It was 2pm, an hour after John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been shot, when Pam walked back into the TARDIS.
Her face was streaked in tears.
She then looked at me.
“YOU,” she exclaimed through her tears as she walked through the entry way towards the center console where I sat.
Kevin, Ron, Debbie, Bill, Gina, Becki, Jeff, Rosalyn and Spencer all were avoiding me in the foyer of the TARDIS.
“YOU,” she repeated as she started to run at me.
I stood up, as did her husband, who was on a chair adjacent to me.
She ran up against me and beat her hands on my chest.
“You just stood there and let him die!,” she said sobbing. “You see this? This is HIS blood and his blood is on your hands!,” as she clenched a pink hat Jackie Onassis had just been wearing which was thrown from the car she was in as she sat next to JFK with streaks of blood on it as she hit me on the chest with her fists.
Bill rushed over, and pulled her away, as I was clearly making no effort to stop her.
She collapsed on Bill as she pulled him away, staring at me the entire time.
“You’re a monster,” she yelled at me as spittle fled off her mouth.
They had to have this moment. I knew it.
Spencer looked at me coolly from the other side of the room.
“She’s right, you know, you are a monster,” he said.
I said nothing.
“Why can’t we just go back a little earlier, stop Oswald from taking the shot?” Kevin said.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “anything you try to do to stop the accused individuals from succeeding in their objective, you’ll watch the story unfold in another way to include those individuals.”
Pam looked at me again, her tears drying up. “So you just give up?”
I opened my mouth, about to say something, but I was interrupted.
Becki, Kevin’s wife stood up enthusiastically, “How about this – could we do something which will make sure JFK never even gets there?”
Kevin looked at me expectantly, “have you tried that?”
“Give them this,” a little voice inside my mind said.
I sat back down.
“No I have not,” I responded.
“So let’s plan it out. Does anyone remember the route JFK took to get here today?,” Becki said.
Pam dried her tears and let go of Bill.
“Do you have something to write with?,” Kevin said.
“Main Street,” Ron said, not sure how he got there.
“Main Street and Stemmons,” Spencer chimed in, I’m sure of it.
“It was changed at the last minute to Houston and Elm,” I said.
“YOU,” Pam pointed her finger at me. “Stay out of this. I don’t trust you.”
Ron finally interjected “Look, we’re here now. Let’s just ask people on the ground where he came from, we do our own investigation to make sure we’re 100% accurate, and then we fix the problem.”
Kevin said “Agreed, but if we go around asking questions while the police are doing an investigation, we can arise their suspicion and potentially be implicated in the crime ourselves.”
Gina looked at me. “You – said this thing has a wardrobe with costumes in it?”
I smiled. “A costume for anyone and for every imaginable occasion?”
Gina looked at the others. “We dress as Secret Service agents in dark suits.”
She looked at me “And you have IDs?”
“Any ID you can imagine,” I responded.
We retreated to the wardrobe. To say my wardrobe alone blew their mind was a little bit of an understatement, but eventually, we found what we needed to.
Meanwhile, I’d paused time on the outside world, so when they emerged four hours later, it was still 2pm.
I was asked to stay behind and did.
Pam was first to come in, triumphantly grinning.
“Told you. It was Main Street and the Stemmons Freeway!,” she said.
I did my best not to respond despite knowing what was going to happen next.
“So here’s our plan, we’re going to create a diversion on Houston and Main, before the President ever enters the area where he’s in range of ANYONE being shot,” Kevin said.
I shook my head. “Then he’ll just divert onto Houston and Elm, where I remember him getting shot. You don’t understand, no matter where you set up a diversion, even if you block every entrance into the area, you’ll invariably find roadblocks yourself. The event HAS to happen.”
“I think he wants JFK to get shot,” Pam said.
Kevin and Bill were both shaking their heads.
“It doesn’t make any sense. Why would he be here and have taken us here?,” Bill said.
“Tourism. He wants to make money,” he said.
Jeff retorted “It doesn’t make any sense. He could have used time travel to become a billionaire and no one would be any the wiser he’d done it. It can’t be about the money.”
Gina chimed quickly “He’s just an arrogant self-righteous prick and trying to teach us a lesson.”
Kevin responded “He’s never been like that with me.”
Even Spencer could be seen doubting the situation.
“I’m right here folks, no reason to talk about me as if I’m not listening,” I said.
Spencer looked at me and in a resigned tone said.
