Joe Bringham sat with his back to the large oak tree at the back of the Bringham castle. The spring air warmed his skin as he studied his electrical engineering book. His attention was so focused he didn't even notice the faint hissing of steam coming from the ground a few feet away from him.
The hissing got Joe's attention when the ground started vibrating underneath him. Joe sprang to his feet so quickly that his head swam from oxygen rushing to his brain.
He looked around to see if someone was pulling some kind of trick on him but realized that he was within the guarded grounds of the family castle. A castle that had been in the family for many generations.
The ground was collapsing around the spout of steam that was erupting from the ground. The hissing of steam was accompanied by the sound of metal crashing through the dirt. The steam blew chunks of dirt and rock into the air.
The vibrating stopped as abruptly as it had begun, leaving a bowling ball sized hole in the ground. Steam continued to gently hiss out of the center of the small hole in the ground.
Joe stood with his mouth wide oped, trying to understand what had just happened in front of him. The steam had filled the air with the odor of iron and stagnant water, strong enough that joe could taste the pungent mist.
He approached the hole cautiously, afraid it may start spewing steam again. His glasses fogged as his tall skinny body neared the strange hole.
Inside the hole was an odd metal machine. The top had a primitive propeller designed for cutting through the dirt, under the center was a foot long cylinder with six arms jutting out from it in each direction. The arms extended upward and had small drills attached that would drill up and pull the machine toward the surface as the main cutter peeled dirt away from the center.
The machine looked very old, it was very primitively built, with exposed gears and makeshift parts. There was a gauge in the center that looked as though it was made from an old clock.
The steam had stopped and joe's curiosity got the better of him. He reached inside the hole and grabbed the main propeller, the machine was not stuck at all, it pulled up out of the ground easily.
On the underside of the tube was a leather strap that had been reinforced with rough cut silver backing. It held a cap onto the bottom of the cylindrical tube. The leather was mostly rotted away, but the silver held the cap firmly in place.
Joe just stared at the contraption, it looked like one of the crazy machines that his distant grandfather had built back in the 1400's. The machines that were far ahead of their time but caused him to be labeled crazy. In fact, Joe was the first to study a field other than politics and law since his grandfather. His father often joked that he would be the next crazy grandpa Justin.
Joe removed the cap from the bottom and was surprised to find a small glass vial with an electric blue liquid inside. The vial was wrapped inside of three pieces of parchment, all with neat handwriting on them:
My name is Justin Bringham, I am the first man on earth to exist in an entirely different dimension. This was not done intentionally, but it has certainly changed my life none the less. This is the story of how life changed, it's an attempt to reach the future world from my own. We...I need help from someone with a clean history in this dimension.
It all started when I was very young. When my fascination with time and steam collided with my duties to rule a country as their king. Here is how it all happened.
"Must you always be tinkering with trash dear?" My mother's voice echoed through my thoughts as the hat neared completion, "We haven't the time for you to play with such things, there is a country that needs your attending."
"It's nearly finished anyhow mother," I said as I filled the tiny water chamber in the void within the hat, "The very first machine of it's type... I call it the clock hat."
Perching the hat on my head was a bit of a challenge, the top hat was slightly top heavy, an adjustment that could be dealt with later. Directly in the center of the hat was the golden framed clock. Its hands had been cut from a silver platter that once carried food from the kitchen to the dinner table.
"TOOOOOT TOOOOOOOT!" The steam whistle sounded from the top of the hat, marking twelve noon.
"The most ridiculous thing I have ever seen," My mother barked from across the room, "why have you made such a ridiculous hat?"
"Mother, I have told you before," My voice full of anger and hurt, "We are entering a new age, one full of invention and wonder. That is my dream for our country, to lead the world in innovation. With steam, we will be able to set the world in motion!"
"Steam darling?" My mother spoke as if speaking to a disobedient child, "What on earth is that?"
"I am not a child any longer!" My voice echoed through the large dining hall, "I am fifteen years old and a year ago I started leading this country after father died. Father would be proud that I have accomplished so much already. Why can't you be happy that I am stepping out of the normal war filled path that our family has lead this country through?"
My mother looked at me with her deep brown eyes, they were filled with rage. She wanted to charge at me and throw me to the ground, as she had done many times. Now that I had taken the throne as king, she knew it would mean imprisonment.
Without another word she stomped out of the hall, slamming the door behind her. The force of the door knocked a lantern from its hook, shattering it on the stone floor. A kitchen maid nearby beat the flames out with the cloth that had been around her head.
As I turned to sit at my place on the long table in the middle of the room, the top hat fell forward off my head. Instinctively my hands reach forward allowing it topple gently into them.
My eyes blinked out tears as I threw the hat down on the table. Before the hat reached the hard surface regret had already filled my heart. The clock glass shattered, allowing springs and gears to fly across the table. The whistle that had been made from a teapot lid rolled off the table and landed at my feet.
"Sir, would you like me to clean that up for you?" Giles my personal assistant and friend squeaked from behind me.
"Giles, call me Justin. I have told you one hundred times, we are friends. No thank you, I want it there when the royal council meets."
Giles was always eager to help, never eager to talk. At fourteen he had not yet had a change of voice, for the past year he nearly never spoke unless spoken too.
I sat in my tall chair at the head of the table, staring at the hat pieces with great remorse. Wishing I could go back in time to take back the destruction of the hat. The idea that would change my history was born in that thought.
"Giles, tell the council I am sick," I said with excitement in my voice, "After they have had their tea and talked, come to my creation room."
Without another word I ran as fast as I could to the room I had transformed into a master craftsman's workshop. It was called the creation room because it was there that all my ideas came to life.
While the world outside was stuck in an era of horse-drawn buggies and proper speaking, I buried myself in a world of innovation. Taking old clocks, gears, pullies, and metal objects, I put them to use in a myriad of different ways.
The day the clock hat broke, is the day the dam that held back my creative juices also burst. Science and craftsmanship collided in my head, and that is when the fourth dimension became a reality in my mind.
The next two years my mother ran the country as I barricaded myself in the creation workshop. Test after test failed until one day, I mixed hydrochloric acid with liquid nitrogen, at first nothing but a frozen blue mass.
When that frozen mass was placed in a steam bath inside of a pressurized container made entirely of gold, the Gold did something incredible. It grew at an alarming rate, so fast that it actually turned to liquid. Before long it consumed all the chemicals in my lab and an explosion caused the creation room to be filled with a shimmery purple smoke.
When the smoke cleared, that is when it became apparent that I was no longer in the same dimension. I started to see and hear a myriad of different voices and figures, the figures were very blurry and the voices all seemed to be my own.
I focused all my will into seeing the one nearest to me, in an instant, it became very clear, it was indeed me. My mouth sat open in disbelief and I realized that it was possibly a few seconds ahead of me in time.
After a few moments of watching, it occurred to me that I maybe able to touch the older version of myself. As the thought crossed my mind the other me reached out in front of itself and seemed to skip ahead a few seconds.
Though fear sat in my heart, I reached out and touched my own arm. The world around me blurred for half a second before I realized nothing had really happened.
There was a clock on the wall a few feet from me, just as I considered grabbing it, the figure in front of me reached for it too. This older version of myself was a mere three seconds ahead of me. But to my surprise, the clock was still on the wall, yet also in the hands of the future me.
Trying to ignore the other version of myself. I grabbed the clock and watched the second hand tick by. The theory was that when I touched myself the first time, I actually skipped ahead a few seconds in time.
When the clocks second hand hit 12 I reached ahead and touched myself. The world went blurry, and I focused on the clock. It went ahead ten seconds in the blink of an eye.
I stared for a few moments in disbelief, I had just created time travel. The me I was focused on ran up the stairs, I stood to follow before willing myself to stay.
Once I was not focused on that version of myself, I realized that there were still many voices and blurry figures moving around the room. In fact, there were more than even before I had jumped.
Choosing one across the room I focused hard on it, once again it came into complete focus. This one looked familiar, it was me from earlier. I watched as if I was watching myself act out my past.
It all went like I thought until, well the past me grabbed nitroglycerin instead of hydrochloric acid, I watched as the past me was blown into a hundred pieces. Well, I am guessing that is what happened because the instant steam was introduced, that version of me was gone.
