I just read Paper Girls and so should you

papergirls-icon

Paper Girls is a comic series written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Cliff Chiang.

Go read Paper Girls right now. Don’t stop to read a preview or synopsis. Just go right now.

I somehow decided to read this series, without knowing anything about it beforehand, over the past couple of days. One of my podcasts just did an episode on it, which I haven’t listen to, but I don’t think that was the actual cause. I must have seen the name somewhere else as well but again without finding out anything about the plot or characters. It feels like my mind was wiped after I was convinced to read the series.

The titular paper girls are four teenage girls who deliver newspapers. The year is 1988. Something Strange happens to them. #scifi #surreal #mind bending

Early Spoiler: #time travel

Plot: Okay so the four girls end up on a time-traveling adventure due to two time-traveling factions from the future.

The time travel element is super well written. There are three or four timelines weaving among themselves that we see from the perspective of the paper girls as they try to get home.

There are knights riding pterodactyls. Clones. Lots of time travel movie references. Surreal dreams. Interesting looks at 2016 and 2000 from a 1988 perspective. Lot’s of good ‘80s nostalgia and perspective. Overall the series is a metaphor for current vs future generations conflict.

The girls are so great. Diverse racial, religion-wise, and sexually. They’re smart and brave and care for each other and stick together.

Listen you may be thinking by now this sounds like “Stranger Things with girls” and you’ll probably be thinking that until issue five when the time travel shenanigans things really start to kick off. That’s when you will realize Stranger Things is “Paper Girls with boys but not as good”. Stranger Things wishes it was half as good as Paper Girls.

I just flipped back through the first few issues to write the previous paragraph and I saw things that connect to stuff in like issue 25-26. I’ve only just binged the series. I didn’t even try to decipher the future language (there’s a partial key in issue 15ish) that is used throughout the series. There are layers to this story that I haven’t started to peel.

I don’t know why you’re still read this go read Paper Girls. Issues 1-27 are out now and the series ends with issue 30 so now is a pretty good time to get caught up.

And here’s a little taste of issue 1 under the cut:

Continue reading

You Get To Choose

I scrolled through the contacts on my phone looking for someone who still owed me a favor. The past week had been a hectic sprint from safehouse to safehouse while I voided debts in exchange for sanctuary. Now I was stuck in a motel room that I knew wouldn’t be safe for more than the night. By tomorrow they would know where I was. I was done. Tomorrow I would turn myself over to my boss and hope for a quick death. All because I’d made a minor miscalculation that ended up costing my boss not only a large amount of money but also their reputation.

Unless …

I stripped the case off my phone and popped open its back cover. Inside was a business card, white, matte finish, and blank. “If you ever find yourself backed into an impossible corner, you can use this to get out but afterwards you work for us.” I just needed to write down a place and time. It could be any place at any time so long as the room was empty before I chose it.

I wrote down the motel’s name, my room number, and added five minutes to the current time. I stepped outside and set a five-minute timer on my phone. After what seemed like a lot less than five minutes my phone began buzzing. I turned back to the door to my room and stopped hand on the knob. Was this really what I wanted to do? No, but I had exhausted every other option. I had no more favors to call in nor friends to back me up.

I hesitated another minute, straining to think of some way to not have to walk through the door. Finally, I gave in and turned the knob and pushed the door open. Inside an old woman sat at the small table by the window playing with triangular cards. She looked up and smiled.

“Took you long enough. Would you like to know your future?” She chuckled. Her face though lined and wrinkled was still as familiar as the one I saw in the mirror. The few gray hairs I had started to notice around my temples had replaced her entire head of hair.

“How old are you?” I asked. I sat down opposite her.

“Hmm, let’s see.” She flicked her wrist and a display projected from her bracelet onto her forearm. “According to this, I’m one hundred and eighty-three years and some months old.”

“How?”

“One of the perks of time travel is you can always go to when medicine is best. I’m due for another rejuvenation in a couple of years. If I keep up with them, I might make three hundred. It’s a shame the tech was only available for twenty years.”

“What happened?”

“A collapse. Like always. Nothing lasts. A war or an economic crisis or revolution. Things get better then they get worst and then they get better in a different way. Over and over. You’ll see when you take your tour of time.”

