Before you stands the 23rd Archive of the Great Bridge. There are no books in this library, only a stylized metal chair with coiled wires and steam pipes running into it. A copper, colander-like, headpiece dangles from the ceiling of the small round iron room that you stand in.

“It’s safe, I’ve used it a million times myself,” said Kaz with his gravely baritone voice.

He moves to the rusted metal walls and begins to twist pipes and scan the gauges of what is purely a steam-driven machine. Below you, through a stylized grated metal floor, gears and cogs begin to turn as the steam gives life to the iron giant. The floor shakes and dust falls from the roof.

Next to the chair is a large, meter tall, lever; something that looks like it would take some muscle to move.

“Have a seat, and I’ll get the right tube,” Kaz says and pulls open a cabinet door. Inset in the metal wall are hundreds of vacuum tubes stored neatly like glassware in a cupboard. The weird glass bulbs with strange techno-bits inside are small and able to fit into a closed hand.

“So, this one is a save I made, oh about seventy years ago. Pope had called it quits when the last cleric died. I don’t blame him, 200 years of fighting Djinn and he still hadn’t won. Anyway, this baby here was my first few days exploring the Bridge. Pope said if I was ever going to bond with this beast, I’d need to see her for what she really was. I didn’t know what the hell that meant but I decided to wander the structure.  She’s huge, hundreds of miles of metal, but you’ll see.”

Kaz held a specific tube that had a red sticker on it.  He walked it over to the chair and plugged it into a socket on the armrest.

“Have a seat,” he said as he waved his arm to the metal chair.

“Will it hurt?” you ask.

“This is your first lesson about quantum states, predestination, and the paradoxes of time travel.  If it doesn’t hurt your body, it surely will hurt your brain, now sit.”

You cautiously sit down half expecting him to put shackles on you, but he just walks in front of you and leans in.

“This is going to seem completely real. You won’t feel yourself in the chair, you’ll feel like you are somewhere else. Now, this is a recording, it already happened, but you will feel like you have choices. When you’re done, and you tell me what you did, I will tell you that’s exactly how it happened. “

“So, I have the illusion of free will?” you ask.

“If only it were that easy. If you play it again tomorrow and make different choices, I will tell you that’s how it happened.”

“Wouldn’t you be lying?” you ask.

Kaz smiles and places the helmet on you, moves to the lever then takes a deep breath and pulls. Everything goes bright white and your very existence is paused. For a moment you are nothing more than the observation of yourself and then…

 

 


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