After the fact by Fred Saberhagen

In a few minutes they were back in town, where Pilgrim began giving navigator’s directions. Presently, only a couple of blocks from Jerry’s hotel, they were driving into a large square whose center was occupied by a hulking stone building of antique design, obviously preserved or restored. Several signs informed the visitor that this was the Old State Capitol.

Guess who, thought Jerry to himself, must have done something or other in the Old Capitol. Any lingering suspicion he might have entertained that Lincoln was not the chief industry in Springfield had by now vanished under a barrage of commercial signs. You had the Lincoln This, the Lincoln That, the Railsplitter Something Else. A few people, just to be different, had dedicated their enterprises to Ann Rutledge.

At Pilgrim’s direction Jerry now turned into a lane of traffic that dove sharply into a fluorescent cave right under the Old Capitol, where signs informed him of several levels of modern parking. Here, in one of the reserved sections, Jan stood waiting for them beside the van.

In a couple of minutes the three of them had unloaded the equipment from the larger vehicle and were carrying it upstairs to the surface.

They emerged on a broad sidewalk, facing the Old Capitol across the street. The buildings lining the perimeter of the square were mostly of brick, two or three stories tall. Approaching one of these, Pilgrim used a key on an inconspicuous door set back slightly from the sidewalk, and led the way up some indoor stairs. The plastic-covered tripods now and then knocked lightly against stairs or walls. At the top of the first flight Jan unlocked the door to a modest suite of offices. There was no sign on the door to indicate who occupied them. Nothing fancy, Jerry thought, carrying his burden in. Except maybe for some of the computer stuff.

These rooms might last have been modernized in the 1960s. In the first room were a couple of desks and a few battered tables. On some tables near the windows, a couple of instruments similar to the ones Pilgrim had been using at New Salem were mounted on shorter tripods, lenses aimed out through the windows in the direction of the Old Capitol building across the street. There were also three of the new Macintosh computers in the room, one with a color screen, and quite a bit of cabling.

“Did you arrange this setup?” Jerry asked, gesturing at the computers, when the equipment they had brought in with them had been stowed in a closet.

“No, I am a user only. And I am afraid there will be no chance for you to consult directly with the engineer who arranged this system—if that is the right term for what has been done here.” Moving energetically from one table to another, Pilgrim had started flipping switches. Now Jerry saw that there were four Macs, the last one almost hidden in a corner. One after another each sounded a musical chime-note as it came to life.

“As you can see,” Pilgrim added, “part of the system is optical—would you like to take a look?”

More than ready to get involved, Jerry went to the eyepiece of one of the tabletop units—it looked something like a cross between a surveyor’s instrument and a telescopic camera. The image it presented was one of the most peculiar he had ever seen—it looked like a clear, somewhat magnified optical picture of the granite of the Old Capitol, overlaid slightly off-center with a computer reproduction of itself.

He turned away from the eyepiece and looked around. “I don’t quite get it.”

“The Foundation’s object, Jerry, is historical research. The capital building there, for example, was taken down stone by stone a few decades ago, and then reconstructed in situ. There are of course slight differences between the positions in space of its stone blocks now, and the positions occupied by those same blocks in, say, the year eighteen fifty-nine. With the center of mass of the earth itself as reference—excuse me.” A phone at the far side of the office had begun to ring, and Pilgrim gestured to Jan Chen that he wanted to answer it himself.

She was standing by, smiling brightly, and Jerry turned to her. He asked: “It sounds like you’re somehow able to determine exactly where each stone was in the past?”

Across the room, Pilgrim was frowning and muttering at whatever the phone was telling him. Jan shook her head. “I’m not the one to ask about what can be done with the computers and sensing devices. Ask me something about the dates of the Old Capitol there, or about Lincoln, and I can tell you a few things.”

“Sounds interesting. I probably will. You’re the resident historian then.”

“That is really Dr. Pilgrim. I am only an assistant.” No accent in her speech, no, but a certain overprecision, noticeable more at some times than others, that made Jerry wonder if she might have been born in another country. She went on: “this whole area around Springfield is just so fascinating to me, Lincoln being something of a specialty of mine. Naturally I was very pleased to be able to come here and work on this project.”

“You have a degree in history, then?”

“Last year, from USC. And you?”

Jerry started talking about TMU, and the joys and problems of living in Chicago. Jan, it turned out, was originally from San Francisco. The struggles involved in surviving student life and planning their careers gave them enough in common so that there seemed no danger of running out of things to talk about. Jerry had been ready to plunge right in, tracing cables, starting to figure out the existing network that had been set up with the optical devices and the computers; but talking to Jan instead was, for the moment, quite satisfactory. Certainly it would have been impolite to cut her off, when she was so obviously interested in his background and what he might be going to do here, for the Foundation.

At some point Jerry became aware that Pilgrim, his hand over the phone receiver, was clearing his throat in an urbane effort to get their attention.

“Jan, Jerry, I am sorry. But it appears now that certain dull details of administration are going to keep me occupied for the next couple of hours at least.” He frowned at the gold watch strapped to his hairy wrist. ” ‘Time flies like an arrow.’ ” The way he said the phrase made it sound like a quote, though Jerry had no idea what it might be from.

Pilgrim went on: “Jan, I would suggest that you spend the remainder of the afternoon conducting Jerry on a small tour of Springfield. With emphasis of course on the sites where we shall be working. Make use of the expense account; take him to dinner also. Sooner or later I will catch up with you. You might also even show him where he will lodge should we come to agreement on the terms of his employment.” Pilgrim smiled suddenly, favoring Jerry with an unexpectedly bright and winning look. “As of now that seems a distinct possibility.”


Two minutes after Pilgrim had given them his blessing, Jerry and Jan were out on the street, Jan fitting on an expensive-looking pair of sunglasses whose effect was to turn her from a mod archaeologist into a tourist. Before leaving the office she had also picked up a purse, which presumably contained the plastic tools that would let her make use of the expense account.

“The sites we plan to work on this summer,” she announced, “all have something to do with the life of Abraham Lincoln, as you may have guessed by now.”

“I’m not surprised to hear it,” Jerry admitted.

“What to see first?” Jan pondered, looking around the square, where modern shops and vehicles surrounded and contained the time warp of the Old Capitol. “I think the Lincoln Home, that’s only a few blocks away. Then we should have plenty of time to drive out to the cemetery before it closes and take a look at his tomb. It’s only a couple of miles, just on the edge of town.”

“Whatever you say,” Jerry agreed. The more he listened to this lady’s voice, the more he enjoyed hearing her talk.

They started walking. A block before they reached Lincoln’s Home (“the only house he ever owned”, as Jan enthused) they passed into a restored historical area of the city. Here the streets had been closed off to motor vehicles, and were lined by wooden sidewalks. Spacious yards of neatly mowed grass, looking unnaturally perfect, surrounded sizable frame houses that Jerry could believe had been built during the nineteenth century.

One of those houses, on the northeast corner of Eighth and Jackson, and marked with appropriate signs, was their destination. Lincoln’s home was open to visitors on payment of a small fee. Jan insisted that the fee should be on the expense account.

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