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Interference

de Murray Leinster

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Synopsis:

Buck and his partner Mort are technicians in the new TV industry ... still in the future when the story was written in 1945. Their job is to hunt down and eliminate TV interference sources.

This time the interference is traced to a strange machine in an abandoned tenement in Brooklyn. Mort concludes that the machine is a time machine and discovers he can pass messages to and from the people on the other side through a glowing loop. The people want to find out what year their machine is in, and what happened to their man that had gone through the glowing loop. They find the man dead in another room. Then, after Mort exchanges star charts with the people through the loop, the people on the other side shut down the machine.

Afterward, by comparing the star charts, scientists conclude that the glowing loop was not really a link to another time but to a parallel universe earth of the same date. The operators of the machine, realizing this, had lost interest and terminated the loop to Buck's universe. But the contents of the pockets of the dead man contained enough advanced technology to give scientists hope that they could some day safely travel to the dead man's universe. Buck volunteers for the trip.

Comments:

Leinster bases his story on two images that provide all the motivation and meaning for the story.

The first image is the expression on the dead man's face ...
"I went in and saw the dead man. He laid down on the floor, in the dust that was everywhere. He was a regular-looking guy, not any different than you or me, except his face had a funny expression on it. Some of the guys in Tech have that expression -- the high-ups, mostly. College professors have it pretty often -- not the higher-ups. Most chemists and a lot of preachers have it. It's the expression of a guy who doesn't worry about beating the other guy to something because he's busy with stuff more important to him than that. A sort of non-competitive look, you might say. The average guy on salary has not got it ."

The second image is the expression on the picture of the girl Buck found in the dead man's pocket ...
"And the girl looked sweet. Like a darned sweet kid. A little bit wistful, but confident and brave and smiling and looking at somebody she liked a lot. Maybe the guy who'd had the picture had taken it, and she smiled at him while he was doing it. I'd like to have a girl like that smile at me like that."

The first image explains why the dead man risked stepping through the loop, and the second why Buck would risk stepping through it.

Leinster doesn't name the facial expressions, he explains why they are there. You imagine how the dead man felt during his moment of discovery, and you realize that Buck must have unknowingly had the same expression. And you feel how it must felt to have the sweet kid's expression directed at you. And you understand how much more important than time travel these expressions were to him, and to you too. And how much more practical.
  thwingr | Oct 27, 2008 |
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