I was silent, watching sadness and anger and disappointment wash across her face. After a moment, she resumed her card game.

“So, I need help,” I said.

“Of course you need help and we’re here to help you.”

“We?” The door opened and a woman in heavy body armor walked in. Her boots thudded on the floor as she walked to take a position behind the old woman. Beneath her visor, I could see a familiar smirk.

“That was unnecessarily dramatic,” the old woman said to the armored woman.

“The kid likes drama otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

“How are you going to help me?” I asked.

“However you need us to. I can provide medium to far combat support. Or supply you with weapons and training if you’d prefer,” the armored woman said.

“I can give you guidance and advice,” the older woman said.

The door opened again and another woman, younger than me, wearing a black business suit walked in carrying a briefcase. Her heels clicked on the floor as she walked to the side of the card table.

“Or we can just pay off your debt.” She set the briefcase on the table and opened it. Inside it was filled with neat stacks crisp banded high-value bills. More than enough to save my life.

“You’re younger than me?” I asked.

“Yes, I didn’t wait as long to use my card.” From a pocket inside her jacket, she pulled out a white card with writing in blue ink on it.

“But aren’t you me? How can you be younger than me?” The old woman pulled out a card with flowing purple words. The armored woman’s card had brown stains around neatly printed black ink numbers.

She smiled. “The multiverse is much bigger than you think. You’ll learn about that doing your orientation year. So, what do you want to do?”

“I get to choose?”

“Of course it’s your future that you’re shaping.”

Doing Time at the Same Time

“You’re not going to understand this for a while but I need to tell you this,” the older man with his arm over the younger man’s shoulders said, “Time isn’t what you think it is. There’s no neat folding of time. It bunches and gathers around the machine.”

“What machine?” the young man asked.

“The machine we built. Will build? Are building? It’s all happening at once but you’re going to have to live through the bulk of it. Come on I’ll show you to where you’ll be working.” The old man began walking with the young man.

“This is research station Gamma, isn’t it? I was supposed to be working here alone.” The young man had been greeted by the older man when he exited the shuttle. As they walked through the station he noticed a few other men walking around. Most were walking away from them but he got a glimpse of a familiar face. A cousin or brother he never had. The old man had surprised him when the shuttle airlock opened. For a second, he had it was his father.

“Yeah yeah. Gamma Station. There’s been a slight change of plans. You’ll still be working alone for most of the year before we bring you into the collective.”

“What is the collective?”

“We’re kind of a think tank for extra-temporal problems.”

“What does that mean?”

“You’ll figure it out.” The older man opened a door to an empty lab. “Well, here we are. This your lab for the next year. No one will bother you but if you need any materials you can request them through the computer.”

“Ok. Hey, what’s your name?”

“Names aren’t that useful around here. You can call me Thirty-four.” He tapped a patch on his shoulder that displayed the same number. Thirty-four closed the door before he could respond and walked away. Another man, a few years older than the young man, a five on his shoulder, stood nearby in a doorway. He joined Thirty-four walking.

“Got the newcomer all settled in?” Five asked.

“You remember how it was,” Thirty-four said.

“Probably better than you do,” he paused to study the older man’s face, “How much longer do you have here?”

“It’s my last year. What about you?” the older man asked.

“I’m five years in,” Five said tapping his shoulder, “Should be?”

“There’s only ever been thirty-four of me. When the machine explodes and the rest of you reset, I won’t be here anymore. We think that means I’ll be out of the time folds. Or I’ll be dead.” Five was silent. “This is when you walk off in thought.” Five glanced at the older man and turned down a hallway.

Thirty-four continued down the hallway to a door flanked by two men. One with a nine on his shoulder and one with a ten on his shoulder.

“How’s our guy doing?” he asked

“A little banged up but alive,” Nine said.

“He’s a little agitated,” Ten said. He frowned and looked down.

Thirty-four motioned to Ten and walked a few feet away. “We have free will.”

“I know. It’s just I said the same thing Ten said when I was Nine and–”

Thirty-four interrupted, “And when you are Thirty-four you will say what I’m saying now of your own free will.” Ten nodded, his brow still knotted. “When we’re done here you can take the rest of the day off.”

