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The Technicolor Time Machine Harry Harrison "HERE COMES A SHIP!" The dragon's head rose and fell as the long-ship's oa. The Accidental Time Machine Joe HaldemanTable of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Dedication Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Cha DOWNLOAD PDF. NOW IN PAPERBACK-FROM THE AUTHOR OF MARSBOUND Grad- school dropout Matt Fuller is toiling as a lowly research assistant at MIT when he.
Other Editions Matthew is drawn in somewhat broad strokes as a semi-hapless yet brilliant graduate student; his traveling companion fares somewhat better with a charming mix of innocence and intelligence shining through her simplest dialog. Be careful with it. Grad-school dropout Matt Fuller is toiling as a lowly research assistant at MIT when, while measuring subtle quantum forces that relate to time c Joe Haldeman "has quietly become one of the most important science fiction writers of our time" Rocky Mountain News. Out of curiosity, he pulled a two-dollar coin out of his pocket and set it on top of the machine.
But the time frame increased exponentially with each use, hence providing an intriguing set-up for the novel. One thing that annoys me whenever I read a time-travel story no, the paradoxes don't deter me, or I shouldn't be reading this sort of book in the first place is that that the characters generally behave rashly without contemplating whether they would survive time travelling.
Just jump in and press the button! And that bugs me. Every time. Thankfully, here Matthew does a lot of experiments and calculations which are very interesting to read before concluding that he could use the machine to transport himself to the future.
In his journey, he comes across a religious dystopia from where a girl named Martha accompanies him on his further journeys. They travel much farther into the future to a utopia maintained by an AI.
Understandably, the AI is bored of the utopia utopias are always boring and wants to accompany them on their future exploits, but not without its own ulterior motives. Matthew and Martha want to go back to their own respective times, but in order to do that, they have to travel to a future earth which might have made enough technological advances which might help them to travel to their original pasts as I said earlier, his machine only travelled into the future.
This book deserves as much appreciation as the other well-known books of the genre are getting. Even more, in some cases. View all 6 comments. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers.
To view it, click here. He's essentially given up on his thesis and works as an assistant to Professor Marsh, and his girlfriend Kara has just dumped him.
Having constructed a calibrating machine for the professor's work, Matt hits the "reset" button and watches it blink out of existence, only to return before anyone but him notices. The second time he presses it, it disappears for ten seconds. Kidnapping the machine, he takes it home and pursues It's and Matt Fuller is a postgrad student in chronophysics at MIT. Kidnapping the machine, he takes it home and pursues some experiments, figuring out that the machine time travels - first it was one second, then 10, then and then seconds.
By the time he gets up to three days, he's attached a turtle and a camera to it and tries again. This time the metal machine has shifted off its wooden base, as well. The camera shows nothing but some grey static for a short time, and the turtle hasn't been gone long enough, in its own time reference, to need water, food or sleep.
The clock he had attached shows it was gone for only a minute. Matt calculates that the next time jump will be for 39 days and a bigger distance, and decides to go with it. He needs a metal cage, and borrows an old Ford from his drug-dealer friend Denny. Reappearing a minute later, in his own time, to create a traffic accident, Matt's arrested for the murder of Denny, who died when he saw the car vanish in front of his drug-addled eyes.
When his million-dollar bail is paid by someone who looks like him and who sends him a message, Get in the car and go! The only thing he can do is keep moving forward in time. This book has plenty of promise, but is disappointingly flat. Matt is a non-entity - in fact, none of the characters are fleshed out much and simply function as plot devices, vehicles through which to move the story forward.
Which is ironic, since the story is the characters and can't exist without them. I couldn't even tell you what they looked like.
Not a big deal, but a good writer will create a fully realised and very real character through their personality, their dialogue, their choices, and so you get a very real sense of them without details like what colour hair they have etc. Sadly, Matt doesn't have much of a personality, or charisma, or attributes that make you care one way or the other.
The other disappointing aspect of the novel is the time travelling itself. While there is a bit of a creepy, almost scary atmosphere - jumping forward so far that humans don't even exist anymore tends to make me feel pretty melancholy and blah - it's wasn't terribly imaginative, and lacks realism because it presupposes certain things, such as a very stable environment, for which there is every indication we have royally screwed up.
While there is one neat little twist at the very end, to do with genealogy, the big glaring "who paid Matt's bail and how?
Oh, there's a trite explanation, but I was left feeling way more confused than before. By the end of the novel, I was feeling quite apathetic towards the whole story. What was the point? What message did it convey? I'd say there are a few "messages" concerning the human condition and the fundamental laws of physics etc. I could tell that they were there, but unlike some other books with similar themes, or potent "messages", I couldn't help but think that I could spend oh so many minutes thinking about it, and deduce nothing original from it.
I didn't mind the book while I was reading it, though it took longer than it should have, being short and simply enough written. Now that I'm writing this review and all the negatives are coming out, I'm going to have to revise my rating of 3 and give it a 2: View all 12 comments.
