“I have messages from no less than 100 businessmen who want to know ‘what you plan to do about this?’.”
“Tell them that the process is flawless, the machine is flawless, the software is flawless; the only thing that can be wrong is the time.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“Neither do I, Mabelle; fortunately, neither will they.”
“Mr. Stone, was it wise to go public with this? Why didn’t we just bury it and move on?”
“Three reasons, Mabelle, one is that it is an event that we have to run someday anyway, it is what it is. Something strange is gone on and we just stumbled on to it.
“Second, we make a considerable amount of money from Aike’s division. We saw to what lengths company secrets drive corporations; we don’t want to be on that treadmill.
“Gerd is CE. They are still mad about how we took them to the woodshed on the downside contracts and the upside . They don’t like that a puissant company like us earned enough clout to rename them Colonel Electric, and then that we wouldn’t change three back, just to rub their noses in it. They are trying their damnedest to ruin the company and take over ownership of the portal technology. I’m sure that if you look at the top executives of those hundred companies that have called in, at least 80 of them are companies with ex GE or CE executives.
“What with the information leaks around here, if we tried to hide this, it would only give our enemies a lever and I don’t think we should do that.
“Is Aike in?”
“He’s waiting in your office.”
“Buzz me in will ya?”
“Mr. Aitched… “
“What are we going to do about this thing? And you don’t have to call me ‘Mr. Aitched.’”
“I know I don’t have to call you that; I can call you anything I want, after all, I invented the time portal! Yes! And so did you and you are deserving of the respect that goes with that. But, if you insist; I’ll call you Aike, and you can call me Mr. Stone!
“What are we going to do? I’ll tell you what we’re going to do; we’re going to figure out what the hell is going on.
“We’re going to reshoot, but this time I’m going to harness up and you’re going to harness up too. You’re still new to the experience so you’re just going to observe. I’m going to walk around that repository and I’ll see what I can see.”
BaLink ”You’ve got mail.”
“It’s from Alex…”
“… initiating action sequence now…”
“He’s going to figure it out now?” “No, he’s going to find out now, he’ll figure it out later.” “I don’t know, this makes me nervous.” “It ought to make you nervous, you were the one that screwed this pooch in the first place!”“Boys! Boys! Spoiler Alerts, please!”
“What is it that you’ll want me to do when we get there?”
“Aike, I want you to align yourself in the room so that you can see both the window and the door at the back of the room. Just stay there and observe. On the one hand, hopefully you’ll see the same thing the camera sees, and hopefully you’ll see something else.”
“This is a first, us going together; I hope it works.”
“Yeah, Yeah; I’ll see you in my dreams.”
“Will you? Considering you’re not really then but only a projection.”
“The dream is based on the data the computer is feeding us. The computer data includes the projection, so, at least theoretically should be able not only to see each other but actually speak in real time.
“Meanwhile, I’m really there or then, but that hasn’t stopped me yet has it?”
“Cool. They’re giving me the shot now…”
Generally speaking, Stone didn’t need the shot anymore. First of all, he’s getting old and a nap can happen at any time of day or night. Beyond that, having done over 250 of these events, he had become quite practiced at putting himself into the near sleep state. He’d also learned, through the embarrassing experiences, how to control himself in the image projection. Just like he had when I was a boy when he sat back and allowed the nightmare to playout in front of him. He had taught his daughter what to do when she complained that the Wicked Witch of Oz’s West had popped out of the movie and into her dreams. “Make her go away. She’s in your dream and you make the rules so just defeat her.” Ari’s nightmares were gone after she learned that trick. Stone himself had stopped the “No pants in school” and the “The Final is yesterday and I can’t find the class room!” dreams by realizing they were just warning him that he needed to get prepared for whatever it was that he was neglecting.
Never before had a person been able to watch what he does in their dream, especially in such detail. Of course this dream wasn’t so much his as it was him interacting with his dream.
The injection hit the spot.
“Aike? Aike? You there? Aike, I need you to take control of yourself. Can you talk?”
“Spirogyra derivatives are the staple food staple of the ant hill housing colony community.”
“OK then, listen closely, stay here and watch both this window and that door.”
