Troy Jamieson and Larry Kelso were sitting in Jamieson’s living room. Kelso looked bored, as he often did when his friend and former student waxed philosophical as well as physical. Physics and Philosophy? Metaphysics? Oh, bother –
“Have you heard a damn thing I said?”, asked Jamieson.
“Yes, Troy. About the Inquisition, and the whole Torquemada-business. I get your point. Evil is fundamental, and cannot be excused by the intent of ‘good’.”
“Well, then, now you see why I want to go back and change things.”
“Troy, this hurts my head. Weren’t you worried about causing a ripple-effect or causing a time-space problem when you sent the dog?”
“Actually, not”, said Troy. “Although it did prove something quite by accident.”
“And what was that?”, replied Professor Kelso.
“I proved that the creative force of the universe is completely random. I also proved that Einstein was right – there IS a continuum.” He continued, “Think of it this way. The classic physicists have said for almost a century that time-travel is impossible – that we would be re-creating ourselves. That’s not possible, however, because the creative force transmutes material from energy and back again. You know that – you taught me!”
“Proof?”, said Kelso, with a wry smile; he was waiting for his former student to enthrall him yet again, in spite of the late hour.
“The dog, Professor! The dog! If there was a finite amount of either energy OR matter, the dog would have literally been destroyed in transit. The very transit of the dog’s atoms would have created a physical problem which could not be resolved without the spontaneous release of its equivalent energy.”
“Go on.”, said Professor Kelso, pouring himself another glass of Abacela Temperanillo Riserva ’35.
Jamieson continued, “That the energy-release didn’t happen is proof – things are not nearly as linear and ‘fixed’ as we would have liked to believe.”
“One thing about these B.S. sessions, Troy – the wine is good.”, said Professor Kelso, letting the smile get the better of him again.
Ignoring the dig, Jamieson said, “Think about that for a second. That winery – in the southern part of Oregon – was getting by making an artisan product. When the climate shift began for good around ’25, their commitment to dry-region grapes like the Temperanillo there proved a good business decision. Now, they own most of a valley down there – the only problem they’re having now is water. They now make the best Temperanillos in the world, even counting Spain.”
“Spain is a dust-bowl now; remember?”, said Professor Kelso; dryly, his smile disappearing.
“But you have to realize that it’s all subjective. Climate change has destroyed a lot of things, certainly – which is why we want to change the root causes – but it’s actually been beneficial to a handful who were either lucky, or smart.”
“You want to change the root causes, Jamieson.”, said Professor Kelso.
“Yes, I do.”, said Jamieson.
“I don’t see why this requires going back in time and ‘fixing’ something we’re not sure is broken.”, said Professor Kelso.
“Look at it this way, Larry.”, said Jamieson, pouring himself another glass of the Riserva. “Every time we look at what’s really screwed things up, it’s been mankind’s insistence that he received ‘word’ from a Higher Power, then translated that word into action. Severe action. Can you imagine what kind of world would exist if we hadn’t had to deal with Hitler or Stalin in the middle of the twentieth? Or, say, we hadn’t nuked Iran in 2010? Or if Mohammed had simply died in the early 600’s, rather than having his ‘revelations’? Can you imagine what would have happened had the Crusades been stopped in their infancy?”
“Interesting choice of words.”, said Professor Kelso. “Why don’t you just go back to 33 BCE and kill Jesus in his crib. Hit Mohammed a few times with your taser – it’ll only leave a couple of marks, and the locals won’t be able to determine that his heart-failure was induced.”
“Cute; Professor. It’s not that simple. We have the habit of creating a new religion about every 2,000 years or so. Some say we’re overdue right now, but I’m betting we’ve outgrown the need. However, we’ve also allowed such things to cause so much grief that we’re probably also out of time.”
“I don’t follow.”, said Professor Kelso.
“Enlighten a handful, and change the world.”, said Jamieson. “Destroy religion at its source — and who KNOWS what we’d come home to find. Something worse, no doubt.”
“It smacks of Russian roulette.”
“Not really. Let’s say we influence Mohammed to leave out the more-warlike parts of the Q’uran. Let’s say we influence the early church to leave the whole messy business of a ‘Pope’ out of the equasion. Both religions have more broad appeal; less expansionary ambitions, and are far more docile. Pull their teeth – leave the rest.”
