a collaborative tale
This story is open for suggested continuations. I will publish here, with links to your own blog, all I receive. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) the next episode of this collaborative tale.
Of course, time was not frozen. Time can’t be stopped, slowed down or accelerated. Time just is. And nothing changed on the inside of Jarvis. What Jarvis did was to release the stasis bubble, as every ten-year-old could tell you. Okay, not every ten-year-old, but certainly the one known as Alexander Grahamson.
“Are we moving again, Unkie?” Alex asked.
“Define moving,” Jarvis replied in a most haughty and superior way.
“Shut up Jarvis,” Albert said. “Yes, Alex, we are moving, but through time and not space.”
“How long will it take to get when we’re going?” Alex enquired.
“Ooh. Get him,” Jarvis sneered, “suddenly going all temporal on us. The child seems to be learning something.”
“Replay my last instruction, Jarvis,” Albert barked.
Jarvis replayed: “Shut up Jarvis. Okay, shutting up; you’ll not hear another word from me; not a syllable will pass my lips, or would if I had them; not another sound will I utter; my speech circuits are disengaged, I shall be silent, still, quiet…”
“SHUT UP!” Albert and Alex chorused.
“Jarvis; time to destination, please?” Albert asked.
“Jarvis; respond please.”
“Jarvis; if you don’t respond, I shall initiate recombining.”
“No, don’t,” Jarvis said. “Not in front of the child. It would be damaging to … Oh, I see what you did there, Albert. Clever. Very clever.”
“We’ll be then in about one and a half standard hours elapsed.”
“When are we going?” Alex asked.
“We were headed back, lad, but I think it would be more fun to go forward and switch dimension,” Albert said.
“Can you do that?”
“Seriously?” Jarvis asked, “Can I switch dimension? Don’t you know anything? Just watch this.”
Nothing happened, but it happened so quickly that Alex didn’t notice.
“Watch what?” Alex wanted to know.
“I just switched dimension without changing trajectory. That is a pretty impressive feat by any reckoning. Smooth inter-dimensional transitions aren’t easy, you know. The least I’d expect is a bit of appreciation, a grateful word, a…”
“Yes, yes, yes,” Albert said, “well done, Jarvis. Happy now?”
“And you call me misery. Who’s old grumpy pants now, eh?”
“Stop it, you two… or one… or whatever you are. By the way, Unkie, why did you tell me that you found Jarvis in the sixties, when it’s obviously not true?”
“It was too early to tell you the real story, lad. I didn’t think you were ready for it.”
“Okay,” Alex conceded, “I can get that, even though I totally was ready. But how come, if you’re not human, you’re my great uncle? And how come you live in our garden?”
“It’s a long story, but I’ll make it as short as I can, lad. I met your grandfather a long time ago; back in the 1960s. The world wasn’t as happy a place as people would have you think. Sure, it was the swinging sixties, and people are happy to talk about that, but how many will tell you that they lived under the daily fear of nuclear war; that either the Russians or the Americans or both could press the button at any time, and end up destroying both their countries and most of their allies? Nearly did happen once, in 1962. Look up ‘Cuban missile crisis’ when you get home.
“Sorry, I’m going off the point. Your grandfather and I soon became friends, as I hope you and I are, and he offered to let me have a piece of his land for when we are; or rather when we were; now, or then, at that time. He planted those trees to give us privacy, and when your father was young, he told him things about us that weren’t quite true, but made sure no-one would come nosing around. That meant your father hardly ever even peeked around the trees, so wouldn’t notice that we weren’t always there, or then. Your father called me uncle because it was common in those days to refer to parents’ friends as Aunty and Uncle, even though they weren’t related. Polite, it was.”
“So now I’ve blown your cover?”
“No more than your grandpa did, and if you are as discreet as he was, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“So, when are we off to?”
“Jarvis; destination please?”
“What’s the matter?” Jarvis asked, “Don’t you like surprises?”
“Of course we do,” Albert replied, “we just like to know about them in advance.”
Alex was confused. “How can it be a surprise if we know about it in advance?” he asked.
This prompted Jarvis to tut, or at least to approximate to tutting in a bitek kind of way.
“Did I say you were as clever as a pig? Hah! Even pigs have a better understanding of time than you do. You humans think of time in terms of cause and effect, but the relationship between time and events is not causal, it’s casual. Just a small change to the spelling, but it makes all the difference.”
“Unk?” Alex wailed.
“Put your head down and have a sleep, lad. I’ll wake you when we get then.”
Alex gave in and slept. For how long, he had no idea. He awoke after what he felt to be a few moments but it may have been much longer. Time can be so confusing, if you don’t let it have its own way.
“Are we nearly then, yet?” he asked, re-versioning the question every child asks in the middle of a long journey.
“Close now; only a few millennia to go,” Albert replied.
“A few millennia?” Alex asked.
“Another half hour should see us then.”
Travelling through time was a difficult concept for any ten year old child to get his head around, even one as bright as Alex. He tried, though.
“What is it you want me to see?” he asked.
“We are taking you to what used to be our planet, in the very early days of the bitek revolution.”
“You had a revolution?”
“Not the fighting kind. More like your Industrial Revolution. We had used robots for many thousands of years; the best of them were better in some ways than the biological, living inhabitants of the planet, but they didn’t have what you would think of as human skills; the ability to imagine, invent and… well… develop.”
“So what happened?”
“The scientists joined biology and technology to create what they called bitek. It took many generations to perfect, but by the time the planet became uninhabitable, due to the star’s approaching death, we didn’t really need a planet any more. Still don’t. Sadly, not many units were made before it had to stop.”
“Why did it have to stop, Unkie?”
“Production of bitek units needed more resources than the planet could supply, without making life unbearable for the existing population,” Jarvis interjected.
“So how long have you and Jarvis been around?” Alex asked.
“We were one of the first successful units. In your terms, we are probably about thirty thousand years old. In our terms, we are brand new.”
“How can you be brand new, if you are that old?”
“Simply,” Albert explained, “because our relationship with time is casual, not causal.”
This story remains open for suggested continuations. All I receive will be published here, with links to your own blog. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) episode 6 of this collaborative tale.
This story was started in response to Kreative Kue 18, issued on this site on 30 March 2015.