On The Dance of Hours
Week 2, Finding the Dinosaurs
We left our heroes on the pantope, with one segment to go, trying to decide what to do with the completed diadem assuming they ever get it. We had settled on asked advice from Elias, but then the debate started up again.
Leaving the others to argue it out, Lorelei pulled Daewen aside and asked her to let her (Lorelei) off for a year on Earth, main line, some time in the 21st century, shortly after World War Three, when she figures it will be easier to slip between the cracks. She then goes to Wardrobe and has lots of pawnable jewelry run off. Chris notices and inquires. Lorelei tells him she wants to have a baby, so, using the autodoc and the pantope's ability to stuff a year into a coffee break, she's going to do it. Chris gives her some 1984 money to make entry easier.
Daewen drops her off in Boston, 2005, then picks her up in 2006. The baby is not in evidence, perhaps parked at daycare until mommy comes back from saving history.
Meanwhile, the debate has raged on. Alag once again wants to go catch the worldbender before he can make his escape. Others insist that, with a pantope, there's no "before" about it. Chris no longer wants to talk to Elias. He points out that Elias already gave grudging approval to the original plan (giving the diadem to the Captain), when we met him the first time. This approval gained in authority when it turned out that Elias was the one who gave a segment to the blue crystals on the CoDominion line. We have no new information for Elias except the (probably perilous) data that we're almost finished. And what Elias wants most from us is to never see us again.
So, all in all, we decide to go ahead with the original plan. We'll get this segment, if we can, complete the diadem, and give it to the Captain.
Accordingly, Tom puts on the diadem and probes telepathically. He gets another set of thirteen coordinates, which several people write down or memories. Even those without knowledge of hyperspatial geography notice that two of the coordinates are way out of the usual range. Daewen says they control the date -- some time on the main line but in the very far past. It works out to about 64 million years ago, about the time of the dinosaurs' demise.
Chris goes to the library to look up the cause of that extinction. Oddly enough, even in the 100th century and after ages of time-travel, there is no agreed-on answer to that. His suspicions aroused, Tom checks the bridge log for red zones around the Great Dying. He finds none, just a "?" in the margin, as it were. Thanks a lot, skipper. He grubs around for other logs, but finds nothing useful. The Captain has his personal log, but the Serving System won't release it.
The only thing to do is punch up the coordinates and open a window. Tom starts to do this and Daewen remarks that he transposed a couple of digits in one of the numbers. Tom moves to correct it and accidentally clears the board. Elf and man trade suspicious glances.
"Ever hear of Calvary Syndrome?" asks Daewen. "Sometimes called the CalvaryConundrum?" No, Tom hasn't. It turns out to be a puzzling feature oftime-travel. After centuries of time machines departing and returning totheir home eras, there is still no record of anyone visiting the Crucifixion.Or Lincoln's assassination, or Caesar's crossing the Rubicon, or Newton'sgetting bonked with the apple, or any other major historical event.
To a degree, this looks like nothing more than timelock. If every curious or pious time-traveler who wanted showed up at the Crucifixion, there would be a seething mob from hundred of centuries, disrupting the very event they had come to witness.
Okay, so everybody can't come, just the first few. But how do you tell who's"first" when chronological sequence is the very thing you're manipulating?...
Perhaps that is why no one appears to be first. But shouldn't SOMEBODY be first by sheer dumb luck? Or maybe the only ones who get there never talkabout it. But why not? Nobody knows. That's why it's a conundrum.
If we are up against Calvary Syndrome, there are two obvious candidate events for causing the effect -- the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the completion of the diadem (unless, horrid thought, they are the same event for some reason).
We try sneaking up on the problem with some more research. Tom and Daewen enter the coordinates over and over again, typing fast to encourage errors. (Jonathan watches from the sidelines, looking for psi, but finds none.)
Using the resulting numbers, a holographic mapping device in the bridge, and a map of the Cretaceous Earth from the library, we get a locus of places and times that the help controls tend to dance around. It's 64 million years ago, on the north coast of India (presently an island continent, a few million years outbound from Africa, steaming toward a collision with Asia). Perhapswe could open the pantope at the right time, somewhere far from thegeographical zone of avoidance and, say, fly in on the pterodactyl down in thegarage.
Tom suggests backing up a hundred years for some reconnaissance. We do that and open a window. Outside is Cretaceous forest (heavy on the giant ferns). We move the window upward for a view and find we are near a large river that winds down through the low hills of the embryo Himalayas to the sea.
Now, we know we're near the Great Dying, but which side of it are we on? Tom takes the window back down into the forest and hunts around for dinosaurs. The window disconnects. Chris takes the controls and finds some in a littlewhile, a herd of sauropods grazing on tree-tops.
We then back up another two centuries, to 300 years before our rough arrival date, to see if the segment is already there. We open a garage door well up in the air. Chris and Sophie go out in an aircar with Jonathan, for a general look around as well as a look at the diadem detector.
While Sophie examines the detector, Chris unfolds the Map of Here and looks for dimensional activity. Only our own. Jonathan remarks that the whole place fairly sparkles with psychic activity. It does? Chris extends his extra-senses and notes nothing much. We do recall that Jonathan's native world seemed psi-damped to us, so perhaps our native world seems psi-hyped to him. On closer astral inspection, Chris notes an additional fizzing of energies. When they re-enter the pantope and describe it to the others, evenDaewen is mystified.
We now leap forward 300 years to the target time... and start klutzing the keyboard again. Daewen starts up a statistical study of the regions missed. The territory we're warned away from lies parallel to the river, ten to fifteen miles from the side, down near the mouth. Even odder, we seem to have an area of FAVORED tries -- a place that we tend to set coordinates for. No one has an explanation for that, either.
We pause, just before opening any actual windows or doors, to discuss the tech-level we should use. Since we are millions of years out of the range of our species, we are just as anachronistic with aircars and lasers as we would be with flint axes. And aircars and lasers are much more powerful. So we decide to not hold back on the technology.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.