Jun 10, Sandi rated it really liked it Shelves: The Accidental Time Machine is the kind of old-fashioned science fiction I loved growing up. It's got a brevity and tone that's very much like Bradbury or Asimov. I've always been a sucker for time travel stories and this one didn't disappoint.
There was a lot of detail left out that other author probably would have included, but that was fine with me. In current books, authors have a tendency to spell everything out for the reader. Haldeman doesn't do that.
As a result, the reader has to use hi The Accidental Time Machine is the kind of old-fashioned science fiction I loved growing up. As a result, the reader has to use his or her imagination to fill in the blanks. While this isn't a great book, it was a lot of FUN to read.
I had a hard time putting it down, and was sorry when it was over. View 1 comment. Oct 30, Penny rated it it was amazing Shelves: I flew through this book. It gets going on page one and doesn't stop for a moment. It's non-stop fun, it's unexpected, and it's just fantastic story telling.
The name tells you everything you need to know about the story, but not how enjoyable it is! Life is fleeting. Also it isn't. There are a number of iterations of humanity all of which seem as likely as the last. Makes you wonder where we'll be as a society in however many years time Big thumbs up.
Lots of enjoyment in this one. Apr 23, Libby rated it it was ok Shelves: Well, I didn't particularly like the book but I didn't not like it either. Another reader noted that they felt ambivalent about the book and I'd say that's accurate for me as well.
It was a somewhat interesting, light read - perfect for a long flight or the beach. The book almost seemed incomplete - missing lots of detail and mo Well, I didn't particularly like the book but I didn't not like it either. The book almost seemed incomplete - missing lots of detail and more like a movie script.
That being said, I don't know if I enjoyed the general plot enough to want the book to be expanded. If you need to kill a few hours on a plane, pick this up. Otherwise, you are not missing out too much. View all 7 comments. Apr 05, Andy rated it it was amazing Shelves: I have fairly specific requirements for time travel stories. However they treat time travel it has to make sense to me.
This book did which is the main reason it got 5 stars. The plot is actually fairly simplistic and there are really only characters none of whom are very deep or rich, but it was quite entertaining. The story follows Matt into the distance future, one leap at a time in a way that reminded me quite a bit of Marooned in Realtime another favorite.
View all 11 comments. A couple of years ago, I pounded the Goodreads pavement pretty hard searching for pretty much any time-travel book I could find to add to my ever-growing to-read list a list which has, to my horror, since surpassed 1, books—for every book I periodically cull, ten more pop up in its place.
The Accidental Time Machine was one of the books I found. I wish I had st A couple of years ago, I pounded the Goodreads pavement pretty hard searching for pretty much any time-travel book I could find to add to my ever-growing to-read list a list which has, to my horror, since surpassed 1, books—for every book I periodically cull, ten more pop up in its place.
I wish I had started with that series instead, because this book was kind of a dud. Ex-graduate student Matt Fuller accidentally creates a time machine while working as a research assistant for an MIT physics professor.
Newly dumped, and even more newly fired, Matt decides to pop off into the future instead of sticking around in the present his time machine only goes one way. Hijinks ensue. The plot of the book held my attention. Parts of it, particularly the parts at the beginning when Matt is doing his experiments on his time machine and figuring out how it all works, were really interesting to read about.
But as soon as Matt starts interacting with other characters, and then jumping further and further into the future, I was less and less impressed with him, and with the book. Plus, Matt is kind of a sexist asshole. But he has so little personality to begin with that when he makes so many comments about objectifying women, and then the whole thing later with him view spoiler [ marrying the naive little religious waif who is somehow also open about sex, and turning her into a science sex waif instead hide spoiler ] , it ended up coming off really creepy.
It felt like wish-fulfillment writing. Male wish-fulfillment writing. He only gets his shit together because something he did accidentally blew up physics as he knows it. He has no emotional arc. That was probably my main complaint, actually, is that all the characters in this are extremely shallow and cliched. The whole book ended up feeling like it thought it was smarter and more profound and innovative than it actually was.
It was enjoyable for a quick audiobook read. The narrator Kevin R. At this point, my review feels kind of futile, because I seem to be wishing Haldeman had written almost a completely different book than he did. I just hope Haldeman is better with military sci-fi than he is with time travel. View all 4 comments. Mar 29, Denis rated it really liked it. I haven't read much of Haldeman's work. I have read "The Forever War" and I don't recall much of it.
Just remember that I liked it enough, but did not love it. This one was very unexpected. It was a whole lot of fun. Good time travel story written with a golden age approach. A little is Heinlein, Silverberg and definitely a Well influence here - protagonist even has a Wena like character tagging along with him. There some sloppy bits and a little questionable motivation issues, but over all it w I haven't read much of Haldeman's work. There some sloppy bits and a little questionable motivation issues, but over all it was good fun right to the end.
At least I don't think they will. It was neither. So I didn't "read" this book, I listened to it; a mode of delivery that I fear may have fatally altered my perception of Haldeman's story because I couldn't stand the narrator. Kevin R. Free's vocal performance was terrible.
