Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Three – Part Three

Standard

Header23-3

“How can time not pass, Vančura?  It’s not like humans have just been wrong about time since we first thought about it!”

The big man laughed at Benwright.

“Really?  We spent millennia thinking disease was caused by devils or bad air.  Until the 1700s, everyone who tried to fly did it by strapping wings to their arms.  The majority of people today think Columbus was the first European to discover the Americas.  If there’s one thing humans have cornered the market on, it’s being wrong.  We’re really quite good at it, especially when it’s an “everyone knows that” situation.”

Benwright folded his arms and sighed in frustration.

“Okay, so what does time do?”

Vančura’s expression changed and he winked at the technician.

“I don’t have the faintest idea.  You’re the scientist; find out!  Skepticism is the first step to discovering the true nature of things.  Think about it; if time actually passed on its own, why would time go slower as we near lightspeed?  But if time doesn’t pass, how is that even possible?  Maybe we are the ones moving, not time, and how fast we move through time depends on us.  And if we’re the ones moving… who is to say we can only move forward?”

The technician’s eyes widened and he leaned forward expectantly.

“Are you saying…”

He was cut off as Vančura scowled and interrupted.

“I’m not saying anything.  I’m just thinking aloud.  Take something for granted and everything else has to revolve around it.  Take nothing for granted and everything can change, no possibility becomes impossible.  Colonel Bosze wants the STAd repaired?  That’s because he assumes it’s broken!”

“But it doesn’t work!”

“Doesn’t it? Who says it doesn’t?  The Colonel?  The only thing he knows about time is that he’s on the clock.  You?  Did you design the STAd or write the equations that prove it can work?  The person who did that just jumped ten years into the future.  Maybe it doesn’t work like you think it should, but what does that have to do with anything?  Sometimes, function is independent of expectation of result, Benwright.  You built a time-machine and – since it doesn’t work like you want it to – you insist it’s broken.  Figure out what it is doing, then you can try to make it do what you want it to.”

For a long time, Benwright was quiet, watching the big man.  A thoughtful expression came over his face and he cocked his head.

“Vančura… you knew the STAd would kill anyone who tried to travel back in time, didn’t you?  That’s why you sent them into the future.”

“Obviously.”

Benwright’s eyes narrowed, ever so slightly.

“How did you know that wouldn’t kill them, too?”


End Chapter  23 – Part 3

Well, now.  It looks like Benwright has a head for more than just math, doesn’t it?

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two

Chapter Twenty Three – Part One

Chapter Twenty Three – Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Three – Part Two

Standard

Header23-2.png“That’s not really an answer, Vančura.  Here’s the deal; you tell Benwright what he needs to know to fix the STAd.  Call it a way to prove you’re playing fair with us.  If it works, we’ll let you aboard the Sandglass program, in an advisory capacity.”

Bosze leaned back in his chair and folded his arms with an air of finality, but Vančura didn’t hesitate.

“Done.”

The colonel blinked at him.

“Done?  That was… fast.  No arguing the specifics?  No cryptic banter about how much we need you and how disaster would inevitably strike in your absence?”

A slight smile tinged Vančura’s expression.

“Only a fool argues when he’s been given exactly what he wanted in the first place, Colonel.  Now, Benwright, get your notebook.  It would be a shame if you missed any important details, now wouldn’t it?”

Benwright scowled, but he pulled a small booklet out of one pocket and took a pen from the colonel’s desk.  Bosze, however, shoved his chair out of the way and headed for the door.

“You guys can amuse yourself with the technical details.  I’ve got a research project to run, so you’ll excuse me if I get back to it.”

The technician watched the door slam behind Bosze, his scowl deepening rapidly.

“Pathetic excuse for a ….”

He trailed off into low mutter when he noticed Vančura’s raised eyebrows.  The big man smirked and settled into a more comfortable position in his chair.

“Oh, don’t stop on my account.  It must be remarkably aggravating to have to answer to the colonel over a scientific project when you’re the expert.”

Benwright ground his teeth, but didn’t say anything, so the big man kept talking.

“Still, as long as he thinks he’s in charge, you’re really the one running the  project, since he can’t possibly understand any of the science behind the STAd.  Fortunate for me, too;  you’re probably the only here capable of sorting through the math.  See, the problem with the static charge overload is only a serious problem when you’re traveling backwards in time.  The strain on the machine when it sends matter through the temporal aberration in reverse is more severe than when it sends matter through forwards. The static charge is too much for the machine in reverse”

The technician frowned and scribbled a quick equation on his paper, then shook his head.

“No, that’s not possible.  Interfering with time should have the same consequences regardless of your vector.”

Vančura eyed him for a moment, then sighed.

