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The Unfortunate Permanence of Rule 16

Let’s just say that there are different approaches to this work, and leave it at that. I wouldn’t want to have to admit that my predecessor’s approach is one that makes me want to take Rule 16, bend it so far out of shape that its mother wouldn’t recognize it, and hang it round his wretched neck for a wreath. Rule 16 is resistant to such treatment; instead I sat in the dry silence of my capsule, struggling to keep my attention on the tree.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice tree. Straight. Shapely. Majestic, even. But redwood aren’t really interesting even at fifty years per personal reference second, and at the drift that I had to endure to stand any chance of spotting the Incident they are seriously dull.

Somewhere around 1995 I awarded myself a break, and as sound flowed back into my capsule I heard an Iowan tourist being gently disabused of his cherished conviction that he had once been shown a photograph of a car being driven through a very similar tree. The very thought of such a thing! How I would have laughed, if I hadn’t had that photograph pinned to my control panel, and if I hadn’t had a predecessor who believed the best way to disguise an Incident was to make it so blatant only a crank could believe in it. A crank or a child. I wish he’d thought, just once, that anything believed by the child is never truly disbelieved by the man, however sceptical he becomes. I’d introduce him to the concept, but there is one thing more permanent than a child’s belief, and that thing is Rule 16.

After a while I started my forward drift again, pushing on until a fissure opened in the solid trunk and a car shot through, long gone before I could throw the switches. I sat in neutral for a moment, rubbing my eyes, then drifted backwards, admiring, in reverse, the slick performance of the mop up crew. Even Rule 16 can’t prevent that, and it’s nice to start a job knowing that it’s going to go well. Then a zip back to 2018 to radio the ground crew with their coordinates (and I’m sorry to report that even at -10 ypprs a redwood becomes no more interesting) and forward again to a month before the Incident, giving myself plenty of time to arrange a temporary closure of the park.

I couldn’t stop that original photograph being taken of the return journey, but I could at least ensure that there were no civilian witnesses to the arrival of our poor bewildered visitor in 2043.

This was inspired by the Flash! Friday challenge, but is far, far too long. Follow the link to see the photo prompt and find out what my more succinct fellows made of it. Also: brownie points for anyone who can identify the tourist.


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