Jan. 4th, 2011

I dropped in to The Stopped Clock to have a beer and catch up on the latest gossip. You never know who will drop into that place, or whether you last saw them before or after the current visit, so most conversational gambits are tentative things in that peculiar bar. Besides, I like to play the game next to the counter. Faded lettering on the top says only AUTOPONG, and it's not really a pinball machine or a video game. I have no idea what its vintage is, and if Edgar says he's not telling. It doesn't take conventional coinage, but I've learned to stick two quarters together with a bit of tape before dropping them into the slot, and then the lights come on and strange things happen. I don’t so much play the game as observe it.

I had gotten to level 5, or perhaps had lost, and I was only half listening to the conversation at the bar. Retro Retro had gotten indignant and had risen to his feet.

"I know it's impossible! That's not what I asked!" he half-whined, his voice not quite slurring but definitely a little mushy around the edges. "I'm not asking you posers a question in temporal mechanics! This is a....a philosophical discussion."

"All right, calm down," growled Edgar quietly, pointing to the sign over the bar that read TAKE IT OUTSIDE AND ELSEWHEN. It hung, slightly lopsided, next to the other sign that read ALL COMPLAINTS WILL BE DEALT WITH TOMORROW. Nobody was ever quite sure whether to take that last one as a joke or as a threat.

"I'm not making fun of you, I simply don't understand the question!" complained Sir Attaccus, sweating under his bowler hat. "I comprehend that you ask whether there is one time in history that you could go back to, and dwell in forever. But are you enquiring whether you should be frozen in that moment, or living that moment actively for eternity?"

"That's an empty distinction," muttered Bobby Saturday, five empty beer bottles in front of him.

"I assure you it is not!" retorted Sir Attaccus hotly. "One is an infinitesimal point and the other more of a spliced segment! The distinction is indistinct only to the undistinguishing!"

"Big talk for a character whose time machine has a pennyfarthing wheel built into it," smirked Bobby. Edgar was forced to further suppress the clamor. Time machine design is a serious business for those who use them instead of relying on the door of the bar; more than one fight has started out in the parking lot.

Retro Retro pressed on his temples. "That's....argh." He tried again.

"Let's say you can choose which way you want to answer," said Retro Retro. "Frozen moment or bubble in time, any size, any volume – pick a moment in time. I'm not interested in the parametrics, I just want to know what you'd choose and how." The bar fell silent.

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