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 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 – Part Three

Standard

header20-3

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

New Serial Novel!!!

Standard

There’s a new serial novel on the block, people.  “A Pawn Up My Sleeve” is the most recent story to hit the bits and bytes of this blog.  With the readership “Twicebound” is enjoying (and with how much I’m enjoying writing it), I decided to take the serial novels a step further.

APUMScoverHere’s the blurb for it:


Imagine you have a problem… a big problem… and that problem won’t go away. No matter what you do. When you have that sort of problem, conventional methods don’t work. You have to resort to unconventional ones. And when you need unconventional methods… you need an unconventional man. You need a man who doesn’t play by the same rules the problem does. You need a man who plays chess when everyone else is playing poker. You need a man who’s playing for keeps when everyone else is playing for little things like power, money, or their lives.

You need a man like Hubert Spencewood.

Huey, for short.


It will be published weekly, but instead of coming out Saturday morning, you’ll be able to take a break from the vicissitudes of Monday with each installment of “A Pawn Up My Sleeve”

The big difference is this; “A Pawn Up My Sleeve” is subscription-based.  Don’t worry, I based the subscription rate around the price-tag you might find on a nice trade-paper back in a bookstore.

The first thousand words, however, are yours for the reading.  Jump in!!

ButtonOr, if you’re the adventurous sort, just go straight to the
A Pawn Up My Sleeve Main Page.

Twicebound: Chapter 17 – Part 1

Standard

Header17-1

“You don’t look much like a scientist. Are you sure this will work?”

Armelle gave Vančura a scornful look and finished buttoning her lab coat. It didn’t quite fit, but no-one would notice, unless they looked closely.

“I look a lot more like a scientist than you do, that’s for sure. Stop standing like that!”

He blinked.

“Like what?”

“Like…”  She eyed him for a moment. “Like a big cat.  You look like you’re always waiting to pounce on somebody.  Scientists don’t do that.”

With a shrug, he relaxed slightly, letting his shoulders droop slightly under the lab coat. She made a face, then nodded.

“Now you just look like you’re asleep, but it’ll have to do.  Here, carry this and look subservient.  Eddie, you… just follow me and, for heavens sake, don’t talk.  One word from you and they’ll know we aren’t scientists.”

Eddie looked hurt, but at least his lab-coat fit, so he just looked like an affronted – if slightly scruffy – technician.   Armelle inspected him one last time and adjusted the box she had handed to Vančura.  It was some random piece of heavy equipment that had looked mildly portable, but he didn’t look like he even noticed the weight.

“Okay, let’s go.  And let me do the talking.  I may not be familiar with this place, but at least I won’t ask them if I can ‘do something to that thingy’ or something like that.”

After checking them over critically, she yanked the chair out from under the knob and opened the door.  Peering out into the hall, she glanced both ways, then stepped out.  In an instant, she assumed the attitude of a harried and somewhat annoyed technician. The other two trailed her, trying to keep up, and barely succeeding.

“Could ya slow down a little, mebbe?”

She didn’t look back.

“No.  I’m in a hurry. The head technician wants the main off-shunt capacitors on the STAd checked immediately.  We can’t waste any time.  Besides, you don’t hear Vančura complaining, do you, and he’s carrying that equipment.”

Eddie frowned at her, then glanced at Vančura questioningly. The big man shook his head.

“She’s getting into character.”

Eddie stared at Armelle’s back.

“She’s a character, awright.”

End Chapter  17– Part 1


Just so you guys know, slightly scruffy doesn’t even begin to describe Eddie. Fortunately, for some reason connected with our social memory, the impression created by a white lab-coat is one of credibility, authority, and intelligent concentration.  All things Eddie has nothing to do with, but the lab-coat will distract you from that.

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