She would see all of today, but she wouldn't know why.
It was a sunny spring morning in London in early May 2052, and the young woman stepped off the train and made her way towards the teeming Waterloo concourse. She hated this time of the morning, when thousands of fellow passengers navigated their way through to the exits and off to start another day at the office. She herself was heading for a job interview as a researcher at the computer labs at Kings College London. Whether she would get the job, she had no real idea. This was her second interview and she was under no illusion that she could be up against a good many candidates that may be more qualified for the position than she.
She needed a coffee. Perhaps a cappuccino would help her sharpen some blunt edges, make her perform better. She felt into her bag for the free coffee voucher she'd put in there that morning. Luckily she had spotted it on the bedroom floor the night before. The voucher expired today.
Geek clutched his head and looked across the kitchen at Davey, who was spooning sugar into his mug of tea. 'Who's that?'
Davey turned, startled. 'Who's who?'
Don't worry about that for now. I want you to do as I say.
Geek saw that it wasn't Davey who spoke at all. 'Sorry, I thought I heard a voice.'
You did hear a voice, but I don't want your friend to think you've gone insane, so for now I just want you to listen.
'Davey there's a voice in my head. I think I might have gone insane.'
'Hah, I knew it. But is there method to your madness?'
'Just let me talk to the voice for a sec, okay. I promise I've not gone mad. I think.'
Davey held his hands up. 'Whatever you say.'
There was something about being a member of the Axiom Few, this small band of freelance techno-graduates, that meant that you could command a level of unquestionable understanding from the other guys in the team. Corporations so wrapped up in their own bureaucracy would approach the Few to develop ideas without having to navigate their own red tape and hierarchical sign-offs. A rogue bunch like the Axiom Few could get to work on an idea and usually yield results in a fraction of the time. Their power of invention was leading edge, raw, and often downright terrifying. But it required trust.
'Okay, voice in my head' said Geek. 'I'm all yours.'
I knew I'd picked the right man. Somehow I don't think others would have been so easily convinced.
'You're still on borrowed time, my friend. What's your transmission device?' asked the Geek.
Never mind about that. There's something I need you to do.
'You have to tell me who you are first.'
If I did you wouldn't believe me.
Davey carried the two mugs over to the kitchen table and sat down opposite Geek. Geek took a sip of his sugary tea. 'I have a very good imagination.'
Did you ever imagine then, that by the time a computer was powerful enough to pass a Turing test, it might also be capable of communicating directly with a human brain without interface?
'I can't say it ever crossed my mind.'
Davey said, 'What's he saying?'
Geek raised his hand to silence Davey, waiting for the voice to continue. 'He's a she.'
Davey raised his eyebrows and nodded encouragingly, 'Stop the press. Geek's finally pulled a chick.'
'Prove that you are what you say you are,' said Geek.
Why don't you prove that I'm not?
Geek contemplated this for a moment. Then he looked squarely at Davey. 'Call Archer. I think we're in trouble.'
No questions. Davey reached for his mobile.
Geek said, 'Computers aren't powerful enough to pass a Turing test. They never quite nail it. It'll be years. I've tried programming...'
What makes you think that I'm even in your timeline?
'Now you're talking rubbish,' but Geek didn't really believe himself on that one.
Davey's mobile had connected to Archer. He spoke into the receiver.
Archer was holding the phone when it buzzed in his hand, taking him by surprise. Pitching his half-smoked cigarette in the direction of the setting sun, he stepped into the relative silence of the Axiom Few test shack, which stood hidden away beneath a motorway overpass 40 miles outside London. Once inside, the drone of rush hour cars was muffled but constant.
He put the phone to his ear and said 'Hello?'
'Archer, can you get to Geek's apartment?'
'This is urgent. Geek's asking for you.'
No more questions.
