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THE TIME IDIOT
(2011) - a novel by A.R.Yngve - Sample Chapters

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CHAPTER 3

It proved very easy to learn the controls of the time pod. The onboard computer used a 3-D map of Earth to set the space-time coordinates; Prescott could just scroll the map of the Earth and zoom in on any time and place as accurately as he wished.

He wouldn't have to worry about getting back in a hurry, either: the time pod had a built-in "homing button". If the time traveler found himself in a pinch and must start a return trip at once, he just had to hit the red button and the pod went back to the same time and place it had started from - only a second later, to prevent time-paradoxes.

And if one needed to conceal the pod, it also had an optical camouflage: just press the "Hide" button on the remote-control, and the pod's surface shifted colors and merged with the background.

Prescott strapped himself to the pilot seat, with the bag of weapons tied next to him, and signaled to the Vice President to shut the hatch. Zack gave him a salute, slammed the hatch shut, and Prescott heard the hydraulic lock hiss firmly shut.

The external camera gave him a fish-eye view of the outside; on a small screen he saw Zack walk out of the chamber and wave at him.

Prescott checked the coordinates one more time: The town of Peshawar, an October day in 1982. Zack had given him photos of what bin Laden looked like at the time, and a street map of exactly where bin Laden met the CIA operatives.

Prescott thought: This'll work. It has to. God is on my side. I wonder what it's like when you travel in time? Will I see the clock go backwards?

He turned the green launch key...

...and turned inside out. For a passage of time which Prescott couldn't define, he saw himself from the outside, with his intestines on the outside, and he thought he screamed because when he turned back to normal he was still screaming.

The pod jolted as it fell to the ground and its airbags inflated with a fierce hiss to cushion the impact. Prescott's heart was pounding very hard and fast, but he forced himself to stop screaming and checked the screens.

The external view showed a dusty hillside, overlooking a city in the Middle East. The flight computer confirmed it. He had arrived. He was in the past. The airbags deflated and retracted into the hull.

Prescott picked up the duffel bag and took out his disguise. He couldn't walk outside wearing his ordinary clothes.

***

There was the house. Prescott watched the clock on the pod's remote-control which showed local time. In one minute, the young Osama was going to come out and be driven by car to a meeting with CIA operatives who would sell him Stinger missiles to shoot down Soviet helicopters.

Prescott folded out two launch tubes, flicked the safety and took aim.

This was much easier than he'd thought. Many times he had fantasized about being a heroic soldier, but this was the first time he'd actually been about to be in real combat... sort of combat, anyhow. Not that his opponent would see the rocket coming.

The door opened, and Prescott saw Osama step out into the street with two other Arab-looking, bearded men. He looked younger, as expected, and healthier. The bastard was smiling, too. Did you smile like that on September 11, creep? Smile about this!

Prescott was so worked up, he squeezed the trigger twice.

Two rockets whizzed out of the launcher, flew the 300 feet and struck the wall of the house Osama had just left. The bearded man barely had time to notice them coming. Then he was gone, in a giant explosion which turned the building into a plume of smoke.

Prescott heard screams from the street, and dropped the launcher. He turned and ran for the pod.

In a few minutes, he had reached the spot and thought: The pod's gone! I'm stranded! Then he recalled the camouflage, and pressed the remote button. The pod flickered into visibility, and he climbed inside. Barely remembering to shut the hatch, Prescott crawled into the pilot seat, put on the seatbelt and punched the red homing button.

And he turned inside out, again.

***

"He's gone! Oh my God. He went into the time pod. I tried to reason with him, but he said he was on a mission from God. He set the machine to go back in time to Peshawar in 1982! He wanted to stop Osama bin Laden!"

Zack Cutter sounded grave, but not quite alarmed. General Whopping and Professor Moh were ashen-faced.

"Good God," said the general. "What have we done? The President's dead!"

Moh frowned. "No, we don't know that!" To the Vice President he said: "Did you see him set the coordinates? Are you sure he went there?"

"I... I demonstrated the control system for him, just as you'd shown me, and he asked me to set them for a site in Peshawar, October the 1st, 1982. That's when he pushed me away from the pod and set off."

The professor groaned and tore his hair. "The fool! Didn't you explain to him how time travel works? When he goes backward and alters the past, he enters one of the countless parallel timelines in the space-time continuum! He'll never return to our own timeline! If he uses the homing button, he'll just end up in the alternate timeline he created."

"He must have misunderstood me." Zack Cutter straightened himself. "It was too complicated for him. In any case, with the President missing I'm forced to assume my duties and step into his place. I'll inform the Joint Chiefs, the Senate and Congress. You are my witnesses that President Prescott Walker, in a heroic attempt to save American lives, went missing in an experimental time machine."

"You'll make it official?" the general said.

"Why not? You've proved it's a useless invention for changing history, but it works great for waste disposal and transportation. Our troops will be able to move forward in time, and establish bases in the future. America's sovereignty will be secured... for all time."

And the former Vice President, now President of the United States, thought: Like I said: great for waste disposal. It rid me of that idiot and now I'll REALLY set the world straight. Enjoy your own universe, Prescott, and I'll be enjoying mine...

"Um," said the professor, interrupting Zack Cutter's reverie.

"What?"

"Did you see anyone touch the security camera? It's not moving and the little light's gone out."

"No."

***

Prescott Walker crawled out of the pod, and looked around. He had arrived in the same cave as before... but it looked different. The glass chamber was gone, and all the technical equipment. Into the distance receded thousands of crates and barrels, lit by ceiling lamps. The air felt dank and cold.

Had something gone wrong?

"Zack! Professor! General? I made it! I'm back! Osama's history!"

Only the echo replied.

Prescott walked toward the distant exit, then changed his mind, went back into the pod and picked up the Glock. Just in case, he told himself. Perhaps America's enemies had located the lab and attacked it?

It was a long walk to the exit without the golf carts.


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