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“Any way to break out of it?” frowns Rasmussen.

“It’d take more energy than has ever existed in this universe,” shrugs a Whitecoat. “Nothing new for us, but in this pocket it’s unpredictable. Could go möbius, maybe turn us all into c-squared…”

Rasmussen shakes his head. “Not worth it. Okay, run some edge-case sims and keep trying to drop substream messages to Mario–he’ll know where to look.”

“The sims will take a few hours.”

“Hours we’ve got,” says Rasmussen drily.

The Whitecoat smiles. “Well, we are in a timeloop.”

“Any way to break out of it?” frowns Rasmussen.


“It just dropped in?” says Rasmussen blankly.

“Figure of speech, sir,” says a Whitecoat. “But it does seem to have, ah, plonked right into the Kuiper gap.”

“Two satellites, you said.” Rasmussen scrabbles through spectroscopy printouts. “Composed of–you’re joking.”

“No sir. Ninety-eight percent lead, sir.”

“But the damn thing’s a gas giant!” Rasmussen says. “Unless its core is all heavy metals–”

“Looks like the core’s iron,” says the Whitecoat. “And it’s shaped like–well, you should probably see it yourself, sir.”

He passes over the Röntgen print. Rasmussen squints, turns it sideways, stops.

“Is that a hook?” he asks.


“Never understood how these work without energy,” says Mario quietly, one hand on the Time Tube.

“It puts you in quantastasis,” says Rasmussen.

Mario nods.

“And then we, ah, wait.”

“Until what?”

“Until it opens, for a forward jump. Backwards–until we train replacements, retire and die, Earth falls into the Sun, the universe goes into blueshift and collapses, explodes again–and this is the tricky quantum bit, so you and the Tube spontaneously reassemble the same way–Earth boils out, life appears, civilization. The Tube opens. You step out.”

Mario stares.

“We have better methods now,” says Rasmussen, slightly embarrassed.