Ela’s bar tour #1 – The cybernetic ghost of Christmas past from the future

(When I first started “worldbuilding Wednesday” a term I totally invented, it was pretty easy. Lately I’ve been struggling with it. But I remain steadfast in my devotion to provide 80% less content than my last story. So here’s what I’m going to try now. On Wednesdays I’ll write something that is canon – I know you’re all tracking the Ela canon very closely – but it doesn’t matter when it happened because it’s just chit-chat and pit-pat. Mostly it’s just a way to wedge in characters that have nothing to do with the plot. “But Jeremy there is no plot as far as I can tell”. Good one, you burned me.)

As you might expect there’s a lot of bars in Madripoor.  Unfortunately most of the bars where they speak English or French are in Touristville and I stay away that area because the Shadow Lords have that place covered.  The good news is that you don’t really need to speak the language to get a drink at a bar.  The bad news is most of these other bars are under the umbrella of some other criminal jerkoffs.  That’s just the kind of place Madripoor is.  As long as I keep to myself and get in and out without lingering, usually things are okay.

Today I’m at a place called Theusiga, does that mean something in Bahasa or Malay or Javanese?  Is it just a guy’s name?  Hell if I know.  In the street outside of the place there’s a smashed car that also looks halfway melted.  Based on the bits that are left, I think it was an old Chevy Bel Air.  It made me think of when I bought a Chevy Nomad from Malibu Al when I was seventeen.  That dude had four kids and he was still always on the prowl, you know?  It’s a strange feeling when remembering a creepy assgrabber with a shitty beard makes you miss home.  

The bar had a bunch of weird glasses that looked like little bent vases but I wouldn’t be dealing with any of those.  I would be drinking cheap mainland beer that comes in a “can” that feels like it’s made out of wallpaper.  One thing I have learned to say is “berikan aku minuman termurahmu” – give me your cheapest booze.   I think that’s what it means anyway.  It works, whatever it is.

There wasn’t much of a crowd there, possibly because it was ten AM and possible because one of the other patrons had a huge shiny metal rifle across his back – it looked like it was made of chrome but I don’t think you make guns out of chrome.  It also looked like some kind of laser-beam firing thing rather than a normal gun.  The man wearing the gun backpack had on like a red half-poncho that looked like it would do just a terrible job of protecting you from the rain.  I suppose it was more of a style choice.  

The man himself was built like a linebacker, and I mean a linebacker for a good team like the Bucks, not some loser like a linebacker for the Bears.  His drinking arm (ah, that’s why he had a half-poncho!) was bare and was home to both shitty tattoos that were just lines and some pretty gnarly scars.  Looks like he stuck his arm in a grain auger like Arty McGill did back home in 9th grade.  He had one of those real grumpy faces like a long-haired cat that just got doused with rain.  He looked like a foreigner though so I figured we might share a common tongue.  

I gestured with my crummy beer “Nice gun.”

He glanced over at me “Thanks.”

I turned in my stool to lean against the bar “Where does someone get a fancy gun like that?”

“This is the twenty-nine model made by the Russo-American Mercantile Company, in sixty years they’re going to be available pretty much anywhere you can buy guns.  But they aren’t cheap and most of the places that sell don’t accept credits.”

“Huh.  So are you crazy or are you a future guy?”

He stopped to look at his mug for a second before drinking “One for sure.  Both probably.”

“So how are the Tropics doing in whatever year you come from?”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“The Flint Tropics?  The best basketball team in the world?  Do you not have basketball in the future?  Is it all just Rollerball and Death Races and teenagers hacking each other to bits with axes on TV?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know – sports, competition, entertainment?  Or is this what people in the future do for entertainment?  Travel back in time and drink in bars?  Is this some form of sex tourism?  In the future, does everyone have VD so you all come back here to get laid?”

“No, I came back to kill a guy.”

