“STOP!!!” I screamed.
Well, it felt like a scream in my mind. It sounded more like a death rattle or a kid trying to gargle mouthwash for the first time.
Panting, shaking, gasping for breath, dripping sweat from every pore, I finally slid to a stop in front of the heavy wooden desk.
“What the HELL?”
“Just wait…sir, you can’t do this,” I managed to squeak the words out between heaving breaths, “please!”
“Just who the hell do you think you are and how did you get in here?”
He pushed himself up out of his chair, looming over his desk like a thundercloud. He was a tall man, intimidating and angry. I knew a lot about him from my extensive research into major historical figures from this time period and that meant that I knew a lot about his temper. Everything inside me was telling me to run away, to save myself but… I had no choice. Everything depended on me now and this was my only chance to right a terrible wrong.
I was here to change a decision that had devastated an entire generation.
With trembling fingers, I removed the small leather pouch from my jacket pocket and slid it across the desk toward the man. He didn’t even look at it, he was too busy glaring at me like a constipated bull elephant. I gathered my courage and swallowed hard.
“Please…I’m begging you. You have to see this, you have no idea how important this is going to be in the future. Just open the pouch and no one has to die.”
He looked up at me warily. I couldn’t blame him, actually. I’d be wary of me too. He was probably thinking, who the heck is this sweaty, disheveled young woman about to pass out on my desk, and why is she wearing a spacesuit?
Well, first of all, sir, this is a timesuit, not a spacesuit.
***Hold on. Let me rewind the tape a bit.
I, Emmalee Carter, am a fully fledged member of the Unindelibles, a group of highly trained, elite, badass, historical intervention specialists. I didn’t pick the name, ok? Just go with it.
We are time travelers. I like to think of myself and my silver wetsuit clad brethren as both stewards of human history and guardians of the future.
I know what you are thinking…UGH. Time travel is messy. You aren’t wrong. What if you kill your grandfather and then you never existed? What if you eliminate a dictator but someone even more horrific comes to power? What if you stop “Baby Shark” from being written but someone writes “Baby Shart” instead? What if what if what if what if???
I can’t deny that this is a messy job sometimes, but I can assure you that we Unindelibles have completed extensive training in protecting pivotal moments in human history, that there are many fail safes in place, and that we all adhere to a strict code of temporal ethics. Oh, and all of the really, REALLY important moments are protected in Temporal Insulation Chambers, or TICs, with backup systems for their backup system’s backup system. Rest assured, the past is secured! That would be a good catchphrase for the Unindelibles actually, I’ll have to remember that.
ANYWAY. Somewhere between “Back to the Future” and “Star Trek” lies the truth about time travel. I won’t attempt to explain the temporal mechanics to you in this story but you do need to understand that time travel is exhausting. Even the simplest mission (like to find and return that library book that you lost under the La-Z-Boy when you were nine) takes a lot out of us. The more important the thing we are attempting to alter is, the more energy it takes out of the traveler to reach it. Today, it was like running a marathon through Jello. That, avid reader, is why I am sweating and gasping and gargling over this desk now.
I barely made it here and the other two members of my team are still lost in time, running as fast and as hard as they can, trying to reach this moment. This mission is one we have been training for and planning and researching for what feels like eons now. When you spend so much of your life traveling through time, the passage of time in your own life gets a bit murky.***
A sound like tearing tin foil pierced the air.
The hallway behind me split in two like a zipper being pulled down from the ceiling. Aidan and Nico dove through the opening and crashed to the floor as the triangular portal zipped shut again behind them, narrowly missing Nico’s legs.
“Did you give it to him?!” Aidan gasped.
“What did he say?! Will he fix it?” added Nico in a strangled whisper as he lay sprawled on the floor in front of the office door.
The man behind the desk stood frozen in shock at the impossible situation unfolding before him.
I was glad to see my team had made it safely, obviously, but their timing wasn’t the best. Now the angry man was even more on edge and I needed him to listen, to trust us, and most of all, to read our message.
Ignoring the other Unindelibles recovering on the floor behind me, I tried to take control of the spiraling situation.
“Please, sir. We are here to stop you from making a mistake that will tear apart families, destroy relationships, break hearts, and be the cause of so much distress to so many innocent people. Please, sir, just open the pouch.”
Several moments of tense silence ensued. It was a stand off. I channeled every ounce of determination into my gaze, trying to project an air of assured confidence.
And it worked.
The man sat back in his chair and reached across the desk for the leather pouch. With one eye on me and the strange scene behind me, he loosened the drawstring and removed the contents of the pouch. He quickly unfolded the single sheet of heavy paper and began to read. I saw his eyes tighten in disgust and denial as he took in the title and then slowly widen in horror as he absorbed the data that we had calculated and presented in the graphs and diagrams below.
“Oh. My. God.”
“I’m so sorry, sir, ” I said softly, not wanting to break his concentration but sensing that he needed to hear it, “but it’s true. You have to change it.”
He looked up at me and I could see a dawning understanding in his eyes.
“Thank you, whoever you are.”
The crushing weight lifted from my chest and I could breathe again. We could return to our own time and rest assured that we had completed this, our most important mission to date.
As I turned to leave and scrape my colleagues off of the floor, I heard him whisper to himself, “No one has to die. They CAN both fit.”
I smiled as I waited for the portal to reopen. Our work here was done.
“Yes, Mr. Cameron,” I said, “Yes, they can.”
Please feel free to debate. The Unindelibles are always happy to change history again as long as the moment in question is not TIC protected 🙂