Conrad's Time Machine

Conrad's Time Machine by Leo A Frankowski

Book: Conrad's Time Machine by Leo A Frankowski Read Free Book Online
Authors: Leo A Frankowski
Tags: Science-Fiction
one point, discussing something having to do with causality, Ian said, "It's undefinable. It's like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg?"
    "That's a perfectly stupid question. Obviously, the egg came first."
    "You seem remarkably positive about that. Would you care to illuminate me with the glow of this newfound wisdom?"
    "Certainly, my conventional little friend. Consider that what we call a chicken is in fact a domesticated Ceylonese jungle fowl. That domestication could not possibly have taken place more than ten thousand years ago."
    "I'll accept that for the sake of argument. What has it to do with the subject at hand?"
    "Why, everything. Eggs have been around for hundreds of millions of years. Billions, maybe. Dinosaurs laid eggs, you know, and fishes were laying eggs long, long before that. The time difference between ten thousand years and a billion years is so great as to make the question of priority blatantly obvious. Now, had you asked about the chicken and the chicken egg , the problem might have been less easily resolvable, but fortunately that's not what you said."
    Ian's rejoinder was lost for all time because I had to get up to answer the telephone.
    "Tom, can you and Ian get over here at one this afternoon? It's important." Hasenpfeffer sounded tired over the phone.
    "Sure. Where are you?" I said.
    "I have the top two floors of the Madison Building."
    "The big new one on Third?"
    "Yes. And put a suit on, will you? Appearances, you know."
    It was already half past noon, so we changed quickly without bothering to wash up. We left on the run, not realizing that we'd never see our home again. Ten minutes after we were gone, a small fleet of moving vans arrived and cleaned the place out in two hours flat. And I do mean cleaned out. They even took all the trash in the garbage cans.
    When we got to the Madison Building, we found that the top floor button on the elevator had been replaced with a key lock, so we got off on the sixteenth. The elevator door opened on a large room half-filled with impressively dressed and manicured people. Silk ties. Leather attache cases. Three-piece grey wool suits.
    Presiding over it all was an incredibly beautiful and efficient-looking woman. She sat behind this nine-foot desk that was just encrusted with gadgets.
    "Quite a layout," Ian said, looking past his dirty fingernails to his unshined shoes.
    "Yeah. Look, let's go somewheres and buy a tie or something."
    The woman at the desk spotted us and came over quickly, smiling. "You must be Mr. McTavish and Mr. Kolczyskrenski."
    An angel. She even pronounced my name right. She ushered us past the briefcase crowd and through a much larger room. There were scores of desks with intent people sitting at them, talking quickly on an equal number of telephones. Word processors were being operated. A big computer on the far wall was in operation, with dozens of big tape decks whirling and stopping and whirling once more with simpleminded diligence. All told, maybe a hundred people doing important looking things.
    At the top of the escalator, where they couldn't be seen from the floor below, stood two uniformed guards, festooned with radios, side arms and submachine guns. These were not your usual rent-a-cops. They were deadly types.
    "This way, sir." The angel put her hand on a wall mirror and a heavy door opened electrically.
    "The screen is keyed to my palm print," she said. "This is as far as I am allowed to go. The next door is keyed to both of your prints."
    "Hey, this is getting a little ridiculous," I said.
    "Dr. Hasenpfeffer's orders."
    "Look, Hasenpfeffer isn't God."
    I didn't know how to answer that one, so I went in and Ian limped after me. Inside were more guards with that sleepy look and more guns with thirty-round clips. Ian opened the next door and we finally saw Hasenpfeffer, sitting behind a huge desk in a big, dirty, and profoundly cluttered office. There were old newspapers and computer printouts all

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