The Unfinished Dissertation

The Universe and Its Problems

“As with the immediate world around us, the Universe is far from perfect. Like with any machine, something in the Universe occasionally breaks. It can be something simple, such as a slight, unexpected change in the path of an asteroid (although the dinosaurs would hardly consider it “simple” or “minor.”) It could also be something a bit more complex, such as a transgression in the laws of space and time. Inanimate objects suddenly coming to life would likely be put under this category. While the simpler errors can run their course with relative impunity, the more complex issues require a bit more attention, lest such a crack grow into something which could rend everything apart. Fortunately, the Universe has measures to fix the more serious problems.

“Problems which require the very manipulation of space and time to repair.

“This is where you come in. Although the Universe cannot mend itself, those within it can. The chance creation of sentient beings gives the Universe a unique capacity to maintain itself. However, most such beings cannot fix the Universe, leaving the task to a scant few who can step beyond the boundaries of space and time. You are one of these special few.

“Your ability to control space and time comes from your strong sense of belonging in the Universe, a sentiment so powerful that it protects your own Personal Time from mingling with the Time of everyone else. With this Personal Time, you can take care of the Universe’s more dire problems without interfering with the Time of everyone else. However, such protection from the normal Time Flow can only be sustained by not just the sentiment, but also with an Anchor. This is the physical manifestation of your belonging, an object that you hold dear. Without it, you would just drift off into the darkness beyond space and time, losing your grounding with the Universe. The Anchor becomes your means to mend the problem at hand through the sheer power of your belonging.

“If you are able to fix the problem, the Time Flow continues with you in it, as if nothing happened at all. Some people go through these trials – these Pauses – and then live the rest of their lives without any further involvement. Some forget. Some claim insanity. Some remember it as a dream. Many do not even make it out of a Pause alive. But a very successful few tend to slip into multiple Pauses, their effectiveness earning, or condemning, them another chance to fix the Universe. Perhaps you are one of those few as well… the Universe does seem to have an interesting sense of humor.”

Dr. Marilyn Wilkins; Email to Joseph Marks; March 12, 2012

The Nature of Pauses

“The Pause is a confounding phenomenon. On one hand, its existence is very clear – the stoppage of the normal Time Flow to give certain beings, those with a strong sense of belonging and an excess of Personal Time, a chance to fix a potentially catastrophic error within the Universe. On the other hand, how and why those individuals are able to participate in a Pause is a complete mystery. The only link in this duality that I can see may be that sense of belonging, the Anchor. Per our current understanding of astrophysics, we have a skeptical view, at the very best, of the existence of a higher being. But perhaps this evidence would lead me to believe that the Universe is, at least… organic, much like this planet.

“Of course, there are not many who would listen to these words outside of the radical religious establishment. The end-of-the-world folk. My colleagues merely would discard my experiences and the evidence I have gathered as pure hogwash, nothing more. But I must press on. I believe that I am soon upon a breakthrough. Through all my studies, I could count the sites, the remains, which supplied my evidence on one hand. Pauses must have only happened very seldom in the past, tracing all the way back to prehistory, at least a couple thousand years between them. But now… I have just finished my fourth.

“Something is aggravating the Universe like never before. It is almost as if something from outside the Universe, outside the normal Time Flow is trying to rip the Universe apart all at once. All I can do… all that WE can do right now, is to fix the problems as fast as we can, keep up with… whatever is causing the Pauses.

“As such, I will refine my focus. The answer must lie in the problems themselves, the temporal distortions which I seal – I will call them Breaks. Terrible creatures have recently started to emerge from the Breaks, protecting them with all they have. Their presence has also revealed another aspect of the Anchor – its ability not only to become a tool of repair, but also a means of defense. Upon the presence of these monsters, my Anchor transformed to a knife of amazing durability. Nothing could break it.

“I must have also become quite acquainted with the Pause as well. I seem to be able to harness a greater control of space and time within the Pauses. I can manipulate not only the Breaks and defend myself from the… Aberrations... but I can also manipulate things otherwise locked in place outside of the Pause from my position in the Pause. It relieves me that I am learning these skills now, as they will aid me in the investigation to come.

“I do wonder though… if those creatures can come from the Breaks… can I go in? Perhaps that is where the answers lie.”

Dr. Marilyn Wilkins; Personal Notes; August 7, 2012

Beyond the Time Flow

“I almost died today. Perhaps “died” is not the word for it. It was something worse than death. I was overcome with the feeling of helplessness and despair, of being unable to do anything about the Break. I was so consumed with trying to figure out how to mend the Break that either I wore myself out or… perhaps instinctively pushed myself out of the Pause for my own protection.

“Either way, I am sure that I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to you for pulling me back into the Pause. It was like I was locked out and you had the key, Joseph. I don’t know what would have happened to me if you have not done so. Would I have been locked out of Time Flow forever? I cannot imagine what would happen to me if that were the case, especially when only being out of the Pause for but only a little while caused so much trouble for me.

“This will be my last email to you, Joseph. Tomorrow I head back to Los Angeles to further examine the remains I studied here. I also do not want to put you in any more danger, as it is starting to seem that the Pauses are following me. You have learned much and defended your city well in our Pauses. I can trust that you can handle yourself well. As for me… I need to find the answer once and for all. Even if that means I end up being locked out for good.

“That is what I will call it. Lock Out.”

Dr. Marilyn Wilkins; Email to Joseph Marks; January 20, 2013

The Unfinished Dissertation

Pause (Playtest 0.3) JSCervini