Kevin looked out the door of the TARDIS.
“Boston?,” he said.
“Cambridge to be specific,” I said.
“But things are off. Way off,” he said.
“According to this, the year is 2077, October – oh my, if I’m not mistaken it’s 6 days before a nuclear assault is launched. What a wonderful opportunity” I said.
Bill and Kevin looked at eachother.
“But I thought Hawkings is teaching in London,” Bill said.
“Bombs? I’m not cool with bombs,” said Kevin.
“Not all nuclear occurrences happen through bombs, Kev, as for London, ll explain in a moment,” as I pointed at Gina and Pam.
Pam and Gina were waking up.
“Ugh. Was that normal?,” Gina said, holding her head.
“Not wholly unexpected,” I said. “I suppose you may have been presented with a situation that could be analogized to too many g’s in an airplane, you mentally weren’t ready to fly through a star so you passed out.”
“What was that about nukes?” Pam said.
Becki added in “I am so not down with war.”
Everyone eyed me suspiciously, as if I’d done this intentionally.
“Ok. This is difficult to explain, so I’m going to try my hardest. If you were to place a tiny little camera next to a seed for a tree, then speed that up so every week was equal to one second, it might look like that seed’s exploding, right?,” I said.
“Growing,” Gina said, “But exploding, I don’t think so.”
“Alter the contrast add more orange to the film, a lot more orange, and you get what might look like a nuclear bomb, right?,” I said.
I was losing everyone.
“Fuck it. You’re gonna have to figure this one out on your own. Let’s go get Stephen Hawking, the TARDIS ain’t budging until he’s in here,” I said, flipping a few levers for effect.
We’d landed in downtown Boston, and as we walked down the street, a radio was playing an old sounding song “I don’t want to set the world on fire”. People were dressed neatly – suits for the men – and the women were all in sundresses, acting very prim and proper.
“This is the year 2077,” Spencer said, genuinely confused.
“I don’t get it, “ Gina said, “Why does it seem like the 1950s?”
About then, a futuristic car rolls by with fins on it, and it was playing – loudly “Crawl out through the fallout, baby
You know what I mean, Crawl out through the fallout, ‘Cause they said this bomb was clean”
“Now that was just creepy,” Kevin said.
Pam looked at Bill, “I don’t know if we should be here,” she said.
“Oh Pammy, lighten up,” Bill said as we all kept walking.
We passed by a big, huge billboard for nuclear fallout shelters, and shortly after, an electronics store with a plethora of old fashioned black and white televisions in the window.
“I’m so confused,” Becki said, “This is like past meets future in some bizarre other world.”
An ad appeared on the television with a little grinning cartoon character dressed in blue promoting a company called Vault-Tec and their line of nuclear fallout shelters.
Everyone was mesmerized.
“This can’t be the future,” said Pam.
“Cambridge” I said, pointing ahead, and kept walking as everyone unglued themselves from the televisions and caught up.
“Is it just me, or does this city seem smaller?,” Ron said
Questions, I liked them, I was trying hard not to provide my explanation for everything.
“Pam, How I think about the future – from my perch in 2016 – is there are a finite potential set of predictable futures. This is contained within a set of countless possibilities. Now I’ve done a GREAT deal of research on what caused this war, and have come to conclude it was not only confined to Boston, but it was an experiment done by a set of very wealthy companies and quite likely the Boston population on itself,” I said.
We saw a sign up ahead “Cambridge Institute of Technology”
“We’re here,” I said.
“None of this is right, “ Kevin said. “He teaches at Cambridge in London. Not in Massachusetts. And what happened to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology?”
I turned around and stared at the group.
“You all wanted to learn what convinced me I created this world. I’m about to show you how. Now if I tell you everything I think, then one of the most important things to me about you – your ability to decide and choose for yourselves – isn’t there. So how about you all drop with the questions for a bit and just observe and come to your own conclusions? Stop with the anxiety, stop with the fear and resistance, and just watch and learn, and make believe this is a field trip?,” I said, strongly.
