Chapter One First Light
It was a beautiful sunny day in the nations' capitol.
Tourists had returned to the city and the government agencies were finally
showing signs of recovering from the terrorist events of a few years earlier.
All this tranquility was shattered in a single instant when an explosion
destroyed the top floor of a hotel that was located less than a mile from
the White House. The explosion was not devastating, probably less than
one hundred pounds of explosive material was involved. The true nature
of the disaster was discovered when it was determined that the bomb had
been surrounded by nearly half a ton of finely pulverized radioactive
cobalt. The worst terrorist threat had been realized, a "dirty bomb"
had been detonated in Washington D.C.
The real truth was far more disturbing than any of the accusations, in reality, no one had a clue. The explosive was of a type never before seen and the cobalt could have been neutron activated in any of several hundred reactors and could not be traced. Security camera recordings in the hotel showed nothing unusual and the penthouse where the explosion had taken place had been under reconstruction for over a year. After a month of rigorous investigation the authorities were no closer to discovering who had committed the act or even how the bomb had been smuggled into the building without detection.
Everywhere the investigators looked they found nothing.
The media was beginning to ask embarrassing questions and the inevitable
radiation sickness including skin tumors and internal cancers from the
cobalt 60 was becoming impossible to ignore. No one had even claimed responsibility
for the act.
Horvath called Farrell into his office and shut the
door. He then walked around the room shutting off every piece of electronic
equipment including his computer, his cell phone, even his wired phone
was unplugged. When Farrell started to ask what was going on Horvath just
held a finger to his lips and shook his head. When he had finished his
rounds he opened a briefcase and removed a small device with a keyboard
and a digital readout. He pressed a few keys and then began to walk around
the room holding the instrument before him. After a few minutes, satisfied
that there were no detectable bugs or other listening devices he put the
detector away and sat down at his desk.
These electrons were produced in pairs by a particle
accelerator with one electron from each pair going into the entangler
and the other going to its doppelganger. These devices would then synchronously
emit their stored entangled electron pairs one at the location of the
entangler and the other at the doppelganger. It was these pairs of entangled
particles that provided the heart of the operation of the time camera.
Einstein wouldn't have liked it but once more experiments proved he was
The C 130 Hercules' engine turbine whine strengthened
to a roar and the plane began to roll down the runway rapidly picking
up speed. In an amazingly short distance the giant craft became airborne
and was soon out of sight.
No attempt had been made to clean up the blast site
because of the danger of radiation from the cobalt. Farrell adjusted a
control and the image view point flew to the top of the building and focused
on one remaining wall. "We are at ground zero, camera pointing angle
two seven zero degrees magnetic, field of view is seven five degrees.
Image quality good. Ready to acquire first Schrodinger coordinate matrix."
Further regression showed two other men assembling
the bomb from packages that had been disguised to look like large cartons
of ice cream and frozen yogurt. He then moved forward in time to the point
where the three men were preparing the bomb for detonation. Just before
the men left the room he placed a "tag" on each of them. Now
within limits the machine could track them. "As long as they don't
leave the Washington area we can follow them."
A quantum state sent from point A to point B arrived the same instant it left the transmission site, no delay, not just faster than light but truly instantaneous. This opened the door for a new type of computer that was millions of times faster and more powerful than the most elaborate but conventional super computer. The result of this was that Horvath and Farrell and the other founders of the company became multi millionaires many times over. It was this embarrassment of riches that permitted Farrell to explore some of the other properties of entangled pair quantum physics. It was during these explorations that he discovered that occasionally, not very often, but occasionally the quantum state would arrive at point B before it left from point A. He was so startled by these results that it was a long time before he believed it.
Finally, experimental results were so convincing that
he was compelled to accept the evidence. He decided against revealing
this astonishing discovery so he constructed a convincing but false explanation
for what the system did. He "invented " the Time Invariant Schrodinger
Equation Solution Matrix" and explained the operation of the time
camera in terms of this arcane mathematical concept. It was all hocus-pocus
but hardly anyone understood Schrodinger tensors anyway so he figured
he could get away with it.
Horvath arrived earlier than usual at the lab and saw that a large Army helicopter was parked at the far end of the parking lot. As he approached the administration building he noticed several soldiers in military battle dress. They were carrying formidable looking weapons. He was considering what to do when several men in officers uniforms stepped out of the admin building and approached him.
"Dr. Horvath? I am Major General Martin Styles, I have been assigned to the Time Camera project and we will appreciate your full cooperation. If you would come with us into your office we can explain what is taking place."
They entered the building and the reception area where poor Cindy Carson sat with a look of complete terror on her face. She was flanked by two Marines, each was carrying an automatic rifle.
"My God, what have you done to her?"
"Nothing" replied Styles "She's just confused about our presence."
"Well, so am I, What the hell is going on?"
General Styles gestured toward the door to Horvath's office. "Can we please go inside, we can talk more comfortably there."
Horvath, the General and a colonel Barton sat at the large conference table in his office. An armed marine saluted the officers stepped out of the office and closed the door behind him.
The General shifted in his seat and glanced at Colonel Barton. "Dr. Horvath, I will come directly to the point. The President has decided that given the vital nature of your work regarding national security, the time camera project should become militarized and placed under the direct supervision of the Department of Defense. Your cooperation and the cooperation of your staff are essential to the smooth transition of the project to its new status." He reached into his open briefcase and withdrew a sheaf of papers.
"This is your copy of the
executive orders signed by the President of the United States." He
handed the stack of documents to Horvath. The General continued, "Colonel
Barton will be acting military director of the project and your position
will remain as civilian director and general manager, at least for the
time being. Now, if you would ask senior members of your staff to join
us, Colonel Barton has a number of suggestions and requests."
Farrell and Rodine as well as Rodine's
wife and daughter were nowhere to be found. They had not shown up for
work and a search of their homes showed evidence of rapid packing and
a sudden departure. Both of their cars were missing.
"They were abducted or they left of their own
free will. Either way we have a serious security problem. Yes sir, Yes
sir. Right away sir." General Styles closed the cover on his phone
and turned to Horvath. "That was the Secretary of Defense. Needless
to say there is considerable concern regarding the security of this project.
