BACK AND FORTH
Author: Elizabeth Windsor-Soup

Chapter 4
WHAT'S ALL THIS?

                                          What's All This?

Maria and I had been moved into our country home for just over a week. Maria adored the décor, especially the chandelier in the lime green dining room. She is polishing the brass 19th century Bell-type telephone when it rang. Startled, she almost dropped the delicate instrument.

 

    "4572, Maria speaking," she said, trying to hide her southern American accent with a posh, but phony, English country lady manner. "Oh, hello, Peter. Yes he is here, but in the shower." Maria replaced the receiver and made her way to our shower room.

 

    "That is Peter, he asks if it is okay to come over in the morning and bring with him his friend, Bill, somebody-or-other. I said that it's okay and you'd call him back if it is inconvenient. He didn't want to be pulling you away from your computer and your writing, that is. Oh-woe is me, a widow to a semi-literate writer," she said, laughing.

 

    I'm fondling my testicles, wondering what use they were, when she called through the shower-room door. Not that that would have stopped her walking in on me as I reached for my haemorrhoid cream.

 

    It's time for bed, but on this occasion I slept fitfully. My mind is on the cellar and its contents. I gazed through the moonlit window and listened to the hooting of an owl perched in a nearby tree. Maria's breathing is shallow. She mumbled something, part of some dream, I guessed. The clock read 4:15.am. I must have dozed off, for the next thing I knew, Maria had brought coffee and toast to our bed for us.

 

     "Peter and Bill are down stairs, waiting for you. They are having a full breakfast, so you might want to shower," she said dropping a soft kiss on my forehead.

 

     I looked over to see the time is just after 10:30.am. I leaped out of bed and rushed to the shower, coffee in one hand and a towel in the other. I'm in and out of the bathroom like a flash of lightening. I dressed just as quickly and sped off downstairs.

    

     I wandered into the dining room to see Peter and Bill drinking tea and dunking their ginger-nut biscuits, whilst looking through the mad doctor's notes.

    

     "Good morning," I said, but I'm sure that my greeting doesn't sound sincere, for I noticed that Peter gave one of his 'who is a naughty boy' looks.

    

     "Anton. Might I introduce to you some one very special. This is Dr Bill Norris, professor of advanced physics, Lady Marigold-Gloves College, Oxford.  

 

     I shook Bill's hand and smiled, genuinely pleased to meet a man who knew what advanced physics is about. We sat and chatted for a while, about mundane things, mostly. Then came the time for Bill to ask if he could see the laboratory in the cellar.

 

      I entered the cellar first, followed by Bill, then Peter bringing up the rear.


      "Peter mentioned that the wall had been bricked up from the inside- how very curious. Tell me, Antony, are you sure there is no other exit?" asked Bill, politely.

 

     For a moment, I'm tempted to retort with some witty remark, but I decided against making any such comment to my guest.  

 

      "Not as far as Peter and I could see. To be honest, we did not search too well. It appears that the room does not have any niches that might harbour something as obvious as a portal, other than what is atop the staircase, Bill." The professor strolled slowly around the laboratory, being careful to stop and examine carefully plastered walls every foot or so, then at the contents of the laboratory benches and tables.

 

     As Bill studied the room, I noticed just how small a frame he had. He could not have been more than five feet four inches tall.  

 

     I hid a smile. For professor had what might be deemed the ubiquitous mad-professor's hairstyle of Doc Brown, but with bottle bottomed glasses and a handlebar moustache that almost reminded me of an RAF flier from WW-II. Tally-ho, Ginger! I thought. I suppressed yet another need to giggle. I could see from Peter's expression that my impish humour is bubbling too close to the surface for him.

 

      "So, Bill. What is your first impression of this amazing find?" asked Peter.

 

     Peter's question took me by surprise, but his diffusion of my need to express humour is nothing short of medal-winning diplomacy. Bill sat on a stool and looked, for the world, as confused as any of us.

 

     "To be honest with you," said Bill, moving his gaze to me, "If it were not for Peter, I would have said that this is a hoax. There is one thing I can tell you. I have done a great deal of detailed research on your Doctor Sprig. He was indeed a brilliant physicist, far too eccentric for his colleagues to cope with. Many of his fellow scientists found him impossible to work alongside. He worked under the strict rule of secrecy. He was doing government funded research, so that tells you something for a start. He would often become reclusive and arrive at the university only when he needed to use the facilities provided. The heavy equipment could not be moved."

