It’s About Time

📅 Published on January 23, 2022

“It’s About Time”

Written by J.C. Fields
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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ESTIMATED READING TIME — 22 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Day One: October 2069

The week started out like most, sitting at my desk in a cubicle, sipping coffee and attempting to concentrate despite the constant din of other federal investigators in their adjacent spaces speaking loudly on their phones.

My name is Ryan Powers. I’m one of three FBI agents scattered around the country who make up the Division of Temporal Integrity. Basically, I’m a time cop. A decade ago, a few eggheads in the physics department at Caltech worked out the mechanics of time travel. Apparently, this development scared the crap out of politicians in Washington. Because the same year they announced it, the United States Congress passed a law making it a federal crime to make a jump into the past without prior authorization and strict supervision. The scientists told Congress, traveling into the future was impossible. I guarantee you, someday, someone will figure out how to get there.

As you can imagine, politicians were scared of someone manipulating the past and robbing them of their highly lucrative and cushy jobs, thus the Watkins-Morgan Act of 2060. This law made it a crime to initiate an unauthorized jump to the past.

Think about it for a moment, if someone traveled to the past and changed it, how would you know? The whole cause and effect thing will drive you crazy, if you let it. I try not to.

But, since I have an advanced degree in physics and sorta-kinda understand how time travel works, they chose me as one of the individuals they recruited. Once I became an agent, the FBI moved me to the west coast to investigate possible violations of the Watkins-Morgan law.

On this particular Monday morning, the Special Agent in Charge of our Los Angeles office, Lucas Flores, stopped by my desk and asked, “What are you working on this week, Powers?”

I hesitated in answering his loaded question. Nothing good ever comes from these types of inquiries. I looked up at him. “A few critical follow-ups, why?”

“The Director wants you to drop everything and check out Timelane, Inc. The bureau’s received several inside tips they are conducting illegal jumps. Plus, he’s got Senator Morgan breathing down his neck about making sure time-travel is squelched.

“I thought Timelane was one of the few corporations allowed to do research.”

“They are, but if the company is conducting unlawful experiments, their charter will be pulled and the CEO arrested.”

A bad feeling swept over me about the assignment. After a lengthy pause, I mumbled, “What’s the address?”

He handed me a signed subpoena and an old fashion handwritten note. I looked up again. “This is near the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.”

“Yeah, I noticed that, have fun.”

* * * * * *

A little history about Reed Manly, CEO of Timelane, Incorporated. He is one of the original physicists who figured out the procedure for time travel. I met him at a symposium seven years ago when the agency first proposed the Temporal Integrity division. His passion for the research put him in stiff opposition to the views of the government. When they signed the Watkins-Morgan law, he resigned from Caltech and started Timelane. How he acquired the capital to start the company so fast, is still a mystery. I can speculate, as did Wall Street, but no one provided proof.

I arrived at the thirty-story Timelane building at eleven a.m. The reception desk android scanned my credentials and said in a sexy female voice, “Thank you, Agent Powers. Please wait for someone to escort you.” I nodded and retrieved my ID. Standing with my hands behind my back, I surveyed the reception atrium. Reaching to the seventh floor, the openness of the area could only be described as high-dollar architecture.

Original Andy Warhol’s, Picassos, and Franz Marcs were hung on stand-alone walls scattered around the lobby. I prefer twentieth-century artists over the old masters. Particularly Marc’s, his use of bold colors makes him one of my favorite painters. Like I told you earlier, how Manly secured the funding for his business remained unknown. But whatever the process, it appeared he secured more than he needed.

Before I could finish admiring all the paintings, a short, bald, chubby gentleman with thick glasses and sporting a black Nehru jacket exited the elevator. He said, “Agent Powers, will you accompany me, please.”

I nodded and followed him to the elevators. We ascended in silence to the twenty-fifth floor. When the door opened, he gestured for me to exit. I did, he didn’t.

Another android stood there and spoke with a British accent, “Please follow me, sir.” I trailed behind the machine until we reached an office with an open door. Inside, Reed Manly stood. The tall, slender man, wore black jeans and a maroon turtleneck. He moved from behind the massive oak desk to offer his hand. Crystal-blue eyes stared at me from behind square-rim glasses perched at the end of a prominent Roman nose.

As we shook, he said, “Agent Powers, it’s been, what? Seven years?”

