Trigger Warning- I have thoroughly nerded out in this chapter and at some point, it might become boring, so read at your own risk ;)
And yes, I am well aware about the covid situation wreaking havoc, but this is a work of fiction and please forgive me because I wrote this 2 years ago.
It’ll all make sense once you read the chapter :)
Where present is moulded into tangibility.
-Motto of A-SATT
With my head bent down in deep thought, all of us slowly exited Mr. Neville’s office. Keith and Brianna were engaged in a heated, unyielding banter regarding their favourite bands; oblivious to their surroundings, while Rhys shared my sense of solemnity, walking alongside them in silence.
I had considered to visit Mr. Neville in the hope of finding a solution to the dilemma, au contraire, I came out with three liabilities and a migraine.
Slowing down my pace, I glanced at my team-mates. Mr. Neville’s words were still echoing in my ear, invalidating all the realms of sanity.
The scrolls have their names.
What was so special about them? They were just a bunch of stereotypical personalities- The brood, the rebel and the flirt. Not exactly the dream-team material.
And the very fact that these guys had the aforementioned personalities ingrained so deeply in them, was another matter of concern. Recklessness and impulsiveness are fatal elements when it comes to time travel. Even for me, it took five years of relentless physical and mental conditioning to even be considered for the job.
Out of the blue, Rhys spoke up, startling me, “You have a lot of explaining to do.”
He was right. None of them had any idea regarding the existence of A-SATT or even the reason for their presence here. Time-travel was kept a confidential matter; the sole reason being- fear of someone abusing the delicate fabric of ‘space-time continuum’ for selfish, wicked reasons and disrupting time symmetry.
The government was in on the secret, so were the members and retired A-SATT employees. Apart from them, it was a carefully guarded secret, deftly screened away from the public eye. The old man had intentionally left the hardest part of the explanation to me.
“Alright.” I announced. Addressing no one in particular, I began, “I bet you all have a lot of questions. So, why don’t I try answering them over lunch.” A good rapport in a team is a must; and it wouldn’t hurt to try getting to know them, considering my fate has already been sealed
“You mean free food?” Keith asked me with widened eyes and a smile, mile long stretching across his face. Sighing, I simply nodded my head.
I looked over at the remaining half, to try decipher their reactions concerning my sudden display of friendliness. All in all, everyone seemed contented at the suggested prospect.
“Hey Cam!” Came a booming voice from the end of the hallway. I strained my eyes, to focus on the source, and recognized blonde wavy hair approaching in our direction.
I smiled widely at him when he reached close. Winking at me, he beamed mischievously, “You up for lunch?”
“If it is spaghetti with a humongous serving of peanut butter, again, I think I am gonna have to pass, Luke.” I chuckled. Luke gave me deathly glare, but softened his expression when he noticed we were not alone. He gave a friendly nod to everyone present and again turned his attention towards me.
“Hey!” He wailed loudly, clearly offended. “I like a little chunky texture with my spaghetti. Arrest me.” And in an exaggerated, swift motion, raised his hands above his head in surrendering position.
Smiling, I gently shook my head, surprised at his overly sensitive antics. Luke and I had joined the A-SATT together, and both of us being mere teens in the grave, adult-dominated world of time-travellers, instantly hit it off. Over the years, we became close friends.
Where his idea of a lifelong friendship involved, making me try the most horrendously, unpalatable dishes he could come up with. And the tragedy laid in the fact that he actually enjoyed eating those.
An unintentional smile broke across my face, remembering the times when we used to sneak out of work to aimlessly roam the streets. But my little reminiscences of frivolity were suddenly cut short, when Brianna’s blue hair came into my vision, grabbing me back to the grim reality.
“I am sorry Luke, I am kind of busy today, maybe tomorrow?” I explained to him, unobtrusively pointing at my team-mates. He seemed to have gotten the gist of the situation and nodded at me in understanding.
