Sponsor a story at EDF - Your message can reach thousands of readers for just $5

SECURITY QUESTION • by Ramon Rozas III

The man blurred into existence behind the dense shrubs, and checked a small device he took from his pocket. Since time and date seemed correct, he straightened his sports coat and stepped from behind the bushes.

College students in rugby shirts swarmed up and down the walkway, toting backpacks. The man oriented himself to the towers of Old Main, and started walking toward Schnader Hall.

He found himself on a lawn ringed with brick buildings, and stopped a young student who was walking along. “Excuse me; do you know–”

The youth stared at him for a minute. “Boy, you really look like–”

The man interrupted. “Yes, I’m his uncle; managed to get out here to visit him!” he said in a cheerful tone. “Have you seen him today?”

“Yeah, uh, he was down by the dining hall a little while ago.” The student pointed, and then shrugged. “Man, you do look like an older version of him.”

The man laughed, thanked the student and headed toward the Quad in front of the dining hall. Once there, he stopped by a large oak tree and scanned the grass Quad. The crowd of students was laughing and milling around right after lunch, but it only took a few moments for the man to identify his goal.

He strode forward, weaving amongst the students. His target was walking along with two other young men, blue LL Bean book bag over his shoulder. The man hurried to catch up and fell in beside the student with the blue bag. “Hello there!” he said, tapping the youth on the shoulder.

The young man turned to him and stopped.  “Excuse me?”

The man smiled broadly. “Hey–I’m your uncle Javier.  We need to talk in private.”

“But I don’t have–” the student started to say as the man took his arm and walked him away from his friends.

Before the student could regain his composure, the man quickly said, “There is a scar on your right shin that you tell everyone is from a fencing saber wound.  In fact, you fell in an uncovered manhole walking home from fencing practice and got that scar.”

The student stopped walking and stared at the man. “I’ve never told anyone that.”

“There’s an Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon in your dorm room that you’ve read at least one hundred times.  You’re giving serious thought to becoming a communist based on that,” the man added.

The student said nothing.

The man gave him a crooked smile and lifted up his right arm, pulling back his sleeve.   There was a faint, long scar on his forearm, wrapping around his wrist.  “You’ll get that in about ten years.   You don’t become a communist, by the way.   You join the Libertarian Party.”

The student started chuckling and shaking his head.  “Let me guess–are you supposed to be me from the future?”

The man smiled again. “Yes.”

Some time later, they were sitting on a bench outside of the College Center eating soft pretzels.  The man was really enjoying them.

“So, assuming I believe you, I guess there’s nothing you can tell me about my future.”

“Goodness, no,” the man laughed.  “You’ve read enough skiffy, haven’t you?  I’m here to get information from you.” Suddenly, he had a thought and leaned forward conspiratorially.  “Well, I can tell you some unimportant stuff.”

“Really?  Like what?” The student, convinced he was playing a game, was still intrigued.

“You’ll meet your wife in an interesting place, for example.”

“Meet–as in the future?  I’m not going to marry…?”

The man laughed.  “No, not her.  No one you’ve met yet.  I can give you that little tidbit.  The meeting, though–it’s a good story to tell your children.”

“I have children?”

“No, I do.  Maybe just one.  Can’t tell you more than that.”

“How far in the future do you come from?”

“Pretty far, actually.  I made it to the ships, if that means anything to you.”

“Should it?”

“I can’t remember whether you’ve read Ken MacLeod yet.”

“Never heard of him.”

“Oh, you will.  Anyway, I’m far enough in the future that I have to offload memories from this old brain,” the man tapped his skull, “and store them elsewhere.”

“Christ, that’s wild!” The student laughed.

“There’s going to be ubiquitous worldwide information networking in the future; actually, some of it’s in place right now.  In eight years… well, I could tell you to go look up Sergei in College Park and lend him some money.”

“I don’t have any money and even if I did–,” the student observed.

“–you’d be crazy to lend it to some college student based on the word of somebody who says he’s from the future,” the man finished. “I know.  Anyway, this system evolves and changes and becomes ridiculously sophisticated, but there are all kind of legacy backwaters and left-over security systems.  Stupid things like passwords–”

“You need a password that you’ve forgotten?” the student said.

