THE TIME IDIOT
(2011) - a novel by A.R.Yngve - Sample Chapters
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An armed National Guardsman opened for Prescott, from the outside, and he stepped out into hard desert sunlight.
Test Site F lay there before him, the buildings looking almost the same... and there was the hangar where Air Force One had been parked last time he saw it.
"How the hell did you get in here?" asked the guardsman. "This is a restricted area! The underground bunker is supposed to be sealed until the next inventory date!"
"Don't you recognize me?" asked Prescott. "Prescott Walker."
The guardsman blinked and lowered his rifle. "Of course... Mr. President! Sir... what're you doing here? I heard on the news you were in Florida, visiting your brother."
"Uh..." Prescott tried to absorb this piece of information, but his mind just stalled. He ignored the question and said: "I need to see the Vice President now. It's urgent. Something's not right. Get me a drive to Air Force One, will you?"
"Air Force One. It's parked in the big hangar over there."
"Sir, it isn't."
"Yes it is!"
"No it isn't!"
"Look, I don't have time to argue... just get me there. And where is my security detail?"
The guardsman picked up his phone and asked to speak with the base commander.
"Do that, son. General Whopping can tell you."
"General Whopping is not the base commander, Mr. President. His name is Ruckas."
"Huh? What about Professor Moh, then? Calvin Moh. Is he around?"
"Yes, he works in the building over there." The guardsman pointed across the open field to a large concrete slab of a warehouse. "But please show me your visitor's papers..."
The base commander, a man Prescott didn't recognize, assured him that the President's plane had not landed at Test Site F this day or yesterday. But Prescott was so insistent about seeing Calvin Moh, the commander let him.
Professor Moh was the same man as before, except his haircut was shorter and his face more tanned. He shook hands with Prescott.
"I've gotta talk to you about Project Yesterday," Prescott said as soon as they had entered Moh's office.
Moh showed surprise and fear. "How did you hear about it?"
"You told me! You showed me the time pod! I, uh, tested it, went back to the, uh, 1980s, and terminated Osama bin Laden. It worked!"
"Heh-heh! That's right! Uh... of course, you haven't heard about him, him being dead long ago and everything. Are the Twin Towers still standing...?"
"World Trade Center, in New York!"
"Of course it does. Why shouldn't it?"
"And the Pentagon wasn't attacked in 2001? There is no War on Terror anymore?"
Moh made a sympathetic face. "Sir, perhaps you should sit down. You look tired."
Prescott was too excited to even stand still. He had undone Al-Qaeda! He'd won the War on Terror! Then Moh picked up a newspaper and showed him the front page.
Moh pointed to the printed date. "Is this the date when you left this place?"
"That's right. The same day."
"And do you recognize today's news?"
Prescott read the top headline: JIHADISTS BLOW UP LAST SAUDI OIL REFINERY; 450 FEARED DEAD; PRESIDENT SENDS MORE WARSHIPS TO PERSIAN GULF.
The headline below read: OIL AT 200 DOLLARS PER BARREL; DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE PUSHES FOR MORE BIOFUEL PLANTS.
And below that: O.J. ARRESTED IN VEGAS. And: PRESIDENT IN SURPRISE VISIT TO FLORIDA GOVERNOR.
"I need not tell you this, but the Russians are threatening to send their troops into Saudi Arabia too. We're quite worried this might lead to a major conflict, if the two sides clash."
Prescott grabbed the newspaper and tried to grasp the information on the front page. "But... then who are this 'jihadijist' bunch? Not Al-Qaeda?"
"I've never heard of a group called 'Al-Qaeda,' but the terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia are a motley crew of veterans from Afghanistan... Taliban, Egyptian extremists, Iranian agents... and whatnot. Our last reliable ally in this mess is Saddam Hussein."
"Saddam Hussein??" Now Prescott had to sit down. "This is wrong! Something went wrong when I came back from 1982."
Moh sat down and faced him. "I'm prepared to take your story seriously, sir. How else could you know about Project Yesterday?" Moh seemed astonished, but now he was smiling. "We haven't briefed you about it yet... and besides, the prototype time pod isn't nearly finished yet."
"Professor, you come with me into the storage bunker and I'll show you the time pod I came in. It's still there... I think."
"You got something more important to do? This is a direct order from your President!"
"Sorry... I'm not entirely sure you're our President. How do you explain there are now two of you in the world - one in Florida, the other one here?"
"Uh.... Uh..." Prescott's mind stalled. It could not process the information.
