The Patriotic Time Loop
by Nathaniel Bates
Dedicated to the Memory of Jason Zarri, Scholardarity Editor. His untimely death at such a young age was the death of a Philosopher. We will not be the same without him.
The following is a work of historical science fiction. Some actual historical figures are represented while others are invented persons. Some theories of physics are accurate while others are casually speculative. Any similarity to actual historical figures is merely coincidental. Of course, that is what I would want you to think.
Marx once declared he was not a Marxist. Jesus might have said he was not a Christian. If one studies the mystical thought of Newton one realizes that he was not a “Newtonian” in the sense that he did not believe in a mechanistic Universe. Darwin was probably not a “Darwinian.” Was the pacifist leaning Oppenheimer a nuclear scientist? I pondered the unanswerable when I stared at the statue of Oppenheimer and Leslie Groves, staring to a point of intersection over the center divider of a small road. I had the best bagel sandwich in a long time of pouring over equations and the delicious cheese inspired what passed for philosophical thoughts since leaving University. I was hired on as a theoretical physicist but in Los Alamos one’s position is always fluid once Clearance is granted.
I was a radical in University and joined several anarchist and socialist organizations. I figured I would remain a theoretical physicist and never get moved around because I would never be granted Clearance in a million years in the stronghold of America’s National Security establishment. But, moved around I was, once Clearance was granted. I quickly absorbed concepts in Applied Physics, Mathematics, Engineering, and even Biological Science. The only thing I did not figure out was what to do with Doubt. Even going to work for Los Alamos National Lab, or LANL as we knew it, was nothing short of a crisis of conscience. Oppenheimer and other early Manhattan Project scientists underwent a similar crisis of conscience that was quickly resolved for them once the McCarthy era repression set in and they lost the all-important Clearance. Oppenheimer himself was spit out due to claims he was a Communist or at least soft on leftism. I lived with the daily fear that my own insignificant life might mirror his should my membership in the “No State and No Capitalism” society become the subject of any real investigation.
Los Alamos was a community in which people internalized secrecy. It was part of our DNA as much as nucleic acid. Most of the community was conservative; a fact of life after the McCarthy era ended the free-wheeling Manhattan Project era, and knew I was somehow different. Yet, a tolerance set in once people knew me. Toleration and secrecy go together in remote places where man must come to terms with his fellow man if he is going to survive. Nuclear scientists are fathers and mothers. Nuclear scientists want a peaceful world also, and honestly believe that they must do what they are doing if democratic society is going to survive. Nuclear scientists are men and not monsters, a fact of human reality lost on my more youthful self, which could not accept the fact that I had to sacrifice my youthful idealism on the altars of the idolatrous god of Work and goddess of Survival, a sacrifice that I considered they required. I eventually convinced myself that the only way more radical alternatives would survive in the world is if liberal democracy survived against its challenges among repressive regimes and terrorist threats, a line of thought that put me in the mainstream of Los Alamos even if I never admitted it to myself. I quickly began to embrace a career path that was the opposite of what I had once embraced. The reality that Berkeley was long behind me set in as I stared at the fire-burned hills and longed for the weekends when I could embrace the green still left on the other side of them.
Thoughts of my trip to Jemez Springs drifted away as I realized that lunch was ending and that Work awaited my return. The taste of the bagel sandwich was still in my mouth when I entered the Project Leader’s Office. “Doctor Specter,” he began in a firm tone of voice that sent fear throughout my body. I opened my mouth to apologize for being delayed and that I would stay later, but he cut me off, “It is time for the next step in your career. It is time for an enhanced clearance beyond what is ordinarily known. It is been granted now and we will begin.” I was stunned when he took me by the arm and moved me to an elevator behind his desk. We were inside of the elevator when I had enough meta-cognition to realize that the taste of the bagel was gone from my memory.
I had always heard strange rumors of something underneath Los Alamos. The fact that I was there happened too quickly for me to respond to it with anything less than numb shock. It was a good thing I had a good lunch. I was brought to a room and the Project Leader intoned cryptically, “Forget all of the nuclear business. Nuclear is part of what we do here, but there are many more secrets than just that. Nuclear is important; it is to keep the Russians on their toes and the Iranians scared. But there is more. Down here you will see wormholes, zero point energy, the bending of space-time and other deep secrets that never get out. As a theoretical physicist, this is your new home. You are one of the lucky few.” Stable wormholes? Such a thing is not very likely given….known principles of physics. I trembled but began, “Sir. The amount of energy required to make a wormhole stable would be astronomical not to mention the fact that we do not have a stable theory of exotic matter. All of these are possible given known laws of physics, but well beyond our capabilities.” The Boss simply smiled, a smile that inferred to me that there was much about our capabilities that would never see the light of day. I was taken to the wormhole room. At least it was a room with a wormhole in it even if I never knew what to call it. The gravity (or lack thereof) of this situation finally dawned on me.
The Boss left and I realized I had a new Boss. “Doctor Specter,” a handsome man in a non-characteristic formal dark suit never worn by any scientist I had ever met in LANL before, “Please call me Jonathan. My last name is unimportant.” I was given a total indoctrination. The wormhole was part of a series of wormholes that honeycombed through time. In order to achieve such effect, it would be necessary to place the ends of wormholes in other time frames. Current Physics made placing one end of a wormhole back in time possible but unlikely. However, the future was a whole other time with possibilities beyond our imagination. A wormhole end from the future could be rotated around a large gravitational body and possibly sent back in time, that is, if Godelian time travel theories stood up to scrutiny. It was a wormhole network and not one wormhole merely, all intelligently designed. Apparently these wormholes were placed at strategic times in human history, including our own time, which seemed to suggest that whoever placed them knew what they were doing. They even knew where the underground secret lab was at Los Alamos and how to surprise a bunch of physicists who as brilliant as they were would have no ability to create what they saw appear before them. This was no cover story. Without a doubt, the wormhole came from the future. Eventually someone from the future came through the wormhole and identified himself as a human who was part of a galactic civilization that would be well in the future. All of this was told to me just an hour after I was in the afternoon sun staring at the simple beauty of Fuller Lodge and the statues of long dead town heroes on this side of the fire-burned hills.
I blinked and the story continued. This visitor was now mobbed with questions. Security was not allowed in the Bunker. No guns were pointed at him but each question was a bullet of curiosity. I asked him, “Why is it that the creation of this network of wormholes in your own past did not alter the timeline or create new causalities in parallel Universes?” He answered, “The wormholes connected what to me was the past with my present in a way that would never break causality. By observing a given quantum state in the past it was as if I were observing it in the present, creating a time loop that could never be altered. What could be altered is my own future, our distant future, which would exist after the wormhole network’s most distant future. In other words, by observing the past I could then alter its meaning for the remote distant future after my time, even if my own past remained constant.” It did not take this Los Alamos physicists long to realize that our own observations of what would be our own past would have a similar effect on what the past would mean for our own far distant future. It also did not take long for me to realize the national security implications of such a fact.
We could send someone back in to the past in order to alter its meaning for the future. Of course, whatever future we created would be the future that visited us on that fateful day, but since not a lot was known about it we had the freedom to maneuver. No parallel Universe would be created we conjectured because we were in a closed time loop. Einstein would be proud since quantum uncertainty would not affect causality, at least in the near future. The uncertainty principle would create no problems for our own return from the past should we decide to embark on such a journey. There were uncertainties nonetheless. Our visitor came from a time before the humans and aliens joined into one civilization, but with the aliens at a slight advantage commercially and politically. The aliens from the visitor’s immediate past had manipulated the wormhole network and were using it to alter the meaning of their future, which was well after the formation of the visitor’s own civilization. They were changing his future to give themselves an even greater advantage. Nothing the visitor did in our time would change his future, but since his future had not been observed yet there was a paradoxical room for him and us to maneuver. It was a peaceful competition between our descendents and Them, but one that had to be taken seriously.
Our wormhole connected us to the period just before the American Revolution. The wormhole would only stay stable for so long, and we had limited windows in which to intervene. The less morally advanced aliens of his past were going to head back in time and try to influence the direction of the American Revolution. That is all he would tell us. We were on a Need to Know basis, something we at LANL understood very well. What I did know is that I was the lucky one chosen to be sent back in time to Ben Franklin’s study during the period just prior to the American Revolution, based on the presumption that a theoretical physicist from the present would somehow speak sense to an eminent scientist in the days that bifocals were the latest App, and electricity shock parties the flash gatherings of the time. You have got to hand it to government logic. It may not be the most efficient but it knows how to get the best talent. At least I was chosen with the Democrats in the White House. Under Republicans I would never have passed the background check.
Of course I jumped at the chance. Meeting Benjamin Franklin was the dream of a scientist, the dream of a thinker, and the cartoon special of every American childhood. Sadly, my having been chosen did not endear me to the others in my new division. In order to understand why, I have to explain something about the sociology of Los Alamos Laboratories. One never refers to anyone as “doctor.” It is a social faux pas that extends back to the Manhattan Project in which such a reference was a security risk. In modern times, the reasons go much deeper. My PhD allowed me to go to the past and see history through a stable wormhole. It is one thing for a PhD to have a special line in the cafeteria (one did not) but this was taking educational and status divisions to a whole new level. Most in the underground division had to deceive their friends and neighbors as to exactly where in the lab they worked. This was no easy task since they lived in a small town among people who were deeply suspicious of anyone who seemed out of place and my colleagues felt they should be compensated for that loss somehow. At least they felt they should have been compensated for the sense of the loss of wholeness in their lives by making the surprise visit to Benjamin Franklin a team effort representing all of them.
Even the Federal government did not do time travel by committee, so I was the one with the sole burden of handling travel through a stable wormhole. Fortunately, the traveler from the future left us with a few helpful tools. A special suit allowed us to handle the changes in gravitation that I would experience. (The alien competitors apparently did have the quantum theory of gravity that eludes us in our time.) I would appear in this suit and appear inside of Ben Franklin’s office in a wormhole that would only be stable for so long and hope for the best. Something told me that tarring and feathering could be the least of my problems if the eighteenth century Patriots perceived me as someone threatening. However, I knew that the adventure of a lifetime awaited and that I was first and foremost a scientist. I had to know how the Universe worked and I would know. It was not but two hours before I was off through a tunnel in space-time leading me to the Post Master General’s Office in 1775. I stood before a spectacled scientist who saw a mysterious tunnel appear in his room expecting fear or rage. What I saw instead was curiosity, as if he were expecting me, or at least expecting the Universe to be mysterious. “Hello,” he began excitedly, as if no time has passed between his surprise and his curiosity, “are you a denizen of the spheres? Mars? I must know!”
This was not the mobbing I expected, but I would accept it. It turned out that Franklin had his own dealings with the aliens from the future, and was not surprised. “I am a man. I come from the future,” I responded at which point Ben Franklin looked a bit cross. He was hoping for more interactions with his friends from off planet. He looked mystified, but soon smiled. An interaction with a human from the future might be just as interesting. We discussed the latest developments in science. By latest developments I meant Relativity, Quantum Physics and Biology. Franklin was very surprised by the idea that space and time itself could bend. He was even more surprised by some of the strange behaviors of subatomic particles described by Quantum Physics. He was scandalized by the theory of evolution, but he appeared to be satisfied by the idea that speciation was really caused by a selection process and not some mysterious élan vital. Erasmus Darwin was a good friend but a bit overly romantic, whereas his grandson Charles was level headed. Franklin was not a fan of mysterious transformations but something as banal as selection he could accept. The idea that a chimp was a close relative of humans gave him no end of pleasure. Some humans bore the family resemblance very well, he quipped, with a vague reference to His Majesty George III.
