Time Enough 1777

Time travel doesn’t work. A jump through time leaves the traveler in space as the Earth moves. Researchers gave up. Driven by a powerful, compartmentalized mind, hurried by a subconscious hidden agenda, Dr. Benjamin Jorgan fixated on a time-jaunt to ancestral 1777 Vermont.

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Time travel doesn’t work. A jump through time leaves the traveler in space as the Earth moves. Researchers gave up. Driven by a powerful, compartmentalized mind, hurried by a subconscious hidden agenda, Dr. Benjamin Jorgan fixated on a time-jaunt to ancestral 1777 Vermont. He’d observe the battle at Bennington and return to 2024. He arrived instead to a thunderclap and a flash fire caused by his machine. Within minutes, he was shot as a trespasser by his own ancestor.

Wounded, shocked into understanding his own mind, Ben finds himself stranded. He helps fight off an Indian raid and unexpectedly falls in love with a truly distant cousin. He knows enough to change America’s past. Can he do that? Should he do that? With his Ph.D. mistaken for an M.D., he’s bum-rushed into the American militia. Doctor Jorgan experiences the horrors of Revolutionary War medicine, though the historical battle at Bennington changed little. The pivotal Battle of Saratoga lies just ahead, beginning the decline of a true American hero – Benedict Arnold. If he saves Arnold, his personal future disappears into an altered fog. Still, he has time enough . . .

Chapter 1

A Twig Is Bent

Little Bennie Jorgan loved Vermont.  Vermont smelled green.  The countryside seemed to rush toward him as soon as he stepped outside the farmhouse.  Grandpa might take him hunting or fishing, and he might let him help on the farm.  He wasn’t much “help,” but then it wasn’t much of a farm anymore.  Forty acres had never been a large spread, and his grandparents had been on

Social Security since before Bennie came to live with them.  Their main income came from the trust fund Bennie’s parents had set up.  It had been meant to be a retirement plan for his parents, for some distant decade, but a drunk driver, going the wrong way on a New Jersey turnpike, made sure they didn’t live long enough to retire.  Their life insurance and the tough settlement their lawyers had pried out of the drunk’s insurance company had gone straight into his trust fund.

Bennie, three years old at the time, barely remembered them.  He didn’t lose those few good memories, however.  He filed them.  At least, that’s the way he understood it as soon as he became acquainted with computers.  With a word processor, you could call up a file, read it, and file it again, in theory, more times than a human had days in his life.  The file didn’t change.  It was out of view somewhere in memory, still present, but not always invading conscious thought.

Bennie assumed that other children at Woodford Elementary could do the same thing, file memories in that never changed but didn’t interfere with the present.  He soon did the same thing with his school subjects.  In history class, he could access his “history” file.  He made an “A” in every subject.  He led every grade through high school.  “Valedictorian” was a given.  Not only was it a given, but it was personally unimportant.  He could turn academics on and off like a switch.

He made no attempt to file his non-academic experiences.  Schoolwork was meant to be packaged, and he was good at that.  Life on a Vermont farm was meant to be felt.  A person couldn’t file fishing.  Bennie couldn’t package hunting or hoeing corn.  When the sun set, Grandpa would tell him stories.  His favorites were family history and Vermont lore, but Grandpa’s stories left a hook inside the worm.  He meant to trick Bennie into seeking the rest of the story on his own.

Grandma was neither a storyteller nor a farm worker, though she worked very hard indeed, right up to her last few months.  She was warm and round.  She never let Bennie so much as suspect there could be existence that wasn’t surrounded by love.  Her kitchen had been built around a wood cook-stove when Bennie was small, though she retired it for a propane range when maintenance became too much.

Grandpa maintained the house’s big cast-iron heater.  Ben hadn’t been out of elementary school when he learned to carry wood.  In high school, he cut wood with a chain-saw, hauled wood, and kept the indoor woodbox full.  Half of the Jorgan property was wooded.  Grandpa had never been a single-minded farmer, and Bennie’s trust-fund income had been enough to supplement Social Security.  The northern twenty acres had gone back to forest.  Field crops shrank to the size of a garden.  He’d sold his small dairy to the Agriculture Department during their attempt to control milk prices.  His beef cattle herd grew smaller, as the hay harvest got to be too much for an old man and an adolescent boy.