"Let's go see your time machine. And I'll bring a history book and some magazines from our library, for fact-checking."
Prescott insisted on going alone with the professor, and the officers obeyed the President.
After Moh had examined the time pod, and patiently listened to Prescott's vain attempts to explain what the world ought to look like, he picked up a marker pen and drew a figure on a concrete wall.
"These parallel lines represent alternate timelines. You jumped sideways and backwards in time, through the second time dimension, into your own past.
"When you altered that past, the time pod could no longer return to your original timeline. The path home was blocked! So the homing mechanism did the next best thing: it sent you to the corresponding starting time and place, but in the new timeline which you had created."
"I see," Prescott lied. "So now there's two of me in my original timeline as well?"
The scientist frowned. "You don't get it. The timeline you left is still there..." He made a sweeping gesture with the pen. "Somewhere. In that timeline, you went back in time, and disappeared. Gone. Missing. In this timeline, a Prescott Walker already exists."
"He traveled in time too?"
Moh made an exasperated sigh. "No. Because in this timeline, when you blew up those jihadists in 1982, you not only obliterated Osama bin Laden and his future terrorist organization, you also upset other chains of events. When did the Soviets leave Afghanistan?"
"Uh..." Prescott knew he had heard it sometime, but couldn't recall the precise year.
"Around 1990, I think."
"Wrong!" The professor opened a history book and looked up The Afghanistan War. "In the early 1980s, American agents started to ship Stinger missiles to the Mujahideen, across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But in 1982, an unknown American agent blew up and killed several so-called 'freedom fighters' in Peshawar. The Mujahideen accused the CIA of the attack, and this seriously damaged our standing with the Afghans.
"The Mujahideen stopped accepting our Stingers and assassinated several of our best CIA operatives there. Without Stinger missiles, the Mujahideen couldn't shoot down Russian helicopters for several years, so the war dragged on until 1995!
"This long war served as a major recruiting area for Arabs who wanted to fight what they called 'secular imperialism.' In the 90s, they returned back to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and started attacking their own governments as well as American targets abroad. But they never managed to strike our homeland."
Prescott smiled. "Well, that's a relief... thousands of American lives saved..."
Moh seemed angry. "The problems of The Middle East didn't disappear just because a handful of Arabs got killed! Quick: What happened on January the 1st, 2000?"
With a frown, Prescott replied: "Something about me being elected President in 2000, right?"
"On January the 1st, 2000, in this timeline, the terrorist Mohammed Atta flew a hijacked airliner into the Israeli Knesset, killing most of its political establishment. The same year, jihadists took over Egypt in a coup and that country went to war with Israel. Israel was overwhelmed and its military chose to retaliate with an atom bomb.
"Cairo turned into a radioactive crater. One million people died immediately, five million more from radiation poisoning and chaos in the year that followed. Because of you. You created this reality!"
"What did you do then? What did I do? I mean, the other me. Your Pres."
"Since the Russians got bogged down in Afghanistan for so long, the U.S. Army started cutting back on weapons development in the 1990s. Project Yesterday probably had a lower budget and advanced much slower than in your timeline. But after the disaster on January the 1st - we call it '1-2-K' here - our President Walker proved to be just as inept as you. Americans felt safe, since our ground hadn't been attacked, and he spoke about being 'strong but humble.'"
"Well, you should help the President, your President that is. Build a copy of my time pod. Give it to him as our super-weapon - to set things straight."
Moh clutched one small fist with the other. "The Russians are moving in, we're on the brink of World War Three in the Middle East, and your double is off seeking shelter with his brother in Florida. You created this mess. Why should I help you make it even worse?"
Prescott would not, could not accept this. The professor was wrong, of course. "No, no, no... this will not stand. You have a responsibility. You can't just stand here like some... some know-it-all and say 'I told you so.' You've got to help me fix this."
"Have you understood how time travel works? You can't go back to 1982 and stop yourself from killing those people. You're already there, the first and only time - if you tried to override the blocking mechanism and go there anyway, the pod would collide with its own previous path and annihilate itself."
"No, there's got to be something I could do. I've got a frickin' time machine, for God's sake! The power to remake history!"
"This is insane." Moh paused. "I suppose it's possible to travel to an earlier point in time and remove the root cause."
"Let's say you want to stop all this trouble with the time machine to begin with. Go back in time and kill me. Then I'll never invent the time pod, and you will never get your hands on it." Moh paused. "No, wait... even if you created a timeline where the time pod isn't invented, you will still be in it, with the time pod, and can mess things up again. Crap. I wish my alternate self never invented the stupid thing. You have to destroy the time pod."
