It was the late 21st century and it came to be the time of the MIMSSI.
The scientists had invented this powerful machine that could change the course of mankind, but it had so many powers and so many possibilities they were afraid to use it for anything. This incredibly wonderful, possibly evil machine placed total mind control in the hands of the scientists and they fell back, aghast.
Using this machine they could implant memories into any human mind by simply programming a biologic chip and implanting it under the skin of the scalp. And, these memories would make it possible for the subject to acquire instant piano skills, or scientific knowledge; anything the mind could hold, they could implant.
These implanted memories were always ‘on top’ of existing memories, so no damage was ever done. Or, at least that’s what everyone thought.
The Magnetically Integrated Memory Solid State Implanter, what a boon to mankind it could be. Traditional education would soon be a thing of the past, at least if you were fortunate enough to be chosen to receive a MIMSSI implant. After all, who would prefer to spend 15 years taking piano lessons if you could learn it all in one visit to the lab? Would you like to be a brain surgeon? Well, get your implant and you’ll be one. It was perfect, but no one dared to put it to use because it just wasn’t possible to anticipate all the ways it could be abused.
Then, someone in an obscure lab discovered a way that the information imprinted in the implant could actually replace the subject’s memories, rather than just add to them. Many argued that it could now be used to re-program criminals, but others said that memories were only part of the subject’s makeup, the rest was controlled by other parts of the brain. Anyway, they decided that this particular ability of the implant would be kept quiet until someone came up with a safe use for it.
This was in the last decade of the century, just about the same time that Time Travel became a reality. TT was also something that was powerful and therefore to be feared; no one could figure out a way to send someone back in time in a safe way that would protect the flow of history.
Well, did you see it coming? Some inventive chap proposed that anyone going back in time would have to be fitted with a MIMSSI implant – all their memories would be replaced with a set of period-appropriate memories, then they couldn’t upset the applecart in 1865 with memories of fantastic inventions from the twentieth century. Sounds pretty straightforward, yes? If only it had worked.
I was chosen to be the first subject who would go back in time. As a part of this I would have my memories transferred to an archive file, then have my internal memories replaced with a set suitable to a denizen of 18th century Paris. Yes, I’d wake up in olden Paris, magically speaking French. They assured me that I’d be ‘recalled’ in a month, which would give me plenty of time to do some exploring, although that really wasn’t the right word. In my perspective I’d be just ‘living’, not ‘exploring’, since as far as I would know I was just another Parisian, living in 1789. But, I wouldn’t be trapped in that time period; they’d push the button and I’d be home again in my correct time, memories all replaced. What could possibly go wrong?
Obviously, something did go wrong, otherwise I couldn’t be telling you all this, right? In the original plan, I’d be home now with no memories of my sojourn in revolutionary France. But, I do remember, so here’s my story, if you’d care to listen.
Initially, all went well. I showed up on the appointed day, they took me into the MIMSSI chamber, and I was sedated. So, I have no recollection of the memory switch, nor do I remember being transferred to the TT center, where I was launched into the river of time, headed back downstream. I remember waking from a strange dream, coming awake in a strange world, one I didn’t quite know. Yes, there were glitches; I was Subject Number 1.
Unlike every other human on earth, my memories only went back as far as… hmmm, what could I say to explain it? I knew where I was, I could speak the language, but I didn’t remember anything that happened before yesterday. I walked the streets of Paris in something of a daze, trying to get oriented, looking for someone to talk to about all this. It was a hot day in June, so I was looking for a cool place to have something to eat. I entered a small tavern and chose a table in the corner.
I gestured to the man at the counter as I had seen others do and soon had bread, cheese and wine before me, paid for by a few sou I had found in my pocket. The meal was filling enough and I soon felt somewhat lighter in spirit and more settled in mind. A serving girl came by to inquire about further needs, but I waved her away in the fashion of other patrons. It seemed that this establishment catered to more middle-class citizens, rather than laborers, so I hoped I might engage someone in conversation that could prove enlightening about my strange world. It was shortly after this that a fellow came into the crowded, dimly-lit tavern and glanced about, looking for a table as I had done. I caught his eye and motioned him over. He took my invitation and seated himself at my small table.
“Thank you, Citizen,” he boomed, with a broad smile, “I wasn’t sure I’d find a seat – they are very busy here at lunchtime.”
I smiled in return, then said, “It is my pleasure, Citizen! What is your business today, that brings you down this street?”
With a somewhat wolfish grin, he admitted, “Actually, no business other than food and perhaps a smile from that serving wench!”
“A worthy quest, I’m sure,” I agreed, casting a glance toward the girl in question, who was openly admiring my companion. “Food and love, what more do we need, eh?” I tried to speak as lustily as was his manner.
As I turned back to him he asked, “And you, my friend, what are you about today?”
I thought quickly, then replied, “Today, I hope to find someone to show me around this fair city, for I am from the country and am somewhat lost. After my tour I hope to gain employment as a clerk, perhaps with a lawyer or a moneylender.”
His food and wine arrived, and he set to eating with great gusto, talking in a muffled way, his mouth full of food, “Perhaps I can help you with some of your needs. What is your name, may I ask?”
I said, almost without pause, “I am Pierre Aumond, of the Burgandy district. And you, my new friend?”
He laughed heartily, “It’s rare for me to find a stranger in this part of the city, but I will tell you, as almost anyone else could, I am Jacque Fourier, First Clerk of the Court, Revolutionary Council!”
Casually, I remarked, “Yes, the Revolution. Is it to be? I didn’t know there existed a Revolutionary Council.”
