[WP] You discover the answer to the question "If time travel is possible, where are all the time travellers from the future?" It turns out just nobody wants to time travel to the 21st century. You go back in time to the feudal ages and find a whole community of nerdy fantasy-loving time travellers.
People thought we were building a thorium regent, seven-step breeder reactor to bring it down to lead. We pushed the media to show the benefit of how this was the nuclear energy that we were supposed to create. The uranium used in Chernobyl was unstable. Plutonium, like that in Fukushima, was easier to obtain but still horrendously dangerous.
Now, we were pretending to compete with an actual thorium breeder in Idaho. I thought someone would point out that a plant in Saskatchewan was a bit atypical but the province loved the investment. They needed power. The electrical grid had been pushed to the brink with the population continuing to expand, but people got desperate when the coast started flooding.
The Netherlands was the only place that somehow managed not to become another Atlantis. They were now entirely under sea level, and their entire industry had become dam development. Greenland seemed to be becoming nicer. Something in the name made it seem a lot more inviting than its history had been.
It was funny while everyone else was trying to build projects that were supposed to bring light back to the world we were the only ones trying to save it. We were going to go back and change the world. Not that it was going to be an easy task. Changing the flow of time always had dangers. One was the fact that no one had already tried it before. Why hadn’t anyone warned us about how dangerous hydrofluorocarbons are? Lead? Where were people warning us about lead?
Seven uranium reactors working in tandem would hopefully be enough to create the energy we needed. We had managed to bring the math down from collapsing the moon, which we had all been rather proud of but only got a handful of mentions in the following months. Now it wasn’t like just turning these things on would do it. These reactors were being built so that they could withstand the full force of taking the core to critical. Not a good idea, but we either wouldn’t be here when it happened, or we would only be here momentarily.
Cold, reinforced concrete and shielded walls greeted me for years. I was so used to the sight that I sometimes longed for them when I had to travel to lecture. Keeping up appearances was more important than our completion date. We had all the right answers. Idaho was actually using some of the things that the team had discovered in their free time. There was no doubt that we would succeed.
I walked through five checkpoints, I had the attendants all memorised. Marcy and Brad were the first and were rather young. Deb and Barb were the second; both were professional and looking to get ahead. Mark and Mike were too serious to ever get further. Stephanie, Marcy, Allan and Mitch had their routine down to an art. They were even fun at times. That left Fleur at the last checkpoint. Fleur could see into your soul. Fleur scared the crap out of me.
“You need new badge,” Fleur stated as she handed mine back, “There is a crack. This is your only warning.”
“Understood,” I muttered and nodded. It wouldn’t matter after today. Not that a crack was a reason to get a new badge. Looking at where she had put her thumb, I grunted at the sight of what I’d consider a scratch. Honestly, if it weren’t for today, I would have gotten a new one.
The team gathered at their stations inside what we had fondly come to refer to as The Helm. I found I, thankfully, wasn’t the last to show up again. McMillin and Jeffreys still were here. I took my spot after changing at the front. It sounded weird to call me the navigator, but time travel had become a weird passion after our discovery. This was it. My life’s work in action.
Somewhere in my mind, I registered what was happening but barely experienced any of it. The check-ins can and went with minimal effort. We had done a thousand before this. Ignition felt like I was swallowing stones. Then finally, the countdown, the slow fade to red as we brought our uranium to be critical, felt like an eternity.
I heard that crack only for a moment, then there was nothing.
We had come out in a field and had thankfully only fallen a couple of hundred feet. It was impossible to know where exactly we would land, but I figured it was better to fall than to dig upward. If we were able to dig. Unbuckling ourselves, we took stock of where we were. I had set up everything so we were going far enough back that it wouldn’t be recorded if something went wrong.
“Well, now what?” McMillin asked as he unbuckled himself.
“Explore?” I offered, “We are explorers in this.
“I thought we had to reprogram now?” Mastersen, our lead, argued, “How much time do we have to make the next jump?”
“Couple of days,” Littleson commented, “Containment worked better than expected. We are running at 80% capacity.”
Dark matter, once a dream in engineering, had managed to be harnessed a couple of decades ago. The only issue was it was really only good as a battery and required an immense of power to create. Good thing we probably blew a meteor-style hole back home in order to have enough.
Outside the ship, the air smelt weird. It felt drier than I was expecting. Somewhere between canned air and life support systems, I grew fond of a humidifier stabilising the air I breathed. This was nature. It didn’t care about us.
Somewhere in the distance, people started clapping. Maybe nature did care about us after all? No, that can’t be right. These were people. A tent had been set up just passed our landing sight. We all walked toward them hesitantly, but it was clear they knew we would be here.
“Congratulations, Team Six?” McMillin read out loud a banner that hung at the entrance. “Why are we team six?”
“Because you are the sixth team to attempt this,” one of the people clapping explained, “This is however the first time that a prime team brought fuel with them.”
“Wouldn’t that make us team one as we actually succeeded getting home?” I asked.
“Oh! That’s adorable,” one of the other attendants laughed, “You aren’t going home.”
“Why not?” Mastersen demanded, pulling out a pistol he had hidden in his suit, “Who’s going to stop us?”
“You are,” the first attendant explained, “Once you start doing the math and seeing how it changes as you plan, you come to understand what we have all discovered. We can’t go back.”
“But we’ve come to change,” Jeffreys tried to explain.
“The world,” the first attendant interrupted, “As we all have. We can change some things, but there’s a lot that just creates self-destructive loops that reset everything. Come sit, we’ll talk.”
“You aren’t going to kill us,” I asked, knowing that’s probably what Matersen would do as I glanced at his pistol, “Are you?”
“No point,” the first attendant explained, “You exist outside time now. Like us. It’s hard to increase our numbers, so we try not to be wasteful.”
“Oh,” I muttered, “Has this all been a waste then?”
“No,” the first attendant assured, “With your help, we can guide humanity better now.”
“Through the shadows?” McMillin scoffed.
“Of course,” the first attendant chuckled, “We are the Illuminati, after all. We see all because we’ve already experienced it.”
“This better come with a better badge,” I muttered as I entered the tent.