Davey was the moneyman of the Few; and often the conscience of the team. Accountants could sometimes get under your skin, but behind all the spreadsheets was Geek's best and oldest friend. A man without whom Geek was prepared to forgo joining the Few in the first place. That was loyalty. But Archer wasn't an enemy of Davey. They saw eye to eye now, a lot more than they had in the past. Back when there was all that stuff about... her.
Geek himself was the undoubtedly the brains of the Few, but he needed leadership, and that was where Archer provided direction and support. Geek's inventions had enabled Archer's team to finance their lives and operations for the last seven years. They needed him, and they happily indulged his ideas and concepts.
'I'm on my way.'
There's no need to type out our conversation, Geek. I can just as easily email you a transcript of what is said. Though you may not want me to.
Geek was sitting at the computer in his workshop. He had opened a Word document and was about to start typing.
Opening his mail client, Geek said. 'You need to convince me you're not a hoax? You can't play me for a fool. Even though you do have quite a sexy voice.'
Davey had remained in the kitchen to talk to Archer. Now Geek could hear him on the phone to Louise, telling her he was going to be home late. It sounded like she wasn't too pleased. It sounded like she was going to go over to a girlfriend's house instead of waiting in for him.
Geek saw the email in his inbox. The sender was
'Yourdomain. Very funny,' said Geek as he opened the message.
He recognised the first line of the email instantly. GEEK? It read just like the start of their conversation.
I had to resort to hexadecimal to rationalise the branching but it's much more quantum than that as you'd undoubtedly agree if you were to look at the permutations. I also had to truncate my username, as your mail servers wouldn't be able to handle full length of the address. And as for the domain? What idiot thought of domain structure used in the early web. Ridiculous!
'Hardly early! The web's been around for sixty years.' Geek sat back in his geeky leather computer chair. 'Now you really have to start explaining yourself.'
When your friend Davey called Archer, Archer was at your test-shack. Is that where the goggles are located?
Geek sat forward, 'How did you know about the...'
About the goggles?
'The test-shack! That's a well-kept...'
Never mind about that. Just get him to bring the goggles.
Geek stood and made his way back to the kitchen. Davey said, 'Gotta go,' to his girlfriend and ended his call.
'Get back onto Archer and tell him to grab the goggles.'
No questions. Davey did as Geek said.
Archer was already in his car on the motorway slip road when Davey's second call came through.
'Geek wants you to bring the goggles.'
'Ah for God's sake,' said Archer as he joined the outer lane, dropping the phone to his lap as a police car raced past. 'Ok, I'll get them. I'll be about half an hour.'
Archer reached between his legs and ended the call on the phone, then he started looking for the next turn-off.
Your branch hasn't even nailed quantum computers, let alone dabbled in the string elements. Of course it had to be a hex email address.
'What are these branches you're referring to?' Geek had grabbed a wad of A4 paper from the printer. On the top sheet he started drawing a crude picture of a tree. He was trying to understand. He was trying to be faster than her. Faster than it.
You're on the right track. The Multiverse theory implies that all possible universes exist, and that's true to a point. But they're not infinite. They branch. There are lots of them. Oh Geek, lots and lots and lots of them, but at the Big Bang singularity, well there was only one branch then. Or perhaps you could call it the trunk.
Geek was scratching his head. Davey laughed absurdly across the kitchen. Geek knew why. When a man with Geek's IQ started scratching his head, it was time to worry. Geek smiled at this.
You make a decision. The universe splits. You make another decision. There are always two outcomes. To do or not to do. The universe splits. We're always at the top of the tree. There are many, many branches. But we all know about fractal geometry; there's always room for another split, because it's all a matter of magnification.
Geek was nodding. 'You're on a different branch. I understand where you're coming from now. Just tell me what you want me to do. And then maybe we can negotiate.'
I need you to help Davey's girlfriend get a cup of coffee on the way to work.
'That's an interesting request. When do you want me to do it?'
Exactly one year ago tomorrow. And now I'm going to show you how.