The conversation turned to politics. Franklin wanted to know how the conflict with the Crown would end. I told him that there was only one way freedom would be accomplished was through independence. Franklin was somber, feeling the loss of the mother country as profoundly as one feels the loss of a friend. Britain was the homeland of liberty, the free air of England being the birthplace of the freedom that the Patriots were battling to preserve. The idea that only an independent nation with a written Constitution that did not rely on judicial precedent alone would allow individual rights to survive the transition to industrialism and the space age was a revolutionary concept. It would not be absorbed in one sitting. The Patriots were still fighting for what they considered their rights as Englishmen and might take separation as treason. Many were adamant Puritans who would see the scientist from the future as an incarnation of Old Nick himself. Separation from the King still meant separation from God for many colonists and such a concept as independence proclaimed by a Godless scientist from the future might drive Patriots into the arms of the Crown.
Still, Franklin knew it had to be done. The colonists had to be persuaded to go their own path or the scientific civilization promised in the future would be in serious jeopardy. Otherwise old feudal traditions would stand, retarding science and holding back human progress. Deep in his heart, Franklin knew himself that he would never truly be a full Englishman after he was driven out of his high position in London by a court of mockers. Yes, he realized that he deserved to lose his position for having read the mail of fellow gentlemen, no matter how noble the cause. It was the mockery exhibited by his enemies that was unfitting treatment of an Englishman. The mockery established him as a foreigner.
Independence from England was only something an Englishman could accomplish because otherwise it was a radical innovation that would not be trusted. It had to be the mechanic philosopher Paine. Only Thomas Paine had the penmanship to accomplish the revolution in attitudes that would lead to the United States of America described so eloquently by the future scientist in his most ungentlemanly suit. I would need a new suit if I were going to fit in to the America of powdered wigs and quill pens.
Franklin arranged a meeting between the Man from the Future and Thomas Paine. Paine was more suspicious than Franklin, a suspicion born of life in cosmopolitan England in which Franklin’s genteel trust of strangers would be naïve. I explained my case to Tom, as I eventually came to call him, and he became more and more animated. I made my second convert, one even more energetic than Franklin himself. We would have our tract titled “Common Sense,” meant to appeal to the ordinary sense of the colonists. I told Paine to wait until 1776 for publication when the time would be ready. All would go according to plan. I held the wisdom of the future in my hands and it was within the power of human kind to begin the world again as in the days of Noah, or so Paine himself wrote so eloquently.
I entered Franklin’s office and told him I would see him soon. I suited up so that I could withstand the gravitational forces of the wormhole and left for the deep and dark underground of Los Alamos. The Project Leader stood right in front of me and smiled. I had passed my first assignment with flying colors. America would become a great nation that would value her independence. As I took off my suit for a period of rest and recuperation, I could not lose the vaguely sinister nature of the Project Leader’s smile. This mission was more than it appeared on the surface. It was less about the future than it was about the present. Influencing the past meant influencing the future. I had, in effect, started a war that would serve as a precedent for future wars in which America cast herself as the champion of freedom. Such a position was a double edged sword. All wars are cast as being wars for freedom, or wars for profit depending on the side one takes. We fought for freedom against the British but often sided against freedom when it came to supporting right-wing dictators during the Cold War. Never forget that Republics become Empires. I had a vague unease when I briefly wondered whether the mission was about freedom for itself or “freedom” as a pretext. I soon suppressed my doubt when I remembered that without this intervention the whole concept of social change would remain suppressed in the mists of feudal darkness.
There was one more intervention that I had to undertake to make sure that the American Revolution began on track. As I passed through the wormhole, I walked toward the Second Continental Congress. It was 1776 and the Convention was divided. Some colonists felt that separation was treason, and that we should aim for a relationship to England similar to that of equal nations in a common union which was later established by the British Commonwealth. Separation was too radical for their tastes. Some in the South feared that an independent nation would become “democratical” and thus a threat to slavery. A few Puritans in the North feared the radical Deists among the Conventioneers as much as they feared the “tyrant King of England.” The former were in league with atheist philosophers while the latter was in league with Jesuit enemies of Protestantism. A choice between those two camps was hard since they had to decide whom they hated more. Finally, there was a fear of slavery and its spread among some in the North otherwise inclined toward separation, and a strong sense of hypocrisy when they saw Virginians crying for liberty. They hoped that the new nation would be a confederacy and not a union, since a union would mean a great deal of power for slave owners.
It was into this division that I entered. Franklin immediately recognized me as I was dressed in black. He acknowledged me as “the Professor” and implied that I carried the hidden wisdom of the philosophers of Europe. There were enough Freemasons and earnest seekers of mystery that I was allowed in under the invitation of Franklin. Some even knew I was from the future. It was all kept secret in the Lodge, of course. I stood up and gave the best rousing speech I could give. I was a member of radical student organizations in college, and felt in the depths of my heart that humanity can change the world if unified. The ideals of the “No State and No Capitalism” were still buried deep in my being. It almost scared me the sincerity of it all. “God has given America to be free!” were words that came deep from within me. There was wild enthusiasm as the measure for independence passed.
I left the Convention Hall before anyone could detain me and ask who I was. My speech would go down in Masonic legend as that of a “mysterious stranger” who appeared before the Convention and urged them to freedom. I felt my place in history keenly. I knew that I had influenced America for the better. If I had not intervened, would independence still have been certain? The answer is that I had to intervene because I had already intervened hundreds of years in my past. No alterations were possible. What I did not know was whether my attitude, my thoughts, my deepest passions were themselves determined. If so, then I had no free will. The difference was between a merely mechanical intervention on the part of the military-industrial complex I had given my working life to but never my full obedience versus a passion for freedom. My job and my deepest inclinations both led me to the same historical act but for different reasons. In the moment of passion before the Convention I meant every word I said and knew that a glorious future was possible if man only set aside poverty, racism and…war itself. I made it back to the wormhole, but I knew that more interventions were to come, even as they already came in my own past.
I was back in the Bunker in what I felt was modern times, debriefing and relaxing. Still, disturbing thoughts came to my mind more and more. My dedication was in making sure that the American democratic impulse continued well in to the future, that it would matter. I wanted to make sure that the future was not some impersonal future in which popular participation meant nothing. Even inveterate radical Noam Chomsky, a critic of American foreign policy, believed in the inherently radical promise of what Paine offered the world. Even so, my sense was that the Lab hierarchy had another agenda. They wanted national independence for the sake of the military power that would arise and not so much for democracy as its own ideal. Specifically, they wanted American military might to mold the coming future. The two goals may intertwine in some ways, but they were inherently different in that military may need “democracy” as a slogan but there was very little in the way of actual popular participation desired. Most citizens of Northern New Mexico, be they Indian, Hispanic, or the liberal Anglo’s of Santa Fe or Taos, had very little in the way of input in to a Lab that affected their futures. Most scientists in Los Alamos did not have that much more of an influence. Much was made of “radiation leaks,” much hyped about real or imagined health dangers from radiation. What was almost never discussed was the fact that a Lab that could have been dedicated to peaceful exploration of space or nuclear electricity generation remained tied to militarism.
The very, very distant future must have a plan or none of this would be happening. It might be that they had no other choice but to build the wormholes because the wormholes already appeared in their own past. But, they at least had a choice as to what the wormholes meant to them. They had a choice in their own future, which did not happen yet. I had to have faith that their own future meant something to them that it might not have meant to the aliens in the intermediate future or to the humans in the present. I would continue the mission with full faith in its benevolent outcome. It was a faith-based position unbecoming of a scientist. But, it was my position and I had no choice but to stick with it. My country was depending on me—-in 1780. Better late than never.
The wormhole was ready to appear in General Washington’s encampment in his personal quarters. I would speak to him personally as he undoubtedly knew of me. Franklin had indeed told him about the Professor from the future who spoke words of “philosophic wisdom,” an eighteenth century term for science that could also be confused for metaphysics. As I appeared in his office while he was alone, the General did not reach for any weapon. He looked at me with a stoic determination to face the world as it was, with its terrors as well as its wonders. As we conversed tersely, with some distrust on his part, I told him that I would need to be a part of the Culper Spy Ring in some capacity. Washington smiled, and realized that only a true Patriot from the future would even remember such a detail of history that in his time was known only to a select few. I smiled too and realized that he was one of the few American Generals who did not fear that I was a potential subversive.
No one ever knew who Agent 355 of the Culper Ring was. Many theories had been proposed but none proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It turns out that no theory was correct. I was introduced to a woman who was young, unmarried and unknown. She was a member of a Tory household but she herself was a secret Patriot. Her name was Sarah Nettie and she would spy for the Patriots on friends of her own household. She was committed to liberty; a liberty that she assumed would be extended to all humans after the Revolution, Black as well as White, Red as well as Colonist, Female as well as Male. It saddened me to know that her vision would take some time but I did not have the heart to tell her. I would pretend to be Sarah’s husband while she travelled some distance to report on who might have been an influence on Benedict Arnold. We also wanted to know what networks he might have created that would function either as spies during the Revolution, or perhaps an Anglophile network within the new Republic if independence were ever won.
History never recorded Sarah’s existence but I knew her sad end. She would inevitably die on a prison ship after which point no one would hear from her again. Her heroism would be little known and her identity completely unknown. I struggled with the thought of warning her, of telling her to get as far away from this mission as possible, but I knew I could not. It was already the past. Instead, we went to Boston Massachusetts, the heart of Puritan Patriot Yankeedom, to uncover a possible Tory spy ring in the very heart of the resistance movement. George III knew he had lost Massachusetts, and would be glad to see it independent. He still hoped to hold on to the Deep South and the middle colonies in which Tory sympathizers could still be found. He would rather that New England become a Puritan Republic that would cease to be a bother to him. The New England Confederacy might even become an ally against France or Spain in the long run if he played his cards right. In order for this to happen, he needed to cultivate some degree of Tory sympathies among the population as a wedge to use for the time when he thought he could make a deal with Massachusetts and other Northern colonies to leave the Empire without taking other colonies with them. Even parts of Pennsylvania could possibly be salvaged while letting the Scots-Irish and the dissenters leave with New England. Washington, Henry, Mason and Jefferson would have to flee North from Virginia after the War in order to be free or else take degrading Oaths of loyalty to their King once again.
I knew that such a plan would damage the future Republic irreparably if it had succeeded. It would have another effect that would be devastating for human freedom. It would cement the future of slavery in a British Empire which would become the ally of slave owners who would remain loyal to the Crown while New England separated. British abolitionism was key to ending slavery. Keeping the South as a loyal dominion would alter all of that since the Crown would remain a bulwark for slavery against its opponents. George III’s secret plan would have ended it. I did not have time to reflect on such an abhorrent thought when Sarah and I arrived in Boston pretending to be husband and wife. We checked in to an inn without causing any suspicion. I glanced at this beautiful lady with locks in her hair. I would be sleeping on the floor, I knew. A full night’s sleep on hard wood and I would be meeting with a soldier in the Washington’s Army that we suspected was being groomed by Tories as an agent of influence in Boston.
