Time machinations

What’s below is a “story” that is clunky, has no plot, no characterization and no point, and which abruptly veers to the most tired resolution of the type; but it was “fun” to write.

Also, the Uzis line refers to this gentleman.

Really, if you want a good time travel story about the same subject, you better read this one by Scalzi instead. (Better still, go listen to it.)

* * *

“So, who’ve gone in?”

“I’m counting eight different groups, all headed to the time period 1888–1943. The predictable Nazi targets, all.”

“Pro or con?”

“Well, it’s kinda complicated.”

The General leaned back, blinked, and looked at her lieutenant. “First we let all kinds of nutballs use the world’s first and only working time machine without a proper permission, and we only catch the ninth group, and them only because they’re damn fool enough to overload the machine and almost blow Geneve off the map, and then the logs say the eight all have went back aimed at Nazi Germany, and now you’re saying you can’t even say if they’re pro-Nazi or anti-Nazi?”

There was some fidgeting around the hall, as there usually was when the General raised her voice. The lieutenant grimaced and waved a hand; eight sheets of holographic paper popped up between her and the General. “It’s not that we don’t know, sir. They all left what seem like reasonably believable testaments.”

“Testaments?”

“Well, they all realized that if they could go back in time, we could just as easily send back someone to point-blank and haul them back, or shoot them in the head, or something. Make them have an unfortunate airplane accident over the Gibraltar. Even if they sabotaged the machine we could rebuild it even if it took a hundred years and zap snatch them back before they even took the first breath of good ol’ 1930s industrially polluted air. That sort of a thing.”

The General glared at the sheets and scowled. “So they each left these… these idiot tracts trying to persuade us to not fry their vandal anarchist idiot arses? And they think we’ll believe them?”

“Er, yes, sir.”

“So tell me who they are. We’ve time at least. I’m going to get seven kinds of blue hell if I have to point-blank eight shots because our security was having a coma. Please tell they dropped into Somme without an interpreter or something. Forgot planetary velocity and dropped into Moon orbit or something else neat and simple.”

“Sir. By the statements, the first group are Nazis. They, I gather, want to secretly contact the German arms manufacturers and give them—”

“The bomb?” a short-haired subaltern squawked, and then hastily turned back to her sheets when both the General and the lieutenant glared daggers at her.

“—give them improved designs for rather mundane weapons, pistols, assault rifles, tanks, the like. But mostly they are loaded with details on metalworking techniques, fuels, ballpoint joints and tires and the like. They reckon the technical edge will be enough; I reckon their ace is a collection of details for jet engines, which can pretty well mean the Nazis start the war with working and safe fighter jets, instead of pushing out a wobbly few when the war’s finished. They’re headed at 1925 and call themselves the… the White Line.”

“Seriously?”

The lieutenant nodded. “So they say.”

“What’s their motivation?”

“Seems to be religiously fueled extreme racism. There’s a lot about how the Jews are Satanic lizard people in disguise here. The Kallous Khristian Khurch of David I. Pretty fringe stuff even among the religious. They just want a complete genocide of what they call the inferior races: the lizard people, the mole men — that’s the Danish — and the like.”

“Just great. That’s one of eight. Expected, though, of people who’d like to play roulette with reality. Tell me about the rest.”

“Number two are for the Nazis, too. They want to prevent the Holocaust.”

“What?”

“Says here they aim to shoot Himmler, Eichmann, a few more of the usual suspects. Apparently they think corporate Nazism is a beautiful political philosophy tainted by association with foolish genocide, yadda yadda, so they figure if they can prevent the mass killings Nazism will, despite the war and the defeat, remain a viable political philosophy that will rise again. Also they have with them a gold watch they want to give to Hitler. A sign of admiration, you know. Going to 1935.”

“Oh.”

“Number three are anti-Nazi, going to 1935 as well; intend to give Hitler a gold watch with radioactive pellets in it. They figure the radiation sickness will caused stark raving lunacy which will cause collapse of the Reich and prevent the war from ever taking place.”

“Okay.”

“Number four are anti-Nazi, sort of. They’re carrying nothing except cameras, and are headed at 1943.”

“What, we have tourists now?”

“No. They have period cameras and mikes. They intend to film the concentration camps, then slip to the Allied side, and use the footage to force bombing the crematories. They’re the fringe that thinks the Holocaust is necessary to discredit racistic idiocy once and for all, but they want evidence that’ll make the deniers never spring up in the first place. And they want to save the Hungarian Jews, which is incidentally what they call themselves.”

“Right.”

“Number five are anti-Nazi, and they’re the worst fringe. The Purifying Recoil folks.”

