Story

Oct. 31st, 2009 11:51 am
lihtox: (Default)
[personal profile] lihtox
I woke up with the idea of a story in my head, and I spent the last hour on a first draft. Thought some of you might be interested in reading it (particularly the professional authors in the audience, *cough cough*). Just a first draft, of course; I may want to play around with the names and dates.


===============
RIPPLES
Scott Hill (©2009)

Date: October 15, 2050
Dear Bill,
I hope you are having a pleasant semester back at Williams. I wanted to let you know that your student Rachel Gibbons seems to be settling in well at the Institute. Although she's a bit older than the typical graduate student, she doesn't seem to have any difficulty getting along with the rest of the lab. She learns quickly, and has already run a couple of excursions.

Things have been going very well since you finished your sabbatical here. We've made several more successful excursions, one as far back as 2010. There are whispers of "Nobel Prize" in the air, but of course it's much too early to talk about that. If there is a prize, however, surely your model of Temporal Conservation should win you a share of it.

Yvonne sends her love; the pregnancy is going smoothly and we're really excited for our son to be born next month! When are you ever going to settle down, you old dog? :)

All the best.

Scott

------------
Date: October 20, 2050
Dear Bill,
It's been ages since I've written to you, but I wanted to update you about things at the Temporal Institute, since I know how interested you've always been in the possibility of time travel. We've made about 100 excursions into the past during the past year, going as far back as 1993. It requires a tremendous amount of energy to get back that far, but with future improvements in fusion technology we hope to dive back further into the historical era. Getting past my birthdate was a big achievement, though!

We were finally successful in enticing Dr. Rachel Gibbons into joining us from Stanford. It was her model of Temporal Conservation that has made all of this possible. She has become very interested in the practical aspects of time travel, and has led several excursions into the past herself now. We've been out for a few drinks here and there and she's a very charming person; if I weren't already married, I'd think there was some chemistry there.

Security is a real concern here; we are always aware of the potential dangers in mucking about in the time stream. Access is strictly limited to members of the lab, and every use is carefully logged. The log computer is stored in one of your Temporal Stasis fields so that it resists changes in the timestream, so that if someone does access the machine they won't be able to tamper with the records. We do get anomalies in the log, as our excursions into the past make small changes to our own history. Just this past week, we noticed an entry for Rachel Gibbons making an excursion to 2032 on October 15, even though she only arrived yesterday. Odd stuff.

I don't know if I told you that we are expecting our first child next month. Do you remember my wife Yvonne, from college? She's been teaching physics at the community college down the street. It's been a sacrifice for her, and I try not to take her for granted; maybe in a couple years I will retire as head of the Institute, and we can move somewhere where she can get tenure. Maybe we'll end up in your neck of the woods, eh? Yvonne has always loved New England.

All the best.

Scott Jacobson

-----------------
Date November 28, 2050
Dear Bill,
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you and Yvonne are well. Congratulations on the new baby! Is he your third now? I think it's amazing that you've been willing to stay home with the kids while Yvonne teaches at Williams; I'm not sure I'd be willing to make that sacrifice. I sound positively twentieth century, I know. :) Rachel and I are too absorbed in our work here at the Temporal Institute to think of kids. I probably wouldn't make a very good father, anyway.

Last week we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Institute: it was five years ago that Rachel and I made our first excursion to 2042, when we finally put her theory and my engineering to the test. There are whispers about a Nobel Prize for both of us, which would be amazing of course.

Funny thing happened in the lab last month. You remember our excursion log system, which uses your Temporal Stasis field? It occasionally shows anomalies as our excursions make minor modifications to the timestream: this trip left a few minutes earlier, this trip had an extra student along, etc. Well, the log listed two solo excursions back in October, one by "Rachel Gibbons" and one by "Dr. Rachel Gibbons". I showed the entries to Rachel and she laughed; said she hadn't seen her maiden name written out in years. She suggested that perhaps, in a previous timestream, she decided to keep her maiden name for professional purposes. Maybe that's it, but it worries me: we are so careful not to make any changes, but as we go further back in time (we got back to the 1950s last month), could we be making more dramatic changes to the timestream? Could we be affecting marriages, careers, lives here? Theory says no: our actions on these excursions are carefully planned to make minimal changes to the timeline, and theory says that we would have to do something drastic--- talk to someone in the past, leave objects behind, etc--- to make more than a ripple in the timestream.

