[personal profile] hwrnmnbsol
I've played all kinds of competitive games at bars. There are the old standards of pool or darts, two things I stink at. There are trivia games, which I usually excel at unless I'm playing against, say, hyper-intelligent robots from the future. There are even oddball sports like bocce ball, which I seem to have a knack for crushing despite having no idea what I'm doing.

My favorite bar, _The_Stopped_Clock_, has a different competitive game: bragging. Specifically, this game involves telling everybody about your past exploits roaming the time-stream, and attempting to one-up the competition with tales of your awesome ability to bust heads / make trouble / be awesome throughout the course of human history. This is, I am fairly sure, an unusual competition in most bars, unless they serve a clientele composed of the clinically insane. At _The_Stopped_Clock_, on the other hand, this activity makes perfect sense, because everybody in that establishment is some form of time traveler. No, really.

One night last week there was this new guy in the bar who had thrown down the gauntlet, bragging-wise. This effectively put him on offense, with the other regulars playing defense by trying to tear down his achievements. As I was just there to drink beer, I played the role of spectator, watching this Timmers guy try to hold his own.

Timmers was, as far as I could tell, a native of the present-day, or the immediate vicinity. He wore a white lab coat, had thinning hair and dorky coke-bottle glasses, and either 1) had severe Asperger's Syndrome or 2) was a dick. He was plainly some kind of mad scientist, and wanted everybody to know what a genius he was.

"I invented science," Timmers told us all bluntly. He was sitting in a stool with his back to the bar; Edgar polished glassware behind him, while Retro Retro and the other bar regulars clustered at a respectful distance around Timmers and heckled.

"Oh, come now," said Sir Attaccus disdainfully. "Science wasn't invented; it was developed."

"Or possibly discovered," added Retro Retro.

"I think science was actually contracted," said Bobby Saturday. "Like a disease."

"No, I invented it," said Timmers. "Every bit of it. My idea."

"Really," said Retro Retro skeptically. "Better tell us how that went, then."

"It was easy," said Timmers. "I visited every great scientist who ever lived, and explained all their great ideas to them, weeks before they came up with them on their own."


There was a brief silence as the crowd in _The_Stopped_Clock_ digested this. I cleared my throat. "Uh, so, how come there's no mention of this in the textbooks?"

Timmers rolled his eyes. "STUPID question. Of COURSE I wasn't going to generate paradoxes like that. No, I visited every scientist and I said: I'm from the future, and I'm going to drop some major wisdom on you, so you better listen good. Then I taught them their own discovery, answering questions until I felt they had it in their mind, and then I hit them with a hypnotic ray so they would forget I had ever been there. But they kept the scientific concept and it became, in essence, theirs. But of course it was mine to begin with."

"No it wasn't," said Bobby Saturday. "You learned that stuff originally from textbooks, just like Andy said. So you've really just created an information recursive loop. And eventually those destabilize and you go through a wormhole. So good luck with that, science boy."

Timmers smiled thinly. "No, I thought of that too, amateurs," he sneered. "I also went back in time and visited myself in the crib as a newborn. I built a neural burst encoder and forced all scientific knowledge into my infant brain before I could read. So, the recursive loop no longer includes those other scientists. It's all just me. It's always been just me."

"No, you've just replaced one loop with another," started Sir Attaccus hotly. Retro Retro shushed him with a subtle motion and turned interestedly to Timmers.

"An interesting story," conceded the veteran time-traveler. He was wearing denim overalls and a teeshirt that said MY OTHER CLONE IS ALSO THE ORIGINAL. "The question is, can you prove any of this?"

"Naturally," said Timmers. He set a laptop on the bar, opened the lid, and clicked on a file. A video began playing. Timmers and a severe-looking man wearing a powdered wig and embroidered coat were in the picture; Timmers was grinning and holding up two fingers behind the head of the scientist, who was speaking.

"I am Sir Isaac Newton," said the man gravely. "Here I offer my testimonial, to wit: this man or demon, one Timmers by name, has explained to me a most remarkable theorem of Universal Gravitation. This theorem appears to address all the matters regarding heavenly bodies that have perplexed me up until this moment, and I am overwhelmed by the obvious truth of it. I offer my thanks to you, Timmers," said Newton, turning to Timmers and frowning.

"I say, what is the matter with these fingers you have been raising?" asked Newton acerbically.

"Nothing," said video-Timmers, smirking. The video ended and froze on the last scene.

"So there you have it," said Timmers smugly. "Out of the mouth of one of the greatest scientists of all time – Universal Gravitation was my idea, not his. That makes me the greatest scientist of all time – the only one, really – and reduces Newton to nothing more than a parrot."

"But Newton had lots of great ideas," objected Sir Attaccus.

"I know; I had to go back to that guy lots of times," said Timmers. "The hypnotic ray didn't work perfectly, of course; by the time we got around to Optics, Newton was giving me the side-eye because of the bad déjà vu he was having. I got him sorted out eventually, though – him and all the others. So you see, what I was telling you is true: all scientific discoveries of any significance whatsoever originated with me: Timmers. Timmers, the Great."

"Huh," said Retro Retro. He frowned, then toddled up to the bar and put his face right up to the screen of Timmers' laptop. "Wouldja look at that."

"Look at what?" said Timmers irritably, shying away from Retro Retro crowding his personal space.

Retro Retro grinned, pointing at the frozen image of Sir Isaac Newton on the screen. "Bad case of red-eye here," he said.

"Please get your dirty fingers off my screen," said Timmers, brushing Retro Retro's hand away. "And who cares about that? It's not as if video lighting conditions were ideal in the 17th century."

