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 Two

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“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 One – Part One

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header21-1.pngEddie and Armelle watched Benwright disappear down the hall, then glanced at each other.

“Awfu’ helpful, ain’t he?’

Armelle scowled, then nodded at the double doors.

“Might as well see what Vančura has been up to all this time.  Maybe he’ll be a little more forthcoming.”

She shoved one of the door and it opened quietly, swinging on well-oiled hinges.  The room beyond was dim, kept from complete darkness by a row of lamps running down the middle of the room.  Against the walls on either side, computer towers blinked, status lights running in complicated patterns across them.

At the far end of the room, a single desk stood in front of a massive wall display.  Pages of equations scrolled across the display, numbers changing as the computers solved them.  The chair at the desk was empty.

Eddie was busy watching the shadows nervously, but Armelle stared at the display.  After a moment, her eyes narrowed and she stepped closer for a better look.

“What the…”

“Predictive temporal formulae.  I’ve been running them for years now.  It’s next to impossible to know what will happen if even one thing in the past changes, but with enough computing power, you can make a really good guess at it.”

Armelle whirled, focusing on the dim outline of Vančura, leaning on one of the computer towers off to one side.  Eddie squeaked and sprinted halfway to the doors before he recognized the voice.

“Vančura!”

He grinned at her.

“The one and only.”

Armelle started to say something, then stopped and glanced at the wall display.  She was quiet for a minute, then turned back to him.

“How much time did we skip?”

The big man’s grin faded.

“Twelve years.  You time-traveled twelve years.”


End Chapter  21– Part 1

This installment was a bit short, mostly because the next bit is going to be a long one, with no good places to pause the story.  See you next week!

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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty – Part Three

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Benwright took a deep breath.

“Okay… the physics of sending someone forward in time are totally different than sending someone backwards in time.  We don’t really understand how traveling to the past works; it seems to break a lot of natural laws, like how mass can be in two places at once, but…”

He broke off as he noticed Colonel Bosze staring at him pointedly.

“But… ah… back to the point, traveling forward in time is relatively simple, from a paradoxical standpoint.  Unfortunately, since it doesn’t cause as much of a disturbance, it’s harder to pinpoint the exact… landing point.  So, the computer has records of where the STAd sent them but there’s no way to know how close they came to the targeted time.”

Bosze leaned back in his chair with a thoughtful frown.

“Where did the computer send them?”

The technician checked his notebook.

“Ten years in the future, to the day.”

With a sharp glance towards Vančura, the colonel leaned forward.

“Ten years?  Why ten years?  That’s a long jump.”

Benwright shrugged.

“No idea.  Ask the prisoner, not me.”

That got a long laugh out of Vančura. Benwright started in surprise, then shot the big man a nasty look.  He started to say something, but Bosze waved him down and ignored Vančura.

“So, we know they were aiming for ten years from now.  Don’t worry about our guest; we’ve got plenty of time to get information out of him.  Let’s concentrate on what we know before we start worrying about what he might tell us.  Do you have an estimate on how far from their target they actually landed?”

After a last glare at Vančura, Benwright shook his head.

“It’s a pretty big margin of error.  Anything from a few minutes to eighteen months.  Tracking time travelers is like trying to figure out exactly where a fish jumped out of the water by watching the ripples.  The bigger the fish, the easier it is, and there might actually be a splash, too.  This… it’s like following a minnow in an Olympic swimming pool.”

The colonel sighed.

“Still, we’ve got an eight-year gap before they appear again.  There’s a lot we can do in that time, regardless of exactly what we decide needs doing.”

A chain rattled as Vančura clapped his hands with exaggerated emphasis.

“And now you’re closer to the question you really ought to be asking.”

This time, it was Bosze who glared at him.

“What?”

The big man smiled at him condescendingly.

“When did I send them?  What about why did I send them and what are they going to do when they get where they went?”

Benwright’s eyes widened with realization, but Bosze spoke first.  His eyes were suspicious and far from friendly.

“More importantly, why are you helping us?”

Vančura’s smile widened and he inclined his head to the colonel.

“And that is the real question.”


End Chapter  20– Part 3

Well, now… I didn’t see any of THAT coming.  Somebody check Vančura’s cards!!  I think he’s playing with extra aces!!

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 – Part One

Chapter Twenty -Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty – Part One

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“Look, we’re not the bad guys here.”

Vančura leveled a cynical gaze at the colonel, then raised his wrists and rattled the handcuffs.

“These restraints would indicate otherwise.

Bosze didn’t look amused.  In fact, he looked more than a little irate.

“You did break into a secure government testing facility and monkey with a highly  sensitive piece of equipment.  The handcuffs are protocol, but I’ll admit, I enjoyed having you put in them.”