Charles Worthington was Sarah’s cousin, although he kept this fact low key because being related to Tories aroused suspicion. I claimed to represent a leading European bank offering the Patriot cause a loan. However, underneath that identity I would pretend to be a Tory sympathizer recruiting for the cause. We would trap him and expose the treason that was afoot. I had asked Sarah if she minded that he was her cousin and she did not even blink. I was a bit fearful of her vehemence, a Patriotism that put country first and family second. Our modern times knew of no such vehemence. Our individualism was a broadly accepted feeling across the political spectrum. The modern left was not as nationalist as it once was and our modern right accepted the constructs of Randian libertarianism. Few on either side were old fashioned Patriots and while refreshing in a way it also put me ill at ease.
I stepped forward to shake the hands of the man I would be entrapping. “I was unaware that my cousin had married, Mr. Boucher.” he began. I disguised myself as George Trumbull Boucher, a name chosen because of its uncanny resemblance to Jonathan Boucher, the Tory clergyman. I was banking on the implied connection putting him at ease. I began with the pleasantries of business, and then hinted that we could retire to the smoke room and discuss Real Business. Sarah remained behind. Her curtsy was very lady like, feminine. I knew that she was a proto-feminist hero and the like but she played the part of submissive wife too well. I had to admit that it was exciting for me to be in the presence of someone so beautiful, particularly since I had not dated in two years added to over two hundred years of time travel.
“Mr. Worthington, I need to be honest.” I saw him come at ease with a smile on his face and continued, “I have told you I am here at the behest of a Dutch bank. In fact, I am here at the behest of your King whose friendship the rebels have so dishonorably and unmanfully abandoned. The honor of country has been abandoned for the love of money and the frenzy of the mob. A true gentleman like yourself, a descendant of the aristocracy of Norman warriors, knows the value of honor and loyalty. I am offering you a chance to serve your King against rebels to his name.” Charles stood up and shook my hand. His willingness to follow in the footsteps of Benedict Arnold was stoked when the colonies rejected the offer of self-rule under the Crown. Only infernal radicals would reject such a generous offer. We were in business.
It was no sooner that I moved when I realized that it was he who had trapped me. A group of burly Tory loyalists were coming in my direction. He knew we were coming, and he was expecting me. “You sir are the very traitor to your king that you so obsequiously decry in Washington! You are a damned radical!” Charles not only knew who I was before I even came, through some treasonous network no doubt, but he also seemed to know that I was a dangerous radical underneath a tame personality. It was amazing how little the centuries changed anything. The burly Tories came in my direction, but I had a few surprises for them. Non-lethal weapons were a specialty of friends of mine, and I came equipped with taser like weapons that caused paralysis for up to 24 hours. There were five. I got four of them. The last one swung at me and knocked me down. Being a science nerd, he succeeded in knocking me down. Being a poor white kid from East Oakland ‘hood,’ I succeeded in tripping him and running. Like charge and spin, this fight evened out in the end.
I yelled to Sarah to move but it was too late. She was already bound and on her way to a British prison ship. I knew my history and knew that events in this time loop are predetermined even if freely chosen. What was could not be changed even if free will did exist. I was something less than a man for not saving her. I headed to the wormhole feeling more like a functionary in a vast government bureaucracy living a meaningless existence in history than anything like a hero. I suited up and went through the wormhole like, well, like someone just following orders. I returned to the Lab and lay the whole night without being able to sleep. The cold debriefing I had with the Project Leader did nothing to help me. Empathy was not his strong point. I had to do something for Sarah, but I did not know what. Centuries may have been nothing in terms of cosmic time but for me they were a vast and meaningless expanse.
My next mission would be the most important. I would link myself again with Ben Franklin and enter the very citadel of the Constitutional Convention itself. I was going to make sure that the new Constitution created a strong central government, that Hamiltonian centralism would overcome Jeffersonian agrarianism. I was queasy about the whole thing. It smelled too much of the self-interest of the Suits behind the scenes. The fact suddenly dawned on me. They wanted a future in which militarism would be secure. That is what this was really all about. The human-alien civilization of the distant future was a sure thing. It could not be avoided. Given that, the Suits still wanted to have a militarily powerful human civilization that could negotiate this union from a standpoint of power. Did I really want to go to the past simply to be a functionary of militarism? The aliens were generous enough to share their civilization with the primitives of this planet and what I was doing seemed vaguely subversive if not unkind.
At the Constitutional Convention I would be up against the Jeffersonians, a paradoxical combination of slave owners on the one hand, and genuine democrats on the other hand. Some of the latter group included moderate abolitionists so this was going to be truly a confusion of clashing interests, large States and small, visionaries and knaves, humans and aliens. Yes, aliens would be present. I felt it in my bones that if our side were up to something, the aliens from the future would know about it from their history. There would be aliens showing up to counter my efforts. I could only imagine what they would look like, or what their ultimate purpose was. I soon found out as I landed in the office of Ben Franklin and found myself in the presence of an oxygen breathing octopus with legs. The creature’s brain stem was huge, and could obviously adapt to a number of atmospheres as well as contain the huge brains to have arrived there first. The creature also appeared adept at communicating with the brilliant Dr. Franklin, and apparently at getting invited to the same Constitutional Convention with the off the record guest status that I would be granted. We were not only observers, but full participants. The Squid and I would be the prime movers of American history behind the scenes and yet our names never appeared in history books for hundreds of years.
The creature would be loaded into a crate to be transported easily. I thought it was amazing that with all of their technology they had to travel in such a primitive way. I could simply walk. Each of us would cultivate our respective delegates and practice a bit of diplomacy. My ally would be Benjamin Franklin. The creature’s favorite would be John Rutledge of South Carolina. John Rutledge defended Southern agrarianism. This was in the interest of a future civilization that would want humans to be less advanced scientifically and more dependent on them. To my disgust, I also realized that John Rutledge was also a defender of slavery. I knew so little about the morality of the aliens. For all I knew, their planet or planets could be slave societies. The thought made me shudder but I also realized it might be nothing personal. The aliens could just as easily want left anarcho-primitivism among our species as right-wing agrarianism. The point was they wanted our industrial and scientific capacity neutralized as much as possible. In countering them I had to do my job for the good of the country, and for the good of humanity.
The Convention convened while I was dressed in black as “the Professor,” and the alien was in full Squid form. Neither of us appeared in the record but all of the delegates knew who we were and what our purposes were. The Convention proceeded with each of us lobbying our respective allies. I had Washington, Franklin and George Mason on my side for a future of enlightened civilization free of slavery and peacefully exploring space. The arch-capitalist Hamilton took my side out of necessity but remained suspicious. He was a conservative who intuitively sensed that I was a radical at heart; that I did not agree with his vision of a class system. Fortunately he was as against slavery as he was against radical democracy, the first part putting him in my corner. Apparently his arch-nemesis Jefferson was secretly rooting for me behind the scenes but it was engineered that he would remain in France and not have to be seen with me at the Convention so that his agrarian allies would not know he was on my side. I wish I had Paine but there was no chance that he would be invited. A great many lesser known delegates were with the alien because apparently the creature promised them that a defeat of my vision would imply a triumph of their peculiar interests.
The Convention dragged on and on. It was my longest mission and my hottest as the Summer raged on. “Just compromise already!” I wanted to call out many times. There were times I agreed with the agrarians, particularly on the issues of Senate representation and the fact that the new Republic needed freedom of religion. But it was when the question went to slavery that the atmosphere was most tense. John Rutledge stood up and declared that “Religion and humanity have nothing to do with this question.” He maintained that slavery would have to be protected at all costs as a vital economic interest. Benjamin Franklin looked shocked. George Washington scowled at Rutledge. Madison looked uncomfortable. Yet, to my dismay none of them protested. There was a sense of acquiescence to the sins of the world that I understood all too well in my own compromises with the realities of life, but which never sat easily on my conscience. Could we all be good men living a living death? Why do we not protest? The alien simply stared in a calculating way, as though the cosmos were as indifferent to the suffering slave as we were.
George Mason alone stood up and had enough. “Slavery,” he said, “discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves.” Slavery also corrupted slaveholders and threatened the country with divine punishment. “Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of Heaven on a country.” We applauded. Someone had finally spoken to what we knew was right. A sense of rightness returned to my mission when I realized that the best of the agrarians and the best of the modernizers would have to be combined in to a humane social order. Paradoxically, I knew that the more humane social order would also possess a sense of patriotic fury that could lead America in to hubris. I also knew that the powerful Federal Union could be used by powerful corporations to work their will on the planet. My mission was a double edged sword. I also knew that every step I took would matter for the future after me even if it did nothing to change the past leading up to my time. I had to do right even if I did not know fully what Right was.
A Constitution was signed, but the Agrarians had their input with a Bill of Rights. The Federalists would resist the idea of a Bill of Rights in the years after the signing of the Constitution but would eventually assent to. Of course, the Federalist opposition to the idea of a Bill of Rights was more staged than reality given that there was already a secret agreement that it would go through. Hamilton and his compatriots would give nonsense sounding arguments to the idea of the Bill of Rights that would actually garner more support for the idea than opposition. They would play their part in order to make sure that no serious opposition to the idea would arise from anywhere in society, particularly religious citizens who might object to the separation of church and state found in the First Amendment. I gave my full consent to that idea of a written Bill of Rights, realizing how vital a Bill of Rights would be to limiting the power of the State in future centuries. The Squid also gave assent to the idea of a Bill of Rights, in particular a Second Amendment that would limit the power of a standing army. The right to revolution would be enshrined in the new Constitution by the insistence of the Squid and the Agrarians. I had to admit that I was sympathetic to their arguments about a standing army and the growth of tyranny so I did not resist the idea even with my strong pacifist bent. I could not help but to wonder how much the Squid really cared about the liberty of the American citizenry. It seemed as though the alien was more concerned about checking the eventual growth of American military power than any actual agreement with the Agrarians. I did not see too many Squid Aliens joining the NRA and going to the Green for shooting practice. Then again, I did not know enough about their civilization to be sure.
The Squid and I eventually departed for our respective times and out of any recorded history of the founding of America. The Alien lived in the intermediate time between my time and the far distant future of human-alien unity of sophisticated scientists who built the wormholes. Both times were inscrutable, but it appeared as though the aliens from the intermediate time were less altruistic and more self-interested than the aliens or humans of the far distant future. I could chalk that one up to moral evolution, I suppose. The idea also filled me with hope. Perhaps there was a grand design in the wormhole network that I could not fully comprehend. History which seemed so pointless might have a goal after all. My sense of hopefulness sustained itself as I landed in the deep underground of Los Alamos. My mission was over. I had influenced the future for America, for humanity, for military preparedness, for LANL and its budget. I was supposed to feel good. It was all supposed to have been for the great American values of freedom, democracy and the rights of teenagers to download copyright free copyrighted material. I could not understand why I felt as though the whole experience had somehow been copyrighted by the Suits that would now run America more securely. I remembered John Jay when he walked beside me and repeatedly defended his belief that “those who own the country ought to run it.” What side was I on anyway?
I was numb as I walked to my room. The usual Los Alamos welcome was one of applause mixed with jovial banter. It was what made working there worthwhile even in the midst of my doubts. I knew that the other scientists struggled with similar doubts. Again, weapons scientists are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends. We love humanity, animals, plants, and world peace. It is not our fault the politicians cannot get their act together. We do a job. We do not create the world as it is. The day was dark and stormy as I left the lab on an excursion to the Bradley Science Museum. I would enjoy the day there. I walked in to an incredible feeling of history, a feeling of sadness, a feeling of joy at being alive all wrapped in one. Something was missing in my heroism and I knew it. Real heroes do not resign themselves to a past they cannot change and a future that they do not understand. Real heroes make their future and struggle against the inevitable even if it is inevitable. As I walked past the models of old missiles I could feel the past reaching out to tell me something. I did not know what it was telling me but I felt a strong hand reach into my heart and ring it. The past was so filled with war and death, but it had a message none the less. Humanity was not expected to give up and embrace a Universe of meaninglessness. As I looked at the instruments of death I had come to accept as simply part of human existence, as I looked at the grey sky, I realized that the real message of the emptiness was that I needed to be a human being in an inhuman world. It was the only real heroism I could ever attain. The only way to redeem the jaggedness of life would be to rescue Sarah even if it meant inevitable failure. I could not change the past but my actions would still matter somehow, somewhere, even if in the defeat of despair. I would rescue Sarah and that was that.