  

     I listened intently to what Bill had to say. Doctor Sprig had some outstanding and way-out theories with regard to Einstein's work. He was not dismissing Einstein's theories, but adding tangential theories of his own that upset the work of others. He would become often verbally violent toward those who showed the slightest inkling of disagreement with his views or theories.  

 

     Whilst Bill's verbosity knew no bounds, he passed around sheaths of paper, photocopies, mainly, containing reports on Sprig and his eccentric ideas. It seemed that Dr Sprig was deep into research of faster than light communication, explaining in his papers a device, which he named the mass-with-no-mass, Hydrogen/anti-Hydrogen, tachyon driver generator.  

 

     That is quite mouthful, I know. You can't imagine how excited I am at the thought of actually stripping this machine down and seeing just how the mad doctor managed to do what he claim he can do and did."

 

     I placed my feet upon the table, rocked gently back on the stool. Thoughtful of my question, I interrupted Bill in mid sentence.

 

     "Pardon me for my intrusion, Bill. What is a mass-with no-mass generator?"

 

     Bill fondled his long, ginger moustache and looked thoughtful.

 

     "I've an idea, but I need to study more deeply what the doctor has written in his notes. The gist is this. He states that you produce, capture or whatever, some antimatter, in this case, anti-Hydrogen. You collide this with normal matter and the two particles annihilate each other, and, in the process, you have a by-product, pure energy and neutrinos. However, we know neutrinos have a little mass. But it appears from these notes that some neutrinos are mass-less, and here, he has written how he has found a way to separate, capture and contain them. He claims here too, that he has found the elusive tachyon and a way to contain these also. His notes go on to say that as a resultant, he has a mass-less energy source, in that you tunnel this source in a ring where the tachyon is twisting in a close space time into a loop. The gravity is so enormous, it pulls the two parts of space and time together, sort of like closing your thumb and forefinger, just close enough to be able to move between the two." Bill's explanation is simple enough, and I wondered if it could be done in practice.

 

     "I don't want to appear dumb, Bill. But from what I have seen on the various science TV programs, the machines that try to do this stuff, like the Large Hadron Collider in Cern are enormous. And, our Doctor Sprig has, or claims to have done all this and much more 70 years or so ago in a small space, such as this, with no help and, little money."  

 

     I sat fascinated, wondering what Bill is next to say on the subject.

 

     "To get enough laser power to do this is would be a devil of a job to accomplish. You would need a number of extremely powerful lasers to make a cylinder of light, for his mass-less particles to twist and bend space. This is a preposterous concept, for the resultant particle, though having infinite energy would have a half-life of no more than a femtosecond, that is, One femtosecond = 10 to the power15. That is 1 and 16 noughts. That, Antony, is a very short period of time indeed. Sprig writes of the power he had harnessed, with self-sustained infinite energy that allowed him the power to produce exotic matter and negative exotic anti-matter in a confined region that gave him the advantage of producing a worm hole in quantum gravity. Could you imagine sitting inside such a machine, corkscrewing yourself down the light tunnel into the past? Bizarre, eh."  

    

     Bill learned across to me and showed me some of Sprigs work, as if I understood, duh! As Bill continued apace, his face took on an ecstatic feature that could only have been drawn in a comic magazine. He held in his hand a sheet of paper, and made a tube with it.

    

     "Let me put this way, Antony. Since tachyons came into existence before light, then they move faster than the speed of light, at infinite speed; they produce Cherenkov radiation, though he calls it 'Sprig-Light'. Much of this radiation produces anti-Hydrogen. The Hydrogen/anti-Hydrogen annihilation releases unbelievable amounts of energy, guided by the pinpoint accuracy of the massless neutrino field. This raises the tachyons energy to, again, theoretically, enormous states, causing the tachyon to accelerate even more, Billions of times faster than the speed of light! In other words, Antony, super charged tachyons will lead to a runaway reaction releasing a stupendous amounts of energy in unbelievable orders of magnitude. You have, effectively contained, in a pinpoint, the energy of a galaxy! And, if you have enough tachyons, and you can find a way to contain them, you thus can create a controllable wormhole contained in the sub-miniature particle accelerator of this apparent time machine," explained Bill, offhanded. "All we need to do," he continued, "is to channel and focus that energy and use the worm-holes that we create to best effect."

 

     "I don't quite follow you, Bill. Can you simplify things for me?"

