“Hey, Rority, Garmin gave me a new assignment, want to go along?”
“When is it and what do I have to do?” Rority asked suspiciously. “I just turned down an assignment Rula wanted to give me.” He had turned the assignment down because he liked the protohumans, some of whom were surprisingly almost sentient. He was to some of them like one of the protohumans who leave food and water on the porch for feral house cats. They were almost like Rority's pets.
“Yeah, she has to go herself on that one,” Gumal said. “I turned that one down, too. This is nothing like that. All I have to do is retrieve a device we planted about fifty thousand BB. We're supposed to pick it up in 10 AB.”
“What's the device for? Why do we let it sit so long?”
“It's an ancient time device, sent back from millions of years ago when we were still experimenting and learning how to break the spacetime barrier. It was supposed to send back data, but never did. It sat there for fifty thousand years before I went and got it. Want to go along?” he asked again.
“Nah, I'm busy studying subatomic biochemistry,” he said, grinning. Gumal snickered. Rority laughed. Gumal laughed harder. “Whoo!” Gumal exclaimed. “Good thing we weren't drinking and stratodoobing!”
Now, I can no more understand the humans than an Australopithecus could have understood us protohumans, let alone describe them well. I certainly can't understand their humor, it just seems dumb to me. They were laughing about the fact that Rority had been reading a scholarly paper on some aspect of biochemistry that was written some time in the middle of the first century AB, with the primitive date 2005, that they thought was hilarious.
They think we're funny. Of course, I'm amused when someone gets too close to the chimpanzee cage and gets feces thrown at him.
Monkeys are funny.
A Guinness floated into Rority's hand. “Want a beer?” he asked.
“Sure. Where's your stratodoober?”
“I don't know, but it'll be in your hand in a minute” he said as Gumal plucked the beer from the air, and its nobotic transport crumbled to microscopic dust and the stratodoober floated toward him from wherever it had been.
“So why did we let this ancient probe sit so long? Why do they want it back, anthropology?” Rority asked.
“No, it leaked gravitational waves,” Gumal said. “It sat there for tens of thousands of years leaking before I went back and got it. Fortunately they were high frequency waves, making them pretty much non-omnidirectional, with a pretty tight beam. It only had effects for a few hundred kilometers, and got weaker on a logarithmic scale as you got further from the probe's beam. The probe itself is about a kilometer or two underwater.”
“Effects?” Rority asked.
“The effects? They went away a couple hundred years after I got it. There were strange optical anomalies that stretched to the edges of the beam's effect. Sometimes in that region, even at the very edges, the water looked like sky and the sky looked like ocean. Closer in and electronic devices and mechanical compasses malfunctioned and failed.
“Things that went through the beam's center were displaced in time; the closer to the center, the further in spacetime they went. A squadron of ancient protohuman warplanes crashed thousands of years after the device was first planted because of the time distortion, but they didn't see the significance at first because it was believed that if anything was displaced in time, it wouldn't be where the Earth was when the effect was completed. It turns out they were wrong.
“It led to incredible advances in mathematics and gravitron theory way back then, which led to pretty much everything that followed. The new maths also showed that had we not sent the probe, those new maths would never have been discovered except by an incredibly improbable set of coincidences or a really weird person, which I guess would also be an incredibly improbable coincidence.
“Of course, the existence of life itself was caused by an incredibly improbable set of coincidences. We're lucky to find any kind of life at all in one out of a hundred galaxies. It's extremely rare, and is just an incredibly unlikely feature of entropy.
“It didn't affect anything but ocean creatures and the occasional boaters until about three or four hundred BB when the protohumans started shipping and traveling across what was then known as the Atlantic. After that, of course, legends started when ships, and later aircraft, were lost in the region. Most of the legends were hokum, but a few were pretty close to what really happened.”
He took another toke off the stratodoober and another sip of his beer.
Rority said “I would have thought that the ancient protohumans would have found it when they sent space probes up studying gravitational waves.”
“The beam was never pointed anywhere near one of the satellites,” replied Gumal. “Besides, I retrieved it before they launched them. If one of the probes had experienced the effects they'd have thought it was simply defective.”
Rority said “Sounds like an interesting assignment.”
“The interesting part's done; that was reading the report. The picking up the device is nothing. Want me to get some beer when I'm there?”
“Sure, and look Albert up and tell him... Oh hell, I'll go along.”
“Thanks, it's less boring when you have company.”