“Oh, sweet light.”

“Right. They say doubling or tripling the deadcount is worth it if the revulsion thus generated snuffs racism and nationalism and the like, just kills it dead. They have plenty of calculations about that. Also angsty poetry.”

“Oh, hell. What’s next, time-travelling South Africans with Uzis?”

“Er, no. Number six: Friends of True Hitler. Gone to 1908. They want to befriend young Adolf Hitler, get him out of his aimless Viennese existence before the World War breaks out, and take him to Italy.”

“What? Why?”

“They aim to get him together with a young Socialist leader there. They figure they can hit the two together in interesting ways. As a result, Benito Mussolini stays Socialist, becomes an outright Communist along with Hitler, the two cause mutually friendly charismatic Communist revolutions in Germany and Italy, convert all of Europe to Communism, and destroy, in their words, ‘the false pretender and monster J. Stalin.’ Fascism and Nazism never rise; all is well, if a Communist Hitler ruling all of Europe and Asia is your idea of ‘well’.”

“Two more, right?”

“Yessir. Number seven, a pack of monomaniacal racists — whoo, these are really flimsy attempts for making their case even compared to these others! — headed to Mongolia, 1910.”

“What?”

“They call themselves the Sternberg Society. After a White Russian baron and general of that name. A character that during the Russian Civil War took over Mongolia, called himself a Buddha and the reborn Genghis Khan. Bloodthirsty zany madcap opportunist. They figure they can lay groundwork for him, clean Mongolia of Communists, and prop him up as a dictator there.”

“So he can, what, topple Stalin and crush Hitler?”

“Not so; so he can attack Stalin from behind, and together with Hitler conquer the world. Sternberg being the only one to ever persecute Jews in Mongolia — I didn’t even know there were Jews in Mongolia! — they think they’ll get along swimmingly. Mind you, these people are a bit crazy.”

“Compared to the other seven or to generally sane people?”

“Good point, sir.”

“So what’s left?”

“Number eight is just one man. And, uh, he’s a curious one. Has had some mental health problems in the past. Here’s a picture. And a picture of a um, a historical personage next to him. See the similarity? Apparently our number eight, um, he claims to have compared his DNA to that of the Moscow skull… the fragment of Adolf Hitler’s skull that’s kept in Moscow, and he says he’s found enough similarities to indicate a close family relationship. His missive’s a bit longish, but it boils down to a ten-year-long depression as he first thought he was in some way the great-grandchild of an illegitimate lovechild of the worst monster of all history — says here something about scrupulous honesty and dating — until he realized the similarity was too large for that, and —”

“And what’s he going to do?”

“Well, the historical personage in that picture — and I must say, the resemblance is striking! — is one Alois Schicklgruber; our man is gone back in time to kill him and take his place in history; he says this must be because that’s the only way the genetic similarity makes any sense. Also says he can’t be stopped or there will be earthquakes, dissonance, paradox, end of the world, the like.”

“Who’s this Alois he’s going to replace?”

“Well, he’s Adolf Hitler’s father.”

“Fuck me sideways!”

* * *

“Nothing’ll come of it”, the short-haired subaltern whispered to another with longer hair.

“How so?”

“Well we’re here arguing about it, aren’t we? Wouldn’t be here if those folks had thrown time all out of whack. So either they’ll get nothing done, or we’ll stop them. There’s nothing interesting in time travel, I tell you. As long as you keep existing, nothing’s come of anything.”

“But—”

“If they altered time and made the Nazis win, then, even if I existed I wouldn’t have the memories I have right now. I wouldn’t be me; I would be someone else, probably someone with a swastika armband or something. Possibly there would be no time machine, even. I’d be shooting rats somewhere in the tundra zone or something. And it’s not like there’d be some change creeping in from the edges; it would be wham everything gone and no-one would ever know. If you destroy time there won’t be any time to react. It’s not as quantum as you think.”

“But I saw this movie”, the longer-haired subaltern tried, but was interrupted.

“Don’t trust ’em. Time travel’s a bust I tell you. Either nothing comes of it or you never know anything’s been different. And as we’re here, those twerps will be point-blanked back no problem. The only time machines that exist are those that never amount to anything, because you can’t change the past because for any present observer the past has always been the same. Gawd I have the dullest job in the world.”

“Erp”, said the other, and turned back to her console as the General roared: “And you! Keep… keep banging those machines, you computers! Keep computing! No chit-chat you sub-Fennic Danish lazypeople! The world wouldn’t be ran from Helsinki if all the Finnish Army had did was chit-chatting and worthless empty talk!”

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