“Ok, you’re the space monkey here, how do you think we can him?”
I looked around the room, all eyes were falling on me.
I smiled. Broadly.
“Pam, your hat please,” I said.
She’d kept it in her pocket the whole time, as if it were a prize, and reluctantly pulled it out of her pocket, clenching it in her fist and turning her shoulder to me.
“Pam. I NEED you to TRUST me as if our lives depended on it,” I said, matter-of-factly.
She remained unmoved. Her knuckles tightening over the blood drenched hat.
I reiterated “Pam, the hat please?”
Bill took her hands, and looked her in the eyes as if to say “We need to trust him with this.”
Her clenched first released as she let go of the hat.
Bill handed it to me
I threw the hat in a plastic bag, not that I was worried about contaminants, but nothing can dampen the mood of a place more than a pervasive dried blood stench.
“NOW. The first rule of time travel is this: There are no rules. ”
I grinned my best maniacal grin I could, and flipped a large lever as the lights dimmed in the TARDIS.
The wheezing of the TARDIS commenced.
“Where are you taking us?” Rosalyn said.
“To the end of time! I suggest you all sit down, as this ride tends to be a bit bumpy,” I said.
As if on cue the TARDIS bucked, knocking a few of my friends who hadn’t responded to my assertion harmlessly to the ground. Pam and Gina both let out a quick scream. Those who had fallen got up and quickly sat down.
The lights dimmed as the walls disappeared.
Outside the TARDIS the stars could be seen. But instead of receding into a single line as they had before, we were now rocketing through space. Mars flew by. Jupiter. Saturn. The view was breath taking.
“WHERE ARE YOU TAKING US,” Pam yelled, angrily.
While everyone else seemed in awe of the spectacle, Pam was nonplussed.
That’s a tell, folks.
“As I said, Pammy, to the end of time,” and about then, as we rounded closely to the far side of Saturn, a massive accretion disk of a black hole could be seen.
Spencer said “We’re not going into .”
Simultaneously as Bill said “That’s impossible…”
Simultaneously as Kevin said “You gotta be fucking kidding me”
I smiled. as we began orbiting around the accretion disk.
Now if you’ve never surfed a black hole, it can be quite the experience – not just because you’re surfing something that most analogize to a giant trash compactor – which is incredibly naive, but also because the effects on time can become a bit .
Jeff held up his hand, and waved at everyone with a grin on, and as he waved, you could see the same rubbery effect that one might see when one rapidly jiggles a pencil in between their thumb and forefinger. You could see his arm, and then a ghost of where his arm just was.
Bill was playing with the effect too as the black hole could be seen looming larger as we spun around it in much the same way a piece of poo circles around in a toilet bowl before going down the drain.
Pam’s face was horrified as she pushed Bill’s hands down.
“What are you doing to us?” she yelled.
“Do you think this is a hallucination?,” I responded smugly.
There were no other effects aside from the visuals as the TARDIS felt like it had entered a river and was just floating now, but the noise outside the TARDIS was increasing and decreasing as we came closer to the center and withdrew.
She was too afraid to speak.
Which was a small blessing in itself.
“We have about 5 minutes, but I’d like to buckle you all in as we approach the event horizon, as things will get a little bumpy after that,” I said, and without waiting for a response, I said “TARDIS, Please secure the passengers.”
Everyone sunk firmly into their seats.
Spencer said “What is this? Why can’t I move?”
“Localized Gravity wells. I always hated seat belts in Arizona with how sweaty I used to get in that heat, so I invented seat belts which don’t have straps. They proved to be pretty useful when furnishing a moving vessel, don’t you think?,” I said.
There was small talk over the next few minutes, as we drifted closer to the center of the black hole. Fortunately, for me, there was no centripetal force or circular motions because of the gravity dampening, but as we got closer to the center, tbe noise increased as did the feeling of beginning to fall.
“Ok,” I said, as I eyed the center console, “In 20 seconds we’re going to enter a moment of free fall, just think of it like you would a roller coaster and we’ll be through it in no time.”
Rosalyn exclaimed “Not again,” as she looked at her husband Jeff.
The slipping commenced as the lights outside began to slowly converge.
“We’re entering the event horizon,” I said, followed by “10, 9”
Gina looked at Pam in the seat next to her and said, under her breath, “I hope you’re right about him.”
The feeling of free fall intensified.
“8, 7, 6, 5”
The lights had solidified into a single line and then started to elongate and stretch much like they’d do with blurry eyes in a distinct direction – towards where we were going.
