faith in the future,” she said, and, getting a firmer grip on Alf and Binnie, set off with them into the darkness.

The best laid plans…


Balliol College, Oxford-April 2060

WHEN MICHAEL GOT BACK TO HIS ROOMS FROM WARDROBE, Charles was there. “What are you doing here, Davies?” he asked, stopping in the middle of what looked like a self-defense move, his left arm held stiffly in front of him and his right protecting his stomach. “I thought you were leaving this afternoon.”

“No,” Michael said disgustedly. He draped his dress whites over a chair. “My drop’s been postponed till Friday, which they could have told me before I went and got my American accent, so I wouldn’t have to run around Oxford sounding like a damned fool for four days.”

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