 

     "Imagine, if you will, traveling from one edge of a piece of paper, to the other. This takes 'X' amount of time to transverse, but if you fold the paper into a tube. Then, gravitationally, bring the ends almost together, then the time it takes to cross from one side to the other is almost infinitely shorter. You see, Antony, you actually bend space, thus you shorten the time to get to your destination. Doctor Sprig had actually cracked the problem of time travel by artificially distorting space and thus time, too. He created a warp-bubble, if you like. Once one has obtained enough power to start the reaction, the generator becomes self-sustaining. He used what he had here to create microscopic black holes that were so dense the whole fabric of time is bent right over upon itself, warped and twisted, and it brought the present into the past and vice-versa. To be honest, if you look real close and do the mathematics, this could actually work. How one would control such a machine is anyone's guess," said Bill, with a sigh. "To grasp where his concept takes us. I need to study more of his work."  

 

     "Are you saying," interjected Peter, "that this vehicle, the one under the cover, could actually be made to work? I mean actually travel through time, or even, actually has done?"

 

     "Possibly," he answered, looking intensely thoughtful. "I would need to take a close look at what we already have fitted to this machine. Maybe it is a prototype, who knows?" Bill replied, enthusiastically. "The mass-less neutrino/Hydrogen/anti-Hydrogen tachyon generator is the key for kick-starting the tachyon flow, thus controlling the forward or reverse action through time. Once that has been mastered, then the omnipotent power of Dr Who is yours."  

 

     I could almost see the excitement bubbling over him , and I wondered if he wanted ever to leave this place. I'm going to ask if I could provide a bed for him down here.

    

    Bill again looked over the car, with delighted noises emanating from his every being. Not once, but often, the sounds of delight from the intrepid professor filled the room.

 

     "I guess we have here all that we need to make this thing function. Though we could use some modern computing power to replace the discrete components. And, guess what. We have three, yes three miniature particle accelerators. Everything is here, right down to what looks very much like the control circuitry. Your Doctor Sprig, Antony, was a genius. He was born two hundred years before his time." Bill stood upright, gazed about, then returned to his bent position. Peter and I looked at each other. I shrugged, then I finished my coffee.

 

     I strolled over to where the vehicle stood. I looked over Bill's shoulder, musing as to whether what Bill was telling me was just a leg-pull, a joke. I gazed intently at him, and listened as he continued to make sounds of utter delight, as if he were a child let loose in a toy factory. Bill stood back and stepped on my toe, apologising as he did so. I turned to gaze at Peter, but his thoughts were elsewhere, into archaic electronics, I mused, with, I could see, full recognition of many of the vacuum tubes and simple transistors he used himself in his youth, as a budding radio ham.

 

     "Antony," said Bill

 

     I started, and for a moment, then regrouped my attention.

 

     "Yes, Bill?"

 

     "We have to talk, and what I have to tell you must go no father than these walls. Is that understood? Peter. That goes for you too."

 

     I could see Bill had a most serious look about him. I followed Bill's finger as I'm ushered to the bench where I noticed that Bill had left his briefcase. I felt Peter's presence behind me, moving past me to sit upon a stool next to me.

 

     "What I find, is that these old bits and pieces were just placed under the hood because Sprig had no room elsewhere. When I moved these things about, I realised this is just junk. However, when I looked underneath, I saw the real machinery. Want some valves, Peter?" Bill smiled, but Peter shook his head. "We have, in that machine over there, a most ingenious set of equipment, along with the particle accelerators and other recognisable paraphernalia, and what, to me, appears to be the mass-less-neutrino/anti-Hydrogen/tachyon capture and containment apparatus our mad doctor Sprig wrote of in his notes here. You also have something here, according to the papers, that amounts to an exciter device. These papers describe a negative energy generator too. Doctor Sprig has drawn in these diagrams, you see spread out before you, everything one would need to make, what the majority would call, a functioning time machine. Do you realise what this means? A negative energy generator can not only be built, but in a small cigarette size box too. It allows us infinite energy, that of a whole galaxy and, what is more, it could work!" Bill exclaimed excitedly. "Free energy for the whole planet, too. Phew!"

 

      "I am expecting you to confirm the lunacy of Doctor Sprig," remarked Peter, with a smile.

 

     "Lunatic or not, Peter. This man knew what he was doing, believe me. I have everything here that confirms that this man was not just a great, if not misguided and misunderstood theoretical physicist, and dare I say it- he was a mega-genius. I need to do some more calculations, but from what I have read of the papers that Peter had given to me, and from what I have seen here, today, an amazing scientific breakthrough in quantum physics had long ago been achieved. It is up to you, Antony, to decide what happens from here on. Do you wish that I should investigate further to bring the doctor's dream to fruition, or would you rather it be left as it is?"