Every morning, Ben rose at 6:00, fed their pair of steers with bought hay, and cleaned up for school.  He learned how to cut and clean his blackened fingernails with a pocketknife on a moving school bus.  He wore a flannel shirt and blue jeans to high school, but he was counted as a nerd, before that word ever surfaced in English.  Vermont girls preferred ironed shirts and slacks on someone who wasn’t painfully shy and perpetually half-distracted.  He had friends, because he was a nice guy, but social life?  Never mind.

Saturdays belonged to the farm.  No matter how much smaller it was, there were still repairs to make, cattle to feed, and the small garden to tend.  His grandparents wouldn’t give up that last reminder of independence.  Vermont winters were cold.  There was always wood that needed to be cut and hauled.

Still, the sun set each day.  The older Jorgans watched “antenna” television, but Ben preferred his grandfather’s stories to the programs Grandma liked.  The old man was full of local lore.  He was unashamedly American, and he scorned anything that wasn’t.  Right was right.  America was America.  He refused to watch the nightly network news.  The country was being run by immoral apologists – as far as he was concerned.  He was a World War II vet.  Grandpa’s father had gone to France in World War I, and his grandfather had fought in the Civil War.

He could tell Ben about pushing floating bodies out of his way as he waded ashore at Utah Beach.  He could describe his father sniping at the Huns from behind a log on the fringes of the Ardennes.  He could tell how his grandpa had lost two fingers to a Confederate ball at Cold Harbor.

As far as he was concerned, any state but Vermont was second-rate at best.  As he told it, the Green Mountain Boys had carried the New Hampshire militia on their back during the Revolution.  Vermont was the first state to ban slavery.  The Vermont Brigade slugged it out with the Rebels from Bull Run to Appomattox.  Vermont boys had been the backbone of the A.E.F. in France.  As far as the Second World War was concerned, he’d fought beside men from every state often enough to become nationalistic, more American than Vermonter.  He hated Communism because of what he’d found out about Stalin after the war.  His every story emphasized the rightness of American causes.

Though she sang to Bennie now and then, Grandma didn’t tell stories.  She read stories to him until he could handle reading himself.  She’d taught him to read before he ever attended kindergarten.  Holding his hand, she’d been the one to open the wonders of the Manchester Library.  Saturday might belong to the farm, and some nights belonged to Grandpa’s stories, but Sunday belonged to Grandma.

He got up at the same time Sundays, fed the steers, one of whom disappeared into the freezer each fall, and ate Grandma’s good cooking for breakfast.  He took a shower, sure Grandma would check behind his ears.  She brooked no arguments about regular bathing.  “The girls don’t like a boy who smells like sweat and cows.”  Girls mattered to him, but he didn’t know what to do about that.  He put on good clothes, though they weren’t as comfortable as blue jeans.  The three went to church.

The congregation was small, maybe forty people on a dry Lord’s Day, and the building was old, even if it was air-conditioned in the summer.  Primitive Methodists were unashamed Bible-thumpers, as far as most religious organizations were concerned.  They couldn’t afford an organ or pay a piano player, but the singing was enthusiastic.  Ben learned why Grandpa told stories instead of singing.  Grandpa sang in church, and sometimes led a prayer, but a singer was something that he’d never be.

Grandma, on the other hand, was the singer for whom the hymnal’s soprano line had been written.  Grandpa admitted that it was her singing had drawn him to her in the first place.  Adults think they can fool children about a situation’s emotional content, but that’s one of those hopeful adult myths.  Ben wasn’t fooled.  Behind her ear-washing and good-clothes oversight, Grandma believed what she was singing.

Chapter 2

The First to Sail the Time Stream

Never mind that time travel won’t work in an Einsteinian universe.  The everyday Newtonian universe destroys it even more thoroughly.  None of that mattered to Ben Jorgan.  The time-travel concept was implanted in Jorgan’s life deeper than a buried tick.  He had a “time machine” file in his memory.  Time travel had turned up so often in his literary entertainment, he needed that file.  Even after he’d realized traditional time-travel would leave the traveler sucking vacuum, the file remained.  Perhaps it was a genetic quirk, which only deep self-examination would have revealed.

No collection of university degrees could shake his childhood convictions.  The problem was “permanent” mental files.  Computer files don’t leak, but mental files do.  When he was four, he’d created a “Santa Claus” file.  When he was six, Grandpa had explained away Santa.  The file was closed.  Nevertheless, at thirty-four, he still became uneasy on Christmas morning without new presents.  His subconscious blamed his apartment’s lack of a chimney.