Tell me Dr. Horvath, can the time camera be used to discover what happened
to them or give us their present whereabouts? The Secretary is getting
ready to authorize a manhunt for your colleagues. Maybe we can head that
The QDI lab in Arizona had a total of thirty six employees,
of these twenty five were technical staff mostly concerned with research
on the quantum teleportation computer. The remainder were support personnel.
Of this group only three knew of the time camera and how it worked. Now
two of these were missing under mysterious circumstances. Horvath had
a problem. It took a minimum of two people to use the time camera if the
target was any distance away. One to operate the camera the other to operate
the entangler module at the remote site. Both had to have an understanding
of the operation of the camera and aside from himself no one else at the
facility even knew of its existence.
"Properly motivated they could kill you and all of your staff in any of a hundred striking ways before you had any idea you were at risk. In that sense these are some of the most dangerous people on the planet. Treat them with respect.
"As for treason, I suggest that you not bring that up. Before they were done with you they would have concluded that you and your people were the traitors and they would deal with you accordingly."
Horvath hoped he hadn't over played his hand but these
"military" types needed to know that they could not get away
with stealing the project without a fight. The look on The General's and
Colonel's faces caused him to suspect he had made his point.
The machines hummed softly and display screens
glowed with shifting shadows and colors. Horvath had convinced Styles
and Barton that the first step in finding out what had happened to Farrell
and Rodine was to use the time camera to study the lab area at a time
when the two men were last known to be at work. Also, there was no reason
to relocate an entangler or to train someone in its use as the particle
pairs could be produced at the location where they were needed.
Chapter Three Hiding Out
John Rodine and his son Paul were sitting by the
edge, flycasting poles in hand, eyeing several large trout that were
swimming lazily upstream. These fish had little experience with the
aggressive and carnivorous nature of human beings so they were perilously
complacent, or so it seemed for some
John turned to his son and nodded. Then, as Paul watched, he gave a flick of the wrist and laid his hand crafted treasure about ten feet ahead of the first fish in the squadron. It was a tempting bluebottle at the end of the line, John had spent hours on this particular fly and was convinced that it would overcome the caution of the most wary of fish. As the stream carried the fly toward the trout, the largest, oldest and probably wisest of them took notice and swam casually up to the delicious looking but deadly thing. The fish seemed to smell the bait but did not bite. And then as if at a signal, the other trout approached the fly and each in turn took a "sniff" and then backed off.
"They don't think it's real," Paul observed.
John turned to his son. "How smart do you think fish are?"
Paul stared at the fish who were now ignoring the bait, "I don't know, smart enough to stay alive I guess."
John gave his son's unruly hair a tousle and began to put the fishing gear away. "We both learned an important lesson today."
Jenny Rodine and Bill Farrell sat under the canopy of the motor home and watched the two anglers return. She glanced at the obviously light creel. "How are they biting today?" she asked.
"John glanced at his son. "Today the fish are smarter than we are, right Paul?"
Paul grinned at the private joke, "Today they are, maybe they'll be dumber tomorrow."
Farrell smiled and began to help put the fishing gear away. "Don't count on it," he said."You just have to get smart faster than they do."
Later that evening Paul was playing a computer game and Jenny was cleaning up the tiny kitchen. John turned to Farrell and asked, "What did you find out today?"
Bill sighed, "Well, they're looking for us. Horvath used the camera in the lab to discover that we knew what they were up to. I can't tell if they realize the limitations of the lab system yet but they'll figure it out soon enough. You might want to take a look at what I found out today."
The rear bedroom of the 45 foot Winnebago had been converted into a small laboratory where Bill Farrell and John Rodine had set up a miniature version of the time camera.
Farrell inserted a cassette into a VCR and pressed the play button. "I recorded this earlier, I think you'll agree we have a problem."
The screen cleared and the images of Secretary of Defense Don Arnold, National Security Advisor Roland Olson, and General Styles could be seen. The general was standing at a display screen that showed the orbital parameters of a spy satellite.
"We've re-tasked Vela Hotel seventeen to look for them and CIA is using some of their birds as well. We think they might be using a large motor home owned by John Rodine's brother. We're searching a four hundred mile radius from their home and so far we have over three hundred possible hits."
"Three hundred," asked the National Security Advisor? "That seems like a lot."
"Well, there are lot of big RV's out there. And they all have white tops." He shook his head in frustration. "Also, these are just the ones that are out in the open. The motor vehicle registrations show over five thousand of the things in Arizona alone. And, if it's garaged or in a tunnel we won't see it. The state police have been alerted but so far they haven't come up with anything."
Secretary Arnold leaned forward for a better look at the satellite chart. "I understand that there is some sort of difficulty with the time camera at the lab."
"Yes" replied the General," and we have no idea what's causing it." The thing can look back in time but you can't see anything farther away than about fifty miles. Horvath tried to set up one of those entangler modules but it didn't work. He says he has no idea why."
"Do you believe him?"
"I think he's telling the truth, He's been working for two days trying to solve the problem but so far nothing."
Security Advisor Olson made a sour face and popped a mint into his mouth. "Well, this is ridiculous. We know the thing can work, we all saw it work. Do you think Farrell or Rodine might have sabotaged it?"
General Styles turned off the display. "I asked Horvath about that. He says he doesn't think that's possible. The machine is exactly the same as when we all saw it work, nothing has been changed or damaged."
"Well, something's different," said Arnold. Eeither that or Horvath is hiding something."
Farrell reached over to the machine and stopped the tape.
"Well, they seem pretty frustrated, Do you have any idea why it doesn't work," Rodine asked?
Farrell smiled and then looked sheepish. "It
doesn't work because Horvath doesn't know how to make it work."
"Because, John, the camera in the lab is a fraud, well, almost a fraud. It works locally but the distance operation that's synchronized by the entanglers is a hoax. It only works at a distance if you know the secret. The whole Schrodinger equation thing is something I dreamed up to disguise how the camera really works. Horvath doesn't know that and, up until now, neither did you."