Stone’s image moved effortlessly across the array of monitors that were connected to the cameras set up in the book repository’s main room, the hallway and in the stairways that lead down to the lower floors and up to the roof. As was protocol first the images would be captured in universe wise chronology, which means from the nearest time to the furthest . The Presidential motorcade was still off in the distance and Lee Harvey Oswald was bounding backwards up the stairs. The sounds of sirens was coming nearer but not in the way that approaching sirens generally sound when approaching. The sounds were getting louder but they weren’t getting shrilleras is the case when an ambulance comes up behind you, nagging you, insistently insisting that you get out of the way, ‘GET OUT OF THE WAY RIIIIIIGHT NOOOOW!! OK thanks, ok thanks, o k t h a n k s…’
“The sirens are going to hurt if we’re shooting in front of one someday when the Doppler Shift hits, the decibels will be head splitting in that there won’t be the build up to warn your ears to constrict themselves like a preflash flash that contracts the pupil, preventing red eye. You should make a mental note of that. Also, make a mental note to coin a term for red eye of the ear.”
Stone positioned himself so that he could be ‘seen’ by the portal that was focused across the roof from the doorway in the direction of Dealy Plaza. The sounds of screaming and panic were at a fever pitch. Stone heard the commotion below as Lee was making his escape. In an instant, for an instant there was rain then there wasn’t. The smell of the wet tar of the roof reached up and punched him Texas style; right square in the nose. The surprise sensation threatened to waken Stone and he lost focus and control. His avatar began to float aimlessly and into the direction of the man on the roof. Stone had no recollection of when the man got to the roof. The stench of hot tar and traffic assaulted Stone’s olfactory nerves.
The white linen clad man had his hand on the shoulder of a man holding a rifle, the rifle had reported while the barrel was pointed at the moon. The man’s hand came off the shooter’s shoulder. Stone watched, and as the first spent shell jumped off the soft hot roof and reloaded itself into the rifle the man in white quickly and silently backed away and down the steps . Oswald rolled his neck sideways and looked in the direction of Stone. Stone couldn’t help but to think that Lee was expecting him to be there. The gasp of a nation saying ‘Oh my God!’ reached Stone while Oswald said something that Stone couldn’t understand then the rifle reported and the weapon jerked back into aim.
The second shell defied gravity and rolled across the roof and up into the chamber as Oswald pushed and yanked the bolt. “!tihS” That one Stone knew backwards and forwards.
The sound of panic had mellowed and was replaced by the sounds of a parade without the marching bands. Just people cheering as the master of ceremonies and the high school beauty queen go riding by in an open topped Lincoln Continental waving at the assembled. No one seems to get the irony in those small town parades, that the elected official, almost always the mayor, is riding with someone who represents the antithesis of democracy, royalty; the Queen! How can we expect them to get the further irony in the fact that the queen is elected in a hotly contested campaign for votes of the unpretty and unpopular majority of the student body. Meanwhile, the Mayor is selected by a small committee’s members over cigars and bourbon in the back room of the VFW. It looks like an election but the truth is that whoever represents the majority party in that town, the brown phallus chompers don’t care what the party calls itself. The candidate of that party is going to win the election. The Queen is selected by a mandate of the people, the Mayor is decided by the five guys of the nominating committee.
Stone thought he could feel it when the gravity was released, or should he call it releashed, “mental note.” “As I think about it, I never really noticed that I don’t notice when the progression of time speeds up or slows down in that I’m just reacting to the data input.” This much he figured out at the beginning, it was very much like those dreams that seem to go on all night only to wake up fully refreshed 40 minutes after falling asleep. The greater the rate of atomic burn of the carbon atoms, the greater the release of gravity and the faster that time travels backwards. As the time comes by, the lens picks up the image and it is digitally transferred to Stone in his sleep stage. Through trial and error and Aike’s technical ability the harness has a feedback process that regulates the laser heat which regulates the carbon burn which regulates the data flow keeping it at a speed that optimizes my ability to process the information. If time is whizzing by at G⁸ it feels the same to Stone as when it’s at G⁴. He and the machine are both processing at the same rate. That’s relativity for you!
