Astounding Stories of Super-Science May 1931, by Astounding Stories is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. The Exile of Time - Chapter XI: Back to the Beginning of Time
As Mary Atwood and I sat chained to the floor of the Time-cage, with Migul the Robot guarding us, I felt that we could not escape. This mechanical thing which had captured us seemed inexorable, utterly beyond human frailty. I could think of no way of surprising it, or tricking it.
The Robot said. "Soon we will be there in 1777. And then there is that I will be forced to do.
"We are being followed," it added. "Did you know that?"
"No," I said. Followed? What could that mean?
There was a device upon the table. I have already described a similar one, the Time-telespectroscope. At this—I cannot say Time: rather must I invent a term—exact instant of human consciousness. Larry, Tina and Harl were gazing at their telespectroscopes, following us.
The Robot said. "Enemies follow us. But I will escape them. I shall go to the Beginning, and shake them off."
Rational, scheming thought. And I could fancy that upon its frozen corrugated forehead there was a frown of annoyance. Its hand gesture was so human! So expressive!
It said. "I forget. I must make several quick trips from 2930 to 1935. My comrades must be transported. It requires careful calculation, so that very little Time is lost to us."
"Why?" I demanded. "What for?"
It seemed lost in a reverie.
I said sharply, "Migul!"
Instantly it turned. "What?"
"I asked you why you are transporting your comrades to 1935."
"I did not answer because I did not wish to answer," it said.
Again came the passage of Time.
I think that I need only sketch the succeeding incidents, since already I have described them from the viewpoint of Larry, in 1777, and Dr. Alten, in 1935. It was Mary's idea to write the note to her father, which the British redcoats found in Major Atwood's garden. I had a scrap of paper and a fountain pen in my pocket. She scribbled it while Migul was intent upon stopping us at the night and hour he wished. It was her good-by to her father, which he was destined not to see. But it served a purpose which we could not have guessed: it reached Larry and Tina.
The vehicle stopped with a soundless clap. When our senses cleared we became aware that Migul had the door open.
Darkness and a soft gentle breeze were outside.
Migul turned with a hollow whisper. "If you make a sound I will kill you."
A moment's pause, and then we heard a man's startled voice. Major Atwood had seen the apparition. I squeezed the paper into a ball and tossed it through the bars, but I could see nothing of what was happening outside. There seemed a radiance of red glow. Whether Mary and I would have tried to shout and warn her father I do not know. We heard his voice only a moment. Before we realized that he had been assailed. Migul came striding back; and outside, from the nearby house a negress was screaming. Migul flung the door closed, and we sped away.
The cage which had been chasing us seemed no longer following. From 1777, we turned forward toward 1935 again. We flashed past Larry, Tina and Harl who were arriving at 1777 in pursuit of us. I think that Migul saw their cage go past; but Larry afterward told me that they did not notice our swift passing, for they were absorbed in landing.
Beginning then, we made a score or more passages from 1935 to 2930. And we made them in what, to our consciousness, might have been the passing of a night. Certainly it was no longer than that.
At the risk of repetition I must make the following clear: Time-traveling only consumes Time in the sense of the perception of human consciousness that the trip has duration. The vehicles thus moved "fast" or "slow" according to the rate of change which the controls of the cage gave its inherent vibration factors. Too sudden a change could not be withstood by the human passengers. Hence the trips—for them—had duration.
Migul took Mary and me from 1935 to 1777. The flight seems perhaps half an hour. At a greater rate of vibration change, we sped to 2930; and back and forth from 2930 to 1935. At each successive arrival in 1935, Migul so skilfully calculated the stop that it occurred upon the same night, at the same hour, and only a minute or so later. And in 2930 he achieved the same result. To one who might stand at either end and watch the cage depart, the round trip was made in three or four minutes at most.
We saw, at the stop in 2930, only a dim blue radiance outside. There was the smell of chemicals in the air, and the faint, blended hum and clank of a myriad machines.
They were weird trips. The Robots came tramping in, and packed themselves upright, solidly, around us. Yet none touched us as we crouched together. Nor did they more than glance at us.
Strange passengers! During the trips they stood unmoving. They were as still and silent as metal statues, as though the trip had no duration. It seemed to Mary and me, with them thronged around us, that in the silence we could hear the ticking, like steady heart-beats, of the mechanisms within them....
In the backyard of the house on Patton Place—it will be recalled that Migul chose about 9 P. M. of the evening of June 9—the silent Robots stalked through the doorway. We flashed ahead in Time again; reloaded the cage; came back. Two or three trips were made with inert mechanical things which the Robots used in their attack on the city of New York. I recall the giant projector which brought the blizzard upon the city. It, and the three Robots operating it, occupied the entire cage for a passage.
At the end of the last trip, one Robot, fashioned much like Migul though not so tall, lingered in the doorway.
"Make no error, Migul," it said.
"No; do not fear. I deliver now, at the designated day, these captives. And then I return for you."
"Yes; near dawn. The third dawn; the register to say June 12, 1935. Do your work well."
We heard what seemed a chuckle from the departing Robot.
Alone again with Migul we sped back into Time.
Abruptly I was aware that the other cage was after us again! Migul tried to elude it, to shake it off. But he had less success than formerly. It seemed to cling. We sped in the retrograde, constantly accelerating back to the Beginning. Then came a retardation, for a swift turn. In the haze and murk of the Beginning, Migul told us he could elude the pursuing cage.
"Migul, let us come to the window," I asked at last.
The Robot swung around. "You wish it very much, George Rankin?"
"There is no harm, I think. You and this girl have caused me no trouble. That is unusual from a human."
"Let us loose. We've been chained here long enough. Let us stand by the window with you," I repeated.
We did indeed have a consuming curiosity to see out of that window. But even more than that, it seemed that if we were loose something might transpire which would enable us to escape. At all events it was better than being chained.
"I will loose you."
It unfastened the chain. I whispered:
"Mary, whatever comes, be alert."
She pressed my arm. "Yes."
"Come," said the Robot. "If you wish to see the Cosmorama, now, from the Beginning, come quickly."
We joined him at the window. We had made the turn, and were speeding forward again.
At that moment all thought of escape was swept from me, submerged by awe.
This vast Cosmorama! This stupendous pageant of the events of Time!
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Various. 2009. Astounding Stories of Super-Science, May 1931. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/30532/30532-h/30532-h.htm#The_Exile_of_Time
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