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Note! I wrote this after a friend gave me a challenge to deviate from my own 'voice'. So the narrator's {politics, religion, priorities} are not my {x}. It turns out that the narrator uses some pretty foul language in his internal monologue, for which I apologise, as well as for the roughness of the style.

Leftover Trouble

It's a Monday morning, and the Sun is warm on the carpet. I stretch, and pad into the kitchen to where my Pop Tarts are hiding in the cupboards. The birthday card from Allison lies on the tabletop from where I opened it last night – I open it again to see Michael's infant signature, and smile. I've quite a bit of time before I need to catch that tram to take me into the Complex proper. Time enough for coffee.


I blink against the sunlight and rustle my paper as the tram rolls South-East. The Tidings has no Sudoku puzzle, but makes up for it with a good letters page – I guess I'm a sucker for an argument. A good argument, I mentally correct myself – the long-running thread arguing over where the bay defenses will be sited isn't what I'd call gripping reading.


At my desk, I find Doug's handwriting all over one stinker of a work assignment. The Governor's office has put in a special request for a biographical short to support his re-election. They can't say that, of course – to be using the gubernatorial clout to produce election materials would be against the law, and one thing Governor Bracknell has not done during his term is break the law. No, siree. He may have cut the funding for public mental health initiatives; he may have been less than friendly to people who don't have no morals – violent, even; he may be under investigation for passing bribes back and forth all around the country. But no one could say he'd broken a single law, and everyone did use the intra-city wireless networks now, and the computerised pedestrian rollways.

“Hey, Rod. You all ready for the tour?” I start, a little, involuntarily. Mica has been standing behind me for five whole minutes, I bet. I nod, and sip my second cup of coffee.


The tour-bus snakes Eastward down the corridor, my hands on the steering wheel. Mica's next to me, her head high and out of the sunlight as she talks around Doug's script, looking back at our visiting assholes.

“So, I'm here with Rod today,” nudging me in the shoulder, “to give you all a better idea of what is is we're up to here. Have you all read our brochure?

I turn left. I'm heading down towards the full-scale model in the old warehouse, where I can give these councilors a high-schooler's understanding of how our Time Machine works. Getting silence as a reply, Mica carries on with the script.

“Way back when, before the Complex, historians across the US had to guess at what people were thinking in the past. We used to use newspapers, recordings, books; you name it, we used to use it to make guesses.” Mica shifts slightly into my personal space. I shift away, and turn left again. “Even after video was invented, we kept guessing. The thing is, the news cameraman never quite seemed to be in the right place at the right time – and he sure as hell didn't ask the right questions.” She shifts even closer. I shift away again, and think of Allison.

One of the suits in the back has raised his hand to ask a question. I see Mica's hair flick as she nods at him.

What dangers are there associated with your time machine?

I turn my head so as I can talk, and ease off the gas pedal. “None. The machine is housed by concrete that's two metres thick and runs off on-site generators. It's totally safe.”

The councillor, acting like the little weasel he looks just like, kept his eyes right on Mica. “I repeat my question: What dangers does this Complex pose to humanity? Do you not risk changing history with your recording devices?” This jackass hasn't read a bit of the material he was sent. I start to quote from the brochures.

“The Well-Posed Theory of Time -”

“Please,” he interrupts, still looking straight at Mica. “I would like an answer from our guide, rather than our driver.” Mica shoots me a nervous look, and quotes from the same damn page. I jam my foot down and wish for a cup of coffee, and she gives them her warmest smile.

“Well. As Rod was saying, the 'Well-Posed Theory of Time' tells us that we can't just go back to yesterday and change stuff and blow up the universe – if we go back, we were always meant to go back.” She nods, encouragingly. "It's kinda like fate."

The weasel makes some sound like “buh-”, I think, but Mica has started talking and isn't going to stop now. I force myself to relax, meaning my right arm ends up just touching against her thigh. I think of Allison.


The assholes have been packed into Jake's office to watch a video roll about how great we are, and Jake is hanging out around my desk. I sip my coffee, and add a little detail to the diagram I'd drawn in the talk earlier. Power generators cast a shadow, and Michael is hiding there with his toy gun, ready to bang-bang any evil councilors trying to destroy history. I talk, figuring Jake won't go away until I do.

“You picked my target, yet?”

“Nah. Bracknell wants someone nice and historical who'll make his term look good. Someone with computers, and he'd like it if they were clean-shaven and stinking rich so they'll look good on the town screens.” I can feel him looking at me. Jake's not a bad guy, but sometimes he gets on a guy's nerves. “How's Allison? And Michael?”