John sat quietly for a few moments. "Well, in a way, I'm relieved, I never understood that part anyway."
"Don't feel bad, nobody understands it because it's all mathematical double talk, there wasn't anything to understand. I dreamed up this ridiculously complex explanation and fake procedure to disguise the fact that the real mechanism is absurdly simple. No one, especially Horvath, would be willing to believe that the underlying principal of the camera isn't much more complicated than the science behind a washing machine timer."
John looked hurt. "I guess I don't understand why you didn't tell me about this sooner. Don't you trust me?"
Bill put his hand on John's shoulder "Of course I trust you, but I didn't want to expose you unnecessarily. If you knew the secret you and your family could be in danger. I realized that the second those government suits watched the camera operate while you were in DC."
John looked dubious. "Well, thanks a lot. If these bastards even think I know how it works my family and me are in trouble anyway. Do you really think they'd believe me if I told them I didn't know? Especially considering that I didn't know that I didn't know.Just fil me in on how it doeswork and can we use it to keep those guys off our backs?" He gestured toward the now dark television monitor.
"You remember how hard we worked on quantum teleportation? And when we finally discovered how to make computers that utilized the principal it turned out to be astonishingly simple? And that we didn't dare tell anyone that it was that simple?"
"Well, yes but I . . . "
"It turns our to be the same thing with the time camera."
"Look Bill. I've seen the thing operate. I have run the entanglers, I know they're necessary to the process."
"You're right but not for the reason you think.
You figured that it was the entangled pairs and all that Schrodinger
slight of hand that made it work. That 's what I hoped everyone would
think, but that wasn't it at all. It was just a matter of discovering
the coordinates. The entangler module provided an empirical way of getting
the coordinates but we really didn't understand them." He gestured
toward the machinery in the corner. "But because of the entanglers,
I discovered out how the coordinate system works so the machine
"OK then, how does it work." John was growing frustrated.
"Straight quantum teleportation in both space and time. The coordinates are very complex but once you know how they work they can be expressed as a mathematical equation. So, you can actually send one of the particles of a pair not just anywhere but anywhen as long as you know the coordinates.
"We use quantum teleportation to send a stream of particles to a particular place and time. Those particles interact with the environment, there-and-then, and their entangled partners reflect the nature of that interaction in the here-and-now."
John sat quietly and digested this revelation. "So the idea that we use naturally occurring particle pairs that exist in different times is a fiction?"
Bill stared at his hands and tried to formulate his
thoughts. "No, not exactly, the naturally occurring pairs do exist
and they are a useful part of the process but they don't exist in sufficient
quantities to create an
"Doesn't that make for a paradox?"
Bill smiled, "What sort of paradox do you mean?"
"Well if we observe trans-temporal entangled
pairs of particles that existed years ago that shouldn't do anything
to causality because their partners existed in another time and the
effect those particles had were part of that time. But if we teleport
particles to that time and they interact with
Bill stared out the window, "I don't know. It is an important question but I really don't know. I just know that the process works. At that level I don't understand it either. We do know that we don't understand causality at the quantum level at all."
Suddenly there was a sound from outside the motor home, it was a low flying helicopter. The chop, chop, chop of the main rotor blades and the buzz of the tail rotor suggested that it was a big one.
Jenny stuck her head into the room. "Do you think that's them? Do you think they found us?"
John ran to the door and looked outside he could see the big chopper as it headed for the eastern hills. "Forrest service, probably checking out a smoke. Doesn't look like our friends."
Bill turned to the rack of equipment, "Let's check it out." He keyed in some commands and an image of sky appeared on the main screen.
He looked at his watch, "That thing went over about a minute ago, is that about right?"
"Seems right" said John.
Farrell pressed a few more keys and a large helicopter appeared. "Ok, lets take a closer look." After a few more adjustments the image of the interior of the cockpit filled the little screen.
John looked on in amazement. "You can keep track on a moving aircraft? That' s new."
"Coordinates again John, coordinates. Now let's take a look inside this thing."
Bill used a joystick to maneuver the location of the virtual camera. As the point of view wandered about the cabin of the craft it appeared that the crew were all U.S. Forestry personnel. Heavy canvas over garments, fire fighting equipment, all very typical of what one would expect except for one thing. There was a large complex optical device mounted in the cabin. It was configured to look out of the left side of the craft and was pointed directly at their motor home. The crew of the helicopter did not appear to be paying attention to the device.
"What is it?" asked John
"It looks like a camera or scanner. I don't think it's standard forestry service issue."
"It might be some sort of infrared pickup that spots early fires." John said hopefully.
"Possible," said Bill. "Lets take a closer look." Farrell moved the point of view to the back of the device. There was a view screen with an image of the terrain below. It showed an image of trees and a camp ground, it appeared to display what the instrument was looking at. Then the image on the screen was that of the motor home with John Rodine standing in the doorway looking directly at the helicopter and the device within it.
"We're busted," said John with a sense
John looked on in amazement. "What are you going to do?"
"I am about to screw with causality big time. I did a time regression to a point just before the instrument saw us and I am going to teleport about one hundred trillion electrons into the sensing chip of that thing. The CCD will be fried before it ever sees us." He pressed the button.
"What is it?" asked John
"It looks like a camera or scanner. I don't think it's standard forestry service issue."
"It might be some sort of infrared pickup that spots early fires." John said hopefully.
"Possible," said Bill. "Lets take a closer look." Farrell moved the point of view to the back of the device. There was a view screen with an image of the terrain below. It showed an image of trees and a camp ground, it appeared to display what the instrument was looking at. Suddenly there was a flash and the image vanished only to be replaced with noise.
Farrell stared at the instrument. "I don't know. Suddenly there was a flash and the thing just died.
Time is very much stranger than we think
John Rodine looked at him with growing alarm, "What's the matter Bill, you look like you just saw a ghost."
"I I don't know what just happened. I was thinking that if that thing saw us I would try to damage it somehow. Maybe damage it just before it saw us. And then as its image was approaching our campsite it failed, just before it could see us."
