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Anderson, Poul and Gordon Dickson – “Trespass!” (1950)

07/10/2012

More time travel, and more courtroom hijinks. The CEOs of two corporations, Pan-American Securities, Inc. and Timeproofing, Inc., are meeting to celebrate their work on “the finest vaults in the world, proof now against time itself,” when they are called to the largest vault because turning on the time-travel-proof field had trapped a time traveller who happened to have brought an Aztec temple along with him – despite Timeproofing, Inc.’s insistence that such a thing is no longer possible. Oops.

This pretty much sums up the rest:

The intruder (Pedro O’Brian Rubinsky, 783-A-42973): “Oh – Anglic. You have not the Semantikon – in’national auxispeech yet, no? Then what barbaric year it be now?”
Assembled gawkers: “2012.”
Rubinsky: “Oh, no! Not the Dark Ages!”

Rubinsky, a historian or anthropologist of sorts from 2974, is repulsed by “these dreary centuries,” with their practices of “flesh touching” (after a proffered handshake), revolting smells, sub-Aztec manners, and lack of psychoconditioning to repress criminality (the field being an invention to ward off time-traveling vault robbers). The problem is that the field must be turned off permanently to allow Rubinsky to reach 2974 again, and we are treated to another farcical courtroom scene (strongly echoing “Ex Machina” from the 1949 collection), which Rubinsky loses due to his insubordinate attitude – particularly his revulsion at the idea of using a human, rather than a robot, as an impartial judge. It’s worth noting here that this story takes place in a post-nationalist “Pan-American Federation,” specifically in Mexico City, and the local authorities are presented as being competent and fair-minded (for humans, at any rate). Denied legal recourse, Rubinsky and the closest thing to a friend that he has (an engineer involved in the implementation of the field, and the narrator of the story) take matters into their own hands and simply use Rubinsky’s apparatus to move the whole building (field generators and all) into the future and then back to 2012, sans Rubinsky and the Aztec temple. The story closes with the CEO of Pan-American Securities, Inc., who owns the building in question, being beset by employees who realize they can claim 900 years worth of salary, investors who demand 900 years worth of interest, etc.

If only time-traveling capitalism had been the starting point for the story instead of a rather throw-away joke at the end.

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2 Comments
  1. barryschachter permalink

    This story appeared in The Best Science Fiction Stories 1951.

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