The man shook his head, irritated.  “How could you tell me a password you haven’t even created yet?  No, passwords get forgotten all the time.  However, there’s a backup system called a security question, and such a system is guarding some very important data.”

“Important enough to send someone back in time?” the student said with some incredulity.  

“This may be some of the most important data in the solar system,” the man said seriously.

The student got a chill down his back.  “I think I may be starting to take you seriously.”

“Good.  I need you to carefully think about what I’m going to ask you.  It may seem trivial, but the fate of several worlds may rest on it.”

“Several…?  Well… okay.  So this security question is something about my–our–history?”

“Exactly.  It’s crucial that you remember this accurately.”  The man took a deep breath.  “What I need to know from you is… what was our mother’s maiden name?”


Ramon Rozas III writes in West Virginia.

GD Star Rating
loading...
SECURITY QUESTION • by Ramon Rozas III, 3.9 out of 5 based on 33 ratings
Posted on October 4, 2007 in Science Fiction, Stories
Tags:
  • Gerard Demayne

    I’d have thought “What was the name of your first pet?” would be more likely to have been forgotten and less likely to be found by a cursory background check.

  • Jim Hartley

    Loved it! Loved it! Probably the best so far!

  • Lyn

    Very clever – and cute. Well told with bits of sideline humor to keep it interesting. One change needed though: “So, assuming I believe you, I guess there’s nothing you can tell me about my future.” or change his response – for in fact he does tell quite a bit about his future. But overall, story is good flash. Thanks for the morning smile.

  • Bonnie

    I love, love, LOVE this story! It’s some great “skiffy”!

  • Bonnie

    Maybe, but it wouldn’t have been as funny.

  • http://writingoffthewall.blogspot.com Mike Hood

    Well written Ramon. I loved the ending.

  • Jim Holwager

    It was great. I was so caught up in the story that I did not want it to end. When it did end my brain had to process for a few moments before the smile came across my face.
    this is very impressive

  • Walt Giersbach

    You made my morning with this story! But perhaps I’m compensating because several passwords are stored under my wife’s mother’s maiden name and she transliterates from a foreign language differently each time she applies for credit or access. Thanks, Ramon, for reminding me life used to be simpler.

  • carver

    most engaging;
    quite well done

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    I loved this – it was so…Ray Bradbury.

    That’s a compliment by the way!

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Hope he wasn’t adopted or anything. We off worlders are depending on it. :)

  • http://www.MadelineMora-Summonte.com Madeline Mora-Summonte

    Bravo! I was so pulled into the story and the character/s, and the end was great. (Although, I do agree with Gerard and the “name of your first pet” question.) Well done! Want to read more from Ramon…

  • http://www.jordanlapp.com/ Jordan Lapp

    It should be “there’s nothing >substantial< you can tell me”, but the student is using hyperbole, so we felt it was okay.

  • http://www.jordanlapp.com/ Jordan Lapp

    We would certainly like that too. Consider that your invite, Ramon! ;)

  • http://www.abluestar.com/blog/ Steven Smethurst

    Very enjoyable.
    Loved the ending.
    Do you have any other published work?
    A website or something like that?

  • http://canyonsofgray.blogspot.com DJ Barber

    Ha!! What I needed to start the day. Great story, Ramon.

    DJ

  • Ramon Rozas

    Thank you, everyone, for the postive feedback! I did enjoy writing this piece; the core idea came to me – I swear – in a dream. I orginially had a different “question” at the end, but someone suggested “mother’s maiden name” and it just worked for me. Thank you to EveryDayFiction for the chance to show off my work, and I will DEFINITELY submit in the future! While I don’t have a website, my other work has appeared in Aoife’s Kiss, Leading Edge Magazine and the Carnifex Press anthology Clash of Swords 2: Assassins. I do have a SF story coming up in the September 08 issue of Aoife’s Kiss.
    Thank you again!

  • anita

    What a great story. the characters were very real and it was easy to get pulled into the story. Write some more!!

  • Mark Dalligan

    Hi Ramon,

    Great! Started a bit “Back to the Future” and then gathered great pace with a brilliant ending.

