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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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A Felony of Birds

by Harris Tobias
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Time Pressure

by

Harris Tobias



The scene in front of my visor is dark and murky. Like seeing the world through maple syrup, sort of brown and thick. Moving is slow and plodding. I feel like a deep sea diver at a dangerous depth. The pressure of time above me threatens to squeeze me into jelly. My name is Jay Cramp. Iím a chrono-naut and Iím on a mission.

Time is thick, thick as soup and the deeper you travel into the past, the heavier and denser it becomes. It has to do with the physics of time. Something scientists have been getting wrong for generations, until now. Now we finally understand that time is particulate in nature. A flowing stream of chronons surround and engulf every instant of reality.

A single monthís worth of chronons can barely be weighed with any instrument. A yearís worth registers faintly on our most sensitive scales. Five years down, the pressure accumulates to several atmospheres. Itís a logarithmic scale like the one they use for earthquakes. At the depth Iím at now, 46.22 years, itís like being at the bottom of the Pacific. Time is dense, dangerous and the going is slow. We used to think time was like a river, how naive we were. Time isnít like that at all.

I wear armor. You wouldnít last a nano-second in the past without a chrono-suit. The stresses on frail biology are immense, too severe to survive without protection. The past is as inhospitable as outer space. The weight of it wants to crush you like an egg. Special equipment is needed and even then itís difficult. The past is not a friendly place.
      
With this insertion, I have surpassed the previous record. The Chinese tagged us September 23rd, 2005 in our embassy in Beijing. It was an astounding feat and it shook our defense establishment to its core. It was like a splash of cold water in the face and it had the same effect. The Chinese record has stood for sixteen years and has made my government very nervous. It was a Sputnik moment. We went to work and developed the armor I am wearing now. Itís pretty sophisticated stuff, the best materials science can produce. Itís made from souped up spider silk, light weight and very strong. At this very moment, I am eight months deeper than the Chinese. My guage says itís February 13th, 2005. Take that, you slanty eyed mothers.

Time travel has become a game that rich nations play, a sort of geo-political tag. The ďMy country can go deeper than yoursĒ game has become the Space Race of the late 21st century. A game of high tech one-upmanship.

I am two blocks from the insertion point and everything is working well. I have no communication with my present. If there is an accident, no one will ever know. My wife and daughter will be well taken care of unless I do something stupid and cause their non-existence. The thought does nothing to calm my racing heart. I have to be careful not to cause an incident or I might not have a present to return to, or a present so different I wouldnít recognize it.

I move slowly as I have been trained. I have no obvious presence in the past. The inhabitants cannot see me just as I cannot see them. I can barely see solid objects and even those are difficult to see clearly. Living things are blurry wraiths without substance. To the people whose present this is, I am invisible. They flit across my vision as insubstantial as soap bubbles. Itís strange that what is thick, almost impenetrable, to me is just air to them. Something about the relativism of time. I donít pretend to understand it. I donít think anyone really does.
 
I take small swimming steps as though lifting lead weights with each step. I carry a message for the Chinese Ambassador. He will, Iím sure, be shocked to receive it. He will report its contents to his superiors and eventually they will know we have gone deeper and that the past is ours, at least for a little while. They, in turn, will not rest until they are once again timeís masters. And so it goes until either some absolute limit is reached or one of us goofs up and changes the future.

The country that can deliver the earliest message could, in theory, deliver a bomb. The actual results of sending a bomb into the past is purely theoretical. No one is foolish enough to actually do it.

Time is the perfect playground for the military. The nation that can travel deeper into the past wins. Billions are spent and no one gets hurt. Itís all fun and games until someone screws up. You change the past and you endanger the future and that future is where we all live. Itís where my wife and 4 year old daughter live. Itís where I expect to return when this mission is done. You better believe Iím careful.
 
The guards donít see me as I walk right past them. They are not watching for me. They are watching for threats from their own time, not a visitor from their future. I wait for the door to open. I could open it myself, but I dare not cause an incident. Causing an incident is a big no no.

Reliable data is scarce, but it appears we are reaching the limit to how deep in the past we can go. Of course at one time we thought the limit was 11 years and now look at how deep weíve gone. Science and technology keep whittling away at the barrier. Who knows how deep we can ultimately go?

Once inside the building, I climb the stairs slowly. Each step takes tremendous effort. I dare not take the elevator. I have a relative weight of several tons. It wouldnít do to snap an elevator cable and cause a causal rift. So I take the stairs and plod slowly up three flights. On the third floor landing I pause for breath. The clock on the wall says 4 p.m. ó right on schedule.

