Time travel paradox
Story by Shawn
„Protective gloves, check. Vortex proximity drive holding at 3.45 degrees dilation, check. Mars bar, check, and check.“, Jib counted his essentials.
„Seriously? You are wearing a plastic wrap for clothing, about to travel million years after the dinosaur got extinct, set up a command post for the incoming personnel and you worry about your sweets?“, I frowned at him and he smiled back at me.
„You know what am I like without my sugar. I’m not behaving as myself when I’m out of candy.“, he twitched at me.
„That’s Sneakers bar, you dumb fuck!“, I added while pressing the buttons on a console.
„Hey, that’s how my mom used to call me.“, we both laughed, when our radio began chatting.
„Vortex is gaining circumferences, reaching 5 meters, optimal for a time jump. The catapult is in position and ready for activation. Adjusting jump parameters, present time November 5, 4089, Saturday, eleven o’clock and two minutes from the mark. Start the counter.“, an operative pointed to his assistant and looked at us from the top window. „How’s going on there, boys?“
„A little bit crowded.“, Jib said. „Should we also swing by 1920, find Adolf and send him on his marry?“, a smirk from us both made the operative shake his head.
„You assholes. Just do your part.“, the operator turned off his microphone.
The vortex was shining at its edges, a dim, yet bluish glow within a collapsing reality that looked much like a black hole with specs of white in the darkest pocket. Last-minute preparations, Jib and I modified the capsule for the tight journey. The craft resembled a bullet seen from afar. At first, some people had problems with the machine having a phallic shape, but the engineers assured them this was because of the aerodynamics and the best angle to deflect anything we run against on the other end.
„Yo, Jib. Where do we set the destination location on Pangaea? They are not sending us in the very spot we are at, are they? What if we materialize over an ocean or a mountain?“, I tried to find the map in the registry.
„Now, you worry?“, he said in disbelief, and we both panicked, but no matter how much we pressed on the microphone button, nobody answered.
„Hold on, did you check the cargo hinges? You did make sure the cargo is attached for the capsule, right?“, Jib slowly made a grin and shook his head.
„Countdown to jump, 10… 9…“, it started.
„Call them, fast! Stop the damn launch!“, I screamed and began unfastening my belt to pull the brakes.
„Don’t pull the yellow cord, that’s the catapult!“, Jib raised his hand as I swung my head.
„What did you say?“
„6… Leveling the capsule on the rails.“, the contraption squatted and tumbled, a second too early, my hand was already on the yellow cord that released a catch and slingshot us into the black hole. „Fiv… Where did they go?“, the operator leaned over the glass and looked around, but he only saw the pressure exhaust levitating on the floor.
The journey lasted as long it took Jib to cry for his mother and then some. Our cruiser landed in between the two valleys of Pangaea, a blissful oasis full of green fern on a red ground. It was like in an encyclopedia from my childhood, but more beautiful.
„Will you stop whining?“, I slapped Jib over the shoulder. „We have arrived.“, my leg was over my head, and I figured I must’ve traveled like this for millions of years that passed us in a second.
I got up grunting, Jib focused on the more pressing concerns of our travel.
„Oh my God, my Mars bar. It’s alive, it’s alive.“, he cried.
„How about you check if we are in the right era, you idiot?“, finally, my feet met the ground and my hands came back to the console. „Sometimes, I wonder how a Marine made the cut to be in this mission.“, meaningless words, I said it plain, but Jib interpreted it as a call for a conversation.
„Hey, I use humor as a coping mechanism. That doesn’t correlate with my abilities to perform. Anyway, we are on Pangaea, year one million, two hundred and fifty-one since the meteor killed the dinosaurs. The air is a bit morose; the storm passed this sector a few days ago. We should stick to our capsule if the weather conditions deteriorate. Two-mile radius is quite enough to form a perimeter for now until we secure the location and send for the troops.“, Jib ran over the specs of our surroundings, while I measured the atmospheric quality.
„Oxygen saturation is at nineteen percent. We have breathable air, but carbon dioxide is elevated, so bring your mask just in case. Nitrogen levels are rising, the climate is still changing. We are eras away from the first ice age. Send the probe for the soil samples and a drone to inspect the compounds in the water. I’ll set up the filtering station so we don’t die out of thirst.“, it took us a nod to get on with the mission.