Hiding my surprise he recognized me, I replied. “Yes, at the Congressional Symposium on the Ethics of Time Travel.”

“That’s right. What can I do for you this morning?”

I reached into the inside pocket of my bomber jacket and handed him the subpoena. “I need to review your companies jump records.”

He looked at the paperwork and pursed his lips. “I’m afraid I can’t do that without conferring with our corporate attorneys.”

“Unfortunately, that piece of paper gives me the right with or without your attorney’s approval.”

He folded his arms. “Why the subpoena? I’ve always cooperated with the federal government about the authorized jumps we conduct.”

“It’s the unauthorized ones they want to know about.”

He smiled and returned to his desk. When he sat, he opened his top drawer and pulled out a ten-inch data pad. He looked up and asked, “When did these supposed unauthorized jumps occur, Agent Powers?”

“They’re listed in the subpoena.”

He laid the data pad on his desk and clasped his hands in front of him. “I can’t let you see our jump records, Agent.”

“And why is that?”

“Because if you saw them, you would arrest me immediately.” He reached into a desk drawer and retrieved what looked like a dart gun. All I remember after that was a stinging sensation in my chest.

* * * * * *

Day Two: October 2069

I regained consciousness in a small room. Complete darkness surrounded me, but I could sense how close the walls were. I felt my left wrist and discovered my chronometer watch remained there. I touched a small button on the side and the face displayed my location and the local time. Apparently, I had been unconscious for about eighteen hours and remained in Pasadena. The glow from the watch verified the room’s size. It appeared to be a four by four-foot area with foam eggshell wall coverings, similar to a recording studio. I sat on a straight-back chair and felt my torso bound to the seat. But my arms and legs were free. Silence prevailed. Not even the sound of an air-conditioner could be heard.

From a speaker above me, Manly said, “Ah—Agent Powers, you have arrived and are awake.”

“Detaining a federal agent is a felony.”

“Yes, I’m aware of the consequences. But you see, I have a reason for detaining you.”

“And that is?”

“You are going to help me prove a jump to the future is possible.”

“I’m not following you.”

“No, I didn’t think you would. You see, I need a volunteer to make the jump and since it has never been done before, not too many of my associates are anxious to raise their hand. You, however, have no choice.”

I didn’t answer right away thinking he would continue, but he did not. Finally, I asked, “How far into the future?”

“Actually, you already made a short jump of eighteen hours and you survived. So now, we are going to push you out a mere two hundred years.”

“How long was I unconscious?”

“From your reference, fifteen minutes.”

My inclination to distrust the man remained, but I knew eighteen hours passed without my being aware of it. I asked, “How will you know you’ve been successful?”

“That’s why we haven’t sent you yet. We are trying to calculate how long to keep you there so you can tell us what you observed.”

“Manly, you’re not thinking four dimensionally.”

“What do you mean?”

“You seem to forget, since we have time travel in 2069, it will still exist in 2269. We are now in their past. I’m sure they will know I’ve made the jump and will be waiting for me.”

Silence. Apparently, my logic was impeccable because the seconds ticked off without a comment from him. After what I guessed to be five minutes, I said, “Are you there?”

“Yes.”

“Any thoughts on what I said.”

“I’m thinking.”

“How are you going to address my absence when the FBI comes looking for me? They know I’m here.”

“We have access to the past. Maybe you never joined the FBI, or maybe you were never born.”

His statement gave me pause. After a moment, I said, “They’ll send someone else, I’m not that important.”

“You underestimate the subtleties of time travel. We are currently in the process of tweaking the past, preparing for a better future. One change in the distant past can create a different outcome in the future.”

“So, you’re saying Stephen Hawking’s hypothesis of chronology protection conjecture is incorrect?”

“Powers you said it yourself, it’s a hypothesis.”

“Have you been able to observe any differences because of your so-called tweaking?”

Silence again. After fifteen seconds, I said, “That’s what I thought. You can’t tell if you have.” I paused a few moments, but he remained quiet. I continued, “Even if you have changed the past, how would you know? Any variations you might make, would now be part of your history. You would have no knowledge of the difference. I have to agree with Hawking, history can’t be changed.”

The room started to vibrate and I felt the sensations associated with a time jump.