I had to plan my actions in the most precise and detailed way possible. That was the way I planned everything. It was what made my planning effective. Sneaking in to the basement of Los Alamos would be easy since I was technically still part of that division. How long I would still be there was open to question since I was making noises about being transferred to UC Berkeley in an academic position and the Boss was starting to make noises about assisting me along with that. If I was going to act, I would have to act fast. I could still enter the underground of the lab fairly easily. It was sneaking aboard a British prison ship that would be hard. Agent 355 died on board that ship—but this was the historical record. We do not actually know what happened to her. For all I know, she left through a wormhole to the future. Or, I might have died in an attempt to save her, an event not entered in to the historical record but which would seal my heroic status as an American legend that encouraged the colonists to revolt. My choices will not change the past or present. But, I knew that they would potentially alter the very distant future that would exist in the human-alien civilization after the wormhole collapsed. My actions would change their world if not mine. My choices would be my mark in the world of quantum indeterminacy that would resume once the time loop collapsed. The network had to collapse at some point. Perhaps the future was waiting for me to do the brave thing for once.
I entered the elevator very nonchalantly. I loved that word “nonchalant.” It made me sound very James Bond. The only thing that stood out was the extra wormhole suit that I would not have to explain away because my clearance was such that no one would question me at this point. This was not a normal Los Alamos clearance. I was cleared from the highest levels that probable extended in to the White House itself. I was the hero of American history after all. One more heroic mission would not hurt things even if not officially sanctioned. I waited for an empty room before running in to the wormhole and utilizing the guidance system to land exactly the time I landed when interfacing with Agent 355. I knew where the prison ship was and had already marked my path there. It would go through General Washington who would be glad to help.
What I did not know fully was the nature of the prison ship and what it was like. The women’s section was not exactly going to be “Chained Heat.” Genders were often mixed together and I hesitated to wonder what that would mean for Sarah. I remembered her soft look, her sad eyes, and her lonely longing for a better world. I realized at that moment that she reminded me of another Sarah I knew from my student radical days. She was the only person ever to join my joke cult “Jean-Paul Sartre Died for Your Sins.” I inducted her by telling her that she had to admit that her world was absurd and that she did not know Being-For-Itself. It was only through knowing Sartre that she would know salvation from absurdity. He would resurrect some day and conquer death, or at least cleanse the Philosophy Department of Terminal Boredom. I told her I was a Physics major with a philosopher’s heart. We made love with the full knowledge that we could bury our differences. I followed the more sacerdotal side of the religion and she favored the Reformed church of Camus. Our schism came with a breakup but I still thought of her years later.
The Sarah on board the prison ship needed me to have a clear head and so I would have to act. A British uniform was not hard to come by. What would be suspicious was if I fell in to Patriot hands. I would need the full support of the General and I got it. Washington was young and handsome, unlike the tired man at the Convention, and he was glad to hear my plan. I realized that I was standing in the presence of history when I spoke to him. It truly dawned on me that I was speaking to the father of my country and a revolutionary hero; bourgeois yes, but someone then at least one who put his full life on the line and not his pen merely. General Washington set up with help. He would have to resign himself to the official story that Agent 355 died on board ship in order to confirm the historical record. We set off as British soldiers and took our place in line to board the prison barge. It was a lot to focus on one person, but I told them that the historical record could not be altered and Washington had agreed that his top agent was a priority. However much I twinged at the class nature of why he agreed to save her and not soldiers of lower rank, I went along with the prejudices of the past because they were also prejudices of the present and probably the future. I could not make the perfect the enemy of the good when love was concerned. It was love after all.
We boarded the ship without suspicion. I walked down in to the hull of the ship as if I were entering Hades. It reminded me of the disorientation I felt when I was dragged in to the elevator leading to my destiny underneath the lab. But this time I would be in charge of destiny instead of being pushed by it. I wandered through the stench of waste and wasted human potential. Prison was like that regardless of the society or time. Breathing the stench, I realized what a horrible sacrifice these people made so that I could breathe the sweetness of free air. I would do my best for them by remembering them in history, of letting their memory influence my future. I had to snap out of my reverie and act fast. I made it to Sarah’s cell and before she could scream out I covered her mouth. I unlocked her chains and set her on her feet. I nodded to her as I aimed my gun in her direction. I was still believed to be a good Tory soldier, an American collaborator, and I could not afford to blow it. I signaled my fellow infiltrators and we aimed our guns at her as we walked toward the ladder. A British soldier came in our direction and I began to sweat. I realized that the British soldiers themselves were more humane and less brutal than the American Tories, so his accent put me slightly at ease. We verified that we were transferring the prisoner on the orders of Cornwallis himself for a transfer. This was a believable lie since it happened all of the time. Her gender and class would put her at an advantage over most enlisted men.
We were waved off of the ship and started to move fast. It was then that we turned around and saw a horde of British (or American Tory) soldiers coming after us. I hoped against all hope they were British Lobster Backs and not North Carolina Tories with generations of grudges against the Patriot Planters who thumbed their noses at them. We ran and quickly ducked as we readied ourselves for fire. The bullets flew through the trees like rain drops. I could feel the wind and wondered whether I was actually feeling the bullets. I looked at Sarah and huddled down with her as my compatriots returned fire. She was dirty but it still felt good to be close to her. I realized that it was a bold move in eighteenth century society to kiss a lady without invitation but I did so. She returned the kiss to her handsome rescuer. I knew I had something to fight for. I returned volley.
I was not the best shot but General Washington sent his best men. We knocked down most of them and then they waved me on with my rescued captive. We ran through the trees and did our best to make it to liberty. We were fighting for Liberty after all. We held hands as we ran but soon a ghostly figure stood in our way. In my shock and horror I realized it was Charles Worthington, Sarah’s Tory cousin. He had a gun in his hand. Sarah turned to me and whispered that he was a regular on board the prison ship. She whispered it like she would whisper a wistful secret to a lover in whose arms she was about to die. It was her way of showing bravery. Jean-Paul Sartre died for my sins, I recounted. An absurd world turned on him and crucified him but he overcame in the power of philosophy. In my youth I was mocking Christianity but I soon came to understand that the themes of overcoming alienation had a powerful history in Christian mysticism and deep theology. In that moment I became a true believer in the hope of overcoming alienation if not in any kind of religious salvation. I actually wanted Sartre to remove sin from my life. In particular I wanted the sin of cowardice removed. I no longer wanted to be afraid of the meaninglessness of existence. This thing called life had to mean something. Sartre, save me from the Hell of No Exit. Free me from the otherness of other people so I can embrace them as myself. Let the love I have finally found make me realize that Being which can incorporate Nothingness and therefore transcend nothingness. Sartre never was like Eastern mystics. He simply stared at me from the void of my mind and told me that life has only the inherent meaning that I choose. I smiled when I realized that if he were alive today he would say I was on his own, and probably castigate the American Revolutionaries for being so bourgeois as to fail to rally the working class more effectively.
Being on my own, I used the one weapon I could effectively wield. I used words. “Charles,” began I, “You must realize that your country requires men who are man enough not to wage war against women.” Charles held his gun steady and began, “I know that this war will be lost. His Majesty knows that at the very least Massachusetts will be gone. The South is also arrayed against us given that they never forgave the ridiculous Dunmore proclamation.” Dunmore had proclaimed liberty for colonial slaves and alienated substantial numbers of Southern Tories. Many of them became Patriots after seeing the British allying with slaves. “My purpose then will be to become a part of the new state of affairs to come. I will be an agent of influence seated next to General Washington himself if need be.” The implications of his statement were staggering. Charles Worthington intended to become a Tory agent of influence in the new Republic. He would be a conservative force that would make sure that the new nation remained tethered to British institutions, perhaps even a Monarchy. Democratizing tendencies would be downplayed. Listening to his statement on Dunmore, I realized that even the nominal tendency of the British Empire to act against slavery would be retarded by the need to ally with wealthy colonial Americans trying to retain their power. This was the sum of all fears—unless he could be exposed to Washington. As a former Tory who would swear his loyalty to the new nation, Washington might even be eager to court his support once he feigned loyalty to the new nation. The General had to be warned.
Charles continued to talk. I realized what incredible ego he had. Endless ramblings made dealing with him a fate worse than being shot. I knew I had him distracted and could reach for my gun. I did not want to shoot him in front of his own cousin but I could not understand what kind of family man would subject his flesh and blood to the indignities of a prison barge. I pulled my gun and before I knew it I shot his gun out of his hand and it fell in to the bush behind him. I was not an excellent shot, I had to admit. But I made my target this time. I did not want to kill him because I was a pacifist, but I also needed him alive to expose him. Charles showed himself an experienced fighter when he quickly knocked my gun out of my hand and we began to struggle. I had to overcome him, I realized, but his body was bigger than mine. I was a Physicist, a nerd, and a believer in the Risen Existentiality of the French Philosopher. But, I had to win and win I did. A quick punch across his face gave him a justly deserved spasm of pain. I had won and quickly my mates came to tie him up.
A traitor was exposed and he would be hanged. I did not want that, but I had no ability to change anything. I wrote a letter of appeal to Ben Franklin but knew that even my word, the word of the Professor, would probably not be honored in this matter. Sarah and I were married in the presence of her parents, reconciled to Independence by the treason of their nephew and the gallant nature of the Patriots in her rescue. We were married by a Continental Army Chaplain and we spent the night in a local inn. I explained to her who I was, and that we would have no choice but to go hundreds of years in to her future. As we stood before the wormhole in the presence of the General, the gravity of the situation made its way past any objections she might have thought up to oppose such a barbaric notion. Her mother kissed her and her father hugged her as they realized that her only escape from an inevitable fate was for her to enter the wormhole. Failure to follow that path would mean that her escape could not have happened. Being good Calvinists, they could understand the idea that Free Will could never contradict Determinism in this matter. We would all meet in Heaven, they reckoned as they reminded her to remember her prayers. We left through the wormhole to meet our adventure in a world unknown to the 1700’s and even unknowable to me in many ways.
As we re-entered the present, the Boss was standing before me. He was not smiling. I did something any red blooded American man would have done. I saved a beautiful woman and made her my wife. Hell, this was the city that won World War II and heroism should have been understood. Yet, deep in my intuition I realized what I had done. Nothing changed in my own timeline but the influence on the future was immense. Charles would have allied the United States with Great Britain at an early stage. The alliance would have been a profoundly conservative alliance dedicated to privilege, power, and yes, war. The war machine would have been that much more powerful by the present. There might have even been Anglo-American military colonies in space. I put a dent in the influence that military-industrial complex would have over the future, leading to the possibility of a weak junior partnership when the merger with the aliens finally came. But, I knew in my heart that we would not be weak. While the intermediate future saw manipulative aliens, the distant future that created the wormholes would have aliens and humans far more morally evolved because of the defeat of Charles and everything he stood for. Peace and freedom would be our distant future. We would evolve. I knew it. By the grace of the sexually immaculate St. Foucault I had made a difference!
