Chapter 22 -- Pinholes in Time
"We have theorized," said Doubleday, "that Rand has somehow given his friends a set of pictures which they knew could not exist. Those pictures of themselves would not create a large paradox, so we believe there must be more working behind this. As you know, the leading researchers of the twentieth century already believed that reality was truly consensual, that what we think is real is only real because so many of us think it." Doubleday paused to see if he had left anyone behind yet; seeing no blank stares, he continued.
"We believe that Rand and his associates were aware of these theories and even believed in them to a large degree. These two factors, the paradox of the pictures, and the acceptance of the true nature of reality, allowed them to increase the effect of the paradox geometrically. Where these pictures should have generated perhaps a .2 or .3 index, they instead skyrocketed to a .93"
"Wait a minute," interrupted Downes. "Youíre saying that because they thought this would create a huge event it did? That doesnít make any sense. That implies that if we didnít believe in paradox at all, it wouldnít exist."
"Quite right," replied the doctor. "Paradox is part of the consensual nature of reality. Because we, meaning the majority of us, still believe that changing the past can alter the future, it can. If enough people didnít believe it, then it wouldnít. Since Randís friends back in 1998 felt that what had happened would have drastic effects, it did."
"But how did they manage that," asked McGrath. "I mean, they must have been only vaguely aware of the whole theory of consensual reality then."
"Perhaps," said Doubleday, "but I donít think so." He turned to face Downes. "Sir, I hope you donít mind, but I took the liberty of having Randís house searched while you were gone. I hoped there might be some clue to his motives there, along with some clues as to how he acquired the technology he needed to make this possible."
"Not at all," said Downes, suddenly angry with himself for not having though of it earlier.
"Well sir, what we found is that this Winter Camp was a lot more than the typical Scout encampment we might think of. First off, the attendees were much older and much more dedicated to attending camp than average. Rand had disks and disks of information, dating back to the very first one in 1977. Theyíve held forty-nine of them so far, and another is planned for the end of this month. Many of those who attended the first one arranged their lives and schedules to accommodate their dream of attending fifty."
"Are any of these guys alive besides Rand?"
"We havenít checked sir, but it seems likely."
"Good. Doc, can you give Girard a list of those people, the ones whoíve attended say 30 or more of these things. We can question them and maybe use them to help us figure out what Rand might say or do next."
"Certainly." He handed the list to Girard. "Now then, it is theoretically possible that a group of highly motivated and intelligent people could manipulate reality during a paradox event simply by concentrating on it. We believe thatís what has happened in 1998. The Winter Campers have, either consciously or unconsciously, been both amplifying the Paradox effect and perhaps even shaping the metaphor."
"The metaphor? Youíre going to have to explain that one for me Doc."
"Basically, the metaphor is what controls the destiny of the universe. The laws of physics are all a metaphor for what we believe to be true." He paused and saw that Downes wasnít clear yet.
"Our reality is shaped by what the majority believe. When the paradox occurred, it put a pinhole in that reality. If you think of reality as a large sheet of fabric, this might make more sense. Normally, itís very difficult to tear a whole piece of quality fabric. But, if you put a small hole in it, you create a stress point, an area of weakness."
"Okay, so thatís what Rand and his friends are doing, right? Theyíre testing the fabric?"
"Well, based on our readings sir, Iíd have to conclude that the fabric has failed their test. They, willingly or not, are using that pinhole as a starting point for a wider and wider hole. Soon, theyíll tear the fabric in half and a new one will be woven. They are, in a very real sense, dictating our reality."
"Okay, I think I get that, so how do we stop them?"
"Weíre not sure, but we believe that Rand, the Rand we have now, is the key to the whole thing. If he can be there this time to intercept those pictures, there will be doubts. If we were to replace them with our own set of pictures, pictures that were clearly forged, we could probably stop the whole thing. Itís going to be difficult to do otherwise because of the timing. The 2026 Rand arrives so late that it will be impossible for us to stop him in advance. Once he does arrive, the 1998 Rand will be on hand to offer a warning and experience the Paradox of us snatching the future Rand. Normally, that wouldnít be so bad -- a lone observer seeing something unexplained, but there will be too many people there for him to remain alone. Besides, with the pinhole already there, itís possible that we wouldnít close it completely if the 1998 Rand even saw him. At that particular juncture of the space-time continuum, things are so unstable now that even a slight paradox could ripple dramatically." p>
"So what youíre saying is that we canít win", asked Downes. "I canít accept that; there must be some way we can play this out and have no paradox or at least something manageable."
"There may be," said Doubleday, "but if there is, we havenít found it yet."
"Keep searching," said Downes as he headed to the door. "Iíll be in my office trying to locate some more of those Winter Camp survivors."
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