    Keep it up.

    MArk

  • pATREUS

    Ken MacLeod, mentioned above, has linked this in his blog: http://kenmacleod.blogspot.com/

  • Pingback: www.orbitbooks.net » Blog Archive » Ken MacLeod: Fact or Fiction?

  • Tootsie McCallahan

    It did sound like a Ray Bradbury type of story!

  • http://www.mkeetonbooks.com Keeton

    Great story, I would never have guessed the ending.

  • Pingback: October’s Table of Contents | Every Day Fiction

  • Pingback: Interview with Ramon Rozas III | Every Day Fiction

  • Pingback: Links for December 14th | False Positives

  • Ben A

    Great story. Well done.

  • http://www.the-programmers-stone.com Alan Carter

    Your story made me think of Neil Gaiman’s comment, “There was a writer from Tulsa, Oklahoma (he died in 2002), who was, for a little while in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the best short story writer in the world. His name was R. A. Lafferty…”

    Thank you!

  • JR in WV

    Hi Ramon:

    I’m glad to see that someone in WV has the imagination to be writing such interesting stories. Keep up the good work!

    JR in WV

  • Pali Dhar

    The story is really great! FYI: I translated it for some friends of mine into german. So, for the curious, here is the german version of it:

    Die Sicherheitsfrage

    Der Mann materialisierte sich in dieser Existenz hinter dichten Büschen und überprüfte ein kleines Gerät, welches er aus seiner Tasche nahm. Da Datum und Uhrzeit anscheinend korrekt waren, strich er seine Sportjacke glatt und trat hinter dem Gebüsch hervor.

    Studenten in Rugbyshirts und Rucksäcken drängten sich auf dem Fussweg. Der Mann orientierte sich anhand der Alten Haupttürme und begann in Richtung der Schnader Halle zu gehen.

    An einer grossen Wiese umgeben mit Backsteinhäusern stoppte er einen jungen Mann, der dort entlanglief. “Entschuldigung, wissen Sie -”

    Der junge Mann starrte ihn eine Minute lang an. “Mann, Sie sehen genau so aus wie-”

    Der Mann unterbrach ihn. “Ja, ich bin sein Onkel, ich hab es geschafft hierher zu kommen und ihn zu besuchen!” sagte er in einem herzlichen Ton. “Haben Sie ihn heute gesehen?”

    “Jo, ähm, er war vor einer Weile unten beim Speisesaal.” Der Student zeigte in die Richtung und zuckte nachdenklich mit den Schultern. “Mann, Sie sehen wie eine ältere Version von ihm aus.”

    Der Mann lachte, dankte dem Student und wandte sich in die gewiesene Richtung. Als er angekommen war, stoppte er vor einer grossen Eiche und überblickte den grossen Platz vor dem Speisesaal. Die Studenten lachten und hingen überall auf dem Platz herum, aber er benötigte nur einige wenige Augenblicke um sein Ziel zu identifizieren.

    Er setzte sich in Bewegung und schlängelte sich durch die Menschenmenge hindurch. Sein Ziel spazierte mit zwei anderen jungen Männern, er hatte eine blaue Schultasche über die Schulter geschwungen. Der Mann beeilte sich, um die drei einzuholen. Er tauchte neben dem Student mit der blauen Tasche auf und tippte ihn an die Schulter.

    Der junge Mann drehte sich um und hielt an. “Entschuldigung?”

    Der Mann lächelte breit. “Hey – Ich bin Dein Onkel Javier. Wir müssen uns ungestört unterhalten.”

    “Aber ich habe keinen-” begann der Student zu entgegnen, da nahm der Mann ihn schon am Arm und zog ihn von seinen Freunden weg.

    Bevor der Student seine Fassung wiedererlangen konnte, antwortete der Mann schnell, “Du hast eine Narbe an Deinem rechten Schienbein, von dem Du allen erzählst Du hättest es von einem Fechtunfall. Tatsächlich bist Du aber auf dem Heimweg vom Fechttraining in ein grosses Loch gefallen und hast Dir die Narbe dabei zugezogen.”