I choose another blur across the room, this time it was me in the future, A long way into the future. I looked at this version of me astounded, he was a grown man. I looked a lot like my father, I was drawn to this version of myself. I reached out and touched my arm.
The world turned into a blur, this time it lasted more than a few seconds. Flash after flash of intense light hit me until I realized I had stopped.
I ran up the stairs to find out how the world had changed. At the top of the stairs, Giles stood in front of me, a grown man himself.
"That was a fast trip to the old creation room," Giles said in a very deep voice, "Are you still the...you I remember?"
"What are you talking about?" My voice sounded strange to me, more grown up, "where is my mother?"
"You have to be kidding me," Giles growled, " You said you wouldn't touch any more of those things!"
"So you know?" I questioned, "It is amazing, isn't it? I created time travel!"
"You told me to always remind you," Giles said seemingly put out, "It is not time travel, it is a new dimension. How old are you this time?"
"I am fifteen," I said sarcastically, " Oh... well, I was anyway."
Gile's eyes grew big, "How long after the creation of the new dimension is this version of you?"
"Well I have.. er...jumped a few times," I said not sure what to call the time travel, " But same day as, maybe twenty minutes after?"
"Hurry!" Giles said as he pushed me back into the creation room, "find you before the creation of the dimension, touch that version and stop the creation of time travel!"
"No way!!!" I shouted, "This was what I was trying to do all along!"
"You have to trust me!" Giles pleaded, "The future you was trying to find a version of you that was from before the dimension, but you are what he got! Don't you get it, the longer you wait, the more versions of you there are. Start looking!"
I knew I didn't want to be that version of me anymore, I wanted to be a kid still. So I found the version of me reaching for the clock and touched it.
The effects of the smoke had apparently only affected me. So that means the dimension didn't exist for everyone or at least they couldn't jump between them or see them.
After months of traveling to many versions of me through time, one thing became very clear. I didn't want to be stuck in any one of these versions of me. I wanted to go back to the time before the dimension shift. The problem was the more I jumped, the more versions of me there became, leaving it impossible to try and find the one before the time shift.
This is all very confusing I know, I have lived many many lifetimes over. Living a few times into old age, then jumping to younger versions of myself. In all my time, I have learned a great many things. About life and invention, mathematics and science, about people in general.
The major problem is that I am always stuck at the same time in history, the same seventy years or so. But I came up with a theory, if I could find a way to send something into the future, I may be able to bring someone from the future back to my time to help change the future and the past at the same time.
If you are reading this, you are the one who will be able to come back into time, back far enough to change history and put the future into an advanced state of technological achievement.
There is a bottle hidden with this letter, drink it. You will find that you are able to see the version of me hiding this time capsule. Simply touch that version of me and you will travel to my time. We can discuss matters in more detail once you arrive.
Joe looked at the blue liquid in the vial. It had been over six hundred years since the liquid was sealed into the vial. He wanted desperately to drink the liquid. If he could indeed go back in time with his knowledge, the world could be technologically in a different place. Imagine if Einstein and Tesla could have advanced modern technology to the next stages.
Joe opened the vial and smelled the substance, it had no odor at all. He looked around the house and made his decision. If grandpa Justin was correct, this would be a chance to change the world for the better.
In an adrenaline filled moment, Joe took the bottle closed his eyes and dumped it down his throat.
The burning that followed was enough to drop him to his knees. His eyes lost focus and he let out a scream.
"ARGGHHHH," He screamed grabbing his stomach, the final words just a whisper, " Heeeelp..."
Joe began to go in and out of consciousness laying on the grass next to the hole in the ground. Finally, after what felt like hours, Joe could see someone through his blurred vision. He reached out to take their hand as the world around him went black.
Going Way Back
Joe lay with his eyes closed as the world came back to him. His throat burned severely and breathing was more of a chore than he remembered.
He could hear the gentle ticking of a clock's second hand. The air had a smell he was familiar with, the burning of whale oil. He knew the smell, but it was only on Halloween night that the family lit those old lamps.
As the sounds of the world came back, so did the memory of what he had done. His irrational tendency to do the first thing that sounded good, before really thinking it through, came back to haunt him. He had drunk the blue liquid that had burned his throat severally and caused him to black out.
"Just a couple more clicks," Joe heard a voice he didn't recognize, "Ah, that should do it!"
"You stupid piece of trash," Came a frustrated voice after the crashing sound, "better adjust the tuning knob a few more clicks and balance the
basket collet, then the prototype will be finished!"
Joe lay with his eyes closed tightly, could he possibly be back to the 1400's with his grandpa Justin? That would certainly explain the smell of burning whale oil and the crashing sounds.
"Ah your breathing has changed," The voice came closer to him, "You have been out for a few hours, I would imagine you had quite the journey! Sorry for the burning that came with the liquid, it was the only way."
Joe sat up abruptly and opened his eyes. A motion he regretted instantly. His gag reflex was watering and the world was spinning in a blur of color.
"Whoa there," The man said, "You may want to take things slow for now. You have taken a journey that no one else in history has ever taken. You have traveled back in time a little while. Judging by your sense of style it has been quite some time."
"Wha.... Are you Justin?" Joe choked out in a hoarse voice, "What year is it?"
"Yes, my name is Justin and it is 1420," he said with a chuckle, "Who did you expect?"
Joe was able to focus on the world again after five minutes of sitting on the edge of the table he was on. His eyes were met with a different scene than he even expected.
The room he was in was obviously a workshop of sorts. On the benches surrounding the outsides of the room were tons of half finished gadgets. Each with springs and gears protruding from neatly crafted wood casings. In the center of the room was a table with all kinds of test tubes and vials. The kinds of things that Joe didn't think existed in the time he had traveled too.
Justin was a strange looking man, yet familiar in facial features. He was obviously from the Bringham family, apparent from the straight and prominent nose ending in a slight downward hook.
His clothes were from an era that Justin was not familiar with. He wore glasses that appeared to be constructed in his workshop. The lenses set back an inch into the brass decorated wooden sockets. While the front edge was cut at an angle outwards. The glasses were secured to his head with a single strap of decorative leather.
His hair was similar to the cartoon drawings of einstein, except that his hair was as orange as it gets. He wore a white pleated shirt with a black vest over the top of it. The front of the vest must have mechanically secured itself closed, as it had gears with rods and couplers connected.
Perhaps the most peculiar part of his clothing were his shoes. They each had two wheels on the outside. The wheels were made of brass and in the center of each was a glass window with some sort of green chemical.
Justin rolled around the shop effortlessly, looking for something he had misplaced. Meanwhile, Joe stared open mouthed at the ingenuity of the inventions laying about.
"You have created all this?" Joe said with his hoarse voice, "What is all of it?"
"To answer that question," Justin said rolling over to where Joe sat on the bench, "You are going to have to point out what invention you are curious about. I'm afraid I have created so many things in so many different timelines, that there are too many to count."
Joe pushed himself off the bench he was on and walked to the table nearest to him. On the table sat a wooden box with a glass window framed by gold. Inside on the bottom was a brass funnel pointed at the top of the box. In the back of the box was an oil lamp with an odd shaped glass lens.
Brass hoses protruded off the sides of the strange box and ran to a large water tank. One hose ran from the top of the box into the ceiling of the workshop.
Joe grabbed the handle and looked at Justin who had rolled up next to him, "May I give it a try?"
"Ah this is one of my favorite inventions," Justin said with a tooth filled smile, "I call it the Bringham perception box. Go ahead and give it a crank!"
Joe pushed the crank forward finding it to be much harder to move than he had anticipated. The more he pushed it the easier it became.
Almost instantly the box began to fill with steam. Justin reached around the back of the box and pulled a lever up that Joe had not seen. The instant the lever was flipped an image appeared on the glass. It was the front of the Bringham castle.
The image was flickering like the films made in the early days of video cameras. The image was black and white and was capturing movement.
A horse-drawn buggy went past outside with its driver perched atop the cab. He was wearing more what Joe expected out of the time period he had traveled too.
"You have created a primitive video camera!" Joe said with excitement, "Why have we not seen or heard that you created such things? The first thing similar to this hasn't been historically documented for over two hundred years!"
