New Story Start – Working Title “Down Maria”

by martinhensher

Here’s a new story start. It’s a backgrounder for something rather longer; perhaps it doesn’t belong at the beginning, but here it is. Any feedback on whether you’d want to read any more is welcome! Nicely, please…

Arkady Nikolayevich Mashenko had completed his temporal informational reflexivity theorems almost by chance; a by-product of his day job, attempting to push informational delay in financial markets to that infinitely small space right next to zero. And, of course, the great joy of working for Transcentis was that the brightest minds and tools in the world were just down the corridor, soaking up opportunities for synergy and barrier-breaking around expensive water coolers and – that year, at least – cold-drip coffee filters. There were no sceptical committees looking to trip you up; no senior colleagues hogging the research grants while quietly and effectively keeping you in your place by planting seeds of doubt about your work. There were just talented, bright and excited members of a very select team, who took genuine pleasure in helping you to do something extraordinary. So the simultaneous development of field inversion generators at Transcentis had seemed to be the kind of radical serendipity that simply had to be.

In later life, Arkady Nikolayevich came to realise that he would willingly have sat through a thousand ethics committees and institutional review panels, if but one of them would have stopped his work. He came to long for a world in which some insipid bureaucrat had decided his work was too risky, or too unlikely to advance the institution’s research assessment rating. In the beginning, it was the banality and smallness of how they had ultimately used his work that appalled him. Yet it didn’t take long before it was quite simply the consequences of its application that came to disgust him.

Indeed, as Arkady’s path of prayer grew deeper and his pilgrimages to the Orthodox shrines of his native Crimea grew longer, he realised that there was no serendipity in his early work. In truth, it had been a time of mortal temptation. A test that he and all those around him had failed so utterly that the Devil must have laughed so hard that the torments of hell were briefly interrupted. He fully grasped the irony of the fact that, as the man who had effectively invented time travel, he could do nothing to change either the present or the future his work had unlocked. So he had devoted almost every day of the last four decades of his life to seeking forgiveness, and to interceding in prayer for all those whose lives his genius had so unimaginatively blighted.

Arkady Nikolayevich died with some calm in his heart, satisfied that the sheer labour he had applied to this path of prayerful repentance went at least a little way to balancing the unthinking and lazy brilliance of his youthful idea. He passed peacefully, seated in his favourite armchair at his daughter’s dacha, with the joyful shouts of his grandchildren playing in the garden as the last sounds he heard.

Not so for far too many of those whose lives his work had inadvertently touched down multiplicative streams of years.