Chapter 1: A New Development
Author's Note: I wrote this a few years ago, and I thought to myself: "Self, why don't you put this online? It's a decent story, maybe someone will want to read it." So, behold: Paradox.
Tick, tock, tick, tock. I stared at the clock for what seemed like hours. The never ending cycle that is middle school. Waiting. Waiting for class to be over, waiting for lunch, waiting to hang out with your friends after school. Waiting for the school year to be over.
I didn't care about plate tectonics, and I never would. Another forty-five minutes of my valuable time wasted, learning about useless crap. Suddenly, the monotonous drawl of science mumbo-jumbo was broken.
"There is an announcement about the upcoming assembly. As I'm sure you know, there's been an amazing new development in the past couple months, and it's being revealed to the general public via the public school system, and-" My science teacher broke of abruptly as he noticed the blank stares of my classmates.
"It's been on the news almost every day, guys." Mr. Larkyn said as he stared at us in disbelief. I snorted. I knew about, oh, three kids who watched the news. I never did. The news was a real downer. Rapes, murders, thefts, child abuse, and any other depressing topic you could possibly think of was included, and that just bummed me out. If you were lucky, you could tune in to see old politicians sniping at each other, but that was about as positive as it got.
"For God's sake! They invented a time machine and none of you know about it!" He said exasperatedly. I jerked my head up, mouth agape. Two shocking things had just happened: I learned something interesting in school, and I found out that mankind had finally gotten of their lazy butts and discovered time travel! Or invented it, whatever.
Gasps echoed throughout the classroom. I just stared as Mr. Hopkins continued. "A scientist named Doctor Edward Braff recently discovered that," I zoned out during this part, because, well, there was a reason I had a D in Science. I tuned back in when I started to understand what he was saying. "Through the use of complex tracking systems, they can trace the atoms and bring them back by reversing the gravity of the time machine, so the atoms will be brought back, complete once again. They've managed to transport apples to and from time periods ranging from the 1200's to 2075. The government has decided that the time machine should be displayed to the world through the public education system. You see, earlier in the year, Breeze Point was entered in a raffle, and a total of two-hundred public middle-level schools in America were chosen to be the first ones to witness the marvel of time travel."
My hand shot up so fast I nearly ripped my arm from my socket. "Yes, Remy?" He asked, looking surprised that I had done something other than stare blankly at the wall.
"Can it transport people?" I asked, nearly bouncing out of my chair. To my complete disappointment, he shook his head.
"They aren't positive it's stable enough for humans yet," He said, then glared at me. "And don't get any ideas. That time machine comes complete with a battalion of armed guards. They don't care how cute you are, they'll blow your head of if you get within twenty feet of that thing." He said pointedly. I swore under my breath. Too bad my cuteness factor had ran out around 7th grade, or else those guards wouldn't have dared shoot at me!
Our teacher gave us the date for the assembly. One week from today, the last few periods of the day. That gave me one week to figure out how the heck I was going to get on that time machine with out getting my guts splattered over the gym floor.
I guess before I go any farther, I should say a little about myself. My name's Remy Walker. I'm fourteen years old, and I'm finishing out my eighth grade year at Breeze Point Middle School, a small school in rural Pennsylvania. Although I tend to defy the typical teenage stereotypes, I still wasn't particularly special. That's the basics, but enough about me…
At lunch, I began step one of my plan: get one (or more) of my friends to go on this suicide mission with me. I sat quietly, observing each one my friends carefully, deciding which ones might agree. I looked at Shannon first. I almost immediately dismissed her. Shannon was one of my only friends with any semblance of common sense, and I knew she'd sooner jump in front of the middle of a four-way intersection than try to make it past armed guards to get to a highly unstable piece of technology. I shifted my eyes to Caleb. Caleb was an option, simply because he had no regard for his own safety, and loved taking pointless risks. Well, when he forgot to take his ADHD medicine, anyway. Maybe. I decided as I moved on down the line to Stacey. Ah, Stacey. Although she feigned stupidity, she actually was more intelligent than ninety percent of the people in my school. Of course, that's still not saying much. She might come along just to get away from her family.
I switched my gaze to the other side of the table. I skipped over Katie. Katie was too much of a goody-two shoes. My gaze rested on James. His long, dark hair hung in his eyes. I seriously doubted James would go, but it was worth a try.
