Jerry Pierce, a leading Trainable with the Agency for Intertemporal Development in the 21st century, is watching the gladiatorial battles in an alternate Roman empire of the 1st century AD when he witnesses the anachronistic assassination of the emperor Domitian by anti-tank missile. Though suffering from the prolonged effects of his conditioning, he agrees to go undercover to discover the identity of the assassins. With the aid of a recently recruited local, he soon discovers the elite Praetorian Guard have been Christianized by a group of religious fanatics from his own timeline, who conspire to make their leader the next Roman emperor. Successfully infiltrating their ranks, he must collect intelligence and sabotage their plans, all while maintaining his cover and dealing with the increasingly painful consequences of his extended conditioning – a daunting challenge for even a top agent of the AID.
Crawford Kilian’s third and final entry in his “Chronoplane Wars” trilogy differs considerably from the first two books. Whereas and its prequel focused on describing the main character of his series within the context of a world facing doomsdays of various stripes, this final book shows him as an AID agent on a mission unrelated to the broader challenges of his assignments. The result is an effective sci-fi thriller, albeit one that left me wondering if Killian ever had any regrets about this series. It's pretty clear that while his first book, Empire of Time, was intended as a stand-alone novel, the premise of alternate worlds policed by an authoritarian future was clearly too rich to remain unexplored. Yet resolving the question of Earth's destruction (the big mystery which drove the establishment of the alternate-worlds empire) seems to have left Killian bereft of stores that lived up to the original. It's a real shame, too, considering the series-driven trend in modern science fiction today, as Killian's premise allowed for a vast range of directions in which he could have gone. Instead we are left with this final novel that shows the possibility of what could have been had Killian not started with the end unintentionally.