“Look, Benwright.  The problem with you scientists is that you insist on thinking about theories as if they were fact.  Theories are just that; theories.  Just because the theory makes the math work doesn’t mean it’s right.  Just because you hear gunfire and horses whinnying doesn’t mean there are cowboys around the bend. It’s ten times more likely to be musketry and lancers, but you’re conditioned to think that an Indian attack is the only logical answer.”

Benwright stared at him, then rubbed his eyes and looked down at his paper.

“Okay, fine.  Let’s say I’m making assumptions; which theory is wrong?”

“Time.”

“Time?  Time isn’t a theory.”

The big man snorted disdainfully and leaned forward in his chair, eyeing the technician intently.

“Isn’t it?  What do you know about time?  What do you know about it, really?”

“Well… uh….”

Vančura waited.  Finally, Benwright frowned.

“Time passes.  I know that, for sure.”

After giving the tech a satisfied nod, Vančura stood up and started pacing.

“Time passes.  True.  That’s what we know.  But that’s not much, is it?  Cars pass.  People pass.  Time passes?  Ducks ‘pass’!!  What does the fact that it ‘passes’ tell you about time?  Nothing!”

His voice was still quiet, but it cut like a whip.

“Everything scientists “know” about time is based on the assumption that time passes.  They’re skeptics about everything but that.  Einstein said time passes more slowly the faster you go; a revolutionary idea, true, but he automatically assumed that time passes!”

He rounded on Benwright and froze him with a penetrating stare.

“What if it doesn’t?”


End Chapter  23 – Part 2

Interesting;  I had no idea Vančura could get worked up about anything.  Of course, there’s always the possibility that he’s faking it to get Benwright to buy his story…

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two

Chapter Twenty Three – Part One

 

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Three – Part One

Standard

Header23-1

“I’m hungry.”

Eddie stared at Vančura, a matter-of-fact expression on his face, obviously expecting the big man to do something about the problem.  Armelle rolled her eyes, then blinked thoughtfully.

“You know, I’m starving, too. It’s been a while since we ate.”

With a gesture to the far door, Vančura started off.

“It has been over twelve years since you’ve had lunch, you know.  I’m surprised you didn’t notice it earleier.”

His tone was serious, but there was an amused light in his eye.  Eddie, however, drooped visibly and an air of panic enveloped him.

“Twelve years?  Vančura, y’gotta get us somethin’ ta eat afore we starves to death.  Who’d you get t’help you if’n that happened?”

“Eddie, it’s only been twelve years for him.  It’s only been a couple of hours for us.  Time-travel, remember?”

Vancura led them into a much smaller room, furnished as an office.  He pulled two of the chairs from along the wall towards the desk, then sat down behind it himself and flipped an intercom switch.

“Benwright, we’re in need of lunch down here.  Who’s fastest?  Chinese?  Yes, that’s fine; order enough for at least three and tell the shop to make sure their delivery man wears his uniform this time.  I’d rather not have a repeat of last week’s noodle incident.  Thank you.”

He flicked the intercom off and leaned back in his chair with a heavy sigh and closed his eyes for a moment.

“You have no idea how much trouble something like the Sandglass project can cause, Armelle.  The only reason you and Eddie didn’t land in a deserted building covered in cobwebs and dust is because of Bosze, odd as that sounds. This place is the temporal equivalent of a nuclear deterrent now.  The brass built it and congratulated themselves, then realized how dangerous it was, but by the time they decided to shut it down, it was too late.  Other people had time-machines too, so the only option was to keep this one running so we could keep others from using theirs.”

Armelle raised an eyebrow skeptically.

“How’d that work out?”

He laughed.

“Not well.  You can’t really threaten someone with time-travel; you never know whether you’ll actually change their timeline or if it will backfire and erase your own.  Of course, politicians are the ultimate optimists, so they prefer to ignore that inconvenient little fact.”

“But dey aren’t dumb, mostly.  Wot’s in it for dem?”

Armelle glanced at Eddie, then back at Vancura and her eyes narrowed.

“He’s right.  Why didn’t they just shut the place down anyway? “Possible deterrent” isn’t good enough, even if they do want to bury their heads in the sand.”

Vancura shrugged.

“It’s somewhat difficult to shut down someone who has a time-machine.  You might find yourself being ‘persuaded’ to change your mind, before you’ve even gotten around to making a decision. Time travel works like that.”


End Chapter  22– Part 3

Yup, still no idea where this is going.  Awesome!

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Two – Part Three

Standard

Header22-3

Eddie had gotten as close as he could to the display and was studying the photo intently.

“I thought y’said y’got Benwright and d’Colonel ta trust you. If’n dat’s so, how’d he ennup in a truck in China?”

“I also said that neither of them saw the attack coming.  Bosze’s superiors were furious when he got caught off guard; after all, he was in charge of a project with a fully functioning time machine…”

That drew a chuckle from Armelle.

