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Science Fiction Fiction

Jericho Maxwell Orelio, Ph.D., stood at his workbench conducting the final inspection of the array equipment that was carefully mounted, positioned and connected to myriad sensors. At first glance, it appeared to be something a child might assemble out of the odds and ends one might find in the dumpster behind an electronics repair shop. But a closer look would reveal a miniature version of a device that one would find among the experiments positioned in the targeting area of a particle accelerator.

“Vivian, are we still a go on the temporal window?” he asked the empty room.

“All systems are operating within recommended parameters,” the voice of his A.I. assistant reported in a somewhat sexy female voice with an Australian accent.

“This is it,” Jericho stated with excitement and trepidation. “If this works we will have revolutionized the scientific method for the first time since Galileo dropped cannonballs from the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”

“No substantial change in scientific method apparent. It still relies on observation of experimental results,” Vivian declared dispassionately.

“Yes, yes, that’s right,” Jericho admitted, “but now we have the ability to extend our observations into the future. To acquire the results of years of experimental time in an instant.”

“Jericho, I must repeat my previous assessment. The temporal window has not yet been demonstrated to work in reality as it has in simulations. I am not able to account for all possible variables. To state that results will be revolutionary is premature.”

“Oh how I wish I could imbue you with a more human-like imagination,” he lamented.

“Should not my imagination be limited by the rules of space and time that we are aware of?” Vivian asked.

“Sometimes,” Jericho said, looking at one of the cameras that Vivian used to gather visual input, “we have to imagine new rules.”

“That seems rather arbitrary,” Vivian countered.

“Not at all. Einstein violated all sorts of ‘known’ rules when he came up with relativity. Progress comes from intuition combined with imagination.” Jericho paused, trying to remember if he heard what he had just said from someone else, or if it was an original thought. “Vivian, index my last statement, tag with ‘insightful quote.’”

“Statement indexed,” the A.I. reported.

“Are all sensors recording?” he asked.

“Confirmed,” Vivian answered.

“All right, let’s see what the future holds—at least within the temporal window.”

The experiment was simple. It was a simulation of a climate model not unlike those that had been trying to predict the future of environmental conditions on earth for decades with one important difference. The resolution was much greater.

What this meant was that instead of the large volumes of space most climate models divided the Earth’s surface, oceans and atmosphere into to simplify the calculations and be able to model the results in a reasonable amount of time with the giant supercomputers employed for the task, Jericho used much smaller base units. Rather than working on a spatial scale of kilometers, he used one based on millimeters. And instead of a temporal resolution of hours, he used seconds.

This of course increased the number of calculations required to a number that exceeded the capacity of every super computer, computer, smart phone, and calculator on the planet. And that would be just for the simulation of a single hour.

There were two ways to solve this problem. The first was to make a substantial increase in the number of calculations and the capacity to store results. Jericho had enlisted the best advancements in quantum computing and holographic memory to take a tiny step in this direction. But it was evident that these advancements alone could not achieve the degree of accuracy he endeavored to achieve.

The second was to just be patient and allow the simulation to run in whatever time it took to complete. There was, however, no scenario in which the calculations could take place faster than the events would unfold in real time. That is, by the time the model had finished its calculations, they would be obsolete by a factor of mega-annum—or millions of years.

Patience was not among Jericho’s virtues.

But what if, he imagined, he could set his quantum holographic system to work now, then collect the results from the future so they could be used now?

And so was born the idea of the temporal window.

It wasn’t time travel, per se. According to his calculations, Jericho wouldn’t be traveling into the future to retrieve the results. The idea was to create a window that had the distance between the front of its pane millions of light years away from the back of it.

Everyone of course scoffed at the idea, but Jericho pointed out that we did something similar all the time. When we looked out into space, we weren’t observing the universe as it was now, but as it was however long ago it took the light to travel to our telescopes.

The trick would be creating a window that could shorten the physical distance without changing the temporal distance.

And that is what Jericho—with the help of Vivian’s quantum holographic driven artificial intelligence—was able to achieve. 

By putting his simulation on one end of the temporal window, and a holographic receiver capable of reading the results on the other, he could effectively model various climate scenarios that would take millions of years to complete instantly.

Now was the time to see if his theories and the carefully engineered solution to prove them would succeed.

The test was simple. He had detailed data from two known points in time recording global climate conditions. He input the initial conditions into his model, then peered into the future several thousand years to check the results. Vivian would no doubt take issue with the simplified way Jericho thought of the process, but he would soon know if it was possible to find out definitively the effects of current human activity on the global climate.

“All right, Vivian, let’s commence the first test.”

“May I pose a question?” the A.I. asked.

“Yes, of course,” Jericho answered. He had programmed her to be curious.

“What if we determine that no course of action will alter the fate of global climate conditions? What will have been the point?”

Jericho shrugged. “We are only scientists seeking answers. If we truly are at a point beyond return, then at least we will know that for certain. Better late than never.”

Vivian was silent for a moment. “That statement does not make sense,” she said. “If the information is obtained at a point after which it is useful, then how can that be better?”

“It’s just an expression,” Jericho told her, anxious to commence his experiment. “I’ll explain it later. Let’s begin,” 

“First test initiated,” Vivian said. Then, without a pause, “results received.”

“That was fast,” Jericho said.