John rubbed his chin, it was a peculiar habit of his when he was thinking about something difficult. "I don't get it, how would you do that?"
"Well, like I said, the camera works by teleporting particles through both space and time. I was thinking that if the thing saw us I would teleport a large number of electrons into its sensor," he gestured toward the image of the scanning device on the camera monitor, "and burn it out just before it saw us."
"Yeah but you didn't do anything, it burned out before you could."
"Maybe, yes, maybe that's what happened." He sat and stared at the monitor wordlessly. There was a growing coldness in the pit of his stomach.
"I think I know what happened but it's so crazy that I want to make a few tests before I tell even you. Just remember one thing John. Remember what you said about altering something in the past and changing history? Well, just keep that in mind for a while."
Farrell made adjustments to the camera and got a close up view of the sensor chip in the helicopter's scanning device. "Now watch this, I just set the regression to a point moments before the thing burned out, if that's what it really did."
As they watched Bill counted down to the moment of failure, "three, two, one, now."
When he said "now" there was a flash in the image of the chip and the close up view showed a large number of the elements along the edge of the CCD fusing into a shapeless mass. It was exactly what one would expect if a very large number of electrons had suddenly appeared in the circuitry.
Now both men sat stunned and speechless as they stared at the image on the monitor.
Bill Farrell finally reached over to a control
panel and turned the time camera off. He wasn't sure but he thought
he might be sick. He turned to Rodine. "Maybe, time is very much
stranger than we think." Then he looked out the window at the
darkening sky. "I think we better get the hell out of here, the
sooner the better."
CIA analysis lab, Langly Virginia.
The scanner had failed without anyone in the helicopter crew being aware of the problem. It had been designed to operate autonomously and it was decided that failure was so improbable that there was no reason to include an alarm system. So it wasn't until late that evening, when the records were being downloaded from its computer, that the true nature of the failure was discovered. It was immediately assumed that something on the ground had caused the problem but an investigation of the campground revealed nothing.
Martin Cohen had been with the CIA for nearly fifteen years. In all of his experience he had never been confronted with something as unbelievable as the Time Camera Project. Cohen was a special intelligence agent, he was also an electronics engineer and the program manager for the "Warm Body Scanner" or WBS for short. The WBS was designed to locate people in buildings even through several inches of concrete and steel walls, it had a wide variety of applications.
It was a CIA designed, covert device installed in a Forrest Service helicopter. It was one of several on loan to law enforcement and other government agencies as part of the search for Farrell and Rodine--and the scanner had failed at a critical moment. What was worse, the failure was physically impossible and yet it had occurred.
Billy Fox peered through a microscope at what was left of the CCD image sensing chip. "It would take at least one hundred volts, probably more, to break down the insulation like this and at least two amps to fry this thing the way it did. There isn't anything even close to that level of power in this part of the system. The highest potential in the image head is five volts and at most the current available is a few milliamperes. It couldn't happen, but it did."
Cohen stared at the video monitor displaying the same scene. "How about something from outside, some kind of EM wave or laser?
"Well, a laser wouldn't do this. A laser might burn a hole in the image plane but the damage was only on the edge of the chip, out of the image field, behind a shadow mask. If a laser hit there it would have to burn through the mask first and it's completely intact."
"How about an EM wave?" Cohen said angling for an acceptable answer.
"No way. You know how well shielded this thing is. An elecrto-magnetic wave powerful enough to do this would have fried other things in the scanner, not to mention kill everybody on the chopper. From what I can tell this is all that got hit. What's more, I can't see any path for the discharge, it's as if the jolt just came out of nowhere."
"Ow!" Cohen winced, holding his head.
"What's the matter?"
"I'm just trying to figure
out what I'm going to tell the general."
They broke camp and moved the motor home immediately after the incident with the helicopter. They drove all night and finally found a new "campsite" in the basement garage of an abandoned building in Flagstaff. Using the time camera Farrell set up several "virtual" cameras around the building and had their outputs displayed on one of the monitors. "If anyone tries to come near we should have some warning." He tried to convince himself.
Later that evening he asked John to join him in the tiny lab. "I need you to help me with an experiment." He handed Rodine a quarter, a note pad, a pencil, and a folded slip of paper that had been sealed with clear tape.
"Ok, now I want you to flip that coin ten times and write the results on the note pad. Use a 1 for heads and a 0 for tails."
Rodine did as he was asked and wrote a series of 1's and 0's on the pad.
Now, I want you to enter that sequence onto the number pad of the keyboard and then hit "Enter".
Puzzled, John completed the task.
There was a beep from the time camera, nothing more.
"Ok, now open the folded paper and tell me what you see."
Again John did as he was asked. "It's a piece of computer printout with a series of 1's and 0's."
"OK, now compare that list with the numbers you just entered into the computer."
John stared at both lists of figures, his eyes widening. "They're exactly the same! Now how in the hell did you do that?" He picked up the quarter and scrutinized it. "Some kind of trick coin?
"Use one of your own if you like, we can do it again."
Suddenly the printer buzzed and fed out about an inch of paper. Farrell quickly covered the printout with one hand and tore the slip from the machine with the other. He folded the slip and keeping it in plain site laid it on the table. He then pointed at the tablet. "Use your own coin and do it again."
He went through the procedure and again, keyed in the numbers and hit "Enter". Then he looked at the numbers on computer printout, once more they were identical to the coin tosses.
Again the printer buzzed but this time Farrell did not cover the numbers. Instead he tore off the sheet and handed it to Rodine. "OK, look at the numbers and then do it again."
This time the coin tosses and the printout bore no resemblance to each other.
"What the hell's going on here Bill? You are really screwing with my head!"
"I don't think so, somehow I'm screwing with causality. I'm using the time camera to send the coin toss sequence into the immediate past. If you don't know what the numbers are in advance they will be the same if you do, they won't. I've tried it at least fifty times it works if I don't look and it doesn't if I do." He pointed to a pile of folded computer printout slips in a nearby cup.
"My God Bill, do you have any idea what this means?"
"At this point I have absolutely no idea what it means."
