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Very Short Fiction (3)

February 17, 2013

And the third, and final, contribution I made:

Tom checked his math again, admiring the flow of equations across the large plasma-board in front of him.  It all checked out.  The equations balanced, finally.  The power requirement might be refined a bit, but it should work.


“Nope, you missed it.” A low, quick voice said, as if reading Tom’s mind.


“Who are you?” Tom asked, spinning to face the tall, yet nondescript man in a white lab coat.


“If you listen to me, you’ll find out eventually.  The important thing is you’re about to make the second biggest mistake of time travel,” the stranger said.


“Which is?” Tom dumbfoundedly questioned.


“You’ve ignored space,” the tall man said with a wave at the plasma-board. “Oh, your equation will work, but only at a fixed point in space.  But this planet, star, and galaxy are all hurtling across the universe at huge speed.  Move, in your equations, even a few seconds temporally in either direction and you end up in deep space.


“You need to take relative spatial velocities into account or you’ll only find yourself very disappointed with where you wind up.  Disappointed, and very dead.”


“Um, thanks,” Tom replied, more confused than ever, “But why tell me?  If you already know this, why not just publish?”


The odd man seemed to choke back a laugh, “What’s that charming colloquialism you humans use?  Avoid observing a complimentary equine’s feeding orifice?  Something like that.  These off-the-shelf translators are terrible with idiomatics.”


“Whoa,” Tom’s head was spinning, “Us humans?  So you’re saying you’re not human?”


The stranger looked himself over, “This?  Just a complex holographic shell.  Safer for everyone this way.


“I understand this is rather a lot to take in, but you’ll just have to trust me.  Rework your math to include spatial velocity in a matrix with time.  Do that and you can go anywhen with relative safety.”


“And if I can’t do that?” Tom pressed.


“Then you are doomed to fail, I will never have met you in that bar at the Tau Seti Transfer Hub, will currently have no idea who you are, and this conversation will, retroactively, never have happened,” the stranger stated with a grin. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m technically not supposed to be here at all, so I must be going,” he continued.


“Best of luck fixing your math problem.  I have every confidence you’ll do it.  Enjoy your first few time jumps.  Just try not to break causality, it’s a right pain to put it back together.”


With that, the man turned on his heel and made his way to the lab door.


“Wait!” pleaded Tom, “You said the second most common mistake.  What’s the first?”


“Don’t worry, you’ll find out soon enough,” the stranger reassured him as he stepped into the Science Department hallway.


The rookies always do, he thought to himself with a smile as he activated his cronomotivator and slid silently back into the timestream.


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