Often, he failed to match the emotion that Haldeman's words intended; the voices he provided for different characters occasionally bled into one another, detracting from the flow of the story, forcing me to struggle to figure out who was speaking; and his accents -- Boston, Australian, Imaginary -- were universally unconvincing.
I found myself wishing over and over that someone else was reading this book. I also took out Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea that day, and if my experience with that isn't better I may be finished with audio books for good. I am not convinced, however, that Kevin R.
Free is completely to blame for my disappointment in The Accidental Time Machine. I never seemed to connect to the story itself, and a big part of that had to do with my feelings for the painfully flat protagonist, Matt.
I never cared about Matt, and I had a hard time buying his slacker calm. Whether he was walking into the Massachusetts Institute of Theosophy, being interrogated for the murder of his former drug dealer, turning over his bottle of wine to an insane auction in a distant, future, uber-L. But get him around a naked woman, a futuristic porn computer, a cuddly ex-girlfriend, or his Nobel Prize winning grandson nee mentor, and he is suddenly Mister Flappable.
And that's his entire personality in two mini-paragraphs. Maybe I can make it even simpler still: He never grows, he never changes, and he ultimately makes a happy life out of mediocrity. What a hero. Sure, there were some clever and likable bits. I enjoyed "La" for a while, the artificial intelligence who embodied Los Angeles; I thought the memory helmet was a nice touch; and something about the family Matt caught fish with in the time of the Christers was satisfying.
But there was way too much crap. Haldeman referenced countless sci-fi classics without subtlety or inspiration, his ending was too pat, too deus ex machina , and the constantly forward moving action -- jumping, jumping, jumping -- never really made sense to me in connection with Matt's character. I just didn't believe he was a curious enough person to drive the plot forward in that manner.
And then there was Haldeman's constant use of "not un-. Haldeman did it and did it and did it again, and I wanted to not unstrangle him.. He's not the only author who uses "not un-. But I usually notice its use and move on, letting it fade into the background when the story has anything to offer me.
The fact that my aggravation grew every time Haldeman used it is a sign of how disappointed in The Accidental Time Machine I am. My feelings about Kevin R. Free's vocal performance mitigates, ever so slightly, my negative feelings for Haldeman's book, but if Haldeman doesn't impress me when I read The Forever War our relationship as author and reader will be over for good.
View all 3 comments. Dec 18, Karina rated it really liked it Shelves: This was light reading; I have finished it in one day. I'm still not all clear on the detail how the protagonist bails himself out of prison, and it's bothering me. So I guess the conclusion isn't all that neat as in The Door Into Summer where the story goes full circle. Still there was a happy ending for the protagonist apparently.
An Eternal Golden Braid since this book mentions Godel and strange loops, which I only have a basic understa This was light reading; I have finished it in one day. An Eternal Golden Braid since this book mentions Godel and strange loops, which I only have a basic understanding of. Jul 22, Mike rated it really liked it Shelves: Forgot I read this when I was sick last week.
Very reminiscent of Heinlein's predictions of humanity in the future, with a few darker twists. During creation of a calibration instrument for his laboratory, grad-school protagonist Matt Fuller accidentally creates a machine that jumps into the future in ever-increasing steps, and must continue forward in the effort to discover a way back.
A fun romp through many sci-fi tropes. Apr 25, Richard rated it liked it Recommended to Richard by: Visit this link to see all of the discussions, group member reviews, etc. This is old school science fiction. Very clever, nicely thought-out hard-scifi plausibility, and very light on character development.
The plot is a classic voyage-and-return in which our likable but flawed protagonist is more-or-less forced far from home, undergoes struggles, and — perhaps — finds his way home. Along the way he meets allies and opponents, and a little romance okay, so that isn't classic scifi.
There is no grand villain here, which isn't a surprise since scifi isn't as taken with the myth of pure evil as fantasy is. The book is a moderately short and easy read; I think it took me six or so hours in total. It isn't a riveting page-turner, but shouldn't have any problems holding the attention of a scifi fan for its duration. The lack of any deep characters will be dismaying to many, and it is that aspect that earned this only three stars.
We spend the entire book inside the head of the protagonist third-person narrative, but I don't think it ever strayed far from the first person , but we never get to know him as any more than your classic scifi character, the grad-school mild-misfit.
He never got around to finishing his PhD -- why? He just broke up with his girlfriend who remains a minor but critical character -- why? His father is never really mentioned.
He was never circumcised, despite being Jewish, but this curious detail isn't revealing of any interesting history, just a trivial plot device. He has a mildly strained relationship with his mother, who might drink too much and might call too often. But when his escapades means that he has to abandon her in her senior years, he actually doesn't even factor this into his decision. Still, we like him. And Haldeman triggers the appropriate superficial reactions to the other characters as well, although Haldeman isn't doing any extra work here, since all the female characters described in any detail are very attractive or better, and the male lead is no worse than mildly disheveled.
