Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Three – Part Three

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“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

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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 Two – Part One

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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

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“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