by Paul D
The problem with too much time.
|Samantha Collins blinked as a car traveling down the mountain passed her. The narrow road kept her on edge. She ignored her jitters and focused on her driving. Thankfully this remote area meant only a few cars were on the narrow road. Why was the Blackguarde laboratory built in such a remote place? Her complaint was wasted because she would fly to the moon if necessary to be able to acquire the promised riches if she succeeded. She was delighted when Dr. Richmond chose her for this interview to be a part of his program. She hoped for a guided tour of his facility.
When she reached the parking lot at the top of the mountain, she sat in the car quietly for a few moments and breathed deeply. I wouldn't want to endure that drive every morning. Sam released that negative vibe and opened the door.
The outside of the building was ordinary in every way as if there was nothing special about it. This was one of a handful of places that was on the cutting edge of science. Sam understood that a plain wrapper would keep hidden the treasure inside.
She stepped onto the sidewalk and proceeded to the entrance. There was no door to enter the building. Sam lifted her hand to a metal plate and pressed it. A shimmering blue light surrounded her hand for a moment, then a door-sized opening appeared. She stepped through.
A flashing yellow arrow appeared on the floor, and Sam followed along as it moved. The building had a high ceiling, and the walls were plain. The only sound was the echo of her footsteps.
The arrow stopped at a blank wall. She stopped only for a moment, then there was an opening. Sam walked into a room with machines for as far as she could see. She proceeded down a wide aisle and noted that a lot of the machines were 3d printers.
Sam hoped her questions would be answered, but she expected Dr. Richmond would be asking most of the questions, but she had come well prepared with the right answers. She came to the end of the aisle and stopped. The machine in front of her was beyond massive. It sat wall to wall and its height had to be at least three stories. Footsteps caught her attention.
A man, who appeared to be no more than twenty, came from the left side of the machine. “Welcome Miss Collins, I'm Dr. Richmond.”
Sam's mouth dropped. Dr. Richmond was near eighty. “You can't be the Dr. Richmond.”
The man smiled. “I'm John Three, the grandson.”
Sam released a breath she didn't realize she was holding and said, “Wow, that's a relief. For a moment, I thought you might be a vampire or something,” she joked.
Dr. Richmond laughed. “We encourage a good imagination, so long as you don't let it carry you away.”
* * *
“. . . carry you away.”
Sam shook her head, feeling as if she'd been in a fog. She sat across from Dr. Richmond in a small office. How did I get here?
“I'm extremely pleased,” Dr. Richmond said, “to offer you the position.”
For a moment Sam wondered if she was hearing things. “Really? I thought--”
“Our discussion convinced me there's no reason to look further. Can you start work tomorrow?”
“Yes, when do you want me here?”
“We start at six and stop at six. You know, mad scientists live in the lab.”
Sam laughed. “I'll be here with bells on.”
“That should be interesting.”
Sam stood up and the floor tilted. She braced her hands on the wall as she almost lost her balance. Books on the shelves behind Dr. Richmond danced and dropped to the floor. Dr. Richmond fell to the floor and crawled under the desk. “Hurry, get under here,” he yelled.
Sam staggered a few feet to the desk, knelt on the floor, crawled around the desk, and went under it. She wrapped her arms around Dr. Richmond, and they held on to one another.
“Does this happen often?” she asked. I was surprized at how calm my voice sounded while my mind was screaming for this quake to stop.
“Never,” he replied.
“Well, I guess there's a first time for everything.” And hopefully a last time.
“You are a cool cucumber,” he said.
“I've always hated that saying. I hope this earthquake is over soon. My stomach is doing flip flops.” Everything went dark.
Sam sneezed and opened her eyes. She sat up and stared at the sea of grass all around her in a very large crater. Fear smashed at her mind like a hammer. Dr. Richmond lay a few feet away. She crawled to him and pushed his shoulder. “Wake up.”
He jerked and sat up. He didn't say a word as he looked all around. “This shouldn't be possible.”
“Do you know where we are?”
“I have my suspicions.” He stood up and helped Sam to her feet. “Let's take a walk and see what we find.”
They struggled to climb the walls of the crater but finally reached the top to find a large plateau. They continued to the edge of a steep cliff. Sam gasped. “We're on the plateau where the lab was built, but where did it go?”
“We're in the future,” answered Dr. Richmond.
“How can you know that? And what happened to the lab and the city?”
“A volcano made this plateau long ago, so this can't be the past. Now the city – that's most worrisome of all – I assume it was abandoned or destroyed from the effects of the lab explosion.”
Sam shook her head. “If the lab exploded, we should be dead.”
“My only explanation is that we went sent forward in time before the explosion.”
“I don't believe in time travel.”
“Neither do I, but I can't think of any other way we arrived here.”
* * *
Sam sat in her car staring at the ordinary building. A strong feeling of deja vu came over me. I need to get control of my nerves and imagination. This interview is too important to mess up.
Dr. Richmond's work in space warp theory had captured the world's attention for the past twenty years. The thought that she might be able to put an end to it made her anxious and excited. I will be rich beyond any dreams. She left the car and walked to the entrance.
A short while after entering the building, she saw a young man walking toward her. She extended her hand. “Dr. Richmond, it is so good to meet you.”
He cocked his head and smiled. “How do you know me?”
“I just knew it was you.” I had no reasonable explanation, which was a bit disconcerting.
“Strangely enough, you look very familiar to me; although, I'm sure we've never met. Before the interview, let me show you around.”
Sam followed close behind Dr. Richmond as he led her to the massive machine. “I call her Bertie,” he said.
