Emily asked a good question in an e-mail: How do I keep track of where and when Rada and Joschka and the other cast of thousands in the Cat universe happen to be?
Short answer: heck if I know.
Longer answer: by having four major times/places and staying in Rada’s personal time line.
Although Rada moves back and forth through time, the stories always follow her personal chronology. And she has “settled down” to three basic locations: Drakon IV, Earth’s early 21st Century, and Elsewhere, which includes Master Thomas’s world. Since in general events Elsewhere do not affect her other two locations directly most of the time, I only have to keep track of Elsewhere in a rough sense, unlike Earth and Drakon IV.
Of the two, Drakon IV is a bit trickier, because she jumps forward in time, at least as seen from the Imperial Court. This means having a list of king-emperors and prince-imperials, and a rough idea of how many years After the Great Relocation Rada and Zabet happen to be at any given time. For that I have a hand-written list on the back of an old pay receipt. (No, I am not kidding.) She cannot go back in Drakon IV’s timeline. Once a moment passes there, it is gone. Technically, if you squint, she could travel to a time in the past when she was not on the planet, but she’s not going to do that for two reasons. First, she knows that her memory for whens is not as good as that of a true Wanderer, and the risk of screwing up is too great, enough so that the Dark Hart would probably balk and give her a nasty headache in revenge for her trying to do it. Two crossing her own personal time-thread sends up what you might call an energy flare that temporal sensitives can “see.” Rada prefers not to wander around with a neon sign over her head flashing “I’m here! I’m here!”
Earth is linear. You notice that she doesn’t go wandering through the recent past too much. Rada doesn’t believe in temporal sight-seeing, even though Rahoul, Joschka, and (eventually) Sgt. Lee gently kid her about why won’t she take them to [time] to see [event] or to ask someone “What in the bloody blue blazes are you thinking?” Instead Rada keys off of her and Joschka’s first visit to Earth. Yes, she has done business on the planet in the past, hers and ours, but in places and times where she is less noticeable, and never near the corridors of power or events that she knows are well observed (occasionally she’ll go so far as to check with the Dukorlig Scholars just to be certain.) She’s also careful to leave a code-locked temporal beacon in the lab at GDF-Great Britain, set to when she needs to come back. If there’s a problem or she’s ill, the beacon will give the Dark Hart‘s symbiote a point to focus on, and then the two of them can get the ship to when it needs to be even if she’s partly incapacitated.
I’m an old-school Whovian, and one of the ongoing jokes was the absolute lack of continuity in the series and how past events seemed to change so often (“New writers?” “Probably. More popcorn?” “Please.”). I’m too CDO* for that. The biggest “twitch” in the Cat Among Dragons Earth history is what happened between 1850-1936 in Europe. Something happened. How and why it happened? It wasn’t Rada’s doing. The “true history” that she knows breaks from ours during that period. In Rada’s world, humans develop planetary defense systems by the early 2010s, and only then go to the moon and set up a Space Station. Computer tech and the use of holograms and other things is far ahead of the real Earth. Humans stopped broadcasting “Hi, we’re here!” to random passers-by in the late 1970s, about the time the GDF formed. There is no UN of the kind we are familiar with. The EU doesn’t exist, and there is no common European currency. And Canada has fantastic baseball teams that consistently win the World Serie— Ahem. Where was I?
What about Master Thomas, aka Himself**? He too is linear, along with Rada, and she never goes back past when she first met him. If she were to stay with him, the Traders couldn’t touch her because they would not be able to find her. He’s not exactly outside of time, but there are some very odd things about the timestream in the vicinity of his planet. Rada and the Dark Hart can sense them, but not in the same way as the Traders do. But . . . Rada can’t stay with him, not and be true to all aspects of her self. And most importantly, even though she only recently came to admit it to herself, Joschka isn’t there. Joschka’s on Earth. And her godchildren are on Earth. And she has not been released from the vow she swore to Shi-dan all those centuries ago.
*That’s OCD but in proper alphabetical order.
**What about Master Thomas? I have no idea. He’s only let me into his mind once, and it is a strange, cold place. He’s not a deity, not immortal, and not amoral. But his morals are very, very different from Rada’s, Zabet’s, and Joschka’s . . .and mine.