(12 of 19)
(c) 2004 GLG
“I caused it to prevent my destruction,” it informed the scientist.
The Commander waited for it to continue. The artifact seemed to be timeless, endless, indestructible. He could not fathom its demise. Just when he was about to speak, it continued. “You know that seemingly trivial events can alter the course of history. You have seen this for yourself. And I have told you that I can sometimes look into other timelines, provided they run parallel to this one, to view what might have happened had the results of randomness and chance been different. You understand this, do you not?”
“Yes, of course. We refer to it as Chaos Theory which, when taken to its ultimate degree, has also been called the Butterfly Effect,” he acknowledged. Within the scientific community, he was recognized as one of the leading experts on the Chaos Theory and fractal mathematics. “Am I to understand that you did something to protect your alternate-self in another, parallel timeline?”
“No, my friend. To prevent my destruction within this timeline. I looked into the future and saw my own ending.”
“Fascinating,” he murmured, “I was unaware that you had the ability to see into the future.”
“As a matter of routine, I cannot. However, on the occasions when timelines coalesce, events may reveal themselves to me before they unfold.”
The scientist contemplated this statement and attempted to reconcile it with all the theories postulated about chaos-time interactions. The most commonly accepted theory held that an infinite number of timelines ran nearly parallel, yet always diverging away from one another, and with every random act of chance or choice, an infinite number of new timelines were created with each passing moment, always on a different path from the one they split off of. The Chaos Theory held that every action, no matter how small, caused a reaction that would in turn affect other actions and reactions. A chain of events that, while appearing totally random, had a predictability about it.
The Chaos Theory was originally discovered by a meteorologist attempting to create the first mathematical model of the atmosphere. He had assumed that minor variations in the data -- a temperature reading rounded down instead of up -- would be smoothed over by other such variations. What he found surprised him: these seemingly insignificant variations would interact and compound upon one another, changing the output of the prediction model in a seemingly random fashion. And yet, not, for he found patterns in the randomness and randomness in the patterns. He dubbed it ‘Chaos’.
Since then, the Chaos Theory had been expounded upon and expanded, and found applications beyond meteorology, in economics and politics, in biology, chemistry and physics, and now in alternative-timeline theory. In every field of study, the Chaos Theory had been proven time and time again.
The Guardian had never misspoken before. It always chose its words with care and precision even though it sometimes seemed to speak in riddles, and yet its last statement was contrary to all known theories. Should timelines coalesce, the laws of probability mathematics and physics would cease to function; all random chances would return the same results, and the uncertainty principle of sub-atomic physics would become meaningless. Unless....
The scientist had an epiphany, “Yes, of course.”
The Chaos Theory held that even a single event so small as to be almost undetectable still had an effect on the overall pattern. Taken to the Nth degree, one could postulate that a butterfly flapping its wings, or not, would move a puff of air, or not, and in turn affect another puff of air, and then another and another. After millions upon millions of such interactions, that one butterfly’s actions could conceivably cause the formation of a synoptic-scale storm, such as a hurricane, weeks or months later. However, he realized, not every butterfly flapping their wings cause hurricanes, quite obviously. Only the tiniest fraction resulted in anything of significance.
Likewise, he realized, most trivial events are just that: trivial. A flip of a coin matters not to the grand scheme of galactic history. No one will take note whether it came up heads or tails, unless something depends on the outcome of that coin-flip, such as which team gets the ball first in a game, which in turn may decide the victor of the game. And yet, even that has little bearing on history as a whole. Sooner or later, that coin-flip and that game, and all the events whose outcome are predicated upon the game’s result, will become nothing more than a fading memory. Ergo, the timelines of “heads” and the timelines of “tails” will run parallel and eventually converge back into a single timeline. History will go on. The stars care little for the deeds of mankind. The implications were staggering: this new concept could rewrite the entire space-time continuum theory. The mathematics involved would be elegant in both simplicity and complexity.
