Tension

“You have made your objections very clear Allen,” Dr. Spreitzer typed into his phone, feeling like a student in the back of the class trying to hide his texts, “But I cannot speak now, Casey is on.”

Spreitzer looked back up as the whirr of electric cameras began to fade out. Casey Stern, a young man wearing a navy blue suit allowed the publications to get their page one photos before he started his speech. It had been prepared with Spreitzer over the last week of preparations. He would start with a nod to the originators.

“Thank you,” Casey began. “When Dr. Kham’s team first developed the process to extract brain waves, unique neuron discharges, and synapses from a subject’s mind into a separately sustained and functional “ghost” of a person’s consciousness, it began a new golden age of discovery.”

Spreitzer’s phone began buzzing. He pulled it out again and read Allen’s response.

You’re not thinking!” it read, “You’re sending him forward, but there is no forward! He’s going to bounce off of oblivion and rip himself out of existence!

Allen was a great mind, but too stuck on the basics. Still obsessed with Newton when they were living in the age of new rules. Spreitzer turned off his phone and turned his attention back to Casey.

“There was the Davis team in Chicago, converting the first ghosted consciousness into binary, giving us the ability to display the different readouts of each person’s self  into a decipherable language. Then the Quinlyn team in London, finding a way to add algorithms into that binary and convert that information back with the ghost, allowing for the first physical introduction of knowledge into a human consciousness. Kyoto, when Dr. Pinn-Hang led the first successful transportation of a human consciousness from one end of the earth to the other via satellite transfer, making Ling Ho’s ghost the first intelligence to travel around the world in 2 seconds.”

Spreitzer looked around the press area and was satisfied when he couldn’t recognize any of the more troublesome publications being represented. There was a group of people in the world that found these experiments to be barbaric.  It was a one way trip out of the body and into what some overly poetic columnist had called “electric infinity”. The site of “dead” test subjects made people uneasy. He supposed it always would, no matter how many times the ghosts had been proven to be the same people that had left the body. “These people would have stopped after Apollo One.” Spreitzer always told himself when he was receiving the letters of concern from protesters and congressmen stumping on the fear of unknown vote. He knew what was necessary. For the mind to advance the body had to die.

“And now,” Casey went on, “We hope to use Kham’s, Davis’, and Quinlyn’s advancements to take a critical step in mankind’s understanding of how our reality works. Today, I will have my consciousness pulled out and sustained into a field via Kham’s method. It will then be put into a binary program and have an algorithm added to it, which will act as the control center for the experiment. My consciousness will be sent via Sustained Neurological Transportation to a facility in Stockholm, where a device of Dr. Spreitzer’s” Casey moved his hand signifying to Spreitzer, who waved with a quick and uneasy smile, “Will form a Scharnhorst effect, allowing for a vacuum’s energy to be decreased. This should allow my field to be able to obtain a velocity faster than the speed of light and, according to our calculations, send me forward in time.”

Spreitzer knew he had chosen his traveler well. When he first started looking for funding, it had been suggested that he should choose a member of the arm services to take the helm and get The Pentagon to back it. There had even been an Air Force pilot named Captain. James Thomson who was cleared for the process and there was talk that the Air Force would put in a substantial amount of money into the project if they were allowed the PR bump. But the experiment was big enough by itself to attract investors and Spreitzer was of the mindset that adding the military would complicate matters. Casey was his man, he felt sure of that.

Speitzer felt a tap on his shoulder as the press began shouting questions at the mention of time travel. He turned to see Diane Dupuis, an intern with his team looking apologetically at him.

“Dr. Spreitzer?” she whispered questioningly as she held up her phone to him. Displayed on the screen was a text message.

“TO BE SHOWN TO DR. SPREITZER: EMERGENCY. Listen to me you idiot before you pull the world apart. You’re going to send him forward, but there is no forward. The future can’t exist in such solid state! You’re sending him into a temporal Newton’s Cradle! His ghost is going to be pulled back and the tether is going to pull him through himself!

“The algorithm will then take over and will regulate my field’s stability.”  Casey spoke over the stir from press, “When I reach a predetermined point, it will charge the field, allowing it to obtain extra surface area and I will slow down to the point where I can once again be obtainable on this level of perception. Finally, in what we predict will be ten years into our future, our team will be waiting with a device specially programmed to intercept my conscience and welcome me to the new decade.”

The press began acting out now, yelling over each other with questions of implications and physical impossibilities. Behind the barrage, Diane looked to Spreitzer questioning the message she had just received.

“That is Dr. Allen Benson, an ex-associate of mine who worked on this project in its early stages.” Spreitzer said in a way that he hoped would convey he didn’t want to speak on it further. She didn’t seem to take the hint and continued to stare at him for an explanation.

