Theorizing that one could time travel within their own lifetime, Doctor Sham Breakit stepped into the Quantum Loop accelerator… and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mere images that were not his own, and driven by unknown source code to arrange history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Hal, an observer at run-time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sham can see and hear. And so Dr. Breakit finds himself looping through life after life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next loop… will be the loop $home.
Sham found himself sitting at a desk, facing an unknown person. Of course, everything was unknown to him at this point – he’d just looped into a new situation. He would now have a certain amount of time to fix whatever needed fixing, and when his quantum was up he would loop to his next assignment. At least his life was predictable that way.
“So, what’s your answer?”
Now if only he could predict an answer to that. “Oh boy?” Sham ventured.
The man across from him rolled his eyes. “It’s not that complex, be rational,” he pressed. “Do you think there’s a real need for another floor?”
“Uhmmm… no,” Sham decided. He hoped Hal would show up soon.
“Fine. Then we have the whole thing?”
“Naturally,” Sham continued, feigning nonchalance.
The man stood, picking up and closing a briefcase. He then grabbed an extendedcase and stated, “All right, I’ll send the schematics in. Thanks, Ray.” And after a quick handshake, Sham’s unknown visitor departed.
Sham looked around the office he was in. It seemed fairly spartan, and poking around through a couple of sheets didn’t enlighten Sham as to why he was here, nor did any pieces of paper. It seemed to be sometime back before 1970 but no year leapt out at him. So it was a relief when Sham heard the imagine chamber door open, signifying the presence of Hal Calalilli. At least, it was a relief until Hal walked out onto one of the walls.
“Hal, stop acting irrationally,” Sham sighed.
“I’m sorry, Sham. I can’t do that,” Hal intoned, punching at his TI-85 calculator with a vexed look on his face.
“Why? What’s going on?” Sham wondered, twisting his head to the side in an attempt at viewing an upright version of his friend.
“It’s this Y2K bug!” Hal declared. “BigE, your parallel hybrid computer is going nuts! You really should have made Project Quantum Loop Y2K compliant, Sham.”
Sham boggled. “I thought it was. Is it really the year 2000?”
“Whoops. Uh, yeah,” Hal admitted. “At least it is where we are, but there’s very limited data on where you are.”
“That’s normal,” Sham pointed out.
Hal made a face, as he was growing edgy. “You’re in Mizuloo,” he revealed. “At the University of Mizuloo to be precise.”
“Hm. Haven’t I been in Mizuloo before?” Sham wondered.
“Yes actually, but it won’t be for about 30 years,” Hal confirmed. “Right now it’s the 1960s and your name is Katho D. Toobe. But everyone just calls you “Ray”.”
“I see. Anything else?”
“Actually, yes. BigE has locked out all but the backup systems under a strange numerical password, and we were hoping you knew how to figure it out.”
“Strange? How so?”
“We have to enter the first composite Fermat number. But no one at the project recalls exactly what that is or even how to figure it out.”
“Oh, I can give you the answer,” Sham assured reassuringly.
What is the answer? Will Sham figure out what he has to do? Will the Project survive Y2K? Find out next time…
–Greg “hologrami” Taylor
[This was Sept 24, 1999, leading up to Y2K. When we were worried all the computers would think ’00 meant 1900. Also in this issue were “Cynic’s Corner”, “Everything One Needs to Know in Life Can be Learned by Reading mathNEWS”, and the flippin’ mastHEAD itself because I was the sole editor (HoloEd) for the first time. I have no idea why I decided to run a serial on top of all that responsibility back then… maybe to fill space.
In somewhat related news, between my last post to the mathtans blog and this one, Dean Stockwell passed on. The main “Holo” of my HoloEd (Voyager’s doctor aside). That was a gut punch, but 85 years is a good run. This “Loop” retelling is for you, Dean. Rest in peace.]