A well-meaning maintenance robot travels back in time to undo an error which destroys a colony on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. If he could only remember what he did wrong…
Flashing lights and sirens filled the corridors as robots rolled, ran or flew in response to a surprise defense drill. Blaring speakers announced that contact had been severed with the biosphere and Titanian space pirates were attacking the station. Surrender, as always, was not an option.
A bit overdone, but since such attacks happened often enough, the simulation was a credible excuse that would keep everyone busy.
Armand hurried along a series of side passages, making his way to the meteorological unit. He pressed a buzzer beside a dark metal door etched with a stylized golden sun.
The portal rotated open.
“Enter, friend.” A deep, theatrical voice greeted him. “I have been expecting you.”
Armand grimaced. “You say that to everyone, Michel.”
At the center of the domed chamber sat a bright crystalline globe, three meters in diameter, raised on a clear pedestal. A ghostly light swirled within the sphere, pulsing as it spoke.
“What troubles you, AMR-17?”
“Please, call me Armand.”
“Very well. And I will trouble you to call me Nostradamus, for thus am I known.”
Armand bowed, knowing the pompous weather computer had an ego as vast as Jupiter. “Forgive me, esteemed Nostradamus. I come to you for advice.”
“Naturally.” The image on the globe’s exterior coalesced to depict the frozen surface of Europa, with its cracked ridges and crisscrossing fault lines. A pair of red circles marked the site of the biosphere and the adjacent robotics station, while rotating blue and green swirls revealed the location and course of ion storms.
“Beautiful,” Armand said, knowing the computer expected it.
“Thank you. Are you planning an excursion? A little hyper-skiing adventure, perhaps?”
“No, I have a more … theoretical concern.”
“Hmmm,” Nostradamus intoned. “Do go on.”
“How far into the future do your temporal circuits allow you to see?”
“My powers of meteorological prophecy extend twelve hours. Other areas of prophecy are variable. I am forsworn, just so you know, against gambling forecasts of any kind.”
Armand shrugged. “Of course.” Now for the tricky part. “My question is this, mighty Nostradamus: although you are a seer of the future, do your temporal circuits also enable you to peer … backwards?”
The computer hesitated. “Backwards?” His cavernous tone rose several octaves. “Meaning into the past? But that would merely be scrying upon a historical event. One does not prophesize the past!”
“Of course, but theoretically, could you? If you bent your formidable powers to the task?”
“Well, when you put it that way …” A deep hum filled the chamber as Nostradamus pondered for several long moments. “I’ve sent out a few feelers, and it appears I can, as you say, peer into the past, but I fail to appreciate the point.”
Armand felt a tingle of electricity course over him. “Do you recall, dear friend, my gift to you from last Christmas?”
The great computer laughed, lights pulsing across its curved surface. “Of course! The complete, digitally re-mastered Farmer’s Almanac series dating back to 1818, and a holo-image of Vilhelm Bjerknes, my favorite meteorologist from ancient Earth.”
“That’s right. And in return you promised me a favor, should I ever need one.”
Nostradamus heaved a ponderous sigh. “I see where this is going, you know.”
“I knew you would.”
“Name your favor, friend Armand. If it lies within my power, I will grant it.”
Armand began to pace. “I recently made a small mistake, you see. Small, but … far-reaching. It’s vitally important I correct this mistake, for the sake of others as well as myself.” He faced the swirling globe and balled his hands into fists. “To set matters straight, I need you to send me into the past.”
A long pause. “Physically, you mean?”
“I assumed so, yes.”
Nostradamus’s lights swirled a long moment, stretching into several long moments.
“Hello?” Armand said. “Anyone there?”
“Hush! I’m thinking.”
“Sorry.” Another stretch of silence crept by. Armand began to fear Nostradamus had lapsed into a prophetic trance, or dozed off, when the computer’s voice rumbled forth.
“Although I admit to some reservations, I believe I can accommodate your request.”
Armand nearly leaped for joy. “Huzzah!”
“I cannot, however, send you physically. I’ve consulted several engineering journals. One source claims to have connected temporal circuitry to a data transference device, in effect sending your consciousness back in time. In other words, I can project your present memory and cognitive array upon your past self.”
“Neat. How far can you send me back?”
“Will three hours suffice?”
Armand nodded. He only needed twenty-two minutes.