We swiftly got out of our wrappings and suited up to go outside. Jib assembled the rifle and placed a helmet on after he made sure the gear was molecularly safe. He pulled the lever, the hatch hissed and we made our first steps.
„This is a small step for a man, ‘hush-whoosh’ but a big one for mankind. ‘hush-whoosh’.“, Jib made the cowboy steps over the plain, gravity wasn’t helping his act, it was solid and stable.
„Come on, Jib.“
„What. I always wanted to do that.“, he tossed his hands about, I shook my head at him and proceeded to take a selfie… For scientific reasons, of course.
We marked the perimeter down with movement sensors, drew the safety line in the ground and installed the contraptions for power sourcing. Jib sent the drones in the scouting mission; he wanted to see what our current location was. Paring up the drones in a triangular shape, Jib was able to pinpoint the landing area on our virtual map. We found out where we were at, and it was in the lower region of the continent, favorable for the invasion and establishment of the base.
Sitting on the stairs of our pod, having our first meal, we looked at the landscape, voluminous vegetation in the distance, sunlight that was interpreted a death ray because the ozone layer was thinner than what we expected.
„Did you send for our men?“, I asked and bit the tuna sandwich.
„So, they will be here any minute with fresh supplies and the gear we left at the jump, right?“
„Yup.“, he replied and took a mouthful.
„And this is not interrupting our timeline because… we are million years adrift from the first civilization? I don’t know, it seems farfetched. Our own existence in this place, at this time, that is a shift in time. I miss the logic.“, I panted and took another bite.
„According to you, moving that rock from there, to here, we made a change in the timeline? It’s not, time is a linear concept and it only goes forward. So, no matter we do, the time keeps going. You see, if we go to the 1920s, find Adolf in some trench fighting the French and put a bullet in between his eyes, we eliminate one factor, there are many more we haven’t taken to account. You take one out, the other one goes in his place. It’s not that easy to change history.“, he added and hand-gesticulated the concept.
„But if we come across a Neanderthal village and wipe it out, we killed trillions of people to come. We got rid of the humankind.“, I added and Jib took a breath.
„Maybe, but that also leaves us as humankind.“
„Exactly. We made a change in the world.“, I smiled and leaned to gloat at his logic, but he got confused by the proposition.
„Perhaps you are right. And perhaps, you are wrong. The time is still going in one direction, which means that paradox is not challenged. We may have altered the history, but we haven’t stopped it from occurring. Who knows how many problems we could cause if we eliminate one factor from history. What if we did what you’ve said and killed the Adolf? We would then become the advanced race on this planet and who knows how many horrors we will provoke, just because we removed one bad guy.“, Jib drifted in the speculative.
„Sound like you justified what Adolf did.“
„Well, without him, and with what we could do, who can tell we won’t be in his place and do it much worse? See, you take one out, other one takes his place, in this turn of a story, that might as well be us who commanded the Third Reich.“
„Oh my God, time-traveling space Nazis.“, I yawned at the thought, Jib burst out laughing.
„Freakin’ novel material, dude.“, he punched my shoulder and we both took a pause to laugh at it. „So, where are our guys? They should’ve materialized by now.“, Jib checked his watch, enjoyed the silence and chewed on the sandwich.
Another capsule came to existing before our eyes. An impact threw dust at us, we barely held up for the time pod. The taste of the sandwich changed to sand and I lost appetite. A new capsule, same as ours, but with a cargo compartment in the back, it landed in place not far from our location. A man in the jumpsuit came out; the helmet clouded the vision of his face. Without hesitation, he came closer, looked at our dumb faces and extended his hand.
„Come with me, if you want to live.“, he said, it was Jib’s voice.
„Fuck… Jib?“, I gawked and the newcomer laughed.
„You should see your face. I always wanted to do that.“, new Jib was close to tears from laughing, while my Jib appeared as confused as I was.
„Wait a minute. What about the paradox? Two of us can’t meet each other. The whole space-time continuum would collapse.“, Jib protested this intrusion, yet the newcomer waved his hand.
„But we are not the same. You are the Jib from 4089, me, I am a Jib from a little while from now.“, he explained.
„Wait, what?“, I asked.