"Hey, wait a minute, I didn't enter that last sequence into the computer because it was wrong. How come the printer printed out a list of numbers?"
Farrell stared at the printer and shook his head. "I have no idea." Finally he smiled and said, "Schrodinger's Cat is real."
National Security Advisor Rolland Olson and General Styles sat quietly as Cohen described what little he knew of the WBS and two Vela Hotel satellites.
"After we discovered that the Warm Body Scanner burned out we re tasked VH 13 and 14 to look for the motor home in and around the area of the campground. Initially we were thinking that there was very little chance the events were connected but then we discovered this." He pressed the remote for a digital projector. "This is a memory map of the VH 13 camera system. You can see the red area here," He indicated a spot on the screen with a laser pointer. These memory cells, about sixty two megabytes worth, all failed. The important part is that this is exactly where images of the motor home that Farrell and Rodine are suspected of using would appear. The same thing happened with the memory in VH 14."
"But, how is that possible?" asked the General.
"It isn't, at least it isn't possible with any technology we know of. There is a theory, however it is so fantastic and so frightening that I hesitate to bring it up."
Olson gripped the arms of his chair. "Listen Dr. Cohen, if you or your staff have any ideas at all we want to hear them." He glanced at the general.
"Well, OK, I brought my chief engineer with me. The idea is his and he will be much better at explaining it than me. He is waiting outside your office, can we ask him to come in? His name is Bill Fox."
"By all means." Olson pressed a button on his phone. "Mrs. Cavinaugh, would you please ask Mr. Fox to join us?"
Moments later the door opened and Billy Fox entered the room. He looked nervous.
"Thank you for joining us Mr. Fox, Dr. Cohen says you have a theory about what has been going on here. Would you care to share it with us?"
"Well, er, certainly. It's very far out but I think I know what happened to the scanner and the to Vela Hotel satellites."
Olson drummed his fingers on the desk top. "Well, let's hear it."
"I think that Farrell and Rodine have a mobile version of the time camera and somehow they're using it to destroy any equipment we might use to track them down."
"How is that possible?"
"I don't know for sure but it's the only explanation for what's happened."
For a moment Olson and Styles stared open mouthed at Fox then finally the general broke the silence. "Well, don't stop there, you obviously have some sort of idea of how they might be doing this."
"Yes sir, I do. It all has to do with how quantum teleportation works. I think they have a portable camera and they employ it to examine any device that we may try to use to look for them. If they see something they don't like they use quantum teleportation to deliver something to the device that damages it."
"But I thought teleportation could only transport quantum states not actual material."
"Yes but that might be all they need to do. If they can alter the states of enough of the atoms in an integrated circuit they can cause it to fail. What I saw of the imaging chip in the scanner is consistent with exactly that. We can't look at the memory chips in the satellites but I would be willing to bet that they failed under very similar circumstances."
"But that means the time camera is more than a surveillance device it can be used as a weapon."
"Assuming that I'm correct, that's true. What's more, they're probably watching us right now."
Farrell and Rodine sat in the semi darkness, the glow from the time camera monitors providing the only light in the room. The meeting at the Security Counsel's office was breaking up.
Rodine shifted in his seat and turned toward Farrell. "Well, It looks like they're beginning to figure it out. Thankfully, they have a long way to go. By the way, you didn't say anything about the satellites. When did you zap them?"
"I didn't. At least I don't remember doing anything to them. I'm not even sure I know how to locate them. Something very strange is going on here."
John Rodine shook his head. "That is a masterpiece of understatement. Maybe we should try to find them and take a look. Can you go back to where they were showing the satellite orbits?"
"Yeah, I'm sure I can, but even with that it would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Coordinates again John, we need to know exactly where to look."
"Bill, we need to figure out how to find them. We gotta know what happened to those satellites. Because if you didn't do it, who or what did?"
Farrell stared into space for a full minute. "Maybe we're seeing evidence of multiple time lines. Maybe on another time line we figured out how to find the satellites and, as you said, 'zapped' them."
John was astonished. "Multiple time lines? Isn't that strictly science fiction stuff?"
Bill pointed to the time camera's particle pair generator. "And this isn't? We're wandering in completely unexplored territory, and the road map provided by quantum physics only tells how lost we are."
"I have an idea. Remember how you identified the men that set up the bomb in Washington and then tracked them? Maybe we can do the same thing with these satellites. Can we take some of the data in the computer presentation and trace it back?"
Bill grinned and reached out to shake John's hand. "My friend, that is the best idea I've heard all day. I guess I'm too close to this, I should have thought of that myself."
Tracing the images on the computer turned out to be a much more difficult task than either man had anticipated. Jenny brought them lunch and then dinner. Paul stuck his head into the tiny room and asked if he could help as Farrell and Rodine followed one blind alley after another. Tracking the history path of digital data was much more difficult than following a hard target like a human body.
Paul had been watching Bill and his father and he must have been thinking about their problem for some time before he decided to ask his question. "Can you tell from the satellite orbit where it was launched from?"
Bill turned toward John's son. "I suppose so, but how would we use that?"
"Well if it's in a polar orbit, it was launched from Vandenberg in California. If it's an equatorial orbit, it came from Canaveral. If you can figure out when and where it was launched, you can look there and track it and find out where it is now."
"Now how in the world would you know that Paul?"
Paul shifted his feet. "I've been playing
'Satellite Battle' for weeks, you have to know about orbits just to
play the game."
Paul was indignant. "Dad, I'm not stupid, I watch what you're doing, and I even understand some of it. I know about the time camera and what it does. I even know a little about how it does it. I know there are men looking for us, and if they find us they will put us in jail or maybe even kill us." He pointed to the stack of equipment on the table. "I know you're trying to use that thing to keep them from finding us. I want to help."
Rodine looked at his son with renewed pride. "I think you just did. Here, take a look at the orbital charts and tell us what you think."
Paul studied the image of the chart on the monitor screen. Finally he pointed at a blurred number in the upper right hand corner. "Can you make that bigger?"
Farrell keyed some instructions into the computer and the image changed.