“That had to have hurt.”

Before answering, Vančura tapped the console again and brought up a new picture, then turned a sardonic eye on her.

“Everyone involved got hurt, actually.  The “shot-callers” fired Bosze and threw him out of the service as well, but he saw that coming easily.  He was gone the next day, with all of this…”

The picture showed a bank of computer towers, cases removed and tossed on the floor.  Each one had a row of cables dangling from the motherboard, obviously disconnected.

“Hard drives.  Everything the Sandglass facility had on anything and anyone.  Science papers, data from tests, computer simulations, personnel files, all of it.  Quite impressive, too, how he vanished.  We assume he must have had connections in high places to disappear so effectively.”

Armelle frowned, thinking hard, then glanced at Vančura.

“Hold on.  Why didn’t his ‘superiors’ just fire up the time-machine and go back in time and stop the original attack, or at least stop Bosze from making a run for it?”

To her surprise, it was Eddie who responded.

“Coz d’colonel weren’t no dummy.  Not’s’where ‘is own skin wuz conserned, ‘ninnyway, .  ‘m right, eh, Vancy….er…uhm… Vančura?”

The big man stared at him for a moment or two, then nodded minutely.

“He’s right.  Bosze sabotaged the STAd when he escaped.  Three microcharges in critical systems essentially destroyed it.  We scrapped the whole thing and built a new one instead of trying to repair it.  By the time we got the project up and running again, there wasn’t any point in trying to preempt the attack or Bosze’s defection; he had already built two more STAds for other countries.”

Armelle shook her head and closed her eyes wearily.  It was quiet for a few minutes, then she looked at Vančura.

“So, our trip through the knothole and all this… was for nothing?”

He looked surprised.

“Oh, I never said that.  We’re definitely going to fix this.  All of this was just to get you two acquainted with all the little problems that cropped up in the last few years.  Temporal travel was never the answer to the problem, you see.  If we actually want to keep time as we know it from unraveling at the seams, we need to take a slightly more… aggressive approach.”


 

End Chapter  22– Part 3

Yup, still no idea where this is going.  Awesome!

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two – Part One

Chapter Twenty Two – Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Two – Part Two

Standard

Header22-2.png

“Okay, half a dozen time-travel machines is  a bad thing, I get it.  What exactly does that have to do with us, though?  Isn’t the whole plan for us to go back in time and prevent the first one from being built at all?”

Vančura nodded, but didn’t reply.  He just folded his arms and stared at Armelle, waiting.  She frowned at him.

“What?”

“Follow the logic a little further.”

With an exasperated glare, she thought about it a little longer.

“So…  the best way to keep the STAd from being built is to keep me from publishing my paper, or keep me from coming up with the mathematics at all, right?  That should be easy enough; we just go back in time and I won’t do it.  Problem solved.”

In the dim light where he was wandering aimlessly around, Eddie was shaking his head, but she ignored him.  Vančura, however, only raised an eyebrow critically.  She threw up her hands.

“Obviously, you’re taking the logic further than I am.  Fine; what’s so important about this future having too many time-machines?”

He stared at her for a moment longer, then tapped a key on the super computer.  The screen flashed to a photocopy of a file, packed with typewritten text framing a single high-resolution photograph.

It was a photograph of the front porch of Armelle’s house.  In center, the three of them were walking down the steps to the truck they’d stolen, Armelle leading the way and Eddie following along at the rear.  Vančura, by some bizarre chance, was looking directly at the camera.

“Who…”

“Now, where’d y’spose dat came from?”

Armelle sounded stunned, but Eddie had stopped pacing around in the dark and was studying the photo intently.  A sharp look had spread over his face and even his slow drawl had a slight edge to it.

With a quick tap of keys, Vančura brought up two more pictures.  One was a shot of a massive armored door in the side of a hill, partially covered with brush and camouflage netting.  It had obviously been snapped from a long distance; it had been enlarged so much the pixels were visible, though it had been carefully cleaned up.

The other was a profile of a man in the passenger seat of a battered Humvee driving down an overgrown dirt road.  A note, scrawled by hand on the edge of the photo, read “Russia? China?”.

Armelle’s mouth dropped open.

“Is that…”

“Colonel Bosze?  Yes, it is.  Badly in need of a shave, too, it seems.”


End Chapter  22– Part 1

Uh….

Whoa…

Dang…

Wow…

And…

What the heck?

Okay, people, I am officially back to not knowing what’s next.  Colonel Bosze has some explaining to do to his author, ’cause he is AWOL!

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One

 

 

 

 

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Two – Part One

Standard

Header22-1.png

Vančura accepted a cup of black coffee from Bosze, then leaned back in his chair contentedly.

“It seems the STAd is much more durable than you give it credit for.  I don’t know if it’s the mathematics or the materials, but it will keep working long after theory says it should have failed catastrophically.”