„Well, a few minutes from now you are about to go in a heated discussion and Jib here wanted to draw the point he was making.“, he pointed at Jib, everyone got silent. „So, we now know that space-time continuum is a ‘fubar’.“, he proclaimed while rocking on his heels, clapped his hands in boredom.
„Not if we stay quiet, longer than you needed to get here!“, I shouted at him and turned to my Jib. „Here is the deal. I am going to the other side of this capsule and you will stay here. If we don’t talk, he will fade out. We will never have that conversation, we debunk the theory.“, I shoved my finger at his face to stress the point, Jib nodded and jumped to his feet.
„You haven’t seen this coming, did ya?“, Jib said to Jib.
„Alright. I’ll be at my capsule, eating that Mars bar.“, newcomer pointed his thumb at the craft and slowly tottered to it.
I sat on the rock, stared at the Jib on another rock, hefty two hundred meters away. It was a ‘who can keep his mouth shut the longest’ type of game. Jib wiped the sweat from his forehead; I let mine run over my cheeks. The other Jib sat next to the capsule, in a shade, looked at Jib, back at me and kept chewing on a Mars bar.
‘This is strange’, it passed my mind. Like a riddle, I tried to solve this paradox, time and space threading, the black matter that offered us the technology to pick a period in our history and travel there. Never before it was possible for us to use such a thing, for such intent, until scientists discovered that teleporting protons can be delayed and that some of them had their mass displaced to another dimension. It sounded simple, shoot protons, use lasers as a guiding beacon, aim it to a different location, and let the proton rip. Bend the path, reflect the laser, amplify the speed of an object, tumble it to the point it goes berserk and allow it to spark at the matter induced portal. It really seemed that easy.
And the revolt against what that technology would’ve meant? The society fed by Hollywood pop-culture came to the streets, demanding we don’t meddle with it, change the history, and provoke a cataclysm of everything we knew. The program went dark and scientists kept working on it in secrecy. Fast-forward to this day, actually to the November 5, 4089; we get a memo that other countries are doing their experiments on the same technology. Of course, Russians started sending their dogs out there; the human testing was centuries away from their findings. And then we hear North Korea sent a human back in time. We waited to see what part of the history would change, and that day never came, because whatever happened in history has been acknowledged as a new reality, just because it happened, not because our books said otherwise. The Paradox. One day, everything will change, meaning that we completed our mission and that we made success.
„Hey, would one of you go into the future to see how’s everything going? We could be speaking Russian in 1980, and buy soda for Rubles.“, newcomer grinned and took the last bite of Mars bar.
„I’ll go.“, Jib raised his hand.
„Good. So we don’t need to talk.“, we both nodded, Jib went to the capsule.
I heard the engines, there was a flash of light and a black stamp was left in the place where my Jib was. I rested my hands on the hips, proud we dismantled the new Jib’s theory. This other Jib looked at me for a while, his whole image shivered for a moment and like it turned him to someone else, he started looking at his hands, barely recognizing them.
„Are you alright?“, I approached him.
„Damn, I was right. I mean, the older me was right. No, the newer me was right.“ He mumbled and I sized him up.
„And… you are not alright.“
„Do you want to see something cool?“, I flinched seeing the creepy smile and his eyes gaping, tracking me as I pulled back.
„Follow me, dude. You’ll shit your pants.“, Jib behaved like under a spell and led me to a rigid stone hill.
He started digging through a slope until he came against a Mars bar laying on a perfectly cut hole. He moved aside and showed me the candy.
„See. I proved my theory. The only thing I need is an idea. This is it. And this is our purpose here. I traveled in the past, buried the Mars bar here, and traveled to our current timeline. It freakin’ works, my dude.“, he was skipping and screeching, rejoicing he reinstituted the proposed theory of time and space fabrication.
„Jib, my man. You must see a doctor. This is concerning. I think you lost your mind, man. Too much in and out the vortex drove you insane. Come on, we need to see a doctor.“, I called for him, waved my hand at him to come back, but he was locked in his own mind.
„Oh, thank God, you are still here.“, another guy came to visit us, but now, he had my voice.
„Hey. You came just in time.“, I waved at him… me… I waved at myself. „Are you from the past or the future, or… From what year are you?“, I kept asking, this man wasn’t wasting his breath.