“And what else?”, said Professor Kelso, now looking alarmed.
“Influence local governments to tax religion instead of leaving it to run rampant. The biggest problem with early religions is that they became quasi-governments in their own right. Again – pull their teeth; leave the rest to comfort widows, orphans, and the like.”
“However you wish to view it. It doesn’t interest me. I just want to wake up when I come back to a Mediterranean in which people can swim again and which doesn’t produce two-headed fish, and a world where it rains once in a while. Religion has caused all of this. As blotting it out would leave an even bigger question-mark, I’m just suggesting that we change things just enough to keep it from destroying us.”
“What’s this ‘we’ thing?”, said Kelso.
“I’ll need help. You’re drafted. Like it or not.”
“I’ll go to the Board. You’ll lose your funding. You’ll be exposed, and there won’t be a damn thing you can do about it.”
Jamieson pushed a piece of paper across the coffee-table. Professor Kelso picked it up; started to read: “…pursuant to your request – Professor Kelso seconded to you – ongoing research in the national interest…”
“You didn’t!”, said Professor Kelso, half standing.
“I did. Simple chess move, really.”
“I refuse!”, shouted Kelso. “I won’t be a part of this – moral bankruptcy!”
“You don’t have a choice now,” said Jamieson. “As of today, I pay your salary.”
Kelso sat back, stunned. Jamieson continued.
“It’s only until I can automate the process. I can’t trust anyone else, really – -and besides; I knew you’d have a hard time resisting the chance to work with something truly groundbreaking.”
Resigned, Professor Kelso asked, “Just how do you plan to ‘influence’ all of these religions and governments? What ‘miracles’ are you going to work in the name of humanity and its legacy?”
“Only a certain – perpetual enlightenment – you might say,” said Jamieson. “And yes,” he continued, “It will require a few parlor tricks – -but those are easy to re-create. Remember the best way to fight an idea, Larry.”
With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Professor Lawrence Kelso realized the truth.
“With another idea,” he said, in a hollow voice.
“You disgust me.”
Jamieson turned and laughed. “Why, Larry? Because of my dog?” Jamieson turned and patted Canis on the head. “He’s done quite well, really, don’t you think?”
“It’s not the damn dog, and you know it.” Lawrence Kelso III, professor emeritus of physics, this, that, and the other thing was speaking now man-to-man to Troy Jamieson, physicist, without the trappings of tenure.
“It’s everything that made him possible.”
“Larry, the problem with you ethical types is that you just don’t grasp the Greater Reality of things. I know the Ethics Laws just as well as anyone. But look” — he patted the dog again — “this fellow is better off than he was before. Granted, I had to have him de-wormed; shaved because of his rampant fleas and lice, and taught to eat and drink from a dish again — plus, I’ll allow he’s had a huge problem re-learning to scratch at the door rather than squat over any random section of carpet — and he’s only now learning that he doesn’t have to cower and whimper in a corner any time I pick up something resembling a stick – -but I’ll wager he’s better off now than when I found him. As a matter of fact, I daresay he’d kill his prior owner if treated the way he was before.”
“That’s my point, Troy,” began Professor Kelso. “You simply TOOK the dog.”
“You’re not mad at me because of the dog, Larry. You’re mad because of my methods. And, I’ll remind you that I took the dog back.”
Jamieson opened a photo-album; the kind used to document historical research. The first photograph could have been lifted from a Hollywood movie about the Middle-Ages.
It was of a man, perhaps 40, perhaps 70 – he had either been made up very well or had lived a hard life, almost all of it outdoors. His filthy woolen tunic was homespun with no refinement. His hair was disheveled and filthy, and his startled look exposed the eight snags which passed for teeth.
“This lout was barely more than an animal himself, Larry. The dog snarled at him, and he snarled in turn, in a form of archaic French which was barely understandable, even for his day. He beat the poor animal with anything which came to hand. The only thing in his control was that dog; so he meted out what he received from those above him. When I tasered him and took the dog back, it was mercy.”
“Do you have any comprehension of what’s going to happen when the Board finds out what you’ve done?”
