Kopeksky was almost killed on Broadway by a horn-blaring Lincoln charging the
line of crossing pedestrians, and again by a cab on Seventh. The sidewalks were
practically as dangerous, with running, briefcase-flailing commuters and people
rushing in and out of subway entrances, and every public phone booth seemed
to be occupied by a yelling figure gesticulating wildly in the air. No two clocks
that Kopeksky saw anywhere said the same thing. Sidewalk vendors were already
selling watches hand carried from Grand Central and set to Grand Central time,
which much of Midtown had apparently adopted as a standard. Kopeksky found it
to be eleven minutes behind his windup, which, if nothing had changed since
he talked to Quinn, was in step with the rest of the country's EST. Nope, he
told himself as he hurried on. It wasn't going to be one of "those"
days, after all. There had never been a day like this one was looking to be.
He reached headquarters by ten minutes before nine and stopped by at the Day
Room to check on the latest. NBC had retuned a channel to a frequency that worked,
and a group of Bureau people were taking in the news from a portable on Quinn's
desk. Kopeksky helped himself to his second morning coffee from the pot on the
corner table and moved over to join them. "What gives?" he asked.
"They've just given out a time check as 8:15," Alice, one of the
records clerks, replied.
"The airports are closed," Quinn said without looking away from the
screen. "Incoming traffic's screwed up trying to synch to the tower times
and frequencies. It was still the other side of eight- o-clock at JFK, just
a few minutes ago." He shook his head. "Oh man, oh man. This is wild,
Kopeksky listened to the newscaster. Apparently the retuned channel was being
picked up in a few places around the city, but that was by no means true universally.
"But I assure you that we're working on it, folks. The latest opinion from
our experts here is that it's probably a glitch in the computers somewhere."
Kopeksky felt the same kind of reassurance that he did when he listened to TV
evangelists or presidential candidates. He took another mouthful of coffee,
turned away, and left to make his way up to Ellis's office on the fifteenth
Ellis Wade had arrived steerage through the ranks, not first class, courtesy
of any social connections or college degree, which put him at odds with the
Bureau's new management style and image. His natural taciturn and laconic disposition
did not effectively project the new-age analytical openness that the PR firm
hired from Madison Avenue had decided was appropriate to business-school forensics
and computer-aided impartiality, and their efforts to enlighten him only deepened
the cynicism and suspicion that made him the kind of chief that Kopeksky could
live with. The same qualities also made him the only kind of chief that could
live with Kopeksky. He was short, but broad and solidly built, with straight,
close-cropped, steel-gray hair, tanned and fleshy, heavy-jowled features, and
a bear-trap mouth that writhed, pursed, stretched, and compressed itself ceaselessly
when he wasn't talking--which was most of the time.
The man sitting to one side of Wade's desk when Kopeksky entered and hung his
hat on the stand inside the door at once put Kopeksky in mind of his schoolboy
imaginings of a Martian: small, but with a disproportionately large and rounded
cranium, mildly pink and almost bald, and peering intently through circular
lenses that magnified his ocular movements into erratic sweeping motions that
suggested the data-input scannings of an intelligent, wide- eyed octopoid. He
was wearing a heavy jacket of plain, light-blue tweed and a misshapen maroon
tie. Wade introduced him as Dr. Ernst Grauss, from the National Academy of Sciences,
"He's been sent to help people here look into this crazy business that's
been going on with the clocks," Wade explained. "He deals in . . .
" His voice trailed off as he realized that he didn't really know what
Grauss dealt in.
"Der physics theoretical it iss, in vich I specialize," Grauss supplied,
and by way of elaboration presented Kopeksky with a reprint of a scientific
paper that he had authored, entitled "Higher Dimensional Unifications of
"A scientist," Wade offered, his tone conveying that the title meant
as much to him as Kopeksky's expression was registering. Kopeksky sat down in
the empty chair in front of the desk and stared back with an okay-let's-hear-it
Wade tossed out a hand indifferently to indicate the wall behind him, the rest
of the building beyond, and the city outside that in general. "It's all
a mess. First they told us it was just something affecting a few TV stations.
Then people started getting time checks that didn't add up, so it was the phone
company computers, too. Now nothing anywhere makes sense. I just came up from
Communications. They're having trouble getting through to anybody by radio now.
The latest is that JFK, La Guardia, and Newark have shut down operations. All
their frequencies are out."
Kopeksky nodded. "I know. I heard on the way up."
The sounds of a door opening and closing came from the corridor outside, then
hurrying footsteps accompanied by jabbering voices, fading rapidly. The phone
range on Wade's desk. He picked it up irascibly. "Yeah, Wade? . . . I said
I'd be busy. I'm busy. . . . It is, huh? Okay, fifteen minutes. . . . I just
said, fifteen minutes." He hung up and looked back at Kopeksky.
"It's as if the time you thought you had suddenly isn't there any more.
Nothing's getting done. Everything's a rush. Nobody's finishing anything."
"Tell me about it," Kopeksky muttered, crushing his empty paper cup
in a palm.
Wade made a gesture that could have meant anything. "Well, here's something
I bet you haven't thought of. Has it occurred to you that the reason why there
suddenly doesn't seem to be enough time any more could be that someone, somewhere
is stealing it?"