“When he WAS working here,” Spreitzer continued, reiterating the past tense of Benson’s employment, “He was essential in first mapping out our path to time travel. He designed the device that allowed us to see that there was a past and future existing along with the present, making this whole thing feasible.” Diane nodded her head to show she was following.  “While working to map out the spectrum, he discovered that living things leave a unique trail of energy behind them as they move forward in time. He became obsessed with it, referred to it as a tether. When we started talking about moving a human consciousness through time, he was convinced that anything outside of natural speed would cause the tether to pull back on the life it was attached to. He said this would cause a chain reaction that canceled out a person’s whole existence.”

He saw a look of fear come across Diane’s face.

“Don’t worry.” he said in a way that sounded more annoyed than reassuring, “What Benson discovered is nothing more than a trail that we leave in the wake of the life we live. It’s like exhaust in a car. Seeable, but in no way solid enough to impede our movement.”

She seemed to be somewhat satisfied with the answer and sat back down to in her chair. Spreitzer looked back to Casey, then suddenly spun back around to Diane.

‘Why does he have your number?” he asked.

She looked at her phone with a sudden realization.

“I don’t know.” she said after a moment of thought.

Casey Stern waved to the cameras and the whir of electric clicks started to fill the room again.

***

The final checks on the equipment and Casey were just finishing when a large security guard came to talk to Spreitzer.

“Sir.” he said, pulling Spreitzer away from the prep area, “A man was stopped attempting to enter the area with an out of date I.D card. He’s claiming to have information on the project and is insisting on speaking to you right away.”

Spreitzer drove back an urge to ask if he had the authority to have his former partner shot and followed the guard to the checkpoint. There he found Benson scolding another guard.

“Get Dr. Spreitzer out here or I’ll…” Benson cut off when he saw Spreitzer coming down the hallway. “Thomas, thank God you came out. You have to listen to me. This experiment will end in absolute…”

He was cut off by Spreitzer grabbing him by the arm and pulling him away from the guards back towards the exit.

“Would you keep your voice down!” Spreitzer said in a whispered bark. “We have a building full of press and I’d rather you not detract from our achievement with your doomsday ramblings.”

“Not doomsday Tom!” Benson said with no attempt to control his volume. “Retcon! A pattern that may have already repeated itself who knows how many times at this point!”

“If you keep your voice down,” Spreitzer said with a desperate negotiation in his voice. “You can tell me what you have to say uninterrupted.”

Benson looked back over at the security guards eyeing him meaningfully. “Very well.” he said in a whisper, “But you must believe me when I say this out of concern for that young man’s life.”

Spreitzer didn’t respond and Benson went on.

“Now, you propose to use Kham’s method to pull this boy’s consciousness out and send him into the future correct?” Benson began. Spreitzer nodded. “Well, as you know the tether…”

“Residue.” Spreitzer corrected.

“The tether,” Benson continued not recognizing the correction, “Is present even in a removed consciousness.”

Spreitzer agreed again, looking down at his watch as to make sure he had time to get back to see Casey’s transfer.

“Well then,” Benson continued, “This means the ghosted consciousness is still connected to the same tether as the boy’s body. You’re going to try shooting consciousness into the future, but that’s impossible Tom! He’s going to be snapped back by the tether if he’s moving faster than time and the pullback will send his consciousness back through his own past. A Casey Stern size hole in existence that will wipe him out and fill itself in.”

There was a silence between the two. Spreitzer didn’t know if he was more amused or annoyed. His former colleague was everything that had been bothering him to the point of parody. Delusional, spineless, reciting tales of cautionary science fiction when they were on the edge of creating a new age of exploration. He was done, almost zen about it now that he had finally heard the full absurdities of his partners worries. He turned and walked away.

“Tom!” Benson shouted after him. “This isn’t just Stern’s life! If I’m right he’ll be wiped out of existence, but you’ll still exist and complete the experiment without him!  You’ll take another volunteer who will be wiped out in the same way! There will be retcon after retcon! You’ll kill countless people and you’ll never know!”

Benson tried to give chase, but he was stopped at the checkpoint by the two guards at Spreitzer’s gesture. Spreitzer heard the struggle behind him as he headed back to the launch area.

“Spineless,” he said to himself as he watched the machine finish pulling Casey Stern’s mind out of his body. “No vision.”

An heavy clack was heard in the room signifying the transfer was successful.

“The algorithm is integrated.” said one of the technicians. There was a two minute wait as Casey Stern’s mind gave off the signals that stated he was aware and well. “Transporting to Stockholm.”

Spreitzer watched the monitors as they tracked Casey’s signal from the room to the generator in Stockholm. A power surge shook the screens on the other side as Casey Stern reached velocity.

“He’s away.” A voice at the Stockholm control said.

***

“You have made your objections very clear Allen,” Dr. Spreitzer typed into his phone, feeling like a freshman trying to hide his texts in class. “But I cannot speak now, Captain Thomson is on.”

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