His powerful mind carried him into the higher reaches of physics.  His fixations were evidence the journey from high intelligence to functional insanity was a fairly short trip.  Even Newtonian orbital mechanics should have convinced him that a temporal jaunt would leave Earth fatally behind.  Well, they did convince him, but only if you counted upper, conscious mentation.  He closed his “time machine” file, but it leaked like his “Santa” file did.

As a boy, his personal observations caused him to conclude the Earth stood still and the heavens revolved around it.  His mind’s solidified hard-pan had stored even ridiculous conclusions.  The file was closed, but on a deep level, he remained convinced.  Early in life, he’d read H.G. Wells, and the author’s postulates agreed with his own.  Time travel would work.  Thus, Jorgan’s mind continued to build time machines after every other physicist chucked the notion.

Ben was a superb mathematician and a diligent researcher.  Carefully generated evidence that struck a fatal blow to time travel made only superficial differences.  He couldn’t reconcile Earth’s rotation and revolution with moving in time.  There was no need to consider the Solar System’s galactic orbit in the Milky Way or the galaxy’s relative motion on space-time’s face. In the local solar system, Newton alone was ugly enough to kill traditional time travel.  Our universe always abandoned a time traveler in airless space.

A time machine might reach the vacuum where the Earth had once passed or the vacuum where it would pass someday, but it couldn’t reach the surface of a past or future Earth.  Ben’s subconscious couldn’t dump either Einstein or Newton, though it wanted to.  He needed Ptolemy.  In Ptolemy’s universe, the Earth stayed still, and everything else moved.  Traditional time travel might work on a fixed Earth, but a moving Earth ruined everything.

Reality was winning.  Somewhere below the surface, his conviction still yammered.  Time travel wasn’t supposed to eject the traveler to certain death in empty space!  You were supposed to leave “present” Massachusetts and to arrive in “future” Massachusetts or “past” Massachusetts, but in the same relative position to geographical Massachusetts as where you’d left.  In the real universe, that couldn’t happen.  The knowledge pained him, but the universe didn’t seem to care.  Since the contradictory turmoil happened inside a subconscious file, his conscious mind ignored it.

He was ready to give up.  There was no further need to waste mental effort, computer time, or lab tests.

The solution came to him when he’d been flopped in his recliner to watch a Big Bang Theory rerun.  He read science fiction more often than he watched television, but he loved that program.  He could understand the complex math on the background boards.  None of the characters were conveniently studying time travel, but “Sheldon” made a remark about relative body positioning.  Ben’s mind erased the laugh track, and his eyes went out of focus.  Convoluted mental pathways reached a conclusion on the same level as his latent Santa-fixation.

Something twanged.  The “time machine” file popped open on its own.

Ben sat bolt upright.  It struck him full-blown, a gestalt flash like writers claimed to experience.  If you wanted to stay in Massachusetts as you time-traveled, you needed some object in the Massachusetts in both time periods that hadn’t changed terrestrial position or structure.  You couldn’t use air, with its perpetual random motion.  All mobile fluids were influenced by gravity and weather.  Dense solids, on the other hand, changed very little.

He lay back, stunned.  His mind was already paring down the concept.  Solids’ surfaces experienced oxidation and erosion, but their core remained almost untouched.  You’d need a material dense enough so water hadn’t penetrated it, which left metals, gems, and dense stones.

Stones . . .   Hmmm.  Most minerals soaked up water.  Atoms of even the densest material migrated after a long period.  There’d be a limit, beyond which the material would be too mutated to be considered “unchanged.”  Still, if he could lock his time machine around an unchanged solid core, that solid would need to exist in both space-times, but in only one position relative to the Earth’s surface.

He couldn’t guarantee the same temperature, and thus the same atomic spacing, at the time jaunt’s far end.  Temperatures depended on statistical averages, which he could handle with advanced math.  It would be best to pick two times at almost the same temperature.  Considering weather’s erratic nature, that was asking a lot.  To defeat Newton, it would be better to leave and to arrive at an identical time of day and year, to the fraction of a second.  That would deposit him in the right season.  The temperature shouldn’t be off by much.

To build a working time machine would mean long hours, a ton of computer time, boards full of complex math, and access to expensive hardware.  To Ben, among the best research physicists, those were givens.  The university administrators, however, would want him to work on assigned research, not gee-whiz gadgetry.  He’d have to be circumspect.  He’d make time travel a personal, after-hours project.

His grandfather had left the twenty-acre Vermont farm to him, and he’d sold the wooded half.  Ben wouldn’t be cutting any more wood with his white-collar hands.  He didn’t recognize the real reason he wanted to return to the farm or to travel into the past, but he found excuses to be at the farm three days each week.  His social life had never been a priority, and now it disappeared.  His past research had made the university, and himself, a pile of money.  He soon had his own Vermont mini-lab, a back-up generator that could have powered a village, and more computer power than a small nation.

