Author : David Atos

Professor Samuel fidgeted excitedly as the chroniton engines whined down. His movements caused showers of Cherenkov radiation in the chamber of the time machine. In his left hand was an audio recorder filled with his observations of early Macedonian pottery techniques. He was certain that his discoveries would earn him tenure at his university, and turn the field of anthropology on its head. His right hand held a simple USB thumbdrive, filled with the contents of an online encyclopedia, change history and all, from the moment before he was sent back to the Greek peninsula, circa 827BC.

“Okay, Professor Samuel. You’re back. Insert the thumbdrive for validation, please.”

The professor thought back to his training, the culmination of a ten-year application process. The technician would compare the data on that USB stick to a live version of the encyclopedia, to ensure that nothing he had done in the past had changed the present. And he had been meticulous about the required precautions. Remain out of sight. No communication with anyone. No food, no drink, leave no waste. The sterilization of all bacterial fauna in his body would take months to recover from, but it was all worth it for his research.

Professor Samuel was snapped out of his reverie by a blaring alarm and a flashing light.

“Professor, we’re showing a discrepancy on the order of 10^-16.”

“10^-16? No! That can’t be more than a couple of characters! Surely that’s too small a change for–”

“You know the rules, Professor. I’m sorry.” The operator reached towards a large red button on his control console


The operator reached towards a large red button on his control console, and depressed it. But the machine made no sounds. The chroniton engines remained still. A small orange LED blinked rhythmically on the display.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” asked the Professor.

“It appears that your trip has been retroactively denied. Sorry, Professor.”

“But, the years I spent getting it approved! It took me over a decade! I need to go back for my research!”

“You know the rules, Professor. The machine locks us out in the event of a post-factum revocation. There’s nothing I can do now.”

“But . . . my research,” the Professor said in a weak voice.

“Don’t worry, professor. You can always apply for another trip.”

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