“Stand still, I can’t believe after all these years you haven’t learned how to tie a bow tie.”
“I told you I should have bought a clip on tie.”
Tim Westland was one of the growing bevy of young Canadian high tech multibillionaires. His small software company in Sidney BC developed one of those boring programs that nobody has ever heard of but one that secures international bank transfers. It was one of those ideas that are so blindingly obvious you can’t help thinking “Why didn’t I think of that.”
In 2025 he sold his company to an Israeli security company for a cool five billion dollars. It was the largest sale of a private company in Canadian history. Part of the money from the sale was used to give every employee, from cleaning staff to programmers, a severance package equal to two years salary. When asked about severance packages he always replied “It isn’t about the money, it is always about the people.”
After two years of living the ‘high life’ of a ridiculously rich bachelor, Westland had found out three things, it was very hard to spend that much money (Waste-yes :: Spent-No); he had more ‘friends’ than ever before; he didn’t like that lifestyle. In 2027 he purchased a small house that overlooked the ocean just west of Sidney. Trying to gain some anonymity, outside of volunteering for local charities, being chair of the University of Victoria Alumni Association and setting up a few scholarships he stayed out of the public eye. Which is why he was attending this UNICEF charity event in London, where he was virtually unknown, instead of ones in Canada or the United States.
Even more than the anonymity, Tim just liked attending London events, they were much more lavish than those in Canada or even the US. There was a more ho-hum attitude towards money here. Here, he was just another billionaire.
Half way through the evening Tim found himself alone at a table just nursing his scotch and doing a little people watching. There was the usual assortment of rich men with their wives - trophy and otherwise; some wealthy women with their husbands or boy toys; and a few men and women, like him, ‘unattached’. The organisers had thoughtfully provided a number of hosts and hostesses to entertain the ‘unattached’. The hostesses were easily recognized by their tight dresses with plunging necklines. Tim had already waved off a few of them.
‘Maybe later’ he thought ‘No sense in being alone all night.’
The young woman approaching him now fit none of those categories. She looked like she was going to a university dinner rather than attending a gala event. If he had been prone to paranoia he might have thought she had been waiting all night for a chance to get him alone. He would have been right.
“Mr. Westland, my name is Jane Seymour”
“You look much older in your movies.” He smiled, he didn’t usually have a quick quip.
She smiled back thinking, ‘As if I haven’t heard that before.’
“Mr. Westland, I want you to give me five million dollars.”
Tim just sat there looking puzzled, then half in jest - “Well Jane, the most I ever paid for an escort was two thousand dollars. And, quite frankly, she was much better looking.”
That statement wasn’t true and he immediately regretted saying it. He had never seen a woman blush like that before. From her head to her chest was crimson. Jumping up and pulling out a chair “Sorry . . . . Please, sit. . . . Can I get you a drink?”
He beckoned the waiter.
“Wine?” She nodded.
“White?” She nodded again.
“A white wine and a scotch, please.” (He’s Canadian - he always said please.)
By the time the waiter returned with the drinks Jane had gained some of her composure.
“OK - let’s start again. Call me Tim and tell me why I should give you five million dollars”
Jane stared at her wine glass. ‘This was a mistake’ she thought. She had never talked to anyone about her proposal before. She had gotten rejection letters long before she got an interview. She was just starting to realize how ridiculous she must have sounded. ‘This is the last try. If I don’t get the money I will approach the university to fund the project’ She knew that if she did that she wouldn’t get the credit she deserved.
“Mr. Westland” He shook his head “Tim . . . I am Dr. Jane Seymour. I am a professor at the Centre for Applied Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. I need money for a project outside the university. . . . . How much do you know about time travel?”
‘What an odd question?’ he thought. “Not much, except it only works on TV shows, like Dr. Who. He has a magical box called a TARDIS that flies through time and space. Other than that it is impossible. . . . I think there was an experiment at Berkeley that proved that.”
She was impressed, not many people knew of the Berkeley experiment. “Do you know what TARDIS stands for?”
Looking a bit bemused - ‘OK a bit of a nutcase but I’ll play along’. He replied “Time and Relative Dimensions in Space”
She nodded her head, then changing the subject she said “Let me tell you about the Berkeley experiment. They were attempting to transfer an object back an hour in time. The whole experiment is on YouTube - it takes about an hour and a half to watch.”
