Chapter 3 - Loops and Paradoxes
The future..., that's right, I had jumped into a time portal that was opened by that shooter, which opened up another full can of questions, "So, what about that man that you just arrested? Who was he? How did you know he'd be there? What was that thing you took off his wrist? And what do you mean, you've met me before?"
"Woah, one question at a time," Agent Lam said.
"Alright, who was that man?"
"I think you witnessed him killing a politician right before you came to this time?"
"Right, he killed Edgar Brown."
"Well, we believe that by doing so, he's changed the timeline, which is why we're arresting him, for murder and for changing the timeline. We also believe that he's part of a terrorist group that's planning a large scale change of the timeline to suit their purposes. This...," he held up the device that he took off the killer's wrist, "... is the device he used to time travel."
"Why don't you just go back in time and prevent him from killing Edgar Brown?"
"Because that would cause another time paradox."
"If he never killed Edgar Brown, then why did we go back in time to stop him in the first place?"
I looked at him, trying to wrap my mind around the question. If we went back in time and stopped Edgar Brown from getting killed, then past me wouldn't have chased the killer all the way into the future, then I wouldn't have met Agent Lam, and then we wouldn't have went back in time to stop Edgar Brown from getting killed. But, would Edgar Brown then get killed because we didn't go back in time to stop it? Or would Edgar Brown somehow remain alive?
Agent Lam looked at me and smiled, "Yep, that's the expression that everyone gets when they first had to think about this. I think you're beginning to understand what I mean by a time paradox?"
"Good, so then you understand why we wouldn't want to create another one."
"Another one was already created?"
"Yeah, if Edgar Brown was already dead, then why did his killer go back in time to kill him?"
I paused for a second, "Okay, this is making my head spin."
Agent Lam chuckled a little, "Yeah, it's a bit confusing. But it brings me to my next point, we knew that the perp would be there because the future you and the future me came back in time to tell me. That's why I've met you before, but you haven't met me yet."
"So..., in order to prevent another paradox, the present us will have to go back in time to tell past you what future us told present you?"
Agent Lam smiled, "Looks like you're getting the hang of this. Yeah, we're going to do exactly that. This is what is called a stable time loop."
"A stable time loop?"
"Basically, we have to go back in time to ensure that the events leading up to our present happen, thus keeping the timeline the same. And then our past selves will have to do the same, and then their past selves, and so on; that's why it's called a loop."
I rubbed my temple, "But we're only here because future us went back in time. And they only did that because their future selves went back in time as well. And, so on. How did the loop even get started then?"
Agent Lam shrugged, "To be honest with you, a stable time loop is pretty much a paradox as well, but it's the best that we can do with what we have. It's what we use to try to minimize the amount of paradoxes in our timeline."
"We? You mean the Time Patrol Agency?"
"Yep, we monitor time travel and make sure that no one is using it for illegal purposes."
"So, then, what is time travel supposed to be used for?"
"Mostly for research, and it's a last resort for criminal investigations." Agent Lam looked up as the car started slowing down. "Oh, here we are."