The big man studied him, a frown starting to develop, obvious even under the indomitable composure.

“You bribe a crooked judge and prison warden to kidnap us off the street chip us like animals, then force us through an experimental machine.  And you aren’t the ‘bad guy’?”

Bosze’s grin was anything but pleasant.

“Hey, I haven’t done any of that yet.  You can’t blame me for something I’ve done in the past for the future you came from, but that I haven’t gotten around to doing in the future for this present.  Just now, the only criminal here is you.”

There was a quiet pause as Vančura considered that.  Finally, he nodded.

“You’ve got this time travel problem down to a science, I see.  Impressive.  So, since I’m the ‘bad guy’ in this particular iteration of our first meeting, what’s next?”

Surprise bloomed on the colonel’s face, then he laughed.

“Oh, I never said you were the bad guy.  You’re just the guy who broke into the wrong place on some mis-guided…”

He stopped, frowned, then stared at Vančura, eyes widening.

“Wait a minute.  ‘Us’.  You kept saying ‘us’, not ‘me’.   Kidnap us, chip us, force us.  Who is ‘us’?  We sent someone else through the STAd with you, didn’t we?”

It w as Vančura’s turn to grin.

“Slipped out of me on accident, I’m afraid.  The question you really ought to be asking, though, is who went through the knothole without me.  Or, to put it a different way, who did I send through it?”

Bosze paled and he slammed a fist onto the intercom button on his desk.

“Benwright! Get down to the STAd and check it’s logs for the time immediately around the incursion!  Move!”

He leaned back, staring at Vančura like he’d seen a ghost.  The big man just chuckled.

“Makes you wonder who I sent through, doesn’t it, Colonel?  In fact, if I were you, I’d be wondering very, very much.  I might even be worried.  If I were you.”


 

End Chapter  20– Part 1

Ah, Vančura… what are you up to?  I gotta tell you, readers, Vančura is the the single most unpredictable character I’ve ever written.   If I ever figure out what he’s planning, I’ll be sure to tell you about it, but don’t count on it being any time soon.

Also, Merry Christmas, one and all.

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

Twicebound: Chapter Nineteen – Part 2

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“Benwright?”

The laugh rolled around the chamber again.

“Got it in one.  You two are right on time and sharp as tacks.  Good to see the trip didn’t scramble you too badly.  Vancura didn’t know if you’d gotten through un-harmed.”

The technician rested his elbows on the railing of the second story balcony and grinned down at them.

“The boss is going to want to see you, so I’ll have to get you to tell me about your trip later.  I’m dying to know if traveling forwards in time is any different than traveling backwards.  Wait right there, I’ll be down in a second.”

He vanished, but they could hear the clatter of boots on the tile floor above, though it faded fast.  Eddie turned to Armelle, eyes wide.

“Wha’d’we do?”

She shook her head, desperately scanning the room for the tenth time.  There were only two exits; the door and the knotholeBenwright was coming through the first – doubtless with a troop of thugs behind him – and she was locked out of the STAd.

“We play it by ear.  Not much else we can do.”

Eddie’s face crumpled.

“I jus’ hopes we still got ears t’play wid after Bosze gits done wid’us.”

The door opened and they spun to face Benwright.  He was conspicuously alone.  When they realized he didn’t even have a pistol out, Armelle and Eddie exchanged a surprised look.

“All right, you two.  This way.  Everything’s on the clock, so we don’t have a lot of time.”

Neither of them showed any  sign of moving and Benwright blinked at them.

“Aren’t you coming?”

“Why on earth would we go anywhere with you on purpose?”

Eddie shook his head at Armelle, then squinted at the technician suspiciously.

“What I wants’ta know is, why’re y’asking?”

For a moment, they all stared at each other, then Armelle finished sorting through Eddie’s question.  Her eyes widened.

“Good one, Eddie!  Why are you asking, Benwright?  Why not just have some of your jackboots haul us to the interrogation room?  If you’re expecting us to go willingly, Bosze is going to have to wait for a long time.  I’ll bet that will thrill him to no end.”

To their surprise, Benwright started laughing.

“Oh.  Okay, my fault.  I forgot, you still think we’re enemies.  Time-travel, remember?  We’re on the same side now.”

He grinned when he realized they didn’t believe a word of it.

“Well, to put it more accurately, I’m on the side you’re on.”

They studied him, Armelle weighing his words carefully, and Eddie trying to figure out exactly what the tech had said.  Armelle was the first to respond.

“Say we believe you.  What exactly is this “side” we’re all getting cozy on?”

Benwright frowned, as if she’d asked him what oxygen was.

“Vančura’s, obviously.  What else would I mean?”


End Chapter  19– Part 2

You didn’t see THAT coming, did you?

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 – Part One