Here is a translation from Une souris spatio-temporelle. Please forgive the numerous mistakes I might have made, as English is not my first language.
I created this text a few years ago for a contest called: a bug, a click, something unexpected and everything changes. I wanted to show that a mistake might not lead to either serendipity or catastrophy, it can also be neutral, or both positive and negative, depending on the point of view.
The first version I wrote was impossible to understand according to my first beta-readers. I also added some details I had to remove from the French text because of the contest’s word limitation. I may also expand it even more in the future, but in the meantime here is
A Space-Time Mouse
… alists, and then we can’t see anything anymore. Beyond the immense glass surface of our bubble, no supernovae, no red giants. The wormhole which carried us here has already gone. My heart aches for Minkiewicz who worked so hard but had to stay on Earth, in this other place, in this other time.
Fiona and Minh have tears in their eyes. What does Trevor feel? Probably not that much. After a few minutes of nearly religious contemplation, we switch the sensors on. We are mesmerized by the screen slowly mapping the universe’s iron dust. We hold our breath each time the values are updated. But they are null. I mean we can’t detect any nucleon.
– It should have found something by now… Minh says impatiently, as he is a big supporter of the proton stability theory.
– There is nothing! Nothing! Nothing! instability cultist Fiona replies enthusiastically.
As for me, I’m on Minh’s side, but I don’t react. Not because Minh is my ex and I’m going out with Fiona. He is the one who left and the three of us are good friends. However, something has caught my attention. I get up from my seat while Fiona begins a victory dance.
When I understand what is happening, I rush towards the tunnel generator. My colleagues talk to me but I don’t answer. Fiona and Minh have probably noticed the leakage since I can hear their calls turning into screams. In a flash, I know it’s too late, I know I won’t reach the generator, two hundred meters away. We are going to die. “A small mistake”, how ironic! It has to be too late.
July 5, 2110
No way I can become my own father, I say to myself as I discover the deserted landscape of Warui Ookami-to, a tiny island off Japan. I laugh inwardly. Well, aloud, but I’m alone so I feel a bit ahamed. If I were my father, I would know whom I got my blue eyes and my amazing wittiness from! This is only my third trip and it looks like I’m going mad… but not jaded, as a non existing witness could think. But apart from the bubble, everything seems so “normal” on this islet. Rocks, a tree, rocks, the Pacific ocean and some more rocks. I’m already missing Minh, Fiona and New Orleans. My assignement: stay here. That’s it. For three hours. As a precaution, I’m isolated to prevent paradoxes. Paranoia! If I could cause any trouble, surely the tunnel wouldn’t have been created? Oh well, I’m going to bathe. And if I drown, will a hellish space-time tear open? No? Damn!
– When I was a child, in Paris, I was fascinated by late twentieth century science fiction, I say wistfully.
– They were so imaginative indeed!
– A century later, entangled atoms were stabilized and black holes studies progressed a lot. So obviously the artists got bored of this… When I was twelve, the trend in art was realistic descriptions of the last traditional farmers, I never could like that…
– Me neither! I’ve always had a thing for a good old steampunk story.
– Good choice! I really liked old technology too. When I was fourteen I began collecting antiquated cellphones.
– You’re such a geek, as old people say!
– Stop it! I discovered physics while visiting a science museum with my mum.
– A true vocation! Fiona teases me some more.
In each other’s arms, we forget we need to get up early.
The next morning, we try to convince ourselves that we’re not afraid. Yes, we’re happy, no, it’s not (that) dangerous… I feel like I’m rehearsing the press conference. Speaking about it, what are the latest news from the Telepathblogs? I put my mental transmission headpiece on. I should have guessed it: they’re talking about us.
“Decades of research were needed to send an atom a thousandth of a nanosecond in the future. Today, these efforts will finally succeed. New Orleans’ TimeWorm team members are on the verge of travelling a few seconds into the future. A month ago, the whole world caught its breath while witnessing – through brain-stream – Trevor, the team’s little mascot mouse, disappear for three seconds. Analysis of the radioactive markers he had been submitted to had confirmed the time gap. Humans are now going to repeat this experiment, in camera. Professor Minkiewicz says this attempt is the first step in a series of trips to the past as well as to the future, which will allow mankind to better understand our universe and test assumptions previously thought unprovable. Minkiewicz is considered as the father of artificial wormholes generation. His team, mainly composed of some of his former PhD students, is working on applying this phenomenon to time travel. We can easily say this is the field’s best team in the world. Dr. Armand Picart, Dr. Fiona Grimshaw and Dr. Minh Q. Pham may prove it today.”