A nice evening's read. Anyone know why the time traveler looks like Jesus? I guess there's an obvious answer, but it seems like such an arbitrary plot device that I hope I'm wrong.
Apr 30, Ryan rated it liked it Recommended to Ryan by: Oh the fun you can have with time travel. I would say this was a slightly above average sci-fi exploration of the space-time continuum, although I thought it borrowed a little too heavily from H. Wells' classic.
The periodic regression of civilization and the eventual extinction of life on Earth just didn't strike me as that creative. I would have also like to see more on the inherent paradoxes of time travel instead of the clumsy interpersonal relationships he spends so much time on. I don't Oh the fun you can have with time travel. I don't read enough modern sci-fi to know where this one ranks relative to others, but I'll make a wild stab at the future myself and predict that people will be reading Wells' "The Time Machine" long after Haldeman goes out of print.
Do you mind? He followed, also dripping. She looked in the medicine cabinet and slammed it shut. Then she looked at the tub. Clean feet, though. The door closed with a quiet click. Everybody does travel through time toward the future, trivially, one second at a time.
Demonstrating that, though—time dilation through relativistic contraction—requires either really high speeds or the ability to measure very small amounts of time. Send one around the world on a jet plane, and when it comes back, the traveling clock will be about a millionth of a second slower than the stay-at-home. But they all required huge deformations of the universe, harnessing black holes and the like. Not just pushing a button. Matt woke up on the couch, groggy and aching.
Past the row of empty beer cans on the coffee table, an old movie capered on the TV screen. It had been Fellini when he fell asleep. Now it was Lucille Ball with a grating laugh track. He found the remote on the floor and sent her back to the twentieth century. His feet were cold. He shuffled into the bathroom and stood for a long time under a hot shower. Was Kara fanatically folding and hanging for another man now?
The coffee was ready by the time he got dressed. He sweetened a cup with a lot of honey and made a space at the kitchen table by pushing aside some three-day-old newspapers. He plugged in the notebook and scanned the graph paper into it, with the four data points. The first two were guesses, the third approximate, and the fourth timed with a stopwatch.
He drew in appropriate error bars with a stylus and asked the notebook to do a Fourier transform on them. As he expected, it gave him a set of low-probability solutions that curved all over the map, but the cleanest one was a straight line with a slope of Six hours and forty-eight minutes, give or take whatever.
Okay, this one would be scientific. He got the digital alarm from his bedroom and set it to show seconds. He put a fresh eight-hour tab into his cell and set it for continuous video, then propped it up on a stack of books so that it stared at the clock and the machine. As an afterthought, he cleared the junk away from the table behind it, and restarted the cell.
This would be part of the history of physics. It ought to look neat. He rummaged through the everything drawer in the kitchen and found his undergraduate multimeter. He showed the result to the camera. See how much power the thing drew while it was gone. It was 9: Out of curiosity, he pulled a two-dollar coin out of his pocket and set it on top of the machine. That would be his dramatic sound track: His eye on the clock, he could feel his heart racing.
What if nothing happened? Well, nobody else would see the tab. A split second before ten, he jammed his thumb down on the button. The machine dutifully disappeared. It took the two-dollar coin with it. No clink. That was interesting. Both he and the coin had been in contact with the machine, but the coin had been on the metal box, not the nonconducting plastic button.
What would have happened if it had been him touching the metal instead? He should have put the cell on the machine, rather than outside. Not here and now. Well, next time. Of course the phone rang. He peered at the caller ID. His mother. When it stopped ringing, he called her from the bathroom. Are you doing all right with the storm? You got power and water? It was solid gray, snow packed so thick that no light came through. The power went out right after I got up.
Snow ten feet deep? He peered through the blinds. There was snow, all right, but only a couple of feet. The wind was fierce, though, rattling the windowpanes. That was it. The bathroom window looked out over a temporarily vacant lot. Wind blowing from the north had an unobstructed path more than a hundred yards long. So the snow had packed up against the north wall, including the bathroom window.
He picked up the phone. Anything I can do? You need something? Without the electric? If his extrapolation was right, the machine would reappear just before five. Plenty of time, even with the weather. He should eat something first. Nothing in the fridge but beer and a desiccated piece of cheddar cheese. He popped his last can of Boston Baked Beans—made in Ohio—and nuked them while he chased down a piece of paper and a pen for a list.
Candles, wine, milk, water. He called and she added bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Red currant if they had it. He poured the beans over a slice of bread that was dry but not moldy and squelched some ketchup over them.
He opened another beer and watched the Weather Channel while he ate. The snow should stop by noon. But more tomorrow. A good time to take a long weekend. He tried not to think about being bundled up with Kara while the snow drifted down. Hot chocolate, giggles. Some giddy exploration of the outer limits of love. The beans had turned cold. He finished them and dressed in layers and went out to slay the wily groceries.
The wind had gentled somewhat, and he almost enjoyed the walk. Or maybe he enjoyed not being in the apartment alone.