“Whoa, so it’s like a most dangerous game thing?  Hunting humans for sport?  That’s pretty grim, my man.  Although in your time, the guy you killed was already dead right?  So what does that mean exactly?  Time travel brings up some tricky ethical issues.  If you kill someone who’s already dead, is that wrong?  I should have paid more attention in my philosophy class at Oberlin.  But in my defense, I was pretty high most of the time.”

“I didn’t do it for fun, I did it to prevent the future I came from coming to pass.”

I nodded as I signaled for another beer “Okay, I feel you there, that makes more sense with your whole vibe – grim soldier from the future coming back to prevent some kind of worldwide catastrophe.  How’s it coming along?”

“I did it.  I killed him.  And a couple other people just to make sure.” He seemed a little surprised “It wasn’t very hard.”

I slapped him on the back “Congratulations!  I knew you could do it, future man.  Good on ya!  So what are you still hanging around here for?  You gonna bet on some horse races before you head back?  Or just put some cash in the bank?  Sixty years of interest has to really add up.”

He shrugged slightly “Where else am I going to go?”

“Back to your time.”

“My time doesn’t exist anymore, that’s the whole point.”

“You know what I mean though, go back to whatever year you came from and enjoy the fruits of your murderous labors.”

“I fundamentally changed the history of the world, if I went back nothing would even be recognizable to me, no one I knew would even exist.  But it doesn’t matter because I can’t go back anyway.  As soon as I killed my target, I lost my signal to the future.  Most likely because in the new timeline that was created, time travel was never invented.  I’m stuck here.”

“Whoa, that’s a major bucket of bummer balls.  But if time travel was never invented, why are you here?  That’s like a paradox right?”

“No, I came here before time travel wasn’t invented.  You can’t undo things that already happened.”

“But that is literally what you did.”

“I mean relative to the time traveler.  If you travel back in time and kill your parents, you don’t cease to exist because you were already born in the now defunct timeline that you came from.  That change affects other people but not you because the things that already happened to you already happened.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

He shrugged “I’m not a scientist, I’m just a guy who shoots people.”

“So by coming back in time you made it so where you come from doesn’t exist, I assume because it sucked.  How is that any different from setting off all the nukes and killing everyone?  Non-existence is non-existence right?  Like if your car is broken, smashing it in a trash compactor doesn’t fix it, only fixing it fixes it.  You know?”

He sighed “I didn’t really think it all through honestly.  Things were bad and someone came to me and said that I could go back in time and fix it all.  I’m not sure anyone really expected it to work.  Or that they really knew what would happen if it did.  I definitely didn’t think about what I would be doing afterwards.  I’m not sure I really accomplished anything other than marooning myself in a stupid period of time without any technology.”

“We have technology.”

He gave me a look “Yeah?  You think so?  Can you imagine yourself living happily in 1910?”

“I suppose not.  Just because we don’t have flying cars and jetpacks doesn’t mean you can’t be happy here right?  This is the golden age of music.  Plus we have drugs and women, good looking ones.  Or men if that’s your thing.  Sell your futuregun to some high-tech company for millions and live the sweet life here in the greatest decade of all time.   Being a rich guy in nineteen seventy-three has to be better than whatever future you lived in that you came back in time to stop from happening, right?” His only response was a non-committal grunt “Hey, you know what would be fun?  Let’s go back in time a little more and stop Duke Eaglevane from blowing me up.”

He cast one eye at me for a moment “You look pretty good for someone that got blown up.”

“You’re damn right I do, but I have health issues as a result of my blowed upness, you help me out with that and I’ll show you how to live high on the hog in the seventies.”

“But then there would be two of you, what’s your plan for dealing with that?  Plus you would still have those health issues because you did get blown up, just the original version of you wouldn’t because she didn’t.”

“What?  I’m the original me!”

He smiled slightly “I can see you would handle it well.  But it doesn’t matter because I can’t go back either.  My device is just like a clip on a rope, the machine in my time was the rope, which is now gone, I can’t go anywhere.”

I raised my glass “Huh.  Well here’s to you future man, I guess you did . . . something?”