The ultimate math reminded him of E = mc2.  It took three walls of white-board to reach that point, but it boiled down to a single, not-particularly-complicated equation.  It resembled the interaction of two compatible magnetic fields.  One was for the time anchor.  One was for the time traveler.  As the traveler’s field moved in time and space, the anchor did neither.  It continued to trudge along at the same pace as other terrestrial objects, spinning away at the bottom of Earth’s gravity well.  Though the entire Earth system was moving in space, gravity prevented the anchor from moving relative to the Earth.  That gravity well was the time machine’s key to existence.  Ben’s gravity research would have won him more awards and made more money, if he’d ever published it.

A jaunt would end with the traveler in the same relative position to his anchor, which would be held in place by Earth’s gravity well.  That anchor would snag him and stop his time velocity like the tail hook on a carrier jet.  He’d arrive in a new time, anchored to the Earth’s surface as thoroughly as if he lived in Ptolemy’s universe.  His time anchor would just sit there, relatively speaking.

Ben didn’t think about time travelers generally.  He only thought himself, Dr. Benjamin Jorgan, Time Traveler Extraordinaire.  Single-mindedness was a ticking time bomb, whether or not a man traveled the time-stream.  His leaking “home” file pushed him to return to past love and security, even as his conscious mind wrestled with the mathematics and engineering of a time machine.

The device required two linked copper-wire cages, like an oversized barbell, one around the traveler, one around the time anchor.  Internal power came from six series-linked auto batteries.  His laptop would monitor the voltages.  To an electrician, it would have been an idiotic setup, which was probably why no one had launched themselves through time by accident.

The cages and their internal supports cost a pretty penny, with copper prices at an all-time high.  He wrote the computer program himself.  Who else would he trust to be enough of a time travel believer?

Then, he paused.

All he had was a notebook and computer files full of math.  He hadn’t even chosen an anchor.  He was almost in the same boat as String Theory aficionados.  The difference lay in that he could test his theoretical math with a physical device.  String Theory covered an acre of math, with no functional proof.

The pause solidified into a full stop because he’d prepared to launch his own body through time.  He had faith in his work, but there was faith, and then there was FAITH.  He wasn’t sure that he was ready to be an all-caps TIME TRAVELER.

His reasonable, conscious mind put the brakes on his runaway subconscious.  Perhaps some tests were called for, tests that didn’t involve his own person.  There was no hurry.  Fritz Lieber’s fictional device had involved a Napoleonic cannon, never moved from its mold.  To find what he needed, he’d have to relocate.  Somewhere, he’d be able to find his own cannon.

On a cool Vermont spring evening, he decided to walk and think, think and walk.  Twenty acres wasn’t a large property, an eighth of a mile on one side, a quarter of a mile on the other.  He’d often toured it on foot.  The open spaces freed his mind from some mathematical log-jam.  It also kept him in better shape than the usual jelly-doughnut researcher.  His conscious mind was unaware of the “home” file that strained daily against its restraints.

The farmhouse was almost modern, since he’d upgraded the electrical system and the plumbing, but modernness sometimes stifled his concentration.  The house was different, not the same house, no matter what the deed said.  Most of the buildings on the property had been untouched for decades.  He weaved his way among them, not in any hurry.

His grandfather had put up the tool shed, but the main barn harked back one generation more.  Both were empty, dusty, and ready to collapse.  He didn’t remember the chores he’d done there, because his mind shied away from those memories.

He stretched his legs into a long, contemplative stride.  He’d been working out regularly, so he wouldn’t fumble as an intrepid, but out of shape, time traveler.  The Vermont spring was as comfortable as Baby Bear’s bed.

The smithy was even older.  He remembered his grandfather’s story about it.  That should have warned him.  Those stories were supposed to be stored so deeply he wouldn’t be bothered by them and the painful emotions they called up.  Somehow, the facts slipped through, ignoring the emotions tied to their source.

Grandpa had loved his historical family stories. In his version, the Green Mountain Boys had won the Revolution by themselves, and generals like Washington were merely supporting characters.  During the Revolution, his great-great-great-grandfather had turned out homemade bayonets for the American army.  General Burgoyne had sent a British raiding party in the farm’s general direction.  Great-great-great hid his tools and scattered just enough junk around to leave the impression it was still a working smithy.  He couldn’t move the anvil, so he’d set a form around it and poured cement halfway up its side.

