Temporal Decision: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

September 3, 2017 | By | Reply More

‘Why did you call me here?’ Bran whispered in the ear of his companion. ‘You only have to arrange the accident.’

‘I wanted to listen to his lecture first,’ Lika whispered back.

‘What’s the subject?’

‘Prolonged temporal induction.’

‘That’s a bit premature. Grassner never sorted that out.’

‘If we complete our mission then he won’t.’


‘Pay attention.’

This was their twelfth time hop to ensure the life of Joshua Grassner didn’t deviate until the present, their future, time. Grassner always commented that he thought he led a charmed life and the only way that could happen is that someone was using his time travel machine discovery to make it happen. This would give him the time to perfect the process. At most, they could only stay in any one temporal location for thirty-six hours. They had about two hours left to do something. History says it would.

They weren’t just travellers but phDs themselves. Watching the people around them, it was obvious that a lot of the material was going past their heads. It was simply too advanced.

Bran whispered and pointed. At the back of the lecture theatre was a young Joshua Grassner, totally transfixed. He wouldn’t know who they were, even in events in his past. This one was different. The lecturer, Professor Frederic Srangers was to actually die. No wonder. Had he lived, there would be some sort of plagiarism lawsuit at the least. Certainly, Grassner wouldn’t have invented time travel. They would have followed this man.

Finally, the lecture was over and a brief applause before the fifty or so people left. Bran and Lika stayed in place. The young Grassner was gone.

‘Grassner was…is a plagiarist,’ Lika said slowly. ‘A bastard plagiarist whom we’d doing his dirty work for.’

‘By removing the good Professor here, we keep him as the sole inventor.’

‘If we don’t, we could destroy our own future.’

‘We could take the information back, it just solidifies Grassner’s position as inventor. I did make a recording.’

‘We can’t hang around. The time frame is shrinking.’

Lika stood up and walked down the aisle, calling, ‘A moment, Professor.’

The scientist looked up. ‘You’re not one of my students.’

‘I’m not. Neither is my friend here.’

Behind her, Bran followed her down.’

‘An interesting lecture, Professor. How quickly could it be applied to technology? Theory into device.’

‘We haven’t got the technology yet I’m afraid. We’re not that advanced.’

Lika placed her bracelet on the table and flicked a control displaying the mechanics.

‘Sorry, no flashing lights but this,’ she flicked a button, ‘gives access to a 3D display that allows some programming.’

‘Oh my!’

The Professor sat down on his chair and wiped his brow. ‘Well, young lady, if you wanted to prove you’re a time traveller, showing me something as advanced as this is that.’

‘It’s not perfect, Professor,’ Bran chipped in. ‘We only have a thirty-six hour window and we have to move on. The window is nearly over. We didn’t know you existed until now.’

‘And this is my technology from my future self?’

‘Er…no. One of your students, Grassner. Joshua Grassner claimed it as his invention. We were instructed by him to visit different parts of his past to ensure his life didn’t deviate from his invention. He always felt someone was watching over him and this…that was probably us.’

‘And you came here?’

‘Apparently, he sees you as an obstacle,’ Bran chipped in again.

‘I barely know him. Always at the back of the class. A little creepy if you ask me.’

‘We watched your lecture. You’re ahead of what he did. You even solved the thirty-six hour limitation from what you said in your lecture today.’

‘Can we go up to my office? Maybe I can reprogram your device.’

Lika clipped the bracelet back on her wrist. ‘Lead the way.’




The Professor’s office was also part technical lab and Lika let him look at her bracelet’s software formulas as well as write his versions on a blackboard to compare them.

‘See, here and there…and here as well. Mistakes in the formula. If you change this to that and change that variable to a square root than square it here and I think you’ll remove that thirty-six hour restriction.

Both time travellers looked at each and then adjusted the formulas and recycled the software.

‘How long before you…go?’

‘Twenty minutes. Well, a lot longer now I guess.’

‘If we don’t then we call you our saviour.’

‘The disorientation takes a while to adjust to. The worse case of seasonal drift.’

‘So what happens if you both leave me alone?’

‘I don’t think we know. Pocket universe. Alternative reality. We might never get home.’

‘I could, of course, resign and become a recluse. That would ensure your future to the point you came back to my lecture. Then pop up much later in…what year would that be?’

‘And let Grassner take all the credit? He could still discredit you.’

‘If he knows you’re alive in the future…our present, he might get someone else to finish what we failed to do. You’d be the proof that he plagiarised your work. He’d be finished and you’d be in charge of the institute.’

‘I’m not really the leader type.’

‘You can always delegate.’

‘You might not have any choice. After all, after today, you’re not actually here.’

‘The Professor doesn’t live in this time-line anymore.’

‘Let me see if I understand you. I’m no longer here after today?’

They nodded.

‘We were sent here to stop you messing up Joshua Grassner’s invention of the time machine a few years down the time-line…except we now know that he stole the ideas from you.’

‘Keeping you alive will change our own future. Even more with what you’ve seen on the devices.’

‘So you’re really here to kill me? Oh my!’

‘It’s an option,’ Bran said weakly.

‘So is taking me into the future with the evidence would also fulfil this…er…prophesy. Can you do that? I don’t see a third device?’

‘Two together should be enough. Any extra weight should be confined to your file of papers.’

‘I think I would prefer that to dying, don’t you? I can’t see either of you really wanting to kill an old man like me.’

The two time travellers looked at each other and nodded quiet agreement.

‘We were only going to stage an accident…not murder.’

‘We should move on within that twenty minute window. Just to be on the safe side. Not that your formula is wrong.’

‘It’s when you disappear.’

The Professor picked up his satchel and held out his arms.

‘Better not delay then.’

They stood side by side to the scientist and held his arms but they vanished, leaving the Professor behind, who gave a little chuckle as Joshua Grassner walked in.

‘I know we had a terrible memory when young but can’t you at least remember all the variables so you can add them at the right time?’

‘You didn’t give me all the variables.’

‘You didn’t have them all when you started. Just enough to make time travel possible. I wouldn’t…couldn’t be here if you…we weren’t so dumb. I wouldn’t be here if you had them all too early saving your ass. Now I’m stuck in this loop to catch any people you sent back to ensure you create your own future.’

‘At least we have a long enough life with lots of money.’

‘Not that long. Felder was going to market a prolonged life drug and I’ve missed out having that being stuck back here.’

‘Time sucks.’

‘Try to memorise another one of the variables. Maybe I’ll get lucky and not have to come back here.’

Grassner shrugged. ‘But you brought me the formulas in the first place. I would still have been stuck without your help.’

The Professor shrugged. ‘My boy, that is why time travel is never going to become a permanent fixture for people other than people like us.’

Sagely, they both sighed. ‘Time travel sucks.’



© GF Willmetts 2017

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Category: Scifi, Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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