In his characteristic, good-humoured way, he replied, “Alright then, see you tomorrow.” And with a final nod, he began treading the opposite direction of the hallway.
I sighed loudly, longingly staring at Luke’s retreating figure in disappointment. Today, I would have given anything to try chocolate-filled pizza crust with mushroom toppings, if it meant to stay away from the commotion that was presently ravaging my inner peace. But deep down, I had a clear discernment that peace and tranquility were the joys of past.
“So…” Brianna began, stretching unceremoniously long on the word, “Is he your boyfriend? You two seem pretty close.”
The question caught me unawares and I coughed loudly to conceal the fact that I had a mini heart-attack right that instant.
“Um… no he is not my boyfriend, but yeah we are pretty close.” I explained. It was true that Luke was one of the very first person I had befriended here at A-SATT. But a romantic relationship between us both, was something that neither one of us had considered.
“Yeah, he’s cute.” She monotonously sighed looking away from us and not making eye contact. Keith and Rhys gave her a questioning glance at her unusually calm and ‘non-Brianna’ demeanour while I stared exasperated at the 180 degrees Brianna just flipped.
“I know a nice place close by.” I quickly added in a desperate attempt to change the topic from Luke’s past and present relationships and my practically non-existent love-life. “It serves the best burgers.”
They all nodded in agreement and we exited the building. Walking for a few minutes, through the lively street, we reached the front door of Patty’s and entered. Spotting a vacant booth, I made my way towards it, with Brianna, Keith and Rhys hurriedly following suit. I settled down alongside Brianna, while the boys sat opposite to us.
In a minute, a waitress came over to us and uninterestedly scribbling our orders on her yellowing pad, slipped away.
And thus descended the moment, I had been dreading since Mr. Neville’s order came to my knowledge- Divulging the greatest secret of mankind to them.
For centuries time travel had remained in the realm of imagination; in the conjectures and literatures of the curious. Some even asserted their involvement with it, but were unfortunately branded as insane by the ignorant society. This was a secret that mankind’s few, selected shared and now when it was my turn to disclose it to a group of prospective candidates, I was short for words.
Taking in a deep breath, I began, “Everything I say here shall remain among the people sitting at this table. No exceptions whatsoever.” I warned them and swept my eyes across my attentive audience.
“Good.” Now to break the most critical part of our talk.
“Our organization is called the A-SATT, which stands for Association of Space And Time Travellers.” I whispered looking at them while they all nodded their heads slowly.
“As the name suggests and also something which you guys might have picked on, up until now, we travel back in time.” I took a momentary halt to observe their expressions. Solemnly they again nodded their heads in understanding. Truthfully speaking, they were definitely taking this way better than I had expected.
“Why?” Keith asked, taking a big bite of his burger.
I gave him a toothy smile at his sudden interest in the matter, which he so graciously returned by giving me a worried look.
Now you’re asking the right questions.
“Our present is nothing but a function of the outcomes of our past.” I proudly stated, quoting one of my favourite lines related to time travel. Evidently, the inner nerd inside of me was slowly transpiring out and taking control over my cerebral functions.
Keith and Brianna looked at me with puzzled looks, while Rhys stared at me with rapt attention and a small smile playing on his lips.
“It’s all good Cam, but it will be much easier for us if you just stick with English.” Brianna sarcastically replied and shared a glance with Keith who seemed to be well in congruence with Brianna’s thought-process.
Right, I can’t expect them to suddenly quote Gödel. I had to keep things simple and concise.
Clearing my throat, I made another attempt at my explanation, “Things that happen in the present are all related to events occurring in the past. Taking a simple analogy- Right now we are eating burgers in the present because we had ordered for them in the past.” I took a bite of my burger and paused for a moment to savour the taste and undoubtedly Patty’s lived up to their popularity and expectations.
“Thus, in simple terms, we make sure that things that need to happen in the past for a favourable present, do happen.” I continued, taking a sip of my cola.
