Anchors No More # 16: Nothing But Your Over-Easy HeartMay 5, 2014
After hours of debate, Holly gave Daniel a frustrated glare. “It has to be that way, there’s no other choice.”
Daniel’s gut was acetous with a combination of not understanding the mathematics for himself and not being comfortable with the reality of their final plan. He knew she was right but there had to be some way around it. “I know. I know you’re right, I just…” he stood and walked over to the whiteboard where they had drawn her calculations, studying them a moment, trying to get himself calmed down, “… god, there’s got to be another way.”
“There’s not,” she assured him, “If there was I would be the first to suggest it. After the membranes, we know beyond any doubt if we plan to go back and stop the time jump, we have to leave from the exact place. It has to be from the basement.”
They shared taxed looks of overwhelmed acceptance. Daniel glanced at James who could only grunt and look away. Turning to Gary, who had been sitting quietly for the past twenty minutes, Daniel asked, “So, what do you think?”
Gary shook his head wearily, “I think we can’t argue with the math and I think we can’t argue with the situation. I mean, everything you guys told us is true, I don’t doubt it. We don’t have options. So I think Holly’s right.” He gave her a nervous smile, “We break in, move the machine back to the basement, and we destroy the tunnel from both ends.”
Holly looked from Gary to Daniel, thinking how alike the two men were in spirit and attitude, though physically they were worlds apart. Daniel stood a good three inches taller than Gary and while Gary was a good-looking man, Daniel was properly handsome even with his now shaggy dark hair and unkempt beard. She enjoyed looking into his sharp green eyes and she hadn’t realized she was staring until Mike and Elizabeth, two of Ankura’s physicists, walked over with cups of tea. “Here you go guys,” Mike said, snapping Holly from her gaze.
She turned to him and took the cup he offered. “Thanks,” she said, chancing a glance back at Daniel who, much to her unspoken and inappropriately timed pleasure, was still looking at her. She blushed and looked away, taking a slow sip of tea as she walked back to the whiteboard to join Gary.
“So,” Elizabeth asked, sensing the tension in the air, “What’s the verdict?”
Daniel gave Holly and Gary tentative humorless smiles before answering, “Well, remember how bad it seemed before?” Elizabeth nodded her head, already not liking what she was hearing. Daniel found it difficult to break his gaze with Holly but he did, looking back to Elizabeth and concluding, “Well, now it’s worse.”
Mike studied Daniel’s face, trying to read what he meant. When he could not, he simply asked, “Meaning?”
Daniel looked at Gary, “Can you tell them what you told me?”
Taking a deep breath, Gary said, “I guess to put it bluntly, what you had planned before isn’t going to be enough. Just getting into ARLIS and blowing up the temporal machine won’t fix the problem, it’s only going to delay the inevitable. If the technology exists anywhere, it’s going to come back around and they’re going to get their hands on it.”
Elizabeth flashed Gary the same questioning look that Mike did, but she spoke first, “What do you mean ‘anywhere?’ Where else is there?”
Gary wasn’t sure how to put it, still uncertain of his own understanding of the ramifications of their calculations. He walked to the whiteboard and picked up a marker, writing and sketching as he talked, “Okay, as you know, our machine is a modified Alcubierre Drive, and to travel in time we used it to create and sustain a negatively energized Kerr-based wormhole in the quantum foam, deep in the super-structural membrane of space and time. Once we exited our little temporal side door, the hole closed. However, a closed door is still a door and this is where things get complicated.”
Gary glanced at Holly for support and she just nodded her head at him for encouragement, too tired to speak, to anxious to put anything into words. Turning back to Elizabeth and Mike, Gary continued, “According to everything we’ve been doing the past couple of days, we have every reason to believe that our one trip forward did not compromise or alter the time continuum in any way. The world simply moved forward and we stepped out of the cycle for a while and then stepped back in. Moving forward, no problem. But…” he said, beginning to write on the board again, integrating a time line with some equations, scribbling a couple functions and connecting sketches with arrows, “moving back, that’s where our problems are and those problems are what we have to exploit.”
He finished his board work and turned back to the group, “No matter what we do here in the present, even if we successfully demolish every machine, destroy every component, burn every bit of matter relating to it and kill or convince every single individual who knows anything about it, the door between here and there will still exist regardless of its latency. We have to collapse the hole completely and that means both present and any pasts we have or will create.”
James slapped his hand on the table, finally having enough of this conversation he had been irked by hours ago. “But going back to fix the back just creates more back. It’s like you’re taking six and calling them a half-dozen and assuming that will fix everything.”
“We know James,” Holly spat in frustration, catching herself when she felt everyone’s eyes fall on her, “just trust me when I tell you that the potential trouble is greater if we don’t try. If we go back, we are beyond any doubt going to further split the continuum, we will create another dimension branching off at the exact moment that we hit the button the first time and hopefully do not hit it the second time.”
It was her turn at the board, she took the marker from Gary and stepped forward, a renewed energy behind her equating, “We can’t go back farther in time than when we first created the hole, only as far back as the precise moment we hit the button.” She finished her drawing and turned to face the gathered scientists, “The time frame to stop from touching the button is too short, a couple million millionths of a second, so our only choice is to move the machine back to the same position that we left from, go back to that very instant and have the physical substance of the machine we’re in now materialize in the same space as the machine we are preparing to use then.”
Mike’s face grew pale, “But you can’t do that, the rules of paradox, of non-double occupancy, won’t allow it.”
“That’s what we’re betting on,” Holly said, “It has to be annihilation, it has to be complete.”
Mike stared at her, then Gary, then James and Daniel, not believing what he was hearing. He looked back to Holly. “That’s suicide,” he said.
Holly’s eyes did not waver, a certainty in her gaze that her voice could not match. “Omelets and eggs,” she said, “you can’t make one without breaking the other.” She picked up her cup and took a slow drink of tea, unable to meet any pair of sympathetic eyes.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.