But Stone always thought he could feel the change when the time changed direction. I don’t know if he actually could, but I think we can all relate. Think of the times when you were sitting in the car; minding nothing and gazing glaze eyed out the car window when, suddenly, you were moving! No warning, no way to steel youself! All of a sudden you were moving, and not in a good way! You can’t feel the tires crunch the grit against the pavement! There no wind of air moving your hair! Oh my God, there’s nobody driving and we’re moving right towards the cliff! Why did mommy park so close to the edge of the parking lot? Just because there’s trees and shade, nobody will ever find us when the car rolls over the edge! Why didn’t she set the emergency brake before she went into the Grand Union? Why are we moving and I don’t feel it? Have I already died?
Then the car parked next to you finishes backing out of the parking space and you come to the jolting halt that every roller coaster in the world would love to replicate. Your heart is still pounding, you know what you felt with every fiber of your five year old being. Of course you never moved one inch, you know what one inch is because that’s how big you feel as your sisters and brothers laugh at you. I can’t tell if Stone can actually feel it as the gravity lessens but he feels that he does. And then time has finished backing out of its parking space and mommy is coming out of the store with a shopping cart, and look on the top; are those cookies?
Stone was ready for the lightness. He could judge from the scene that the techs would damper down the lasers and we’ll get the forward view this time. He stood and stared at the spot to which Oswald and the stranger had first appeared. He was focused and alert and practically shit his pants when the flash of lightening and the crack of thunder reflected and echoed off every piece of glass in Dealy Plaza. Teeming rain had caused the rooftop to collect a full two inches of rainwater. “How long has it been raining?” there was no Oswald, there was the stranger as he dashed past Stone and down the stairs. There was no sound of a crowd! Stone ran to the edge of the roof and looked down. There was no sound of a crowd because there was no crowd. There was only one man, standing by a street sign, under his black umbrella. There’s the motorcade. There’s no top down. The Governor, the President and the beauty Queen would have to wave to the crowds on a different day. Stone’s face didn’t appear on the roof monitor, his back was turned to it. The monitor from across Dealy Plaza but it couldn’t watch his chin as it dropped all pretense of being a part of his mouth.
Stone shook in wonder and he was caught off guard again. The crack echoed across the plaza, bouncing off walls and raindrops that must have been the inspiration for the song “Pennies From Heaven.” Once, twice, three times. Once to hear it, twice to track it’s origin, the third time he saw the puff of smoke from the grassy knoll.
The window’s glass had shattered and the car jerked. There was blood on the back window, there was a piercing scream and then there was the wail of sirens and the gunning of motors and the whinnying of tires as every horse that lived under the hood of that automobile’s hood was suddenly spurred into their fastest gallop on the slick road!
Stone sat bolt upright my eyes as wide as they could be without falling out of their sockets.
“I’m better now, thanks, where’s Aike?”
“He’s in the monitoring station, alone, he said for everyone to leave and for only the monitor in there to get the feed.
“What happened Mr. Stone? Everything looked fine from here.”
“I don’t know yet Stewart, I really don’t. Get the staff together will you? Send out for some pizza or Chinese or whatever everybody wants. I’ll have something to say after Aike and I review the images.”
“Sure Mr. Stone.
Stella, Stanley, Steven, assemble your groups in conference room C please. George, will you please have your group find out what people want and call it in? Settle in people, this might take a while.”
Aike looked shaken and at the same time relieved, and at the same time confounded and at the same time determined. He was looking at the images, on four screens of the four major shots: the shot from the roof, which showed the whole plaza, the shot from the grassy knoll which showed the front of the book repository and the motorcade, the shot from Elm Street which looks up the street and at the front of the repository and the shot from the far side of Dealy Plaza.
“There’s no abnormality… it shows just like it is supposed to. There are no extra shooters there are no people not accounted for in the Zapruder record.
“You’re white like rice! What’s wrong”
“What’s wrong? You were there, what did you see?”
“I stayed right where you told me to, on the top of the boxes; and I watched, and I listened .
On the way back as the sirens were approaching but still far away and the people were screaming I saw Lee come around the corner into through the door, he bent and up came the rifle he wound his way around the boxes of books, he was carrying the rifle and he did indeed look like he had had too much of your black whole bean coffee. He sat down, for lack of a better term in that getting up and sitting down are not opposites of each other. They are entirely different motions, carried out at entirely different rates of speed. He said something; it sounded like like he cursed as he pushed back the bolt action. Then there was the craak of the rifle and he pushed and pulled the bolt again, he cursed again he fired again. A figure appeared, he and Oswald seemed to be exchanging words, angry words, then both the figure and Oswald vanished.