Justin looked at Joe with curiosity, "What year have you come from?"
"I came from the year 2016," Joe said with a smile, "Did my book come back with me?"
"You have come from much farther into the future than I expected," Justin said seemingly put out, "I thought maybe a couple hundred years. I must have miscalculated the timer gear size when I created the time capsule."
Joe realized he was still cranking the handle on the box and stopped. Justin seemed concerned that he had come from so much farther into the future than anticipated.
"When you drank the vial," Justin said, "What color was the liquid?"
"It was electric blue." Joe said, "Why is it such a big deal? I am here now, isn't that what you wanted?"
"I wanted someone a hundred years into the future," Justin said getting more flustered by the minute, "This is going to cause some big issues. Who are you in the future world?"
"I am Joe Bringham," Joe said standing a little taller, "Next heir to the throne, your distant grandson."
Justin slumped against the wall and slid down to his butt on the floor.
Shaking his head he said, "I am sorry, I don't think this is going to work out very well for you."
"What do you mean?" Joe stared at Justin confused.
"You are my direct relative and from what time I don't know," Justin said staring at the floor, "If things are altered in the timeline you come from, you may no longer exist."
Joe sat staring at Justin trying to understand what he was saying. He had forgotten about the extra dimension that Justin was able to see.
"So you have to stay in this one," Joe said, "No more jumping."
"That is the problem," Justin said, "I have already jumped three times since you have been here. It is hard to say what has already changed in your world. Nothing will seem to have changed until you return...if you return."
"If?" Joe stared in disbelief, "I don't know what you mean, I have to go back, I have a life there."
"You maybe, have a life there," Justin said, "You may not even exist there anymore. This is all very confusing, but you have to accept the fact that you will be living here for the rest of your life."
Joe could feel anger rising up in the pit of his stomach, He desperately wanted to take back his decision to drink the vial, but he couldn't take it back.
"Can you make it so I can go to other dimensions too?" Joe said with a renewed source of hope, "That way I could go back to the time before I drank the vial of stuff. I could send someone else."
"I have tried a million or more times," Justin chuckled out of disgust, "I can't get it, it was an accident the first time."
Joe was crushed with the realization that he would never go back to his time. He could never have known that drinking the contents of the vial would change his life so drastically.
"We are going to have to get you some clothes," Justin said, "Would you like to go with the industrial age that I am starting, or would you like to go with the traditional dress? I'm pretty much the only one who wears industrial."
"I want to try and solve this issue," Joe said angrily, "You brought me back and now I can't go back to my own time. I am stuck because of you. I want to wear my own clothes and find a way back."
Justin rolled around the shop collecting bits of clothing and gadgets that looked similar to the parts that he had used to create his own vest. Joe sat staring at him with disgust and anger.
"You can't wear those clothes," Justin explained, "it's better if you don't draw attention to the fact that you're from the future. Let's get you dressed and we will go see the world in this time. After we get back we can discuss how to approach getting you home."
Joe knew that Justin had just thrown the going home part in there to get him to embrace the world again. Joe knew he was right, so he best just makes the best out of it.
"If we are going to make my clothes, I am going to need a pair of those motor shoes," Joe said walking to a pile of wheels on the ground, "Let's get started."
Joe almost forgot about the fact he couldn't go home as he helped his grandpa Justin create an entire outfit for him to wear. Joe got rid of his glasses and used the glass to create a pair of thin rimmed goggles from wood and the lenses from his old glasses.
"So how do we power these shoes?" Joe said turning to Justin, "Do you use steam for these too?"
Justin just stood staring intently at the center of the room, he was mumbling under his breath but just couldn't quite hear him. He reached up and put his hand on Justin's shoulder right as Justin reached out in front of him.
Joe felt like someone had grabbed him by the hand and started moving so fast that everything was a blur. Within a few seconds, the Justin he was touching was a different person altogether. He was much younger and the room was entirely different also.
"No, too late!" Justin yelled, "Run get out of here!"
Just as the words came out of Justin's mouth the room filled with a purple smoke. Joe ran for the door, but the smoke closed in around him. It burned his lungs on top of the already sore throat from the vial contents. It smelled of Sulfur and vinegar mixed.
When the smoke cleared the world was different, it was filled with shadows of people all over the room. Joe guessed he had gone back to the original dimension shift and he too was now able to see another dimension.
"I was too late! I had to make sure it wouldn't kill me, but I decided too late!" Justin sat on the floor with his hands between his legs, "Now you are stuck with this too!"
Out The Window
"Justin, don't you see?" Joe said excitedly, "Now I can go home!"
"If...you can find the right version of yourself," Justin said now pacing back and forth, "Then you could try, but you will still be stuck with the ability to see other dimensions."
Joe watched Justin walk around the now very different workshop. The benches were filled with old junk but only a few inventions. Out of the very few inventions, Joe only recognized one. Sitting on the table was the Bringham projection box.
Justin continued to pace while Joe focused on different versions of himself walking all about the workshop. The longer he sat the more versions of himself appeared. When the versions came into view, so did the world they lived in. It felt like he was walking about in a dream of himself.
In most of the versions, Joe saw Justin working along side of him to create mechanical wonders the world had never known. But one version he saw himself standing over Justin with a strange weapon. It looked like a modern rifle with rings of copper down the barrel. On the bottom side were a steam tank and odd looking generator.
He watched as that version of himself shot the weapon at Justin. Out of the gun came a burst of electricity laced with fire. When the burst of energy hit Justin, he turned into a pile of ash instantly.
"Don't touch any of them yet!" Justin yelled, "We need to travel through time together. If we get separated, our future version may have stumbled onto many different kinds of troubles that we would not be familiar with."
"The version I just focused on wasn't good!" Joe said with a shudder, "I watched myself kill you."
"Yes, I saw a similar version a minute ago," Justin said, "There are some important rules I have learned. But first, let's get back to normal time. "
Justin reached out and grabbed Joe's arm while jumping to another time. Once again Joe felt the world go blurry as they jumped into the future.
"There, back home," Justin said with his glasses and crazy hair back to normal, "There are many things you will have to learn for yourself. One of those is how to focus on the world around you without going crazy from the other dimensions you see. Here put these on."
Joe grabbed the set of goggles that Justin was handing him. They had a lens in them with a dark tint. These ones had no wood at all. The goggle portion was made entirely from brass with a leather pad around the eyes and a gold buckle on the strap. Once they were in place he could no longer see versions of himself.
"Those will help you block out most of the shells," Justin said as he rolled around the shop, "That's what I call the other versions of myself. They're shells, not entirely me, or at least not until I choose them."
"This time travel thing is all very confusing," Joe said with a sigh, "You said back to the normal time before we time traveled. What do you mean the Normal time?"
"It's not time travel," Justin angrily huffed, "It's just part of the fourth dimension. We can see other versions of ourselves, versions that made different choices than those we actually made."
Justin rolled over to a cabinet across the shop and pulled out a brass sphere the size of a basketball. There was a Dark circle engraved into it with many other lighter circles in all kinds of directions around the sphere.
"This is my model of how the dimension works," Justin said hanging the sphere on a track that ran around the room, "The track is world time, the sphere is my life... well, a representation of our lives now. Before the experiment, we saw life as a circle, not a sphere. Our life in normal dimensional space would only allow us to have one life were the choices we made became the only option we had in life."
"Okay, that makes sense," Joe interrupted, "But why does this all matter? I want to go home now!"
"The life we have without jumping," Justin continued without answering the question, "Is the normal life, it is what you will always be able to focus on more intently than anything else. It also draws you into it, like you are supposed to be there. If I jump ahead ten minutes, eventually I will have to come back to the moment right before I jumped."
How does this all affect the future?" Joe was suddenly interested in Justin's theory, "I mean what future am I from, are there other futures where I don't exist, can't you just go back in time and undo mistakes?"
"My theory on the future after my death is all conjecture," Justin said rolling over to sit on the bench next to Joe, "See, the track or world time goes on two-dimensionally so to speak. My speculation is that the Normal timeline is the one that will continue on regardless."
Joe was going to ask a bunch more questions when the door to the workshop burst open. In came a young girl dressed in a long black dress with long sleeves and a turtle neck.
