The Novikov Principle


“But I thought Da Vinci invented the gun,” I protested as I studied my assignment.

“That’s what most people think,” Colonel Jones responded, “But that’s just the product of a poor education system.”

Sighing, I returned to my piece of paper, which read, “Hugo Borchardt, 1844-1923.” Since being selected for this operation, I was pretty much lost and everything a puzzle, with bits and pieces being fed to me in a hop-scotch manor.

“They’ll let me in on the secret when the time’s right,” I kept telling myself.

Borchardt, I soon learned is credited with developing the automatic loading handgun, know know as an automatic pistol. Why I was memorizing all this information was soon made clear when Jones introduced me to Mr. Smith.

“It’s simple,” Smith said, “The Novikov Principal.”

“The what?” I asked.

“Simply stated, time travel to the past,” he answered.

“No way!” I responded.

Smith explained that many scientists believed backwards time travel could never be done. He added that any theory allowing such time travel would introduce any number of problems.

“The classic example is of course the “grandfather paradox,” he continued, “It asks: what if you were to go back in time and kill your own grandfather before your father was conceived?”

“I wouldn’t exist,” I answered.

“You’d think that,” he said, “but the Novikov Principle gets around that.”

Smith explained the principle says that if an event happens that could “change” the past, then the probability of that event is zero, meaning it is impossible to create such a time paradox.

My mind hung on the word, “if.” I knew it could mean the difference between failure and success.

That’s when the other shoe dropped. I had all the puzzle pieces and suddenly fit into one large mosaic: I was going to travel back in time to meet Borchardt.

Well almost. I wasn’t to meet him, I was to kill him.

“But why?” I asked.

“Surely you understand?” Smith puzzled.

“No, I’m missing it,” I returned.

“How many men, women and children have been killed since the gun was invented?” Smith asked.

He knew I had no way of knowing the answer to that.

“How many wars in the last quarter-century, Captain?” he quizzed.

“Perhaps twenty,” I answered.

So that was my mission, as far-fetched as it sounded, to return to the past and kill the inventor of the semi-automatic pistol. The thought left me dumb-struck as I let it sink in.

“Now that the cats out of the bag, let’s get on with it,” Jones said

The Colonel led the way to the end of the build to a large open room. It was the size of an airplane hanger and in the center of it was a machine, unlike anything I’d ever seen before or since.

There was also a doctor, who gave me a quick examination and another man who assisted me in dressing in a period costume that would help me blend in once I got to where I was going. Concealed under my heavy wool vest was a small, two-shot 25-caliber pistol, which I was to use on Borchardt.

“Have a seat,” Jones directed.

I sat down amid the wires, tubes and diodes.

“I’ll make it simple,” he announced, “You have one-hour to complete your mission.”

“Yes, sir,” I returned.

Smith pushed a button and the machine hummed to life, flashing and whirring. It was hypnotic and I felt myself grow increasingly dizzy, until I felt like I was falling through the sky.

Without warning, I found myself outside, seated on the ground.  I felt as if I were in a dream and floating as I looked around , realizing I was just outside of Trenton, Massachusetts.

It took me a few minutes to not only gather my strength but my bearings as well. After about ten-minutes, it was time to find the Pioneer Breech-Loading Arms Company and the 24-year-old Borchardt.

Though still a bit dizzy and feeling somewhat sick to my stomach, finding the gun makers wasn’t as difficult as I’d thought it would be. The company was more like a shop, a simple two-story building with a large sign over the entrance.

I felt for my pistol, suddenly realizing the irony that I was about to execute the man with the same technology he designed and I was ordered to stop.

“Can I help you?” a man with a heavy German accent asked as I stepped through the door.

“I am looking for a Hugo Borchardt,” answered.

“That is me,” he responded .

That’s when I drew my pistol from my vest and aimed it at him. At first he looked frightened, but then his fright turned to curiosity and he stepped forward to get a better look at it.

“Beautiful!” he exclaimed as he reached out and touched it with a childlike inquisitiveness.The young man seemed bedazzled, unaware of his impending death

I felt my hand begin to shake as I held the pistol in front of his face.

Then without warning, I felt that still-unfamiliar hypnotic, dizzying sensation as the small room began to tilt left-to-right. Suddenly, I grabbed my head as a sharp, hot pain stabbed it’s way through my brain.

When I woke up, I discovered myself back in the large room from where my strange journey began. Both Jones and Smith were standing over me as I had been moved from the machine to a nearby gurney.

“Well?” they asked in unison.

“I – I – I…” my voice cracked as I cleared my throat, “Didn’t get him. Back too soon. One more minute.”

“Where’s your pistol, Captain?” the Colonel shouted.

“D – d – dropped it,” I answered as I faded into unconsciousness.

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