No candles at the grocery store except little votive ones. He bought her a box of two dozen and a five-liter box of cheap California wine. Get one for himself on the way back. Two jugs of water. Everything but the water went into his backpack. He lumbered off toward the Red Line.
His mother was just two stops down, but more than a mile walk after that. By the time he got there, he was regretting the second gallon of water. Mom could brush her teeth with wine. They sat in the kitchen and had a glass of wine and some chocolate, and he said he had to get back to work, which was true, even though the work was not of an arduous nature.
The wind and snow had started up again when he got off the subway to make his way home. He was shivering by the time he got inside. A glance verified that the machine was still off to wherever it was, so he went straight into the kitchen and started water for coffee and to warm his hands. A little more than an hour to go, as he sat down on the couch with his coffee. He picked up his notebook and clicked on the calculator, and made a short list: So he had to plan. The next time he pushed the button— if the simple linear relationship held true—the thing would be gone for over three days.
Next time, over a month; then over a year. Then fifteen years, and way into the future after that. So it was a time machine, if kind of a useless one. Or a list of who had won the World Series every year in between. But simply putting yourself in the future, well, you could do that by just standing around. No profit in it unless you could come back. He calculated two more numbers, If you went that far up, if would be like visiting another planet.
And it might get lonely up there, with nobody but Morlocks to grunt with. If they could do that, we would have seen them around. Playing the stock market, betting on horses. Maybe they came back all the time—made a few bucks and then went back to the future. Of course you had the Ray Bradbury Effect. Even a tiny change here could profoundly affect the future. Through all this rumination, he kept staring at the spot.
Four forty-eight came, and nothing happened. He started to panic, but then it shimmered into existence, just before 4: Have to adjust the equation slightly. The two-dollar coin was where he had set it. He should have put a watch next to it. A cage with a guinea pig. And the camera. He checked the Madhya fuel cell, and it was at It might have lost that by capacitance, though; the circuit open. See what the next data point shows. Three days and eight hours, next time.
He counted on his fingers. Just after midnight Monday. He could call in sick that day. He would miss the machine, though. Could he build a duplicate by Tuesday? Nothing to it, if he had all the components in front of him and a properly equipped worktable.
But it would be hard to gather all that stuff over a weekend when the Institute and the city were mostly shut down. Of course if you were just borrowing things. Matt had been a student at MIT for five years, and an employee for three more.
He went back to the everything drawer and pulled out a large ring with a couple of dozen keys identified with little paper labels. One of them would open nine out of ten MIT doors, but those were mostly uninteresting classrooms and labs. The others were special offices and storerooms. Most students who had been around a long time had access to a similar collection, or at least knew someone like Matt.
MIT had a venerable tradition of harmless breaking and entering. Saturday night in a blinding snowstorm. Or janitors or security guards, neither of whom would be much of a problem. He half filled a thermos with the rest of the coffee and made two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and put them in his knapsack along with the computer and key ring. He emptied out a multivitamin jar and sorted through the various pills. He broke a large Ritalin in two and swallowed one half.
The other he folded up into a scrap of paper and put in his shirt pocket. This would be an all-nighter. What he really wanted to do was set up the machine with the camera and a watch, and send it off into the future. But not until he had a duplicate. He tried to hold on to that thought as he barged out into the blowing cold.
He had to sneak into fourteen different labs and storerooms before he had all the parts in his bag. A thin gray winter dawn was threading through the window when he gathered all the parts together at his bench. Then he took it to the chemical hood and spray painted it with two coats of glossy black enamel. It was fast-drying, supposedly, but he set a timer for a half hour and stretched out on the bench for a nap, his more or less dry boots folded for a pillow.
Waking up not too refreshed, he took the rest of the Ritalin and heated up half a ml. This last step was the most satisfying, but also one prone to spectacularly stupid error, because of familiarity and fatigue. He got a big mug of coffee and stared at the neat array as the drug came on slowly, waking him up.
He assembled the calibrator mentally, writing down the steps in sequence on a yellow pad. He studied the list for a few minutes, then rolled his sleeves up neatly and got to work. It was a mind-set he remembered from childhood, spending hours in the meticulous construction of airplane and spaceship models, excitement holding fatigue at bay. He slid the fuel cell into place and tightened the contacts.
Had to try it. He set his watch to the stopwatch function and pressed both buttons simultaneously. Nothing happened. Or, rather, the calibrator emitted one photon per chronon, as designed. Marsh could have this one. A heavy lassitude flowed into him. He stretched out on the lab bench again. He checked his watch, but it was still set on stopwatch, earnestly adding up the seconds. He left it that way. Three hours and seven seconds later, he unfolded, groaning, and sat up. It was after nine, good.
He left the calibrator on the shelf and went out to face the Cambridge winter. It was overcast and bitter, in the teens or single digits. No new snow, but plenty of old. He crashed through the snow, more than knee-deep, toward the Red Line.
The smell of Sunday morning coffee at Starbucks lured him in. He put enough sugar and cream in the coffee to call it breakfast, and thought about the next stage of the experiment. The machine would be away for three days and eight hours. A guinea pig. See whether something alive would be affected by the suspension of time, or whatever was going on. An actual lab animal would be pretty complicated: Something that would survive for three days without maintenance.