The dress looked like a corset that laced up the front with blue fabric behind it. The strings of the dress tied at the bottom and were also bright blue. The dress had buttons of silver and she wore a fedora with a blue feather to match the dress. On her wrist was a watch that was most definitely made in the creation workshop, with exposed gears and a body of rosewood.
"Hello, kind Sir," She said as she walked to a cabinet across the room, "You look like you have come to join me as an apprentice?"
"Umm....Kind of," Joe said taken back by the beauty of the young woman, "I'm kind of from the future."
The girl turned to Justin with wide eyes, "Is he back from the time capsule we made?"
"Yes, he is," Justin said, "Maxine, this is Joe, my distant grandson."
Maxine had pulled a pair of black pants out of the cupboard and put them on under her dress. She then pulled up a fold of cloth and zipped the bottom of the dress off.
"Good day Joe," Maxine said extending her hand to Joe, "I look forward to getting to know you and learning all about the future! What year are you from?"
"I'm from 2016," Joe said, "A year that is very technologically advanced."
"I'm sure it is indeed," Maxine said with a worried look on her face, " Justin may I have a word in private?"
Justin and Maxine walked out of the creation room and closed the door behind them.
Joe looked around the creation room realizing it was the room he had had as a bedroom in the modern world. He wondered if there secret cubby he had found existed yet.
Joe went to the small window and lifted on a rock in the middle of the stone frame. The rock pulled up effortlessly revealing a small hidden compartment. In the compartment sat a leather bound book, a quill, and an inkwell.
Joe reached into the compartment and grabbed the book out. On the front of the leather book, etched into the cover and inked black, was the name "J.J.Bringham."
The book had bits of folded paper stuck here and there, most of the which had rough drawings of inventions with details scribbled about the invention on the page.
Joe flipped to the first page of the book itself and found that it was a detailed log of Justin's traveling through time. There were also some different invention ideas scribbled into the margins of the main journal.
Justin heard a shuffle outside the door and quickly replaced the rock in the window sill. He shoved the book under his shirt and tucked it into the back of his pants.
"Maxine had the same concerns I did," Justin said as they came into the door, "She recognizes that we don't entirely know how the future will be due to my jumping around. My theory predicts that it won't really change the course of the future, but it's still unknown."
Joe watched Maxine walk over to a work bench and sit. She walked with purpose and her face no longer carried the lightheartedness it had when she first showed up. Something about her conversation with Justin had changed her mood.
"So even though I can now travel through dimensions," Joe said trying to make sure the book didn't fall out of his waistband, "I still can't go back to my timeline because I may not even exist there anymore?"
"Why don't we give this all a break for now?" Justin said trying to avoid talking about it more, "We should get you set up in a room and changed into normal clothes. Maybe a bit of fresh air would do you some good too? Maxine, why don't you stay here and work on that airship model. It needs balanced to account for the basket collet."
Justin handed Joe a pile of clothes out of a closet. Two shirts, a vest, an overcoat, a pair of black pants, white socks, and some black shoes.
"What about the vest and roller shoes we constructed before we jumped?" Joe said staring at the traditional clothes in has hands, "I really would like that style, this seems like it will be a bit constricting."
"Yes, well we can spend the day tomorrow constructing those things," Justin said impatiently, "But for today you should blend in with the average royal community."
Justin rolled to the door in a hurry and threw it open, "Giles, my grandson to a guest room. Make it the second floor and be sure he gets anything he needs."
Justin turned to Joe as Giles came in, "Don't jump yet, we need to jump together to make sure we keep these versions of ourselves together. Otherwise, we may have a big issue on our hands. Just keep the goggles on and you will be fine."
Giles guided Joe up the stairs to one of the bedrooms. On his way through the castle, he noticed that all the doors and their frames had elegant wood carvings. In the future, they would be replaced with modern doors and trim.
They passed multiple suits of armor that Joe recognized as still being in the castle in his time. The looked a bit newer than he remembered.
Once inside his room, Joe changed into the clothes that Justin had given him. The pants came to just below his knees, and the shirt flared out at the waist. Joe had seen the style of dress these come from in paintings around the castle, so he made himself look like the one in his room. With his belt over the shirt and socks pulled up to meet the pants.
The bed was a stuffed feather mattress in an elegant four post bed frame. The wood at the head and foot of the bed had been carved with elegant leaves and animals. The bed was enclosed with blue drapes that had a gold Bringham seal embroidered into it.
Joe pulled the drapes back and laid on the bed to read the journal he had found.
He learned a great deal as he read about the mistakes and shortcomings that Justin had experienced during his first jumps. The more Joe read the more he realized that Justin had a hunger to travel farther into the future than his life would allow.
Joe flipped to the end of the book and found four entries that changed his thoughts towards the entire day with Justin:
"Today was a monumental day in the search for greater freedom in time travel. After ten tries there has been a success in bringing back a live person from the future. It is a nice change to not have to get rid of the body of a dead man from the future."
"After five minutes of trying to keep the man alive, I now have another dead body on my hands. Next time will be a bigger success, I know why the formula has failed. I am going to have to train an assistant to help me make the preparations to create true time travel. I will be enslaving people from all times in the future. I will simply bring them back from their time, expose them to the purple smoke and use them to travel through time. I will rule all people from every time in human existence."
Maxine will be a great assistant, I never knew she wanted to learn the art of inventing. Giles was my first choice, but his daughter is much more intelligent. She will be able to help me create a creation room that can fly through the air.
I am growing suspicious of Maxine, She has learned a great deal but she has been snooping around through my things lately. I am afraid that she is going to try and stop me from enslaving people. She will feel the wrath of her king if she gets in the way.
***The last entry was the day before Joe arrived. He lay on the bed stunned by what he just read. He was being used to travel into the future.
Joe thought back to when he had told Justin about being a relative, he had a genuine disappointment on his face. He really was concerned that something may make him disappear in future times.
Joe sat and theorized that if Justin traveled to the future, he may not be able to get back if Joe no longer existed. Being that Joe was Justin's direct descendant, it was likely he would not exist if Justin traveled into the future.
Knock Knock Knock!
The loud knocking on the door startled him out of his deep thoughts. shoving the journal under his bed mattress, he headed for the door.
"I'm coming," Joe said straightening his clothes, "Just finished getting dressed."
Joe opened the door to find a young servant girl he guessed was about ten. She was wearing a plain white dress with her hair pulled back and tied with a strip of cloth similar to the dress.
"Hello Sir," The young girl said nervously, "I was told to ask if you need anything. There is always food if you desire. Giles told me that you will be wearing King Bringhams daily wear clothes, we can bring you clean clothes anytime you need. Anything you request we will try to find a way to make it happen"
"Thank you," Joe said smiling at the young girl, "What is your name young lady?"
"Um..... " The Girl mumbled uncomfortably, "No one ever asks our names, we are the servants Sir, but my name is Penny."
"Well, Penny," Joe said surprised by her response, "What a beautiful name to match a beautiful little Girl. You will find that I treat all people as equals, regardless of status."
"That's very kind of you sir," The girl said beaming, "You are a very kind gentleman indeed."
With a small curtsey, the girl ran down the hall with a giggle. She rounded the corner before the stairs and nearly ran over Giles as he came up the stairs.
"Slow down young lady!" Giles whispered, "If you had run into King Bringham he would have had you whipped."
The girl still beaming just nodded in reply and went on her way at a walking pace.
"I'm sorry if she was bothering you Mr. Bringham," Giles said walking towards him, "She was supposed to make sure you didn't need anything."
"She was fine," Joe said, "Giles can I talk to you about Justin?"
Giles eyed Joe suspiciously, "Yes, I suppose you can."
Joe walked back into his room hoping Giles would follow and close the door, But Giles just stood in the hallway waiting for an invitation.
"Please come in," Joe said, "And close the door behind you if you would."
"Sir is something wrong?" Giles questioned as he closed the door, "You are being awfully sneaky about this."
"Yes, well it's a bit of a touchy subject," Joe said walking to the window, "I found a journal of sorts that belongs to Justin. I have some serious concerns about what he is up too."
Giles' face went from slightly anxious to a bit relieved, "Well, now we have three of us who are aware that Justin has gone mad."