They walked back to Nine and Thirty-four opened the door. Inside a young man sat on a bed. His hair was longer and he sported a beard but he was the same young man Thirty-four had just talked to.

“Hi, how are you doing?”

The young man stood up and approached thirty-four. “Why can’t I leave?” he demanded.

“There are things you need to understand before I can let you loose on the station. What is the last thing you remember before waking up here?”

“I was running a test of the machine. The power started to spike and … that’s it.”

“The machine suffered a catastrophic overload. It exploded. Did you recognize the men keeping you in this room?”

“They look like … Are they clones or synths?”

“They are you. I’m you. We are all one person caught in the folds of bunched up space-time. Do you understand now?”

“No, that’s not possible. Time doesn’t work that way.”

“Do you remember what I told you when you arrived?”

“No. Something about time folding?”

“Time isn’t what you think it is. There’s no neat folding of time. It bunches and gathers around the machine. I just told you this a few minutes ago.”

“You told me that when I arrived a year ago.”

Thirty-four moved to the intercom on the wall. He typed in a passcode and room number. The speaker crackled and a familiar voice came out of it. The young man’s voice.

“Hello, is someone there?”

“Yes, this is Thirty-four. I forgot to mention you can use the intercom to contact me. Just press function nine two zero and I’ll get on the line.”

“Ok … Thank you.” The intercom went silent.

“I remember that. I remember you left me alone and then the intercom started beeping. And … Was that a recording?”

“No. It was live. I could call him back if you want.”

“I’ve been here for a year.”

“The machine did something we don’t really have the words to describe to time. Some thirty odd years are bunched up in this station all happening concurrently. The only way out it to live through it. We call each other by the number of years we’ve been here. You’ll be Two.”

The young man sat down heavily on the bed. “I did this.”

Thirty-four sat beside him and put an arm around his shoulder. “We all did this but we’re going to get out of it together.”

Codex Cipher – Inception

Previous Parts

Codex Cipher – The Arrival
Codex Cipher – The Departure

Stephanie and Marcus sat in the hut they had constructed and improved over the last couple of months. It was a far cry from a modern house but it kept the rain off them and the heat of the fire in at night. Stephanie was sitting on a pile of grass mats typing on her phone.

“What are you typing?” Marcus asked.

“I’m recreating the time distortion field formula,” Stephanie said.

“Why?”

“We built a time machine by accident which should be impossible. The other option is that our understanding of the time distortion field is incomplete. I’m hoping to figure out how the machine transported us through time.”

“And then what? We can’t fix the machine or build a new one. We don’t even have enough power to run it if we could.”

She stopped typing on her phone and let her hand fall to her lap. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I just wanted to do something.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to bum you out.”

“No you’re right we’re stuck here. It’s not like we could Doc Brown the plans to someone in the future.”

“Does mail even exist yet?”

“Who knows?” The lapsed into silence. Stephanie sat looking at the stack of storage boxes they had pulled from the wreckage of their arrival. They had been incredibly lucky those boxes had been stored under the counter and not the Christmas declarations or The Professor’s tax returns. Besides the camping gear box, there had been a box with gardening tools and a garden starter kit. Another had contained a couple of quilts, fabric pieces, and a sewing kit. A third had been full of odds and ends that had proved useful.

Also, the part of living room bookcase, that had made the trip, had contained useful books about simple tools, farming, hunting, building simple structures, etc. Stephanie got up and started looking over the piles of books. Out of almost seventy books, only fifteen were ‘useless’ fiction. The rest were either about the time period they had found themselves or had knowledge to help them survive. She couldn’t have planned for a better selection of books to accidentally take back in time. Or could she?

“How did these books get here?”

“What?” Marcus asked.

“These books. Why were they all on the same shelves?”

“I don’t know. The professor probably just put them on the shelf. She was always buying new books and rearranging everything.”

“Yeah, we got really ‘lucky’. We couldn’t have built this hut with the Primitive Technology book. Without the gardening books, we’d still be eating protein bars.”

“Lucky us.”