"Ahem," I coughed. "I have a proposition for you guys." I said. My friends broke away from their individual conversations and looked at me expectantly. I was the leader of my group (or at least I'd like to think I am) and it was time to smooth talk my friends.
"You guys know about the time machine, right?" I began. Caleb looked up from his drawing briefly to regard me with a raised eyebrow.
"Well, I'm getting on it!" I announced to my table. James looked at me worriedly, Stacey laughed, Caleb shook his head and went back to his drawing, and Katie shot me a look of disapproval. The only one who showed no reaction was Shannon. If I couldn't convince any of my friends at my lunch table, I would have to convince my more reckless and stupid friends.
"I'm not going in alone, and I wanted to know if anyone would come with me." I said. I crossed my arms and waited for a response.
"My dad would kill me. Not happening." Caleb muttered. James shook his head.
"You shouldn't. You'll get hurt." He said. James always seemed to be the voice of reason. Sometimes I loved that about him. Sometimes I absolutely hated it. Stacey had her usual dumb grin fixed on her face, and I thought maybe I had her.
"Wow, you're gonna die." She scoffed. Then continued staring of into space.
"I'm not going to be stupid and get myself into all that trouble." Katie said sharply. I waited expectantly for Shannon to say something, but she just looked at me.
"You're an idiot." She stated. Nothing else, just those three words. I hung my head. This meant I would have to resort to my other friends, the slightly less, shall we say... stable ones.
"Kenny!" I called over the crowd of heads moving through the eighth grade wing. I saw him turn his head. I raced over to him. Kenny looked pleased, then launched into how he had gotten five detentions just today, but I held a hand up to stop him.
"Come with me onto the time machine." I said. I waited briefly for a response. After a couple of seconds, Kenny shrugged.
"Sure. How?" He asked. God love Kenny. You'd think a kid with an inoperable brain tumor and stomach cancer would have more value for his own life, but he really didn't.
"Come with me." I said. Kenny wasn't the only one I wanted with me. I think his bad jokes and disgusting body odor would eventually get to me. I needed more people. I raced up to Ashley's locker.
Ashley had been my best friend since second grade. We argued constantly, but Ashley had about as much concern for her own safety as Kenny, so I thought she might be and option.
"Ashley," I said. She looked down at me from her locker's top shelf, blue eyes flashing.
"What?" She asked, annoyed as usual.
"During the time machine assembly, Kenny and I are getting on that thing. I want you with me." I told her. Ashley looked away from me, puffing one of her cheeks out. She was thinking.
"Do you even have a plan?" She asked questioningly. I sighed.
"Oh no, I just thought we'd ask the guards real nice like to let us through! Of course I have a plan!" Ashley was always doubting me. When was she going to realize that Remy knows best? Seriously, who needs What Would Jesus Do bracelets? People need What Would Remy Do bracelets.
"You don't stand a chance, no matter what your plan is." She remarked. I gritted my teeth.
"Fine then. I'll find someone else!" I turned away. Before I could move in the opposite direction, Ashley grabbed my shoulder.
"I didn't say I wasn't coming. Anything to get away from here sounds good to me. I'm coming," She declared, then added hastily, "If you think for one second that you're going to boss me around, then you have another thing coming to you!" She snapped. I laughed.
"Whatever. Come on, there's one last person I need to find." I said as I lead Kenny and Ashley away from Ashley's row of lockers. A single, big nosed head rose above the rest.
"Spencer!" I shouted as I raced up behind him and shoved him in the back. Spencer lethargically turned around.
"Huh?" He grunted. Spencer was a lovable lump. He was so unbelievably stupid, words couldn't possibly describe it. Literally, sometimes he couldn't even form sentences! Nevertheless, he was funny, and he was a good friend.
And, more importantly, he was as malleable as clay. Insert evil laugh here.
"You know the time machine assembly?" I asked. He nodded.
"During the assembly, Kenny, Ashley and I are getting on the time machine. I want you to come with us." I batted my eyelashes as an afterthought, trying to look as needy as possible.
"Oh. Okay." He said. I patted him on the shoulder, then looked back at Kenny and Ashley.