“4, 3” my voice echoed.
“2” a digital tin to my voice could be heard.
“1,” I said as my lips could be seen moving to others but they couldn’t hear me.
And about then, the lines drew into a single straight line off to my right of the TARDIS – as a wormhole opened up in front of us.
It’s difficult explaining what a wormhole is if you’ve never seen one before, but imagine an incredibly windy tunnel with walls made of colorful clouds. Blues. Greens. Reds. Nothing extraordinarily bright, mind you, and what with the feeling of wind and occasional lightning that seems to leap out from these clouds, it’s an incredibly odd experience.
The TARDIS drifted solidly down the center of the wormhole and proved to be an incredibly smooth ride, which felt much like driving down the highway at highway speeds.
“What the hell is this?” Spencer said.
“It’s a fixed or static wormhole. Outside of Earth there are hundreds that I’ve mapped so far, they’re naturally occurring points in space and time that reliably and quite predictably lead to other points in space and time,” I said, ” and this one just so happens to be a freeway if you will to the end of time.”
The questions arose. Everyone had something to ask.
Ron said something I responded to “I thought you said it would be a bumpy ride.”
“I underestimated the TARDIS. Something I’ve gotta get out of the habit of doing,” I said.
Everyone kept trying to interrupt eachother.
“Look, I know you all have questions, for now, can you just enjoy the journey and go with this. I’ve had this planned for a very, very, very long time,” I said.
Surprisingly, everyone chilled.
Within a minute of us entering the wormhole, the bumps began increasing. We were exiting.
As had happened before, only in reverse, the wormhole began seguing to lights being stretched out, which transitioned to a single line, which then transitioned to nearly empty space.
Floating on the edge of space was something that looked like a giant green from a golf course. It even had a giant flag sticking out of a massive hole, and on the flag was “a BIG “18”, with what looked like handwritten letters “The” to the top left of the 18 and “th hole” after it.
“Welcome to the end of the 18th hole, otherwise known as the end of the universe,” I said.
There was laughter as we came up on the massive green, which had stores all around it.
I pointed at one establishment “Now that’s the Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” I said adding “which might have some significance to you if you’re a Douglas Adams fan.”
The TARDIS swung around, we descended into the parking lot of…
“Our destination,” I said.
As the TARDIS descended, the letters of the most massive store anyone’s ever seen loomed in front of us.
“Clones-R-Us,” was written in enormous letters that were 10 stories tall across the front of the building.
The lights turned back on as the view to the outside was replaced by solid walls, as the gravity wells holding us all down released.
Everyone stood up, as I walked to the front door with the bag and scarf.
If anyone would like to come with me, let’s go…
Pam, as usual, asked Bill “What’s a clone?”
Bill looked at me and then Pam as he explained “It’s like a Xerox copy of a life form.”
Pam’s mouth dropped. “You’re not cloning the goddamned president!”
I’d finally gotten tired of her.
I stopped and looked at her square in the eye.
“Pam, for one moment in your life will you just shut the fuck up and trust me, I have spent an eternity planning and learning what’s necessary to resolve this. No one. and I do mean no one. Is more qualified IN EXISTENCE to take care of this than I am. “
It was the first time I’d ever seen Pam at a loss for words.
Bill took her shoulder.
“Let him do his job,” he said.
I hadn’t thought about it like that, but he had a point. To a degree, I’d replayed this scenario so many times, it now felt like I was running through motions and it was just work.
But there was a difference. I’d never had the opportunity to present to someone my ‘work’.
“Bill, the moment this becomes work, I’ll… “
He looked at me expectantly.
“Well let us just say I hope it never becomes work for me.”
Ron and Debbie were chatting between themselves, when Ron said “I assume since this is the end of time that’s why the parking lot’s empty.”
Ron was right.
The parking lot was utterly devoid of any vehicles other than our own.
Our Bigger on the inside blue police box TARDIS,.
Pam’s mood shifted. “Could you have parked any further away?”
I laughed. It was a bit of a walk to the entrance. It gave me time to prepare my guests.
I started walking towards the entrance as everyone followed.
“Ok, AS Bill told Pam, clones are copies of living life. A little history lesson. Dolly – was the first cloned sheep on July 5, 1996, and was originally cloned in China, but China revised history and shifted that to Scotland when the sheep died of natural causes on February 14th, 2003. Unbeknownst to the west, China was doing the cloning in an effort to research immortality, so when Dolly as an experiment failed, they were ashamed of the failure and simply revised history to remove the records of it from their country.,” I explained.