Joe sat on the bed relieved that he didn't have to try and escape the large man. His suspicion that Giles and Maxine were trying to find a way to save humanity was indeed correct.
"It has been ten years since the accident in the creation room," Giles said standing in the middle of the room, "At first Justin was excited to share his adventures through time. But he started to disconnect from reality, he gained so much knowledge that it became hard to talk to him. The past two years he has become power hungry. "
Knock! Knock! Knock!
"Mr. Bingham!" The voice of penny, the young girl, came from outside the door with a cry, "Have you seen Giles? I need to see him about an urgent matter!"
Giles ran to the door and pulled it opened, "What is it penny why are you crying?"
"I went by Master Bringhams creation room, I know I am not supposed to," She whimpered, "I heard him yelling at Maxine and she was screaming."
Giles took off down the hall with Joe hot on his heels. Giles jumped from landing to landing on the stairs as they ran for the creation room. Once they reached the door, Giles stopped to listen outside the door.
"Why haven't you gone in?" Joe said out of breath from chasing Giles down the stairs, "We should stop him."
"If I barge in there to save her," Giles said, "I will be executed and her along with me. If I escape, well not a place in Scotland will be safe for us."
Joe pushed past Giles, grabbed a sword from a suite of armor and barged into the creation room. Maxine was hanging upside down in the center of the room above a barrel of water. Her hair was wet and Joe didn't know if she was dead or unconscious.
Leaning against a workbench was Justin, his red hair more crazy than usual. In his hands, he held the Rifle Joe had seen earlier.
"Giles, it's nice of you to join your old friend. I hear you want to overthrow your king?" Justin said in a crazed voice, "You ready to watch your thieving daughter die?"
Just as Justin threw out the question Maxine began to squirm in the center of the room, "No, father... go take Joe and get him away from, here. He is going to use him to build a time machine. He has found a way to travel through time without restriction, Joe is the only missing..."
Justin hit her in the back of the head with the rifle knocking her unconscious. Her head began to drip blood instantly, turning the barrel of water pink.
Joe gripped the sword in his hand tightly as ran towards Justin. He raised it to swing as Justin shot the gun, launching an electrically charged fireball into the air.
The fireball hit the sword and ricocheted across the room burning through the rope holding Maxine. She fell into the water barrel head first with her hands tied behind her back.
Joe swung the sword as hard as he could towards Justin and felt the sword hit something solid as two more fireballs were shot out of the rifle. One hit a table while the other turned Giles into a pile of ash instantly.
"ARHHHH," Came Justin's agonizing scream, "My arm!!"
The room filled with sparks and smoke as a table of chemicals burned from one of the fireballs. Joe ran to the barrel and hoisted Maxine out of the water. Navigating the smoke-filled room by memory, Joe threw a brass fitting through the window and pushed Maxine out onto the ground.
Jumping out the window himself he could hear Justin screaming for the guards to come and stop the man who had tried to take his life.
Maxine coughed and sputtered for a moment before gasping for a breath. Joe pulled her to her feet before she had even caught her breath.
"We have to get out of here!" Joe said urgently, "The guards will be after us."
"Mmm..My, " Maxine sputtered, "Ff..ahem.."
"He didn't make it," Joe said, "Justin Killed him, I'm sorry."
They made their way into the forest behind the castle. Joe had spent his childhood playing in the forest and headed for the best hideout he could think of.
Joe's goggles still sat firmly against his eyes, in fact, he had forgotten they were there until entering the dark cave.
"Maxine, where can we go?" Joe whispered, "We can't stay here long or the guards will find us."
"I don't care," Maxine said harshly, "I don't care about anything anymore. My dad is gone, and he is the only thing that mattered to me in this world."
"Maxine," Joe said softly, "I'm so sorry that your dad was killed. I can't imagine how hard that is right now, but we need to get to safety. After we are safe, you can grieve however you need too."
Maxine turned and walked to the corner of the cave and sat on the ground. She picked a rock up and threw it into the darkness of the cave.
"Ding!" The rock struck something solid and metallic.
"What on earth was that?" Joe said surprised by the sound.
"It is a vehicle my father and I were working on." Maxine said, "We intended to use it to get far away from Justin. I was learning to create amazing things with Justin so that we could escape his rule. Ironic that he was teaching me to create, yet all I want is to escape his grasp. The car only needs a power source now."
"What are we waiting for?" Joe said feeling his way back into the cave.
"I don't know how to finish it," Maxine nearly shouted, "I was using the same design as the rolling shoes but on a large scale. Justin never gave away many of his secrets. I was trying to study the shoes and steal the component that powers it."
Joe found a rock that was blocking a large opening in the cave. He rolled it aside to allow more light to flood in.
In the middle of the cave sat a primitive car. It had wheels constructed of brass and wood, similar to the design of an old wagon wheel. The car's shape was similar to a horse-drawn buggy but with a longer body in front of the driver's bench.
In front of the driver's bench were all the components of a car front end. It even had a linkage connected to a steering wheel. The only part missing was a motor to power it.
"This is amazing!" Joe said in awe, " We need to find a way to power it! How can we get back in the creation room?"
"There is no way," Maxine said still sitting against the wall, "Justin practically lives in there."
Joe walked towards Maxine thinking of ways he could convince her to help him. On his way over to her, he tripped over a rock. He stumbled, running to keep his balance before crashing head first into the wall of the cave.
He lay on the ground holding his face, moaning in agony. The goggles from his head lay a few feet away with the glass lens shattered into pieces.
"Joe, are you okay?" Maxine said running over to him, "You are bleeding!"
Joe pulled his hands from his face to find them soaked in blood. He winced at a sharp pain over his eye. wiping away the blood he cursed under his breath. It was hard to focus as the entire cave was filled with shadows of himself.
"Maxine!" Joe shouted, "I know what we can do."
"We need to fix your eye," Maxine said pulling a piece of cloth out of her shirt pocket, "Here this is clean, put pressure on your eye."
"Maxine, stop," Joe said walking back over to the makeshift car, "maybe I can fix it by traveling back in time."
"Yes, you can but it isn't a good idea," Maxine said, " You may change something you don't want to change, and it will be hard to ever make it right again."
Joe ignored Maxine's comment and focused on one dimension after the other as he prepared to jump back in time. Wiping the blood out of his eyes so that he could focus, he touched the one he wanted.
Instantly his eye felt better and the blood was gone. He reached up to touch the place above his eye and realized that he still had the goggles back on.
"Ding!" The familiar sound of the rock hitting the car in the cave.
Not wanting to mess with normal time too much Joe said the exact same thing as before, "What was that?"
Joe did and said everything exactly the same as he had only moments before, except that he stepped over the rock instead of tripping over it.
After fixing his mistake, he allowed himself to look at the different dimensions, searching for the right one. All of the dimensions looked the same if he didn't focus on them, all except one. There was one that remained frozen, it didn't play out like a movie in front of him, it just sat still waiting for him to jump back into it.
Joe jumped back to the timeline he was supposed to be in. The moment he came back Maxine looked as though she was going to punch him in the face for Jumping through time.
"You don't list...." Maxine was cut short by a small earthquake.
From the roof of the cave, a large chunk of rock broke loose. It fell slowly at first, allowing Joe time to push Maxine out of the way before it fell where she had been standing.
"Ouch!" Joe shouted as a sharp pain seared his eyebrow.
The rock had grazed Joe's eye, right in the same place as he had been cut open by the run in with the cave wall. Blood began to pour down his face from the wound.
"I tried to tell you," Maxine yelled as she stood up off the ground, "If you change things that happen to you or others physically, it is like time tries to right what has been upset. Justin tried to save his wife after she died giving birth, he never did succeed. But every time he tried to save her, she died a more gruesome and awful death."
"I remember hearing in our family history that she died when she fell from a horse-drawn wagon," Joe said with a shrug, "Someone said after she fell, her head was run over."
"Yes, that was when Justin decided to never try again," Maxine said walking over to the unfinished car, "We may be able to get out of the country if we can find a way to make it go."
"I am not so sure I want to get out of the country," Joe said hesitantly, "I want to try and stop Justin from ruining anyone else's life. Plus what if he does succeed at changing the future and taking control of the world?"