He leaned forward, conspiratorially, “Shhhh, not so loud. As a stranger here you need to be very careful. I am among friends, so I can say what I please. They know the Revolution is imminent, but word must not leak out. There is hunger among the common people everywhere in the country, even in Burgandy, as you know, and yet they propose new taxation. This cannot continue. We shall deliver our surprise to the King in short order!”
I smiled, to show my support of his pronouncement, then said, “Perhaps this is not the time to seek ordinary work as I first thought. What can I do to help in the effort? Can my limited education make me a useful person in what you are doing? I understand it will be a voluntary position, but I must bend to the mighty flow of events.”
Jacque leaped up, pulled me to my feet, then pounded me on the back with great enthusiasm. “My friend, your timing could not be better! I will take you directly to the meeting place and we’ll get you started. There are pamphlets to write and distribute, many things yet to do. Perhaps in time we can consider something of more importance for you after you prove yourself. How does all this sound?”
Almost staggering from his back-pounding assault, I managed to say, “Of course, of course! Let us begin!” It seemed to be just the thing to say, and he appeared pleased at my eagerness.
We went out into the street and he led me quickly to the meeting place, which turned out to be a nondescript house at the end of a dirty lane. The lane was littered with windblown trash. Cats lay in the street, looking quite thin – apparently times were also hard for begging animals. Jacque looked quickly both ways before we entered the lane and again before we approached the house. As we arrived he had us duck quickly inside and shut the door.
We were now in a rather large family room, which seemed quite warm and stuffy, but that could have been caused by the large number of people crammed into such a small place. I looked around and was met by suspicious glares; apparently I was not going to be immediately accepted by them as quickly as with Jacque, when he had taken me immediately into his confidence.
Jacque noticed the mood of the room toward me and spread his arms as he spoke, in his usual strong voice, “Now, now, let us give this new fellow a chance. He is Pierre Aumond, from Burgandy, and is willing to help us however he may. Let us see what he can do, eh? If he speaks or acts falsely, we will soon see it, but for now, let’s offer him a seat and some wine. What do you say?” The temper of the room relaxed somewhat and a couple of them shook my hand and showed me to a seat, while another pressed a mug of wine into my hand.
So began my work in Paris. As Jacque had foretold, I was first put to writing pamphlets, sometimes just making copies, which was laborious work, but it was a time of learning and I didn’t mind. Sometimes I was sent out to distribute the pamphlets, which taught me rather quickly how to get around the heart of the city. Sometimes my travels took me near the Bastille, the hated prison which held so many sympathizers to the revolutionary cause. There were many soldiers in that area, so I had to be very careful to avoid being noticed by them. I always hurried through, trying to get back to my new home, which was a small room in the upper part of the meeting house. I had my meals at nearby taverns, or wherever I found myself during my travels through the large city.
Weeks passed, June became July, and the tension in the populace was rising with the temperatures. There were small incidents between soldiers and the citizenry, sometimes resulting in arrests, or rarely, with the assault of an unwary soldier. Paranoid suspicions within the Revolutionary Council were also growing.
July 14, 1789, and a beautiful warm morning, but it was hard to appreciate it. Everywhere, events were coming to a head; the word had been passed, today was The Day. The Citizens were told to go to the Bastille at noon, and were instructed to take rakes or hoes, anything that might be used as a weapon.
Jacque and I were at the meeting house, getting our things together so we might go out at the appointed time. It was at this moment that several men burst into the room, seizing the two of us and binding our hands behind us. While we struggled, we kept asking what was going on, what were the charges, all to no avail. Like trussed animals we were led downstairs to the large common room I had first seen all those weeks ago. Several chairs were set up at a table, now placed sideways in the room. It appeared that we were to appear before a tribunal.
Andre DuBois, head of the council, spoke sternly, “Jacque, you and your accomplice are charged with treason. How do you plead?” DuBois gestured toward the two of us as he began, so I knew I was the accomplice mentioned in the charge.
Jacque stammered, “Why, what do you mean? I have done nothing, and I believe I can say the same for Pierre, here. What is your evidence?”
I was about to speak, but Andre shouted at me, “Silence! You will not be heard here!”
I didn’t know very much about French revolutionary law, but things didn’t look promising.
Andre DuBois spoke again, “We have sufficient statements from reliable witnesses who saw the two of you conversing with the soldiers and their officers. There can be no defense, you are hereby sentenced to death. Sentence to be carried out immediately!”
They pushed the two of us out into the rear courtyard, where a large tree had been fitted with a strong hangman’s rope. A small platform was beneath the noose. Jacque and I both struggled, trying to get loose, but we were held tightly by several men.
Just as they were leading Jacque to the rope, several soldiers burst into the courtyard, shouting at everyone to stand still or be shot. In the confusion I was able to break away and run down a narrow alleyway that led to the main street. I knew I couldn’t stay free very long, but it was better than just standing there, waiting.
As I ran, trying not to stumble since my arms were bound, I was overcome by a strong tingling sensation, all over my body. The sunlight itself was flickering, causing nearby things to shimmer, then fade. I couldn’t imagine what was happening to me, but suddenly it felt like I was falling into a deep, cold well.
I found myself in the recovery room at the TT center, as they explained to me when I awoke. They said that my original memories had been restored and they apologized that I would not be able to remember anything of my travels in time, but they appreciated my volunteer spirit for advancing the cause of science. Then it was basically, “Have a nice day!”, and I was sent home.
I went home, not remembering anything, as they had predicted, but over time it has pretty much all drifted back into focus in my memory. I haven’t told anyone but you, and I hope you’ll keep my secret. I just had to tell someone about all this.
By the way, be careful about volunteering, my friend.