Chapter 57: Not time travel?

After a short walk to the cafeteria and having been introduced to a few more inhabitants of the Inuit Station, they soon realized that they were already well known by most people.  Chrissy, used to fame in her modeling career, found the experience normal.

The presentation resumed immediately without delay as the time was flying rather fast, and Steven and Chrissy already started feeling anxious about the possibility of their absence being missed in Norway.

“Don’t worry, you will have time to discuss immortality with Collier, but time is running out and we need to pick up the pace a little.  Time for Gill to talk about how we can predict the future,” said Alexander, not bothering to see how his statement had been taken by the two sceptics in front of him.

“I’m Canadian born, but I have lived in the United States most of my adult life, as our family had relocated to Washington D.C. when I was only a child.  My father was a mathematician and was part of the brain drain to the United States because the pay was better.  Canada has great universities, but it can’t compete with the money the schools and the US military can throw at young minds.” Seeing the acknowledgement in Chrissy’s eyes and knowing that Scotland had the same problem, he smiled, remembering that reference in her file.  “To make the long story short, I was recruited by the NSA right out of college and worked for them until more than thirty years ago when they recruited me,” pointing at his two colleagues with a nod.  “At NSA, I was responsible for the hardware that AT&T and Nortel Networks sold or sometimes provide for free to developing countries.

This hardware was mainly telecommunication servers with embedded chips that were designed to link with the complex at Fort Meade, where all their voices and data communications were gathered and saved for us to use, thanks to the equipment they purchased or freely received,” he paused.  “Before I continue, you all know what is at Fort Meade?” asked Gill.

“Yes, one of my professors in engineering mentioned it in a course.  It has so many computers that it risks power failures at times,” replied Chrissy.

Steven cleared his throat, smiled, and said in his best narrative voice, “Fort George G. Meade in Maryland, 18 acres of computers in an underground complex belonging to the National Security Agency where all the conversations of the continental United States and most international phone calls are analyzed by the Echelon program.”

“I’m impressed,” replied Alex and Chrissy, but not so much in words than with Chrissy’s eyes.

“Ah, what can I say, hacking the database at Fort Meade is every hacker’s wet dream,” he laughed and everyone else followed.

“Good enough.  Now, imagine that you have access to all voice and data communications, the content of every computer connected on the Internet including cellular phone data, PDA, notebooks from individuals, corporations and governments and that you have a computer fast enough to figure all that data and merge it to paint an image of the present.  Now, how can you use that to predict the future?” he paused for effect again before continuing.  “Okay, let’s say I want to know where the president of company A will be in a month.  I can check the computer analysis to see what data I have on the person.  He booked a plane ticket to Chicago to have a meeting with a sales representative of company B at his office.  Then, according to the credit card record of the sales rep in company B, he always takes his clients to the same restaurant every time because his company has a deal with the owner, and I know, because I have access to the secretary’s computer and their accounting software.  I also have a reservation for a hotel, but no limousine or car rental booking on any of the rental company services, and company B does not offer their client airport pickup.  I know because it was a point discussed on e-mails and on the phone with him and other clients.  So, what does his day look like?  Well, his plane leaves at noon, so I’m sure he will get to work in the morning.  He will work until ten, and drive his car to the airport.  I know it because I had parking and tunnel expense info on his Visa from previous trips, so that is a safe bet.  He is elite with his airline, so he will be in the lounge before the flight.  Then, he will take a taxi in Chicago to the office of Company B and eat at the restaurant and walk the two blocks to his hotel.”

“Now I have a basic tool to predict the future in a reasonably short term, but of course, I can’t predict if my company A guy will be sick and cancel the trip, or if the plane will have mechanical problems.  Even then, I can predict for sure that it will not be weather-related because the Station’s system can predict the weather with frightening accuracy decades ahead.  Obviously, the system will check traffic and ATM cameras, track his cell phone, and other technologies to make sure we have second-by-second updates.”

Steven and Chrissy both looked at him, wondering why he had paused.  Steven took the opportunity to ask.  “Those are manmade technologies right?”

“We have designed almost all of it with the help of unsuspecting companies, yes.  But the computer we use for the correlation of the data is the Station’s core because it is tied to more sensors and information that we couldn’t possibly develop at our level of technological advancement.”

“At the risk of sounding rude, that’s nothing new,” said Chrissy, who had already discussed that technology with one of her professor years before.

The three men looked at each other.  Ataninnuaq smiled and look at her.  “True, this was necessary information for what is coming.  And before you ask, I will tell you that the Stations can also see alternate realities and with the data it has stored and analyzed in more than 65,000 years of existence, it can paint an extremely accurate picture of what is to come.  And that’s what we will explain to you in detail at a future date.”

“Can’t you give us a taste of it?” pleaded Steven.

“Here are a few features of this Station,” Alexander offered.  “Data stream from the future, despite Einstein’s theories that says it can’t be done.  He was wrong, but, it’s not his fault since he had no way to know that neutrinos travel faster than light.  Also, we have the ability to view what’s happening in alternate realities.  And what else I could add...  nothing that you don’t already know; Thanks to Sordana.”

“So you were able to monitor our conversation in the Chamber?” asked Steven.

“The Chamber?” asked Alexander puzzled.  “Oh!?  We are calling it the Core, like others have in the past.”

“That means you can monitor it, even though it is operating in a different time period?” asked Chrissy.

Everyone in the room remained silent for a while.  Gill and Alexander were looking at each other as if they had been asked to explain the meaning of life by a five-year-old.

“Do you want to take that one Gill?” proposed Alexander.

“I’ll have to, since I’m the one who spoke with Sordana and because I don’t want them to leave here with a false impression.”  Alexander nodded in agreement and Gill took a last look at Ataninnuaq before continuing.  “First answer, yes, you can monitor the activity inside the Core, even play it back later.  But for privacy reasons, we didn’t. We only contented ourselves to ask Sordana about the information she told you.  Now to answer Chrissy, the Core can’t handle time travel, so I’m not sure of what you meant?”

“In the “preparation room” as it is indicated on the panel, you can determine the time compression you want to use while inside, the Core, as you called it.  Steven and I have spent a lot of time inside.  I can’t tell you exactly how much, and then we exited.  The time for the rest of the world had not advanced more than a minute or so.”  Chrissy explained in a rather unscientific way.

“Oh!  Now I understand your confusion.  Chrissy, again there is no time travel at work in here, only the illusion of it,” explained Alexander.  “Here is how it works. Once you determine a time dilation, your bodies are integrated at the molecular level inside the computer core.  Essentially saving your bodies and minds in the memory, everything else after that, happens inside the processor.  This allows you to interact with Sordana and the environment around like a virtual reality.  The time dilation system is, in fact, only an adjustment in computing processing speed much like that of an old IBM 386 after you pressed the turbo button to allow the CPU to slow down and process older software.  In this case, however, it allows the experiencing of events at a slower or faster rate, which gives the impression that time passes at a different speed inside the Core.”

Both Chrissy and Steven sighed and then smiled having understood at once what had happened.

“An added bonus is the lack of fatigue while inside the system.  It also helps you from experiencing overwhelming emotions and grants you the ability to access your mind more efficiently.”  Alexander continued, adding that it was a great tool to permit the study of any subjects without having to lose actual time in the real world.

With the time not slowing down for the rest of the people outside, they wondered why they had not conducted the meeting inside the Core.  It would have allowed them more time for the Q&A session.  But it seemed that it was over for now and that other people were waiting for them outside to introduce them to other aspects of the Station.