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Rich Again

We didn't see Hasenpfeffer for three months. He rented an office in town and as best as we could tell, he was sleeping in it. At any rate, he sent over a middle-aged and overweight housekeeper who moved into his old room.

She complained a lot about dirty socks in the family room and cigarette butts in the coffee cups, but she stayed clear of the lab and the shop. She was annoying, but Ian and I found ourselves working longer hours than ever.

Truth was, we missed Hasenpfeffer. He phoned us maybe once a week and told us to just send all the bills of any kind over to him, to spend whatever we had to, but to get the job done. A courier, always an attractive young woman, but always a different one, arrived every Monday afternoon to pick up the bills. From the first, she dropped off a paycheck for the housekeeper and two more for Ian and me. Whatever Hasenpfeffer was doing, it must have been profitable, because Ian and I were now each drawing more than Ian had made working for General Motors.

We started eating better and dressing better as well. Clothes for somebody my size almost always have to be hand tailored, which is clothing store talk for expensive. Ian had trouble buying clothes, too, unless he wanted to go to the children's department.

Men's clothing styles went through a major evolution in the early seventies, and now the two of us could look a little more "with it." Ian was especially happy that a man could now wear high heels and platform boots in public without being considered a queer, and he still wore his heel lifters inside them. I stuck with low heels, of course, but with boots, nobody much noticed.

Women's clothing was changing, too. Skirts had been creeping happily upward for a decade, and had now gotten about as short as they could get without becoming a wide belt. See-through blouses were getting popular, and were often worn without a bra, although they usually had two strategically located pockets in front. The scenery was thus better than ever, even if the two of us never got any of it to take home.

Strange to say, we also missed the parade of Hasenpfeffer's ladies. For years, Ian and I had placed bets about the hair color and probable measurements of his next one, and just when this slender young thing would come along, but with Jim gone, his ladies were gone, too.

So we technical types had little left to do but work and spend money. And spend we did, I don't know how much. We farmed out a lot of the work but we always did the final assembly and programing ourselves.

And the work progressed. Money has a lot to do with the creative process. When you're broke, you spend all of your energy trying to come up with inexpensive solutions to your problems. Since we were flush again, Ian and I fell into an attitude of "Hell, it's only twenty thousand! Let's try it!"

One of the expensive things that worked was our discovery that you could make a circuit reemerge below ground by starting off below ground. And if you triggered the circuit again within three nanoseconds after reemergence, before it had time to explode, it would usually still work.

This meant that working from a pressure chamber in the basement, we could transmit back a second, smaller sacrificial pressure chamber, which contained its own temporal circuitry. Immediately on reemergence, it sent itself and its contents way out sideways, scattering it harmlessly out over the fifth dimension. At least we hoped it was harmless. At any rate, we never saw anything of any of them again.

Ten nanoseconds later, a second very sturdy pressure chamber arrived, which stopped the walls of the hole from collapsing. Also, the pressure chamber had a second time circuit. This was used in "cannon" mode, to send any air that managed to leak into the chamber out to oblivion just before the next, third, canister was due to arrive, insuring that it emerged into an absolutely hard vacuum.

The net result was a precisely located hard vacuum, the position of which tracked with the chamber in the basement. Exactly where it was physically was a moot point, but a sidereal day later we could transmit to that time or receive from it. Our first stopover station in the past went to exactly four years before.

Four years was an inconveniently long time from an experimental point of view, but any shorter and there was the statical danger of having the canister reemerge too close to the experimenter, namely your humble narrator, snuffing him mightily.

What we had dreamed about for years was a time machine much like an automobile, where you could get in and go to whenever you wanted. What we had succeeded in building had more in common with a railroad, with discrete stations at least four years apart along its "track."

To get any closer to a given point in time, you either had to go back to the nearest time before your target date, and then wait around until the time you wanted happened, or you had to build other lines with spacings of longer than four years, and then change lines several times to get closer to when you wanted to be.

This was less than ideal, but you had to admit that traveling by railroad was superior to having absolutely no transportation at all.

We got to the point where we sent a mouse back to 1967, let it stay there a day, and then brought it back healthy and a day or so older. I say "or so" because instruments indicated 5.4 seconds of "travel time," which was very puzzling.

It took time to travel through time.

Why did whatever we sent "think" that it was traveling through the fourth dimension, the way we normally do, when in fact it was flipping back and forth through the fifth dimension and backward in the fourth?

We argued for months over that one, and slowly a lot of things started to make sense.


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