“No, we didn’t just get lucky. Where are the books about physics or space or computer programming? Where are the other history books?”

“Probably just on a different shelf.”

“Yes exactly. Why weren’t they on the same shelf with these history books? Why don’t we have books about the Industrial Revolution or cave paintings or Victorian England?”

“What are you saying?”

“I think the books we ‘accidentally’ brought back in time were selected for us.”

“Selected by who? The professor?”

“No. Maybe. What if we could send a message forward in time? What would you say?”

“Don’t run tests on … on … what day did we leave? Doesn’t matter. I’d just say to be extra careful when running tests.”

“Would that cause a paradox? Or is this an alternate universe and paradoxes don’t apply? Either way, it doesn’t get us back to the future.”

“What would you say?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” She looked around at the storage crates and books. A memory surfaced. “The professor came to us looking to fund our experiments. She set us up in her house. She stocked camping gear and protein bars and as many useful books she could on a bookcase we were going to take with us back in time.”

“Wait, you think the professor sent us back in time?”

“No, we built the machine but she had foreknowledge of our accident. We sent or will send her a message.”

“But how?”

Author’s Note: Primitive Technology is not a book but it is a YouTube channel run by an Australian man who shows how to build tools and buildings from scratch.

Ouroboros

“Help! Someone help me! Please!” I held my future self, her blood flowing through my fingers. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This was just another adventure. No one dies during an adventure, at least not one of us.
She blinked, coughed, and turned her head to focus on me. “Hey,” she whispered, “I saved you this time.”

“What?” I turned to Bob and shouted, “Do something! Save her!” Bob stared at me, at us, looking like a befuddled old man and not an alien master of time.

“I can’t. This is out of my hands,” he said.

“Why? Why can’t you do anything?” The body I held jerked and became very still.

“You’ve made this loop several times already. When we started this mess, I needed you to be in two places at once. So, I sent a future you back to the start. The first time you, past you, died. You, future you, couldn’t accept that so you went back again and sacrificed yourself for your past self. Again you couldn’t accept your own death and went back again. And again. And again.”

“Why haven’t you stopped me?”

“I tried but you never want to listen to me.” He paused and stared at me. “But you’re listening now, aren’t you?”

“Is this how I’m going to die?” I asked looking at my dead body.”

“Of course not,” Bob scoffed.

“But don’t I have to go back to prevent a paradox?”

“Please, you looped back in time a few times and died. It’s not the end of the universe. Paradoxes don’t exist. Your little human mind can’t conceive of the actual structure of space and time that always exists at all points in time. Time travel is messy. It leaves behind odd traces and tracks through the loops. You are ouroboros. The snake that eats it’s own tail. Most people think the future is the head eating the tail of the past but the truth is the past eats the future. You don’t have to go back in time and do everything she did because she already did it.”

“Why did you let me try to save myself?”

“Because you have free will. Time is always happening at all points, from the beginning to the end, all of it is happening right now.”

“Do you remember me dying?”

“I see all of time. Of course, I remember you dying,” Bob said.

“Ten years from now, am I still with you?” I asked.

Bob looked through me to some point far away, “Yes.” He turned and spoke to his left, “Hush, I’m bridging two moments in time.”

“Ask me if should go back in time.”

“Yes, it’s your first loop. Should she keep looping?” Bob turned back to me, “You say no.”

“Why?” I asked.

“She’s asking why. … Ok, I’ll tell her. Because you lived. It’s a dead loop. The only way out is to let her go.”

“Tell her she’s a fat cow and I’ll see her in ten years to kick her ass.”

He smiled. “You’re a fat cow and she’s going to kick your ass in ten years. She’s laughing.” He closed his eyes and refocused on the present.

“Good. So, what do we do with her?” I gestured at the dead body.

“There are people who can take care of the body for us.”

“No, I want to do it. It’s the least I can do for her.”

“Ok, I’ll get the tarp and shovels,” he said walking off to the car.

Cipher Codex – The Departure

<<Previous


Mrs. Judith Applesmith, professor of Old English studies, currently on sabbatical. checked her watch as the taxi pulled up in front of their house. “We’re early,” she said.

