A Simple Survey:Volume1 File08

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File 08: The Clogging Time Lodes[edit]

“Hurry up. You really need to pay your video rental late fees. The longer it takes you, the more you’re strangling yourself, so just hurry up and pay up.”

The part-time worker girl speaking to me over the phone was looking down on me. I was dealing with the last finishing touches before putting the script together, so I could not have any distractions. In this age where a home computer could intercept a cruise missile (assuming the household could somehow get their hands on a radar and surface-to-air missile to connect to said computer), it may have seemed silly for me to be writing out calculations on paper, but super computer simulations took a really long time once they began. For that reason, I wanted to make sure I had all the calculations perfect before actually running the machine.

However, the video rental late fee was completely my fault, so I couldn’t really complain. And I had been stuck at a complete standstill on those finishing touches for two weeks now, anyway.

“…I see. So the charges have been piling up ever since the disk return date.”

“Don’t vaguely think back on it all. Just pay up already. You’re an engineer that deals with time lodes, right? Then you must be loaded. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t insist on these high quality disks during the age of download rentals.”

The data on the disks was nothing but a collection of digital signals, so it could be sent over the internet easily enough. However, when the amount of data was too great, the internet lines would be overloaded if a large number of people used them at once. For this reason, the movie market had been divided into the internet version that was low quality but could be obtained immediately and the high quality disk version that had incredibly high resolution but took time to obtain.

However, I had rented a reprint of an old horror movie, so the master data itself was full of noise.

“I just feel more comfortable with physical media. I am an old-fashioned sort of person.”

“Even though you deal with time lodes which couldn’t be more digital?”

“Time lodes, yes.”

A time machine had been created surprisingly easily.

It had all started with the discovery of a certain phenomenon during an investigation of the relationship between solar winds and auroras. Just as Einstein would have been feeling relieved due to neutrinos, this phenomenon would have left him perplexed once more. It was a natural phenomenon that was related to the identity of the UFOs that people claimed to see from time to time.

However, the time machine was in the form of thick gloves covered in cables. They allowed you to grab and move objects in the “other era”. The gloves were nothing more than an interface. In reality, a set wavelength amplitude was used to apply pressure to the coordinates of the target. In the “other era” it was likely mistaken for a poltergeist or something similar.

That left the question of how to use it.

Currently, an international treaty only allowed history to be changed “for the equal good of all people” and care had to be taken not to put too much stress on history.

This meant that it could not be used to avoid a large war in history or to evacuate people before a great disaster.

However, there were reasons other than the treaty that these things could not be done.

“The breadth of what we can do is limited. It isn’t easy. Since we can only interfere so as not to put too much time stress on history, the ‘time’ we can target is limited to small spots. That is why they are referred to as ‘lodes’.”

I spun my pen around as I spoke and I could hear the tempo of the voice on the other side of the phone dropping. It was the same as most students listening to a lecture in school.

“Hmm… I get paid the same either way, so I guess I can slack off and chat,” said the girl. “A time someone has already interfered with cannot be interfered with by someone else, right? They say that is causing the spots to grow smaller and smaller.”

“Yes, but we still cannot abandon the time lodes. After all, the amount of resources available here in the future is overwhelmingly low. If we do not interfere with the past to lower the rate at which resources are used, human culture will dry up before too long.”

I jotted down a few formulas, drew two lines through them, repeated the process, balled up the paper, and tossed it to my trashcan. My aim was dead on, but it struck a mountain of similar papers sticking up from the trashcan. The mountain collapsed and fell to the floor.

“The amount that is historically saved comes to us like a vein of gold suddenly appearing, right?”

That was correct.

However, time lodes were not a magical technology that could produce resources and fortunes indefinitely.

The general public spoke of it as if it was, but that was nothing more than information manipulation carried out to ensure fear of resources drying up did not spread through society.

Third-rate tabloids and internet message boards usually did not have anything important to say, but they were occasionally right on the mark.

“You were wondering before why I couldn’t pay my late fee if I deal with time lodes, right?”

“Technically, I should still be talking about that.”

“The number of spots is growing more and more limited. To be honest, I’m having trouble putting together a script.”

“Eh? Is the world really in that serious a bind? There’s practically an inexhaustible supply of time that has passed, right? There should be plenty of spots…”

“Well, that is technically true. However, there is a more fundamental issue. Time lodes have to do with fine-tuning history. You trim the fat and save as many resources as possible so they can be used by us in the future. However, once human history has truly been optimized, we will be unable to save any more.”

“Is that close to happening? That sounds bad.”

“It’s still a ways off.”

But it would still be coming much sooner than that part-time worker girl was thinking.