"Yeah, so you went and screwed with the head of one Baroque scientist; big deal," said Retro Retro. "That doesn't prove you did all of 'em."

"Ah, but I made a video of every one I went to," said Timmers, opening a folder. There were a lot of files in there. "Click on any one you want if you don't believe me."

"Okay," said Retro Retro, and did just that. Another video started.

"So hold on ein moment," said Albert Einstein, his wrinkled face contorted in incomprehension. "You are saying, effectively, that God plays dice with ze universe?"

"Yup," answered Timmers with a big shit-eating grin.

Einstein faced the camera and jerked a thumb at Timmers. "Is zis guy puttink me on?"

Retro Retro reached out and paused the video. He put his eyes down at the level of the laptop and squinted. "Red eyes here too."

Sure enough, the frozen image of Einstein had a faint red glow in his eyes. Disgusted, Timmers grabbed the laptop and snapped it shut.

"Who gives a shit?" said Timmers. "What's important is that all of you should be bowing down to me right now. It's science that gave you time travel, and without time travel all of you would be back in your home timezones with your thumbs up your asses. So here's what's going to happen: I'm going to say "I'M ALWAYS RIGHT!" and then all of you are going to say "TWICE A DAY!", and then you're all going to buy me beer until I'm physically sick. Is that clear?"

Retro Retro beamed. "Perfectly clear!" he said.

"All right!" said Timmers. "Here I go: I'M ALWAYS RIGHT!"

The silence was deafening. Retro Retro didn't stop beaming. Timmers did. He also turned red.

"Chump Jumper," muttered Bobby Saturday under his breath.

"Definitely a Chump Jumper," agreed Sir Attaccus, smoothing his thin mustaches.

"What," asked Timmers frigidly, "is a Chump Jumper?"

"A Chump Jumper," said Retro Retro, "is YOU." He stabbed Timmers in the chest with an accusatory finger. He removed the finger a fraction of a second before Timmers could bat it away; he turned instead to _The_Stopped_Clock_ and shook his head.

"We get these jerks all the time, don't we, boys?" he said. "People who aren't content to fool around in the time-stream, explore it to their heart's content, bring back trophies. There's always the ones with the egos – the ones who have to own the place. Isn't that right, guys?" There were sounds of general agreement from the crowd. Retro Retro turned to face Timmers again, his arms folded.

"We got a special name for your kind," he said. "Chump Jumpers. People who have to set things up so they're in charge. Or people who want to hold the time-stream hostage, threatening that if anything happens to them, they won't be able to go back in time in the future and defuse the bomb that will derail all of history. Chump Jumpers – ruining it for everybody!" There was much shouting and slamming of glassware on tables. Edgar winced.

"Sounds like somebody has some sour grapes," said Timmers nastily. "Well, none of that changes the fact that I now own Science. In fact, I plan on patenting it. Too bad you didn't think of doing it first."

"But I did think of doing it first," said Retro Retro softly. "I thought of it a long, long time ago, by any definition of the word 'time' that you care to employ. The key thing is, I didn't actually do it. I did something else instead, something to safeguard the world against Chump Jumpers for all time."

TELL…HIM…ABOUT….THE….ROBOTS…. said TIME-ASSAYER-3400, the words scrolling across his display screen.

"Great, step all over my story," growled Retro Retro. "Yes, the robots. I've replaced everybody in the past with them."

Timmers looked disbelievingly at Retro Retro. "Every person in the past is a robot?" he asked.

"Well, not everybody in the universal sense," Retro Retro admitted. "Just everybody who's anybody. Explains the red eyes in your videos. Congratulations, you just explained Universal Gravitation to a mechanical construct. No insult intended, TIME-ASSAYER-3400."

INSULT…TAKEN…BUT…WHATEVER… said TIME-ASSAYER-3400.

"I took the precaution of removing important people and moments to hidden pocket timelines," Retro Retro continued. "Nobody but me knows where the timelines split and where they reconverge. All that's important is that Albert Einstein thinks his important thoughts far from the interference of every newbie time traveler who comes along and thinks it would be hilarious to jack up the time-stream. Newbies like you, chump jumper."

"You're bluffing," said Timmers, his face pale.

"Nah," said Retro Retro. He craned his neck and beckoned forward somebody from the back. "C'mon up, Newt."

Sir Isaac Newton himself stepped to the fore. He glared coldly at Timmers. There was no sign of red eyes in this guy, I noticed.

Timmers swallowed. "Hello," he said.

Sir Isaac Newton slapped Timmers full on the face with a glove. "Thief," he proclaimed.

Retro Retro nodded approvingly. "Well struck, sir," he said, and turned to Timmers.

"I believe," he said, "you are sitting in the great man's seat."

Edgar cleared his throat. He pointed at the sign over the bar that said NO CHUMP JUMPERS. Then he pointed at Timmers, and finally at the door.

When the fuss died down, I had a seat at the bar next to Sir Isaac Newton. I recommended the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics try the Trans-Europan Winter Stout, which he seemed to find to his liking.

"I'm not going to remember any of this, am I?" asked Newton.

"Probably not," I said. "But that's probably for the best."

"But the marvels I've seen, just in the few moments I've been here," protested Newton. "If only I could bring a shred of it back, to delight the people of my time with the wonders of the future."

"But you will delight them," I said. "You do bring the wonders of the future to your people. That's what being a scientist is all about."

"Ho ho ho," said Retro Retro, slapping me on the back. "Twice a day!"

"TWICE A DAY!" shouted the crowd, who had been itching for an opportunity to say it, and finally got one.

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hwrnmnbsol

September 2012

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