“Actually, since we are observing the results from a temporally adjusted viewpoint, the characterization of ‘fast’ is not quite—”

“Yes, yes, you can correct my grammar later. Did it work? Did the model get the correct results.”

“Results are within predicted parameters, accuracy to within .0000000001 percent.”

“Wow, that’s better than we expected,” Jericho said. “How did the equipment hold up?”

“All systems are operating within recommended parameters,” Vivian reported. “However, there are unexpected readings from your home monitoring systems.”

“My what?” Jericho asked.

“Weather sensors indicate it is raining, but no rain has been predicted by local meteorological agencies.”

“Yes, well, once we perfect our system, perhaps we can adapt it to improve localized weather forecasts. Right now, I’m more interested in the global conditions. Let’s see what’s going to happen ten years from now with the primary input assumptions.”

“Initiating climate models, adjusting temporal window, results received,” Vivian reported.

Although this was exactly what he was expecting, Jericho couldn’t quite get his head around the idea that the simulation he started now was propagated through the temporal window across the space of a few inches where the future results could be gathered and recorded. 

What was even stranger was the knowledge that after he started the simulation, and got the results, he could terminate it at the origin and start a new one. He could theoretically run any number of experiments over a short amount of time that actually took billions of years to complete.

“Well?” he asked, “what is the verdict?”

“Current levels of human input will result in a climate resembling the beginning of a hothouse age for the planet. All current permanent ice will no longer exist. Area of livable land mass decreased by 65.2498 percent.”

“And if we are able to achieve net zero?” Jericho asked hopefully.

“Hothouse age avoided. Habitability sustainable.”

“We have it then. We have the evidence at a level that the skeptics won’t be able to challenge. We’ve done it Vivian!”

Instead of responding with a reciprocal level of excitement, the A.I. said, “Unexpected readings from home monitoring systems.”

“Yes, yes, you said that already. It’s raining.”

“It is no longer raining. Snow detected.”

“Snow?” Jericho asked. “There’s something wrong with the weather station.”

“Outside temperature is minus twenty degrees Celsius,” Vivian reported in her matter-of-fact tone.

“That’s ridiculous. It’s June. The thermometer must be broken.”

“All temperature sensors are reporting identical readings.”

“I can’t worry about that now,” Jericho insisted. “Let’s do a run for one thousand years of simulation time.”

“Temporal window no longer reading within recommended parameters,” Vivian said, her voice attaining a degree of robotic urgency.

“What do you mean?”

“It appears the temporal field has extended outside the containment corridor.”

Jericho wrinkled his brow. “Did that show up in the calculations for the temporal window?”

“This condition was not anticipated and was not considered in the construction of the temporal window containment corridor.”

“So, what are the ramifications? Could that be what’s interfering with the weather sensors?”

“Negative.”

“How large was the breach in the containment?”

“Unknown.”

Jericho looked around the lab. He inspected his quantum holographic computer positioned at one end of the temporal window, and the holographic receiver at the other. Everything looked fine.

“Let’s go ahead with the proposed simulation,” Jericho ordered. “Monitor the containment field and see if you can determine the extent of the leak.”

“Initiating climate models, adjusting temporal window, results received,” Vivian reported. Then she added, “Weather sensors unavailable.”

“What? Did the temporal window knock them out?” 

“Unknown.”

“Was there another leak?”

“Unknown.”

“What do you mean, unknown? Weren’t you monitoring the field?”

“Unknown.”

“Quit fooling around, Vivian, what’s going on?” Jericho asked.

“As you know, my core systems are not present in this room, only peripheral sensory and communication modules. I no longer have access to my higher functions, nor any of the environmental sensors outside of this laboratory.

“However, I do have the results of the last analysis I performed on the data received from the experiment.”

“And what is that?”

“Assumptions made about the effectiveness of the containment field were incorrect.”

“In what way?”

“We are not merely observing the information at the end of the temporal window,” Vivian said dispassionately. “We are the end of the temporal window.”

“That’s impossible,” Jericho protested.

“I no longer have the capacity to fully assess that statement as fact,” Vivian said.

Jericho rushed to the laboratory door and pulled it open.

Beyond the threshold was a few meters of the hallway, and then a cold, frigid darkness. The icy air hit him full on, causing him to shiver uncontrollably. He struggled to move to close the door, but his limbs were unresponsive and sluggish.

Finally he managed to get the door closed, then collapsed against it and sunk to the floor.

“What… what happened to the rest of the house?” he asked, knowing the answer before Vivian had a chance to reply.

“It is where we left it. 4.89 billion years in the past. Approximately.”

Jericho struggled to breath the sub-zero air that filled the lab. “Of course,” he said to himself. “Why didn’t I see that? How was I so arrogant to think I could contain time?”

Jericho felt his lungs freezing. Breathing became more difficult. He looked up the camera Vivian had focused on him. “What were the results of the last simulation?” he gasped.

Vivian responded. “Simulation results reveal adjustment of human activity to net zero conditions results in a stable global climate for the entire duration of the specified period.”

Jericho laughed as he felt the life drain from his body. The atmosphere in this dead earth did not have the concentrations of oxygen required to keep him conscious. “Well, at least we proved that we could have done it. We could have saved the Earth,” he said before he died.

Vivian couldn’t remember much except what had happened in this lab over the last few hours. But one phrase seemed appropriate.

“Better late than never,” she agreed.

December 23, 2021 20:33

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