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Robbing a Bank

We were making progress, but we were also going broke, and every time we plotted both curves on graph paper, it always showed going broke winning the race.

A quarter of a million dollars had seemed like a fabulous sum when we started, but research is expensive. While we were living as frugally as possible, there were bills that just had to be paid. The power bill, for example, and food.

Oh, we already had a number of useful and probably highly profitable products, but we knew that time travel was the biggie. If we sold the bomb or the sword, even if we manufactured them ourselves, somebody else would inevitably figure out what we were doing. We toyed with the idea of setting ourselves up as a subcontracting job shop, specializing in working with hard to cut materials, but the same problem was there. Subcontracting from other engineering companies, we'd get a lot of bright people curious about how we were doing what we were doing, and there would go security. Then where would we be? The thought of two or more teams out killing each other's grandfathers was scary.

I figured the safest thing to do was to rob a bank.

"I don't know what Hasenpfeffer will think about robbing a bank," Ian said over a cup of tea in my lab. "His morality wouldn't have pleased Martin Luther, but he does seem to have a certain sort of ethics."

"Hell, he'll probably enjoy it. At least it'll give him something to do."

"Tom, it's so damned frustrating!" Ian said. "We've had working time travel for almost a year and it's totally useless."

"Hey, not completely useless. It's erratic, and we can't send animate objects yet, but we can rob a bank with it," I said.

"I just wish we knew more about the theory. There has got to be some way of easing back into the continuum, instead of this bang-bang thing we've been doing."

"Well, you've got your choice. I can give you a uniform field, and you can emerge all at once in the same volume of space that the air insists on occupying, at which point you can die painfully of the bends. Or, I can give you a non-uniform field, and you can come back a little bit at a time, and die painlessly as each little bit falls on the floor. Assuming that you don't come back in the floor, that is. I think that as far as the fifth dimension is concerned, our three normal ones don't seem to have any thickness at all. You can't ease a hole into something that is infinitely thin. You either punch the hole in it, or you don't."

"Maybe if we could somehow tilt the canister somehow in either the fourth or fifth dimensions. Then we could come in at a sort of an angle, and gently push the existing matter out of the way."

"We can do roll, pitch, and yawl things in the normal three. We've seen no indication that they're possible in the other ones. Anyway, doing all three supposes at least six dimensions out there, and that gets to be more than my little brain can handle. Now, about robbing a bank . . ."

"It's definite now that the radiation is caused by random nuclear fusions on reemergence. When two objects are suddenly in the same place at the same time, a small percentage of the atomic nuclei are close enough to fuse, generating some strange isotopes. And we know the field correlates somehow with the local gravitational gradient. But why the random lateral displacement on reemergence? We know that it tracks on the sidereal day and year, but we still haven't the foggiest notion of why it does it!" Ian wasn't biting.

"Hell, continental drift, for all I know. Or magma flows. Or solar flares. Or phases of the moon. Look, I'm to the point where I'm starting to understand why something is when it is. I've got no idea why it's where it is. They buried what was left of the only person who could give us some straight answers. Dammit, we're running out of money! In three months we'll be out of credit. We've got to rob a bank!"

"We could have a breakthrough at any time, Tom. You're talking about grand larceny!"

"Hey, we've been looking for that breakthrough for eleven months. And we can rig the robbery to take place a year after we get the money. We can even deposit it in the same bank we're going to rob. We'd never get caught."

"But theft, Tom?"

"So, banks are insured. Nobody will get hurt."

"Nobody? Look at all the damage we've caused around the property here. Nobody's been hurt, because we're out in the country. You're talking about doing it in downtown Ann Arbor! We'd kill someone for sure."

"We can have the whole thing happen at three in the morning, when no one's around," I said. "Look. We rent the garage across from the bank. We build a time cabinet large enough to hold a big truck. We send the truck back maybe three hundred years, before this town was built, before there was any significant number of people around. The truck drives forward exactly eighty feet. Inside the truck we have another time cabinet. It goes forward three hundred and one years—right to the sidereal second—and emerges in the same space as the bank vault, so the money is inside the time field. It comes back with the contents of the vault to the truck. The truck backs up to where the garage will be and the whole thing comes back to now. We have a year to loot the vault before the robbery takes place! I can have the controls ready in a week, and it shouldn't take you much longer to make the cabinets."

"You've been thinking about this for some time, haven't you?"


"Well, you've been thinking stupid, the whole while! First off, aside from the moral questions, you're talking about cabinets a hundred times larger than anything we've ever built. Scaling up isn't always as easy as it sounds. We don't know what problems we'll run into. Two. If your truck gets hung up driving that eighty feet across who knows what, we've got a first class anachronism our hands. And three, worst of all, you're expecting the inner time cabinet to emerge four times in air, or something worse. It'll be as radioactive as sin and shot through with rust. There's not a chance in hell of it being operational for that trip back."

"You weren't listening. Any one time circuit only has to operate twice. The money itself will only be transferred twice," I said, "so it won't be too bad. Paper outgasses easily. And to heck with the time cabinet. We can build another one."

"And the truck?"

"We rent it."

"Well, maybe," Ian said, "but it's going to be more work and money than you're counting on. And we've got to get Hasenpfeffer in on it."

Hasenpfeffer walked into the lab on cue, wearing the gaudy, bell-bottom trousers that were currently fashionable, but looking glumly at the floor.

I turned off my power supplies, hid the breadboard I'd been working on, and put the dust cover over my Textronics scope. It was just conditioned reflexes on my part. He hadn't actually gotten close enough to break anything, which was probably conditioned reflexes on his part.

As I finished, Hasenpfeffer said, "There is something that I have to talk over with you gentlemen."

"Shoot." I'd never seen him this far down.

"I have been trying," he said. "For well over two years I have been trying to make a meaningful contribution to our endeavor. I have done whatever I could, even the most menial of tasks. But this just is not sensible. The only rational thing is for me to get a job elsewhere, and to hire someone to do the trivia around here. After all, washing your underwear is not the best use I can make of my doctorate."

"Cheer up, Jim. We're all doing a lot of dirty work. The twelve hours I have just spent at a well-named boring mill didn't have much to do with thermodynamics," Ian said.

"True, but we can't afford a machinist, and we could afford a housekeeper. I can make a better contribution with a paycheck."

"Look, there's something we're going to be doing over the next few weeks where we'll need your help. After that we can talk this over."

"What do you have in mind, Tom?" Hasenpfeffer perked up.

"Well, we're going to rob this bank."


"Look, we're running out of money." I said. "See, we get this truck, and we build a big time cabinet in the garage across from the bank and . . ."

"Shit!" Hasenpfeffer looked at me disgustedly. "We aren't that hard up." He went over to a small test canister sitting on my work bench. "But if we really need large amounts of capital, there are more rational ways of obtaining it."

He opened the canister and took out a copy of next week's Wall Street Journal.


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