“At first they show an empty chamber with all the equipment turned off and a small clock just outside the chamber. That continues for about ten minutes. At this point the chamber could be empty because they didn’t do the experiment or the experiment failed, so they have to continue with the experiment”
“They start turning on all the equipment and place a probe with an array of sensors into the chamber. And set the system to send the probe exactly one hour into the past.”
“Exactly one hour after the start of the experiment they activate the chamber and the probe disappears.”
She waited for Tim to ask the obvious question. “Well if the probe hadn’t appeared in the chamber earlier and disappeared at the start of the experiment, what happened to it?”
Jane liked to let people discover answers on their own. ‘Let’s see if he is as smart people say he is.’
“You have an insightful mind. What if I told you what happened to the probe is blindingly obvious; that time travel doesn’t work; and, most importantly, that the probe didn’t move. Think of the TARDIS - not the Time part, the Relative Dimensions in Space.”
Tim was puzzled. ‘What has Relative Dimension in Space got to do with it? That was just so the script writers could move the TARDIS through space. She said the probe didn’t move and didn’t travel in time - it just disappeared. . . . Things don’t disappear, they just move from one place to another. . . . If the probe didn’t move, why wasn’t it still inside the chamber - it must have moved.’
Tim could see he was stuck in a circular argument. ‘The probe wasn’t in the chamber so it must have moved - but Jane said it didn’t move. Either she was wrong or I am missing something. What are the hidden assumptions?’
Slowly he started to smile - ‘Christ - it is blindingly obvious’
Slamming his hand on the table he blurted out, a little too loud - “The earth moved.” People at the other tables were looking over to see what they were up to.
Slumping in his chair thinking of what that could mean he finally asked “How far?”
“Not too sure. There are too many unknown variables. I am guessing, but I would say half a million miles, give or take a few thousand.” (Twice as far as the moon.)
“Can you prove it?”
“No - that is what the money's for.”
“What do I get out of it?”
“Potential patents on moving items through space.”
“And you get a Nobel Prize.” Glancing at his watch - his mind was working furiously. ‘If she is right it would revolutionize space exploration. Most of the fuel used to launch a satellite is used to lift the fuel, not the payload. If you can put something in space without burning fuel - there is no limit in what you can do. I need to check this out.’
“I have to make a few phone calls. Let’s meet for breakfast. . . Is 9:00am OK?”
They exchanged information and Tim headed back to his room.
It was 10:00pm in London, 2:00pm in Victoria, when Tim got back to his room and placed a call to the University of Victoria (UVic) Physics and Astronomy Department.
“Hello Miranda, I have a small favour.”
Miranda Gilbert was secretary to James (Jim) Foster, the Chair of the UVIC Physics and Astronomy Department. She had dated Tim off and on before she married Dan Gilbert. They were still close friends.
“You never ask for a ‘small’ favour. What is it this time?”
“Would you put together a dossier on Dr. Jane Seymour, Cambridge University for me? Things that I am not going to find on Google.”
“It'll cost you! . . . Dinner for two at the Green Elephant.”
“OK - but don’t you think we should invite Dan along.”
Miranda laughed - “You had your chance”
Smiling, “OK - for you and Dan. . . I need the dossier in about eight hours.”
“Hmmp . . . I should have asked for more. . . . So, is she after your money?”
“Yes - I think she is. . . . Is Jim in?”
“Would you see if he can spare me a few minutes?”
A few seconds later Jim Foster picked up his phone.
“Hi Tim, Miranda says you are looking for information on Dr. Seymour.”
“Yes, but that isn’t what I wanted to talk to you about. . . . What can you tell me about the Berkeley time travel experiments? Things that didn’t make it into the press.”
“Met her at a symposium. She is a brilliant theoretical physicist and cosmologist. She should be head of the department but Cambridge is still an ‘old boys club’. . . . So, the time travel experiments. They didn’t work. There was a second experiment that wasn’t widely reported. They put a powerful radio transmitter in the probe - never got a signal from it. Also, they used a LOT more power than they expected.”