    Der Student hielt in seiner Bewegung inne und starrte den Mann an. “Das hab ich niemandem erzählt”.

    “In Deinem Schlafzimmer hast Du ein Buch über den Staatstreich vom 18. Brumaire in Frankreich von Napoleon, den Du wenigstens hundert mal gelesen hast. Du hast deshalb angefangen ernsthaft darüber nachzudenken, Kommunist zu werden,” fügte der Mann hinzu.

    Der Student erwiderte nichts.

    Der Mann zeigte ihm ein schiefes Lächeln, hob seinen rechten Arm hoch und schon den Ärmel seiner Jacke zurück. Da war eine lange Narbe auf seinem Unterarm. “Du wist sie in ungefähr zehn Jahren bekommen. Ach, und Du wirst kein Kommunist werden, Du wirst der Liberalen Partei beitreten.”

    Der Student schüttelte angespannt seinen Kopf. “Lassen Sie mich raten – Sie behaupten mein Ich aus der Zukunft zu sein?”

    Der Mann lächelte wieder. “Ja.”

    Etwas später sassen sie auf einer Bank vor dem College Center und assen Brezeln. Der Mann genoss sie sichtlich.

    “Angenommen ich glaube Ihnen, dann vermute ich gibt es nichts, dass Sie mir über meine Zukunft erzählen können.”

    “Du meine Güte, nein,” lachte der Mann. “Du hast genug Science Fiction gelesen oder? Ich bin hier, weil ich etwas von Dir wissen möchte.” Plötzlich hatte er einen Einfall und lehnte sich konspirativ vor. “Nun ja, ich könnte Dir einige unwichtige Sachen erzählen.”

    “Wirklich? Zum Beispiel?” Der Student, überzeugt davon, dass es sich um einen Scherz handele, war trotzdem fasziniert.

    “Du wirst Deine Ehefrau an einem interessanten Ort treffen, zum Beispiel.”

    “Treffen – zukünftig? Du meinst, ich werde nicht meine jetzige Freundin heiraten…?”

    Der Mann lachte. “Nein, nicht sie. Niemanden, den Du bis jetzt getroffen hast. Ich kann Dir diesen kleinen Tipp geben. Das Treffen allerdings – es wird eine gute Geschichte werden, die Du Deinen Kindern erzählen kannst.”

    “Ich habe Kinder?”

    “Nein, ich habe sie. Möglicherweise nur eines. Mehr als das kann ich Dir nicht verraten.”

    “Von wie weit aus der Zukunft bist Du?”

    “Ziemlich weit. Ich habe es bis in die Raumflotte geschafft, falls Dir das irgendwas sagt.”

    “Sollte es denn?”

    “Ich kann mich nicht erinnern, ob Du je Ken MacLeod gelesen hast.”

    “Nie von ihm gehört.”

    “Oh, Du wirst. Wie auch immer, ich komme von weit genug aus der Zukunft, dass ich einige Erinnerungen aus meinem Gehirn auslagern musste,” der Mann tippte sich an den Schädel, “und es irgendwo anders zwischenspeichern musste.”

    “Jesus, das ist ja abgefahren!” Der Studen lachte.

    “Es wird ein universelles weltweites Informationsnetzwerk geben in der Zukunft, einiges davon gibt es jetzt schon. In acht Jahren… nun ja, Ich könnte Dir raten, Sergey im College Park aufzusuchen und ihm etwas Geld zu leihen.”

    “Ich habe kein Geld und selbst wenn ich es täte-,” bemerkte der Student.

    “-wärst Du verrückt, irgend einem College Student Geld zu geben, basierend auf der Aussage von Jemand, der behauptet aus der Zukunft zu sein,” beendete der Mann seinen Satz für ihn. “Ich weiss. Wie auch immer, dieses System entwickelt sich immer weiter und verändert sich, es wird immer komplizierter. Aber es gibt allerlei Altlasten und veraltete Sicherheitssysteme. Dämliche Dinge wie Passwörter-”

    “Du hast ein Passwort vergessen?” fragte der Student.

