First Intermission 29
Art by Joe Zuniga
Turns since TBfGK: 3
The subject of their conversation meandered, as the time passed.
Time itself was one thing they talked about, since Parson noted the moving shadows as the sun moved across the sky. Erfworlders, Parson found, understood days, hours, minutes and seconds. A second was "one-thousand-one." A minute was sixty of those. An hour was sixty minutes, and a day was twenty-four hours.
At least, within a given hex.
It actually took the better part of an hour's discussion for them to realize their major disconnect. Sizemore seemed to think the concept of a single, universal time that applied to everyone, everywhere was the most ludicrous idea he'd ever heard.
"Time is relative, Warlord!" he practically shouted. The apple brandy was bringing out a certain boisterousness in him, a redness to his cheeks, while Maggie only leaned on her elbows and smiled quietly. "You can't tell me time isn't relative where you come from!"
Parson was also feeling it, but it was kind of a funhouse buzz. Everything seemed strange and amusing, especially Sizemore's sudden agitation. "Time is relative, Sizemore," he said. "To the observer's movement in space."
"No, no, no!" Sizemore made a wave-off gesture with both his hands. "Well, yes! I mean for a unit that is... that is moving, time passes normally, but not relative to units in other hexes. A Lookamancer tracking the movement of that unit may see it move much faster in their time. The time in their hex."
"What?" Parson laughed. "That's crazy."
"That's how it works! You can't have one universal time in every hex. That's crazy, Warlord!"
"Hooooly crap," said Parson, rubbing his forehead. "No wonder I never see a clock around here. You're saying I could walk two hexes... well, if I could move out of the city... I could walk two hexes and think an hour has passed, and you watch me and you think... like, a minute has?"
"Of course! Exactly. How else could you scout?"
"Well that can't be!" Parson frowned. "That can't be. What if I send a message back to you? It'll be like you getting a message from the future!"
"The future of what, Warlord?" said Sizemore pointedly. Parson didn't have an answer for that. "You're going to do what you're going to do on your turn. Only the order of our actions is important. Time isn't. It's not like you're sending a message from future turns."
Parson felt he was either too drunk or not drunk enough to be having this conversation. Lacking a way to sober up, he gambled on it being the latter, and took another pull on the applejack.
"Okay, what about a Thinkagram?" said Parson. Maggie perked up, and without switching gears he started talking to her. "It's an hour ahead for me, a minute ahead for you, and I send a Thinkagram. What then?"
Maggie smiled, lids half closed. "Then, we have a Thinkagram, Lord. We simply have a Thinkagram. Why should it matter that to you that it seems an hour and to me it seems a minute since last we spoke?" Her words were perfectly formed, but had acquired a musical quality, with drawn-out vowels.
Catwoman. She sounded to Parson like an English version of Catwoman. At that picture, he had to laugh again. Maggie giggled too, for reasons unknown but at least partly chemical. This discussion amused her, that much was clear.
"Um, because... Gah," Parson struggled. "Okay, because the sun. Is the sun in a different position in the sky for me when I call you than it is for you?"
"Of course," said Sizemore. "This never happens in your world?"
Parson remembered time zones and the weirdness of the international dateline. Watching the Olympics at 2 am, people running in the hot sun on the other side of the planet, where it was tomorrow. Erfworlders carried their own personal time zones around. Was that odder than anything else about this place?
Yes, yes it was. It meant the whole universe worked differently here, and he wasn't prepared to let it go at that. He leaned forward even farther and put his elbows on his knees. "Aha! What if I come back?"
Sizemore looked at him blankly. Maggie watched them both, a dreamy grin on her face.
"It's four hours later to me, but maybe four minutes to you."
"Yes?" said Sizemore.
Could he really not see the problem? "Where is the sun?" asked Parson in exasperation.
Sizemore squinted at him. "In that hex? Four minutes further along in the sky."
"It jumps backwards when I enter the hex?!"
"Of course! To you," said Sizemore. "Because you traveled and were observed from that hex. If you weren't observed, you would find the sun in the same position as the previous hex."
Maggie slumped backward on the blanket and giggled helplessly up at the sunlit sky.