 

     I'm a little unnerved. As Bill gazed deeply into my eyes. I knew from his expression that he is wishing, desperately, that I should allow him to continue, to produce what could be a machine that could show us both the past and the future. I gazed at the floor and thought back to what had brought me to this house, about the fame and the money that my book, about all the characters that fought against Duke William at Hastings in 1066. It is those long dead men and women that I had brought to life again in my writings that had given me the opportunity to perhaps change the fortunes of those good men who had died so valiantly, so long ago. What if, I mused, what if I could go back and give King Harold the means to force Duke William back from whence he came. The suffering of the Saxon people, especially of those poor, brave folk, in the north of England who suffered at the hands of this brutal, tyrannical man, who's every means of sustenance was deprived of them, who were left to starve, so much so, that they had to eat the dead to survive. I raised my head to gaze into Bill's almost pleading eyes.

 

    "Both of you are going to think that I am stark-raving-mad. If this machine could take a man back to the past, then I have a great desire to change one thing, and one thing only."  

 

     I explained my thoughts to both men, knowing full well that Peter would perceive that I had taken leave of my senses. I articulated my ideas as best I could. I knew that whatever they said, they would have to follow my proviso, or Bill's dream of actually attaining the unobtainable would fizzle into nothing but a whim he could only now dream of.

 

     I noticed Peter rise to his feat and I saw his mouth drop open. A look of disbelief emanated from him like a beacon.

    

     "Look here, Anton. Do you realise what would happen if you messed around with history? We might never exist. Have you thought of that?"

 

     I shook my head and held up a hand, stopping Peter's negative verbosity.

 

     "There might not be any World War One, or World War Two. No Jews would be exterminated. Joseph Stalin would never have exterminated sixty million people." I retorted. I turned about and gazed at Bill. "Bill, you have my permission to go ahead with the project," I said, curtly, looking in the direction of the now defeated Peter. I saw Peter shrug, dejected, and he sat back upon the stool.

  

     Bill, papers in hand, strolled round to the opposite side of the table.

 

     "You both know that if we are to succeed, then only we should know what is to happen in this laboratory. Doctor sprig has left behind a great deal, and, happily for us, a huge bank of very high current, high voltage capacitors. Somewhere in this house, is situated the power feed to this laboratory. This electrical feed must be separate from the house feed, or by now it will have been discovered. We must first search for this power feed." Bill gazed across at Peter. Bill's eyes narrowed as he spoke.

 

     "Peter," said Bill, cautiously. "I detect, from your demeanour, that you are not willing to participate in this venture. Am I correct?" Bill's stance became rigid, almost catatonic, looking for any sign of acceptance from Peter of the events to come.

 

      "I am willing to follow through to see an experiment succeed, Bill. You will need to understand that I refuse utterly to participate in any other process that upsets the course of human evolution or events. As I see things, we are not allowed to interfere with what has happened, for good or evil. Be this understood, Anton," he said, looking in my direction. "I know your passion for things of the past, but I strongly urge you to reconsider. Visiting the past to observe events, is one thing, but to actively participate is an anathema to my fundamental concept that history is just that. History, and should be left alone." Peter glanced at his watch, but made no more comment.  

 

      I had no idea how to counter Peter's view. I knew, of course, that he is correct. But, what if, I thought, that this is what the present wanted me to do. If I took Peter's advice, then mankind might never know what is in store for us, or if someone else would do the same in the future, and either nothing would change, or we would all be screwed. I wondered if Sprig had already changed history and that this is an alternative future. I noticed that Bill had sat in silence, as though he could read my thoughts, which of course he could not, but it's eerie, all the same.

 

     "I'm not going to argue with you, Peter. I'm promising nothing either."

 

     "At least you could assure me that you will not allow anyone to interfere. Bill asked us to keep mum. In any event, this machine, once it is sorted out, might not even work."

 

     "It will work. I can assure you of that," interjected Bill, sporting a wry grin and folding his moustache between his fingers. "I have the use of a portable supercomputer, loaded with five hundred graphene femto-chips, each chip the size of period, capable of one hundred-trillion teraflops. What is more, this computer only dissipates thirty watts of energy. The computer will serve us very well in controlling your magnificent time machine." Bill paused for thought. "As for testing the time machine, all we need do is send an animal through time and space and wait for the creature's return. We could put a collar and a note attached, asking whoever finds, it to name the time and date that the beast is found, then to send it on its way, as it will know how to find its way home. We then bring the dog, cat or whatever back, and we will have our proof that the possibility of time travel actually works; Viola! How does that sound?" Bill's eyes darted back and forth between Peter and I.

 

     Peter raised his hand, and then stroked his forehead with the tips of his fingers.

