The Variable Man

From Academic Kids

The Variable Man is a short story by Philip K. Dick that can be found in his collection of short stories named "Beyond Lies The Wub".

In the story, the Terran system (which is our system) is growing and expanding all the time. But an old and corrupt Centaurian Empire is holding Terra down, as it encircles the Terran system and will not let the humans grow out of their current empire. For this reason Terra is at war with Proxima Centauri and is trying to find a way of breaking free from the Centaurian's hold upon them.

In the war that results, Terra is continually coming up with new weapons to try and break the Centaurian defences, but Proxima Centauri is also continually updating its defences. Using spies and other such tactics, both parties find out about each others advances, and no actual fighting ever occurs because both sides are too busy trying to beat each other with new technological developments. Eventually Terra comes up with a concept for a bomb, that Proxima can not defend against. Then the odds start to side with Terra, and Terra prepares to fight with this new-found technology. The only problem being is that the bomb does not yet work which prevents Terra from using it against Proxima Centuari.

This is where the Variable Man comes in. The Variable Man is a man from the past. He is brought into the present (or future depending on perspective) via a Time Bubble as an accident. He escapes from the authority in the future and spends a lot of time running from them afterwards. It is, however, discovered that this man has a certain genius to fix things and make things work. This is because he comes out of a period of time when humans had a natural genius and an ability to invent things and to solve problems. It is at this point that the man working on the FTL (Faster Than Light) bomb realizes that The Variable Man is the only person who can make his bomb work. As a result, the engineer working on the FTL gets The Variable Man to help them out. The bomb does eventually work, although not in the way that anyone may have wanted...


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