The Time-Machine

In fact, The Founder had a plan. He had realised long ago of the futility of space travel, due to the massive demand on resources that not even the Oodles conglomerate, with its almost total strangle-hold on the Earth, could afford. He had lost many of the best brains at his last attempt. Besides, it took too long to develop and assess, even approaching the speed of light, and there wasn’t any time left, now that climate change was out of control and nuclear war had broken out in the Middle-East, North and South Korea, and along the Russian borders.

Time was of the essence. The Founder, with all his personal wealth, had developed an alternative approach in parallel to the space programme. He had built a time-machine! He intended to start Civilisation again from scratch. To go back to the Rift Valley, with a few sturdy Londoners, armed with all the knowledge and technology of the past 70,000 years, and begin afresh, hoping to avoid most of the unpleasantness the Human Race had so far inflicted on itself.

He would be in charge, of course. He had already chosen his Disciples from those few left that had proved themselves independent, resilient, adaptable and innovative. They just needed a little guidance and technical help from himself. The New Order would be a vast improvement on anything that had gone before and maybe they could reverse the almost inevitable decline into chaos that every system so far devised had descended into.

He had already proven that his theories worked by sending back that titanium cylinder to the Olduvai Gorge and hiring Indigo Brown to retrieve it. It was a pity that such a resourceful man couldn’t join his disciples, but he was far too self-obsessed and sexually motivated; too much of a potential threat and rival.

For his experiment, The Founder had used a very small worm-hole that did actually exist on the top of Mount Lemakarot, but for this expedition he would have to use the larger one that he knew existed at one of the Lagrangian Points, the exact position where the gravity of the Earth, the other planets, and the Sun cancelled each other out; where Newtonian Laws ceased to operate. Which was why his time-machine was actually a space-ship, with a fairly short range, and capable of reaching its destination in a matter of months rather than decades. All he needed to do was to collect his crew and settle them down for the trip of a life-time. After the necessary injections and immunisations, of course.

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The Meeting

Down in the basement, Hodges, Hills and the others cautiously emerged from the escape stair lobby, stepped over the still smoking, bent and battered steel door, and looked back into the crypt-like chamber where they had detonated their explosives. There were clouds of smoke and dust, gradually settling on the broken racks of equipment. The air smelt metallic and sulphurous. They looked with satisfaction at the distorted cabinets, the charred circuit boards and the shattered rows of test-tubes, their contents a useless grey puddle on the floor.

“Better get back to Maddie and Tom,” said McGill. “We need to get out of here before the Enforcers arrive.”

“OK,” agreed Hodges. “But, well done everybody! That’s one in the eye for The Founder. At least it might make him think!”

They turned and began to traipse back up the stairs. As they rounded the first landing they looked up and fell back in surprise. At the top of the stairs, silhouetted by light streaming in from behind, was a tall figure, slightly stooped, wearing a white suit and sporting long, white flowing locks down to his shoulders. He had a silver-grey beard and moustache, neatly trimmed, but impressive none-the-less.

They stared, slightly terrified. They knew that face; even they had seen the bill-boards and Phil was intimately accustomed to it from his illicit screens and all the adverts extolling the virtues of Oodles. It was The Founder!

“Peace, children!” the figure said in a soft, melodious voice, stretching out his arms and holding out his hands to them. “You know what you are doing is futile! There are many more Clouds in Britain, let alone the rest of the World. All the data is duplicated many times over.”

“We just want to give you a kick in the pants!” cried Hodges, bravely. “You have to stop this madness!”

“Oh no! I’m not mad. I think you will find that you are! There is no escape now. The Tower is surrounded by Enforcers. We knew of your arrival as soon as you attacked Jacqueline! We have been watching you and your group for months now, anyway. Did you think that drunken wreck, Mac, couldn’t transmit as well as receive information?”

“What are you going to do?” yelled Hillsy. “We’ll fight! We’ll kill you!”

“Oh, I think not. Besides, I have a proposition for you. Let us go upstairs and retrieve the others. I find them amusing.”

The Founder turned and slowly walked up the stairs, apparently unconcerned by the threats; he knew their psyches, and that their curiosity wouldn’t allow them to kill him.

The Ship’s Log

In his penthouse suite on top of the Tower, The Founder eagerly awaited the latest instalment of the Space Ship’s Log. Of course, it was five years out of date by the time it arrived back on Earth, but he disregarded the time-lag now, convincing himself that this was happening in real-time. Which, as he couldn’t do anything to speed, slow, or change it, was the virtual truth.

He noted the various star-systems and the multitude of planets – far more than he thought possible. Every sun had twenty or thirty planets, some of which must be habitable. There was one in particular, a bluey-green planet about the size of Earth and with a Moon! But the idiots passed it by, preferring the promise of sentient beings with a radio beam. He would have been instantly suspicious of that. It was not at all what he wanted, which was to expand and control human civilisation without any other competition.

He watched in disbelief as they locked on to the radio beam and attempted to land on the planet’s surface. It was habitable all right. It was already inhabited!

Aurora, the Communicator, spoke to them first. “Greetings! We come in peace, from Earth, a planet four and a half light years away!”