 

      "It might not have occurred to you, Bill, but are we not missing something in this effort to prove whatever it is we are about to witness? Bear with me a while, will you." Peter took a deep breath, gazed at the ceiling for a moment then returned his attention to Bill. "Let us, for now, assume that this experiment is a success. If we were going to transport something somewhere else, I'd rather it be an inanimate object. My reasoning will become clear to you shortly." Once more, Peter gathered his thoughts, and a moment or two later, he cleared his throat and began his soliloquy.  

 

     "What you have not taken into consideration, Bill, is what happens during the process of transference. A week or so ago, we light-heartedly discussed the possibility of time travel. You were eager to see the doctor's laboratory, more, I suspect, out of curiosity than anything else. Now we are at a stage where you have recognised that fiction might just become reality. Getting back to my point. What happens to the soul? You said yourself that when one transfigures the particle, and we were not speaking of animal matter, but of sub-atomic particles, that, in the process, the original particle suffers total annihilation. An exact replica of the original will replace the original. Let me clarify my meaning. Suppose that we were to send a cat through time and space. Assuming that the complete sequence of replication is carried out. I'm speaking of physical replication only, then what would keep the animal alive? Would the beast have a soul, feeling and memory?"

 

     I turned examine Bill's expression. It is quite obvious that Bill had never considered Peter's brilliant argument. With a hand upon his chin, rubbing as if to feel a beard, I saw Bill throw his hands in the air.

 

     "I have it, Peter. The soul is infinite, everywhere at the same time, no matter where you are, the soul is ubiquitous, omnipotent, all-pervading. This means that no matter the time or position in space, the soul will be with you, follow you. You only borrow the body, and leave it behind."

 

     "You have the soul theory on the subject?" My humour fell on stony ground.

 

     "Your soul then enters someone else, a new born, to use when the old, physical being is discarded. Where do you think a newborn gets its soul from? It is obvious; don't you see? The soul searches for a new host with which to manifest itself, to give life, and to allow a being to be a physical being. The soul does not care if that life form is an amoeba or a human. It has meaning, co-operation indeed, eh. Without the soul the body cannot live, and likewise, without the body, the soul must forever search to give life to a host. From conception, the soul begins to be the person, and will never leave that person until the physical death of the host," said Bill smugly. "However, as long as you are physically alive, the soul will always be with you, wherever you are in the universe. The example of SchrÖ;dinger's cat and superposition explains everything."

 

     To my mind, Bill must obviously have thought he had understood the propagation of the soul, and that he had countered Peter's argument against testing an animal or even a human being in the time machine. The proof of the pudding, I thought, is in the eating. I sensed Peter is skeptical about the possibility of time travel, despite all Bill had told us. I am curious about the supercomputer that Bill had offered to bring along with him that he would use to control the time machine.

 

     "Tell me about this Graphene quantum supercomputer, Bill. What is it? I have heard of graphene and quantum physics, but I know nothing about its applications." My ignorance began to show that my knowledge of current technology is seriously lacking, and my curiosity needed a comprehensive answer.

 

     "Well." said Bill, rubbing his chin. "Quantum graphene is a pure carbon graphite. It is a flat molecule, with only the thickness of an atom and about ten atoms long, both very stable and robust. Individual quantum-transistors are printed onto the substrate are not much larger than a molecule, and have many advantages over silicon because it can conduct electricity faster and further. Just as an aside, graphene is transparent, too. It is already superior to silicon by an order of magnitude and increases mobility of electron flow 1000,000,000 fold. One of the beauties of quantum-graphene transistors, is that they perform better the smaller they become. The computer uses quantum annealing, to store and use the data. What is more, Antony, these circuits will work at ambient, temperature conditions, just what is required for modern electronics. Power consumption is so low, it beggars the imagination. Silicone will still be used for many years to come in some industrial and home computing. For now, only research institutes, are receiving government funding for its use. The military are using such devices derived from graphene."

 

     I'm beginning to take a great liking to this illuminant, and wishing that I had the acumen to comprehend and use such knowledge myself.

 

     "If I understand you correctly, Bill. Correct me if I'm wrong, but with the enormous computing power we have available, is this then the reason that you are sure that we can use the time machine."

 

     "Indeed so, Antony. This supper computer, along with the negative energy generator coupled to the source ring amplifier will make the machine feasible. This is why I am becoming increasing more confident of a successful outcome. Though, if this machine had been used before, I would like to know what he used as a power source. What's is more, what did he use for his computing power in the 1960's?"  

 

     We retired to the pub.

 

 

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