“Well, my man, you have created quite a conundrum.” This was all the Boss could say. He could arrest me but then all would be known. I could be killed but then the team would know that I was killed for something any red blooded male of any culture would do. This would not do wonders for morale. The last choice was to send me to academia. This was punishment enough for lab scientists on the cutting edge of knowledge. I felt a tinge of pain as the sentence was pronounced upon me that I would be exiled to Berkeley. I wanted this, I wondered. Why was I not happy? I was disoriented but philosophical as the wormhole collapsed, casting aside the past and future from the present. What was done was done. I smiled when I realized that as far as the distant future was concerned the job was done. The Boss scowled when he realized that my deed could not be undone. If I had failed to intervene, Charles would still have been defeated but the manner of its doing would not have influenced the far distant future like that. But, I reasoned, what was done had to be done! The past happened and that was that. Now the wormhole was gone and quantum indeterminacy was back.
The Boss snarled and pronounced one extra sentence upon me. My record of having worked at Los Alamos would be erased. Yes, they could do that. I would have my employment record expunged completely. Instead of Los Alamos Lab, my transcript would say that I taught Middle School Mathematics. I was taken aback. This really was too much. “And, my man, if you make trouble for us we can also erase your transcripts. Yes, we are able to do that so watch yourself and say nothing about this.” I took my lovely bride and left. Looking into her eyes I realized I had no regrets. We kissed and I went back to my apartment to pack. She had never seen an automobile before and yet she knew what freedom and exhilaration meant. With the top down, she could feel the wind on her as we drove down from Los Alamos to Pueblo of Pojoaque. As we went to Santa Fe, to freedom, to a future as a Professor at Berkeley, I realized what a lucky man I was. I beat time. I beat tyranny. I beat the system. And, I actually created meaning in the world. The lights of Santa Fe were ahead in the beautiful night and I stole a kiss on the cheek. She demanded one on the lips and so I gave it.
Dedicated to the Memory of Jason Zarri, Scholardarity Editor. His untimely death at such a young age was the death of a Philosopher. We will not be the same without him.
An Earlier Story by Nathaniel Bates
Time loops were predicted by mathematician and close friend of Einstein Kurt Gödel. The past and future loop in to one. A former radical turned police detective discovers that the road to solving a murder may be found in a Gödel loop that leads him to the past, future, and to the very edge of what is possible.
Caution: contains some adult content.
Dedicated to Horselover Fat, whom millions read but few understand.
The election went well, perhaps too well for some but then change is always hard for some. It was the second time in Bay Area history that someone sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement was chosen by the people for the role of Police Chief, the first being a Sheriff in San Francisco. The San Francisco Sheriff’s time in Office was almost derailed by accusations of domestic abuse. That would not happen to me if I could help it, in the most basic sense because I do not have a wife or steady girlfriend and thus no grounds for accusation. No accusations, at least not yet, but when the Berkeley establishment senses danger one never knows what will happen. They are often more dangerous than the San Francisco establishment, more cognizant of the history of this City.
Who am I? That question has many layers. On the most obvious layer I was first a Physics Major and then a Criminal Justice Major who attended Cal Berkeley. That is not so strange until one counts the fact that I changed Majors after getting arrested. I joined the Occupy Movement in Oakland, got arrested, underwent something akin to the Stockholm Syndrome when I saw what the Police dealt with on a daily basis, got bailed out, switched to Criminal Justice, and then found that the police are awfully forgiving when they find that you were once arrested for a crime other than assault on an Officer. It was a matter of time, mind you, and circumstance. When a grassroots movement got me elected Chief, there was very little overt opposition from the Brass. They knew that this was Berkeley. It was fruitless to resist the Will of the People, or whatever force calls itself that. They also probably figured that I would be powerless to make any real changes; that I would eventually fold and that the Status Quo was as much of a natural force in the Universe as gravity.
Gravity bends space and time. It is the secret of time slowing, time stopping, and in the theoretical calculations of Kurt Gödel even of time looping. Reality is often more cyclical than the devotees of progress, radical or conservative, give it credit for being. What that means in the context of my winning the election to an Office I never should have won (given any natural order of things) is that I could never really affect progress in a strictly linear way. Thinking these thoughts seemed somewhat natural as I viewed Telegraph Avenue with the strange eye of a Cop. I was not a hippie anymore and I knew it, if indeed I ever was. I saw danger at potentially every turn, and my most loyal constituency also knew that I was now Authority Incarnate. I passed the sad monument to Cody’s Books, now a social media terminal, said my goodbyes to an old memory of long ago. I continued on to the New Telegraph Avenue, a place of less idealism, of more bland types of hope.
I turned the corner and saw a crowd of people around what was unmistakably a dead body. All eyes were on me. Of course they were, and it was only natural that I would clear the crowd, call for back-up, and get Medical over. No popular revolution would change the usual procedure. There was something timeless in the usual procedure, as though all proper police procedure occurred at the Event Horizon of a Black hole. It did not really change over time. Police procedure was the closest I had ever come to the timelessness described by the mystics. A dead body no longer experiences time, and shares that timelessness with those called upon to investigate it. This understanding is the closest I ever came to a belief in immortality. No time seemed to pass until I was there with the body in the morgue room. It was in that room that the ticking of the clock began to fall on me like a crashing boulder.
Heather, the medical examiner began what had become a routine DNA procedure by the 2020’s. It was a comprehensive DNA check that could investigate a person’s genealogy all the way back to the hunter-gatherer period. The old Occupy Wall Streeter in me always felt that this was too much data for any government to have. The Cop in me considered it superfluous when real work needed to be done. Heather considered both sides of my being to be equally an impediment to her work. She was a fellow Cal graduate, and always looked a little ways down on me for reasons I suspected but pretended not to know. She conducted the test as a matter of course. What was not usual was her jaw dropping and her eyes gluing to mine. I could never help but to notice that her eyes were beautiful and her jaw perfectly angled. It was the look in her eyes that bothered me.
“Sir,” she spoke to me with unusual formality, “this genetic code does not exist. This individual has no recognizable genetic code.” All the she could say was that he was male. She could say that he was Caucasian. What she could not say was who his mother and father was, where he came from, or anything about him. She also noticed strange genetic markers that seemed to suggest enhanced strength and unusual intelligence. It never ceased to amaze me what could be learned from genetic tests as the twenty-first century rolled along. DNA tests were as American as Green Party Police Chiefs, social media controlled bus routes, and paid space flights to the Moon. The idea that a routine genetic test would turn up nothing made no sense, and more to the point, it made no media sense. I was a media Chief after all, and I knew it. The idea of the second Green Party Chief ever to be elected saying that a dead body came out of nowhere would fit some narratives, but none of them friendly ones. The Power Structure could see itself rolling back in to Office like an old fashioned Bradley Tank.
I needed to hold the Press Conference and I would. The investigation would be launched, witnesses questioned, with any and all clues catalogued. That is what I said, and I avoided most questions so as not to compromise the investigation. The men and women of my Department are hard at work and diligent. I hope you will all be patient. Thank you all and good night. That was the drill and I followed it. A few days later, one woman came forward. She walked through the doors of the Station and came right to the front desk with a deliberation that seemed marked by an unnamable tension. She demanded to speak to me and to me only. “Evidence! Beyond supposition!” she yelled, to herself, the wall, the Universe, or us. Actually, she was yelling it to me. I decided that the best way to reciprocate was to invite her to my Office, almost as if it were a date. I have dated more than a few lunatics so it was a lot like some of the dates I have had. She sat gingerly but with great intent. I knew that this was going to be good. Every murder brings one of these out of the woodwork.
“I am going to tell you what is going on here. By now you have done a DNA search and found nothing. Why else did you delay the Press Conference for so long and then only speak in the discourse of polite nonsense?” She stopped and stared. I was stunned, truly speechless. Before I could ask how she knew something that no one should have known the strange lady with the Russian accent carried forwards. “That is because they have no past in the sense we understand. Their past is our future. They are, in essence, our descendents. But, there is more. They are also our creators in the past.” OK, well, let’s see, I might as well just take notes. “You have found strange genetic markers. Those are genetically engineered markers of super-intelligent supersoldiers. They are our descendants. They are also our creators.” I truly did not know what to say, and said nothing.
In cases like this, with a possible leak in the Department allowing for a truly insane individual to know inner Department secrets, it is best to let the woman talk. Information could best be gathered if I did not give too much information myself. “Ancient legends spoke of the Nephilim, the sons of God who came unto the daughters of men. I know, because one came unto me. And let me tell you, he knew how to ‘come unto’ if you know what I mean. The Nephilim created the human race by genetic experiments with early hominids. They were in our past. But, dear man, they are also our future.” I knew I had to say something. So, in true Cop fashion, I asked about the “coming unto” that she experienced. She affirmed that the sex was voluntary. I then proceeded to ask her about whether this Nephilim character told her about the DNA test.
She smiled weakly. I could sense that she understood that I wanted a name, an identity. “Chief, it is never that simple.” “Ma’am,” I asked, “Are you suggesting that we are genetically created by aliens and that you had sex with one of the aliens?” I was getting a bit nervous here. She was good, better than I expected. “No, silly,” she returned as if on a spectacular roll, “not aliens. They are us in the future.” I realized that we could not let this one go. Somehow, some way, she was crucial to solving the mystery. The mystery of the leak, that is, not necessarily the murder, but it was a mystery none the less. I asked her to join me for coffee and she smiled. I did not mean it that way. Did I?
I walked down to another date with a lunatic. I finally thought to ask a question that might derail her to admitting the she slept with one of my cops and that her boyfriend was not from the future but someone without a future in my Department. “OK, so what you are saying is that people from the future came back to our distant past and created us, thus creating themselves in a circular kind of way that plays havoc with cause and effect. Who on Earth would want to kill them? More likely someone would want to interview them for a 3-D video and let it go viral.” She sipped her coffee. “My name is Anya, in case you want to know.” I paused and then apologized for being a bad host, and took her coffee cup once she was done. I held it in my hand inconspicuously. I then asked for her address and phone number. She gladly complied, and hinted that I could call her for “personal” reasons. I was complimented, naturally, to be lumped in with a genetic manipulator father figure from the future. As she left, she turned around and nodded to her coffee cup, wordlessly. She knew that I was going to do a DNA test. From the look of her eye, she rather welcomed it.
Heather stated flatly that the test showed no criminal record. And, Heather added, the tests show no criminal inclination. I winced. I was Chief of Police, not Chief of the Eugenics Board. The latest calls for the revival of Eugenics Boards truly frightened me. The thought that Heather might hold some Eugen-Fascist ideas made me truly nervous because she was right there, right where I was, and might someday see me as a genetic threat in and of myself. It was paranoid fantasy, but paranoia seemed to be the order of the day since the murder. I thanked Heather and left. Perhaps she enjoyed tormenting me. I hope that was the case since the alternative was worse.
Walking toward the University, I realized that foot patrol was the best way to truly police a city like Berkeley. It built relationships. It lessened the divide between Cops and Them. Walking on the University Campus, I realized that the Physics Department was the least likely place for a Cop. I looked more suspicious there than anyone, but I walked ahead. I knew that this was my investigation, that even as Chief I was going to be leading this one. So, I had to use my resources. If on a lark time travel was involved I was not going to hand it over to just anyone. I would certainly not hand it over to the media. Least of all would I hand it over to my psychologist. Only one person could be trusted.
