(This is an excerpt from my Science Fiction/Comedy novel in progress -- The Adventures of Danger Dave, a story of Galactic Exploration and High Adventure, produced and broadcast by 21st Century Weasel Entertainment.)

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Billion

By Rick Carlson

(continued)Ö

Our hero has just finished watching the most recent episode of the weekly Danger Dave television series. Momentarily out of character, Dave thinks about the show. His puzzled look is more pronounced than usual.

"Hey, Dan, what did you think of this weekís episode?" asked Dave. "Was it realistic enough?"

Dan smiled and said, "Indubitably, my dear Ďbot-son. The explosions were particularly wonderful. I could see myself in the window when I zoomed in."

"My point exactly," replied Dave. "I think it was real. I donít think they used CGI at all. Those were real cameras filming the live battle."

"So? Big deal. Whatís your point?"

"My point?" said Dave, raising his voice. "My point is that we didnít know we were going to fight here, so how did the network weasels?"

Now it was Danís turn to look puzzled. "Are you suggesting..."

"...that they staged it?" finished Dave. "Maybe they did, maybe they didnít. The question is, how did they know exactly where to be and where to aim the camera? Itís like they knew in advance exactly what would happen and when."

"So? Our ratings are up, and weíve been extended for another season," said Dan. "Donít rock the boat. Sit back and enjoy the ride. Besides, what would you do about it, anyway? What could you do? You may be the luckiest person in the galaxy, but donít have a crystal ball."

"But maybe they do," replied Dave. "And maybe we can use it."

He got up and walked to the door.

"Where are you going?" asked Dan.

"Production Studio Deck," answered Dave. "Wanna tag along and be my watchdog?"

"Ruff!" replied Dan with a mischievous grin, bounding for the door with the energy of a puppy.

"Okay, Spot. Heel, boy, heel!" Dave laughed and the door opened for them, displaying a picture of Snoopy fighting the Red Baron.

"Cute," remarked Dave. "Good door. Nice door. Stay."

Now, it was Dan's turn to laugh. "Iím starting to like these smart doors. Maria has been digging into the archives, I see."

They walked down to the Production Studio, trying not to look guilty and not succeeding. Before opening the door, Dan looked directly at the hall camera, winked and whispered "Shh!" before ducking in behind Dave.

Inside the room, Dave is looking as puzzled as before.

"Where is everyone?" he asked. "Normally, this room is full. I thought I would have to create a diversion."

"Donít look a gift llama in the mouth. It may spit at you." said Dan with a grin. "Just look around."

"For what? You think theyíre just going to leave a neon sign with an arrow pointing to the crystal ball saying, ĎHere it isí?" asked Dave.

"Yes. Here it is."

"What?!"

Indeed, there was a neon sign saying exactly that, pointing to a book on the table.

"Lemee see that," said Dave, yanking the book from the table.

Turning so the camera could see the book, Dave held it steady and read the title, "The History of Danger Dave." The book binder listed the authorís name as "Doright."

Dave looked like heíd seen a ghost. Dan took the book, flipped to the back cover, then said, "Holy Time Paradox, Batman!" in his best Robin imitation. Then, picking up a Sherlock Holmes pipe, hat, and coat that just happened to be lying nearby, he said, "It looks like we have a genuine mystery on our hands. We must look for clues, since we generally have none as a rule."

"How about the bookmark?" asked Dave. "Maybe thatís a clue."

"Itís a bookmark, you idiot." said Dan, switching to Three Stooges mode and hitting Dave over the head with his hat and read the bookmark. "It says:

READ A BOOK

DONíT BE A JERK

LET OUR ROBOTS

DO YOUR WORK

PERMA-SLAVE"

"Well, thatís not very clue-full" said Dave. "What about the book? Let me read."

"Here," said Dan, handing it back. "Donít sprain your brain."

Dave noticed the underlined entry and began reading out loud.

July 3: Day of Discovery

Hello, Dave. If you are reading this on July 3 at 10:57 pm Shipís Time, then you are on the proper timeline...maybe. Your watch should beep in 5...4...3...2...1...

"Beep!" announced Daveís wristwatch, right on cue. Dave jumped, dropped the book on his toe, then started hopping around, knocking random items off of the desk before regaining his composure. He picked up the book again and continued.

DONíT PANIC!

Now that I have your attention and a smile, you can relax and have fun. This is a new experiment in interactive time travel. In order for this to work, I need you to speak up so the microphones can hear you, just as you are doing now. Donít cheat and look ahead for answers before you ask questions, or the pages will be blank, and weíll have to start all over. Now, ask your first question, then turn the page for the answer. Donít rush. I wonít receive your question for a long time, so take your time. I have arranged for the rest of the crew to be Ďincommunicadoí for as long as you need. Everything is under control.

"Interactive time travel, huh?" Hey, Dan Ė we are in a time experiment. What should I ask?"

"Ask the Wizard for a brain," said Dan, joking. "You could ask who the author is, but you can look that up in the front of the book. Try something unexpected."