This new me came to us, stop to rest and tapped my shoulder.
„Listen here, older me. There’s been a problem. Set sails to the time of your departure, 6th of November 4089. They’ll explain everything. I’ll catch up in a minute. Hurry, now.“, he said and helped Jib to get back to the cruiser.
All three of us went back to the site; I embarked the time capsule and punched in the new set of commands. I fastened my seatbelt, ignited the engine, set the machine going when newcomer brought Jib to his vessel and waved me goodbye.
In a second, the contraption has returned to the base of origin. An operator was waiting for me, his associates at his sides holding papers. Nobody welcomed me the way they did the test crew, there were no smiles and celebratory words, only serious gaze roaming the launch pad and deep sighs.
„What the hell is going on? I came from the Pangaea by the orders of an older me. What went wrong?“, I turned around and pointed at the capsule, the vortex, pointed at them.
„Sorry to cut in Major. It seems you and your partner have caused a ripple in the time-space vortex thread. We’ve found irregularities with the tests after you took off. We need you to go back in time and seal off the running scenario proximities.“, an operator said.
„Wait, what do you mean by sealing them off?“, I made a face.
„Um, erase the footprints.“, he clarified and the crew turned the other way.
„Erase?! Do you mean..?“, I pulled a finger under my chin and an operator nodded. „Hold on, now. You are sending me to kill Jib? My friend?“, I felt the rage brewing inside me.
„We had this scenario in the training, Major. I’ll admit, we thought it was the most unlikely event to come to life, yet it happened and we must do what we can to suppress the possible problems from occurring. To send a different team after you can cause more irregularities. We need to examine this one first in order to know what went wrong. For now, we must terminate this mission. And I am afraid we don’t have much time to solve everything, so the faster we react, the bigger the chances to get this under control. You must go back and tell your older self to report back to the Origin Base.“, the operator proclaimed in a sharp tone, transferring his sense of importance on to me.
I’d rather eat a handful of nails than do this, but longer I waited, the longer this will last. The operator said we made a mistake and the gravity of it meant we will soon have to deal with something we don’t fully comprehend. This mission was a failure and I needed to fix it. I nodded at the operator, turned and slowly went inside the capsule. Like the previous time, I fastened my seatbelt, set everything moving, but now I didn’t have Jib at my side cracking jokes. The time-capsule felt empty, depressive and dark before I hit the switch, a vortex opened and I made the jump.
„Alright. That’s it, folks. The new management is coming to get us. It seems Russians won the war that never happened.“, the operator proclaimed at his crew and showed them to get moving. „Clear all hard-drives, burn everything. I want this place spotless.“, he added when vortex opened up again and the capsule returned, now carrying newcomer me.
Hiss and the hatch opened. The Major stepped out, grieved and troubled by the actions he did the millions year before this day. At the moment, it seemed as a perfect crime, go a million years in the past, do something to a friend, commit the ultimate betrayal and come back to the time when nobody could put blame on you. It seemed a perfect getaway, what happened in the past, stays there. The Major was aware of his action and it felt wrong.
„It is done.“, he gasped, the operator nodded along with a smile, raised the gun he hid behind the back and pulled the trigger.
„Get his body to the acid drum and drop it in. I said, spotless. Dismantle the vortex and the cruiser. I want them melted. Leave nothing to the Federative Republic of Joined Asia.“, the operator issued an order and everybody fell to execute.
A vortex opened again. Another capsule came through, this one carried older me. Seen much time before, I unfastened my seatbelt, the hatch hissed and the door opened before I stepped out.
„What the hell is going on? I came from the Pangaea by the orders of an older me. What went wrong?“, I turned around and pointed at the capsule, the vortex, pointed at them.
Another capsule came out of the vortex, but this one carried the newcomer me. It crashed in the older capsule, the pilot was alive.
„It’s done!“, the newcomer shouted from the top of the time capsule while holding himself for the door.
A third capsule came, then the fourth, and the fifth, and the six. Majors came out, each one confused with what was going on, all of them shouting and arguing.
„Oh, fuck me.“, the Operator proclaimed watching the vortex and the horrible theory unraveling before him.