“And although we call it time-travel, it actually is- 'space-time travel'. Time is considered as the fourth dimension, but we humans are capable of traversing only through 3-D. So, what The Chronoflex, I mean a time machine basically does is, it exchanges time as the third quadrant in place of a spatial dimension." I enthusiastically added.
“But then ‘space-time travel’ is so long and not very catchy, so ‘time travel’ it is. A little fun fact.” I laughed looking at Brianna and Keith who did not seem to be sharing my excitement in the matter.
“Hand me a microscope Red, because I still have to find the fun in that fact.” Keith said in utter disdain as he gave me sympathising look.
“Yeah, I could have spent my entire life peacefully, without knowing any of that.” Brianna scoffed.
Their disinterest in the topic saddened me a little, but I quickly turned my attention to Rhys who was silent the whole time. He had a troubled expression on his face and his stare directed at me, sent a shiver down my spine; it was icy, cold and lifeless; like his grandfather’s. I could sense that he had a question on his mind, so giving him an encouraging nod, I urged him to speak up.
After a seemingly heated mental debate, Rhys let out a loud sigh. Closing his eyes, he asked in a defeated tone, “And how do you know that you don’t make things worse or not affect them at all in any way by your meddling?
To say I was impressed, would be an understatement. The question he had asked was one of the most controversial one in the field of time travel. And still its answer laid in pure speculation and the fact that there was a lack of evidence pointing against it.
Taking in a deep breath, I said, “Firstly, about time travel making things worse- we are right now NOT in the middle of a war or a plague. We are living in an age where peace and advancement is all-time high. So, about time travel making things worse, you’ve probably gotten your answer.”
It was apparent that Rhys was not satisfied by my answer and sported a big frown on his face.
Continuing, I added, “Secondly, the fact that travelling to the past does not change the outcomes of the present, follows ‘Novikov’s self-consistency principle’ and the first time traveller successfully proved it wrong. Our world is based on the sensitive dependence of the present on the events of the past; and it’s where A-SATT comes into play. We facilitate the occurrence of events so that their effects can be perceived in our present.”
Although there were a lot many experiments and explanations required for them to fully appreciate and understand it, but time constraints prevented me from talking in detail about my favourite topic about time travel.
Suddenly Rhys stood up from his seat with a jolt, in the process knocking down his drink along with mine and spilling it all over the table. He looked angry; all this while his blue eyes were boring holes into my body.
Leaning in close to me, and bringing his face mere inches to my own, way too close to blatantly disregard any sense of personal space, he whispered with deathly warning, “And what makes you the judge of better or worse? You guys could have prevented the World Wars, did you? You could have saved millions of people from smallpox and plague, did you? You could have warned Pompeii about the eruption, did you? Did you try doing anything of the sort?”
All this while my heart was beating with a vicious ferocity at our close distance. I noticed that he had a sharply sculpted face and the bluest eyes I had ever seen. Undeniably he was a head-turner and unfortunately this was all that I could think about at the moment.
A small blush crept on my face and somehow, I forgot how to speak. Although, he was making valid points disregarding the moral aspect of time travel, however, at the moment all my brain could hear and make out was gibberish.
I continued to stare into his eyes, which were searching mine for an answer. For a long time, both of us remained in that position, neither one of us trying to create distance between us.
A sudden laugh broke the trance I was in. “Wooh! The sexual tension in this room is on another level.” Keith grinned and fist-bumped Brianna who held the same sly expression on her face.
I pulled back to create some space between the both of us. For a few seconds, Rhys remained in the same position, with his eyes tightly shut. Finally, he leaned back and began walking out of the booth, towards the main door.
Stopping mid-step, without turning back, he said in a cold, emotionless voice, “You do not wish for global peace or general happiness; you crave for power and control.”
With that he opened the door and stepped out of the restaurant, disappearing into the shadows of twilight.