“Heil Hitler,” Spencer said as he stuck his hand, jokingly to the sky.
“Fuck off, Spencer,” I said.
Jeff looked at him beratingly.
“Look, the plan I’ve formed is simple. We pick up Stephen Hawking. Provided he wants to go. We take him to 2409 with us. And when we return. I explain my theories, you explain your perspectives, and he chooses to stay in Boston or we drop him off in London,” I said.
“Why in the hell would he want to come back here?” Pam said, a little angry. She never did like being told what to do.
“You’d be surprised what choices people might make when armed with perspective rather than your version of the truth, Pam,” I said.
Everyone remained silent.
“Shall we?,” I said.
“We shall,” said Ron.
“Wait, just one last thing, “ Kevin said.
I turned to Kevin, and smiled as I said “WHAT now?”
I wasn’t expecting obedience, and figured simple assertion of my position was all that was necessary. I figure acting like this elevated the importance of things I vehemently stood up for which was a rarity.
Kevin feigned dodging a blow “Why do you think the date is different from the day we left?”
I didn’t want to get into it, so I was terse “Time travel often involves alternate realities where time and space flow differently, act with different rules, and they aren’t always a one for one correlation and tick with clockwork precision to other timelines,” I said.
“Makes sense. Let’s do it,” he said.
I forged ahead.
The campus was small. Surprisingly small. At most it could house maybe 400 students.
Finding Stephen Hawking was easy. We’d seen him waiting in the courtyard. Expectantly.
“So you received my invitation?,” he said in his digitally tinny voice. His wheelchair which zipped around his quadriplegic body was the only piece of digital technology we’d seen so far and hands down the most advanced piece of technology Boston had.
“I did, “ I said. “I’ve got a lot of questions for you, but first, shall we?”
“We shall, ” he said in his digitally synthesized voice, “But only if my assistant could join,” he said, as a young woman walked up effortlessly carrying two large suitcases which appeared like they’d be far too heavy for her to carry as effortlessly as she was.
I smiled, broadly.
“She works out,” his digitally synthesized voice said, conjuring up a toothy barely discernible smile
“Masterful,” I said.
I turned to my friends, “I’d like you all to meet Clara. Clara Oswald”
Everyone went up, individually, and shook her hand.
Bill tried being a gentleman, and taking one of the suitcases as Kevin did the other.
They were barely able to pick them up individually.
“Jesus, how much can she bench press?”, Kevin said.
Ron walked over and lifted one of the bags and laughed.
“Must weigh at least 100 pounds,” he said.
“Mass. Weight. Does any of it matter?,” said Stephen’s digitally thrown voice with a smile on his face.
“That was funny?” Gina said.
“He made a Physics joke,” I said.
Spencer turned away with his disapproving look.
“Whatever,” I backed up and said “let’s do this…”
I started walking with my entourage.
About 10 minutes later, we had gone from what would become the heart of MIT to the down town Boston area where the TARDIS was, as Stephen’s wheelchair effortlessly glided inside.
Bill and Kevin both struggled to finally set down the suitcases next to the entrance, at which time Clara effortlessly picked them up and said to me “Can I put these in the guest room?”
“I’ve made a pretty extensive set of modifications, Clara, so use guest room Alpha Omega 42, it’s down the same hall,” I said. “I think you’ll both be more than happy with the accommodations.”
She looked at Stephen as I saw a hint of disapproval flash over her face in communicating with him.
She looked around.
“I thought we had discussed ramp accessibility throughout,” Stephen’s digital voice said.
Everyone could sense my discomfort.
Clara walked through one of the two ground level side corridors, I’d built these especially for wheeled accessibility, no stairs or elevators involved.
I hated confrontations. But here we had a mild one.
“Stephen, this is my TARDIS, your TARDIS will be furnished according to your specifications,” I said, finishing intentionally with the thought – and not saying out loud “When you build it.”