* * * * * *

Day Three: Date Unknown

Normally the disorientation after a time jump takes a few minutes to overcome. While I don’t understand the actual mechanics, I do understand what happens to a physical object projected back in time.

The time portal basically creates a bubble around an object, be it an empty chair or a chair with a person sitting on it. The bubble is separated from normal space/time. The bubble must be kept in the same location on the planet. If it is not, it will reappear in the vacuum of space. Not a good thing for the person being transported through time. So, the tricky part of a time jump is the mathematics to figure out where the earth will be in relationship to the sun at the destination time.

Remember, the earth is revolving on its axis while at the same time orbiting around the sun. The sun also moves within the galaxy as the galaxy travels through the universe. Understanding the algorithms that take all of this movement into account within the computer of a time machine, is way above my paygrade. The energy required for a time jump is also incredible.

Theoretically, moving forward in time is thought to be impossible. But Manly’s experiment seemed to have worked. When I regained consciousness, I remained in my chair surrounded by an outdoor space with the sun directly overhead. Standing in a semi-circle in front of my position were ten humanoid beings staring at me. I say humanoid, because at first, they didn’t look like real people. All were of the same height and similar facial features, in other words, clones.

Before my disorientation could dissipate, five of them rushed forward, freed me from the chair and carried me toward a glass building. Once inside, they slowed their pace as we approached an open door. A large table with chairs surrounding it occupied the room we entered. They gently placed me in a chair at the head of the table, then each of my captors sat and stared at me.

The dizziness subsided enough that I could speak. “Where am I?”

The individual closest to me tilted his head. In a flat voice with little inflection, he said, “You are still where you were when you started your journey. A better question would be to ask the date.”

“Okay, what’s the date?”

“Using a calendar you would understand, October 2269.”

I think I blinked several times before I could find any words. Finally, I said, “So it worked, I’m two hundred years into the future?”

“From your perspective, yes.”

I studied the faces of each person surrounding me. On closer examination, while similar, each face showed subtle differences. Two were female and the other three appeared male. The difference being the females had breasts, the others were flat-chested. “Why do each of you look similar?”

The individual, who spoke earlier smiled, “From your viewpoint, I am sure we do. However, each of us is a unique individual, programmed at birth for a specific function.”

While I consider myself to be a quick learner, this statement took me by surprise. “Programed at birth?”

“Yes, humans have evolved over the past two hundred years by combining what you, in your timeframe, would have called Artificial Intelligence with genetic engineering.” He gestured toward the others at the table. “Each of us, plus others, have been tasked with protecting the current state of mankind.”

“So that means, what?”

“You cannot stay. We must send you back to your own time.”

This was good news. I really did not want to spend the rest of my life in this vanilla-appearing culture. “So, you still have time travel?”

“Yes, but you are going to help us stop it from being developed.”

With a chuckle, I said, “And how am I going to do that?”

“We have discovered two points in time that were crucial to developing the process.”

Each of the individuals sat at the table exactly the same. Back straight, arms on the table in front of them with their hands clasped. They all wore their hair the same, short. Plus, they were dressed identically in white jumpsuits.

I folded my arms, but remained silent waiting for the speaker to continue.

“The first critical junction occurred when Reed Manly attended Caltech. He crossed paths with an individual who taught there for only a year. There are zero public records of this man before the year 2036 or after.”

“That’s a bit suspicious, isn’t it? Sounds like he might be a time traveler as well.”

“Yes, we believe him to be so.”

“What’s his name?”

“Caltech records show the name he used to be Albert Sagan.”

With a chuckle, I said, “He combined Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan’s names.”

All five of the individuals started looking at each other with wide eyes. The spokesman regained his composure and said, “It would appear so. We did not see the relationship before.”

I took a deep breath. This conversation grew more surreal as it progressed. “If you know when he traveled back, why not stop him?”

“We would need to know the exact date and year, plus his location. We do not. All we know is where he will be in 2036.”

“Okay, I get that. What is the other occurrence you mentioned?”

“If nothing can be done about the first encounter, the second critical junction is when Reed Manly visited his younger self to give instructions on what stocks to buy. Those purchases resulted in the funding which led to the creation of Timelane, Inc.”

“Did he visit him before or after the encounters with the time-traveling professor?”

“We believe it to be toward the end of Sagan’s presence. Records show Manly already understood the mathematics of time travel. We assume he readily agreed with his future self to buy the stocks.”