Well, something to think about; maybe I'll get another paper out of it anyway. :) Speaking of which, I saw your paper in PRL the other day; glad to see the kids haven't kept you completely out of the game.

All the best.
Scott Jacobson

-----------------
Date December 1, 2050
Dear Bill,
Rachel has finished up her maternity leave, and so I have officially joined the ranks of stay-at-home fathers. I'm nervous about putting my career on hold like this, but Rachel is so busy as director of the Institute that I was the logical choice. Eric sleeps next to our bed so that Rachel can feed him overnight and let me sleep (bless her), but I'm still only partially coherent most of the time. Still, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

It's been an excellent year at the Institute. It was the tenth anniversary of Rachel's first excursion into the past, and last October we finally broke into the 19th century. That was my trick, and I was pretty pleased with myself: Rachel has always been one step ahead of me in this business, and it felt so good to figure something out myself first. Sometimes, to tease her, I tell her that I should take a trip back and give my younger self a copy of her textbook, so that I could be the one to discover time travel. She always just smiles and says nothing.

Rachel is leaving next week for Oslo next week to accept her Nobel Prize; I wish I could go with her, but Eric is too young to fly so far, and I don't want to leave him with a sitter. I'll tap into the video feed of course. Since I'm going to be at loose ends with Eric, maybe we could make a trip up to Williams to visit next week? It would be great to see you again, and you can give me some pointers on what to do with this little fellow.

Hope the new year brings you
All the best,
Scott Gibbons

Edit: I mixed up Rachel and Yvonne in the last letter; fixes in bold.

Date: 2009-11-01 02:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stealthmuffin.livejournal.com
Hmm. I like the way you've told this, and the trick of figuring out what's changed and how between the letters is very nice (I had to check the dates on the first two, and that gave me a nice shock of something not right here.)

Two things: I'm not quite certain I know what's been going on by the end -- Rachel's been taking advantage of the experiment to further her own career, to teach a younger self? -- and you might need a little more clarity there. Also, I'm not entirely sure what's been resolved by the end of the story. Why is he back with Yvonne, for one; what has Rachel continued to do in the past, for another; and is this the last round of changes? If so, what makes this last round the place where it stops (either for the characters -- maybe Rachel has all she wanted, maybe the narrator's now in a situation he enjoys -- or for the readers, who would need either a sudden click of "things are now in the right spot" or some emotional resolution).

Do you want a full crit? I can cobble one together over the next week.

Date: 2009-11-02 12:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] scottahill.livejournal.com
I completely mixed up Rachel and Yvonne in the last letter, making the story a lot weirder than I intended! :) I've fixed that. (I also fixed the date of the last letter; it was originally in January, but I moved it to December to be in time for the Nobel ceremonies, and forgot to change the year. I was thinking about putting in more dates and ages to make it clearer that Rachel was visiting her past self.)

My picture is that Rachel is the only one (of the main characters) who considered changing history for her own benefit, by going back and tweaking her life. This is the final scenario because Rachel has everything she wants. It's a short-short, and it's being told by someone who has no idea what's happening, so there are a couple of open questions, chiefly being what kind of person Rachel really is: is she a sociopath? Does she feel remorse? Was she careful to make Scott's life fairly happy as well, maybe even happier than it was before (though with less worldly success)? I don't know. Maybe I'd lean towards the latter theories, and maybe I could drop a hint in the earlier letters that Scott is wishing for a family.

I'm a little nervous about a full crit (whatever that means exactly-- it sounds technical), but ultimately I'd be interested in your further comments, so fire away. (But no rush!)

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