Time travel can create all sorts of problems.
"I'm not going!" Coal screamed, kicking back with one booted foot. The hold on his heel weakened and Coal slithered away on his belly towards the door. His escape came to a halt when his face bumped into a pair of fuzzy bunny slippers.
"Oh...no..." he groaned, his eyes involuntarily lifting until he met the amused gaze of Dr. Zimmer Ximon.
"Is there a problem here, Moe? Larry? Curly?" Ximon grinned, tucking his thumbs into the pockets of his purple bathrobe. Coal glanced over his shoulder to find his three captors turning pale. Before he could make a break for it one of the men grabbed his pants pocket and swung him across the floor. His blue jumpsuit, made of silk, had him flying across the linoleum on his belly like a kid on a Slip 'N Slide. He hit the side of a large, metal box with a thump that had him gasping for air.
"Not at all, boss," Moe lied. Coal glared at him and then at the other two buffoons. "Mr. Jameson was just expressing his opinion on this, uh, experience you so kindly granted to him."
"You can't make me go!" Coal shouted. His fear gave him a burst of courage. Lurching to his feet, he pointed an index finger at the doctor. "This whole thing is wrong and I refuse to be part of it!"
Doctor Ximon's smile faded into a frown. He took one step forward before pausing to rub his disheveled red beard.
"You don't seem to understand, Mr. Jameson. This technology," he gestured to the shining machine behind Red, "Can save more lives than you could possibly imagine."
Coal flinched and pressed his back against the machine but he didn't give up. His smooth jaw lifted in stubborn determination.
"It won't save anyone," Coal scowled, "It'll only cause more death and destruction." Holding out his hands, he pleaded with the doctor. "We can't mess with the timeline like this. People will die both in the past and the future..."
"Only the wrong sorts of people," Dr. Ximon said, shaking his head.
Pursing his lips, Ximon held up a hand to stop any further protest. "I don't have time to argue about morality right now, Mr. Jameson. It's time for my evening tea and my shows. If I miss Who Wants to Kill a Millionaire I get very grumpy." He eyed the three stooges and sniffed. "You boys don't want to make me grumpy now, do you?"
"N-n-no, sir!" Curly stuttered.
"Then get Mr. Jameson into the time machine immediately," he tapped a slippered foot against the hard floor and sighed, "If I have to come back in here, we will all be unhappy."
Coal scowled as the doctor flashed one last smile his direction. The air-locked doors swooshed opened, sending the bottom of Ximon's robe flying out like a cape, before shutting with a swish.
Larry turned towards Coal and cracked his knuckles. "Are we gonna do this the easy way...or the hard way?"
Coal lifted a lip and with a snarl, grabbed a glass beaker and threw it. As the glass shattered around the three men's feet, Larry sighed.
"The hard way it is."
Coal kicked, punched, and bit but he wasn't strong enough to overpower the men. They crammed him into the silver box, nearly slamming the door on his fingers. He pounded against the sides even though he knew nobody would let him out. When the box began to hum he resorted to scratching at the door with his nails until they broke away and bled.
"Remember, you can come home when you've fixed the past!" Curly laughed, pounding on the outside of the cube. Coal knew they were lying. Nobody had ever come back after entering the box. When the sides started warming up Coal flopped to the floor and covered his face with his hands.
There was a flash and a bump. The machine hissed and the hydraulics on the door slowly opened. Coal stared outside and bit his bottom lip. He had arrived.
"If I don't move then I won't accidentally influence the future," he muttered to himself. A beep from his hand had his head jerking down like a puppet on a string. A red light was pulsing on and off in the middle of his left hand. Coal groaned.
"They tagged me? Damn it, I should've known!" He slapped the shiny floor in frustration. He had no choice. If he didn't complete the mission within the designated time period the scientists from 2140 would use the implant to blow him to kingdom come and send another patsy in his place. He ran a hand through his thinning hair and inched his way to the open door. He didn't realize he was holding his breath until he stepped out onto a patch of green grass. Glancing around, he realized he was on the outskirts of a kiddie park.