“Damned Chinese,” Kevin said facetiously.
Rosalyn added in “So how does all of help JFK if you don’t intend on creating a new President?”
“Well, there’s a nasty lesson the Chinese learned in the process of their first attempts at cloning. And that’s that morality, sense of ethical responsibility, and to some a high degree of consciousness and self awareness doesn’t always come with a cloned copy,” I responded.
“Plain English,” she said.
I shot her a grin.
“Always straight to the point, Roz. You’ll never change, will you?,” I said.
I breathed as we neared the entrance.
“Meaning, most clones are like robots. They respond to commands well. But that’s about it.”
There was a palpable confusion as a robot drifted down towards us.
“Hello, Doctor, and thank you for returning to Clones are us, your one stop shop for clones! Need to replace a loved one? Want to upgrade your loved one? Whatever your needs, we have…”
“returning?” Spencer asked.
“Thank you, Agqsar can you direct us to DNA replications?,” I said.
As we walked through the front door of the facility, there was row after row after row of highly attractive clones of nude men and women all standing in packages with price stickers affixed to them.
“So you won’t be browsing our human or humanoid section today?,” said the Agqsar, dejectedly.
I hadn’t noticed, but everyone had frozen at the entrance as I had continued walking ahead.
“Dammit, no, I wont, give me a second,” I said as I ran back to the entrance.
The Agzsar trailed off behind me saying “Well there’s no reason to act so haughty with me.”
“Yes, There’s naked people, everywhere. No, they’re not dead, they’re unactivated clones. Yes, you may see a copy of yourselves and even me here if you look hard enough, and no they don’t feel anything. CAN we move on now?”
The Agqsar had rejoined us.
Everyone slowly gained their composure.
The Agqsar said “DNA Replication, you said”
“I did.,” I responded.
“Please wait,” said the Agqsar.
There was a massive click as the seam between the entrance and the rows of clones exposed itself and the aisles began rotating right to left as we stood there, and they could be heard moving as if massive gears and rails were being shifted into place. For the first time, everyone was quiet, and I wasn’t sure how to respond to their silence. It was unexpected, that was for sure.
The aisles moved by slowly at first. 5 miles per hour. 10. humanoid life forms could be seen, some alien looking, reptilian, furry, avian, but as the speed increased what was contained within the aisles became a blur, but the noise was incredibly loud – as everyone plugged their ears.
There were simply too many questions they wanted to ask.
I knew they were overloaded, so rather than ask, they simply observed. I was happy for this.
A gear fell into place somewhere, as the speed slowed down quickly, and then, within a minute of it starting, a room drifted right to left in front of us.
A BIG huge sign overhead said “DNA Replication”
A massive white desk the size of two modern buses loomed in front of us, with a single tiny bald headed alien looking man sitting down in the middle behind it.
“Maaaay I help you?,” he said in an old raspy voice.
I walked up. My friends walked in lockstep with me. They were here for the ride.
“Yes,” I said, as I dropped the bag with a bloody hat on the counter. “We, “ I said as I pointed to my friends behind me, “Would like a cloned copy of the man behind this DNA sample.”
The man lifted his wrinkled hand holding a pencil up, placing the tip under the bag, looking at the hat, and then letting it drop back down.
“Clones-r-Us Customer Appreciation Card?,” he said.
“Aw crap,” I said, “I left it at home.”
The wrinkled humanoid alien looked up at me for the first time, sighing.
“Just how do you intend on paying for this?,” he said.
“My good looks,” I quipped as I rested my hip on the desk.
“Agqsar,” the man said calmly, “will you please see these people out?”
“I’m just kidding. The stereotype of Jaurasians is apparently true. I have my customer number memorized.”
The alien looking man looked at me suspiciously, as he pulled his hand off the desk, and reached for a button under the counter and pressed it. Seams formed on the desk as a monitor and keyboard morphed out of it.
“Number?,” he asked, skeptically.
“AARC,” I said.
“Please use phonetic spellings,” he said.
“Fine. Alpha, Alpha, Romeo, Charlie, Echo, Echo, Zulu, Sierra, One, Seven, Three, Niner, Fiver, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Charlie, Tango, Foxtrot, Zulu, November, Oscar, Papa, Papa, Alpha Bravo, Charlie,Uniform, X-Ray, Whiskey, Zero, Zero, Zero, Seven Seven, Zulu, Foxtrot, Zulu,” I said.