    Der Mann schüttelte irritiert den Kopf. “Wie könntest Du mir ein Passwort verraten, dass Du Dir noch gar nicht ausgedacht hast? Nein, Passwörter werden immer mal wieder vergessen. Allerdings gibt es da ein Backupsystem namens ‘Sicherheitsfrage’, und so ein System schützt einige ziemlich wichtige Informationen.”

    “Wichtig genug, um jemanden aus der Zukunft durch die Zeit zu schicken?” fragte der Student ungeduldig.

    “Dies sind möglicherweise die wichtigsten Informationen im ganzen Sonnensystem,” entgegnete der Mann ernst.

    Dem jungen Mann lief ein Schauer über den Rücken. “Ich denke, ich sollte Sie langsam ernst nehmen.”

    “Gut. Ich möchte, dass Du genau über das nachdenkst, was ich Dich fragen werde. Es mag Dir trivial erscheinen, aber das Schicksal mehrerer bewohnter Welten hängt davon ab.”

    “Mehrerer…? Oh … in Ordnung. Also handelt es sich bei der Sicherheitsfrage um etwas aus meiner – unserer – Vergangenheit?”

    “Präzise. Es ist entscheidend, dass Du Dich genau erinnerst.” Der Mann atmete tief ein. “Was ich von Dir wissen will, ist … Wie war der Mädchenname Deiner Mutter?”

  • http://www.jordanlapp.com/ Jordan Lapp

    Wow. This simply reeks of AWESOME!

  • Ramon Rozas

    Mr. Dahr – thank you so much for translating the story. I can’t read German, but I think its incredible!

    Jordan – are you ready for the foreign language EDF?

  • Ramon Rozas

    And being compared to RBradbury and R.A. Lafferty! Wow!

  • anon

    boring hack writing

    what, is it considered good to string together a number of common plot devices and old jokes in an unimaginative way?

  • http://www.jordanlapp.com/ Jordan Lapp

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy this story, but one of EDF’s strengths is it’s variety. Try clicking on the sci-fi link on the right side of this page and take a look at some of our other pieces.

  • Pingback: February’s Table of Contents | Every Day Fiction

  • http://www.stevegoble.com/blog Steve Goble

    Saw this late and I hate to stir up the pot, but I thought the comment from “anon” above was gutless and puny and weak, the kind of thing a true hack writer would post out of frustration upon seeing someone else succeed.

    Anonymous people who pop in to say how bad something is just plain suck. Why would anyone give any credibility to an anonymous creep who just insults? I’m guessing the commenter has a billion rejections from editors who simply “refuse to acknowledge true genius.”

    Sheesh.

    Criticism is fine. It’s how writers grow. But have the guts to put your name on it.

  • http://www.jordanlapp.com/ Jordan Lapp

    I’m with you Steve.

    I think a lot of people have “internet courage”, and don’t realize that there’s real people at the other end of their send key. I felt that my response was the one most unlikely to devolve into a flame war.

  • mail@jenniferwalmsley.co.uk

    Loved the rising tension, waiting for the look-a-like’s purpose. I laughed at the ending.

  • Pingback: » Fiction of the day: Security question, by Ramon Rozas III

  • Jim Williams

    Genius. A real three-card-monty. The ending made me laugh out loud, for real.

  • Anne Marie

    Loved it. Never saw the ending coming. Thanks for the smile and a laugh.

  • http://www.led-teelicht.de Benjamin

    Eigentlich bin ich ja nicht so der “Blog-Fan” aber nach deinem Artikel ?berleg ich mir das glaube ich nochmal… Danke!

  • http://led-teelichter.de LED Teelicht

    Nice Article…very helpfull for me :)

    thank you!

  • Pingback: Some sharing about secrets | Public Strategist

  • http://users.beagle.com.au/peterl P.M.Lawrence

    Um, I suspect that the interrupted question “do you know” was going to ask if the student knew the younger self of the time traveller. If so, the German translation should be “kennen sie” (for knowing a person, or something being treated metaphorically as a person), not “wissen sie” (as that applies to knowing stuff); it’s the same as the two verbs “connaitre” and “savoir” in French, but English uses “know” for both sorts of knowing.

« | Home | »