Something he could buy cheap or borrow. A turtle. They had a terrarium full of the little rascals. He toyed with the idea of breaking in, risking months in jail for a two-dollar turtle. The security guards would take one look at him, a shaggy drug-addled young male dressed like a street person, and shoot to kill.
The Starbucks had a phone book, though, a much-abused sheaf of dirty yellow paper, and he found the number and punched it up on his cell. Who else would call on a Sunday morning? I got to come in and feed and water and clean up after my babies. You run it? Who has a higher IQ than the animals.
We need a small turtle for. I could get up there in less than an hour. Then I cover up my babies and leave. And waited. The only thing to read was the sex and Personals section of the Phoenix.
Well, he could always run one himself: Will supply own turtle. When it did come, of course, it was jammed full of people who would otherwise be driving or walking.
A lot of church perfume, which was pleasant when he stepped into the car but overpowering thirty seconds later. The crowd was unusually tense and silent. Perhaps devout. Perhaps wondering why a loving God would do this to them on Sunday morning. The T stop was on the wrong side of the mall, and he was five minutes late, so he ran. She was waiting in the door with her coat on.
She handed him a white cardboard box with a bail, like a Chinese takeout, and a small jar of Baby Reptile Chow. Give Herman some water and a piece of lettuce and go crash. Or Hermione. How long you been up? About lunch? Love them pancakes. He opened the box, and the turtle looked at him. Where was he supposed to get lettuce on a Sunday morning? He stripped off the wilted lettuce for Herman and squirted mustard on the rest of the sub, and ate half of it down at the subway stop.
He rewrapped the other half and left it on the edge of the trash bin. Some actual street person would find it and thank his lucky stars. Until he opened it. Ew-w, mustard. He had to be methodical. This trial would be a little over three days. Then roughly a month, and then a year. Then fifteen years, during which time it would be nice if the whole world was waiting.
And he was, incidentally, famous and tenured. After only three more demonstrations. One thing he had to check with this trial was just how much stuff the machine would take with it. A coin was interesting, but a camera and a watch and a turtle would give actual data. He would put the turtle in a metal container and set it where the coin had been.
Put something heavy in it. But maybe it was because the coin was above the machine and the base was below. So check that out by putting something nonconductive on the top. There was a note taped to the door, and for a wild moment he could hope it was from Kara. But it was just the landlord reminding him to shovel the walk. Now that would be a reason to travel into the future. Herman had withdrawn into his shell, which was understandable. He had probably spent all his remembered life in a pet-store window.
Then he was thrown into a cardboard prison and thrust into a backpack, to endure a long subway ride and then a swaying walk while the bitter cold slipped in. The turtle equivalent of being abducted by aliens. Traveling through time would be nothing in comparison. Matt put him in a big bowl with a jar lid of water and his wilted lettuce leaf, and set him under the desk lamp to warm. It was kind of sticky; he washed it for Herman and posterity.
Someday it would be in the MIT Museum. Should he top it off with foil? That would make a Faraday cage out of it, a complete volume enclosed by conductors. Anything sitting on metal connected to the outside of the machine ought to do it. So the loaf pan went on top of the machine, with a bigger jar lid of water and five pellets of Baby Reptile Chow. He cut the cheap cell out of its blister pack.
Or voyeurism. Or to win a Nobel Prize. He turned it on and it worked. It went next to the loaf pan. Then the watch, sideways so metal was in contact with metal. A stub of pencil for the nonconductor—no, that looked too ad hoc. In the everything drawer he found a white plastic chess piece, a pawn. Connecting the metal trash can was a slight problem. In the lab, he could just use alligator clips continuing the reptile theme , but here he had to improvise.
He used a computer power cord and lots of duct tape. The multimeter verified that they made a closed circuit. Something heavy to put in it?
A gallon plastic jug; he filled it with water up to the rim. See how much evaporates. Herman was drinking, his neck craned over the jar lid. Matt let him finish, then moved him to his new abode. H Hour. He set the cheap cell camera on LOCK and placed it so that it looked at the clock radio. Then he set his own camera up to take his picture when he pushed the button. He pushed the button at exactly noon.
The machine faded nicely. The white pawn fell with a click to bounce off the wooden base. Everything else had gone, including the heavy trash can. He went into the kitchen and opened a beer quietly, aware that posterity was listening. He could change the name to something less fantastic before anybody else read it. The disappearing machine? Not much better. Or a dead one and blankness, whatever. It had to be some accidental feature of its construction.
But he was understandably reluctant to take it apart. He could have set up this iteration better. The machine was going to reappear at 8: Or in the middle of the rotunda in Building One, high noon, with hundreds of students as witnesses. Then again, there was something to be said for keeping control over the conditions of the experiment. They had only given him a degree and a job, both begrudgingly.