“It’s much larger than I imagined,” his digital voice said. “Is this a practical use of finite resources?” as he zipped around the interior.
I smiled, and closed the front door as I walked to the console.
Clara returned. She was now smiling.
“Doctor, I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised with the alterations,” she asserted to Stephen.
But I was in an awkward, situation, needing to teach the Master of Physics himself a lesson in reality, but here it was.
I flipped a switch at the center console.
“Should we sit down?,” Kevin said.
Most others had already taken a chair.
“Yeah, “ I said, but as I was about to respond to Stephen, Spencer interrupted.
“The well thingies still aren’t working,” Spencer said, as he strapped a belt on.
“Probably won’t until we leave this world,” I said.
A mechanism popped out of the floor, about 5 feet from the console.
“Stephen, may I?” I said as I pointed at the mechanism.
“Sure,” his digital voice said.
I wheeled him over it, and pressed a button that had emerged through the flooring, the mechanism locked onto the bottom of his wheelchair, he wasn’t going anywhere.
“Is this necessary?,” his digital voice said.
“I’m afraid so,” without explaining. I needed him to figure it out on his own.
I took control of the room.
“So. A little briefing. We’re entering the year 2409. It’s actually an amazing year and I think you’ll all be pleasantly surprised on what you’re going to see, but first, I need you to play assigned roles, we’re participating in an active society and I’ve learned the hard way to respect the norms of these societies as I travel, “ I said.
I flipped a switch on the console and the room dimmed.
Everyone paid rapt attention. Even Clara, who’d found a seat and followed the leads of the others in putting on her seat belt.
“Since we’re appearing on the campus of Starfleet Academy, I am creating a cover for you – you’re all Starfleet Officers in training. Unlike US based military agencies, there are no restrictions to age, race, gender, or disability to officers entering Starfleet. Just a simple will and desire to explore is all you have to show interest in travel and exploration,” I said. “And a healthy desire to overcome your own fears doesn’t hurt.”
A holographic projected screen appeared directly over the console, and on it was the names of each of my friends, including Stephen.
“That’s amazing, “ Stephen’s digital voice said.
I started typing furiously on the console’s computer keyboard as the screen disappeared before everyone had a chance to see their roles.
“Whatcha doin?” Ron said.
“Clara. I didn’t expect her. She needs a role, “ I said.
She looked at the others “Don’t I get a choice in this?”
“No,” I said, “I’m the teacher and you’re all the students, and that starts now.”
“Harummnph, “ Clara said, sulking as she sat back in her chair.
I pressed the enter key, and on the black holographically projected screen appeared this:
Clara’s mouth opened, “Is that what I think it is,” she said.
“All assignments are final,” I said, “And I just learned we have another passenger who will be joining us.”
Pam said, with a big huge grin on her face “So I manage alcohol and tobacco and that kind of stuff? That’s not a job, that’s just fun,” she said.
I smiled, “It’s exactly what you think it is,” I said.
Gina bit her lip, “I’m a nurse, but I’m no Doctor,” she said.
I expected her rebuttal, “Gina, you’ll make a wonderful Doctor, you’ll just have to trust me on this one,” I said.
“And I protest, I am NOT a people person,” Stephen’s digital voice could be heard saying.
Becki chimed in,“I like what I was assigned, but what’s he mean by not a people person?”
“I am NOT going top pretend or act like I’m a whore,” Clara asserted. “Not here, not anywhere.”
Everyone was trying to speak at the same time, finally, I quieted everyone down.
“Again, Assignments are FINAL. NO one is exempted. Now if you don’t like it, I’ll have the TARDIS return you to wherever you’re from,” I then looked at Clara, “I chose ALL of the professional assignments intentionally for each of you, and it’s not to offend any of you.”
Everyone calmed down.
“Now can everyone please get in their arranged Starfleet Uniforms, and I’ll give you a couple hours to do the research on what your areas mean,” I said.
I looked at Stephen.