"Let's see, I'm supposed to..." his hand shook as he reached into the only pocket of the jumpsuit and pulled out what looked like a hand-sized calculator. Pressing the green button on the side, the device blinked on. Coal's eyes skimmed over the message that popped up on the small screen.
Step One: Infiltrate CDC.
Step Two: Add provided vial to 2018 flu vaccine.
Digging his hand deeper into the pocket, Coal's fingers grasped at a glass vile. He lifted it up into the air, peering at the amber liquid as it sparkled in the sunlight.
"So you're the little bugger that's meant to thin the herd," he muttered. As he stared at the vial of death a niggling thought wormed its way into being.
"What if..." he hesitated as the idea churned in his mind and slipped the vial back into his pocket. "What if I altered the formula? I mean, I'm basically holding the future in my hands. What if I could find a scientist from this century and use this for good instead of evil? I could keep millions from dying..."
The red light in his palm blinked, as if warning him against such foolish notions. He squeezed his eyes shut and leaned against the time machine.
"Or maybe I could tweak the concoction so it only affects those with AB negative blood, instead of O positive. That way I could wipe out Ximon's family tree..." A smug smile flickered across Coal's face as he imagined popping back into the future and finding Ximon and his bunny slippers had never existed.
"That would create a paradox," came a low voice from behind the cubed machine. Coal jumped in surprise, slipping on a wet patch of grass and plopping to his rear. His jaw dropped as a woman stepped into view. Her black hair was pulled into a bun and a fedora rested on her head, tilted in such a way that shaded her eyes.
"Ximon is the one who invented this time machine," the woman fingered the hat and frowned, "If he's never born then time travel won't exist, as would your appearance here. Which would..."
"Create a paradox," Coal interrupted. With an embarrassed smile he stood, brushed the mud off his backside, and held out his hand.
"Coal Jameson. And you must be Miss Ivy Tangent."
Ivy cocked her head and ignored the proffered hand, "How do you know..."
"Who you are?" Coal interrupted again. "Saw your picture in Ximon's lab," Coal shrugged, "There's a mural of folks who were sent back in time to fix one thing or another. Though we were told everyone who'd gone back had perished..." he trailed off and let his eyes drop to her left hand.
Ivy's grin stretched wide across her face, "There's so much to tell you, Mr. Jameson. But first we need to deactivate the time machine before it returns to the future."
"We?" Coal's eyebrows rose, "I have no idea how that thing works."
"No worries, my team can handle it."
Coal found himself being jostled away from the machine as a group of men and women burst from the trees surrounding the park. Ivy gently touched his elbow and steered him away from the busyness.
"I'll take the vial now, Mr. Jameson," Ivy lifted her chin, fixing her green eyes on Coal's face.
Coal shook his head. "If I don't complete my mission, Ximon will have me killed."
Ivy crossed her arms over her chest as a red SUV pulled up next to the curb. She opened the back door and gestured for Coal to climb in.
"Ximon's fail safe?" she scoffed, "We figured out how to disable that a long time ago. We'll have it out of you in a jiffy." Coal's face flushed as she scooted into the vehicle next to him, her thighs pressing against his as she buckled up.
"You see, Jameson, we're in a war with the future. They're trying to kill us and everyone in the past that they consider unworthy. But now that we have Ximon's vial and his little machine over there," her face lit up as she waved at the metal box, "We'll be able to take the battle to him without worrying about creating a paradox. And you'll be able to help."
Coal fidgeted in his seat, "I'm not a fighter..."
"You are now," Ivy said firmly, "So if you'll kindly hand over the vial, we can use this tech to save the lives of everyone in this timeline."
"And end the lives of those living in the future," Coal whispered. As he held out the vial he felt as though he'd been hit with déjà vu. Ivy gently pried the tube from his fingers and pressed a kiss against the glass before flashing a bemused smile at Coal.
"Time to attack the future, Mr. Jameson," Ivy beamed, reaching for the vial. "And this time, I guarantee we'll win."