I sip and look at my paperwork. “The state's cut down the medical program again, and Michael's nearly 18. Pretty soon he'll have to start earning dough if he wants to eat.”

Jake takes the hint and pipes down a little. The diagram has got the Time Shell now, filled up with Pop Tarts. The quiet doesn't last.

“Maybe Babbage.”

“Huh?”

Charles Babbage. He came up with the idea of computers in the first place. English rich guy.” I guess he decides to give up on me for today, and stops leaning, getting ready to buzz off. “I'll leave it up to you, okay? Just this has got to be done by Wednesday so it's good for next week's election. Think about Babbage.”

Asshole.


I type in the finished abstract and save it to the database.

The Father of Computing: Technological marvels abound in the world of today as they never did in the past. We are fortunate indeed that we at the Complex can look back and get an accurate picture of the yesterday, with people and a way of life so different from our own, so that we truly can appreciate the advances we have made – as a species and as people.”

I type in the date and set the computer to number-crunching.

7 June 1954

I pick 'Biopic' from the menu, and save the name to the database.

“Alan Turing”

I pick up a hand-camera, and step into the Time Shell.


Mr. Turing?”

The cramped English house has no central heating, and Alan doesn't keep any coffee. I have him on a chair, his arms gently and firmly bound so I don't leave any marks, his chest mis-shapen and his smooth chin below thin cheeks. He's awake, so I talk some more.

“Hey, there, Mr. Turing. I'm gonna to call you Alan, and you can call me Rod. You were about to commit suicide, weren't you Alan?” His dark eyes look at me. Wheedle, wheedle, wheedle. “I know you were, Alan, see, and I know you haven't written a suicide note. So that's where I come in, see. I'm like your suicide note, Alan. I want you to tell me all about your life, and then, Alan, I'm going to let you go, and you can eat your tasty apple. I'll even stay, if that's what you want, cause a man ought to have company when he goes to the Lord, Alan. See, Alan, I'm from the future...”


Jake is fucking furious.

“Jesus, Rod! What the fuck were you thinking? What the fuck were you thinking? You sent that into the system without even fucking showing me? Jesus H. Fucking Christ”

“Please stop saying Jesus, Jake. I was told a short biopic on a father of computing. I filmed a short biopic on Alan Turing. I got back, and I sent it off - just like I normally do.”

“No. No, no, no. You knew that this was meant to be for Bracknell's campaign. Even without that, you just put a video of a man taped to a chair – taped to a fucking chair – explaining how the government has forced him into suicide, and how life isn't worth living – you just put that mother-fucking video on every screen in every city in the fucking state.”

Jake seems upset. I take a swig from my hot cup of coffee, and burn my mouth. He continues, more in control.

“Rod. I just don't know what to say. I just don't know what to say. You're going to lose your job, I'm going to lose my job, the Complex is probably going to be shut down – or at least put on a tight leash, and God knows who's going to get into power now you've done a number on Bracknell. You know what he did for us? Jesus, Rod.”

I wince, a little, and my mouth is still burning. After a while I notice that Jake has left – I guess I heard a door slam, and after a little bit longer I notice that Mica is standing next to me. She's been there all of five minutes, I bet.

“Why, Rod? What on Earth possessed you? We've got good jobs here - why make trouble?” I turn to face her, and lean in. She leans back, and I lean in closer, and imagine fucking her rough.

“I think there are a lot of things in this world, Mica, that are real, real sad. And I think it's even sadder that being honest, making a good pic – have you even watched my biopic?” She nods. Good. “I think it's sad that just doing something as simple as being honest and doing the job you're supposed to do can make people angry. I think that's real, real sad.” I force a laugh, and open up my arms big. “Hey, according to the Well-Posed Theory of Time, I was even supposed to go back and tie that guy up. So I guess I was just doing my duty, right? I'll admit it, it was even a little bit fun – you shouldha seen his face when he woke up, and when I told him I'd come from the future. Man, I could have laughed so fucking hard.” I force another chuckle, and carry on. “And when he died? How do you reckon that was, Mica?”

Mica's crying. I guess she's going to lose her job as well, or something. Turing hadn't cried – he'd been a real man, even if he had been a fairy who offed himself.

“Fuck you, Rod. Fuck you.”

I consider my words real carefully, before I respond.

“Yeah, well, fuck us all.”


The tram home is cold. I think of Allison, and Michael.

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