The time direction changed and Oswald reappeared; sitting in the same spot. The figure, I assume he was the same man was walking away, he said something about meeting people downstairs on the 5th floor. Oswald loaded a bullet into the chamber, he fired, he pulled the bolt, he took a deep breath, he let it out and he squeezed the trigger. He said, ‘that’ll teach you, ya nigger lover prick!’ he put the rifle down he walked over to where the other man was still waiting, and they both vanished.
“When I woke, I instructed the team to send all data viewing ports and to close all other viewing ports.
“I ran the feeds in both directions from each of the portals, from each of the four perspectives; they all agree. They all show the same story. Here; watch, this is the second half, frontal view up Elm Street. Here comes the motorcade: you are visible on the roof, note the people in the window on the fireth floor. Here’s shot number one, note the stoplight as it’s hit, the cop flinches, there’s the guy with the umbrella. Here is the second shot, there’s the hit, here’s shot three and viola.
Going backwards there’s the view of Oswald leaving carrying the rifle, there’s the third shot, the second shot, first shot. There’s only one discrepancy in the two directions.”
“In the forward view you are on the roof, in the reverse you’re on the fifth floor. There are only four people in the window going forward, fire people coming back. You are on the roof coming forward, not in the coming back. I assume you are the person fire on the fireth floor.”
“Good, I mean yeah, I mean… What the bloody hell happened?
“You were there, and you saw one thing. I was there and I saw two completely different things, different from each other, different from what you saw and different from the official story.
“I saw Oswald crouching on the roof firing over the parapet. He missed twice by a wide margin a man brushed past me accompanied him there and stood as if he didn’t care if he was seen for the first shot then they both vanished.
“Going forward there was two inches of rain as I walked to the front of the roof. It was pouring; there was no crowd, just the umbrella guy. The Lincoln was, of course roof up and the shots came from the grassy knoll.”
“So the cameras caught you as you were standing in the rain, but it wasn’t raining. And they caught the image of something that didn’t happen.”
“But that’s impossible.”
The staff had gathered in conference room C. They call it a conference room but it is more like a lecture hall. Calling it a conference room allows those in attendance to think they are a part of the process; while at the same time reminding them that they are, most assuredly not. Their part is to sit in the superior position of seats that look down on the presenter, while the presenter is actually their superior. It is no accident that they look like Greek theater which reminds us of the birthplace of democracy while allowing us to forget the Grecian ideal of the Philosopher Kings which is the way management sees itself.
GEne, GErry, GEermaine and GEnevieve passed GEorge as he stood outside the door to the monitoring station. He couldn’t understand what was being said but he could tell from the tone that there was excitement going on in there. Carrying boxes of food and drink to the conference room; they looked at each other and eight eyeballs seemed to have simultaneously changed their function from data input devices to information conveyance devices that express the thousands of words simply by rolling universe wise in their respective sockets. ”GEorge ought to just get over it! There are worse fates than working for the company that invented time porting.” GEneveive grumbled.
“Yes, but it would be nice if we weren’t relegated to doing the servant work all the time; I have a Ph.D fer chrissakes!” groused GErmaine.
“I feel bad for the guy but he was sort of stupid to try to ruin the world’s economy just to protect corporate America’s ‘secret sauce’ recipes and the ass of just one company.” Grackled Gerry.
“It would have worked too! Who would have figured on the time portal?” griffined GEne.
“I would have! It’s so obvious, even a schoolboy understands the physics behind it. What I’d like to do is go back and ask all those people before how they could have been so stupid as to not know?!” gulled GErmaine.
They entered the conference room and the good natured din of this group of people enjoying the delicious victory of capturing the Kennedy Assassination successfully this time died down in an instant. Evolved as they’d like to think they are, the four ‘GErms’ with the enormous cardboard boxes, with the white paper bags peeking out of the tops is not substantially different from the attention a pod of crocodiles give a tribe of thirsty aborigines coming to the edge of the river to be saved…
As the bags and the cans and the bottles and the slices were making their rounds and the conversation was returning to the spending of bonus monies, GEorge softly sauntered into the room. He surveyed the available seats and what each said politically. There was one in the back; it was directly in front of the presenter, that is the bomb thrower’s seat. The guy who commands the lecturer’s attention while getting away with a raised voice in that he ‘is just projecting so that everyone can hear.’ And everyone can hear because there is no one behind. No matter what your second grade teacher told you about eyes in the back of her head, no one has a mouth in the back of their head and nobody can hear you if they are behind you, (unless, of course, if you don’t want them to hear). The back row is often seen as where the trouble makers are, they have a natural tendency to want to distance themselves from authority. The bomb thrower is the reason for this perception, the rest of the people are just there so they can fall asleep or play with their gadgets.