"ORBITAL INCLINATION 74.62 DEGREES." Paul pointed at the display. "It had to have been launched from Vandenberg. And look here, MISSION DAY 371. That has to mean that it was launched 371 days before this graph was made."
Farrell put his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Welcome to the team Paul, you may have just saved all our lives."
The rocket stood on its launch pad, white vapors streaming from its fuel tanks. A countdown clock showed T-55 seconds and counting.
At T-0 the engines ignited and the silver spindle rose into the sky on a pillar of fire and smoke. Farrell keyed in a sequence and the scene changed. Now the view was of the earth as seen from the rocket. The ground was falling away rapidly.
They found the launch of the second satellite the same way and using Paul's suggestions the coordinates of both birds were soon solidly stored in the time cameras computer.
Farrell then advanced the time regression to the point just before the helicopter saw them at the campground. The two satellites were over the North Atlantic and South Africa.
Bill Farrell began to poke around in the camera section of the satellite. "I'm trying to figure out how this thing works. If we can see what it's looking at, maybe we can tell when to zap the memory. Assuming that is what we did in that other timeline we were talking about."
Soon Bill placed a virtual camera at the image plane of the optical system in the satellite. He now had an image of what the satellite camera was looking at on one of the time camera monitors.
"Now, where did they say the memory locations were that were burnt out?"
Rodine brought up a picture of the memory map that Cohen had referred to in his presentation. "Rather accommodating of them to tell us exactly what to destroy, don't you think?"
"I'm not sure how to think about this any more. Well, lets see what if anything this thing saw." Farrell advanced the time regression to a point just before the time of memory failure and began to watch the monitor.
The image swept through a large arc as the satellite camera was moved to its commanded position. Soon the camp ground came into view, and the image began to follow the road leading away from the camp. After about three minutes, the image of a large motor home appeared on the road. The satellite camera zoomed in on the image; it was Rodine's Winnebago
"OK John, do it."
John Rodine pressed the button that sent the prerecorded command sequence to the time camera. There was a brief hum, and the lights seemed to dim for an instant. "OK, Memory chips destroyed. I wonder if we are still the same people. Did we mess up causality, or did we just confirm it?"
About an hour later they performed the same procedure on the second satellite, and again nothing seemed to have happened except that some light emitting diodes on the memory boards flashed twice and then went out.
"Well, do you think we did it," asked John?
"I don't even know how to tell," said Bill.
Quantum Dynamics International Research Laboratory: Arizona
Billy Fox and Robert Horvath had an unpleasant
relationship from the start. Horvath regarded Fox as an interloper,
and Fox viewed Horvath as a snob who wasn't nearly as smart as he
thought he was. Both men were correct.
Unfortunately, the problem was much more difficult than either Horvath or Fox had anticipated. The Arizona camera would reliably provide images of any activity in the area near the camera, but as the distance was increased the images became unstable and finally broke up completely at a range of about ten miles. All attempts to use portable doppelgangers to solve the problem were unsuccessful. It was becoming more and more obvious to Fox that they were missing some vital aspect of the theory. Horvath, on the other hand, was convinced that the system had been sabotaged by Farrell or Rodine and all they had to do was to locate the problem, fix it, and the camera would work properly once more. Horvath had disassembled and reassembled the system at least twenty times examining all the parts microscopically. He found nothing. Nonetheless, he remained convinced that a deliberate flaw had been introduced and that was the cause of the difficulty.
One advantage of the disparate views held by the two men was that as they tried to solve the problem they rarely got in each other's way. Meanwhile, General Styles was becoming increasingly frustrated, and he was using Colonel Barton to take this frustration out on the engineers at the laboratory.
The laboratory staff was essentially under house arrest. Colonel Barton found himself as quasi-jailer to thirty-six people who were openly antagonistic toward him and the government activity at the lab. The problem was made worse by the fact that these people were needed to help Horvath solve the problem with the time camera. This meant that they had to have access to rooms full of complex equipment, none of which Barton understood. Horvath's warning about the nature of these people and how dangerous they were if provoked was always in the back of the Colonel's mind.
A collection of spare parts for the time camera had been located and Billy Fox busied himself assembling a second system. One of QDI's senior technical staff, Martin Gillis, had been assigned to provide assistance.
General Styles had approved the construction of a second machine and was encouraging its completion. If it worked, it might show if Fox was right about problems with the theory or if Horvath's insistence on sabotage was correct.
Fox had completed assembly of the second time camera, now known as TC II and was testing the particle pair generator when Colonel Barton had what appeared to be an epileptic seizure.
Barton had been questioning two members of Farrell's staff when suddenly he began to make choking sounds and then collapsed to the floor in convulsions. One of the staff members called for medical assistance, and two army medics quickly appeared and began to treat the Colonel. They injected him with anticonvulsants, put him on a gurney and carried him out of the room.
General Styles was convinced that somehow the two men had caused Barton's attack. As was Barton's practice, the questioning had been video taped using a concealed camera. A review of the tape showed nothing unusual. The two men were seated quietly across from the Colonel when he collapsed. One of the men attempted assistance while the other ran to the door and called for help. There did not appear to be any way that either of them could have caused the Colonel's problem.
Meanwhile, Fox had completed functional tests on the second time camera. He asked General Styles and Horvath to join him for the first attempt at time regression.
The pictures of the interior of the lab were startlingly clear. The new system appeared to work even better than the original camera. As Fox adjusted the regression settings, images of the lab vanished and soon the men were looking at bare Arizona landscape. He stopped at one thousand years when a group of people could be seen flashing by on the screen. They were very early American Indians. They appeared to be on a trek to the west.
Fox turned to the general and grinned in triumph. "Well, at least time regression works, now let's test for distance." He returned the regression to minus ten minutes and began to move the virtual camera toward the Western horizon. At a distance of about ten miles the image began to show noise artifacts, and at eleven miles it broke up completely. With the exception of better image quality, the new machine had the same limitations as the original.
"Well, I think that that rules out sabotage," said Fox. "These machines are essentially identical."
Perplexed, Styles turned to Horvath. "Well, where does that leave us?"
