Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 22


22 Days

    Naïve, but still fascinating.  I had to admit that their system did impress me to a degree.  They had thought about almost everything, and in their shoes I likely would have done the same.  You need a system of checks and balances to ensure success, especially when dealing with something as complicated and dangerous as time travel.

    But thinking of “almost” everything wasn’t good enough.  I was pretty sure the doctor was missing two crucial pieces.  He suspected that I would become a time traveler, but he had no idea that I had already been one.  I mean, how could he?  If I still had the power he might have been able to figure it out from some history and maybe some blood work, but that was a different me altogether.  The signs wouldn’t be here.

    Second, I was fairly certain his older self had no idea about the father clause.  If he did he would have set up shop another full generation in advance just to check in on all the possible changes.  The entire system was based on the assumption that you could only interact with yourself, thus greatly narrowing down the margin of error.  I didn’t know for sure, but it wouldn’t be too far outside the realm of possibility that I would be able to interact with my grandfather, great grandfather, and so on down the line of my fragile family tree.

    Although he hadn’t expected the study to have started yet, older me must have had some knowledge of the preventative measures.  That’s why he needed to inject me.  He needed me to do the dirty work since I wouldn’t really be a suspect.  They would be looking at my actions, but my time traveling wouldn’t be what they were looking for since the ability wasn’t supposed to be discovered yet.

    Or maybe not.  If I could only interact with myself they would still monitor younger me.  They’d expect oldest me to contact him, but having real, middle me contact him would still raise an alarm.  That could explain my first trip back to this hospital.  Younger me had been discovered much like I had been now.  The flyer on my car was the bait, and I fell right into the trap.  I was more goldfish than guinea pig.

    I decided my best bet was to continue to play dumb until I could earn another chance at blinking back.  But before I could do that, I had to make sure to keep the new Nelson from repeating history.

After giving things a day to cool down, the experimentation started up again.  They wouldn’t hook me up to the prototype time machine, but I did have a few more heart to hearts with the doctor.  He’d alternate between being my best friend and my worst nightmare.  Neither approach got him what he wanted, as I stuck to my strategy of ignorance.  I’m not even sure he really knew what it was he was after.  He just wanted to get there faster.

    From my perspective he wanted two things.  The first was exactly as he had explained it to me.  He was being a good past self, respecting his elders and following orders from his older and wiser counterpart.  But his other agenda was to figure out how time travel worked.  He knew he would create it, but wanted it done immediately so he could become that other self.  To be the one with the power to delegate the grunt work on the maintenance side of things to his younger self while he basked in the glory of creation, praise, and notoriety.  Like any aspiring middle manager, he always did his job while simultaneously looking for a way to show up his boss.  A little more complicated than that since the mentor and the trainee were the same, and the apprentice already knew he’d become the boss one day.  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  Regardless, I was pretty sure that could be used against him.  My only fear was that it was all an act, and that the doctor’s future self would see right through it if he returned at an inopportune time.  I wanted to talk through this plan with my own older counterpart, but he had been keeping a low profile since Nelson arrived.

    One sleepless night I thought of the cute little redheaded girl.  Something told me she had a larger role in this than older me was revealing.  He said she would be my first wife.  That implied that I would have a second wife also, if not more.  How’d this come to have to pass?  The relationship with her that I remembered was essentially just sex.  The one I witnessed ended immediately due to interference from my older self.  The version I lived (albeit briefly) in this new life seemed more related to my relationship with my mother.  Or more accurately her relationship with my mother.  Which is probably why I nearly lost her.  (Ok, I really lost her.  But I couldn’t resist the lyrical allusion.)  Of course, my continued deceit was also a contributing factor.  If you happen to get another chance, balance is necessary.

    Back to the question, how did we end up married?  And would we still end up married if I could take the same path again, or is who you end up with just a game of random chance?  Does foreknowledge prevent events from occurring?  Will knowing that the marriage once failed make me try harder, or not try at all?  Knowing I’m supposed to have two wives may prevent me from having any at all.  Just like the doctor, who by knowing he’ll invent time travel may never fulfill his dream.  That was what drove him to succeed, and it was also what had driven him to the brink of madness as I had witnessed here.

    I wished that we could start all over, or that the time machine nanotechnology potion had an antidote.  Something that could put it all back how it once was.  A reset button to invoke when events escape your control.  Don’t like the results?  Just give it another whirl.  That would be the true scientific breakthrough: an extra life like in a video game.  Revelity:  the reincarnation drug that works wonders.

    The next morning I awoke to my body being violently shaken.  This was new.  Normally they used the buzzers and sirens from the sleep deprivation portion of the program.  I sat up and rubbed my eyes to discover that I was actually trying to wake myself.  Older me had returned. 

    “Where you been?”

    He shushed me, motioning towards the two-way mirror.  I rolled away from the window, pretending I had been woken by a bad dream and was going back to sleep.  Then, very softly, I spoke.

    “They’re onto us even more than you know.”

    My aged doppelganger knelt at the opposite side of the examination table while I feigned sleep and continued speaking in a quiet whisper.

    “The head of the project is a time traveler.  I mean he will be.  That’s why it’s starting earlier.  He’s been visited by his older counterpart, probably the one you told me about.  He has a machine, but he doesn’t think it works.”

    He nodded.  “I figured there was something like that going on.  How much does he know?”

    “He said his older self is too cautious and doesn’t want him to know how everything works, but his basic job is to look for signs of time travelers and bring them here before they can do too much damage.  And he thinks he hit the jackpot with me.”

    Older me was confused.  “It doesn’t make sense that his older self wouldn’t tell him everything.  Unless he did originally and has since undone it.”

    “Undone what?”

    “Nevermind, it’s just theoretical,” he smiled at the use of his favorite word.  “It makes sense though.  That’s probably how you blinked out of the hospital the first time.  If I only knew about Dad before.”

    He realized that I wasn’t understanding at all, and allowed the thought to sink before abruptly changing gears.  “Anyways, he’s here.”

    “He who?” I asked.

    “Our father, who art in the car out front.  I recruited him for a jailbreak.”

    Confused, I repeated what he told me at our last meeting.  “I thought you said our best bet was staying here and waiting things out?”

    “I know.  But I blinked ahead a bit to check it out.  You’re stuck here for a while, with no sign of a way out.  Getting you and Nelson out of here may alter time enough to light a fire under the doc so he takes a chance on something new.”

    “Nelson stays,” was my petty response based on instinctual hatred more than anything else.

    “I know how you feel, but Dad says it has to be both of you.  Besides, this Nelson doesn’t have blood on his hands.  He’s not our man.”

    “You mean not yet.”

    At least my reasoning was right.  He didn’t have a suicide hanging over him, but he never really did originally either.  It’s almost as if we had framed him.  Accomplices at the very least.  I figured I could reason with Dad later, as it was definitely time to tell him more than he knew.