Just a Peek! (part 1)
In a carport adjacent to a minilab, two identical couples tear into a Tardis with axes and hammers. When the detectors in the Tardis splinter, one of the couples disappears, and the Tardis instantaneously regenerates. The remaining couple stands, admiring the gleam and promise of the invention.
“It’s nearly ten after two,” Angie says, opening the machine door and climbing in. “Gotta go take my peek. Don’t worry. I’ll be back in no time.”
“Just a peek?” Artie says.
“Just a peek!”
A grey undulating mass attached to the lower step of the time machine catches Artie’s eyes. “Uh- wait, Angie. There’s something on your time machine. And it’s moving. You’d better take a look. You don’t want any contaminants from the present accidentally transported to the future.”
Angie steps out of the machine, kneels, and studies the growing mass. “I have no idea what that is, Artie, but I’m glad you spotted it. Looks like it’s starting to dissolve the base of the machine, but it’s leaving the ground intact. Almost like it has a motive- an intelligence. I don’t want to interfere with it. I don’t know where it came from, but it could be dangerous.” Angie rises and steps back. “We’d better stand clear. The dissolving machine parts could collapse and fall.”
Angie grabs Artie’s arm and they jump to the edge of the carport. The mass continues to grow, and the time machine quickly dissolves into nothingness. The mass crystallizes into a clear saucer shape where the Tardis used to be.
“Ah, honey, I don’t know what to say,” Artie says, shaking his head. “That was freaky. Ten years you spent perfecting your time machine, and now this. I’m sorry.” He embraces his wife.
“Honey? You okay?” Artie says. “I know you’re an optimist, but laughing at your time machine dissolving is . . a bit odd.”
“I think I’ve figured it out! Whatever it was that dissolved my machine- it had to have been from the future. I haven’t seen anything like it before, not even at the lab. So the only rational explanation is it’s future goo. That means my time machine worked!” Angie grins and claps her hands.
“But . . I don’t understand. You didn’t even get a chance to test out the machine.” Artie shakes his head. “How could that grey goo be from the future?”
“Well, it certainly didn’t look like it could’ve been from the present. Remember, the lab is the hub of all the cutting-edge quantum experimentation in the world, and I’m privy to all that information. If the lab doesn’t have it, it doesn’t exist- yet.” Angie takes a step toward the clear crystal structure. “Until now, that is.”
“Careful, honey,” Artie calls out. “That thing- whatever it is- could still be dangerous.”
Angie reaches into her pocket and puts out a mini Geiger counter. She kneels beside the crystal and reads the dial. “Well, at least it’s not radioactive,” she calls over her shoulder. She slips her counter back into her pocket and holds her hand over the crystal. “And it’s not hot.” She slowly lowers her hand. “It’s not even warm. It feels like glass.” Angie stands and leans over the crystal. “Hey, check this out, I can see my reflection, and- oh, wait- that’s not my reflection. Come over here, Artie. This is weird.”
Artie inches toward the crystal. “You’re braver than I am. How do you know that thing isn’t gonna change back into a giant glob and decide it’s hungry again?”
“It looks like it’s in a stable crystal form now. Crystals don’t easily change forms, and crystals don’t get hungry.” She grabs Artie’s arm and pulls him next to her. “But crystals are excellent repositories of information- look.”
They stare down at the surface and see an image of two Angies and two Arties hacking into a Tardis with axes and hammers.
“This substance must’ve encoded an image of whatever happened just before it dissolved the time machine.” Angie points at the image. “An event we weren’t privy to, because it took place in a time line other than our own.”
Artie sits on the ground and cradles his head in his hands. “My head is spinning. I don’t doubt your science, hon, but how could the goo- or crystal, or whatever it is- take a picture here, with us, of an event that happened in a time line other than our own?”
“The only rational explanation is it’s a trans-dimensional substance, most likely one which was purposely invented as a safeguard against any unforeseen perils of time travel. I likely invented it, then released it into the environment. Nobody else had access to the technology required to formulate such a substance- not in this universe anyway. I bet this stuff is ubiquitous in the future.” Angie furrows her brow. “But before I invented the safeguard, I must have decided, after a peek at the future, that time travel was too dangerous, and so I traveled back to the past to warn my past self to not travel into the future. I guess I took you along with me so you could help destroy the machine. That’s how we see four of us hacking the machine to pieces.”
“But if we all destroyed the machine, that means you never traveled to the future in the first place, er- right?” Artie frowns.
“Remember my multiverse lecture at the lab last year? I hypothesized that anytime we travel through time- even when we travel through time without a time machine, like we’re doing right now- we are experiencing one of an infinite number of parallel universes. In another set of infinite number of parallel universes, other Angies and Arties are still stuck in a time loop. And in yet another set of infinite number of parallel universes, including his specific universe we see here . . ” Angie spreads her arms, “the goo just happened to pop us out of the time loop I created.”
Artie pats the ground. “So we’re lucky we’re right here in this universe . . uh, right?” He smiles up at Angie.
“Yep!” She reaches for his hand and helps him to his feet. “Now help me get that crystal into my minilab. If word of this leaks out, the government will swoop in so fast our heads will spin. And who knows what evil they’d use it for.”
Artie walks over to the crystal, kneels, and runs his hand over it. “Good thinking. A technology this advanced is indistinguishable from magic.”
Thanks to Flannery Alden at Flash Fiction Friday for this flash fiction challenge!