Jamieson laughed. “Yes, Larry! I do!”
He continued. “First, they’re going to be awestruck. Next, they’re going to ask me if I’m joking. There’ll be some “Back to the Future” jokes thrown in, and then they’re going to toss all of the ethics mumbo-jumbo out the window, and ask how much MONEY this thing is worth.”
“Next, they’ll ask me to mount an expedition back there to see if I can learn more, up close and personal, about the Middle Ages. Patents ALONE are going to be worth BILLIONS. ”
Professor Kelso continued. “Aren’t they going to ask about the dog?”
“Look Larry — when they learn what MONEY is involved, they won’t give a twopenny DAMN about the dog. Or its owner.”
“You disgust me”, repeated Professor Kelso.
“Larry – – look at it this way. In 2045, after the whole stem-cell thing settled down, and the U.S. Government pushed the Ethics Laws past a pliant Congress, people have been running scared of government inspectors, meddling in research. Everyone agrees they don’t belong here anymore than they belonged in people’s bedrooms back around the turn of the century. ”
Kelso appeared to pay attention, so Jamieson went on.
“When I figured out how to accelerate matter at the atomic level, the only thing which prevented me from traveling in time was ENERGY. So far, the board hasn’t asked any questions about my solar arrays, but sooner or later they’re going to want to know the benefit for my creation of more power than we can get from a good-sized hydrodam.
I’ll admit that taking Canis here and putting him at the far end of the lens there” – he pointed into the far room past the thick tempered glass – ” was a leap of faith – but sending him back to 1342 France was a fluke.
It was a bigger leap of faith to stand in front of it myself. I hadn’t completed the math to the extent I have now — I could only drop myself a couple of years ahead of where I’d dropped the dog.
Canis, his beloved Retriever, had been his first experiment as well as his companion for over ten years. Jamieson had focused his particle-accelerator on the dog, and watched him vanish — then, after painstakingly checking his math and his energy-use, had focused the same beam on himself – -all to retrieve the dog.
“I was fortunate — the place where I retrieved the dog was a small village — little chance of affecting any outcome. But I had to wait there for several days before Canis here made himself known.
I saw this fellow walking to his field with Canis. It was evident that Canis had a rough life. I didn’t feel badly at all, surprising this fellow, taking his picture, then hitting him with my Taser.”
“You disgust me,” Professor Kelso repeated a third time.
“You’ve said. Now, think with me,” said Jamieson. “The rainforests are nearly gone. Half of the Middle East is iridescent glass. The privileged are the only people who get anything like fresh food and water anymore. What if we could go back and change all that?”
“How do you mean?”, Kelso’s face reflecting growing alarm.
“The Pope did a good job of telling everyone in South America that breeding was a sacrament. Most of those nations responded by staying out of their business — but instead of telling the Catholics to go whistle up a rope, and controlling their own populations, they gave every male ‘head of household’ a chainsaw and forty acres. Now, we’ve got the mess we’re in — British Columbia looks a lot like California, and California’s nearly uninhabitable – -and that’s only one issue. Look at this,” said Jamieson, dropping a metal object on the table.
Kelso retrieved it. “Gott Mit Uns”, he read. He said, “National Socialist eagle – and what did they call this? A ‘Swastika’, wasn’t it?”
“That’s right – I forgot you never studied any humanities,” said Jamieson. “Yes — that’s a Swastika. Symbol of National Socialist Germany. It’s the legend beneath that I want you to read.”
“Gott Mit Uns?”, repeated Kelso.
“That’s right. They killed over ten million people – in the name of ‘god’.”
“What’s your point, Troy? Somehow, I don’t think I want to know.”
“Larry, look at this fellow.” Jamieson pointed to the photograph again. “This man is barely human — but if you ask him what he believes in and why, he’ll tell you chapter-and-verse – at least, what he thinks he knows — because he’s been told time and time again that if he goes against the ‘Church’, he’ll be fried to a crisp in the public square. He’s barely human, Larry, and we can change that.”
“It’s not our place -”
Jamieson cut him off.
“I’m not going to destroy his religion,” he began. “Just change it a little.”
Jamieson patted Canis, who looked up at him, panting, but appreciative.
to be continued…