"Tomorrow in study hall, I want you all to meet me in the library. We'll discuss my plan then." I said as I turned away to head to French. Everything was coming together. I would go down in history as the first human to lead an expedition into the time stream. Oh, this was going to be great!
All that night, I worked out a plan in my head, playing out scenarios, thinking of consequences. I researched the time machine on the internet, figuring out what buttons would need to be pressed once inside. For such a sophisticated piece of technology, it was simple to operate. I thought of every variable that could possibly arise, and when I went to bed, I felt confident in my plan. Tomorrow, I would explain it to Spencer, Kenny, and Ashley. I always prepared for things, and this was something I couldn't afford to not be ready for.
The next day I waited anxiously for fourth period. I signed in with my study hall teacher, then headed down to the school library. I spent all of my study halls down in the library. Although the school had a very lackluster collection of books, I would take my own from home and settle down in the beanbags while listening to the quite thrum of activity from the other stacks.
One of the walls in the library was a giant window, opening up the school to the town outside. Despite what people said, I liked my school. Four computer labs, a fully equipped Tech Ed Lab and Family Consumer Science room, and enormous gym that took up two stories made this school slightly above the norm for rural Pennsylvania. And by slightly above, I mean towering above.
I scanned the faces in the library for my friends. After searching briefly, I found Spencer, Kenny, and Ashley seated at a table near the south end of the library. It wasn't hard to find anyone here. Unless it was final exam time, the library was generally deserted. I rushed over. Ashley was leaning back in her chair, arms crossed. The sun shone down on her in the mid-morning light, illuminating her features. She had thick blond hair that hung over one of her eyes, which where the piercing shade of a bright blue sky. She was tall for her age, towering above most of the boys in our grade. And me. Unfortunately, I'd been stuck at boob-eye level for three years with her.
"Just so you know Remy, I'm probably not going to listen to whatever your plan is." She said as I seated myself between Kenny and Spencer. I shot a look of death at her. Two minutes in, and Ashley was already being a bitch.
"Enough with negative waves! Now shut up and listen," I snapped. I took a deep breath.
"This isn't going to be easy. It will take bravery, precise timing, and a complete disregard for our safety and the well-being of others. If any of you are having second thoughts, speak up now before you get in too deep." I knew all to well the implications of what we were about to do. After we were brought back by the no doubt disgruntled scientists, we could be facing jail time. We were fourteen, and the whole "kids just do the darndest things" shtick probably wouldn't get us out of disobeying federal law. Each of our parents would ground us for the rest of our lives, and these were the lesser consequences. The time machine hadn't been tested on humans yet, and it could easily kill all four of us. Ah, but being immortalized as the first people to travel in time? It was worth being stuck in my room for a couple of months. Or years... decades, whatever.
I almost expected one of them to leave, but they all stayed. I prepared everything I was about to say in my head, then delved into the plan. I was an organizer. This was my specialty.
"We'll all have specific things that will need to be done in the next six days before the assembly. Our biggest problem will be the security cameras around the school. There's four of them. One by the eighth grade stairwell, one in the office, one in the hallway leading to the gym, and one in the cafeteria. We need to disable all of them before next Tuesday. The only ones that we would need to disable if things go according to plan would be the ones in the cafeteria and gym hallway, but I don't want to take any risks. All we have to do is click the power button on them, but the hard part is not being seen by any teachers. We each will get a security camera that we have to disable. I'll cover the one in the front office, Kenny can get the one in the cafeteria, Spencer will handle the one in the gym hallway, and Ashley gets the one by the stairwell. We clear on that part?" I asked as I glanced around. Spencer looked a little lost, but that was normal. I'd be more worried if he didn't look lost. I glanced around, making sure the librarians weren't hearing our conversation. No teacher could get wind of this.
"The next part happens at the assembly. Spencer, you get the big job at this point. You'll need to ask to use the bathroom when I give you the signal. But you won't be going to the bathroom. You'll be starting a fire in the cafeteria." I couldn't help myself. I paused for dramatic effect. Kenny looked outraged.
"How come he gets to start the fire!? That should be my job!" He whined. Kenny had a bit of a fire fetish.
"Spencer is starting the fire because you will go overboard with it and burn down the whole school!" I exclaimed. The last thing I needed was arson charges along with time machine hijacking. I briefly wondered if that was a real law. Probably not.