With this revelation, I sat back in the chair I occupied and looked at each one of their near-identical faces. “What makes all of you believe I can help?”

The quintuplet farthest away from me touched a small data pad and slid it toward me. When it stopped, I turned it so I could see the screen. Shock, confusion and finally realization flashed as I read the screenshot of a news feed from 2079. FBI names Ryan Powers, 49, as next Director.

Another clone, identical to the ones sitting at the table, entered the room and handed the speaker a box. For some reason I started thinking of him as Fred. As the newcomer exited, Fred opened the box and extracted my chronometer. My eyes flashed to my left wrist and I realized for the first time it was not there.

Fred noticed my eyes darting from my wrist to my chronometer. “Mr. Powers, we need access to this device to make a few modifications.”

“Uh—what type of modifications.”

“You being named as the FBI Director in 2079 means we must return you to 2069. To do this, we have to be able to track you.”

With a slight shake of my head, I raised both hands, palms toward them. “Guys, I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Reed Manly before he sent me here. You’re not thinking four dimensionally. If I go back to 2036 and stop this Albert Sagan from passing information to Reed Manly, time travel might not be invented and suddenly I’m stuck in 2036.”

Fred stared at me without blinking for almost two minutes. This I found strange and a bit eerie. Finally, he said, “Then we have a paradox.”

“What paradox?”

“You cannot stay in 2036 and be named FBI Director at the age of 49, in 2079.”

“Yeah, if that happens, I’ll be eighty-three by then.”

Fred turned to the woman next to him. “Would you please show Mr. Powers to his room?”

* * * * * *

My room, if it could be called such, consisted of a bed, an open bathroom area, a storage unit and something the woman who escorted me called a regenerative unit.

“What’s a regenerative unit?”

“You can prepare a meal with it from the stores in that cabinet.” She pointed to a light brown box next to the entrance to the bathroom.

“How do I do that?”

She looked at me like I had three eyes.

“Hey, lady, I’m not from around here.”

“I would give you a data pad, but we need to keep you as isolated as possible.”

“Why?”

“You must not learn too much about the future.”

“Good, because I already know too much.”

She smiled and proceeded to explain how to prepare a meal. Before she left, she showed me where to hang my clothes for cleaning.

“I hope you will return them?”

Another smile. “Of course, you have to wear them to return to your time. There’s a clean outfit in the bathroom for you to use tonight.”

“Then you knew I would arrive today?”

“Oh, yes, we’ve known for several decades when to expect you. We have been planning this for a long time.”

After she left, I tried the door. Locked, of course. I sat on the bed and tried to figure out what my next steps would be. Weariness overtook me, so I stood and entered the bathroom. Imagine my relief to find a shower which actually used water. I had been in the same clothes for three days and I needed to clean up.

I slept until the next morning when an electronic chime sounded on the regenerative unit.

* * * * * *

Day 4: October 2269

Breakfast consisted of a reconstituted banana and something resembling toast. It didn’t taste like toast, so who knows. The coffee the unit prepared actually tasted pretty good. Apparently, genetically engineered AI beings like coffee.

After I ate, there came a knock at the door. I opened it and found Fred. At least it looked like Fred and when he spoke, it sounded like Fred. But I had not heard the other men speak at the table yesterday.

“Good morning, Mr. Powers. I trust you rested well.”

“I did. Thank you. What should I call you?”

“You can call me anything you like. The way we identify each other has changed over the past hundred years. I believe it would be wise for you not to know about the process.”

“Fred. I’ll call you Fred.”

“As you wish.” He handed my chronometer to me and I put it on. I looked at it and saw the date: October 29, 2269. My location, Los Angeles. It didn’t say California or the United States. Probably best if I didn’t know.

He looked at the jumpsuit I wore. “Your clothes will be returned to you in an hour. Please put them on and touch the button on the left of your wrist device when you are ready.” He pointed to my chronometer.

“I meant to ask you, what modifications were made?”

“Nothing devious I assure you. We merely replaced one of the chips. The new chip will perform the same function as it did in the past, plus it will let us track your whereabouts in space and time. That way we can return you to your own period. If you have it examined, no one will be able to figure it out. The technology won’t be invented until earlier this century. Sorry.”

I shrugged. “Fine with me. When am I going back?”

“Today.”