This story started with comedy, funny remarks and goofing of the two Marine pilots preparing for what seemed a no brainer mission. As their departure was done by a mistake, they’ve set things in motion. From the first read, I believe you haven’t paid attention to this detail just because it was sort of comedic relief. Things that happen by accident and we let them go, they just might come back to inflict damage. This is not a usual thing, because little things don’t spiral out of control and create havoc all of the time, but I liked to see what happens when they do.
We meet Jib, a happy guy, a Sergeant who sees the world through a positive lens. And then, there is his partner who I referred to as Major, a man leading this mission. Just by dividing these two personalities, you can get the idea of who is the boss in that tandem. Even the Major is serious and dedicated to the mission; the chemistry between these two is uplifting and genuine. Nobody can suspect of what can go wrong and how greatly. This is where I have hidden the real plot to the story.
You can see the theory which is challenging the existing one, by proposing that time is constant and inevitable. Whatever happens, the time will keep going, which means that we have numerous opportunities to create our world over and over again, but with different results. If the time travel existed, I’m sure that many counties would treat this option as a new arms race, or just a race to the top. This conclusion comes with more clarity at the end where an Operator talks about the achievements of the other countries in this field. We get the same from the Major when he came back home, mentioned the rally between the superpowers to conquer the world. And there we can spot a little horrific information of what history is to us. I proposed a theory of relativity through and through, segments are at the beginning of the story considering time, and the second one relies on the possibility that we not only change time – but life itself.
Saying that change is good for prosperity and progress, the same does not apply to the rule if we are talking about mistakes and missions failure. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how smart the scientists are. When the problems start rolling downhill, there is no stopping them. If you are looking for a moral of the story, well, I can say that you shouldn’t play with the things you don’t fully understand. Yes, this means we should always play safely and avoid the risk, the temptation of rising to power, the urge to rule over many, the selfish and egoistic stance to how we see society and life. This is severely going against the idea of progress. Humanity would stagnate in one place, never attempt to update or transform into something better. All upgrade would be considered harmful. See, I like playing with ideas and trying to defend something that goes against human nature. If it doesn’t bring answers, at least it provides the right questions.
Overall, this story slowly shifts from comedy to science regurgitation and ends up in a horror/paranormal finish. From here, anything is possible and I could prolong the story to a whirlpool of problems that never end. If you want to know what I think would happen after the vortex starts spouting capsules, let me lay out my theory.
The real problem would be to close the vortex. This would also imply that the same technology must not be used again. “We tried once, it didn’t work, and we might make a bigger problem if we restart it.” The only thing left is to adapt to a new way of life. Saying that Russians won the war that never happened, and in the next sentence that forces of Joined Asia prevailed, we already get the information that things are changing in massive rate and that adapting could mean little. You must understand that every change in the present world would happen out of our site, so if the time goes linear, when we are born, we would live in the new system that seems normal to us. Or, to reposition this in a more understandable picture, think about this: Let’s say that we belong to a group called Blue and that there is a group called Red. In the normal chain of events, there is a war, the Blue team wins, and we force our culture on the Red team. During the occupation period, this Red team slowly becomes the Bluish team. Now, if someone interrupted that without us knowing it, and the Red team won, the same thing happens to us, but it happens as a swift change, unnoticeable to us or anybody else. Such change could only be registered by the time travelers who made the change and knows ‘old history’ or ‘how things were before the change’ or highly perceptive person who can detect that something is wrong. Think about this too: let’s say you speak English as your native language, and in a second, you speak Mandarin, you don’t remember your own culture, only Asian. What if you are an executive in a big firm, but you open your eyes, it seems you just woke up, but you think of yourself as a prominent writer, so you conclude that you are sitting in someone else’s chair, not realizing that you were in the right place all along, or maybe just a moment ago.
But of course, the real thing would go much more differently. If the time-changing event happened, everything would happen with it and create an alternative history rout. You would still be alive, or not, depended if your parents made the same decision, or your grandparents had your parents, and this goes and goes to the infinity. So, moving rock from one place to another may not be the time-changing event, but it depends on the role of rock and what influence this rock has had in the future. If that rock saved someone in future, I refer to the story of David and Goliath, you move it, and David can’t find it and win his epic battle, would you still have known this legend? See, I was being playful with this story, just like Jib.
I hope you enjoyed this story and showed it to your friends. If not, share it now.
Until the next time, take care and bye.
– Shawn –
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