"I can't do that. It's too important. And besides, I'm not stupid... even if you don't invent a time pod someone else will, sooner or later. I can't evasidate this responsibility. Is there another root cause I can go after, to make sure Osama bin Laden never became a dangerous terrorist?"
"Well... if you change the past so that he wasn't influenced by his mentors and their rabid hatred for the West, their Anti-Semitism..."
"Where did they get it from? Why do the Arabs hate the Jews so bad anyway?"
"I'm not a history expert, but jihadists are essentially Fascists... and Arab political extremists were very friendly with the Nazis during World War Two. The jihadists clearly picked up lots of inspiration from Western political thought in the twentieth century - Marx, Hitler, et cetera. If you could somehow turn the extremists' attention toward democracy instead..."
Some of Moh's ramblings got through to the reasoning part of Prescott's brain, and it produced a quick conclusion: I've got it! Destroy the root cause of Fascism and in one single blow the world gets a lot better, with more democracy and less extremism all over.
"I've got to stop Hitler," said Prescott.
Moh gasped. "You're serious?"
Prescott eyed the scientist suspiciously. "Are you saying I shouldn't stop Hitler? Whose side are you on, buster? You some kind of closet Nazi? I ought to report you to the base commander."
Moh paled and shook his head. "Don't get me wrong! But you're..."
"Making the world safe for democracy," Prescott said. "Wasn't Hitler in World War One? Wife told me that, she knows her history. That ought to be a good alibi for letting him get killed. Just another dead German in the trenches, nobody'd notice."
Moh relaxed a little, and looked up World War One in the history book.
"You're on to something. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler described how he was injured in a gas attack during the Great War, and nearly lost his eyesight. He recovered and thought this was Providence. If he had been blinded completely, it could have broken his spirit and completely destroyed his chances of ever becoming the leader of Germany, and Nazi Fascism wouldn't have conquered Europe. You wouldn't even have to kill him; just blindness would be enough. All my ancestors who died in the Holocaust would live! My grandparents would be so happy..."
Moh had become enchanted by the possibilities of time travel, just like Prescott. He will build another time pod, Prescott thought. He'll want his own. But what if he doesn't tell the President? What if he keeps it to himself?
"What would you change if you had a time pod?" he asked Moh.
The scientist turned suspicious. "What's it to you?"
"Nothing," said Prescott, but decided to warn the Vice President in this timeline about Calvin Moh. Then he could take off on his next historical mission: to prevent the rise of Hitler.
But first of all...
He took the elevator with Moh to the exit, and called his wife on the cell phone. Someone else answered. He tried the number to the White House, and that one hadn't changed. The communications operator connected him to his wife's number. After two signals, a woman's voice answered.
"Prescott? Are you all right? You sound worried."
Prescott breathed a sigh of relief. Even in this changed world, he was still married to Janice. It was meant to be.
"I love you, honey, and I'm worried because I've got to do something very, very important. But I'll come back for you. You see, it was meant to be. We have a special bond."
"Prescott, dear, what's going on? You haven't been drinking, have you?"
He cast an anxious glance at Moh, and saw that the little man was trying to sneak back into the elevator. Prescott panicked.
"Call you back, hon!"
He rushed the doors and squeezed in before they clanged shut, and wrestled Moh to the floor. The elevator descended toward the bunker.
"You were going to destroy my time pod, weren't you? You're crazy!"
Groaning, Moh tried to strangle Prescott but his hands were far too feeble. "You're the crazy one! I can build another time pod, now I know it'll work - but I won't let you have it!"
Moh pulled a small gun from his coat pocket, and Prescott pried it from his grip. He kicked Moh in the groin and pointed the gun at him. "Crazy scientist... the pod is my responsibility! I'm the President!"
"Go ahead!" Moh mocked him. "Try and save the world! You don't know the first thing about history!"
"I will know history better than anyone else. You stay put, I'm going to set the world straight. Don't force me to shoot you."
Moh shook his head. "I invented the time pod!" He charged at the doorway behind Prescott, just as the elevator came to a stop. Prescott didn't intend to shoot; he just tried to wave the gun threateningly in Moh's direction. But somehow it went off.
And Moh lay on the floor with a bleeding chest wound, curled up and crying for help. Prescott ran for the pod, grabbed Moh's history book and climbed inside.
Using the book, he set the course for a site in Europe during World War I, where a German field hospital had been set up... on the date October 15, 1918.
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