When he checked on his e-mail that afternoon, he found he had one less reason to be loyal to the Center and MIT. Technically, the funding for his appointment had not been renewed. So there would be no paycheck after January 1.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Matt picked up the phone and put it back down. Go talk to him in person. On the clattering ride down to Cambridge, he considered and rejected various strategies. More puttering than math. He was reasonably well caught up on the literature, though most of his energy of late had gone into time-travel theory, of course.
Could he use that as a trump card? Instinct said no: Hire me back for my penny-ante job and I promise to rewrite the laws of physics. On the other hand, when he did want to publish his results, the connection with the Center and MIT would be valuable. But not essential. He could take his evidence to Harvard, for instance. That made him smile. The rivalry between the two schools went back to the nineteenth century.
Maybe Marsh would be fired for firing him. The sky was the color of aluminum. Snow piled up in waist-high drifts, but the sidewalks were clear. There was no wind as he approached the Green Building, which was so unusual it seemed ominous.
Usually it whipped across the quad from the frozen Charles and chilled you to the core.
He showed his card to the scanner at the entrance to the Green Building, and it let him in. So he still existed, at least until the end of the month. He got off the elevator on the sixth floor to a pleasant shock: Kara, standing in the foyer.
Were you looking for me? He was younger and better-looking. Lose your job and your girl to the same punk kid. He had a journal and a book open in front of him, making notes in a paper notebook. Matt knocked on the open door.
Marsh put a finger down to mark his place in the journal. What can I do for you? For your own good. Then I could give you a good recommendation anywhere. Might as well go on home and work on your dissertation. Matt went back into the lab, suddenly a stranger there. Except a pair of earrings. Kara had taken them off when they went skating on Boston Common a couple of weeks ago.
Might as well take them.
Send her a note. He went over to the campus pub, the Muddy Charles, and had a beer, and then another. That fortified him enough to walk the cold mile to the nearest liquor store. He got a bottle of cheap bourbon and a bottle of red vermouth. The road to Hell would be paved with Manhattans.
When he got home, he was slightly intimidated by the silent witness to history in the living room. He took both into the bathroom and slid into a tub of hot water. He grimly read on, though, rather than get out of the tub and try to find another book. You can make a template out of the edge of the page, holding it in such a way that it reveals only the first letter of each line of the page underneath. In this way you can search for hidden messages from God.
On the third try he found the word "sQwat. It was his mother. I should take a bath in the living room? So I went down to talk to my boss.
What did you do? Like I have too much education for the job. I should finish my dissertation and move up in the world. Can you loan me about twenty grand for rent and groceries while I sit around and think?
There was a long pause and a sniff. For a job. At three in the afternoon? It seemed like the right occasion. By noon, he was sufficiently recovered to dress up and go out for a decent lunch, two hamburgers and fries. He looked through the MIT freebie newspaper, the Tech, for job openings, and found two possibilities, one in Cambridge and the other at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.
He was carrying his notebook, so he went on down to the MIT main library, plugged in, and started rereading the notes for his dissertation on patterns of local asymmetries in gravity wave induction associated with two recent supernovae.
His data stank. The inductions were so weak they were almost lost in the background noise. Saying they actually existed was as much an act of faith as one of observation. It felt like the cable on his personal elevator had snapped. The set of mathematical models that could contain his wobbly data was so large as to make any one solution actually indefensible. He closed the notebook with a whispered expletive that made one person look up and two others lean forward to concentrate on their screens.
There was no way to refine the data or hope for technological advances that would reduce the blobbiness of it. The gravity wave that a supernova produced passed through the solar system once and was gone. It was not too bright to bet your career on a set of evanescent and unrepeatable data. He could still do something with it, if only an analysis of why this approach was wrong.
He could visualize trying to defend something that feeble in front of a thesis committee. The death of a thousand cutting remarks. Not as long as the machine and Herman came back tonight. He saved a subway token and walked through the stinging wind to Central Square, where thirty dollars got him a dish of nuts and a nonalcoholic beer at a place where pretty naked women danced almost close enough to touch, Middle Eastern music whining and twanging.
Another one describing oscillating conic sections as she swung around a pole. He stayed only a half hour. On his way to the T he optimistically bought a half bottle of decent champagne. For celebration or consolation. When he got home, he put it in the fridge and opened a can of minestrone for dinner.
While it heated, he went to check the e-mail. There was a note from Kara, with only a question mark in the subject line. He opened it eagerly: I described that photon project to Strom, and he went to talk to Prof. Marsh about it, and I guess he offered Strom your job. He likes Marsh and always got As from him. He allowed himself a wicked moment of imagining how Marsh would feel when he published his time-machine results. It was Matt himself who had graded the papers!
The minestrone started boiling. He took it off the stove and, after it had cooled, ate it straight out of the pot, staying out of range of the camera and posterity. At seven, he sat down at the couch with a book, a biography of Isaac Newton. He was about a minute early. It had moved. The chassis of the machine stood on the woodscrews that had secured it to the board, like four little metal feet.