"I just lost my father," Maxine said, "I want to be done with all of this, I want to run away and never come back. Justin can do whatever he wants as long as I'm far from him."
Just as Maxine finished her sentence, the roof of the cave began to crack and shake. Large chunks of rock fell all around Joe and Maxine.
"Hurry let's get out of here!" Joe shouted over the rumble of the falling rock.
The entire cave collapsed with an earth-shaking crash. The air was filled with dust and caused Joe to start coughing. The dusted caked around his eyes and mouth, leaving a gritty film in his mouth. They had escaped the collapse just in time.
Joe and Maxine both knelt down to washed dust off their faces in the cool water of the lake. Neither said a word as the rush of adrenaline wore off.
"There they are over there!" A soldier, with a dog on a leash, yelled from across the small lake.
He let the dog go, and it took off around the lake after them. It's bark echoed off the lake as it jumped over trees and branches.
"Run!" Maxine shouted with fear in her voice, "Those dogs are trained to kill."
Joe took off after Maxine as she ran back towards the castle. She was very fast and agile, jumping over logs and rocks while dodging low hanging branches. Joe quickly fell behind as she skillfully ran through the woods.
"Wait up!" Joe yelled out of breath, "Why are you going back towards the castle?"
Maxine slowed up just enough that Joe could catch up, "There is a guard post at the other side of the wooded area, they would catch us there for sure. Plus they have four dogs at each guard post. I know where we can go."
Joe and Maxine broke out of the forest with the Dog not far behind. The guards at the side of the castle ran towards them with swords drawn. Maxine didn't seem to care that the guards would catch them before they got to the castle.
Joe considered stopping when the guards were about twenty yards away but without much hesitation decided that he would rather be run through with a sword than eaten by a dog.
The guards readied their swords and swung at Maxine simultaneously. She leaped forward in a dive, gliding right under their swords. Tucking into a roll she springing up to her feet behind the two guards.
Maxine pulled two small daggers from somewhere on her legs and thrust one into each of the guard's necks. The guards fell into a motionless pile on the ground.
"Duck!" Maxine shouted at Joe who was standing with his mouth wide open.
Maxine drew her arm back to throw as Joe realized the dog was about to reach him. He did as he was told, and ducked so low his knee hit him in the face.
Joe heard a thud an instant before the weight of the dog knocked him forward onto the ground. He braced himself for the sharp sting of teeth on the back of his neck, but the teeth never came. Instead, he felt a warm spot spreading over the shoulder of his shirt.
"Hurry before more guards come," Maxine urged him, "We need to get into the walls."
Joe rolled to the side as the body of the dog rolled off him. He stood to look at the dead dog. It had one of Maxine's daggers buried to the hilt between its eyes. Joe grabbed the dagger and ran to catch up with Maxine.
"Where did you learn to do that?" Joe said amazed by the fighting skill of the woman, "We both would have been dead if it wasn't for you."
Without answering his question, Maxine ran to the place Joe knew was the root cellar of the castle. She quickly pulled up the door to reveal the stone steps.
"We can get into the cavity between the walls through here," Maxine whispered, "It is a place that very few people know of. My father and I learned this secret from the builder of the castle before he died."
Joe and Maxine found a shelf that looked like it had been built into the stone wall. Maxine pulled it away from the wall to reveal an opening. It was two feet wide, just enough to allow a small person to pass through. The wall they had entered ran up through all three floors, clear to the top of the castle. Near the top were small opening every few feet that allowed enough light to see where you were going.
"We can hide in here until they stop looking for us," Maxine whispered, "We must talk very quiet, the sound travels easily."
Joe and Maxine walked along the wall until it intersected another. Joe couldn't tell where they were, but Maxine moved about like she knew exactly where she was going.
After a few minutes of walking through the walls, faint voices could be heard. They hit another intersection, and the sound of voices grew louder.
"They escaped you?" Justin's voice boomed, "How could you let this happen? This man and woman are dangerous, they intend to kill me and try to take over this country. It is treason at the highest level, we must find and kill them. They can't have gone far, hurry and find them."
"Yes your majesty," A commanding voice answered, "We have already sent for all the dogs, they should pick up the trail easily. Majesty, you should have the physician look at your arm, you are losing a lot of blood."
Maxine stiffened at the mention of the dogs, "We must find a way to throw them off our trail."
"Yes, but how," Joe whispered, "There will be guards everywhere now."
Maxine and Joe made their way back to the cellar and exited the wall cavity as soon as they were sure no one was in the old cellar.
Joe went to the door and lifted it just enough to peek outside. He could see both corners of the castle and no guards. Lifting the door slowly he and Maxine went out.
"If we run in and out of the cellar," Maxine thought aloud, "And run all around, maybe they will think the Dogs lost the trail."
"I don't have any better ideas," Joe said with a shrug.
"Over here!" A guard yelled from the corner of the building. He was quickly joined by at least a dozen more guards who all charged towards them.
Joe turned to run towards the other side of the castle, but guards had come around that corner as well. The hedge in front of them was much too tall and thick to try and get through, They were stuck.
Maxine had taken a stance to fight, her daggers in hand, "I am going to die fighting you cowards!"
As Maxine's voice echoed down the castle, Joe remembered that he had the goggles on that cut the other dimensions out of view. He quickly peeled them off revealing many versions of himself.
He focused on one after the other until he found one where he looked about the same age as he was currently. He grabbed Maxine's hand and reached out to touch the new dimension.
"What in Riley Duffin's name just happened?" Maxine yelled, "Where did the guards go?"
Joe looked down at his clothes, he was wearing the shirt he had worn a week ago. He remembered because he had torn it when he tripped and fell through the door of the cellar. The shirt was torn and the cellar door was caved in.
"We have come back to my time," Joe said with a smile, " Welcome to the twenty-first century."
Joe's head swam as he looked out across the lawn that sprawled out from the rear of the castle. Something was wrong, though here he was back in his own time, he didn't remember the hedge being removed.
"Oh, this is going to be interesting," Maxine said distressed, "Who knows what we have changed in the twenty hours since you arrived in the fourteen hundreds."
"We are both alive," Joe said sarcastically, "At least that is better than we could say if we hadn't Jumped to this time."
As Joe and Maxine talked, a loud rumbled filled the sky. It was a mix of high pressured air leaking from pipes and the high pitched whine of a high-speed electric motor.
Joe and Maxine instinctively looked up to see where that sound was coming from. Far up in the sky, a large airship sped in circles around the castle. Though it was shaped as a traditional wooden ship, it was clearly made of stainless steel and brass. It hung from a blimp shaped steam balloon with a great propeller forcing the whole contraption forward at the speed of a normal airplane.
"What on earth is that?" Joe said to Maxine, "I don't remember anything even close to that flying through the sky in my time."
"I know what that is," Maxine said staring at the ground, "It is the Ship that I designed for Justin to use as his time traveling device. It's a vehicle capable of traveling around the world in two days. With a person from the future, Justin can travel forward to that person's time."
"You are saying that he can Jump with that entire ship and a person at the same time?" Joe said in disbelief.
"Not only one person," Maxine said shamefully, "He can jump with the entire crew of the great airship as well. The theory was that if the deck was made of thin metal, as long as no one wore shoes, it would act as though Justin or whoever was jumping, was actually touching anyone who touched the metal."
The airship didn't just pass by, instead, it stopped over the castle and began to quickly descend.
"Maybe we should go into the wall cavity until we know what's happening?" Maxine said, "Who knows how things are now."
"You go hide," Joe said running down the back of the castle, "I need to go warn my family."
Joe ran as fast as he could around the castle until he arrived at the front door. Standing in front of the door was a man dressed in clothes similar to that of Justin's steam powered vest with gears and gauges here and there. Atop his head was a clock hat, just like the one Justin had described in his letter.
"Joe, what are you wearing." The man said gruffly, "Hurry to your quarters and change, Master Justin will be here soon! You know better than to go to dimension one let alone find clothing and wear it. The penalty is death for that kind of behavior, at least for anyone but you."
Joe left the man confused by the things he was saying. He ran inside to find his parents sitting on a bench across the room. They didn't even move when he walked in, they sat motionlessly.
"Mom, Dad, we have to get out of here," Joe yelled, "Grandpa Justin found a way to come to the future."