Moreover, the scientist realized, just as once a hurricane has formed all the butterflies in the world flapping their wings in unison would have no appreciable effect on the storm whatsoever, if a timeline event of sufficient magnitude occurred it would overwhelm all other events, at least in the near term. An infinite number of timelines running in parallel would coalesce as the innumerable minor interactions became overwhelmed and masked by a single colossal incident. All the coin-flips in the galaxy mattered not.
“A synoptic-scale event has occurred,” he stated, borrowing the term from meteorology, “macro-scale, even. Something quite devastating -- a natural disaster, perhaps, or some other calamity.” But in his heart, he knew what had happened. “A great war has begun.”
“Yes, my friend,” the Guardian confirmed his conclusion. “Your neighboring empires have commenced upon a death struggle in one timeline. Not so in the other timeline, but events were unfolding in such a way that would lead to my destruction in both futures. We, my alternate-self and I, had to prevent that.”
“By stopping the war before it even starts?”
“No. We are unable to effect such a change,” the artifact declared. “We would require the assistance of someone, like yourself, whom we could send back in time to modify past events leading up to the war. The outcome of such an attempt would be uncertain; even through success, we could not ensure our preservation. Nor could we trust another in a matter of such great importance.”
True, the Guardian did have the ability to send a person anywhere in history, to any location in space and to any point in time, but Star Fleet had erected a barricade to prevent anyone or anything from entering its portal. The Commander knew how difficult it would be to remove the barrier to allow someone to pass. He also knew it was impossible for any one person to disable the protective systems, for he himself helped design them. The artifact was a great tool for scholars and historians, but could also be a devastating weapon in the wrong hands, which was why very few were allowed to even know of its existence.
“The ones you call the Kzintis had a battle forty-two rotations of this planet ago. In one timeline, they captured a certain enemy ship.” A mist formed in the Guardian’s opening, and an image appeared of the battle between the two alien fleets, culminating with a swarm of attack shuttlecraft surrounding the badly mauled twin-hulled catamaran flagship. “The enemy used this battle as a reason to invade in force, but full-scale warfare was averted through an exchange of prisoners. In that timeline, one of your starships taking diplomats to formalize the deal was destroyed, sparking a civil war within the Federation of Planets. Your enemies would seize the opportunity to invade and conquer all that they desire. This world would be annihilated in the conflagration.” The image showed Federation starships in a desperate battle against a Klingon / Romulan combined fleet. The scenario ended abruptly as three Romulan plasma torpedoes hit the planet’s surface.
“In the other timeline, however, the Kzintis destroyed their enemy’s ship, killing a royal prince. War could not be averted. Those who would have ambushed your starship were engaged in other nefarious activities associated with perpetuating the hostilities. The diplomats it carried would reach their destination where they would have set your Federation upon a course of action hastening its entanglement in this war, which your Star Fleet is not properly prepared for at this time.”
The mist reformed, and the view shifted to the Strategy Room at Star Fleet Headquarters. The situation map indicated the Klingon Imperial Fleet had advanced to the Federation core worlds. “Your fleet would be defeated and forced to destroy this world to prevent its capture.” Another desperate space battle appeared. This time, it ended with a heavily damaged Federation destroyer flying full-speed through a Klingon squadron to fire all of its photon torpedoes directly at the planet.
As the Commander watched the combat, a piece of his mind analyzed the tactics. Even though he thought of himself as a scientist first and foremost, he was also a Star Fleet officer and therefore had a great deal of military training. In both conflicts, the Star Fleet ships were heavily outnumbered and outclassed, which did not bode well for the survival of the Federation itself.
Another part of his mind calculated the chances of two major events occurring so close together in time, that the fate of the galaxy should rest upon the fate of two ships separated by a great distance. Statistics and probability would suggest the odds against it to be astronomical. And yet, true to Chaos Theory, such events tend to occur in clusters.
And yet another part of his mind considered the Guardian’s choice of words. “You said ‘would be’, not ‘will be’, when you spoke of these future events. Am I to infer that you have, somehow, prevented them? That these futures will not occur as you have shown me?”