He took a quick gulp and continued.

“Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t have… hiccups… when you use it.  It’s like finding a rifle in the mud: it will probably still shoot, but that doesn’t mean it will be as precise as it originally was.  And it will likely have other problems, as well.”

Benwright’s gaze sharpened.

“Imprecise?  You knew it was going to have a margin of error and you sent your friends, anyway?”

“I did and I did, yes.  It’s not as risky as you might suppose.  You see, traveling into the future has fewer… repercussions if you don’t hit your target exactly.  It’s not much different than going to sleep for the same amount of time; you’re just out of the loop of events and then ‘waking up’ again.  Getting back, though… that’s a completely different proposition altogether.

“It means traveling backward in time.”

Vančura nodded to the colonel.

“Indeed.  However, that’s assuming that the STAd still hasn’t been fixed ten years from now.”

Bosze covered a laugh by coughing into his cup and Benwright glared at Vančura.

“We’re working on it.  Maybe you could help us out there, huh?  Since you know so much about the thing.”

Both he and the colonel eyed the big man expectantly.  There was a long silence as Vančura considered it as he quietly sipped his coffee.  Finally, he threw a calculating look at Bosze.

“That depends.  Are the handcuffs and armed guard going to be a regular occurrence?”

A wry smile tinged the colonel’s face, but Benwright’s scowl remained firmly in place.

“That depends.  Are the attempts to hijack the STAd going to be a regular occurrence?”

“Touché.  Let’s assume for the present that double-crossing each other would only hhurt both of us.  After all, you have something I need and I have a great deal more that you need.”

A scoffing laugh burst from Benwright.

“What? You know how to fix the STAd?  Give me a week or so and I will, too.  I say we jail him, Colonel.”

Vančura didn’t even blink.

“I know someone else has a built one.  And I know none of us want them using it.”


 

End Chapter  22– Part 1

This is getting old, quick.  I don’t LIKE knowing what’s next!  I wanna be just as surprised as everybody else.

Still, I expect this can’t last long.  I hope you guys are enjoying it!

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty One – Part Three

Standard

header21-3

“Colonel, you do not have a choice.  It’s that simple.  I know more about the Sandglass program than you do and probably more than even Benwright does.  You’ve sent me through that anomaly so many times it’s become blasé and I’ve kept my eyes open each trip.  You and the technician here are practically old friends, assuming old friends make liberal use of handcuffs and holding cells.”

Bosze stared at the big man for a long time, obviously mulling the situation over.  His expression looked as if someone had poured something unpleasant over him.  Benwright started to say something, but the colonel withered him with a particularly irritated glare

Vančura’s lip twitched in what could have been a smirk, but it vanished immediately.

“We both know you can’t have me executed or ‘interrogated, Colonel.  You can’t risk losing any possible source of information on the STAd.  Even an overzealous thump on the head from a guard might cause memory loss.”

He chuckled as Benwright tried to hide a pained wince.

“You need all the data you can get on what happens when the knothole is used.  More importantly, I’m not actively trying to kill you or ruin this program.  That puts me so far ahead of any other possible source of information you have that I’m practically in another universe, as far as trustworthiness is concerned.  And, whether you believe me or not, the first time I went through the STAd, it was as a volunteer.”

No amount of glaring from Bosze was enough to keep Benwright from sitting bolt upright and staring at the big man.

“What?  Volun… there’s no way! We’d have a record of that!”

The colonel rubbed a hand over his eyes and coughed.

“Benwright.  Shut up.  Okay, Vančura; you know we don’t have any way to prove that.  For all we know, the first time you went through, it could have been kicking and screaming.”

Vančura raised a derisive eyebrow and Bosze rolled his eyes.

“As out of character as that might seem.  The point is, we have to trust you, not because we trust you, but because we don’t have any other choice but to trust you.  That’s a position I’m extremely uncomfortable with, as you obviously know. However, we really need that information and you haven’t done anything worse than use the STAd.”

Before Vančura could respond, Benwright broke in, a frown spreading over his face.

“How did you manage that, anyway?  Our tests say that static charge problem should have completely fried anyone in the STAd when you fired it.”

Vančura regarded the tech for a moment, a dark smile flickering.

“Come now, Benwright.  You of all people ought to know that reality has very ugly effect on even the best laid theories.  Practice makes perfect is a much better way of doing things, if you know what I mean.”


 

End Chapter  21– Part 3

Huh… turns out, I knew THIS was coming, too.  Looks like I might be starting a habit of that… which worries me.  I’m not sure I like knowing what’s next.  Oh, well.  Seeing the stunned looks on reader’s faces is a pretty good substitute for having one myself, so I guess I’ll keep writing…

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty One – Part One  Chapter Twenty One -Part Two