Harry Harrison: The Technicolor Time Machine

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Harry Harrison The Technicolor Time Machine
  • Название:
    The Technicolor Time Machine
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Condé Nast Publications, Inc.
  • Жанр:
    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
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The Technicolor Time Machine: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Why pay for costumes, scenery, props or actors when the most brilliant drama of all time is unfolding before your very eyes, in vivid color—in 1050 A.D.? Just the film crew of that stupendous motion picture saga as they journey back in time to capture history in the making. First published as .

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Harry Harrison

The Technicolor Time Machine


“What am I doing here? How did I let myself be talked into this?” L.M. Greenspan groaned as dinner scraped at his ulcer.

“You are here, L.M., because you are a far-sighted, quick-thinking executive. Or to put it another way, you have to grasp at any straw handy, because if you don’t do something fast Climactic Studios will sink without a trace.” Barney Hendrickson puffed spasmodically at the cigarette he clutched between yellowed fingers and stared unseeingly at the canyon landscape that rushed soundlessly past the window of the Rolls-Royce. “Or to put it even another way, you are investing one hour of your time in the examination of a project that may mean Climactic’s salvation.”

L.M. gave all of his attention to the delicate project of lighting a smuggled Havana cigar: clipping the end with his gold pocket clipper, licking the truncated tip, waving the wooden match about until all the chemicals had burned away, then gently puffing the slender greenish form to life. The car slid over to the curb with the ponderous ease of a hydraulic ram and the chauffeur rushed around to open the door. L.M. stared out suspiciously without moving.

“A dump. What could there be in a dump like that that could possibly save the studio?”

Barney pushed unsuccessfully at the unmoving and solid form. “Don’t prejudge, L.M. After all, who could have predicted that a poor kid from the East Side slums would one day be head of the largest film company in the world?”

“Are you getting personal?”

“Let’s not get sidetracked,” Barney insisted. “Let’s first go inside and see what Hewett has to offer and make our preconceptions afterwards.”

Reluctantly, L.M. allowed himself to be urged up the cracked flagstone walk to the front door of the run-down stucco house and Barney held him firmly by the arm while he rang the bell. He had to ring twice more before the door rattled open and a small man with a large bald head and thick-rimmed glasses peered out at them.

“Professor Hewett,” Barney said, pushing L.M. forward, “This is the man I talked to you about, none other than the head of Climactic Studios himself, Mr. L.M. Greenspan.”

“Yes, of course, come in…” The professor blinked fishily behind his round glasses and stood aside so they could enter.

Once the door was closed behind his back L.M. sighed and surrendered, allowing himself to be led down a flight of squeaking stairs into the basement. He halted abruptly when he caught sight of the banks of electrical equipment, the festooned wires and humming apparatus.

“What is this? It looks like an old set for Frankenstein.”

“Let the professor explain.” Barney urged him forward.

“This is my life work,” Hewett said, waving his hand roughly in the direction of the toilet.

“What kind of life work is that?

“He means the machines and apparatus, he’s just not pointing very well.”

Professor Hewett did not hear them. He was busy making adjustments at a control board. A thin whining rose in pitch and sparks began to fall from a hulking mass of machinery.

“There!” he said, pointing dramatically—and with considerably more accuracy this time—at a metal platform set on thick insulators, “That is the heart of the vremeatron, where the displacement takes place. I will not attempt to explain the mathematics to you, you could not possibly understand them, or go into the complex details of the machine’s construction. I feel that a demonstration of the vremeatron in operation will be wisest at this point.” He bent and groped under a table and brought out a dusty beer bottle that he put on the metal platform.

“What is a vremeatron?” L.M. asked suspiciously.

“This is. I shall now demonstrate. I have placed a simple object in the field which I shall now activate. Watch closely.”

Hewett threw a switch and electricity arced from the transformer in the comer, the mechanical howl turned to a scream while banks of tubes flashed brilliantly and the air filled with the smell of ozone.

The beer bottle flickered briefly and the roar of the apparatus died away.

“Did you see the displacement? Dramatic wasn’t it?” The professor glowed with self-appreciation and pulled a length of paper marked with squiggles of ink out of a recording machine. “Here it is, on the record. That bottle traveled back seven microseconds in time then returned to the present. In spite of what my enemies say the machine is a success. My vremeatron—from vreme, the Serbo-Croatian for ‘time,’ in honor of my maternal grandmother, who was from Mali Lošinj—is a workable time machine.”

L.M. sighed and turned to the stairs. “A nut,” he said.

“Hear him out, L.M., the professor has some ideas. It is only because he has been turned down by all the foundations in his requests for funds that he will even consider working with us. All he needs is some finance to jazz his machine up.”

“There’s one born every minute. Let’s go.”

“Just listen to him,” Barney pleaded. “Let him show you the one where he sends the beer bottle into the future. This is too impressive to ignore.”

“There is a temporal barrier in any motion towards the future, I must explain that carefully. Displacement toward the future requires infinitely more energy than displacement into the past. However, the effect still operates—if you will watch the bottle closely.”

Once again the miracle of electronic technology clashed with the forces of time and the air crackled with the discharge. The beer bottle flickered, ever so slightly.

“So long.” L.M. started up the stairs. “And P.S., Barney, you’re fired.”

“You can’t leave yet—you haven’t given Hewett a chance to prove his point, or even to let me explain.” Barney was angry, angry at himself, at the dying company that employed him, at the blindness of man, at the futility of man, at the fact he was overdrawn in the bank. He raced up behind L.M. and whipped the smoking Havana from his chops. “We’ll have a real demonstration, something you can appreciate!”

“They cost two bucks apiece! Give it back—”

“You’ll have it back, but watch this first.” He hurled the beer bottle to the floor and put the cigar on the platform. “Which one of these gadgets is the power control?” he asked Hewett.

“This rheostat controls the input, but why? You cannot raise the temporal displacement level without burning out the equipment—stop!”

“You can buy new equipment, but if you don’t convince L.M., you’re on the rocks and you know it. Shoot for the moon!”

Barney held the protesting professor off with one hand while he spun the power to full on and slammed the operation switch shut. This time the results were far more spectacular. The scream rose to a banshee wail that hurt their ears, the tubes glowed with all the fires of hell, brighter and brighter, while static charges played over the metal frames; their hair stood straight up from their heads and gave off sparks.

“I’m electrocuted!” L.M. shouted as, with a last burst of energy, all the tubes glared and exploded and the lights went out.

“There—look there!” Barney shouted as he thumbed his Ronson to life and held the flame out. The metal platform was empty.

“You owe me two bucks.”

“Look, gone! Two seconds at least, three… four… five… six…”

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