Futures Lost III: The Conclusion

By Alden Bates

The laboratory was old, early eighteen hundreds. The man in it seemed even older. He had been on this world too long. That was the reason for the banks of metal and wooden boxes placed on benches around the walls. The man, a professor perhaps, was searching for a way out, a method to Time travel. Little did he know that his methods would be seized on and used by others in the future.

But he was concerned only with now.

In one corner was a device which burned lamp oil to create electricity, a new form of energy only just beginning to be understood. As with most of his inventions it would be overshadowed by inferior but more successful devices built in the coming centuries. The generator was connected by metal wires to the boxes. Lamps, using old-fashioned oil, lit the room with a gloomy light, for the only window looked out on darkness.

The professor gave one last look over the machinery and flipped a switch to maximum. Immediately the boxes began to throb. An unearthly wheezing and groaning noise began to rise over the noise of the vibrations. It faltered, returned stronger, then choked to a stop. The old man switched off the machinery and opened the box nearest to the generator. A faint wisp of smoke blew out as he withdrew a burnt-out circuit breaker, a fuse.

‘Always something stops me,’ he said to himself. ‘I need more power.’

He hobbled to the store room door and pushed it open to reveal stacks of wooden crates, from some of which loose wires hung. The view disappeared as the door swung shut behind him.

There was an abrupt crash, though not from the store room. A man's voice could be heard reprimanding someone in the outside corridor. The outer door swung open to admit the smells of the corridor beyond and two people in out of period clothing.

‘It wasn't my fault. It was too dark,’ complained Ace as the Doctor turned and shut the door. ‘They shouldn't have put a step there. It's extremely dangerous. Are you listening to me?’

Ace became aware that the Doctor was staring around the cramped laboratory with that far-away look of his. She instinctively knew something from his past was going to rear its ugly head.

‘I've been here before,’ he said slowly, staring around at the wooden cabinets and especially at what looked like a primitive dematerialisation circuit.

‘Isn't this a little advanced for the nineteenth century, Professor?’ Ace asked, moving to examine the contents of the still open box from which the old man had taken the fuse.

A shadow passed over the Doctor's face. ‘I think I know why the Time Lords sent us here.’

‘To stop a Time experiment,’ Ace prompted. ‘This looks like it could be it.’

The store room door swung open to reveal the professor who froze in the doorway, holding another generator. The Doctor and Ace turned simultaneously to look at him.

‘What are you people doing in my lab?’ he demanded, placing the box on a bench.

Ace turned back to the Doctor but the Time Lord seemed frozen to the spot.

His life was flashing before his eyes.

A spaceship - a battered derelict from before the Big Bang, Event One, the Beginning of Time - crashes on Earth. The sole passenger, a being without home or form, emerges. In the primitive jungles of prehistory it is forced to take on the form of the highest living being, Man. The race develops, the being follows it, ever changing.

Other beings have survived from before the Big Bang, evil ones. The being defeats them, sometimes by the narrowest of margins. Meanwhile the human race develops, empires rise and fall. Disasters happen, wars, disease, pollution.

The nineteenth century comes, the being stops. Evolution has reached a plateau, no more new forms, only old ones dying. It must help itself. It tries to make a means of escape, a Time machine to find evolution again but it knows it has too little Time.

Then it stumbles onto something. Aliens in London with working Time machines. The being stows away on board a Time machine and reaches the alien's home world. There the being evolves into the form of the alien's race - the Time Lords.

It goes through Time Lord school, learning miracles, gaining honours, making a few enemies. It even gets on their High Council once. But the being finds life on their world... uninteresting. It steals a Time machine and begins a life of assisting people, having a vested interest in its old home Earth, and an overwhelming desire to do good.

The being calling himself a Time Lord, the Doctor, stared at himself for a moment longer. Himself before discovering the Time Lords' presence. Then he spun around.

‘Sorry, wrong house.’ He quickly vanished out of the door. Do the Time Lords know? he wondered. Do they know I am not of their world, not of any world? Perhaps this is a warning.

Ace stood stunned at his disappearance. She slipped out and ran after him, calling his name.

The professor shook his head in bewilderment and fitted another circuit breaker to his machine. Once the second generator was joined into the circuit, his Time machine would work. Perhaps. A faint groaning, grating noise penetrated his laboratory from an outside alley. The old man froze.

Time travellers? Here?

This item appeared in Timestreams 4 (April 1992).

Index nodes: Fiction