"Well, it's possible that they tampered with the spares, but I guess that's unlikely." He turned to Billy Fox. "OK then, let's assume that we don't have a complete understanding of the theory. What do we do next?"
"Well, while I don't think the problem is the result of someone tampering with the equipment, it is still possible that some additional component was in place when Farrell and Rodine demonstrated the system in Washington. Something that Farrell never told anyone about. I suggest, now that we have two identical machines, Dr. Horvath use one and I use the other to try to find out what's missing. I think the search will go at least twice as fast that way."
Styles turned to Horvath. "Well, what do you think?"
Grudgingly, Horvath responded. "I think Mr. Fox has a point. I have some ideas of where to look as does Mr. Fox. I think we better get started right away."
The general stood and prepared to leave the room. "Don't let me delay you gentlemen. You both have a lot of work to do and very little time in which to do it."
Farrell, Rodine and his son stared at the monitors. They had been watching the activities at the lab and were trying to assimilate what they had seen when Jenny stuck her head into the room. "When you men tire of playing God with the world, dinner's ready."
As they were being seated at the table Paul turned to his father. "What do you think happened to that Colonel, the one that's so mean to everybody?"
John looked at Bill Farrell quizzically and then gave a lopsided smile. "I don't know. Do you Bill?"
"I didn't have anything to do with it, or at least I don't think I did. I would bet that someone at the lab got tired of his bullying ways and decided to do something about it. You wouldn't have to use quantum teleportation to accomplish that."
"Well," said Paul. "that was pretty horrible, watching somebody having a fit like that. I wonder who did it and how."
Farrell poked at his beef stew with his fork. "Right now, I'm much more concerned about this Billy Fox. He might be smart enough to figure out what is going on with the lab cameras. We really need to keep a close watch on him."
John studied his potatoes and finally said. "Lets put a tag on him so we can see what he's up to."
"Good idea," said Farrell. "Right after this excellent dinner."
"It all came out of cans. You guys would be satisfied with anything." Jenny shook her head.
Billy Fox asked Horvath to take a look at his test results. "There is something here I want you to see." He started a video tape. It was a picture of part of an integrated circuit that had been magnified many times. Several of the junctions could be seen clearly. He held up a CPU chip and handed it to Horvath. "I ran an experiment on this. The video tape is a series of pictures taken of the silicon chip inside. I want you to see something."
The picture showed a fairly standard image of an integrated circuit central processing unit. Fox advanced the tape and the same image appeared but this time showed some slight grooves and spots that were not in the previous image. He advanced the tape even more and the number of grooves increased.
"Every time I looked at the same spot on the chip more of these grooves appeared. I think this the signature of the time camera. Every time we look at something, it does something to it. In the case of this IC chip, it leaves these marks in the silicon crystal. If I did this enough times it could cause the chip to fail. I think Farrell and Rodine did something like this to the scanner and the VH satellites."
Horvath examined the images. "I don't see how this can happen. We detect time displaced entangled pairs. How can observing do this to what we are looking at?"
"Because," said Fox, "I don't think that's how the camera actually works. Somehow, looking at this thing altered it and what's really important, it altered it in the past! Every time I looked at this computer chip I changed its history. Do you have any idea what that means?"
Horvath stared at the images once more. Finally he said sourly, "No, I don't."
"Well, unfortunately, I think I do. If I am right about this, the time camera is easily the most dangerous machine ever built. It could destroy the Universe."
Chapter SixThe most dangerous machine ever built.
Horvath turned to Fox. "Now just what is that supposed to mean? How can observing something be so dangerous?
"Quantum Physics, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, call it what you want. The act of observing alters the thing being observed no matter how you do the observing. With the Time Camera we are observing something using quantum states but we are sending those states into the past so our observation takes place in the past. The entangled particle pairs form a link between a point in the past and the present. So when we observe something in the past and we alter it, no matter how slightly, we alter the future history of the thing we observed. That future history is our past history so we are changing our history simply by looking at the past. This thing turns causality upside down."
"I don't believe it," said Horvath "We are observing with particles that occur naturally, those alterations have already been made. Simply intercepting their entangled counterparts in the present can't change the past."
"That would be true if that was how it worked. Remember, the relationship between entangled particle pairs is a two way street. I think we've discovered what Farrell and Rodine did, or more precisely, didn't do. I think the secret of the Time Camera is that they teleport entangled quantum states into the past and observe the stay-at-home states to get the images. That will alter history. They didn't tell you that."
"Look Fox, I designed this thing I think I know how it works."
"You may have discovered how to use quantum teleportation in computers but I suspect that it was Farrell that realized it could be turned into a Time Camera. Didn't he build the first one that actually produced pictures? Didn't he have this thing operating" he gestured toward the original camera system "when you first saw it?"
"Well, yes but the original concept is mine. He had to have built on that."
"Oh, I am sure he did but he didn't tell you everything he discovered along the way. He must have come up with some feature or process or something that he didn't tell you about. We have to find out what it is and why he didn't tell you."
"Well, I suppose that's possible but I still don't see where the danger comes from."
Fox thought to himself Wow, this guy has a Ph.D. and can't see something obvious, or maybe he refuses to see it. "Ok, let me put it this way, suppose for some reason you went into the past and observed either your mothers egg or your fathers sperm just before you were conceived and in the act of observing you inadvertently made some slight change to the DNA. Would you still be you? And if you were not you would you go back and look?"
"Well aside from the fact that that is a really disgusting example I think I see what you mean. There may be a way to test your theory. That CPU chip you marked up. What if we do a time regression to a point before you made your first observation and look at the same area. If you are right it would leave a new mark that doesn't show up on your video tape. Then if we look again and see the first mark that would tell us something."
Fox sat quietly for over a minute as he pondered Horvath's suggestion. "A very interesting idea. Here is a question for you. Let's assume we do what you suggest and the new marks show up just like you think they will. Now we have a picture that is different from what's on the tape. Here is my question, if that happens, where did the pictures on this tape come from?"