Kopeksky stopped in the act of pitching crumpled cup toward the trash bin and
stared speechlessly. "Stealing it?" he repeated. "Someone is
stealing time?" Wade nodded heavily, in a way that said it wasn't he who
had dreamed this up, and then waved a hand in Grauss's direction. Evidently
he himself had said all he was prepared to on the subject.
Grauss wiped his glasses on a pocket handkerchief, then replaced them and brought
them to bear on Kopeksky as if making sure that he had his target clearly in
the sights before beginning.
"Vor many years now, der scientific vorld hass perplexed itself been by
der unpredictabilities unt strangenesses at . . ." he waved a hand in the
air, searching for a word . . . "untermicroscopic, ja?--levels below der
atomic--vich are called quantum uncertainty." He barely moved his mouth
as he spoke, which with his accent caused his voice to come out as a hiss. "But
ve find ven computing eigenfunction connectives across many complex planes,
dat der solutions produce conjugate loci vich converge to yield definitions
off orthogonal spaces. Unt der quantum reconcilliations ve find at ze intersections,
unt so obliges us to conclude dat der existence is real. So far is gutt, ja?
. . ."
Kopeksky just stared, glassy eyed. "I think what he's trying to say is
that the `other dimensions' that people have been talking about for years really
exist," Wade threw in. His tone made it clear that he wasn't saying
so. He was just saying that whatever bunch Grauss was from were saying so. Wade's
accountability ended right there.
"Ja, ja!" Grauss nodded several times, excitedly. "Ve haff der
universe mitt other dimensions vat ve don't see, but vich can intersect along
der complex vectorspaces. Unt vy not, ve ask ourselffs, cannot ziss other universe
vich iss here but vat ve can't see, haff its own inhappitants too, who also
master der sciences unt der physics, maybe more so zan ve do here?"
"Another guy from NAS called Langlon last night," Wade told Kopeksky.
David Langlon was Wade's chief at the Bureau. "They've got a theory down
there that we've somehow collided with aliens who exist in another dimension."
Kopeksky nodded, having to his surprise extracted more-or-less that much himself.
Wade shrugged. "The way it looks is that time has suddenly started disappearing
from the New York area. So one thought is that these guys in the other dimension
might be stealing it." Wade showed his palms in a gesture that said it
made as much sense as anything else that had been going on lately. The phone
rang again. Wade snatched it up, barked "Later," into it, and banged
it back down.
Kopeksky jerked his head back at Grauss for some justification. The scientist
went on, "Vy, in our vorld, ve spend der lifetimes vorking, vorking, always
vorking? Iss to get rich unt make more der money, ja? Unt then, vat is it ve
vant to do viss all der money? Ve vant it to spend vat little life iss left
doing der things ve vanted ven ve vass younger peoples, unt never had der time!
You see, dat iss vot ve really vant all along, not der moneys at all. Vat ve
vant iss der time." He spread his hand briefly, as if the rest should
have been too obvious to need spelling out.
"But vy spend der lifetime chasing der money around unt around, vich you
then haff to use to buy ze time? Iff you possess der capability unt der technology
zat iss advanced enough, vy not you simply take der time direct?" Grauss
looked from one to the other and concluded, "Unt ziss iss vat, dese aliens,
ve conjecturize zey do."
Even after more years than he cared to remember of doing a job that he believed
could leave no capacity remotely close to experiencing surprise any more, Kopeksky
had to strain hard to keep his composure. Finally he looked back at Wade and
protested, "What in hell does this have to do with us? We don't know anything
about outer space dimensions and quantum . . . whatevers. It's for--"
Wade had expected it and cut him off with a wave. "I know, Joe, I know.
But save it. It's not gonna do any good. The situation has been classified a
national emergency, which means following up any line that might turn up a solution.
It sounds strictly scientific to me too, but somebody somewhere has decided
it qualifies as larceny, which also makes it a law-enforcement matter."
Kopeksky shook his head helplessly for a few second before he could manage
words. "Larceny? . . . Where are we supposed to look for the merchandise?
Show me the list of it. I mean, what the hell kind of larceny is this? It's
"Well, of course it's crazy," Wade agreed. "Why else would the
Bureau have gotten mixed up in it? Anyhow, that's your assignment: Find out
who's stealing the stuff and what can be done about it. Okay? It's straight
down the line from Langlon."
Kopeksky sat back heavily in the chair. "That's it? You're sure you don't
want anything else? I mean, do you need it before lunch, or would afterward
"For now, go and do some head-scratching and see what kind of a strategy
you can come up with. We'll get together and go over it this afternoon,"
Wade answered, unperturbed.
"But what kind of help can I expect to get on it?" Kopeksky demanded.
"What kind of resources? Who are the contacts? Don't I even get some idea
of that to take back to the office?"
Wade was looking at his watch. "Gee, is that the time already? Oh yeah,
that's right. They reset to EST. I've got another appointment waiting already."
Grauss rose to his feet, revealing a gangling frame that seemed to be all limbs,
giving Kopeksky the feeling that it might be about to come apart at the joints
inside his clothes. "I must der train to Hartvord catch, unt den from zere
fly der plane pack to Vashinkton," he announced. "A pleasure to be
meetink you it hass peen, Mr. Kopinsky."
Wade spread his hands apologetically. "Sorry, Joe. It looks like there