Our three names are mentioned, I feel embarrassed and proud at the same time. Fiona, who has heard the same information, exclaims: “No pressure there!”. She never seems to take anything seriously, dear Fiona. This is probably what really seduced me, more than her long scarlet curls and her green eyes.
The journalists have invaded the university’s campus, a set of lawns and buildings of cyborgian style, which is a mix between Gustave Eiffel, Art Nouveau, Sir Norman Foster and animal anatomy. We avoid answering questions, find Minh and wait more or less patiently for Minkiewicz in our gigantic laboratory. The bubble’s height is intimidating and I feel a bit afraid of the time jump to come. Indeed, I will be the first to try human time jump, before the whole team. I swallow with difficulty.
I lean against the wall of the bubble to prevent my shaking legs from making me fall.
Encircling the inner transparent sphere and crowning the particles storing ring, the collider starts. It creates a micro black hole linked to a white fountain located at the required space-time coordinate. An Einstein-Rosen gate, colloquially called wormhole or tunnel, is thus born. Against the wall, the generator produces an energy field which can stabilize the gate, move it at the center of the bubble and augment it. The black hole then absorbs my ship and the white fountain liberates it.
Describing the process calms me down.
– How was it? I ask as I leave the bubble.
– Awesome! Minh answers, unusually but understandably over excited. We have seen you disappear for three seconds!
Fiona kisses me deeply. Minkiewicz doesn’t even look away, I think he also wants to hug me.
I can’t wait for Minh and Fiona to try the bubble. I jumped three seconds into the future! I don’t want to be the only one to live this incredible experience. This victory belongs to the team.
– Your first team trip will also be your first round trip, Minkiewicz announces. You will arrive a year and a half later, on October 20 2152. If your return could create a paradox, you would probably stay in the future.
– Great, Fiona mutters.
– Yesterday, Trevor came back as expected. He should appear here in five minutes, now that I think about it.
– Yes, but briefly, interrupts Minh. To limit paradox risks, Trevor spent only sixty milliseconds in the future. The same will happen to us.
– Fine. Take a break before the big trip, codename “space-time mouse”!
I see pride in his shining eyes. We are his protégés, we improve science in general, and his lab in particular. The upcoming experiment will allow us to understand wormholes natural protection mechanisms against paradoxes. I can also sense some sadness in Minkiewicz, some frustration perhaps. The theory’s father has never time travelled yet.
I think I can see a mouse over his shoulder but as I look more attentively it disappears.
I have a hard time adjusting to the return trip from 2152. Something troubled me but I can’t put my finger on it. Anyway, this time I’m going to travel to the past, very soon. I hope I won’t become my own father!
Minkiewicz wants me to appear on an island ten years before I was born and to stay there for three hours, for the sheer pleasure of having the radioactive markers tell him I’m one hundred eighty minutes older even if I’ll only disappear for a fraction of a second. I’m thinking I should have taken a good book with me but the generator is already buzzing.
We have been time travelling a lot for the past year and we are still the only ones. Other laboratories contract us for time jumps. We experiment for them, to prove or disprove some hypothesis. We are pioneers, channeling more passion than the Large Hadron Collider in its time.
One day, some particle physics laboratory sends us an extraordinary request. The bill is up to the danger and complexity of the implementation. We are in shock at the idea of travelling this far into the future. Ten power ten power ten power seventy-three years. This is beyond imagination. At this time, if proton is unstable, the universe will die because all matter will have disappeared. Else, it will eternally consist in iron dust. We are going to bring sensors, appear in the middle of the void and come back with the answer! We will witness the end of the universe!
I enter quickly the arrival time in the bubble’s computer, inspect the sensors and do the luggage stocktaking. Trevor’s cage with Trevor, check. Pharmacy kit, check…
We are inside the bubble. I’m used to it but my thoughts are drifting because I’ve just remembered what bothered me during the “space-time mouse” experiment. Trevor… and Minkiewicz’s look… This memory disturbs me while I should be careful. The smallest error and the black hole will lead us into a white fountain anywhere, anytime. The particle storing ring should also have been checked better because a leak could cause an explosion. What is the probability that a small mistake, instead of sending us into the future, could lead us at the beginning of the universe, before the Big Bang? And if the bubble explodes, could we actually create the Big Bang? As the generator is purring, we cast a last glance to the illuminated lab, Professor Minkiewicz, the science journ…
October 20, 2152
The west side of our lab, one year and a half older, appears outside our bubble. Codename “space-time mouse”? Really? I can’t see Trevor nor its cage during these sixty milliseconds, and Minkiewicz is alone, looking at us with a weird sad look on his face, but I don’t have time to be sure. Our collider restarts and takes us back to the present.