Joe walked up to his mother and touched her face, it was cold to the touch. He withdrew his hand quickly and stared at her. She wasn't even breathing. she was dressed like Maxine dressed, but was so cold she could have been frozen.
"Ah, another rough day longing your mommy and daddy huh?" Justin's voice echoed in the entryway, "It's okay, only a few more days and you will be able to join them in this humanoid state."
"What are you talking about?" Joe yelled as he faced Justin, "What have..."
"DARE YOU RAISE YOUR VOICE?" Justin Screamed as he raised his arm up with a hand that morphed into a whip before Joe's eyes.
The whip cracked him across the face, breaking his lip opened. The pain radiated from his lip and spread through his entire face. He was going to charge after Justin, but two guards seized his arms moments after the crack of the whip.
Joe watched the whip turn back into a hand. It looked real, but Joe remembered that it was the hand he had cut off in the creation room. Justin had created something to replace his real hand.
"I see you have traveled to Dimension One using my time slave again," Justin said angrily, "You know I have forbidden that type of behavior, those time slaves are for me to use not you or anyone else."
Justin turned to a woman who had appeared in the doorway of the Dinner room. She wore a knee-length red skirt with black leggings underneath. Her shirt was red to match the skirt and had long sleeves. She also had a black leather corset on that laced up the front like Maxine's.
"Ah, Penny!" Justin smiled, "Please wind up Joe's poor mother so she can keep me company at dinner tonight."
One of the Guards put a gag in Joe's mouth to keep him from yelling out. Joe struggled to free himself from the iron grip of the guards but to no avail. He could only sit and watch as Penny walked by to do whatever its was she had been told to do.
Joe watched Penny grab a small crank type handle off the wall and walk towards his mother. Penny stood right in front of her and pushed the crank right into the place her heart should have been. A small hole in her corset allowed the crank through, Penny then began to gently crank the handle around until it was spinning in her chest on its own.
Joe watched in a state of shock as penny pulled the crank out. His mother opened her eyes and looked down at her hands. Her movements were slightly rough, not smooth like they should be, but more like that of robots.
"How long was I asleep for?" Joe's mother said softly, "I feel a bit stiff."
"We just pulled you out of cryo-freeze a few hours ago," Penny whispered, " You will be fully thawed in a couple hours now that your blood is moving and your heaters are working. You have been out for six months."
"Ah, Justin!" Joe's mother exclaimed, "How wonderful to see you again. It is just so nice to not have to suffer through our absence from you. You just turn us off and in a nights sleep we wake to see you again!"
Tears streamed down Joe's face as he continued to fight against the guards holding him. He didn't know what Justin had done to his parents, but he knew that the parents he loved didn't exist anymore.
"Take him to his room," Justin said to the guards, "Set up a twenty-four-hour guard. We have only a few days until the moment that he is needed in history. Until that time, he can stay in his room."
Joe sat in his room with two guards outside the door. The window had bars on it and it looked as though he had been locked in the room before. He watched many different dimensions walking around the room, but not one of them looked like a version that would help him out of the situation he was now in. So he laid on the bed staring at the ceiling.
Joe drifted to sleep as he lay on the bed thinking of his mother and father. His last thought before sleep set in was the way she had run to Justin without even noticing her son gagged and held captive by two guards.
"Mr. Joe," A whisper cut through Joe's shallow sleep, "Wake up, we have to go now."
Joe rolled away from the whisper and fell to the ground with a thunk, "Whoa, who's there."
"It's me, Penny," The whisper came out of the dark shadows of the room, "The girl you helped all those years ago?"
"Years?" Joe said stunned by the comment, "It wasn't years ago at all."
"We don't have time to argue this now," Penny said still in a whisper, "I'm helping you get out of here."
The door of the bedroom slammed against the wall as Maxine burst into the room.
"Who are you?" Maxine yelled throwing Penny to the floor with a dagger to her throat, "Are you planning to kill Joe too?"
"Maxine!" Joe said in a hushed yelled, "She's okay, she's here to help."
"Tell that to the two dead guards at your door!" Maxine said still holding the knife to Penny's throat.
"Oh no," Penny said with a faint smile, "They aren't dead, they 're just sleeping from a herb I put in their soup."
Joe pulled a reluctant Maxine off of Penny and helped Penny up off the floor. He marveled at how it could be the same young girl he had talked to before.
"I couldn't kill anyone....Again," Penny said under her breath as she stood, "We really need to hurry now."
Penny helped Joe and Maxine sneak through the castle and out of the kitchen side door. On their way through the kitchen, she packed them a couple days worth of food.
"Penny, come with us?" Joe said as they stood outside the castle,"We can all escape together."
"No," Penny said with a frown, "I believe there is a good man inside of Justin someplace. Someday I will be able to find him and get him to make things right."
With tears in her eyes, Penny closed the door, leaving Joe and Maxine out on the grass under the moonlight.
Maxine reached up and touched the place on Joes face where the whip had cut him open. Joe could see that she wanted to say something about it, but instead, she turned and began to walk away from him.
"Maxine, wait," Joe said walking after her, "Where are you going?"
"I 'm not going to just let Justin continue to rule people with an iron fist," Maxine said heading back behind the castle, "I bet he keep his time slaves on that airship."
"Maxine, that ship is going to be full of men ready to shoot anyone who climbs aboard," Joe said grabbing her arm, "It's a death sentence to just go climb aboard. Let's go find a place to sleep, gather some supplies, and come back another day."
Maxine turned to face him with tears in her eyes, "Part of me doesn't care if I die. My dad is gone...he is gone forever! There's a hole in my heart that couldn't possibly be filled."
Joe reached out and pulled her into a hug before he knew what he was doing, "I know Maxine, I have a hole left by my parents too."
The pair stood in an embrace crying together for a long while before they heard a commotion from the front of the castle.
"We have to go!" Maxine whispered, "They must have found that you are gone."
Joe took Maxine by the hand and headed back towards the woods behind the castle, "There is a path to get back into town, or at least there was in my world."
The pair headed back into the woods for the second time in just a few hours. Just inside the tree line, Joe found the path he had expected. It was paved with cobblestone and had grass growing through the cracks.
"This hasn't been used in years," Joe said in amazement, "It comes out at a long ago abandoned stone cottage near the river. Maybe we can camp there until we get a plan together."
The path wound its way around large rock formations and over a couple small streams before coming out at a ridge above the stone cottage. The cottage itself did not appear to be abandoned at all. There were lights shining through the glass windows and smoke puffing gently out of the chimney.
The scene was more beautiful than Joe had remembered. He stood at the edge of the forest looking down at the neatly kept stone cottage. Beyond the river, the lights of the small city stretched out over the landscape. The scene looked like it had been painted by a great artist.
"This is amazing!" Maxine said with tears on her face, " My father would have loved this, he always wanted a place on the river."
Joe took her hand and led the way towards the cottage, "Maybe the person that lives here is friendly. It's the only place we can get to without being easily seen by guards."
Joe led the way down the gentle slope. It was covered in pine needle making it a treacherous journey. After a couple falls each they finally made it to the front of the cottage. They walked towards the home cautiously and slowly.
"What business do you have here?" Came a mysterious voice from the cover of the dark front porch, "You best stop there before you lose your heads."
Joe felt Maxine grab her daggers and ready herself for an assault from the porch while he staggered backward from the surprise of the unknown voice.
"We...um...just need a place to stay for a couple nights," Joe's voice came out more shaky than he had intended.
"The girl needs to put away the daggers," The man said, "Then we can talk more openly."
"I'll do no such thing!" Maxine yelled taking a step towards the porch, "How do we know you won't kill us or turn us over to Justin?"
A flash of blinding blue light erupted from the porch with a shower of sparks and thunderous boom. In the flash of light, Joe saw the outline of a normal sized man with what looked like mechanical body parts.
From the sky, a bat fell and landed in front of Maxine. Joe looked down and realized that its head had been cleanly sliced from its body. Joe looked back up at Maxine who was staring at it with all the color drained from her cheeks.
"You take another step and you'll join the bat in the headless corpse party." The man chuckled at his sadistic joke.
"Maxine," Joe whispered under his breath," Put the daggers away if he was going to kill us he would have done it already."
