Chapter 7: Dating fossils

Markus pops up in the lab. At least he has the good sense to do so while no one is looking. One moment he isn't there, the next moment he is. "So, will you throw me a bone?" he asks with a smile.

Nina leads him to a longish box. In there, resting on soft inert packaging, is a fossil bone as long as a man's entire leg. "We are pretty sure this thing is 200 million years old or thereabout. Can you find out more about it?"

"The animal died 192,344,918 years ago. An unpleasant affair it was too. It's a male, and lost in a harsh fight for territory and mating rights. These fights were not in principle to the death, but it happened. In this case, internal bleeding brought him to the brink of death, and carnivores chased him out in the river delta where he sank into the treacherous mud and became a fossil."

"Goshiness. You can tell that just from looking at it?"

"It still happens, 192,344,918 years and 97 days ago. I am there, just as I am here."

"This is so seriously creepy!"

"Watch with me. I will set up a replica of the reflected light off the scene, as if it were coming out of this wall."

Suddenly the wall becomes transparent. It is just gone, and Nina looks out at a savage swampland. It is clearly a river delta, and enormous ferns grow around the murky lakes and river beds. She thinks she may be able to identify some of the plants ... but then her attention is caught by large shapes moving through the greenery. These are not the largest dinosaurs of all time, but they are still pretty impressive compared to a human.

"Wow. I wish I had my ..."


"... camera." She takes it from his hand.

"Not like anyone will believe you anyway."

"You're right. The colors are all wrong."

"The colors?"

"Of the dinosaurs. They are too drab."

"Says who?"

"Paleoforensic experts."

"Shame they weren't there to tell the dinosaurs."

The scene plays out the way Markus already has told. There is a fight between two beasts, one of them loses. Nina finds herself rooting for the underdog, underdino, but of course there is nothing she can do about it. The past is already locked, and the poor critter's bone is in her lab. But as the poor bedraggled dino wanders off to die friendless and alone, her attention is captured by a related event. The mating.

"They had mating dances??"

"That would be an apt description."

"It just seems so wasteful, to have these huge bodies caper around like that."

"Nature often seems wasteful. Think of the billions of suns burning for billions of years with no life-bearing planets nearby to shine on. In comparison, the exuberance of animal sexuality seems positively economical. This dance is simply a way for both parties to ensure that their mate is of the right species, healthy, fertile and motivated."

"Rational exuberance."


"Hmm, I read an article once that proposed the dinosaurs went extinct because of their lethal mating."

"Sounds contradictory."

"This researcher had calculated on the energy that would go into two really big dinosaurs mating. All that energy have to go somewhere, to dissipate once the deed is done. If 50% of it escaped as sound, it would be loud enough to kill a human at a distance of 130 meters. Much of the local fauna was at least as vulnerable."

"50% of the energy in mating is output as sound? Only in human newlyweds."

"I bow to your superior knowledge in this matter."

"Bow, but don't bend over."

"Oh my dog! We are being corrupted by dinosaur porn!"

As the photo session ends, the wall becomes opaque again. "I'll have to run these photos through an image editing program to make them look like drawings. And add the right colors. 'An artist's impression', you know."

"Polite dishonesty."

"Dumbing down. I'm blonde."

"And female. Which is why you prefer to communicate your research by publishing rather than by personal presentation."

"Are you spying on me?"

"I prefer to call it 'taking an interest'."

"Are you taking an interest in me?"

"Within reasonable limits, yes."

BEING PREPARED did not quite teleportation a pleasant experience, but less shocking than the first time. Nina is still unsteady on her feet when she again feels fully solid. Mark lends her an arm for support. He could probably have done something super instead, but an arm is OK. "Man, it's really dark!"

"Time zones."

"Yeah, I remember calling home to Norway at 3 in the night when I had recently moved over. Not very popular."

"Luckily Paris is a city that doesn't sleep. We'll just move from this shadowy glade to the brightly lit communal areas."

"Yeah, no shadowy glades on the first date please."

This is so not happening. I'm not walking along the Seine with a guy, even him. I have this irrational urge to hold hands. Seen too many movies. Wow. I am drunk, and I haven't tasted a drop yet. "Is that the Eiffel Tower?"

"None other. Want to see the top?"

"Please, no more jumps right now."

"I could fly us up."

"You can fly?" Of course he can.

"Locations are just potential energy states..."

"I can't fly."

"Weight is not a limitation."

"Thanks for your wonderfully chosen compliments."

"Is that a no?"

"It is an 'I am afraid of flying, especially without planes'."

"Is that a no?"


"Was that a yes?"


No holding hands ... instead I'm clinging to his neck like a scared child, while we sail on the winds. Nice hand placement there, old friend. Say something. Be natural. "So this is the famous Paris by Night."

"Are you uncomfortable?"

"I'm scared half to death. If you drop me, I'll never fly with you again."

"I would respect that, but I won't drop you."

"Because I would be dead."

"There would be ample time to avoid that. Besides, should you die against your will, I would bring you back into the timestream."

"You would what???"

"Snatch you from the moment before death and transport you back into the flow of time."

"You can do that? You can flicking resurrect the dead?"

"It is not exactly a resurrection. It is a time shift."

"You could do that?"


"You could bring back to life anyone? Einstein? Newton? Socrates? The freaking Buddha?"

"Technically they would not have died in the first place."

"God. Oh my god."

"There is nothing religious about this at all. It is a simple time displacement, no different from the space displacement we just used."

"Have you ever done this?"

"No. I would do it if I unduly caused the death of an innocent. I have not done that."

"You could bring back anyone, and you have not done it?"

"I could do lots of things. I don't."

"You do fly, though."

"I thought you might enjoy seeing Paris from the air."

"I would have called you a show-off. But I swear I will never ever do that again."

"Feel free to."

"You can bring back the dead, and you don't."

"Imagine the disruption."

"You are right, of course. But I wish I had not known this."

"That can be arranged."


No holding hands ... instead I'm clinging to his neck like a scared child, while we sail on the winds. Nice hand placement there, old friend. Say something. Be natural. "So this is the famous Paris by Night."

"Don't be scared. I am holding you and I won't let go."

"You sound like something by a boy band."

"Not the worst that could happen."

"Is too."

"Is not."

"Is too."

I feel so weird ... like something between us was left unsaid. Oh well. There will be time enough.