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[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE Copyright © 2020 by Diana Gabaldon.]
IMETAY RAVELERSTAY ANUALMAY, ONSERVATIONCAY OFWAY ASSMAY N NRG
“Time Traveler’s Manual?” Roger asked, looking at her sideways. Brianna was flushed and had a deep line showing between her brows, neither of which detracted from her appeal.
She nodded, still frowning at the page.
“I had a thought and wanted to put it down before I lost it, but—”
“You don”t want to risk anybody stumbling over it and reading it,” he finished for her.
“Yep. But it still needs to be something the kids—or Jemmy, at least—can read, if necessary.”
“So tell me your valuable thought,” he suggested, and sat down, very slowly. He’d been in the saddle from dawn to dusk for the last three days, and ached from neck to knees.
“So you don’t know anything about Pig Latin,” she said, eyeing him skeptically. “How are you with the principle of the conservation of mass?”
He closed his eyes, and mimed writing on a blackboard.
“Matter is neither created nor destroyed,” he said, and opened his eyes. “That it?”
“Well done.” She patted his hand, then noticed its state: grimy and curled into a half-fist, his fingers stiff from gripping the reins. She pulled it into her lap, unfolded the fingers and began to massage them.
“The whole formal thing says, ‘The law of conservation of mass states that for any system closed to all transfers of matter and energy, the mass of the system must remain constant over time, as the system’s mass cannot change, so quantity can neither be added nor removed.’”
Roger’s eyes were half-closed in a mingling of tiredness and ecstasy.
“God, that feels good.”
“Good. So what I’m thinking is this: time travelers definitely have mass, right? So if they’re moving from one time to another, does that mean the system is momentarily unbalanced in terms of mass? I mean, does 1779 have 425 more pounds of mass in it than it ought to have—and conversely, 1983 has 425 pounds too little?”
“Is that how much we weigh, all together?” Roger opened his eyes. “I’ve often thought the kids each weighed that much, all by themselves.”
“I’m sure they do,” she said, smiling, but unwilling to lose her train of thought. “And of course I’m making the assumption that the dimension of time is part of the definition of ‘system.’ Here, give me the other one.”
“It’s filthy, too.” It was, but she merely pulled a handkerchief from her bosom and wiped the mixture of grease and dirt from his fingers. “Why are your fingers so greasy?”
“If you’re sending something like a rifle across an ocean, you pack it in grease to keep the salt air and water from eroding it.”
“Blessed Michael defend us,” she said, and despite the fact that she obviously meant it, he laughed at her Bostonian Gaelic accent.
“It’s all right,” he assured her, swallowing a yawn. “They’re safe. Go on with the conservation of mass; I’m fascinated.”
“Sure you are.” Her long, strong fingers probed and rubbed, pulling his joints and avoiding—for the most part—his blisters. “So—you remember Geillis’s grimoire, right? And the record she kept of bodies that were found in or near stone circles?”
That woke him up.
“Well. If a you move a chunk of mass into a different time period, do you maybe have to balance that by removing a different chunk?”
He stared at her, and she looked back, still holding his hand, but no longer massaging it. Her eyes were steady, expectant.
“You’re saying that if someone comes through a—a portal—someone else from that time has to die, to keep the balance right?”
“Not exactly.” She resumed her massage, slower now. “Because even if they die, their mass is still there. I’m sort of thinking that maybe that’s what keeps them from passing through, though; they’re headed for a time that… that doesn’t have room for them, in terms of mass?”
“And… they can‘t go through and that kills them?” There seemed something illogical in this, but his brain was in no condition to say what.
“Not that, exactly, either.” Brianna lifted her head, listening, but whatever she’d heard, the sound wasn’t repeated, and she went on, bending her head to peer into his palm. “Man, you have huge blisters. But think about it; most of the bodies in Geillis’s news clippings were unidentified, and mostly wearing odd clothes.”
He stared at her for a moment, then took his hand from hers and flexed it gingerly.
“So you think they came from somewhere—sometime—else, and got through the stones—but then died?”
“Or,” she said delicately. “They came from this time, but they knew where they were going. Or where they thought they were going, because plainly they didn’t make it there. So, you know…”
“How did they find out it was possible?” he finished for her. He glanced down at her notebook. “Maybe more people read Pig Latin than you think.”
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Thank you to Patricia M. for the wonderful bee on blue salvia!
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This excerpt webpage was last updated on Friday, October 16, 2020, at 1:15 p.m. Central Time by Diana Herself or Diana’s Webmistress.