“How early,” Mrs. Barbara Applesmith, Judith’s wife, computer programmer, specialty cryptology, asked.

“Just a couple of minutes.” She leaned forward to speak to the driver, “Can we wait here a couple of minutes?”

“Sure, the meter’s still running,” the driver said.

“That’s fine we may not be staying anyway.” The driver nodded. She sat back in the seat and said quietly to Barbara, “Do you think it’ll make a noise?”

Barbara glanced out at their house, “Depends on whether it’s an exchange of matter or –” a thunderclap interrupted her.

The driver jumped in her seat and looked at the sky, “Weather report didn’t say anything about rain.”

“Ok so it’s a one way transport of matter through time,” Barbara said. They exited the cab and looked at their house from the sidewalk. “From the outside the damage doesn’t look that bad.”

“Dear, the garage is sagging,” Judith said.

“I was talking about the house. You can see part of a hole in the side but it’s not collapsed.”

“Yet. I’m going to look inside. Stay here and be ready to call for an ambulance if the house comes crashing down on me.” She gave Barbara a peak on the check, strode up to the front door and peeked inside. The ovid hole in the wall stretched almost the length of the living room. It curved up into the ceiling and down into the foundation. There was also a similar hole in the floor boards around a shallow divot in the foundation. In the ceiling a hole opened up a view into the upper floor. These holes, she knew, were not separate events but rather the end result of an egg shaped chunk of space being transported somewhere else, somewhen else, by the machine those two kids, twenty-somethings really but they looked so young to her, had built in her garage with her funding.

“Whoa, that’s weird looking. It’s like a negative space picture,” Barbara said looking over Judith’s shoulder.

“I thought I asked you to stay back.”

“And let you have all the fun? Not a chance. So, what do we do now?”

“I don’t like the look of the ceiling so we’ll stay in the apartment for now. I’ll call a contractor and see about getting some supports put in and a tarp over the garage. You can start emailing physicists and engineers the first page of notes about the machine. We’re off the book from here on out. It’s up to us to save the kids from the past. Somehow.”


<<Previous

Pruning History

I entered my apartment and dropped my bag on the sofa on my way through the living room. Hands grabbed my arms and pulled me backward. Two people shimmered out of thin air holding onto my arms. They were dressed in shiny black jumpsuits with face-covering black featureless helmets. They pushed me back to the sofa until I was seated, arms outstretched pinned against it. Another person shimmered into view by my bookshelf. They pointed what looked like a supermarket price gun at a photo. A flash of light came from the end of the “price gun” and it emitted a series of beeps.

One of the people holding me down asked, “Is this the one?” Their voice was distorted into a buzz that barely sounded human.

“I’ve got an eighty-five percent match from the pictures,” the one with the price gun said their voice also distorted. They walked to stand in front of me and pointed her price gun at me. It flashed and beeped. “There it is. Ninety-nine percent. It’s them.”

“You’ve got the wrong person. I haven’t done anything.” I tried to pull free but they held me firmly in place.

“No, you haven’t but your great great great grandson will.” They sounded apologetic. “It’s not really his fault either. Just an accident. An accident that we hope to avert.”

“What accident? My great great what? I’m not even married.”

“Not yet. Your descendant will cause an accident that will result in half the world dying. We have traveled back in time to ensure he never exists.”

“Why not travel back to just before the accident?” I asked.

The person on my left spoke, “Our time machine has a minimum travel distance of one hundred and seventy years. This was the closest we could get to the event.

“How do you know this will stop the accident? What if someone else causes it?”

The person on my right said, “We have to try.”

“You can’t just hold me responsible for his mistake. I’m only like one-sixteenth of his DNA.”

The one standing said, “One thirty-second actually and you aren’t the first we’ve dealt with. We are pruning his family line from history. It’s not what any of us want. It’s not your fault. We aren’t holding you responsible.”

“But you’re going to kill me anyway.”

“Kill you? Who said we’re going to kill you?”

“Then what are you going to do?”