“But if it comes to it, can’t you just ignore the spots? After all, we can’t just dig up resources like normal. If we don’t dig them up from the past, humanity is finished. So in the end, won’t we be forced to get past all this posturing about changing history? We just have to start making major changes to history to find some new time lode spots, right?”

“You say that like the changes would have no effect on you.”

Also, it was impossible.

In fact, there had been some idiots who had tried to challenge history.

“Soon after the first time machine was completed, everyone was eager to try to make themselves into gods or kings. There was research into making a time weapon that would utterly wipe an enemy nation, a religion, or a culture from history. However, every single one of those attempts ended in failure.”

The reason for this was unknown.

I mentioned before that the time machine was a pair of special gloves that allowed you to move objects similar to a poltergeist.

However, there were objects that could be moved and those that could not.

In fact, your hand would go straight through most objects even when you tried to move them forcefully. There was no correlation with the mass or makeup of the objects. There had been reports of only being able to move one of two identical coffee cups sitting right next to each other. This was a problem troubling scientists across the globe.

Humans could not twist human history any more than absolutely necessary.

It was referred to as the Rebound Arrow problem. As a Nobel Prize was almost guaranteed for anyone who could solve it, quite a bit of research went into it.

That was why engineers like myself had changed the focus of our research to trying to gain wealth through the slight gaps that were open.

“And there is one other issue.”

I was hoping some inspiration might well up within me as I spoke, but I was probably fighting a losing battle once I started having to rely on things like that.

“The time lode spots are already so limited, but there is one other factor preventing us from mining.”

“Eh? What is it?”

“We can tell when history has changed. When we mess with history via time lodes, we see it as veins of gold suddenly appearing in this era. We do not fall into a situation where we do not even realize the veins of gold were not there before.”

“But that’s obvious. We have those safety locks to prevent getting trapped in the historical changes. Some scientist won the Nobel Prize for it a few decades back, right?”

“Originally, it was in the form of something like a polygraph. Minute changes in the magnetic field were captured and drawn out in a curve. Next, those were turned into writing. Then it was automatically inputted into electronic storage devices so it could be easily searched. And in the modern day, we finally have it left in people’s heads in the straight informational state we call ‘memories’. We no longer have to go back through the data from a state of having forgotten everything.”

“That all sounds great. It sounds like a victory for humanity.”

“Yes, if you are trying to oppose time. However, we are trying to use changes in time to create resources to keep our dried up society running for just a little longer.”

I sighed.

I had quit smoking, but I could sense something toxic in my breath.

“To be honest, we are starting to be unable to bend time to our will. The amount of objects and information that are unaffected by alterations to history has passed a certain level. If that amount continues to grow, history will not change even when we apply stimuli to the time lode spots. It’s like rebar. We have put thick rebar inside a thick rubber plate we need to be able to bend with our bare hands. And we keep adding more and more.”

The number of time lode spots decreasing was bad enough.

But now history had begun to harden and our stimuli were beginning to not work even on the remaining spots.

“If we cannot bend time to our will, does that mean we can no longer use time lodes to increase our resources?”

“Yes. An approaching age of war over the few remaining resources has been whispered of for ages.”

We really were stuck.

Present and future resources had completely dried up in our society and now we were even burning through the past resources.

“That sounds bad.”

“It is bad.”

“Then doesn’t someone have to alter history to interfere with the contractors and groups that wasted past time lodes?”

“You’re pretty bright. And that’s exactly what I’m working on now. This is no different from giving our future world resources by forcing an ecological mindset into the harmful factories that used tons of oil and poured black smoke into the air. However, the resource in question now is not oil or rare earth elements. It is time itself.”

“Then you need to work hard, Mr. Engineer.”

“And I am.”

“You still have to pay for that disk.”

“I’ll work on that, too.”

I gave a simple response, but I had a different thought in my heart.

…Can I actually manage this?

In order to conserve time, I had to manipulate those who manipulated time. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed horribly roundabout. It seemed like using power generated by a thermal power plant to turn the turbines of a hydroelectric power plant. If I wasn’t careful, I could actually cause a loss of energy leaving us with less time to use. In fact, doing this the normal way would result in exactly that. That was the exact reason I was so desperately trying to add these finishing touches to the script, but I could not see a way to pull it off. Engineers across the world were likely puzzling over the exact same formulas. If anyone had found a way, they would have already held a press conference with a triumphant look on their face.

And there was one other major issue.

It annoyed me, but there was really no helping the fact that I had racked up such a large late fee on my video rental.

After all, our calculations all pointed toward the time lodes reaching their limit in just another week. We had to find a solution in that time.