I walked to the office of Professor Roth and walked right in. I knew that he was glad to see me. College friendships are like that. I walked in, closed the door, and with the kind of lack of abandon as someone using a forest latrine I shared Anya’s story. Roth simply twirled his mustache like an old-fashioned nineteenth century Professor. That style was in vogue again. “I think that this woman has read of the Gödel Loop somewhere and taken it as part of a paranoid fantasy.” I could not tell what he meant by a paranoid fantasy. Was this his way of considering exotic ideas without losing tenure in case the Dean had a Nano Ear in his Office? “A Gödel Loop, named for the great mathematician Kurt Gödel, would be a looped causality. In this case, it would be a time loop in which one passes into the future and arrives at the past. Under some conditions, Einstein’s General Relativity could permit such a loop to exist. Rotation through a strong enough gravitational field could permit a Gödel Loop. Kurt Gödel’s equations were strong enough to convince Einstein that all of this was possible, and it would allow the future to in a sense create the past. But, I do not see how it would stand up to Quantum Physics and the Uncertainty Principle. I mean, if everything is predetermined then sure. But, if not, then we have the Grandfather Paradox to worry about here.”
I listened and remembered the Grandfather paradox. If someone traveled back in time and prevented his Grandfather from meeting his Grandmother, that person would not be born. However, they would also never have traveled back in time. This forms a paradox around the whole question of time travel. One way out of it is the idea of multiple universes, allowed by Quantum Theory. But, Quantum Theory is difficult to conceive of at levels above subatomic particles. It would still seem as though a small enough Gödel Loop would not have enough “incontigency” to truly allow for randomness. In other words, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is limited on levels above Quantum Physics. That would mean that any small time loop would probably be something close to being deterministic. Well, close to deterministic, but not perfect.
I looked at the Professor who continued, “I do not believe any of this. For one thing, we have no black hole near Earth. The gravitation and acceleration necessary for a Gödel Loop, formed when an object rotates at near the speed of light in an intense gravitational field, exceed any natural object near Earth. A For another thing, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I then asked if a wormhole was a possibility. “Wormholes would have to be stable enough to fit a large body through. Also, they would have to exist now. You cannot travel back before the wormhole existed. A Gödel time Loop is the most logical possibility. But, old friend, that is theory. It has never been tested.” We departed most formally. It was always that way between us that we would meet informally and depart formally. It was simply that way.
On Telegraph Avenue I passed someone hawking a political cause. It was not the usual leftwing cause. “Who is John Galt?,” the person asked me as I walked by. “Who is Horselover Fat?” I retorted. Horselover Fat was far and away the deeper thinker and the truer human being. Just as with John Galt, Horselover Fat was the author projected on to the work, the author who could not come to grips with whether or not a human’s deepest longings for Truth were real. Was Horselover truly in touch with an extraterrestrial intelligence of vast wisdom? Was Richard Nixon truly an incarnation of spiritual wickedness? Or, were all of these mind control experiments of the Soviets and the CIA? Loopy Seventies paranoia filled the works of this great master of science fiction. Few equaled his ability to see patterns in the randomness of words on a page. Even fewer truly understood him.
What bothered me the most about Anya’s whole phantasmagoria was the notion that we were somehow at the center of creation. The idea that the Universe was a time loop centered on our own creation flew in the face of everything I ever wanted to believe about the Universe. The vast majority of all species that ever lived are extinct. It is only a matter of time before we joined them. We are insignificant in time, and extremely minute in the vast expanse of space extending through the nebulae and galaxies peopled by intelligences who would mock our claim to be the center of the Universe. Anya’s story offended my hope for human insignificance. If we fail to create Utopia on Earth, or even some level of equality and justice, then at least I yearned for the possibility that some other species might. Evolution provided me the hope that humans were not in bondage to importance. So, if it is not evolution but our own descendants who create us, then we do live in a bubble that will never let us out. We become trapped in our own conceit and unable to touch the face of egoless Nature. Not to mention the fact that one our “creators” came to be murdered on the streets in the very city I police. Murder on my own turf is not part of my idea of a creation narrative.
Later that night Heather and I decided to “debrief.” Actually, it was a nightcap in which we discussed any number of cases. I would end up sipping a brandy while Heather ended up nipping at a bottle of wine. The alcohol mattered less than the escape from sobriety. I related everything to her and watched her laughter brim over. “How do our creators from the future end up dead on Telegraph Avenue? Any genius would know how to avoid that. Even a big dummy can avoid being murdered on Telegraph.” I wondered whether Heather was hiding something. She was a scientist, just like Roth. I wonder how many of them hide information when it does not bolster their particular theoretical framework. Heather was not one to admit that there was something she did not understand. Still, if there was information then I needed to get it out of her. I came to her table and began to stroke her. My hands touched her breast lightly. I knew better than to start off too heavy-handed. I touched her breast, stroked her hair, and groomed her like a male Bonobo would a female he adores and answers to. Making love was less a next logical step than it was a merging of minds, intellects, respect, and then bodies. We may be alone in a vast Universe, or two lonely individuals trapped in a heartless time loop, but we were going to become one if just for one night.
The next day Heather and I knew the drill. We were colleagues. I passed her wordlessly on the way to the Interview Room and met Anya again. She smiled and winked at both of us. I did not even bother to wonder if her boyfriend from the future gave her paranormal powers to know who makes love with whom. I shrugged off her annoying glances like I had learned to shrug off most of what Anya was communicating. At least my daytime consciousness shrugged her off. Night time imagination was another matter. A cop needs both. “Alright, Miss…” Anya was fine. “Anya. OK. Good. Why would our future creators end up dead on the streets of Berkeley? Could they have not at least ended up in Oakland?” My humor would have fallen flat in most circumstances but Anya laughed. She catches on fast. I have to give her that.
She proceeded to Give It To Me Straight. I always enjoy it when they Give It To Me Straight. That point comes when they realize that their creativity has painted them into the corner. Somehow, someway, she either knew of a leak or…or, she was in on the deed. The last possibility was too horrible to contemplate for some reason deep inside of me that I did not have the capacity to self-analyze while acting as a cop. “I am an Evolutionary Biologist, Officer. Back in Russia, I began my work with studying Chimpanzees and Bonobo’s. Chimps are hierarchical and male-dominated, while our other near evolutionary cousins the Bonobo’s are egalitarian and matriarchal. What they both have in common is the lack of any meaningful pair bonding. Sex is sex, as far as our cousins are concerned. Humans are the pair bonders. Why is that? I received an answer from an unlikely source for a scientist, a man from the future who wanted more than anything to make love to me. Of course I was skeptical, but after doing the same DNA test that you did I found out that he could not have been from the present. DNA family trees do not lie. Did I make love to him? You bet I did.
“His word to me, which I take as an authentic word from my creator (one of them anyway) is that in the original timeline humans were genetic creations of a mostly benevolent but distant group of aliens. In the original timeline, humans were deliberately evolved in order to join a cosmic fraternity. Humans were generally happy with this. But, the price of this uplift was the divorce between reproduction and biology. This was the price of being an interstellar space-faring civilization instead of merely extending our reach across one Solar System. A faction of humans did not want a civilization without sex. A small group went so far as to resist being an alien genetic experiment. They came up with the idea of constructing a mini-black hole outside of the Solar System to create a Gödel Loop. A space craft would rotate around a mini-black hole in such a way that the arrow of time would be a circle instead of a line. Mathematician Kurt Gödel discovered that one could do this using Einstein’s General Relativity. The past would lead to the present, and in turn to the future, but that future would be the past. Brilliant! One problem, however, and that is its incompatibility with the indeterminacy of Quantum Mechanics. The only way it would work would be if there are multiple timelines, something that could create complications for them. The past leads to the future, which in turn leads to the past, leading to a different future. It is less a circle than a helix. Great, but what if one of the timelines leads to a future without them or a world they cannot control?
“After deliberation, they decided to embark on their endeavor and went back millions of years to re-engineer their own ancestors. For one thing, they introduced pair bonding. The original timeline had genetically engineered hominids knowing nothing of the love between a man and a woman. They only knew sex with multiple partners in small bands that eventually became federal civilizations along the lines advocated by anarchists. It was the ultimate Bonobo fantasy. Sex was free and easy. Relations were egalitarian even in to the age of agriculture. Creativity flourished. Humans were happy—until, that is, the time for the next step came in which humans would join as minor players into a galactic group mind. This was not something that seemed very free or egalitarian to a species accustomed to such relations. So, the new timeline created by these renegade humans—called the “Nephilim” in ancient sources—would have pair bonding. The hope was that a more individualistic civilization would arise. Male dominance was instituted, with the hope that the extreme male violence known among chimpanzees would be avoided because the male would be genetically invested in his offspring and those of his kin. Monogamy was supposed to provide this check and balance. The care and compassion intended by the aliens would still be there with pair bonding.
“But, indeterminacy kicked in after a few loops. The new timelines included human violence and the eventual emergence of extreme forms of patriarchy. And, a faction of the Nephilim even came to encourage male violence. They acted as though they were gods and ‘came unto the daughters of men’. They attempted to model dominance and hierarchy, in an attempt to thwart the group mind. By their time, humans were virtually immortal by the way. A lifespan of millions of years meant nothing. The original time travel party lasted from the age of Homo Habilis all the way to the dawn of agriculture. They came unto the daughters of men in order to encourage individuated domination in defiance of the aliens. In this loop, a faction even decided that they would introduce their own form of ‘uplift’ known as Transhumanism. The merger of humans and machines would be done in such a way that we would become an interstellar civilization, but on our own terms. Another group split with them and attempted to keep to the traditional mission. The man you saw killed was one of the traditionalists who wanted sex, sex and more sex. He was also my boyfriend.” Presumably once the Nephilim got what they wanted, which was literally to be worshipped as gods, they would free us from the time loop.
I asked her how the puritanical monogamy preached by the Nephilim fit with “coming unto the daughters of men.” She smiled and replied that puritans with enough power exempt themselves in almost any society. A million questions swam through my mind. One of them was the question of what happened to the original aliens. Was the original timeline gone forever? I could say one thing. The condemnation of the Nephilim found among the Abrahamic Faiths was definitely justified. I retained a lifelong skepticism of organized religion in all of its forms, including its New Age forms, because most religious systems were as stifling as time loops centered on Earth. Still, I had to agree with the condemnation of the “Giants of Old” found among ancient Jews. I could not stomach either side of this war, both being arrogant rebels against a civilization far more advanced and much wiser than we are. It is one thing to oppose getting rid of sex (I agree). It is another thing to want an entire time loop to rule over as gods. The whole concept offended my hope that time and space were both large and expansive, which was much more the root of my skepticism about metaphysics than any blind worship of science. I never thought of myself as agreeing with religious fundamentalist conservatives, but I guess on this issue I did. Would the fundamentalists see the original aliens as God’s Servants?
I also wondered to what extent the time loop was large enough for indeterminacy to operate on an influential enough scale to provide for free will. A timeline too small could disregard Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and thus enslave the human mind to determinism. A small loop would mean that whatever cause and effect timeline that the Nephilim set up would have to continue unabated, no matter what my personal perception of free will would tell me. Free will was an illusion under those circumstances. A timeline would lead to the Nephilim being perfectly genetically engineered and able to construct a mini-black hole. Quantum Uncertainty would not matter. The broader timeline leading to a mini-blackhole would stay the same regardless of seeming outliers. But, what about the Butterfly Effect? If chaos can build upon itself with the precision of a mathematical recursion, then a form of order can emerge. That order might be a counter-order to what our manipulators so desire. We might be able to build a future free of either the aliens or the Nephilim. Dare I say it, but the anarchist dream might be possible after all. I scratched my head and finally realized that perhaps an Occupy Wall Street cop was a contradiction in terms, even if it is one that I lived every day.