“As for our arrival. My clock is now synchronized with Boston’s clock. So for every minute that passes in Boston a minute passes for me,” I said.
“Are we all good with this?,” I said.
There were grumblings. Clearly, not everyone was happy with the assignments or being told what to do.
Oh incidentally, we have one more passenger coming aboard, this evening for me as a matter of fact.
A new friend I’ve made. Someone you haven’t met yet.
Spencer looked truly stunned for some reason.
Something I mentally took note of.
“Another woman,” Pam said?
“Nope. A guy. He’s goofy, a bit like me in many ways, but definitely his own character. You’ll enjoy him,” I said.
No one said a word.
“You said uniform?” Roz said, “Where do we get those?”
“First, let’s show Stephen what this thing can do,” I said, as I flipped a lever.
The TARDIS rocked back and forth, heavily, as if being suspended by a crane and somone had knocked it back and forth wildly.
“Oh shit, Oh shit, Oh shit,” Pam said.
The assignment projection disappeared, and the upper part of the holographic interior disappeared, showing a dark sky that was beginning to segue to space.
Pam’s trepidation disappeared almost immediately.
Funny how seeing where one’s going can actually provide it’s own level of comfort.
“The center console’s floor ring is made of a material which provides an optical feed to the outside world, under the TARDIS, I’m turning that feed on now,” I said.
The Earth could be seen diminishing in size, a spectacular view underneath me, and very easy to appreciate the spherical planet as it diminished in size underneath us. I was concerned this would scare my passengers, but was pleasantly surprised
“Why is there no atmospheric friction or resistance?,” Stephen digitally said
“We’re in a warp bubble,” I said, “The laws of physics are basically on pause.”
Bill giggled, saying “Basically.”
“Essentially,” I said.
Stephen seemed unconvinced for some reason. It didn’t matter.
The TARDIS veered towards the sun, slowly making it’s course very clear.
“Not again,” Gina said.
“Again,” I said, “And now, we’re heading into the sun, which in itself is a massive black hole and how we’re going to be traveling to other time periods,” I said.
I could actually see Stephen twitch nervously. If you could ever see a man who’s a quadriplegic twitch.
“This isn’t the physics I gave you,” he said.
“I learned a more amenable and practical way for me to participate,” I said.
I looked at Stephen and Clara, but directed my voice to the room “Are we good to go?”
There was an utter lack of concern from Clara. Gina and Pam were already closing their eyes.
I looked at Stephen, who hadn’t said anything, who seemed to be pondering the situation.
“Stephen,” I said.
He said nothing, his eyes were darting across the room.
Spencer yelled impatiently “Mr Hawking, are you ok with this?”
I looked at Spencer. I wasn’t sure, but it had distinctly felt like there was more to his relationship with Stephen than just having met. I’d find out in time.
Finally, his digital voice said “God really doesn’t play dice with the universe, does he?”
And yelled in a quasi maniacal yell just for emphasis as I flipped the huge lever which engaged the TARDIS.
“Not if those dice aren’t clearly rigged in his favor,” I said.
The TARDIS picked up speed, as the gravity of the sun could be felt much more distinctly this time than it could the previous time. The buffeting inside the TARDIS was huge, but strangely enough, nothing was jarred lose. Books remained on their shelves, people remained in their seats, and as the sun loomed larger and larger as we approached, the feeling of being on a roller coaster and falling upwards created a weird effect for everyone.
Before you knew it, we were exiting the sun and rocketing back to Earth.
“What just happened?” Stephen digitally said.
I said nothing.
The Earth became larger and larger as we reached geostationary orbit above Los Angeles.
“What just happened?” Stephen digitally repeated himself.
I’d sat on a stool next to the console for the journey, and rotated it around to look at him.
“Mr Hawkings. What you’ve done is incredible. Absolutely Amazing. But I have one question for you. Do you want to be confined to that wheelchair your whole life?”
