THE TIME IDIOT
(2011) - a novel by A.R.Yngve - Sample Chapters
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Hundreds of winged rocket bombs flew down over Washington D.C. with an eerie, blaring noise.
The dome of Capitol Hill had shattered, and the city air was thick with smoke that stung Prescott's eyes and lungs. Every few seconds, a rocket bomb struck and the ground shuddered from a huge explosion. The entire capital seemed to be in flames.
At first glance Prescott had not believed the external camera view; he had had climbed out of the pod thinking that this must be some terrible illusion.
Once he had climbed out and camouflaged the pod, he saw that the cameras did not lie: around 0030 AM on the 4th of July, 1941, a foreign power was attacking the U.S. capital and laying it to waste with swarm after swarm of missiles.
Prescott peeked briefly out of the pod's hatch, raised the Kodak box-camera and took a picture of the burning skyline.
He fought back the impulse to shout for Dad, and quickly returned into the pod; the explosions were coming closer and he couldn't stay. He set the pod to jump five years back in time but the same location in D.C.
Again he felt himself get wrung like a sock...
And he arrived in the same city, the same park, five years earlier. He found the "Camouflage" button on the control panel, switched on invisibility and stepped out.
D.C. at the hour of midnight the 3rd of July, 1936, was at peace. The mild summer air smelled of exhaust fumes, and the city spread out before him like a thousand points of light. No sounds of war disturbed the splendor of the capital. Prescott admired the Washington needle in the distance, illuminated by spotlights, the majestic statue of Lincoln, the giant Theodore Roosevelt statue straddling the avenue leading up to Capitol Hill...
"Now wait a minute..." Prescott took a good look at the enormous grinning face of Teddy Roosevelt, and sighed. "Okay, I won't change the statue. Now, where's Dad?"
He thought back to Daddy Morgan Walker's stories about the 1940s. Where did the Walkers stay during that visit? Prescott figured he could ask around at the city's hotels and boarding-houses until he ran into his relations.
And... then what? Prescott realized that now he risked upsetting history in a very close and personal way. He knew he had been born in the 1940s... in fact, he wasn't born yet! Was it wrong to talk to one's own father-to-be? Might he change something so that his own birth never happened, like in that movie?
But here he was, not fading out of reality.
He pinched himself to make sure.
Prescott could only think of one explanation that made sense: his existence was fate - it could not be changed. So he risked nothing by going to see Morgan Walker, his father-to-be. Right? Now he felt a twinge of doubt again, and he hated doubt.
Prescott thought of Einstein. People always mentioned that guy's name when it came to discussions about time and space. Might Albert Einstein be around in 1936?
At Princeton University, Albert Einstein held a lecture before a rapt audience of students, teachers, scientists and a few reporters. He was a middle-aged man with graying, shaggy hair and wore a three-piece tweed suit that looked old.
He talked at length about his Theory of Relativity and papers on the Photoelectric Effect which had earned him two Physics Nobel Prizes. He also lamented the dire political situation which had recently forced him into exile, shortly before the Soviet Union invaded Germany. And he warned that a promising young German engineer by the name of Werner Von Braun was now working for the Soviet Union to develop long-range rockets which might one day threaten North America.
The Soviet Science Academy had sent Einstein several invitations to return to Europe and work with Von Braun; Einstein had declined and then stopped responding. He told his audience that the Soviet leader, who had admirers even here, was a menace to world peace. The dictator's ambitions would not stop at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the reporters in the audience was wearing dark sunglasses indoors. He went by the name Prescott Walker. He was snoring lightly, for he had fallen asleep when Einstein explained the photoelectric effect. In his lap lay an archaic wooden Kodak camera.
A genuine reporter nudged Prescott in the ribs and he started awake.
"Huh? What did I miss?"
"Only about the entire speech. Some reporter you are. One of the greatest minds in history speaks, and you fall asleep."
Einstein was making his closing remarks, and noticed the reporters in the back row.
"Gentlemen, if I have bored you to sleep the fault is mine for being such a dull speaker." To the laughing students he added: "Do not sleepwalk through life; the world has a way of giving rude awakenings to sleepwalkers." He ended the lecture to a standing ovation, picked up his papers and left with the university president and a few teachers, who shielded him from eager students and journalists.
Prescott elbowed his way through the crowd and shouted: "Mr. Einstein! Mr. Einstein! I must speak to you! It's very important!"
Einstein turned in the doorway to a secluded room, and smiled at Prescott. "Important enough to disturb your sleep, ja?" Again the students laughed, and Prescott felt his neck and cheeks flush.
"Time has two dimensions, not one!"
The two-time Nobel Prize winner froze, then looked up. "Now there's an intriguing Gedankenexperiment. How did you come up with that? From our imaginative colleague George Gamow, ja?"
"I'm serious! I came here in a time machine from the future! I must ask you some questions!" The room erupted in even more laughter. "Please listen! Five years from now, Washington will be destroyed in a rocket attack! You've got to tell me how to stop it!"
Einstein frowned. "So you were only pretending to fall asleep, eh? Are you another one of those Soviet provocateurs?"
Two plainclothes men had been standing in the background during the entire lecture. Prescott didn't notice them until they sneaked up from behind and grabbed him hard.
"Come here, you."
The men pinched his arms so hard he had to follow them out of the auditorium, and they dragged him into a men's room.
One of the men blocked the entrance, while the other one showed Prescott an FBI badge.
"What were you up to with Professor Einstein? Are you really a reporter? I didn't see you with the other news people. Got an ID?"
"Hey, it's okay," said Prescott. He did not want a quarrel with the Feds - as he saw it, they worked for him. "You can come with me, if you just let me talk to him. I'm an American. I've come to warn him."
