This story is based on true happenings. All characters except Chris, Jef, Rachel and Louis are non-fictional, historical people. All rights reserved.Author's note: the direct speeches in bold are translated from Dutch, Englishmen will not understand them.
Port of Antwerp, October 2014. It was just an ordinary workday in the largest port of Belgium. Trucks were arriving and departing, ships were crossing the docks from and to the river Scheldt. Quay 56 of the America Dock seemed to be no exception at first sight. It was just like all of the other docks, on the outside. And nobody knew what was going on inside Quay 56...
Jef made the last checks for any time paradoxes and pressed the button. Chris, Ria, Victor, Zoë and Jules were all looking to the monitor of the tele-time machine. Jaques appeared the way as usual. The steel cabin door opened and he stepped out with a smile.
"How did it go, Jaques? Did the 1993 writer use your information well?"
"Of course he did! He actually thought I had been at the Battle of the Bulge, partially thanks to the Mist. But when I was in 1944, it didn't feel that way."
Jef had told me about the Mist. I already knew it was an item from the 10 Percy Jackson-books, it separated the mortal world from a fictional godly world. Jef re-created it in his tele-time machine, it made sure the people of the past didn't know you were from the future.
A few hours later, we got an unexpected message from Niels. He was in the year 2302, teaching the children about the 18th to 20st century. I read the message: he asked for more stuff to learn about the early 20st century. He was there as a history teacher in a future school, teaching the pupils the knowledge that faded in history. That always happens with memories of the past, so he tried to refresh their knowledge. I decided to go to 2302 and deliver information about 1900-1919.
I went to the library and took some books of that period of time. WWI is obviously the most shocking event, but I had to learn a lot about it. What else... the Titanic? I already knew everything about that ship, and I would have to watch out no to divert too much to her. There was general relativity and all the other tings by Einstein, I had to study that too. Belgium started coal mining in 1902, a bit of local stuff was good for the Belgian kids of 2302. The Wright brothers made the first airplane flight in 1903, very important. And so went it on.
After a few weeks, I was ready for the big trip to the 24th century. I entered the cabin and closed the door behind me. At that point, there was no way back.
Jef ordered the mechanics to power up the machine. He tapped on the world map and the location was set to Brussels. He entered the date on a keyboard and it appeared on the casino-like number signs. Slowly, the cabin lit up, the drill carefully made a slight hole in the space-time-continuum, Chris' books started to fade, and then... CNATS. Chris stumbled on the cabin floor and looked at the ceiling. The sparks were raging out dangerously. The shortcut in the wiring had made quite some damage.
The hole in the space-time continuum destabilized and the space and time inputs were running wild. Most books flashed away, but Chris was still in 2014 and about to be sent to a random place & time. Everyone was swearing in Dutch as the mechanics desperately swung into action to save his life. The fate of the world was at stake as well, this was every time traveler's nightmare: creating Armegeddon out of a problem with the time machine. The space-time-continuum itself was destabilizing and Earth was on the verge of being sucked into a wormhole, destroying the planet.
Jef and his team were able to stabilize the machine long enough to flash one more time, they knew they had to send Chris away quickly before everything was destroyed. The place & time inputs randomly stopped on Southampton, April 8, 1912. Jef looked at the monitor. Please, please, work, work! Chris' feet started to fade, then his legs, his belly, his chest, his chin, his head.
A safety system powered down the tele-time machine. Jef and his crew could finally catch a breath: Chris was gone safely. But what happened to him? Jef went to the microphone and tried to lay contact.
I don't remember a lot from my voyage through the space-time continuum, but I know I was flying through galaxies until I suddenly saw Southampton from above, rapidly coming closer. I started to panic: There was nothing at all to cushion my fall and I was seconds from impact. I knew that all previous time-travelers who used this machine arrived safely, but it didn't seem that way. I saw the people, walking on an embankment. They were completely unaware of me falling down to them, and nobody looked up, not even when I yelled at them. I tried to steer to the water, but my body didn't seem to react. I fell straight to another boy of my age with the same hairstyle as me. At the very moment I hit the ground, that boy fell down and vanished away.
I didn't hear the clap, so it was probably this loud I had become deaf for a moment, maybe even forever. And the people around still hadn't noticed me. I realized I was still alive and tested my arms and legs. No, nothing was broken. I looked at myself and didn't see any injury at all. What the hell was going on here? Why was I uninjured after this massive impact, and why didn't the bystanders react?
Finally, after several minutes, somebody came to ask me if I was alright. Then slowly but surely, people started to ask for my condition while mumbling "why that guy suddenly collapsed". I didn't understand a bit of it, got up and looked around.
And that's when I saw it: the titanic ship decorated for Easter with flags everywhere. The tele-time machine had randomly flashed me to the ship of my fascinations! I looked at the four massive funnels, the two beautiful masts, the amazing superstructure, and the letters Titanic on the bow. Everything was titanic indeed. Nobody knew this Titan was going to be lying at the bottom of the Mid-Atlantic a week after. When I looked at the place I landed, I noticed the 2 Dutch books about Titanic from 1987, destined for 2302, with some other books.
Jef finally laid contact and tested the headset. He just hoped that the headset was undamaged, otherwise communication would be impossible. But already hundreds of time-travels were completed successfully thanks to the headsets: they communicated with home thanks to mini-wormholes.
Jef's testing attempts paid off.
- "I can hear you perfectly, I'm fine.-
"Great. And how did the Mist work?"
-"Well, the people were thinking I already was there and I fainted when I arrived. It also must have cushioned my fall, since I'm not hurt at all. But how can I come back?"
- "Well, the tele-time machine can be fixed, but that will take a few days. You'll be stuck in 1912 for that long and-"
- "I'm sorry, but I've planned other things. The RMS Titanic is lying in front of me, and I'll join whatever it takes. I'll only get back within six days."
- "Alright. You have our permission to join, on condition that you won't change the history of Titanic, not even a little bit! Is that clear?"
- "It's clear. But I think I'll need some money of the time, and some proper clothes. I can't walk around in a synthetic sweater and a jeans."- "We'll do whatever we can."
- "Thanks, my friend. We both have some work to do, so I would like to have radio silence."
I still couldn't believe it. The non-sunken Titanic in front of my eyes, and I had permission to join! The only problem was, how would I get a ticket? There probably weren't any good tickets left, and I didn't have any money. But I knew that Titanic would nearly hit the SS New York at departure, and Captain Smith didn't. I looked at my books, took them up, picked the books about the Titanic and threw the others in the river. I know it's quite a waste, but if they fell in the wrong hands the people would get to read the future and cause disastrous time paradoxes!
Next, I went to the Titanic. I knew I was going to have a hard time getting permission to travel with the other passengers for free, but my plan was perfect and using some diplomatic skills there was nothing that could go wrong. I saw Thomas Andrews on duty at an open door in the hull and I went to him resolutely.
Everything seemed to be going well, until I entered the gangplank. The tapping of my leather shoes on the plank was quite loud. Andrews looked at me with a confused look. I didn't slow down, I had to reach the bridge. Andrews held his hand forward as a sign to stop me.
"Wowowo-wait, where do you think you're going? The Titanic isn't ready for departure yet, if you want to board, come back Wednesday."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Andrews, but I have to speak to the Captain. This is an emergency, The Titanic might be in great danger and maybe she'll never leave Southampton if I can't warn the officers."
Andrews' looks changed from confused to disbelieving to thinking to concerned. He called a few crewmen to guard me from doing anything not allowed. Then they guided me to the bridge.