The Aliens approached with caution. They were humanoid; lithe, athletic beings, full of grace and beauty. They smiled, and held out their hands in greeting.

“We have been watching your progress, expecting you for many light-cycles. Do you truly come in peace?”

“Of course!” said Captain Church, a little too eagerly. “We have many things to share with you. We wish to live again, here!”

The Aliens looked at each other, puzzled. How could they possibly live here? Four alien creatures who knew nothing of their Civilisation, Science, Art and Culture. They would be like exhibits in a zoo, something they were very much opposed to. What could they possibly share with them? Their intellects appeared very inferior.

Captain Church invited them onto the ship and took them on a tour. They were appalled at the sight of the hundreds of “eggs” glowing in the dark. They were even more appalled when Doctor McFly explained that these were indeed real people, old people, who had already lived for more than a hundred years, but who had the greatest knowledge and the best intellects on Earth. They had sacrificed themselves to aid the mission.

The Aliens listened in disbelief and growing ridicule as Doctor McFly explained the purpose of the “Ovarians” and the banks of milky-white fluid stored on racks over the Crystal-Heads. They began to laugh.

“You mean the totality of your existence can be held in a few cells? Then your existence cannot amount to much. It is not worth preserving, and we will not risk contamination!”

The Founder watched in horror as the screen went blank. The experiment had failed. “Oh well,” he thought, dismissing the incompetent crew from his mind. “It was a long shot, anyway! At least I know the time-travel experiment in the Rift Valley worked. There will have to be a change of plan.”

Penguin Café

When Hodges, Hillsy, the McGills, Phil and the others had trooped off back down the escape stairs, Tom and Maddie looked around the living room. It had an old-fashioned sort of feel, with comfy furniture, thick carpets, a desk and office chair, and rows and rows of shelves. Maddie had seen books before; McGilly had once read her a story from an old Harry Potter novel they had found. She pulled out a book at random and flipped through the pages, feeling a sense of shame and disappointment that she could hardly understand a word.

Tom stared at the large plasma screen hanging on the wall. “What on Earth’s that!” he exclaimed.

“Oh, I use it for making my documentaries on the computer,” replied Don. “It’s the only way I can incorporate footage from the insurgents. They’re not hooked into Oodles. In fact, they don’t have any transplants. They were banned by their religion, but they wouldn’t want them anyway; it’s against everything they’re fighting for.”

“Like us! We don’t have transplants, either.”

Don and Jacqueline looked at them in amazement.

“Then how do you know what to do, where you are, what’s going on?” gasped Jacqueline.

“We get by. Our parents have taught us everything they know,” replied Maddie. “They’re very good to us; they are only trying to do their best to protect us from The Founder and Oodles.”

“But you won’t know anything about History, Science, Culture, Art, or Music. You won’t have experienced anything, either first-hand or through the Sensories!” said Don, perplexed and staggered. “It’s bad enough that everything real is being lost through the catastrophes, but to not know about anything, even in recorded form, is very cruel.”

“Mum says we have to start again, when all this has gone, if we have time,” said Maddie, unconvinced herself.
Don looked around, perplexed, wondering what he could do to show them that there must be another way. Jacqueline got up and went over to the shelves of DVDs, looking along the titles and taking one out.

“Play them this. It’s one of my favourites,” she said, handing Don a copy of “Still Life at the Penguin Café”.

“Jacqui, you are the apple of my “i”! Your levels of sensuality continue to amaze me!” said Don, surprised, grinning and triumphant.

“This will show you what humans can do; the beauty of their creativity; the essence of their being. It also shows what has happened to some of our fellow creatures and why it is so tragic that most species are now lost. There are no lions, tigers, elephants or wildebeest left in Africa; no kangaroos, wallabies, koalas or kookaburras left in Australia; no armadillos or sloths left in South America. Soon, I fear, we will be gone, too!”

“Just play the DVD, Don! Let them decide,” suggested Jacqueline.

Don placed the disc in the ancient player and they settled back on the comfy settees as the catchy, bouncy music burst through large Hi-Fi speakers on either side of the plasma screen.

Tom and Maddie watched in amazement as people dressed as strange, upright, black and white birds danced serenely and cavorted around tables and chairs. They admired the dancing of the Utah Longhorn Ram and her partners; grinned at the antics of the Texan Kangaroo Rat; laughed out loud at Humboldt’s Hog-nosed Skunk Flea tying up the Morris Dancers in a knot; wept at the fate of the Southern Cape Zebra, the most beautiful dancer; and felt as one with the Rainforest People. The music was infectious, jolly; sublime in its repetition and juxtaposition of long melodious strains of violin and cello with tinkling ukuleles, bongos and snare-drums.

The dancing was sublime; they didn’t know anyone could dance like that. It was so carefree and apparently casual; uninhibited, sensual and sexual, but so pure and free from perversity.

The Brazilian Woolly Monkey showed them the comic and darker side of human nature, but the death of the Great Auk reminded them of their possible fate. When the Ark appeared, coinciding with a series of loud explosions from the basement below, they understood the message and knew what they had to do.