The side effect (Part 1 - The Museum)

By mgaft1 | Short Stories | 31 Jul 2019

“Now let's come over here and see this exposition - the Battle of Thermopylae,” Maeve led the group to the next hall of the museum. “It occurred in 480 BC between the Persian army led by Xerxes and the army of the Greek cities-states, which was much smaller than the Persian. Surely, all of you have heard about the 300 Spartans and their king, Leonid.”

Maeve glanced around the group of visitors, crossing her eyes with a couple of them, and making sure that everyone had already come to the exhibition hall and listened to her, “The invasion occurred at a key moment in the history of Athens. At that time, democracy, one of the pillars of modern Western civilization, was still very young. The Persian invasion threatened to destroy it in infancy. Have the Greeks lose this battle, the entire world history could have gone in another direction.

At the end of the lecture, several people surrounded Maeve and asked her questions.
“… what is that department of AHVI, that people talk so much about?” An elderly balding man with hair slicked back protruded his lip in the manner of Mussolini.

“AHVI stands for – The Department of Alternative History and Virtual Incarnations,” A smile flew over the lips of Maeve. She remembered how her husband, who worked in this department of the museum, recently tried to tease her, although rather awkwardly.

“You're amazingly superficial, dear; and in this two-worded expression, ‘amazing’ is you, and ‘superficial’ is your department.

He hinted that the excursions in the museum were free, and if the excursions were its only attraction, the museum would have collapsed. On the contrary, the department where Maeve’s husband worked was the museum’s “bread and butter”. Here, interested visitors, for an affordable price, could embark on a very interesting journey through time.

“Virtual incarnations?” the man shook his head. “Is this something like virtual time travel to the past?”
It was the end of the day. The crowd had already begun to subside, and the words of the interlocutor echoed loudly in the lobby of the museum. Sunbeams penetrated through the stained glass windows of the museum. Outside, there was a steady flow of people, and Maeve was looking forward to a cheerful lunch with her husband in a Japanese restaurant. Yet, professional habit took over and she began patiently explaining with a smile.

“... nowadays a virtual trip to the past is of no surprise. Any such journey can be bought cheaply online, and ran on a game console. But consumer goods are consumer goods - a Hollywood dreck. Our museum does something much more interesting and authentic. You see ... scientists have discovered that in one subspace of the common to us seventh dimension there is an information matrix of real historical events. This became known twenty years ago.
But only recently, the technology was developed allowing to display this informational subspace in viral devices. This discovery, which was made by one of the museum staff, was immediately patented and is now used only in the AHVI department.”

“And what is the difference?”

“The difference is that for any person living today it is possible to find an informational reflection of his or her real previous life in another body. In this way, the client could see and experience the moments of his former life or lives.”

“Really?” the person became more and more interested. Now he stood with his hands on his hips and looking even more like Mussolini.

“Moreover, not only that you can relive the experience, but also change this ‘history’.”

“Change the story? This is impossible!” - the person shook his head ‘no’ categorically.”

“Certainly, changes do not occur in real historical events, but only in their informational reflection.”

“Hm…” The man rolled his lip again, “But what about the ‘Butterfly Effect’?”

“The ‘Butterfly effect’ is greatly exaggerated,” Maeve once again smiled with professional friendliness, “It can have an extremely strong influence only on some key events of the history, like the Battle of Thermopylae. Changes in the life events of most people, as a rule, end only with a slight burst of subsequent changes, rapidly decreasing exponentially in the historical time axis. However, you can go to the department yourself and they will tell you everything you need to know about it in detail. It’s through this door” she pointed, “ask for Bannon.”

Bannon was the name of her husband. Here in the museum – being both young professionals – they met. Initially, it was a mutual sympathy - both loved history - and history, turned out to be, the main theme of their conversations. Later this unity of interests grew into something gentler and ended with the marriage.

“Here’s what the deal is,” the balding man sat across from Bannon in a chair. “All my life I am tormented by nightmares. As we found out with my psychologist - this is a consequence of psychological trauma, but we went through my entire life, and even under hypnosis, couldn’t find any events that seemed to be the cause of it. I had a normal childhood, loving parents, then a good job, a stable marriage. At the same time, I have experienced and continue to experience constant nightmares since childhood. Therefore, I want to try out the opportunities that your organization promises.”

A couple of days later, Maeve and Bannon sat in a Japanese restaurant and ate sushi. It was not a cheap buffet, where a crowd of people buzzed and gurgled, but a cozy restaurant with engravings on the walls and barely audible Eastern music. There was no need to scream to hear each other.
“And how did the whole thing ended up with this Mussolini?” mocking the man, Maeve protruded her chin forward and rolled out her lip. Both chuckled.

“ That's how. We drove his DNA through our identifier and found that in his previous life this man lived in Spain at the end of the eighteenth century. His soul dwelled in someone by the name of José Hernandez, the owner of a hardware shop in Saragossa, and was burned at the stake in April 1791 on suspicion of heresy.”

“Interesting. So what have you done?”

“We ran our simulation program and found that the best and, from a historical point of view, the most painless way to deal with this situation would be for him to forget his purse in the shop, on the way to the wine cellar, where he spent his time in the evenings. In real life on that ill-fated day, being a bit tipsy, he shared with a random interlocutor that he doubted the healing power of touching holy relics. To his misfortune, the interlocutor was an informant of the Inquisition. In a new variation of events, having reached the cellar, and finding out about the absence of a purse, Jose returned home, and when he came later to the cellar, the informant was no longer there.”

“How did you achieve that he forgot the wallet? Did you send this Mr. Mussolini back to the eighteenth century?”

“No. Just changed something in his data matrix. Our program has calculated that the ‘butterfly effect’ in this case will be minimal.”

“Hmm ... have there been cases when you had to send the client himself back into the matrix?”

“That did happen. This process, though, is more labor-intensive and therefore much more expensive. Then again, if a client wishes it, in principle it is possible.”

“How is this done?”

Bannon pondered and looked up and to the left collecting his thoughts

“How should one better explained this? You know that our sensations are nothing but perceived signals by the brain and interpreted electrically. So in this case, we have to not only change something in the temporary matrix but simulate the temporary reality, so that the client has the full impression that he lives in the past. This is a complex and very costly process in terms of resources, and requires the use of special proprietary mathematical algorithms.”

“And do you understand all this math?”

“Well, more or less. At one time in the university, I almost went bananas, preparing for this exam.” Maeve laughed, and with a happy smile, leaned her head to Bannon’s shoulder and pressed herself against him.

“So did it help Mussolini?”

“Are you kidding me? He sleeps now like a child.”


To be continued ...

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