"Yeah, 'cause that would be such a shame." He said, his voice thick with sarcasm. I ignored him and went back to the matter at hand.
"Spencer will need to start a fire in the kitchen of the cafeteria. The dishwasher has caught on fire before, it won't be hard to catch it on fire again. You'll need to unscrew the sides, douse the wiring with gasoline, then whip out the lighter and, well, you know the rest." I said. Spencer stared at me silently.
"Do you understand what you need to do, Spencer?" I asked slowly and clearly.
"What? Oh, yeah." He murmured dumbly. I sighed. This was going to be a trick, alright.
"We'll all need to have our cell phones with us, so we can keep in contact. Spencer, I'll text you when you need to go start the fire."
"Should I pull the fire alarm?" Spencer asked. I shook my head.
"No, I have a plan for that, don't worry. Okay next," I regarded my team to make sure they were all paying attention. Ashley hadn't said a word, so I assumed she approved of my plan so far.
"Once the fire alarm has gone off, Ashley, Kenny, and I will slip behind the bleachers instead of going out with the crowd. Once it's cleared, we'll have maybe a ten minute window to get on that time machine. When the coast is clear, I'll text Spencer to let him know to come back in, and we'll hop on the time machine. Just a fair warning though, they'll probably figure out we're on the time machine pretty quick, so we won't have long in whatever time period we go in." I said. Ashley nodded.
"Okay, your plan makes sense." She admitted begrudgingly. I smiled. If Ashley agreed with me (which she hates doing) maybe this plan would work out after all.
"We good, then?" I asked. Kenny shrugged, Spencer grunted something inaudible, and Ashley nodded. This was really going to happen. I couldn't believe it.
Now the real work was going to begin.
Getting to the security camera in the office without being caught would be a real challenge. Specifically why I had chosen to do it, and not one of my friends. I loved them dearly, but they didn't have crazy stealth skills like me. I hadn't sat in a dark room playing Metal Gear for most of my childhood to have nothing to show for it. I observed the staff members in the office for several days. We had two secretaries, and they both looked very… secretary like. They were thin, wore glasses, and always looked angry. I thought they resembled vultures. There was only one secretary in there at lunch, and both the Vice Principal and Principal were in the cafeteria making sure the eighth graders didn't kill each other (which was an extremely hard task, believe it or not) so the office was almost completely deserted. This was when I would strike. I met up with some of the "bad kids" in my grade, Brian and Rollo. They needed money to buy booze and pot, so they would pretty much do anything for a little cash. I offered two of them twenty dollars each to beat the living crap out of each other in the downstairs boy's bathroom during lunch on Friday. They agreed.
Now that I had my distraction set up, all I had to do was wait till Friday. I passed the next couple days checking on Spencer, Kenny, and Ashley, and see how they were coming on their specific tasks. They all finished before me, but they had it a lot easier than I did. Of course, Ashley managed to brag how she finished before me, even though she knew I had the toughest job.
I kicked her in the shin.
When Friday's lunch period came, I walked into the office. I rushed up to the front desk, putting on what I considered to be a very worry-looking face.
"I heard yelling and crashing from the boy's bathroom!" I waited to see my news sink in. She frowned.
"You stay here, I'll go look." She said as she made her way to the boys bathroom. When I heard the last of her heels click-clacking down the hall and was satisfied I was out of sight, I glanced at the security camera above the reception desk. It rotated slowly, back and forth. When it started to turn away from me, I scrambled up onto the desk and hit the power button. This was the only camera they really paid attention to, so just to make sure no one turned it back on, I took the gum from my mouth and shoved it in the USB port, then took a black sharpie I had in my pocket and scribbled over the screen.
I jumped down from the desk as I heard the secretary coming back. She was dragging my two morons-for-hire with her, saying that both of them were getting suspended. I tried as hard as possible not to smile. She thanked me for telling her, then sent me off to lunch. I sat down at my table with a triumphant look on my face. Shannon stared at me questioningly, but I ignored her. I was in too good of a mood to let her get me down. All I had to do now was sit back and relax until the assembly rolled around.
Everything was going just as planned.
My writing's matured a lot over the years, but I still have a soft spot for this story... Anyway, I hope you liked chapter one.