They were a couple of millimeters from the drill holes. He looked into the pan and Herman looked back, apparently unaffected by his sudden fame. Or did it just move so little that the screws nudged their way back into the holes? Could the house have shifted that much in three days? He belatedly looked at the clock. It said The machine had only been gone about a minute, in its own frame of reference. He checked the water in the jug. No evaporation. He took extreme close-ups from three angles, which he could later analyze for the precise distance and direction moved.
Next time, it might move centimeters. Or across the room. Or into another state. Share the Nobel Prize. Or wire the machine to a big metal box and go along with it. It showed his clock radio at We expect it to be gone for about three days and eight hours. The screen went gray for about a minute, then the clock radio reappeared, showing 8: He could time it precisely later. He ran it back and scrutinized it with the screen brightness turned all the way up.
It seemed to be a minute of uniform gray. But three days had passed, and three nights. Where had it gone? He scientifically dipped a finger into the jug. Room temperature, give or take a couple of degrees. The next time, he ought to include an environmental monitor, something that recorded temperature and pressure. Bean probably had one. Money, though. He could probably borrow one from MIT, a midnight requisition.
Bring it back in a month. Forty days, actually. How long would it seem to him, in his metal box? There was no way to interrogate Herman about the subjective length of his voyage. Probably not. Matt had looked in the pan only a few seconds after it reappeared, and Herman seemed unruffled.
Though it was hard to tell. He might be having a profound existential crisis. Matt looked into the pan again. Herman was gnawing on a pellet of Baby Reptile Chow.
He went for a beer and remembered the champagne. Opened it, poured a jelly glass full, and sat down to think. If everything was simple and linear, then the next time, the machine would move about twelve millimeters, half an inch, and the gray period would be about twelve minutes long. But it would be dangerous to assume linearity. The safest course, if he were going to put himself in that metal box, would be to take along enough food and water for forty days. How much would that be?
He typed the question into his notebook. Eight of those big five-gallon jugs. Then one thousand five hundred calories of food a day, which would be easier.
A couple of boxes of energy bars. A bottle of bourbon to keep from going insane. Maybe two. And a really good book. And what about air? Presumably a small turtle could last a long time on the air inside a loaf pan. A human could last for hours on a proportional amount. Only hours. So the water would be moot. In fact, he could do the experiment without any of that, assuming it would take only minutes.
If the minutes dragged on into hours, he could always call it quits and disconnect the fuel cell. But any sufficiently old car would do. Anything made before the Fossil Fuel Users Tax would have a mostly metal shell. Mostly might not do it, though. His Mazda, for instance, had only a spidery titanium frame sunk inside a plastic aero-form. Technically, that would be a Faraday cage.
But he wanted to be wrapped in metal. Denny Peposi. He had a Ford Thunderbird in his garage. The radio only played recordings of appropriately ancient music, and there were yellowed magazines from scattered on the backseat. He drove it around the block once a week, and maybe once a year bought enough gasoline to take out a girl he wanted to impress.
Otherwise, it just sat there, a perfect Faraday cage with seats of soft Mexican leather. And all the Elvis Presley you would ever want to hear. Or was it Buddy Holly and the Beetles back then?
He was sure he could talk Denny into letting him sit in it, and take a video of him. But where would it appear? Matt looked at the machine on his way to refill his jelly glass. It had moved northeast a millimeter. If it moved northeast far enough, it would be in Boston Harbor.
Or the North Atlantic. Wise to take some precautions about that possibility. Matt swam like a brick. Which is how Matt wound up, the next morning, in a bad part of Boston, going from pawn shop to pawn shop looking for a wetsuit and a snorkel.
He finally found both, at a place full of shabby sports relics. They cost more than half his cash reserves, but the man agreed, with a puzzled look, that he would refund 75 percent if Matt brought them back unused before the end of January.
At a military surplus store he bought an emergency raft that inflated if you pulled a lanyard. He saved the receipt. Unless it reappeared in Boston Harbor, or off the coast of Spain. He swung open the door and gave Matt a big hug.
Three hundred pounds of dope dealer, understandably stoned at nine in the evening. Einstein, I presume? Barefoot in January. She moved on. She moved on, too. Want a drink?
What you got? Matt hauled along the duffel bag with all his time-machine stuff in it. The kitchen was all chrome and tile and looked like no one had ever cooked a meal in it.
Or is it whisky with a Heineken chaser? There was a bottle of twenty-five-year-old Glenmorangie on it and one crystal glass. Denny produced another glass and got two Heinekens from a huge metal refrigerator that seemed to have nothing in it but beer and wine. He should use that for the time machine. He put the beers down and poured Matt a generous amount of whisky, and himself a little more generous one.
He sat down on the delicate chair with exaggerated caution. But just to sit in it? Way back when. Well, hell, maybe it is magic. It just goes, like, somewhere sideways in space.
That might communicate uncertainty.
Denny took a vial out of his shirt pocket and tapped out a small pile of white powder, then produced a little cocktail straw and sniffed it up. He shook all over, like a big dog. Want some? Cuts to the chase.