a tale in weekly parts
Bernice Reed, a thirty-something African-American woman from Arizona, suddenly appeared in the street of a small Canadian town some two hundred years in her future. Looking down, she saw that she was a naked white man. She was promptly arrested for public indecency and became an involuntary guest of the local police. Initially, she thought it was a dream. Later events, however, convinced her that it was not a dream, but her new reality.
Now known as Bernie, he is befriended by successful author Diane, her husband Jonas and their 'friend' Julian, who introduces him to some pretty amazing technology.
Back in their home, Diane and Jonas saw that Julian had already arrived.
“You made it back in record time, Julian,” Diane said, “You only left a couple of minutes before us, and it took us twenty minutes to get here by hovercopter.”
“I’ve been here ever since you left,” Julian replied, “You insisted that you didn’t need me at the police station, so I stayed here and amused myself.”
“He’s probably right,” Bernie said, looking at the Smythes, “I certainly didn’t see him there.”
“Now you mention it,” Jonas said, “I don’t know what on earth made us think he’d come with us.”
“Never mind that. It’s good to have you back again, Bernie,” Julian said. No-one disagreed.
“What happened?” Bernie asked.
“As far as I can tell,” Julian replied, “Stimbler tried to reverse the jump, but failed.”
“You mean he tried to get back to his body here, and dump me back in mine?”
“So what stopped him?”
“I looked at the traces, and it’s clear that your conscious decision to stay here made it impossible for him.”
“So how did he make the jump in the first place? I don’t remember permitting it.”
“Subconsciously at least, you were dissatisfied with your life. That left you offering no resistance when he made his move.”
“So what’s to stop him doing the same thing to someone else? There are lots of people unhappy with their situations.”
“That’s where it gets complicated, Bernie. You see; his mind is well-developed, and strong enough to make the swap he made with you. However, when he left, part of his mind remained. It’ll be mostly dormant, and you won’t be aware of it, but it’s there. So he doesn’t have his full mental strength in your body; some of it is still here. He needs that part here so he can jup back, but he also needs it there to make any new jumps.”
“Does that mean that part of my mind is still in my old body?”
“In theory. This is all new stuff and even Brainstorm and the other AIs are learning as we… they go along.”
“How do you know all this, Julian?” Diane asked.
“I told you before that I have a special relationship with Brainstorm.”
“You said something about being on their user council.”
“Absolutely. And that gives me privileged access to certain information.”
Julian released Diane’s mind from the lock that prevented her from being aware of his true nature and his relationship with the AIs. Diane’s eyes widened as the truth flooded into her consciousness. Julian put a finger to his lips and hushed her. Diane nodded and Julian closed the information away again, leaving her with an understanding, but no hard knowledge.
“I can see how useful a seat on that coucim must be. We’re lucky to have you for a friend,” Diane said.
“Indeed you are. However, the disruption resulting from Stimbler’s attempted jump is still sending ripples through the timelines, leaving pockets of instability. We need to be ready for sudden changes. Although he can’t jump back here, this timeline depends on Stimbler developing TAS/BR encryption, getting it to market and achieving critical mass. If anything happens to him before then, the whole thing will change and this timeline will disappear.”
“What could happen to him to cause that?” Jonas asked.
“He could die, by illness or accident, or in any of a number of violent ways. His algorithms could be stolen or interfered with, so he never achieves market penetration; the risks are many and varied.”
“Anything can we do about it?”
“Not a thing. We are the future, and the future is always the slave of the past.”
“That’s true,” Diane added, “My studies into the theory of time travel suggest that everything that happened in the past affects the future, but there is nothing we can do to affect the past, without risking compromising our present.”
“Then I guess we’ll just have to hope that nothing happened in the past to damage our present,” Jonas said.
In a sombre tone, Julian replied, “If it’s any consolation, you’d never know if it did happen. Except for you, Bernie.”
“Why except for me?”
“Residuals. You seem to retain a little of each point you visit.”
“How could you possibly know that?”
“I know stuff, Bernie,” Julian said sagely, “I know stuff. Let’s just leave it at that.”
“It’s been a long day for everyone,” Diane said, “Shall we call it a day and park this until the morning?”