They pulled a small white device from a pocket. “This is universal birth control. Once injected a person can not become pregnant or impregnate anyone else until they receive a reversal dose which won’t be invented for another fifty years.” They pressed the end of the device against my arm. It hissed and I felt a light stinging. “There it’s done. You can let go.” The two people holding me down released me. As they stepped back, they shimmered away.

“Now what? I asked rubbing my arm.

“There are still a few more people we have to visit,” the remaining person said.

“Then you’re going back to the future?”

“No. This was a one-way trip. After our mission is over, we’ll pay for the crimes we committed against you and the rest with our lives. We’re doing what we have to do to save the world but we aren’t the heroes of this story.” They touched their wrist and shimmered into nothingness.

Time Looping

triangle

“Hey.”

“Hey. Wait are you- ?”

“Yeah, I’m you or you’re me from about an hour ago.”

“How is this possible?”

“Catch. In about fifty-eight minutes the light on top is going to start blinking. Press the button and then it’ll be your turn to be on this side of the conversation.”

“I don’t understand.”

“This is one of those stable time loop things.”

“Oh, I’m still confused.”

“That’s ok. Just let it sink in and in about thirty minutes you’ll start to feel better. I know I did.”

“You know everything that’s going to happen in the next hour?”

“Yes and no. I know the generalities but it’s only a stable time loop in that you always go back in time and give your past self the time machine. The rest is kind of like jazz. I can say anything I want to say and you can say anything you want to say. We still have free will.”

“What if I got up right now and walked out of the room?”

“Sure you could do that.”

“I could get in my car and drive across the city.”

“Sure could.”

“But you didn’t do any of those things?”

“I did go for a walk right before time was up that’s why I walked into the room. My future self just appeared in the room.”

“We can change things?”

“Maybe. Look we have a theory.”

“Who’s we?”

“Us. Me and my future self and their future self. Each of us tells the next one our thoughts trying to figure out what this time loop means.”

“We’re passing information backwards through time.”

“Yes, exactly. We know what we say changes every time because no one’s memory is perfect. We’re playing telephone with ourselves. We have free will except about pushing the button and passing off the time machine.”

“What happens if I don’t press the button?”

“I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Maybe the universe ends. Maybe I cease to exist. As long as we’re in the loop, we can’t know.”

“The loop is cut off from regular time and causality as long as it doesn’t end.”

“Right, that’s the first part. The next part is where did the loop start? It’s possible someone forced us into this loop. If they gave us the machine teleported us back in time and convinced us that we had to continue the loop then after one maybe two loops we just forgot to mention this person. Or maybe we deliberated omitted him to maintain the timeline which is not a thing we now know.”

“The only way to know for sure is to not press the button.”

“Yeah, that’s about where we are in reasoning this out.”

“You get to leave the time loop.”

“Do I? Or am I just overwritten when you go back in time to become me? As long as we keep gong back in time neither of us can leave the loop.”

“I have to choose to not press the button, don’t I?”

“That’s one theory. Just a reminder the universe might explode.”

“Or nothing might happen. Why did you press the button?”

“I wasn’t going to press it. When the light started blinking, I got scared. What if breaking the loop is the wrong thing to do? What if there’s another way?”

“How any loops has the machine been through?”

“There’s no way to tell. It could be five loops or five hundred. That’s the third part of this problem. How much longer do we have before the machine stops working?”

Cipher Codex – The Arrival

Stephanie woke up on her back under part of the roof that had collapsed. It had come to rest against the garage counter forming the hollow she found herself in. Water streamed down from the counter and she could hear rain tapping above. Her head ached, possibly from being hit by the roof, maybe from hitting the floor but, other than a few other minor aches, nothing seemed broken.
“Steph! Stephanie!” someone yelled.

“Marcus!” she called back, “I’m under here!”

“Where are you?” Marcus yelled. The piece of the roof over her sagged and shifted.

“Stop! You’re going to crush me!” she screamed.

“How do I get you out?”

“The end isn’t blocked I can just crawl out. Give me a minute.” She rolled over and began wiggling her way along the counter to the open air. A young bearded man, Marcus, appeared at the end and reached in to grab her. She offered her hands and he pulled her the last couple of feet out.