The front row center spot is the spot for the RCA dog; enrapt in the kibbles of information from his master’s lips. Those are either the first ones filled or the last ones. They are the only seats where you are not at least eyeball level with the presenter. Second, GErd and fourth row center are usually taken by the people who have a bone to chew with the presenter, either pro or con. The vast majority of other seats are for the people who either don’t know or don’t care where and why to sit. To most of them the consideration of legroom or proximity to the aisle in case the urge strikes them to pretend they need to use the facilities or take a very important phone call or some other excuse to mollify their juvenile aversion to sitting in one place for a moderately extended period is paramount.
GEorge spotted a seat in the second row at the very end on the speaker’s left. A Step Stump was occupying it and GEorge could tell that is was because he was Stump Stupid and didn’t even realize that his seat afforded him no view of the presentation. GEorge saw the seat as perfect for his purpose in that he was at parity with the presenters, and when he demanded the presenter’s attention they would have to go to their left and righties are just not good at going to their left. This gave GEorge the appearance of sharing the front with the presenters who was at the disadvantage of facing to their left while speaking to their right while GEorge faced straight ahead and spoke over to his left. He is facing nearly everybody so his voice carries. The people sitting behind and above him were obviously unimportant.
GEorge approached and said “Stavros isn’t it? How are you? Listen; I wonder if you wouldn’t mind changing spots with me? I like to be in the power positions, front and center where I can see everything, not like here, but, I have this thing with my neck and, you don’t mind do ya? Here, let me help you.”
GEorge didn’t wait for an answer which was just as well because they really weren’t questions. GEorge was an Executive VP at GE, he didn’t get there by asking politely. Even though it always sounded that way.
A sucker never does get an even break and Stavros was still mopping up the spilled chicken orzo soup when Mr. Stone and Mr. Aitched came in. It’s an entrance that looks like it’s an entrance that has been rehearsed so that it looks like it’s not a rehearsed entrance. It’s really neither. It’s just that they’ve walked into hundreds of presentations and just feel natural in their roles. “Age before beauty.” Stone says as they come around the wall of seats to the left of the room. Scattered nervous laughter as people reacted to some joke that they didn’t get. “I’ve got the beauty, but I’d much rather have his age.” OK, now it’s safe to laugh out loud even though they still don’t really get it. Stone picks up a pickle spear from the platter of deli and crunches into it. One hundred and saxty people hang on his every crunch; one hundred and firety nike if you include GEorge. Even some of the people in the back row can’t stop themselves from hoping that the pickle meets with Mr. Stone’s expectations! Hopefully it was crunchy and salty and dilly enough, but not too crunchy as to be a pickle that wasn’t brined enough and as a result is, ironically, too salty. “The man is brilliant! See how he puts the audience at ease by refocusing their attention?” individuals group think. Meanwhile, I’m thinking , “you know what? I’m hungry! Let’s get this over with, I want to get home!”
“Aike and I have reviewed the recordings and we have discussed what they show. I want a show of hands, how many people here watched the events as they were unfolding?”
Easily ge quarters of the hands go up. GEorge surveys the crowd over his left shoulder as his right arm is bent at the shoulder, elbow and wrist so as to make the lowest contribution to the collection of hands. The phrase “deep pockets and short arms” goes across the upper back of his mind. The lower front of his mind is busy noting that of the quarter with their hands down GE quarters are GE hands. He counts that as a strike against Stone’s promise to be fair with Geer heads while ignoring the fact that overall about GEquarters of Geer heads’ hands were raised. Such is the math of all bigotry.
“Did anyone notice anything out of the ordinary?” The mood of the room turned dark as the parsing inferred that maybe bonus would not be earned. Staffers looked at each other to see if anyone knew what the boss was talking about. Was this a test? That’s what it is, we’re going to get our bonuses.