The wrinkly old man had been typing everything out on the computer.
“To be sure, you said. Alpha, Alpha, Romeo, Charlie, Echo, Echo, Zulu, Sierra, One, Seven, Three, Niner, Fiver, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Charlie, Tango, Foxtrot, November, Zulu, Oscar, Papa, Papa, Alpha Bravo, Charlie,Uniform, X-Ray, Whiskey, Zero, Zero, Zero, Seven Seven, Zulu, Foxtrot, Zulu,” he responded.
I listened carefully.
“No, I said. Alpha, Alpha, Romeo, Charlie, Echo, Echo, Zulu, Sierra, One, Seven, Three, Niner, Fiver, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Charlie, Tango, Foxtrot, Zulu, November, Oscar, Papa, Papa, Alpha Bravo, Charlie,Uniform, X-Ray, Whiskey, Zero, Zero, Zero, Seven Seven, Zulu, Foxtrot, Zulu,”
“That’s what I said,” he responded, ” Alpha, Alpha, Romeo, Charlie, Echo, Echo, Zulu, Sierra, One, Seven, Three, Niner, Fiver, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Charlie, Tango, Foxtrot, November, Zulu, Oscar, Papa, Papa, Alpha Bravo, Charlie,Uniform, X-Ray, Whiskey, Zero, Zero, Zero, Seven Seven, Zulu, Foxtrot, Zulu,”
Sorry sir, that customer number’s not valid.
“Oh for the love of God, you inverted the Zulu and November, wrinkly man, he said Alpha, Alpha, Romeo, Charlie, Echo, Echo, Zulu, Sierra, One, Seven, Three, Niner, Fiver, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Charlie, Tango, Foxtrot, Zulu, November, Oscar, Papa, Papa, Alpha Bravo, Charlie,Uniform, X-Ray, Whiskey, Zero, Zero, Zero, Seven Seven, Zulu, Foxtrot, Zulu,”
“Well why didn’t you say that the first time?” the wrinkly man said.
“The Doctor. Or The Master. Which one is it today?,” he said
“Doesn’t matter. Can you help us?”
The man solidly blinked. It looked like he had two eye lids, as a big red button formed on the desk. His hand went up, and slammed down on the button. AS hard as a wrinkly old hand could.
A hole formed under the hat on the desk, which was quickly sucked into the hole.
The hole closed. The computer and red button dissolved into the desk.
And then a solid metallic bell formed in front of the wrinkly alien looking old man – you know – the kind you’d hit with the palm of your hand to grab a secretary’s attention.
The man sat there with a straight face looking forward, not saying a word.
I looked at my friends then him. This was my first rodeo for personal cloning.
“Um. Sir. What are we supposed to do now?,” I asked.
He looked straight ahead saying nothing.
This was confusing.
Jeff walked up, and waved his hand in front of the guy’s face. He didn’t respond. Didn’t even blink.
I looked around for the Agqsar, which was nowhere to be found.
Then, suddenly, the man’s hand raised up and hit the bell.
“Your order is done and is waiting outside for you. Have a nice day and come again.”
We all looked at eachother.
“You may leave now,” the wrinkly man said.
To say I felt uncomfortable would be an understatement. I was trying to create an air of self confidence and knowing, like I’d done this before. But since I’d never cloned anyone before, this was all new to me.
As we walked through the front door, we were greeted by the Agqsar which had, levitating behind him, a long white pod like device the size of a casket, which was levitating.
“Would you care to review the final product?,” the Agqsar said.
“Sure, “ I said.
A seam formed in the middle and opened up horizontally, exposing.
“He’s naked!,” Becki said, giggling.
“NOW I know why Marilyn was interested in him,” Gina added.
“We’ve seen enough,” I said to the Agqsar, “You did a great job. Thank you. “
We walked back to the TARDIS, as the mood had shifted dramatically from a serious mood to an I wonder what’s going to happen next mood. I could feel it. It was refreshing. In fact, someone voiced it.
“So, what’s the plan?” Jeff said.
“We’re going to save the President,” I responded, “But not without giving him the choice this time.”
“Oh and Agqsar?,” I said.
“Yes sir?,” he said.
“My last order, would you mind repeating it and loading that?,” I said.
“Of course, sir,” he responded.
The others looked at me curiously.
“For a …. friend,” I said.