“Thanks - that helps. . . . What would you say to a project to determine what happened to the probes?”
“You paying for it?”
“Her idea or yours?”
“Mine for now.”
“I doubt that. . . . If someone else was paying for it and she headed the research we would probably be interested.”
“Just to get her on the faculty?”
“Yes! . . . What are you up to?”
Ignoring the question - “Thanks Jim - I’ll get back to you.”
By the time Tim picked Jane up for breakfast he had read the personal information in the dossier Miranda had sent him. He had scanned the list of her published work, which, for the most part, he didn’t understand. There was one surprise in the dossier Miranda had prepared, she had completed the Engineering Undergraduate course at Cambridge specializing in Aerospace and Aerothermal Engineering.
Half way through breakfast Jane was getting worried. He was asking ‘getting to know you questions’ as if they were on a date. ‘Why wasn’t he asking about her proposal?’
Finally she had to ask - “Don’t you want to hear about what I want the money for?”
“No. . . . probably wouldn’t understand it anyway. Except maybe two things - Why haven’t you published anything on why the Berkeley experiments failed and why hasn’t anyone else figured out that the earth moved?”
Tim didn’t need a degree in physiology to read her face. “You want to get all the credit. . . . Don’t be embarrassed. I didn’t take my company public because I wanted complete control.”
“Do you know the problem with all the invisible man stories?” she asked.
Slightly bewildered, Tim nodded.
“Did you realize it or did someone tell you?”
“Hmmp . . . I see your point.” - someone had told him, not everyone can see the obvious.
[Gentle reader, if you are invisible, light passes right through your eyes - you can’t see.]
He continued. “Yesterday you mentioned patents and moving things in space. Maybe there is money in it, maybe not - I don’t care.” This was a bit of a lie. He knew if her idea worked there was a huge potential market.
He continued - “I have more money than I can spend. Most of it will go to charity. . . . If I invest in your research it will be because I trust you and think you will work hard to finish what you start - even if the results are not what you expected.”
The rest of the day went very much like a first date as they got to know each other and explored much of what London has to offer. By the end of the day Tim had decided he liked her and she was someone he could trust. He would have been surprised to know, in spite of the boorish way he acted when they first met, she found him quite charming. That evening, over drinks, he finally asked
“What do you know about the University of Victoria?”
Smiling “I hear they have an excellent astrophysics department.”
“Are you sure five million will be enough?”
“Stand still - don’t be ridiculous - in the whole history of the Nobel Awards nobody has ever worn a clip on tie.”
“Nobody will be looking at me - every eye will be on you. You do know you are only the sixth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics?”
Laughing, “It may have been mentioned once or twice.” Finishing tying his tie she did a pirouette. “So worth five million dollars?”
Going along with her and thinking back to when they first met he answered, “Well Jane, the most I ever paid for an escort was two thousand dollars.”
She pretends to scowl, “Choose your words carefully or you will be sleeping alone tonight.”
He smiles “But you are much better looking. . . . Ready to go? Can’t keep the King of Sweden waiting.”
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I like the doctor Who reference. This story has the familiar charm of a doctor who story.
Thanks for the comment. As you might have guessed I am a big Dr. Who fan.
Hi Michael, As someone who likes physics and cosmology, I was intrigued by this story! I especially appreciate that you made the "brilliant" physicist/scientist a woman. The main character, Tim Westland, is also very likable. "(He’s Canadian - he always said please.)" I loved the use of humor here and how he made sure everyone (from cleaning people to higher up) in his company got a handsome severance package. That says a lot about the character of a CEO. Speaking of severance, there's a new mystery thriller out with the same name. It's...
Thank you. I am glad you liked it. After posting it I decided I wanted to write some more about Tim and Jane. Even though I have given away a bit of the ending, I picked up the story as Jane returns to Cambridge. It is my first attempt at anything resembling a romance. Also, the first time I have attempted to write dialogue for a female character. I checked out Severance. Unfortunately I don't have Apple TV. I have to ask - is 'All Things Coffee' your book?
Glad you're writing more to the story. It definitely has a lot of room and potentials. And yes, All Things Coffee is my first self-published book.
I read the reviews - I will have to see if I can find a copy.