GEneen, in the bomb thrower’s seat raised her hand. “I noticed you were standing on the roof and the look on your face as the tragedy was unfolding was one of complete surprise.”
“Oh no she ditn’t!” was the thought that spread across the hall like the wave; going in one ears, across the mind and out the other ear then into the ear of the next person. Followed instantly by “She just sucked up to the boss! Quick, think of something to add!”
“I was with team Delta, viewing the feed from the Houston Street location. You looked fine from there but I will say that I could not find you in the shoot when we were going Universe wise.”
“Thanks, GEneen, and Stew, extra points for the Universe wise reference! Mr. Stone was in the second window from the right on the fireth floor during the Universe Wise wind,” Alex responded.
“Uh, I was watching the president and I think we got some really excellent shots of the impact…” a round of applause interrupts STephanie , she waits; then, “… like I said we can really see the bullet penetrate at the back of the neck. You see the president lurch and twitch about. It’s very gory!” Again applause as people realize that this is going to sell to the public like nothing ever has before. Now they’re thinking bigger bonus! STephanie waits “At first I wondered why he was twitching to the side like that and then I remembered that the bullet was taking that journey through his body. Whether the twitching caused the path of the journey or if the journey caused the twitching I don’t know. But I thought that it was unusual.”
“OK, thanks for that, let’s make sure that the copy department… copy department? Copy? Where are you?” eight hands appear across the room; GEorge makes note of the faces. “Copy, make sure you include some of the thoughts here in the commentary.”
“Production? Where’s STella? STella, GEoffrey we’re going to run each main from Alpha through Delta in this order; Alpha, up Elm, Gamma, down Elm, Beta, the grassy knoll then Delta, make sure you connect with STew who’s at two o’clock from your six o’clock …”
“Rotate Universe wise,” an anonymous back row denizen says to sugar induced laughter in the room.
“Then we show the Oswald cam from Gamma. President shot shots from Delta, Beta, Gamma & Alpha…”
“OH, and very important! Manage the sound in the UW versions so that people don’t get red eye of the ears when the sirens unDoppler” The assembled murmur in general about how, yes, that was a problem.
GEorge starts out loud and quickly drops his volume when he asks “If you are expecting editing of the sound does that mean that we’re splicing in bits from the memory version?” From noisy, jubilant room to the sound a pin makes when dropped in a well from one end of the question to the other.
“GEorgie we’re doing the whole thing from the memory.
“Last time we shot it we had faulty data come back. This time there are no flaws. Why risk a problem given that we don’t know what caused it in the first place?
“We run it off the memory. It runs tomorrow night and we’ll loop it like normal.”
“But, it’s supposed to be live, the first time. Hasn’t that been the policy?”
“What’s ‘live’ GEorge?” snaps Aike. “We redefined ‘live’ when we saved the world from knowing that putt was an event. Is the event any more live if we’re poking through time as we’re transmitting it? Does it change the past? No, the same exact past is there.”
“Aike, methinks thou dost protest too much.”
“GEorge; me protest thou dost think too little!”
Stone steps in, “OK folks, we had a good day, call your families, we have our assignments, let’s get it out there, the bigger the share the bigger the bonuses, only way to it is through it.” As the assembled, disassemble Stone goes to GEorge “Say GEorge, can you set up a meet tomorrow with Niky and Niles? Tell Niles to bring his checkbook.”
“Mr. Alex on line ge.”
“Mabelle, I told you I don’t like that, use the real numbers when it’s us.”
“Rob, didn’t I tell you?”
“Action sequence! You built suspense! They didn’t know what was coming next. Pretty good for a first try!”
“They didn’t know because I didn’t know what was coming next! What the hell was that?”
“Oh, that reminds me, I’m thinking about you including a fact checker character, you’re a little slack in that department!”
“You’re a real piece of fiction there, Alex!”
“Am I now?”
“I thought you said he’d know that by the end of the chapter.” “He knows.” “How do you know he knows?” “He mentioned the smell of the roof. Light and sound are waves and they can be remotely detected, smell isn’t and so it can’t. He realized that if he could smell in his dream state then it had to be something that he was remembering.” “How can you be sure that he realized that?” “Because he didn’t mention it to Aike.”