View Full Version : The Permutator (beginning 626 words)

December 21st, 2013, 05:19 PM
He read the words again. I haven't the time. An image of one of Everiste Galois' last letters was on Verne's tablet, full of algebraic theorems, many without proofs because Galois was correct about not having the time.

Verne LeBlanc had the sudden realization that Galois was wrong.

Everiste Galois was a genius whom many hailed as the father of modern algebra. He was also a political radical who died before he reached adulthood in a duel that some claim was orchestrated by the French government. If Verne was right, Galois was further ahead of the curve than anyone had thought.

The clues were there, but in the political writings, rather than the mathematical. LeBlanc was doing his thesis on mathematical genius in French history -- Galois, Fermat, and such -- and so he had developed a fluency in pre-millennial French to be able to read the writings of his subjects in their original language.

In Camembert's biography The Boy who Fathered Algebra, Verne had read about some of the peculiar artifacts found in Galois' study. A circular alloyed plate on the floor measuring exactly one meter in diameter with a corresponding parabolic mirror in the ceiling directly above it. That was not decoration or an oddity, Verne was certain. It was, rather, the framework of the first time machine.

But how would he have been able to control it? Verne pulled up the book on his tablet and searched the index. He knew it would be some sort of calendar device so started with the C's. Jackpot! There were two references to a mechanical calendar, one spanned four pages. He touched it with his finger and began reading.

About a third of the way through, he knew he was onto something. Camembert referred to the mechanical calendar as an "alarm calendar" because it had a dual display for both date and time, one which progressed at the rate of one second per second and another which was static and which sounded a chime when the two displays were in agreement. Verne was certain if you put that box into the field created by the plate and mirror and supplied a source of power, that Galois would have a working time machine. Camembert did not mention the presence or absence of a lightning rod on the Galois residence, but Verne was certain that is where the power would have come from.

So why didn't Galois realize what he had? The answer was in his last letters. He thought of his machine as a "permutator" and considered it a way to explore permutations of the future. However, the genius also knew that to return to the present would require his machine to be functioning to "receive" him. In some of his political writing, Galois spoke of time spans and how the permutations often took years to affect results. Thus he would first try to "return to today" at some point in the future.

But the duel had happened before he was able to perform that experiment with his apparatus.

The thought occurred to Verne that if he could find evidence of the machine being operational, it would be possible for someone to go back to 1832 France and possibly change the outcome.

Galois was right about traveling back in time. Thus far, scientists had been limited to traveling back to the 21st century as that had been the earliest recorded use of a time machine. But Verne was certain that if he carefully read all of Galois' writing, especially the political diatribes, that he would be able to determine when Galois had planned to catch himself coming backward in time. And maybe Verne could be caught in Galois' Permutator instead, thus opening a new frontier for science.

December 21st, 2013, 08:52 PM
For your first paragraph, I would stick with "Galoise" instead of the full "Everiste Galois" (his full name can remain right where it is--- in the third paragraph for the first time. And instead of "Verne's tablet", I would write "his tablet, saving his name for the second paragraph. Things become a little easier to retain as a reader when they are more spread out.

I might also start the second paragraph with "But" if I am understanding things correctly.

Now that I realize you're talking about a real person (dozed off in math class, sorry) why get into his history at all? Just say he was a genius and if we need anything more, we'll wiki it... like I did. You can jump right into paragraph four, right into how his clues show not in his mathematical theorems, but in his more controversial political works.

Again, I don't see how your narrative should be encumbered with citation. Instead of "the boy who fathered algebra"--- which, really, how many of your readers are going to look to--- I would say that Verne had simply read about an alloyed plate. Get the story rolling a bit.

On reading your closing paragraphs, perhaps I should have been reading this more as an outline than a narrative. My thoughts on this as a story are mainly the same toward any that wish to tread the waters of time travel: don't do it. But if you must, I'm sure you realize what you're setting yourself up for. It seems to me that you have to set up a fairly grand concept before you even begin the story. Since people are already time-traveling, you have to map out the implications of that, and how society functions, which could actually be very interesting if done right... like the whole "last hundreds of years" are living together in a single time. Very interesting concept. But again, you have to map out your world before you take the first steps. A rather... unenviable position, in my opinion; but every journey has its rewards; and I wish you all the rewards that you can reap from what seems to be a rather heavy undertaking.

December 22nd, 2013, 04:14 AM
Okay, the why of it. This is the first chunk, it's all exposition and I'm trying to make it as interesting as possible. I invented Camembert and his book. They're there so I can describe Galois' time machine in sketchy terms instead of technical ones -- LeBlanc is having an "aha!" moment and realizing that he is in a unique position because he is, at this point in the timeline, the only one who knows about the Permutator.

As for the whole time machine mess -- I Have A Plan that is the basis of the story that this setting will hold. I'm currently trying to figure out how best to tell it. LeBlanc does go back -- but Galois cannot escape the duel. And LeBlanc gets stuck in 1830's France until he dies in an asylum.

If there is one trip, one way, then killing Galois and LeBlanc ties up the ends so long as LeBlanc is quickly branded insane and dangerous. He's an acquaintance/accomplice of Galois in the eyes of the authorities, so it's all plausible.

What I have to do is get LeBlanc into a time machine in his (unspecified future) time and without it being Official. That's where I'm stuck now. I know the facts, but haven't found the thread of the narrative.