The frustrated British had knocked down his forge and burned the shed that had shaded the operation, but they weren’t able to do anything to the anvil.  They’d intended to burn the barn and house as well, but great-great-great had put out the half-hearted fires as soon as the British left.  The way Grandpa told it, the coming dust-up at Bennington had hurried them on their way to their destruction.

Ben hadn’t been positive the battle’s schedule and the raid on the farm were linked, but the anvil had been a fixture ever since.  He’d read about the Battle of Bennington in the local library, because Grandpa sometimes exaggerated about the Vermont militia.  The anvil was the Jorgan monument to the founding of the United States.  The succeeding generations left the crumbling cement around its base untouched.

Ben stopped and stared at the anvil in the summer twilight.  It loomed under its rickety awning like a petrified pygmy elephant.  Ben had never used it himself.  Grandpa had used the anvil and forge for repair work until the farm got to be too much for him.  The roof was the seventh in a series of unimportant sheds that protected generations of farmer-smiths from the weather.

But the anvil . . .

As the great philosopher Yogi Berra had once said, it was like déjà-vu all over again.  His time anchor had been right under his nose!  He wouldn’t have to seek other hard solids, in danger to reveal his work prematurely using someone else’s property.  He owned two hundred years of hard steel, anchored in a single location by his ancestor.

He began building the copper cages that same evening.  He called in a metallurgist with instructions to chip away the cement, to grind off the anvil’s pitted surface, and to protect the exposed areas from further contamination.  Ben had his test run in mind.

He’d need to launch his device in the dark of the night, so as not to alarm his great-great’s.  It took a week of analyzing Naval Observatory records to make sure the Earth would be in nearly identical rotational/revolutionary position at the jump’s two ends.  No use to give his tail hook a Newtonian headache.  The anchor had to absorb the momentum difference of the time machine between the two points.  Daylight Savings Time almost tripped him up.  Luckily, the date he had in mind was forward of the calendar corrections of the early 1700’s.

The test run was meant to be relatively simple, as much as time travel was ever going to be simple.  He had the travel cage loaded with every imaginable detector.  The key was a cheap laptop, to give the return command, more a glorified timer than a computer to store secondary data recordings.  An electronic camera and a caged mouse rounded out the setup.  Once again, the Naval Observatory’s web site contributed.

Ben needed a night in the spring of 1910 when Halley’s Comet would be prominent in the night sky.  There was no comet visible in 2024, but if the camera came back with a comet’s image, success would shout itself.  Of course, the mouse still needed to be alive, too.

After weeks of sweating over equations and building complex cages, Ben’s success was almost an anticlimax.  The computer and camera recorded Halley’s Comet’s 1910 visit, and none of the sensors picked up any human activity in sleepy, electricity-free,  1910 Vermont.  The mouse was still frisky, with no detectable aftereffects.  A radio receiver had picked up the Concord FM station until the departure, lost all signal while in transit, and picked up the same station after returning to the present.  The time-travel apparatus was a roaring success.

Ben, a child of the electronic age, should have paid more attention to the anvil.  Had he touched it, instead of snatching up the laptop and racing away to view the data, he’d have found it hot.  Of course, it was cool again by the time he returned to the device cages.  He scratched his head over a few temperature anomalies, but everything else had gone so well!  He’d forgotten Grandpa’s brief mention of a cloudless thunderstorm that had knocked down the Jorgan blacksmithing shed in 1910.

He was going to travel in time!

Chapter 3

Aground in 1777

The shed was a total loss, and every wooden-handled tool no longer had a handle.  The anvil was worse.  Though still a massive steel object, it was warped to the point of laughability.  The stranger’s money could purchase another anvil well enough, but with the war on, to obtain it would be difficult and time-consuming.  The materials under the blackened copper were either burned or melted.  It was doubtful they’d have remaining value for the stranger, and the farmer was certain they had none for him.  The soft-handed stranger would pay plenty before all was said and done.

Elijah Jorgan, the area’s premier blacksmith, could do little until the stranger regained consciousness.  He lay on a feather bed, wounded but bandaged, to keep blood off the bedding. Taking advantage of the stranger’s unconscious state, Elijah had dug out the lead shot with a kitchen knife and tongs from the tool shed.  One pellet had creased the man’s temple, but the wound hadn’t seemed deep enough to knock out a grown man.  Perhaps the inevitable fever was keeping him comatose.  One of the girls sponged his hot forehead.

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