There were only three of us working the operation – we wanted to keep it as small as possible, to lower the risk of losing all our work. All three of us were gathered now, with a few dozen armed guards all around us. The security had no idea what we were doing – just that we were in constant danger.
For the past millenia, mankind had been consistently taking strides towards making time travel a reality. Yet, every time we got close, a major failure would arise under suspicious circumstances. Sometimes it’d be outright destruction – a fire triggered by a huge explosion that would erase a decade of progress, or a catastrophic flood that would literally wash away trillions of dollars in supplies. Other times, they would be more subtle – the disappearance of top scientists working on the projects, or the “misplacement” of materials as they traveled large distances. Every time, however, humanity would find itself back where it had been a decade or so ago once more.
My two friends and I were some of the most powerful people on the planet, however, and we weren’t going to let anything like that happen. We didn’t know much about who or what was trying to stop us – just that, there was a force stronger than any other out there trying to keep us in the dark. So we did everything to cover our tracks, shipping materials in small amounts through dozens of aliases over three decades and channeling money through anonymous third parties. Now was the crucial moment, however. We were less than an hour from completion of the actual time machine itself, built by hand by just us three.
“Theo!” shouted Alex. “We’ve got everything else ready – it’s just the clock that’s left. Get the guards prepped, and put the facility on lockdown.”
With a silent nod, I began the last step of our journey – the beginning of the end. Every time machine schematic ever suggested had included one crucial component – a special, quantum “clock” of sorts. As soon the clock was provided power, the time machine was online, but still not functional. But every online time machine created a disruption in space and time that could be sensed with the proper equipment by anyone, anywhere, and in any era. We estimated from our test runs that it would take us three minutes and thirty-two seconds to get the time machine functional after the clock was powered – which meant that in those three minutes and thirty-two seconds, we would likely find ourselves under attack.
Time was the main problem. The unknown and invisible enemy would be alerted in every era of time as soon as we provided power to our clock in our time, which meant that they could go back as far as they liked to stop us from doing what we were about to do. They could kill us at any time in our lives, or our parents’ lives, or their parents’ lives, or anyone’s life anywhere. However, we knew that they would try and stay as close to the current time as possible to disrupt the world as little as possible – if they affected the Earth too many generations back, the ripple effects would have a high likelihood of harming their own efforts as well.
With a solitary tear in my eye, I gently pushed down the lockdown lever. There was no hesitation – I had prepared for this effort for too long. We were fighting against unbelievable odds, but if we couldn’t win, then no one ever would. As the alarm lights began flashing, the chief of security ran up to me anxiously.
“Sir? Is ...
“Sir? Is everything alright?” he questioned.
I smiled back sadly in reply. “Get your men together. We all need to talk.”
Alerting the guards as to what was about to happen was of great importance. They were more likely to fight to the last breath if they knew the significance of what they were fighting for – and there was no doubt that many of them would take their last breath today.
“Ladies and gentlemen, none of you really know why you’re here today. I’m about to tell you, because we’re all about to be under attack in, oh, two minutes. I’ve heard a lot of speculation over the past many years from you guys about the operation we’re running in this facility, and I’m here to explain everything.”
The gathered guards leaned forwards, the gathered curiosity of over 15 years surging into one bubble of anticipation – a bubble that I would have the pleasure of breaking.
“It’s a time machine,” I spoke.
A murmur erupted from the group, who now understood the need for secrecy.
“There are thirty-six of you here today. You have all been handpicked because you have no family, and few friends outside of each other. Many of you will not be with us tomorrow, but your role in this operation has been recorded for all history. In forty-five seconds, we are going to activate the time machine.”
My two colleagues, Alex and Leon were by my side now.
“We need you thirty-six to buy us three and a half minutes. If we all survive those three and a half minutes, we will make history. If not, we will all die in a mysterious and inexplicable ‘accident’. You all understand the importance of your mission, yes?” I queried.
“We’re with you until the end, boss,” the chief of security answered to murmurs of agreement from the group.
“Then let’s do this!” I shouted.
We had planned for almost every contingency that could potentially occur at this moment, and some of our plans were unique, to say the least. Alex, Leon, and I gathered at the machine tools in hand, ready to start the process that would make the time machine functional after it went online. The guards gathered around us, facing outwards towards a still-invisible enemy.
“3. 2. 1. Now!” roared Leon.
The clock had power, and in the same instant our years of planning was activated. Thousands of mirrors slammed out from the ceiling all around us, creating a mirror maze to confuse the attackers we expected would come. Automatic guns equipped with the latest in laser tracking technology popped out of hidden trapdoors in the flooring, and smoke filled the corridors of the maze all around us as we worked frantically. It was no more than six seconds after the activation of the clock that the first shot was fired, and our fears confirmed. We were under attack.
A minute passed, and the gunfire was almost constant now. Alarms blared all around us and screams could be heard from within the corridors, but the three of us continued working frantically. For obvious reasons, it should be hard to have an element of surprise against time travelers, but we had managed to gain the upper hand with our unique security systems.
Another minute passed, and the shouts grew closer. But no enemies had popped up magically yet in our cordoned area, and none of us had magically poofed out of existence. We were all still working together, three men against the strongest force of all history. We had a chance, and nothing could make us give it up.
Exactly one minute and twenty-eight seconds (a record time for us) later, the machine was active and coded to take us exactly four decades into the past. At that time, the facility we were working in hadn’t been built – only a forest would exist where we were standing. Anticipation shining in our eyes, we gathered together and pushed the magic button.
Darkness. There was only darkness all around us, and then a voice.
“Did you really ever think that you could get away with this? That all your secrecy and years of planning would ever pay off? No, you never really expected it to work, did you? You