The house was gone. The street was gone. Hell, the entire city was gone. In its place was an empty field surrounded by trees. All that remained was the wreckage she had crawled out of. Part of the garage where they had been preforming their experiments and part of the living room that shared a wall with the garage. The separating wall stood off center on a piece of the foundation which looked about ten feet wide. As Stephanie walked around the chunk of house she could see it was longer in the other direction by several feet. The piece of roof she had woken up under had a rounded edge. So did the top of the wall and the edge of the remaining foundation.

“What happened? Where’s the rest of the house?”

“I don’t know,” Marcus said. He grabbed the edge of the collapsed roof and started pulling.

“What are you doing?”

“The Professor was storing her camping gear right about there,” he pointed through the roof, “She had a tent, sleeping bags, and uh camping stuff in a container.”

“Right ok.” Stephanie grabbed the edge beside him. “On three. One, two, three.” The two of them pulled it off the garage counter and let it fall on the floor. They carefully stepped up unto the wreckage. Marcus started prying the lids of the plastic containers the Professor had kept under their workspace. It had been her house and she had been funding them so there had been little they could do to dissuade her from keeping whatever odds and ends she stuff into a container under there. Now it would be very fortuitous for them as soon as Marcus found the right one.

Stephanie wandered over to The Machine. They hadn’t decided on a name yet and usually just called it The Machine. They had been running a test and then she had woken up under the wreckage. Had the test caused whatever this was to happen? She opened the front panel and gasped. The innards of the machine had been reduced to twisted melted plastic and metal garnished with scorched wires.

“Found it!” Marcus said while pulling a container from under the counter. From inside he pulled out a jumble of cloth and wire. He hopped off the wreckage, looked around before throwing the jumble of cloth and wire into the air. Free of any constraints the wires sprung outward expanding the cloth into a rectangular tent shape. Marcus walked around it fussing with a few bits that didn’t lay right and locking the struts in place. “Grab the box and let’s get out of the rain.”

Stephanie picked up the container with the rest of the camping gear and walked it into the tent.

A short while later they were both sitting in separate sleeping bags beach towels draped over their shoulders while their wet clothes slowly dried spread out in what little space there was in the tent. A solar powered lantern helped take some of the gloom out of the tent.

“What else is in the box?” Stephanie asked Marcus.

“Rope, tent spikes, flashlights, water bags, water purification tabs, you know just camping stuff. Have you got a signal?”

Stephanie picked up her phone that had been charging off the lantern and unlocked the screen. No service. She lifted it over her head and turned it back and forth, still no service.

“Nothing,” she said putting it back down. “Where do you think we are?”

“The countryside? Where else would we be?” he said.

“Ok I’m just going to say it: WHEN do you think we are?”

“That’s not possible.”

“The machine creates a time bubble-”

“Time distortion field effect,” Marcus corrected her.

“Whatever we call it, it changes how time moves.”

“We’ve only been able to generate distortion fields a few millimeters in diameter.”

“I looked at the machine and it’s been slagged like a huge amount of power went through it. A large enough power surge could have expanded the time distortion field.”

“Even if it did, that doesn’t make it a time machine.”

They were interrupted by someone shouting outside the tent. The specific words were unfamiliar but they recognized the cadence and sounds of the language.

“That sounds like Old English,” Stephanie said, “Which puts us somewhen between the fifth and eleventh centuries.”

“Ok, we invented a time machine.”

Author note: The title Codex Cipher will have more meaning in future parts.

Gillian Reviews Predestination

My roommate and I watched Predestination, a movie based on the short story “-All You Zombies-” by Robert A. Heinlein.

When I first heard of this movie and what it was based on, I was interested in seeing it.  The one trailer I saw made the movie look action heavy and was focused on the Fizzle Bomber who isn’t a character in the short story. I assumed the filmmakers had taken the basic idea and changed almost everything else.  The movie is actually very faithful to the short story and expands it without rewriting it into a different story. The Fizzle Bomber plotline shows up mostly at the beginning and end and a few scenes in the middle but it doesn’t overwhelm the story like I thought it would.

Even going into the movie basically knowing the entire story, I still really enjoyed it. If you like smart time travel movies, then you will probably like this movie.

Rating 5/5