A Total Rejection
by Bertil Falk
Astrobiologist Jessica Smith of the Exobiological Institute in New Jersey arrived at 503 Fifth Avenue, eager to engage Billie Occasion for another in-depth mission into the void of space. But she was met with a cold shoulder.
“I am very frustrated,” Bille Occasion said. “If my experiences were told by a short-story writer, it would be someone who had decided from the very beginning that driving me crazy would be a proper way of treating me and my efforts. In the end, that will always be a letdown for the readers.
“Just look at what has happened every time I’ve had a client. Whatever I did, either nothing came out of it or it ended in a disaster. Even though I solved the problem with the man who was stabbed at the same time in New York City and Los Angeles — a case of bilocation in itself — the perpetrator was never punished.
“When I bilocated into the mind of Lars Parker — who, incidentally, is the father of my twins — I replaced his problem with another problem. Instead of being plagued by his mother’s rotten eggs, he got me as a pain in the back — the back of his mind, that is.
“When I bilocated into the imagination of an octopus, I not only disturbed the poor animal, I created an upheaval in an aquarium. Not to mention that when I tried to save an alien species from extinction, I more or less precipitated its demise.
“You see? At least for the time being, I have decided to give up on bilocation. I am not sure if ever I will take it up again. As a matter of fact, both of my children have inherited this useless ability to bilocate. They are a full-time job for me and Lars.”
“Now you’re being unfair to yourself,” Jessica Smith said. “Your visit into the future on Mars triggered a lot of action within the EI, ESA, NASA and other institutions. Even if you consider your encounter with those two 1.2 light-seconds tall aliens a failure, your visit to the starship gave us information we would not have obtained otherwise.”
Billie Occasion touched the blood-red safety pin that penetrated her left cheek.
When the two ladies fell silent, the sound of strings filled the room like a railway accident in a mango garden. The background music was John Zorn’s Cat O’Nine Tails, executed by the Kronos Quartet.
“Let’s wait and see,” said Billie, overshadowing the music. “I would not be the least surprised if the information I have furnished you turns out to be a disaster in one way or another. My decision is made. I’ll take a big break from the bilocating business and will perhaps never return to it. Right now, the most important thing is to see to it that my children can handle this dangerous gift.”
Jessica Smith had to leave 503 Fifth Avenue empty-handed. She had not even been given a chance to tell Billie what she wanted her to do.
* * *
Karl Indranil Reilly made a surprise call. Billie Occasion was delighted. She and Lars Parker had been worried about him ever since they had learned that he, the foremost scientist on teleportation and bilocation research, could no longer do basic research in the field. Since it was of no immediate commercial value, the program had been scrapped. Instead he was working on DNA research. It was interesting and important, but not as exciting as the unmapped world of bilocationing.
“I guess you have a reason for coming like this,” Billie said to Karl Indranil.
Karl looked at the new members of the family, who were crawling on the floor.
“What’s on your mind?” Billie persisted.
“I should have called you, but my smartphone didn’t work. My fault; I forgot to recharge it. Your kids look healthy.”
“You bet they are,” Lars Parker said.
“You didn’t answer my question. What’s your errand?” Billie demanded impatiently.
With a loud sigh their sudden guest sat down. “Nothing dangerous, but something quite impossible! We are doing research on DNA from mummies and all kinds of old finds. As you know two people can’t have the same DNA. Or, rather, it could happen by chance but such a thing is — to use a hackneyed metaphor — as likely that an ape with a computer would write down Shakespeare’s plays word for word from the beginning to end. It’s not likely to happen — ever!”
“I guess you’re hinting at something,” said Billie.
“We have looked at the DNA from an Egyptian mummy, a couple of thousand years old.”
“Very well, what about it?”
Karl Indranil Reilly did not answer for a couple of seconds. He looked puzzled and said. “Its DNA matches mine. It’s not similar, it’s identical.”
Nobody said anything. The smooth background music — Charlie Parker playing his Mood — rose to the surface of the room.
“So the proverbial ape has really written Shakespeare’s work at last,” Billie almost whispered.
“Word for word,” Karl Indranil stated.
“Are you sure?” Lars Parker exclaimed.
“There’s no doubt.”
“What about contamination?”
“We thought of that and tested it over and over again. No contamination.”
“Maybe you’re a kind of ghost, my dear Karl Indranil,” Billie suggested with a smile. “I begin to grasp why you’ve come. I’m not prepared to do it. I have given up bilocating. I’ve been holding back ever since my unsuccessful spree into the void. You see, Krxäzpluck and Zcåötrüx, our children — for the sake of simplicity called Karl after you and Eve after my mother — have inherited my ability, and they have to be kept under strict control. By the way, what did you find about bilocation and teleportation before the program was discontinued?”
“Not much,” Karl replied. “We found that few people can do it, but the habit is common — or, rather, comparatively common — within the Catholic church, where some saints and others bilocate, levitate or use bilocation as a means of teleportation. They do other things that holy people are fond of for some unknown reason, though it has very little to do with faith as far as we can understand. On the other hand, unstable minds...”
Lars Parker, the staunch believer, cleared his throat and said: “Didn’t Jesus do similar things? I believe he walked on the water.”
“Don’t be silly, Lars,” Billie said and turned to the visitor. “Karl Indranil! I know all the things you are telling us. Nothing else?”
“Well, within the Lapp population in northern Scandinavia and Russia, similar projections are known.”
“We were still more or less on square one when the program was scrapped.”
“Maybe that’s all for the good.”
Karl Indranil Reilly looked at Billie, an unbelieving glare in his eyes. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that I have the strong feeling that bilocating is a kind of endless merry-go-round. Look, I bilocated back in time from New York City to Boston within the fictional stories of Jacques Futrelle.”
“You did? Into fiction?”
“I never told you!”
“Nothing! I had a client, but the only thing I accomplished was a meaningless loop in time and space and fiction. It’s an anomaly. It seems to me that the arrow of time only is permitted to point in one direction ...”
“From the cradle to the grave, that is. You’re not supposed to go backwards in time, getting younger and ultimately being sucked up through your mother’s vagina.”
Karl Indranil Reilly smiled. “Well, we did find one thing. Our research was not in vain.”
“And what did you find?”
“If you travel backwards in time, you don’t get younger, and you aren’t sucked up anywhere. As a matter of fact, you are living proof of that, Billie. Every time you’ve bilocated not only in space but also into the future, you’ve returned to your present time without getting younger.
“You get older in the ordinary way when travelling in the direction of the time arrow, but you do not get older when you bilocate into the future. In that sense, bilocation seems to be a shortcut not only in space but also in time. And that goes for the return ticket as well. Taste that fact, Billie.”
Reluctantly she tasted it and found — of course she did — that Karl Indranil was right. “Has this anything to do with you and the mummy?”
“The one thing may have a bearing on the other, and vice-versa. But we don’t know. A trip a few thousand years back in time could at least decide if that mummy looked like me and had the same attitudes as I have as totally identical individuals, except for the way different cultural environments would have affected us. This is much more than comparing identical twins who have grown up living separated from each other in different environments.”
Billie Occasion regarded her guest with firm resolve. “The answer is: NO! The biggest NO I’ve ever said, the biggest NO in the universe! You may be disappointed, but if ever a rejection was justified, this NO is!”
Copyright © 2014 by Bertil Falk