After dressing in my own clothes, they escorted me back to the conference room. This time an additional female sat at the table. Fred started the meeting. “Mr. Powers, we apologize for keeping you isolated, but it is for ours and your best interests. After our conversation yesterday, we have modified our plans.”

“I would hope so.”

Fred furrowed his brow and shifted his attention to the others at the table. Returning his focus to me, he said, “I assure you the plan we discussed yesterday is still a viable option.”

“For you, yes. For me, no.”

He tilted his head slightly. “Explain, please.”

“Any action that keeps time travel from being developed before I return to my timeline runs the risk of stranding me in the past. Which, as you suggested yesterday can change history and who knows what else.”

“Mr. Powers, I assure you, once time travel is eliminated from history, everything will return to normal.”

“What is normal? Your timeline or my timeline. There are too many unknown unknowns. This whole conversation is illogical. What if every time some engineer or physicist figures out how to manipulate time, it splinters and two separate timelines emerge? Who’s to say it already hasn’t happened and there are multiple timelines running in parallel. Stopping Albert Sagan before he can talk to Reed Manly seems to be the best bet.”

“We do not know from when or where he comes.”

I raised my left arm. “Well, you’ve already placed a tracker on me. Why not do it to Albert Sagan?”

Fred’s eyebrows rose. He blinked several times and turned to the woman who had not attended the previous days meeting. “What do you think?”

“I think Mr. Powers raises a valid point.”

I was shocked. She actually spoke with a slight British accent.

She continued. “Since all of these events are in our past, we can send Mr. Powers to 2036 and plant a tracker on Sagan. Once we have a lock on him, we bring him here. End of sequence.”

I rolled my eyes. These were supposedly genetically engineered humans with superior intelligence. “You left out one outcome.”

She looked at me. “What is that?”

“I’ll be stuck in 2036.”

“On the contrary, the original timeline will be restored.”

I’m not sure how long it took me to pick my jaw up from the floor. I stared at her for a long time. “You are kidding me, right?”

“Extremely serious.”

“What’s so important about this guy?”

No one spoke, with Fred scratching his chin.

“You guys may be genetically engineered, but someone forgot to include the poker face gene.”

Fred furrowed his brows. “Poker face gene?”

“I’ve been a cop for a long time. I can read the thoughts of everyone at this table. You all know who this Albert Sagan guy is and you’re not telling me.”

As Fred glanced at each of the individuals sitting at the table, each gave him a single nod. He returned his attention to me. “I wish we possessed the time to discuss this poker face concept with you Mr. Powers, but time is of the essence.”

“No, it’s not. You have access to time travel. We have all the time in the universe.”

“If only that were the case. Every moment we hesitate, the past becomes less pliable.”

“Who is Albert Sagan?”

“We really don’t know his true identity. However, we were not completely truthful with you yesterday. He is from our future.”

I remained quiet, waiting for Fred to continue.

“Five hundred years from now, our bioengineered species will be extinct. Mankind will revert to what Darwin called natural selection. Sagan’s mission is to keep bio-engineered humans from being developed in the first place. We can’t allow him to be successful.”

“Okay, now the truth comes out. Self-preservation, I get it.”

“Good. Because it is crucial you stop Sagan. Not us. If we try to stop him, computer models do not project a favorable outcome.”

With a smile, I pointed to the chronometer. “Exactly what does this do for me?”

“It is a direct conduit to our time portal. It allows you to determine where and when you need to go.”

“Does it come with an instruction manual?”

* * * * * *

Day Five: Year Unknown

I am now convinced the bio-engineered computer-enhanced versions of mankind are complete morons. I have absolutely no idea of the date or year. I believe I am still in the Los Angeles area because I can smell the ocean from where I stand. However, there is zero evidence of civilization in the area. I am either millennia into the future or I’m in pre-human settled North America. I hesitate to explore too far from my location. This being the advice from Fred. He hasn’t been right about too much, but this advice I will take.

From what he told me before my jump, the device on my wrist can read star positions and calculate the month and year within a few days. I arrived late yesterday with clouds obscuring the night sky. I hope it clears tonight so I can figure out my next jump. The only intelligent decision Fred made before I left provided me with a back-pack containing, food, water and a few other items. They designed the backpack from historic images. However, I am quite sure the material used to construct it did not exist in 2036. So much for the superior intellect.