We both knew he wasn’t technically confined. His consciousness had drifted between realities and had found and communicated with me. But in a way, he was. And I knew how much he’d begun loathing life and feeling like a victim because of it. Despite his amazing mental capabilities, he was physically incapable of experiencing some of life as a human’s most basic experiences in both pleasure and pain.
I looked at everyone around the room looking at me.
They began to get up.
“Mr Hawkings. Do you want to experience life as a human without being confined to a wheelchair? Would you like to walk, to talk with your own voice, to smile, to laugh, to feel the pleasure of sex, or even the pain of banging your funny bone knowing fully well it isn’t funny?”
Clara unbuckled him from the ground.
She looked at him, lovingly as she looked at me.
“You knew?” his digital voice said to her.
She looked down, as if she felt a little like she’d betrayed him.
I actually saw a tear in Spencer’s eyes.
“Jesus,” he said.
“No, Spencer, just Q,” I said.
He laughed. A nervous if only to hold back the wanting to burst into tears laughter.
“I had no idea,” he said. ” I am so sorry”
I held up my hand.
About this time the orbit finalized. The view from orbit was magnificent, as the TARDIS turned on the interior lights but kept the outside view on with the Earth overhead and extending across the entire view area.
“Won’t they notice us up here?,” Jeff said.
“Warp Bubble,” Stephen’s digital voice said.
“Nope, they’re all too familiar with me here,” I said. “That, and we are actually directly over North Hollywood, where I sleep at night, so I’ll be able to see you coming and going. “
Stephen, I could feel was a bit surprised,
“That and we were expected,” I added.
“What’s the date?” Spencer asked.
“Wednesday, August 17th, 2016, and it’s 1:55pm. We’re going to synchronize time in space to the clocks on the ground before we grab the new passenger, Bennett Gross, who we’ll pick up at precisely 8:47 Pacific time.” I said.
“So after you pick him up, as the TARDIS synchronizes on me which will take 4 to 6 hours, you’ll return to the same position so I can get a visual confirmation on the ground and positional accuracy.”
“So what do you expect us to do until then, that’s 6 hours?,” Roz said.
“Get acquainted with this time period, learn about what’s happened on my timeline since we parted ways in 2011, find the wardrobe and get into your Starfleet uniforms, I don’t know – talk to eachother, but most of all – just get comfortable, “ I said.
“Does this place have anything to eat?” Kevin said, “Chicken wings and a beer sounds solid right about now.”
I laughed. “There’s a fully equipped diner that can be entered through the door marked “CAFE DIEM” in the short hallway immediately to the left of the entrance after you enter the hall of the guest rooms. There you’ll find a chef who’s quite adept at making anything you can imagine and wont’ charge you. The name of the establishment is Cafe Diem, and Vincent is the proprietor I have no doubt will make quite the impression on you all. He’ll recognize you by the doorway you come in through – a doorway, which only you and him can see. I invite you to explore the town the cafe sits in, later when there’s more time, as it’s a wonderfully eccentric but fun town, and if you’re interested in the door that no one can see, I challenge you to see people’s reactions regarding you and it.”
Clara challenged me. “There’s no entrance there,” she said.
“Look again,” I said.
She popped out for a moment then back in.
“That,” she pointed back at the hallway “Wasn’t there before.”
“It is now,” I said, nonchalantly.
“I have to disconnect for a bit. I’ll reconnect later and explain how things are going to work with Bennett before the time comes. Please make sure you’ve picked up your uniform by the time I get back and make sure it fits. Roz, can you pick Bennett’s uniform up as well, it will be clearly marked?”
“Sure,” Roz said, but I could tell she didn’t like being told what to do.
“Tomorrow, you’re going to Starfleet, so after this is all done today, we’ve done a lot – – just get a good night’s sleep in your assigned rooms, Are you all ok and good to go for now?,” I said
No one answered.
“Well,” I said
“We suppose…” Gina said, looking around the room.
“What are you going to do?,” Spencer said.
I bit my tongue. “I’ll show you one of these days, Spence. Q out.”