"Okay," said Dave. "How about a pizza? Iím hungry."

"Youíre always hungry, but itís a good idea. How about New York style Hawaiian?" said Dan, licking his lips.

<Knock, Knock>

"Whoís there?"

"Pizza Guy"

"Pizza Guy who?"

"Look, wise guy, did someone order a New York Style Hawaiian pizza or not? I ainít got all week," replied the Bronx accent from behind the door.

"Cool!" said Dave. He opened the door to find a Pleides Pizza Express delivery boy holding an extra-large pizza, glancing side-to-side nervously like an escaped convict cheating on his 3 wives.

"Set it down right there" pointed Dave to the desk where the book had been. "How much do we owe you?"

"Nuthiní said the boy. Not even the tip. My instructions were to deliver the pizza on my way to my vacation cruise, pre-paid as my tip once the pizza arrived. Take it and sign here."

Dave signed the electronic receipt pad, and the amber light turned green.

"Now, sign here, please...and you too, Dan," said the boy, handing an autograph book to Dave, pretending not to be embarrassed. "Itís for my little sister."

"Whatís her name?" asked Dan.

"Guido." came the reply.

"Of course," said Dan, as if this sort of thing happened all the time, which it did.

After the autographs had been signed, the boy excused himself, backed up slowly, bumped into the door, turned and ran down the hall, leaping and whooping about before spraying graffiti on the door at the end of the hall. The door politely thanked him for the artistic expression of his youthful enthusiasm, and the boy was gone.

After taking a bite from the pizza, Dave said, "We forgot the drinks."

"Ask the book," said Dan. "Letís try this interactive time travel thing again."

Dave picked the book up, found the correct page, and read the last line again. He looked at the camera and said, "Everything is under control, huh? Whose control? And what about the drinks? Iím turning the page."

I hope you are enjoying the pizza. I went a little overboard on the preparations, but I thought it was worth it to show off a little. I figured you two would appreciate that gesture, especially Dan. Hi, Dan! As for drinks, youíll find your favorite fizzies in the fridge. As for Ďeverything is under controlí, well it is a group effort, and I mean that in the largest possible sense. You know very little details about your history, or at least the causes behind the effects. You donít know your future Ė at least, not yet. You are aware of the common theories of time travel, because you both read a lot of science fiction growing up. I know, because I watched you, or I will watch you sometime in the future, from your past. It gets confusing. Letís start over.

My name is Noria. I am the great-granddaughter of David Alan Doright, known in your time as "Danger Dave, Galactic Hero", but known around here as simply "Galactic DAD". I am also related to Daniel Allen Pierce (Hi, again Dan!), but I canít tell you how or when or anything else because if I do, then I wonít exist. Trust me. I have explicit pictures of me not existing.

As for the time travel, itís complicated. Not just technically, but paradoxically. All I can say is that I fix the past. Hereís an analogy. Time is like what you used to call a ĎVCR Tapeí. It has a beginning and an end, but you can go back or forth to any point and either watch what is already recorded or re-record on top of it. Sometimes, with advanced preparation and very good timing, you can make the new recording fit in almost seemlessly with the old, but usually not. Also, you can never quite get the old and new recordings to synchronize completely. Thereís always some fuzz when you jump over the break into the other recording.

The same thing happens to your ĎSpace-Time Continuumí Ė it is never perfectly continuous once you start mucking about with time travel. Sometimes, you happen to be at the right time and place to notice the time fuzz. You think you see something that isnít there when you look closer, or you hear someone say something, but they swear they said something else, instead.

Also, if you happen to be in the part of the time tape that is re-recorded, and something is different, you may feel out of place. Also, the feeling of Deja Vu usually happens when youíve been somewhere that youíve never been before, only you have. It was in an older recording. You are actually re-living a part of your life differently.

Thatís what happens to you guys.

Over and over and over and over...

You still have Free Will. You just canít die. Well, technically, thatís not true. I canít tell you how many times youíve all been blown up, drowned, electrocuted, poisoned, shot, burn, hung, stabbed, or sucked into a black hole. Iíve simply lost count.

Thatís part of the reason your nickname is ĎDangerí Dave. Most of the danger you fix was caused by you, and I have to keep tweaking the past until you can get it right. Think of me as your guardian angel. I feel that way about both of you, more than you will ever know, maybe.

So, long story short Ė I control my past, but ultimately, you control your future, as many times in as many ways as you like, until it is agreeable to my present. I canít tell you what a difference youíve made, because you havenít made it yet, from your point-of-view. Even I donít know what the end result will be because someone from my future can go back and undo everything all over. Thatís life.

The Universe is a funny place, huh? Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Next question, please, then turn the page. Oh, hereís a suggestion. Why not have an early dinner at Momís Old-Fashioned Kitchen? Itís one of Danís favorite places, and it will be yours, too. You can be there in 3 hours from your current position and avoid all the rush hour traffic through the Betelgeuse Wormhole Turnpike. See you on the next page...

(to be continued soonÖ)