I actually had been arrested at an Occupy protest many years before. The arrest was illegal but it happened and the judge signed off on it so it became Legal. I was taken to the Police Station and fell in love with it. I knew I wanted to be a Cop. That was when I switched from Physics to Criminal Justice. Roth was mad at me but most of my friends were happy for me. In fact, the “Pig” who busted me became a kind of informal sponsor. I still thought of him as a “Pig” years later but I dared not say it. I guess that Berkeley Patrol had a unique way of building inroads into the radical subculture that dominated Telegraph Avenue. It was cooption in a way, but not completely. I retained my youthful idealism. I also retained my friendship with Ralph after all of these years. He and I were protesters. We were arrested together and both of us fell in love with the process. I fell in love with the uniform and became a cop. He fell in love with the idea of power masquerading as law and order and wanted to know its roots. He became a Conspiracy Researcher.
I had to steal away to Marin County in order to get to Ralph’s house. That meant leaving Berkeley in the midst of an intense investigation that was shaping up to be the case of 2025. It meant giving more ammunition to a media that was beginning to spin tails of the crazy Green Party Chief who had no business taking the reins of authority from the responsible adults who comprised the power structure. Rumors were going around that I was chasing aliens and men from the future. Press conferences were held and yet the 3-D Internet was going wild with holographic video’s that spun tails of an Earth under attack and government cover-ups. Stealing away to the house of a known conspiracy theorist would throw plutonium on the nuclear blast. I did it anyway. A plausible cover story could be formulated, if necessary, that I was engaging in some kind of anthropological research, one that skeptics engage in from time to time. Policing the City of Berkeley required that I understand anti-authoritarian subcultures.
2025 was a year of paranoia on all sides, from the Middle East to Asia where a General who called himself the Emperor of China was consolidating his coup over the Communists with pomp, circumstance, and the founding of a new dynasty. No government other than Russia recognized his government and the alert was global. Caliphates, Emperors, and now travelers from the future! How my case became the case of the year was beyond me but I could only take it in stride. When I arrived at his door Ralph was ready to meet me. He knew I was coming, and probably had some vague idea as to why. When I explained the whole story to him, I got an entirely unpredictable reaction. “Bull!,” he exclaimed, and then proceeded into a monologue that was meant more to satisfy his intellectual need for Order in the Universe than any other reason. This need for Order was an itch he needed to scratch with words. “You were always the one who defended natural selection against Creationists, New Agers and anti-science types. You of all people should know that there is no scientific evidence for this scenario.” Mister Conspiracy himself was a skeptic. Who would’a thought it! I had a slight reservation. I may have defended evolution as a scientific fact, but pure Darwinism was always a problem for me. Something about competition being the natural order of things. It smelled too much of the justifications for Victorian Imperialism. Relative cultural values are always the most dangerous when they purport to be universals. I did not actually remember when it was that I was ever Darwin’s bulldog.
I stifled my objection and let Ralph continue like he always continued, without regard for whether anyone was listening to him or not. “Also, the time loop idea is loopy. It presupposes that one can travel back in time before the mini-black hole. The same objection could also be made for any time travel idea, including that of a wormhole. It may be the case or it may not be the case, I don’t know and no Physicist really knows, even our old friend Roth. Untested ideas in Physics are potentially dangerous to rely upon in any criminal investigation. There is another possibility you should consider. The possibility is that these are not men from the future at all. They might well be genetic supersoldiers from the present, straight out of DARPA. You might be set up to look ridiculous. The first Occupy Police Chief driven out of office by a secret op!
“I know this is strange, but think about it. A mysterious woman with a Russian accent? CIA. Without a doubt, man. I mean, Gödel Loops might exist theoretically, but you also have to admit that much of theoretical Physics is CIA writ large. I am a skeptic through and through. Much of Physics smacks of religion. String Theory? Untested. The Big Bang? Too much like Genesis for my tastes. What I need is a plain and simple object, a fossil or a foot massage. What I need is the truth to be told without formulae or sophistication. You are being set up, Chief. And, you have to be prepared for the possibility that Roth and Heather are planted in your life. COINTELPRO is fully here, man. It works like that. You are up against a power structure that resisted marijuana legalization to the end, still hoping to reverse it today, and which definitely does not want to dismantle the prison-industrial complex. That is my honest opinion.”
I was amazed at his perfectly rational response to a perfectly rational theory about aliens and time travel! One would think it was the Pot calling the Kettle black! I then asked him why they would genetically engineer one of their prime supersoldiers and then kill him on the street. “No. They killed him somewhere else, after he went rogue. They then planted him on Telegraph in order to do two operations in one. The second operation was getting you to look ridiculous.” I had to admit that it made more sense than time travel. For one thing, I had to concede that the idea of creating a mini-black hole and then traveling in time before its existence did not seem to correspond with known Physics. Perhaps Anya had misheard. Maybe they used an already existing micro-black hole that was right near our Solar System? Perhaps their Physics was too far beyond ours? Perhaps there are genetically modified supersoldiers sent by the government out to get me. Perhaps I really was losing my mind and should resign immediately.
Why did I want to believe Anya? I asked myself this on the drive home. Maybe it was the hope of freedom from both the benevolent but stifling aliens and the harsh, malevolent Nephilim. Her story suggested a time loop that could be overcome by indeterminacy, a narrative suggesting hope and liberation. The time loop idea actually made sense. Circular time might even be freer than the linear time of geological ages and vast expanses now that I thought about it. It all depended on whether the loop could be made helical. I had to be honest and admit my reason for believing could also have been something about her. I had to admit that she was beautiful. I never admitted that to myself before. She was a Telegraph Avenue Schizophrenic Quack of the type I was all too used to dealing with until her story about being an Evolutionary Biologist checked out. I could not admit that she was a beautiful scientist, even though one who was clearly insane. I now wanted to believe her in part because she gave better answers than Ralph ever could as to why the world was messed up. It was like The Matrix, only with real sex in it. Of course, most people would say that I have a lot of crazy friends, even though I am a cop and therefore normal. Of course I am normal. To say otherwise means a night-stick in your face.
I knew that I had to confront two people. Both were beautiful women, and both had answers that I needed. I had to confront Heather. She had answers that I did not have and knew it. I also had to confront Anya. She had answers that I did not have and I probably did not know the half of it. I needed to understand the real mystery, without going to aliens or supersoldiers. I knocked on Anya’s door. It was a quaint apartment right on Telegraph. She had been an Evolutionary Biologist who was formally on Sabbatical from her University in South Africa. She left Russia and went to South Africa as a promising evolutionary anthropologist. Her Sabbatical began amidst great fanfare. In reality, it was a mental health leave. Everyone who was in the know knew it. I guess “in the know” would be a tautology, but a descriptive one. Cops sometimes need those, especially cops who might need mental health Sabbaticals of their own.
I confronted her angrily. I told her that I knew that she was spinning stories, that she was party to a leak. The only thing I did not accuse her of being was in on the murder. I could not. I would not. Her eyes told me of sweet sadness. I could not dare believe it. I walked close to her and told her I needed answers. She cried and told me that her story was the truth. The only thing she regretted was making love to one of those monsters, someone with no heart who uses women. The sons of God indeed! They may have invented religion, government, science, and the arts but they were really copycats. They knew nothing of authenticity, of love. She wished that her old faith in science and evolutionary biology could pull her out of madness, but it could not. She would never know Certainty again. The only thing she would know is the tender communication that all social primates know, of grooming, non-verbal communication, of love making. I looked at her and drew her closer. Love making would be our way of getting answers if answers were to be found. If no answers were to be found, we would continue making love.
Anya did not have the answers. She only had someone tell her something about himself who managed to play on the mental illness of a promising scientist. So, we made love continually. When I left her domain after reluctantly parting, I knew that Heather would have to be my next target. She had to be the source of the leak. There was no other possibility given that I had confided to her like no one else. I left Anya’s apartment and did not care about any cameras or media people who might have asked me why I am sleeping with the key witness. I was going to get to the bottom of this case without being distracted by distractions like questions around mental health, sleeping with witnesses or an angry press. Ralph gave me the only real possibility that I could act upon, that there was a conspiracy of sorts to unseat me. I knew that Roth was in the clear. He was an honest scientist. Anya was in the clear, although she might have been a pawn in an elaborate international plot that extended Continents. But, Heather was another matter. If there was something to know, she knew it.
I walked to the Crime Laboratory and sat down. The body was still there. I began to open my mouth but Heather was still analyzing the body. I could think of any number of possibilities. One of them might be that Anya was mentally ill enough to believe that her boyfriend was from the future, and that Heather was playing along. But, that still did not address the question of the murder. Heather was a manipulator and arrogantly smug, but she was not a killer. Still, no one appears out of nowhere. This man was clearly Anya’s boyfriend, and if she did not kill him out of a schizophrenic fantasy gone wild then someone did. That someone had to have been known to Heather by now. She had access to technologies that could get fingerprints, DNA samples, and that could trace guns. Why this was still a mystery days later was beyond me but it was not beyond her.
“Close the door,” she commanded in an authoritative voice that was unusual for a subordinate. Commanding the Chief of Police definitely showed a sense of strong identity, I would grant her that. I complied with her wishes without protest. “Chief. You know as well as I do that this is a mystery here. The question you need to ask yourself is what role you have in it.” I was chilled to the bone. My role was as investigator, nothing more but also nothing less. “You know that in spite of our nights together that I opposed your selection as Chief. The old boys have always opposed you, and I have always been loyal to them. I answer to them and not to you.” I nodded. It was the truth. For all of the hoopla about democracy, the rule of law, and friendly police who protect and serve, it was the truth and no real thinker could deny it. People like Heather make the system function. They are capable of uncovering the truth. But, as I was seeing, she was also capable of covering up.
“Chief, this person is a supersoldier and his death must be covered up. I know it and you know it. The War on Terror and the overthrow of the Chinese government has meant that so many threat vectors have opened up that we do not know if 2025 will be the last normal year. The Emperor is on the verge of declaring war on Japan and Viet Nam. The Russians are siding with him. I never thought I would miss the old Communists but at least they were normal and rational. We need supersoldiers, but if one goes rogue and starts claiming that he is really a Nephilim creep from the future and starts shagging Russian scientists…well, then my friends at the CIA and Military need to start acting. That is where I step in. The cover-ups in life need willing accomplices like me. That is why I am going to be promoted and you will always be a pot smoking hippie.”
I nodded again. I had a way of stuffing my emotions and swallowing pride in the face of verbal abuse. “Did you sleep with her?,” she asked, anger showing in her voice for the first time ever. So, that was what the arrogance was all about. Her friends were doubtlessly following me. I admitted it to her, as much out of defiance as anything else. “ I slept with her, and I love her. She values me. We both value the truth even if the pure pursuit of the truth drove us both crazy.” I stood up to her and stared at her defiantly. I was still the Law in this Here Town. I was not going to let unelected government and unconstitutional authority drown out the truth. Still, I needed answers. Why was he killed here and not in South Africa? Was he pursuing her? Was it love? I wondered if Nephilim from the future or supersoldiers from the present were actually capable of what we called love. Yes, she said, the sex was alright, even the crazy cover story in the case of her discovering his DNA was not normal. It might indeed have been necessary to concoct a story so crazy as to confuse her. But, love was out of the question. When he pursued her to Berkeley he had to be dealt with. And it fell into their lap that I could be dealt with also. I would either have to go along with a cover-up in which case I would be their boy or I would have to tell the truth in which case I could be sacked. Their luck was too good to be true.