The sun is setting and the sky is clear. I hope my chronometer can pinpoint my timeline so I can start the process of traveling to 2036. My benefactors provided me with a half-dozen trackers. One of which I am to secure to Albert Sagan. That’s the plan, how I am going to accomplish the task is open for debate.

As darkness descends, the stars are brilliant. I don’t believe I have ever seen them this bright. Holding the chronometer out facing the sky, I am immediately rewarded with a chime. Looking at the display, a sinking feeling sweeps over me. I am ten thousand years into the future.

I touch the red button on the side of the device and the night sky blinks out.

* * * * * *

Day Six: October 2036

My surroundings are familiar, Pasadena. I know that Caltech is six blocks to my west and the house I grew up in is a little less than a mile to the east. I plan to stay as far away from there as I can. While I would like to see my parents again, I am currently ten years older than they were at my birth. I prefer to keep my current memories of them intact.

I have two immediate problems. One, I do not possess any 2036 money. Problem one leads to problem two. Nowhere to stay. I know there are homeless shelters all over Pasadena, but I hesitate to be around people too much as I might run into a younger version of someone I know. Tricky business this time travelling.

Addressing problem number one. How does a time traveler acquire money quickly without resorting to something unethical or illegal? The answer, standing on a corner at a stoplight and holding a sign. Even in 2069, people do it all the time.

As I stood there on the street corner, holding my hand printed sign with the words Homeless, anything will help. God Bless. I felt a little disingenuous. But I reconciled my ethical conundrum by telling myself I was homeless and did need help. Anyway, in the span of about six hours, I collected over six hundred dollars. Not bad considering I don’t make quite that much per hour as an FBI agent. A thought occurred to me while I stood there. How many other homeless people you see begging for money are simply time travelers like me. Interesting thought.

After a night’s rest, a decent meal and clean underwear purchased at a nearby Walmart, I made my way to the Caltech campus. I found Albert Sagan with ease, he taught in the Feynman Building. In 2036, the structure, being brand new, housed both the theoretical and applied physics departments. Sagan taught in the theoretical department with one of his students being a young and impressionable Reed Manly. How did I know this? I sat outside the lecture hall and watched Manly enter. I followed him in and sat in the top row of the lecture hall. Sagan entered the room near the podium and started his lesson.

My first impression of Sagan left me underwhelmed. A small man, he stood maybe five six and if he weighed one hundred and twenty pounds, I would be shocked. His shrill voice reminded me of an owl’s shriek. I watched Manly during the class, he made copious notes and his attention never strayed from the lecturer. Other students around him seemed to be wishing they were anywhere else but listening to this man talk.

Half-way through the lecture, I snuck out the door when Sagan turned his back to write something on the white board at the front of the room. Making my way to the professor’s entrance to the lecture hall took some doing. I finally found it with five minutes to spare.

From my backpack, I retrieved one of the trackers given to me by Fred. My instructions were to adhere it to his body, not clothes, and then stand back. Fred assured me, once I have it on his skin, the man would not be able to take it off. We will see.

Standing to the side of the door where Sagan would emerge, I heard the unmistakable sound of students getting their books together, a chorus of indistinguishable conversations, and people shuffling out of the room in mass.

The professor burst through the door and I immediately said, “Albert Sagan.”

He turned, stared at me, and furrowed his brow. “Professor Sagan.”

I offered my hand, “Sorry, Professor, do you have a moment?”

Without thinking, he shook it, immediately released it as if shocked, and then stared at his palm. Looking up at me he said, “Who are you?”

“FBI.”

As his eyes widened, he vanished. Apparently, the tracker immediately allowed them to transport Sagan back to 2269 to face questioning.

My next task was to get the heck out of Feynman Hall, find an isolated spot and press the blue button on my chronometer. I found an area behind the maintenance building and pressed the button.

Absolutely, nothing happened.

* * * * * *

Day Seven: Halloween 2036

As I feared, I am stuck in the year 2036. I even took one of the trackers and put it on the back of my hand. I’m still here.

After much internal debate, I’ve decided to approach Reed Manly and find out what he knows. The six hundred dollars I earned standing on the street corner will last me a few more days if I count my pennies. So, I have a roof over my head for at least two more nights. After that, I’ll need to figure out how to get an ID so I can find a job.