She laughed at the silly name. Without even thinking about it she walked toward a metal stairway that rose up across the face of the machine. How did I know its location? She ignored her disturbing thoughts.
He started climbing up and she followed. About half up, she came to a platform where they rested for awhile. Then they went up the stairs that angled back in the other direction. When they reached the top, Sam said, “I would get more than enough exercise here.”
Dr. Richmond chuckled. “The space warp machine is still in the development stage, but I believe it is only a matter of weeks before it will be ready. I'm delighted that decades of work will be finally complete.”
“And you will be able to go from one planet to another in an instant?”
“Rockets and space travel as we know it will become obsolete.”
“That must worry the titans of the space industry,” Sam said.
“Indeed, I've been offered obscene amounts of money to stop my program, but this invention will change the world. Imagine going to work with just one step: no transportation costs, no using of fuel, no pollution, and no wasted time. Vacations could be anywhere in the universe. My machine is truly the start of a new age.”
Sam agreed that Dr. Richmond's idea would bring immense change. Entire industries would crumble and fail, and the fortunes of many would be destroyed, which was why she was being well paid to make sure it failed.
They continued their journey on top of the machine on a narrow metal walkway.
“Before each test, I check three areas. This first one is supervised by Robot Assistant One, which oversees all the computers.”
Sam pressed the ring on her left hand and released some nanobots that fell onto the robot, which she prayed would neutralize it.
* * *
Sam rolled over and over to escape a burning sensation, then sat up. She was in a very large smoking crater. Dr. Richmond lay nearby. She crawled to him and woke him up.
“I've had this dream a few times,” he said.
“This isn't a dream,” she replied in a shrill voice.
“It's not time to panic yet,” he responded. “Let's get out of the crater.” He stood up. A few hours later, they collapsed on the ground near the lip of the crater.
Sam lay quiet for a long while, trying to regain her strength after the long struggle to climb the slippery slope of the crater. Finally, they both stood and walked to the edge of a steep cliff.
“I don't know what happened,” Dr. Richmond said. “The lab has been destroyed, and we're in the future.”
“Is there a way back?” asked Sam.
“None that I know of,” admitted Dr. Richmond.
Sam's sabotage was supposed to destroy the space warp machine – not strand her in the future. It was so unfair. “What do we do now?”
* * *
“. . . do now?” said Sam. She stood on top of a massive machine next to Dr. Richmond.
“You said something?”
Sam was disoriented – not remembering how she arrived here. “What will you show me now?”
“We're at Robot Assistant Two which takes care of all the power supplies.”
Sam dropped some nanobots near the robot and smiled to herself. This machine would soon be history, and she would be rich beyond any dreams.
* * *
Sam floated in space with machine parts all around her. She went down while the parts went up. Fire and smoke were scattered all about the landscape below. Destruction reigned for as far as she could see. What happened?
She smacked into the ground hard, and all went black. She felt a shaking of her shoulder and opened her eyes to see Dr. Richmond.
“This is all your doing,” he said sharply.
“I don't know what you're talking about,” she replied.
“Earth has been shifted from its orbit. Can't you tell from the position of the sun?”
Sam shook her head. “I think your mind is addled.”
“Wait for the stars and you'll see.”
* * *
Sam jerked awake. She sat in her car. Parts of her dream remained vivid in her mind. She grabbed her purse and found the vial of nanobots. She removed them and put them in the glove compartment.
She hurried to the building and, once inside, ran quickly to meet up with Dr. Richmond. “You must turn off everything. An earthquake will occur at any moment.”
Dr. Richmond shimmered and floated in the air with all his humanness gone. “I'm Robot Assistant Three. Your insidious nanobots messed up our plans for this machine. Fortunately, we were able to establish a time loop.” The robot grabbed her arm. “This is one trip you don't want to miss.”
* * *
Sam stood next to Dr. Richmond in his office. They gazed out the window at the stars filling the sky. “Will we ever escape from here?”
Dr. Richmond sighed. “I heard something about seeding life on other planets. I'm not sure what kind of life and I'm afraid to ask.”
“You mean robot life?”
“We're not the only humans in this space born lab.”
Sam shook her head and ran her hand over her stomach, which had grown larger almost every day of this strange journey. “It can't be – it just can't.”
“The weight you have been gaining is not from any special diet. You are bearing a child.”
“The robots could have used nanobots, you know.”
“I refuse to believe--”
“Sam, we have no time left to debate 'what or why.' Whatever project the robots have devised, it's not one beneficial to people. We must find a way to destroy this lab, now.”
Sam stared at Dr. Richmond without uttering a word. Finally, she said, “Destroy is a strong word. The robots have already proved that your machine can become a time machine. Why can't we use it to return in time and stop the robots.”
“It's already too late for that. You're bearing a child – one that I believe is a cyborg. Going back in time will not change that. We can only effect change now, by destroying the machine. It will strand us and the robots where we are now, and prevent the spread of this robot takeover of other planets.”
Sam closed her eyes. Everything that mattered was gone, and she had gained nothing.
* * *
Sam sat in her car. She screamed at the horrific memories. She started up the car and drove down the mountain. She didn't know where the memories came from, but it had to do with the laboratory, which she wanted to get away from.
The airport was on the other side of the city and traffic was near a stand still. She heard an explosion and in the rearview mirror saw a wall of dust. Her car was picked up as though it were a feather.
* * *
Sam sat in her car. The truth finally came to her. I am caught in a time loop. There would be no escape and a happy ending. In fact there would be no ending.