After a short rest, I continue to the ambassadorís office. I stand in a corner straining to see the ambassador. There he is. I drop the message on his desk. To him it would look like it suddenly appeared out of thin air. I imagine him looking around bewildered.

As far as I know, the letter says something like: This message is from the future. Be sure to tell your government that you have been tagged by the United States. It is imperative that you report that this letter was found on your desk. Something like that anyway. I love that word ĒtaggedĒ, now the Chinese are ďitĒ. My mission completed, I turn and retrace my steps.
      
Halfway down the steps I encountered a chrono-suited time traveler making his way up. This was something unprecedented. The past is, after all, a vast territory so the odds on meeting another time traveler in the same location and time, is off the charts. This person must have known Iíd be here.


His suit was a crude, old fashioned, bulky thing from the early days of time exploration. I feel sorry for the guy. Moving around in this soup is tough enough in state of the art gear. For him, it must have been ten times more difficult. He moved with painful slowness, dragging a heavy container behind him. We froze in our tracks glaring at each other.

The fact that we could see each other so clearly meant we were from the same present. His out of date suit told me he was not Chinese. He wasnít part of our little game and therefore not bound by its rules. The fact that he picked this particular time and place to appear meant he was up to no good. My mind searched for some explanation. We stood frozen in place for several seconds, then he reached into a zippered pocket and pulled out a knife.

This was bad, very bad. Even a small puncture in a chrono-suit at this depth could be a disaster. The sudden decompression would cause an explosion that would change the pastó the very thing I was trying so hard to avoid. I couldnít take a chance that he wouldnít try and puncture his own suit like a suicide bomber.

I leaped down the steps and knocked him off his feet. We tumbled down the remaining steps locked in a deadly embrace. He swiped at me with his knife but luckily my suit didnít tear. I ducked under his thrust, grabbed his wrist in a twisting move and brought him to his knees, his arm behind him. The knife fell silently to the floor.

He had no strength left to fight with. He lay there inert. I used the strap to tie him to the container and pushed it down the steps, out the door and back the way Iíd come. His booted feet stuck out before us, his eyes staring into mine. What I saw were the eyes of a fanatic.

I pushed him back to my insertion point and waited for the extraction chamber to materialize. I looked through the container and saw it was filled with enough explosives to have brought down the whole embassy. The extraction chamber wasnít big enough to carry everything. I stuffed my prisoner and as much of the explosives as I could into the chamber and climbed in on top. It was a tight fit. I had to leave a lot of the explosives behind. I could only hope that when the DC police found them it wouldnít cause too much of an incident. Who was I kidding?

The overloaded chamber rose slowly and carried us forward in time like an elevator rising from the depths, lifting us back to the present. When we arrived, I was relieved to find the present pretty much the same as I left it. I say ďpretty muchĒ because there were a few small changes that caught my attention. I noticed that my boss, Major Gerrard, had a mustache where before he had none.

My prisoner was taken away in handcuffs. I found out later that the man was from a militant ethnic group desperate for independence. He meant to blow up the past and let the pieces fall where they may. His bomb would have been blamed on the U.S. The repercussions for the world would not have been pretty. Major Gerrard put me in for a medal for capturing the terrorist and saving the world.

After several days of de-briefing, I was allowed to go home. I had to hunt for my car in the parking lot. The white car I drove to the base was now a dark blue. I stopped at a store and bought flowers and candy for Gladys and an expensive doll for Mary. The credit card I used to pay for the purchase was different than what I was used to. I wasnít alarmed, these changes were so minor I could easily live with them. I was just so happy to be home safe and sound and in my familiar present. I pulled into my driveway and a dog Iíd never seen before came to greet me. Then the front door burst open and a woman I didnít recognize flew into my arms. She was followed by a six year old boy. Bewildered, I handed them my gifts and tried to make the best of an embarrassing situation.


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2012-05-19 10:01:23
Interesting story! The very end is unexpected''

2012-01-02 09:18:08
Tightly woven plot and really enjoyed the twist at the end. I

2011-12-17 19:45:39
Nice. It's not too often we see something new in Time Travel stories. Enjoyed it.




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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
A Felony of Birds

by Harris Tobias
The Greer Agency

by Harris Tobias
Assisted

by Harris Tobias
Hold The Anchovies

by Harris Tobias
Alien Fruit

by Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

by Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

by Harris Tobias
The Stang

by Harris Tobias


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