a tale in weekly parts
This story is open for suggested continuations. I will publish here, with links to your own blog, all I receive. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) the next episode of this collaborative tale.
You can see the full story so far at this link.
“Let’s go,” Alex urged.
“You heard the boy, Jarvis; let’s go.”
“And who died and made him captain?” Jarvis asked petulantly. “I’ll go when I’m good and ready.”
“And when will that be?” Alex asked.
“As it happens, I’m ready now,” Jarvis said, “but not because you said so. Oh no, not at all. I’m ready now because it suits me to be ready now. Buckle up.”
Alex and Albert took seats in the control room and prepared for transit.
“Four hundred years is a long trip, lad. Do you have something to read?” Albert asked.
“Why, how long will it take?”
“As you measure time, three days,” Jarvis responded. “Would you rather sleep for the journey?”
“Is there anything to see or do on the way?” Alex asked.
“Can I sleep, then?”
Albert responded with the single word, “Esterkha’a”
Alex found a bed and slept.
When he awoke, Alex noticed that the interior had changed. All the instruments, monitors, keyboards, everything had disappeared, leaving Jarvis furnished sparsely and… smoothly was the word that came to mind. Albert was standing by the entrance, which was in the throes of opening as Alex watched. Albert was carrying a plastic bag of the type that supermarkets used to hand out free in the days before they were made so thin and flimsy. Whatever was in the bag was alive and moving. From the shapes it was making, it could have been something like a ferret.
“Where and when are we?” Alex asked.
Jarvis responded, “The year is 1615, and we are in what will become the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, quite close to the edge of the Kalahari Desert. At this time, it is populated by nomadic hunter-gatherers.”
“Can you form a screen and bring up Google please, Jarvis? I’d like to learn more about this.”
“Alta-vista then?” Alex asked, laughing, “or maybe Ask Jeeves?”
“Quite the wit, aren’t we, young sir?” Jarvis intoned.
Albert descended the steps and was immediately faced by a man whose appearance didn’t fit with what one would expect to find here in 1615. His clothing was as out of place as it was out of time. On top of that, Albert hadn’t expected to find a European this far inland for at least another fifty years.
“Who are you?” the man asked.
“You can call me Albert,” Albert said, “and who, may I ask, are you?”
“Not important, Albert” he replied. “What’s in the bag?”
“Just organic waste,” Albert explained. “Some kind of virus. I just need to dump it and we’ll be on our way.”
“Well, don’t,” the man said. “Not here. Not on this planet.”
The stranger said, “I’m a traveller from the twenty-first century. I was sent here to stop you dumping that creature. In four centuries, its progeny will rise up against the human population and overwhelm it.”
“And how do you know that?” Albert asked.
“Because we told him,” a voice boomed from somewhere.
Albert recognised the voice and knew he had to obey it. It was, after all, his own voice.
He returned to Jarvis, still carrying the creature.
“I’ve been turned away,” he said. “A traveller from Alex’s time said that the virus would spread and mutate, eventually overwhelming the human population.”
“Who told him that?” Jarvis asked.
“Apparently, I did,” Albert replied.
Alex frowned. “You might have to explain to me how that works,” he said.
Albert asked Jarvis to set a course for the dimension they were in when the virus entered them, and sat down with Alex.
“Alex,” he said, “the way we interact with time is complex.”
“I know,” Alex replied, “you have a casual relationship with it.”
“That’s right, lad, but it goes deeper than that,” Albert said. “You remember we talked about being in a helicopter, high above a march so that you can see all of it, from beginning to end, and that you could drop into the march at any point, and that you could come back up and drop down to another random place, as often as you want.”
“Well, sometimes, things happen in normal time, that you haven’t seen. It’s hard to explain, but I think what happened here is that we will have a part to play in this event, far in the future. It’s probable that, in one timeline, the descendants of this virus will wipe out the human race, and we have the job of stopping it from happening. If I’m right, then we couldn’t do it ourselves, because we were the cause of the problem. So we had to recruit someone to do it for us. That’s all I can tell you at the moment, but that man was definitely recruited and sent now by me. Clear?”
“Crystal,” Alex replied.
“Really?” Albert was amazed that the lad had managed to grasp something that he was struggling with.
“You having a laugh? Of course I don’t get it. Not yet, anyway. I’ll think about it when I get home; it’ll give me a distraction so I won’t have to listen to parental bickering.”
“We’re at our destination,” Jarvis announced, “prepare to jettison cargo.”
“Prepare to jettison cargo?” Albert mocked, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, you’re such a spoil sport, Albert. I’ve always wanted to say that; that and ‘the eagle has landed’, oh, and ‘engage’ and ‘make it so’. Iconic things that make me sound really butch. Oh, alright, throw the bloody virus out of the hatch.”
In a sudden fit of conscience, Alex asked, “Where will it go? Will it die in deep space?”
“Deep space is its home, lad,” Albert explained. “It’ll join others of its kind in the ecosystem where it evolved.”
“Good. Can we go home, now?”
Albert said, “Esterkha’a”
Alex found a bed and slept. He dozed off to the strains of Jarvis screaming “Shields up, red alert.”
“Look lively, lad,” Albert said, “we’re back.”
Alex checked his watch. The’d been gone for exactly two minutes.
This story remains open for suggested continuations. All I receive will be published here, with links to your own blog. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) episode 19 of this collaborative tale.
This story was started in response to Kreative Kue 18, issued on this site on 30 March 2015.