At least I know where I needed to be at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. At five minutes before the scheduled class time, Reed Manly walked into the lecture hall and I followed. Sitting down next to him, he glanced at me as he prepared to take notes on a ten-inch tablet.

I leaned over and whispered, “You won’t need that today.”

He looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “Why do you say that?”

“Albert Sagan left town.”

He frowned. “How would you know?”

“Trust me, I know.”

Five minutes passed and no professor. At ten minutes past the hour, half of the students stood to leave. It took another ten minutes for the room to clear out except for myself and Manly.

He turned to me. “Okay, tell me what happened to Professor Sagan.”

“What do you know about him?”

Without answering he put his tablet back in his backpack and started to stand.

“Sit down.”

He glared at me, and slowly returned to his seat. “I don’t recognize you from this class. Who are you?”

“I’ll ask you again, what do you know about Sagan?”

“Theoretical physicist, brilliant and a bit odd.”

“Did you ever have any one-on-one conversations with him?”

A frown appeared. “Maybe. Why do you ask?”

“Because, I know more than you think I do.”

“I don’t have to answer your questions. I’m out of here.”

As he stood, I growled, “SIT DOWN.”

He returned to his chair faster this time.

“I am going to ask you this question only once. If you lie to me, I’ll know.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m an FBI agent. Want to see my badge?”

“Awww—shit.” He then nodded.

I reached into my bomber jacket, pulled out my ID and said, “Note the date on it.”

He looked at the ID, which I’m glad I kept with me, and then shut his eyes. He seemed to slowly melt into the chair.

“You don’t look surprised, Reed.”

“I didn’t think I would ever be able to prove it. But the calculations Albert gave me seemed to confirm my hypothesis.”

“That time travel is possible?”

Manly nodded.

“Well, it is, or was.”

“What do you mean was?”

“I’m the one who sent Albert Sagan back to the future. Where he probably ran into some people who are extremely unhappy with him.”

“Why are you still here?”

“Because I’m stuck. Apparently, I changed the timeline by sending Sagan back.”

“What do you mean stuck?”

“I can’t get back to 2069 when all of this started, because of you.”

Manly’s eyes grew wide as he stared at me.

“Let me guess, your older self has already given you the list of stocks to buy.”

He answered with a slow nod.

I stood. “I hate to tell you this, but if you buy those stocks, you will provide the funds needed to develop commercial time travel. And that, my young friend, creates all kinds of problems for the human race in the future.” I walked out of the lecture hall without a good feeling I would ever get back to 2069.

* * * * * *

Day Ten: November 2036

Swallowing my pride, I stood on a street corner in Pasadena for two days and raised a little over eight-hundred dollars. On the second day, I saw a vehicle pass with a small boy in the back seat. He looked like me from pictures I used to possess. While I did not see the driver, I knew it to be my mother. The reason I knew this is because the vehicle was the one my parents drove and she always made me sit in the back seat. I decided never to return to this particular corner.

While standing there, I did figure out how to get a job. In fact, I spoke to the Pasadena Chief of Police about it. I took a course on how to detect counterfeit documents during my first year as an FBI agent. It also taught me how to create a fake ID. With a little effort, I discretely changed the birthdate on my FBI ID from 2030 to 2000. While a small change, it helped the chief accept my story about wanting to start a new career. He’s waving my need to attend the police academy and I start next week as a detective.

* * * * * *

Day Three Hundred Sixty-Five: November 2037

I’m resigned to the fact I will never return to my life in 2069. In some respects, I’m glad. I met a beautiful woman who teaches at a primary education school here in Pasadena. She doesn’t recognize me. My seven-year-old self is currently in her class. I know this, because she thought it funny, a student of hers and I shared the same name.

I remember having a huge crush on her while in second grade. We’ve set a wedding date for this coming Spring.

Plus, there’s another reason for my conviction about not returning. Last week, I answered a request to investigate an unattended death. The victim turned out to be Reed Manly. On the investigation report, I declared the death to be a suicide. However, I failed to mention in the report I removed a clear disc the size of a dime from his neck. It appeared similar to the tracking devices I carried back from my encounter with Fred. I’m not sure how they did it, but someone from the 23rd century transported back to the 21st  and murdered Reed Manly.

Apparently, Stephen Hawking was incorrect. History can be changed. And guess what? I’m okay with it.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by J.C. Fields
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: J.C. Fields


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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