Farrell took a break from his latest investigations with the camera. John had left the room and had gone with Jenny to a Seven-Eleven that was just down the street from the underground parking structure. They were running low on supplies and needed to restock. Bill Farrell hoped they would return soon because he wanted to discuss the latest developments at the lab with John. This fellow Fox was beginning to frighten him.
Shortly, the door to the Winnebago opened and Jenny and John walked in. They were both carrying large bags and John had a broad grin on his face.
As Farrell and Paul helped them unpack their bags and put things away bill said "I hope you didn't use a credit card for all this, that would be a dead giveaway."
"Naw" said John "I got lucky with the pick three lottery, won four hundred and fifty bucks. That should keep us going for a while."
"Really," said Bill "And the Time Camera wouldn't have had anything to do with that would it?"
"John's grin faded a bit "Well, after that stunt you pulled with the coin flip I figured I would try something. I read the Pick Three results this morning and sent them to me yesterday evening. I figured that if I didn't have anything to do with picking the numbers it might work, and it did."
"Why didn't you go for the Lotto or even the Power Ball?"
"Do you really think it would be a good idea for Jen and me to be on the evening news? The clerk can pay out up to six hundred bucks no questions asked, after that they need names and addresses and they send you the money. I didn't think we would want to do that."
"Well, at least we won't starve. Did they have a security camera in the store? They usually do."
John said "I noticed three cameras but there could be more. They have one recorder and a multi-camera switcher and they reuse the tape every day if there is no robbery. So unless someone sticks up the place before tomorrow morning we're safe."
"Well, even so, maybe we should have a look at that tape tomorrow just to make sure you weren't recognized. By the way, there is something I would like you to see."
After watching the tape of the conversation between Horvath and Fox, John turned to Bill. "Do you think he's right? Is the camera that dangerous?"
"I don't know but there may be a way to find out without blowing up the universe. I've been thinking about your lottery win. We should try sending some messages to ourselves in the past. Not just numbers but actual text, maybe even pictures."
"But if we do that won't it screw up the present or the future or what ever? Anyway, how can we do that?"
"What I had in mind was just using an old computer as a receiver. Right now the system works by teleporting quantum charges into the memory array of the printer and then triggering the print command. The computer program in the camera has the coordinates of the memory chip and its memory map but its capacity is only a few hundred characters. I figured we could use that old laptop of Paul's to give us more memory space. He hasn't used it since you got him that new hand held computer. It may take a while to get the program working but it's worth a try."
John retrieved the small computer from a stack of equipment in the corner of the room and plugged it in. After the machine finished booting up a message appeared on the screen. "YOU HAVE NEW MAIL"
John clicked the appropriate spot in the window and the message was replaced by what looked like a long email. It was addressed to Bill and John and was from Bill and John. The time and date stamp on the message was three days six hours and forty two minutes in the future.
The message read as follows:
General Styles read the medical report for the third time. He turned to Doctor Zambrosian. "I don't understand this at all. 'Sudden onset of grand mall seizure, cause unknown. No previous neurological pathology, patient currently comatose.' What does this mean?"
"It means we don't know what happened to the Colonel but we can't rule out the possibility that his condition was artificially induced."
"But how? We reviewed the videotapes and there was no one near him. Do you have any idea how someone could bring on this kind of seizure undetected?"
"Simply put, I don't know. However, there are several ways that this kind of condition can be brought on artificially. There are certain chemicals that might do it and it's also possible to use a combination of flashing lights and pulsing sounds to cause this kind of attack. It's a new area of research. There is a group at UCLA medical center in Los Angeles that are working on some of these techniques. I've been in contact with the head of that department but so far the information isn't very useful."
The general fumbled in his pocket for a notebook. "Well, whatever you've discovered may be of some help. I'm convinced that someone at the lab in Arizona did this but before we can find out who we need to know how. You mentioned chemicals, can you tell me what they are?"
The doctor flipped through a stack of papers. "Kainic acid and Domoic acid are known seizure induction agents. These chemicals are alkaloid toxins and are derived from types of seaweed that is sometimes found washed up on shore in Japan and also in the in the Sea of Japan. They have been used in the study of epilepsy and similar neurological disorders."
"Did your toxicology report turn up any evidence of these chemicals?"
"Not yet but we are doing a refined screen now to look for them. There is also another possibility. Flashing lights and sounds that are synchronized to the alpha rhythm of the brain. But that would show up on the video and would probably have affected the other two men in the room as well. It is a mystery and that's for sure."
Styles sighed. "Well how is Colonel Barton doing now? Will he recover?"
Zambrosian organized the sheaf of papers and put them back in their manila folder. "Hard to say. The EEG is not hopeful. He might recover to some degree but everything points to rather severe damage to the limbic centers of the brain. Another seventy-two hours should tell us how much damage. I have to be honest with you, right now it doesn't look good. As I said before, it's looking more and more like this was artificially induced. Do you know of anyone that would want to hurt him in this way?"
"Styles put the copy of the medical report into his briefcase. "Yep, about thirty or so people that would not be heartbroken to see something unfortunate happen to the Colonel. And every one of them is smart enough to pull this off. You know it's strange but Dr. Horvath, the director of the lab, hinted that something like this could happen. He said his staff were 'some of the most dangerous people on earth.' I am beginning to understand what he meant."
Jenny drove while Paul navigated. He held a stop watch and was checking the timing for each traffic light and intersection telling his mother to go faster or slower so as to keep in step with the times shown on the map. The map from the future, if that's what it was, seemed almost magical. If they saw a police car it was just turning away from them and the officer never looked in their direction. In the distance Paul could see a Hum Vee with several military people inside but it was headed away from them. The soldiers never looked back and they never saw the motor-home. When they pulled into the gas station that the map described there was no one there but the attendant. They filled the tanks without incident and left before any other customers arrived. John noticed one thing with interest; the security cameras were out of order. He suspected that he knew why.
Finally they were well out of Flagstaff and headed
down State highway 89 for Red Rock Canyon country and Sedona. They
were headed toward a destination that was clouded in the mists of
things yet to come and known only by their own future selves, if indeed
their future selves still existed, for no more messages from that
future had arrived.
To be continued . . .