"Yes," The man chuckled again, "If I was going to turn you into living robots, I would have killed you at the top of the hill."
Joe turned back to the man on the porch, surprised that he had heard his advice to Maxine, "Please, we don't mean to invade your home. we are in a spot of trouble with Justin and need to find a way to escape him."
The porch creaked as the man walked across it, "Ah, anyone who is an enemy of that man is a friend of mine."
The porch filled with electric blue light as the ceiling of the porch lit up with static electricity. The air filled with the buzzing and crackling of the thin blue lines of electricity dancing about the ceiling. The ceiling was made of glass, and beyond the glass was a large metal probe that the electricity seemed to be radiating from.
The man standing before them was very old and had some kind of machine strapped to his entire body. The mechanism on his legs had a tight group of gears at the knee joint and a shock style spring from the knee to the heel. His whole body was covered by these gadgets, and on his head sat a basket that appeared to control the thing.
"My name is Wade Vanderhousen," The man said with a toothless smile, "But the locals just call me Mr.Gadget. You can call me whatever you would like."
"Mr. gadget, I'm pleased to meet you." Joe stepped up onto the porch and reached out his hand.
"Best not touch each other under the static light," Mr. Gadget smiled, "It is great for an effect, but it makes for a shocking greeting."
Mr. Gadget laughed hysterically at his joke in a high-pitched wheezy kinda laugh. Joe smiled politely at the charismatic man before him. Mr. Gadget didn't seem to notice that Joe and Maxine were not at all amused by his joke.
Maxine stepped up onto the porch and her hair pulled out of its neat bun and stretched out towards the ceiling, "What is happening to my hair?"
"Static electricity," Mr. Gadget said as his laugh died down, "It is the stuff the ceiling lightning is made of. It tends to gather on hair and pull it towards the highest source of the stuff. In this case, it pulls towards the static generator in my ceiling. Wonderful isn't it?"
Joe watched as Maxine tried quite valiantly to gather her hair back into a bun. It was a fruitless effort, however, as her hair stood on end again the moment she let go of it.
"Let's go inside and have a chat," Mr. Gadget said reaching for the door knob, "I really hate opening the door after having the ceiling light on."
The built up static electricity released the moment he touched the door knob. The flash from the small explosion was bright enough to make Joe turn and shield his eyes. The buzzing sound that filled the porch suddenly stopped as the ceiling slowly went black.
Joe and Maxine followed Mr. Gadget into his house wich were just as unique as the front porch they had been standing on. The layout was the same as most homes Joe had ever seen but the decor was much less...normal.
The kitchen table appeared to be the hood of an old car that had been welded to an axle with a wheel still attached to act as a base. The table chairs themselves had been made from 55-gallon steel barrels. The barrels were cut half round with a seat welded into the middle and neatly upholstered with black leather.
"That is quite a table there Mr. Gadget," Joe said in awe of the craftsmanship that had gone into it, "Where did the parts come from?"
Mr. Gadget smiled his toothless grin before reaching into his pocket and grabbing a set of false teeth. He popped them in and licked his lips before speaking.
"Ah... that is much better." He said pulling a chair out for Maxine to sit in, "The parts from this table have come from one of the other dimensions. I like to call them time lines really, so many changes between them that it is hard to imagine you are even in the same years or technological time frames. This table was made from a 1961 Dodge D-series pickup. The axle and wheel came from the same vehicle."
"How did you go to another timeline?" Maxine jumped in before he could continue, "Is there a way to get back to 1419?"
Mr. gadget looked at Maxine intently, "Back to the time before Justin's beginning? Well, I have tried many times. He has set many blockades along the way, he is a brilliant man. I am the only man to ever have challenged his technological prowess. But he has altered so many things near and around his place of origin that it is tough to get to the true timeline. See if you or I could move back or forward in a timeline on our own, we would be limited to moving forward. If we move back in time to try and change something, time rights itself."
"Yes," Joe said frustrated that he was reminded of the cut above his eye, "I am well aware of that."
Mr. Gadget stared at Joe intently as if he was trying to figure out how he could possibly understand what he had just said.
"I know because I have tried to change the past," Joe said, "I have been exposed to the day Justin created this ability to jump between worlds."
At this statement Mr. gadgets face twisted in agony, "You are a time slave? I should have known, you two look out of place. why would you come here? You have tracking devices and will be tracked through anytime and to any location."
Mr. Gadget got up and started to usher them towards the door. He seemed as though he didn't want to be rude, but knew he couldn't afford to be caught harboring runaway time slaves.
"I'm not a time slave," Joe said angrily, "I'm Justin's grandson!"
At these words, Mr. Gadget collapsed back into his seat. He buried his face in his hands and proceeded to run his hands through his white hair.
"I don't have a tracking device," Joe said trying to assure the man, "I'm the original Joe. I was reading a book on the lawn in front of the castle just a day couple days ago. That is when this time capsule came up out of the ground in front of me. I drank the liquid Justin had preserved for the future and went back to his time."
Mr. Gadget sat upright in flash, "Wait for you...That means...You can get back to the past while remaining within your future!"
Mr. gadget stood and began to run around the house gathering paper and pencils in a hurry. Joe and Maxine watched as he grabbed straight edges and boxes full of little gadgets. After only a few minutes of mad scrambling, he returned to the table.
"Jigga doodle!!!" Mr. Gadget screamed looking back over his shoulder, "Hurry out here, we have some guests that need to drink something."
From around the corner came a young man about Joe's age. He walked like he had just run a marathon with long heavy steps.
"This is my very own humanoid," Mr. Gadget smiled, "Unlike Justin, I didn't kill anyone to make this beautiful robot. He is 100 percent mechanical, with the exception of a brain borrowed from a cadaver at the medical center in town."
Joe and Maxine both eyed the very realistic looking humanoid suspiciously.
"Jig, Would you please fetch these lovely guests a cup of hot coffee, please? I'll take a hot cup of cinnamon tea." Mr. Gadget said turning his attention back to the gadgets and drawing utensils he had grabbed from around the house.
"What is all of this stuff for Mr. Gadget?" Maxine questioned still looking around the house suspiciously.
"We're going to have to start planning our attack ship. If my calculations are correct, we should be able to have a battle worthy airship constructed within about three months. It is going to take a lot of teamwork to gather the materials needed." With the last bit, Mr. gadget looked at Joe and Maxine.
"We hardly know who you are," Joe said concerned by Mr. Gadgets overwhelming eagerness to start helping them, "I don't even know who you are, for all I know you are stalling until Justin can get here to collect me."
Mr. Gadgets face changed suddenly. Since they had been able to see his face, it had been filled with smiles. Now, however, his face was marked by deep sorrow. With a tear rolling down his face he looked at Joe and motioned for him to follow him.
Joe followed him down a hallway and a long flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, Mr gadget opened a heavy steel door. The instant the door opened joe could hear the sound of steam rushing through pipes.
In the middle of the room was a large brass tube standing upright with a window in the front of it. Inside was a woman with her eyes wide opened staring at him. The top of the tube had hoses running this way and that way, every corner of the room was filled with small steam powered motors and glass vials that were filling and emptying themselves with different colored liquid.
"This is my wife," Mr. Gadget said with tears rolling down his cheeks, "She was a time slave before Justin started putting tracking chips in them. He used her to get to our time, and he used her so many times that her mind shut down and refused to accept reality. She slowly started to die of hypothermia as her brain forgot how to regulate temperature. By the time I could save her, she was nearly brain dead."
Mr. Gadget walked to the chamber and put his hand up to the window, "I love you, darling, we will find a way to change what has happened."
Mr. gadget turned to Joe with a tear stained face, "This is why I was so eager to help you. This is why I grabbed hold of the opportunity to change what Justin has upset."
Joe couldn't help but remember his parents sitting as though dead, waiting to be Justin's puppets. Before he could stop it tears began to stream down his face and cloud his vision.
"I understand what you mean," Justin said trying to hide his emotional state, "We will do whatever it takes to help right this terrible wrong."
Without another word, the two of them returned to the table with Maxine who was breathing hard. Joe could see that she had eavesdropped on their little basement trip. Her eyes betrayed her innocence, they too had been wet with tears.