I was stunned as I left the lab. I could fire her, but she had too many powerful friends. I also had to admit the possibility that she was spinning disinformation. Who knew the real truth? Perhaps the government was actually covering up real time travelers with disinformation. The truth became less of an open field and more of a kaleidoscope. I did know one thing. Heather was emotionally attached to me and I did betray her. For all of what she was, I did know that I was the one who betrayed her. Did that make me not that much different than the puritanical “monogamous” hypocrites from the future? I often preach the sanctity of human relationships when I am waxing philosophical and yet here I was. I also knew another thing. I was in terrible danger and so was Anya. Whoever killed our unnamed suspect knew that I knew and that she knew. I was expendable and so was she.
I knew that the investigation had been compromised and so I did my best to take more of a personal lead in it. I called in witnesses and interviewed them personally. I was looking for who was scared. That would be my tip-off. They would not only be scared of the killer, but also of the police. That is how I would see who could really give me information. My last interviewee would be with the homeless man who was strangely brilliant even if insane and not at all an alcoholic. He was very much of a philosopher. His name was Sam, African-American and Jewish. His mother was white and Jewish. Sam followed his mother’s religion while he followed his father’s sense of ethnic pride in all things African. He was very observant and managed to keep kosher out on the street. He truly was scared, and looked straight at me as he spoke. “You ever hear of Philip K. Dick, Chief?” He began as though this were my inquisition and not his. “Science fiction writer. Them people called him crazy, but he knew. He knew right. Nixon was really a Roman Emperor from time past. Time past because they is no time. Time’s an illusion, boss man. He really did believe that he was in touch was VALIS, a super mind beyond this planet. And yet he could never shake the possibility that VALIS was possibly something else. Maybe it was the Russians or someone messing with him. It was the uncertainty of it all that drove him crazy. He wanted faith but had to pay dearly for it. Sad man, ‘cause he was the greatest of all. It was the ambiguity of it all that drove him crazy. He wanted to have faith but could not because the uncertainty of it all would not let him.”
What did you see Sam? For crying out loud, come on Sam, what did you see? “Chief, you can’t handle the truth in the same way that Philip Dick could not. You cannot handle the fact that you are the target in all of this. You say that you are not the center of the Universe, but in your own world you are and you cannot escape it. Was Philip Dick in contact with an alien? Or, was he a target of one of those mind control experiments they done confessed to in the 1970’s? It don’t matter now ‘cause he could never get that it was not outside of him. It was about him. Boss, I’ll draw the man I saw. You better know who he is. I’ll draw him. But, you got to know something. It ain’t about him. It’s about you. You the one key to all of this. This here time loop is about you. How do I know? How do I know any of this? Cause we crazy people have the ability to see beyond the time loop. We can see through it. You feeling me? Beyond the Time Loop is not some aliens but the G-O single D Himself. The Absolute.”
I was waiting for Sam to finish drawing the man in order to end this interview and make the arrest. He was a good artist, and so I trusted him. I had to know my people if I was to be Chief of a city like this and I knew that Sam was trustworthy. I looked at the picture and saw a scary character that said “killer” all over him. Even more frighteningly, I saw him as a kind of enforcer of the code. Any expression of love and tenderness violates the Nephilim code of existence. It was the ultimate rebellion. I also sensed another thing about Sam. One way or the other, he did see beyond the finite time loop, beyond the finite universe itself to Infinity. Like mathematician Georg Cantor, Sam could see beyond and it confused him. The Continuum Hypothesis was ultimately proven undecidable, and yet Cantor could not have known that. The cardinalities of infinity drew him in precisely because he sensed even before Einstein that time itself might not be straight, that it might not be linear. He knew instinctively that he would have to get beyond physicality to understand Infinity. Going beyond what the nineteenth century mind still falsely thought of as absolutely flat space-time was the only way to truly know ultimate Truth. Nineteenth century minds could not handle such ideas. Sam himself had a strangely nineteenth century mind. He might be a homeless Black Jewish guy from Telegraph Avenue but he was oddly Victorian in his sensibilities.
I wasted no time in posting the picture of our suspect and putting out the APB. I knew what I believed now. Too much evidence pointed me in the direction of a genuine time loop. I was probably crazy but that is what I believed. It may be that the supersoldiers that Heather described were the beginning of the Nephilim to come. Maybe they are the beginning of the end of the loop. It was not either/or, but both. The supersoldiers of the present would become the Nephilim of the future, who would go to the past and renew the time loop except next time the plan of the Nephilim would be even more solid. Human civilization would be even more completely linear and dedicated to obedience. The next time around agriculture and priestcraft would start earlier. Technology would advance faster. Art and culture would be subordinated to utility. The State would rise victorious over Community. Eventually, if the Transhuman faction won out then we would merge with machines. The old dream of the aliens would come to fruition but this time it would be malevolent and not blandly benevolent. We would become a conquering race throughout the galaxy. No galactic fraternity, only meanness. If that was true, then the loop had to be broken.
I was beginning to go as insane as Sam, but that was the only way I would see beyond the loop. It was the only way I could prevent the mini-black hole from forming. It was about me because I was the Cop. I might be a crazy hippie who had too many Ayahuasca trips, and maybe they were coming back to me. But I was still a cop and a killer was still loose. More to the point, I knew that by stopping the killer humanity might have a chance of breaking the cycle. I knew it because I too was beginning to see beyond the loop, just like Sam. It might be that I was becoming insane like Sam, or like Philip Dick, but it was a different “insanity” than the one that imprisons people. I was actually getting free. I knew that the course of action led back to Anya. I knew that she and I were both key to any hope of freedom. I then rushed to Anya in order to get to her apartment in time. In time to be the hero I guess.
It was night and I felt a sudden unease. I crept up the steps and knew that it was too quiet. Something deep in my senses knew that I was coming up against a cosmic force and it was not one to trifle with. Anya was in danger and I knew it. I came to her door and knocked. No answer was forthcoming. I knew how to pick locks and that is what I did. The door opened slowly and as I passed through, I felt time radically bend. It was a bending every bit as real as the bending of space-time near a black hole. It was palpable. It was real. It led me directly into Anya’s living room, a darkened space that suggested a long shadow in the Autumn gloom. The kitchen was behind the wall, and I knew that as time curved I would be taken around the wall into the kitchen. It was unavoidable because that was the direction of time itself. As I went around and turned on the light the cold look of a killer stared back at me, holding Anya’s mouth with one hand and his firearm with another arm. Our guns locked just as our eyes did. At that point the killer did the unthinkable. He let Anya go. I realized that she was not the target. I was, and I was up against a genetically engineered killer. His gun was aimed directly at me as my life flashed in front of my eyes.
I could feel the wheel of time spinning. The future was the past and the past was the future. This was no mere abstraction. I finally saw through the veil, just as Sam did. Or, maybe I was “a target of one of those mind control experiments they done confessed to in the 1970’s” like Sam suggested. Yet, the perception was real. I could see far back in to the midst of the Pleistocene. I saw cave art, dancing, hunting and singing. I saw the mists in which early man spread throughout the Earth. I could see the time before that as what I previously thought of as the future. I beheld a loop that allowed time to turn in on itself. It had to lead somewhere. But, I also saw that I had a choice. There is not reasonable way that any of this could be true. I really could be insane. I might be clinically out of it. For once, I did not know reality. More to the point, abstractions did not matter because my own death was an immediate experience that was side by side with life. I still had a choice and that was clear. The gun went off and yet time continued to arc. My own life should have been insignificant. It should simply have been a part of a vast tapestry of Nature that allowed for diversity and individuality but no central player. Yet, that was not what I experienced. In that one minute of embracing the inevitable End life actually had a value beyond simply that of a speck. I had been a central player in a drama. I even knew love for the first time in my life, and I had been willing to die for her. The bullet passed through the air as time continued to loop. Kurt Gödel’s abstraction was now a lead projectile.
I did not know if any of this was real, or if I had made a break with reality. I did know one thing. I had a dead suspect on the ground. Somehow, some way, I had triumphed against a genetically engineered killer. More to the point, time itself took my side in some way that was incomprehensible. Could it be that the arrow of time reversed itself in the local field of the bullet? Perhaps I fired early. My mind rested and I simply accept that I had won. I breathed and looked at Anya. I touched her hand lightly to comfort, to calm, and perhaps to release. The danger would be over because the case could now be closed. No further investigations would be done, and any attempt on my life would just fuel the conspiracy theories that had gone viral through social media and the 3-D video world. The Nephilim would not want that any more than the power structure that they interlock with would want that. We were both safe. The touch between us said more than any words could. I had to leave, I said, but I would be back.
The meeting with the FBI was tense. They had kept their distance before, but they were called in when the suspect and the victim were both shown to have some vague connection to the military and hence to the Federal Government. The lead investigator looked at me. “Chief,” he said, in a casual and disrespectful tone, “have you ever felt that you might be suffering from any schizophrenic delusions? Beliefs about aliens? Time travel? Government conspiracies?” Here I was face to face with the Power Structure. They did not accept the last Green Party Sheriff, and I would be no different. “Well,” I answered, “I have a voice in my head telling me to recommend my medical examiner for promotion to the FBI. My letter of recommendation will be forthcoming.” Brilliant! I made a joke out of their joke, and I managed to get rid of Heather by passing her up. Of course they were going to take her. Nothing more need be said. She would not be staying with the Berkeley Police a minute longer, nor would her real bosses want her there. Heather would be gone to the world she desired and understood, even if they did not disclose the full truth to her about time loops and led her to believe it was all simply about a present day military program. I felt a sadness that was deep. For all of her deception, I could not shake the feeling that I had betrayed her while she herself remained loyal to all she believed in.
The meeting was over and the case was closed. Only one thing more needed to be established. Did my actions alter the time loop? Something of the truth got out in to the media and 3-D video sphere. That leakage might well have altered the long-term plan in the way of a chaotic repeller. Would I ever know? I would never live long enough to see the micro-black hole built or an already existing one harnessed for the sake of time travel. I would never know if the supersoldier program was cancelled or not. What I could say is that I had reached through the vast expanse of the Universe, its geologic eras and epochs, its light years and far reach, and I found someone. I came back to Anya’s apartment and we embraced. Her breasts were against my chest in a way of comfort. We kissed and melded individual loneliness into one big tent that allowed for warmth.
As I walked home after a long night, sure to see her again, I still wondered about one point. Would the time loop disintegrate into the vastness of time that I coveted so much? My moment of clarity that allowed me to see Beyond had faded into normal consciousness. I guess that I would have to go along for the adventure. I could look ahead to multiple timelines or perhaps to the end of the time loop. There was danger and some excitement in not knowing. So many timelines! Was the “original timeline” actually the original timeline or was there a larger time loop even beyond this one? Perhaps there is no original timeline. Or, mysteriously, perhaps all of the timelines form a bigger pattern that serves a Divine Purpose beyond what we can conceive of or understand. I looked up at the stars and realized that I, Mister Skeptic, might be entertaining metaphysical speculations after all. What the heck. They were just questions and there was no harm done in asking them.
Also by Nathaniel Bates:
Lifetime Judge Appointments and Relativity (A Humorous Take on the Philosophy of Law)