"You're a Red provocateur like he said, or an escaped lunatic. We'd better call all the asylums in town, see if they're one patient short."
Prescott had left his weapons in the time pod. He swallowed. "Guys... I know this looks bad..."
Albert Einstein pounded on the door to the men's room and demanded to come in. The FBI agent opened and let him alone inside.
"Are you serious?" asked Einstein, studying Prescott from head to toe. "You traveled in time to get here?"
Prescott nodded vigorously and showed Einstein the wooden box-camera. "I have photos here..." He couldn't find a lid to open the box and get the film roll out. "How do you get the pictures out of this thing?"
Einstein shook his head and said: "I remember that Kodak model from when I was young. You have to deliver it to a photo shop..."
"There's PhotoShop? Here? Are you sure?"
The misunderstanding was ignored. "Can you show me some technology from the future to prove your identity?"
He showed them the cell phone and let it play a few musical tunes, and the game Strip Poker. Einstein's heavy-lidded eyes widened. "Mein Gott, he is telling the truth! Let me talk to him in private!"
"Can't, sir," said one of the agents. "We've got to look after you."
"Come over here." Einstein urged Prescott into a corner of the room and lowered his voice. "In five years? You saw it?"
"Yes! Lots and lots of rockets, with wings, and they made this big noise. The whole city was in flames - I mean, will be in flames..."
"That monster Trotsky! I've been trying to warn them..."
Einstein glared at him. "You must come from another world. Trotsky, the dictator of the Soviet Union, who led the invasion of Europe and Arabia! After the death of Lenin, he seized power and vastly expanded the Red Army into the world's greatest force of tanks..."
"O-kay..." said Prescott hesitantly. "What about Stalin?"
"The one who... I mean, should have..."
Einstein's face lit up; he caught on so quickly it gave Prescott cold shivers. "You have altered history, haven't you? Trotsky wasn't supposed to be where he is now? This 'Stalin' you mention, who was he and what did you do to him?"
Prescott tried his best to sound innocent. "He, uh, was a very, very bad man. He took over Russia and then a big chunk of Europe... but I blew him up in, uh, 1906, before he took over."
Einstein went silent for a few moments, and his gaze turned distant. Then he blinked and said: "I see... by removing one tyrant, you merely opened the door for another." He made a sad smile. "I'm sure your intentions were honest. Perhaps you could go back and remove Trotsky too? No, forget that. The circumstances which created the Russian Revolution do not go away so easily."
It confused Prescott that Einstein did not at all seem to be in awe of him - Prescott Walker, the world's first time traveler! The man who killed Hitler! "Don't you want to know how the time machine works?"
Einstein shrugged. "No. If what you say is true, and time has two dimensions... that is more important than time travel itself. It means time is much more unstable than I've previously assumed. Or you are from another segment of this two-dimensional temporal continuum. Tell me, did you notice any change in yourself after you altered your own past? Are your memories consistent with events?"
Prescott gave him a baffled, slack-jawed stare.
Einstein forced himself to speak slower: "Have you altered the past of your own parents?"
Prescott nodded slowly. "Yeah, maybe... I think so... but I'm still here, so they've got to be the same, right?"
"You altered your own past, and still you exist. Do you find that strange and difficult to explain?"
Prescott did not even blink. "God wants me to exist. It's fate."
Briefly, Einstein looked angry. "There may be another explanation. May I see this time machine of yours?"
"Not when those two goons are watching." He glanced at the two FBI men, who stood waiting at the other end of the tiled room. "People have been trying to steal it from me. All I want is your help - you're a genius about this kinda stuff. How do I change the past to make sure the big war in the Forties never happens? Do I have to remove every Fascist and Communist? Or... is there a root cause of those two evils? When did they begin?"
Einstein sighed. "Root cause...? I suppose you mean philosophers, such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche, the spiritual fathers of Marxism and Fascism?"
Prescott recognized the names, but he had never read their books. (Though he had read a comic book about the life of Karl Marx long ago.) He knew that the Soviet Union used to carry around big portraits of Marx during parades. And he knew exactly one quote of Nietzsche from the beginning of the movie Conan the Barbarian: "What does not kill us makes us stronger." He wasn't entirely sure what the quote meant, but that movie sure was violent.
"You're a great man, sir," he told Einstein, "so I'll follow your advice."
"What makes me so great?" the scientist replied, and sounded almost offended.
"Well... you invented the atom bomb. We dropped it on Japan and won World War Two."
The color drained out of Einstein's face so that it resembled wax. "Dropped what?"
"The atom bomb! On Hiroshima and Nagasaki." He brightened up. "Maybe I can help you get that atom bomb made faster, so we can use it on the Reds before the war?"
Einstein froze up, and again his eyes seemed to watch thin air. It lasted only a few seconds. He quickly turned around and yelled to the FBI men: "That man is a Red assassin! He tried to kill me! With that infernal machine he showed me! Shoot him! Shoot him now before he uses it again!"
The two agents reached for their guns. Prescott gasped, saw the half-open washroom window and threw himself at it. Fortunately for him the glass was neither thick nor hard, but he cut himself and landed in a thorny hedge beneath the window.
As he tumbled out of the hedge and ran for the time pod, ignoring the shouts and gunfire in the air, he thought: Why did Einstein lie to me? I'm not a Red agent... am I? I thought he was on our side? But he told me how to fix the root cause of evil. It'll be easy. I can go anywhere, take anything and disappear. Damn, that hurts. I should go see a doctor... in another time and place.
Prescott thanked his lucky star he used to run and jog every day; he shook off the FBI men easily, reached the pod and climbed in. He did not even have to make it visible first; he had finally learned where to find the hatch on feeling alone.
Hidden inside the invisible pod, Prescott set course for Europe in the previous century...
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