Writer’s Carnival: Wells versus Quantum

This is my entry for the latest Writer’s Carnival, this time hosted over at the Four Part Land. It’s an idea I’ve had brewing for a little while, partially inspired by George Lucas for trying to shut down a Chinese laser manufacturer because their products bore a resemblance to lightsabers.

Wells versus Quantum

Askwith & Sanders – Attorneys of Law, 39 Dover Street

Herbert checked his pocket watch again, polishing the face on his trouser leg before slipping it back into his waistcoat pocket. Behind him the fax machine blurted out a series of abrupt beeps and clicks, startling him slightly. Everything seemed to startle him here, from the hideous clothing the people insisted on draping themselves in to the waves of motorcars curdling the roads outside (surely not a sustainable method of transport in such ridiculous quantities he thought to himself). Of course he revealed none of this, maintaining a straight face, an air of mute acceptance. To admit amazement at every passing article would render a crippling blow to his stratagem.

“Mr Wells?” asked the fair skinned, blonde lady striding into the little office. She wore her hair tied back in a severe peak that gave Herbert a comical image of African tribesmen. And makeup, far too much makeup.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting” she said without waiting for a response and as he rose to acknowledge her arrival a red tipped hand was thrust into his own and shaken thoroughly. She wore a gentleman’s pin-striped suit tailored to the curves of her slender figure. She must be in dire straits to wear such hand-me-downs in the workplace thought Herbert.

“Is Mr Askwith delayed?” asked Herbert and as soon as he uttered the words realised that he was speaking with Mr Askwith, or rather Mrs (or Miss, who knew?) Askwith. He felt a little foolish for having made such an old fashioned assumption – things had changed so much here.

“Call me Susan, please” smiled Mrs (or Miss) Askwith warmly and sat herself down across the desk from him. A collection of cream coloured boxes and a sort of flattened typewriter were laid out before her – this, Herbert had been informed, was a computer. A personal computer. Apparently everyone owned one of these miraculous contraptions now and the average model could perform over 1 million calculations every second – which presumably had rendered the roles of bankers and accountants redundant.

“So” she said with a deep breath. “You want to sue Quantum Industries.”

“That is correct.”

“For infringement of your intellectual property.”

“The Time Machine, yes.”

Mrs (or Miss) Askwith paused at this point and looked straight at her client, presumably both to gauge his seriousness and ensure that he was aware of her own.

“This being the novel that you wrote and was published in…” she paused to check her notes again. “1895. Roughly 130 years ago. And this was – am I correct – a work of fiction?”

“It was indeed but also the first proposed instance of using a vehicle or device to travel backwards or forwards through time.”

“But there are other works regarding time travel which predate your novella?”

“There are but always using magic or portals, not technology” answered Herbert confidently, flattening his moustache a little. “I would be unable to stake any claim to such methods. Nor would I wish to.”

“And did you at any time file for patents or any form of trademark protection for the Time Machine or the ability to travel through time using technology?”

“I did not, but the idea has been widely documented as being my own. Walk into any bookshop in the world and you will find a copy of The Time Machine, either published on its own or as part of an omnibus. Usually along with The Invisible Man.”

Susan Askwith was deeply concerned now – she could feel herself rocking from side to side atop an ultimatum that would either make, or destroy, her career.

“From what I gather, during the past four years since Quantum Industries unveiled their fully functioning time machine, they have made billions of dollars in profit. All I am asking for, as the initiator and promoter of the original concept, is that I receive the small percentage in back payment that I am due.”

He was right, Quantum Industries had become one of the most profitable organisations in the world almost overnight. Disney now ran “The Real Pirates of the Caribbean”, history students could go on actual field trips, brand new material had been released by The Beatles.

“Look I’ll have to think about it” said Sue after a heavy bout of consideration. “I’ll need to sleep on this before I decide how to proceed.”

“That is quite fair my good Mrs (or Miss) Askwith” answered Mr Wells getting to his feet and shaking her hand once more. “Time is something I suddenly find myself with a lot more of these days.”

After Rhona had come and shown the client out, Maxwell, Sue’s partner in the business knocked and came in.

“Don’t take the case Sue” he said, pouring himself a whisky and sitting down.

“Why? Because of scientific ethics? Don’t you start on that as well” she muttered.

Maxwell just grinned.

“What? What do you know?”

“You didn’t ask him who it was that went back and brought him here did you?”

“Well, no. I’m assuming it was someone from his family, probably wanting to improve their inheritance or something, I don’t know.”

“Quantum Industries did” smirked Maxwell.

“Well that doesn’t make any sense. Why would they get someone to sue them like that?”

“To shift blame. If H G Wells sues them, and wins – which he will – then he will be legally identified as bearing sole responsibility for time travel.” Having finished his drink Maxwell got back up again. “November 13th next year a time tourist will bring back the Black Death from 17th century Europe. The UN will outlaw time travel and someone will have to pay the price for having invented time travel in the first place – Quantum Industries don’t want that to be them.”

There was silence for several minutes and Maxwell watched with pleasure as his colleague visibly sat and calculated through all these new leaps of information. From the lobby Rhona continued to answer and redirect calls. Outside a taxi honked its horn.

“Okay, okay, okay” she said eventually, the colour slowly returning to her face as the pieces began to tumble back together. “I get how Quantum know all this – they’ve got a time machine. Who told you?”

Maxwell was heading for the door now, stopping only to turn and wink at her: “You will.”


  • Maximum word count of 1,000
  • Any type of flash is acceptable
  • Up to three entries allowed
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Published in: on August 24, 2010 at 8:26 PM  Comments (11)  
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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nice job on this one. Oh the tangled web time travel weaves…

  2. This one had me laughing. Love it.

    How twisted can the tale be? Ah, the fun circles of life.

  3. What a mess! Different threads of time colliding and changing and smashing all together. Ahh the lengths people will go to shift blame. Hmm! Nicely done 🙂

  4. Thanks for the comments, glad you all enjoyed this one as much as I did! I had to fight the temptation towards the end so start revealing more and more threads but thought leaving the details up to the imagination would be more satisfying.

  5. Ah I had to drop in to read about my namesake and this is a beguiling tale. I love the many twists and the atmosphere of the piece feels nicely old worldly. Would H.G. fall for the scam though – my only niggle! Well done.

  6. Very much enjoyed this! My head feels wonderfully messed with!
    Great little detail in “Mrs (or Miss)” – HG would be unable to fathom the existence of “Ms”

  7. Glad you both enjoyed this one, I wanted to do some time-trickery but without going all Primer and out of control and keep it fairly light hearted.

    Would HG have fallen for that scam? Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he didn’t.

  8. Amusing, take on fiction playing in patent law. I’m pleased to see the lawyers with morals. Too often they are portrayed as money-grubbing and this was a refreshing take.

  9. What a great story, it had me smiling all the way through. I also loved how the threads of time wove themselves into a knot.

  10. Inspired stuff! Time travel and a side order of conspiracy.
    I love the detail of Wells polishing his pocket watch: I have developed a habit of polishing my mobile phone’s screen every time I take it out of my pocket. This gesture will never have the elegance of a watch on a chain. Damm those Victorian’s!
    I’ll be back to your blog to catch up.

    • Glad you liked it and welcome to the blog Justin! I totally agree with the pocket watch thing, it’s ironic how we’ve almost come full circle to everyone having this thing in their pocket they’re constantly getting out and checking. All we need now is for someone to make a mobile phone built inside a pocket watch. That would rock my world.

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