FAILURE! Wailed a robotic voice, over and over again.
“YES! I KNOW!” the terrified time traveller Cassidy Ives yelled back.
Cassidy felt like she was being ripped in half, as if she had been exploded into a million million pieces… over and over again. She shook and she trembled, as if she were about to violently erupt yet she was securely strapped in her seat. As moments passed she felt calm, blissful, happier than she had ever felt in a long time. In and out of time these feelings reversed back and forth.
She cried in pain, but her vitals were stable and the only symptom was fear. Yet a split second later the machines blared obnoxiously to say that she had flat-lined. Like a load of laundry, cycling… over and over again.
She looked at the readouts on the monitor whenever they they were still enough to read. Her sonic speed could not be measured while at the same time the capsule didn’t move. The temperature outside varied from that of the surface of the sun, to the depths of frigid arctic. And through the small porthole light shone and darkness dimmed. All of this too… over and over again.
But even these extreme changes in a room of contradictions as she travelled through time and space were not constant. And without warning, a panel to Cassidy’s right screamed that hadn’t before, flashing amber and screaming like a shrieking hyena. And as it had been explained to her, as it seemed to her in that instant, it was not a good sign.
Abruptly, the machine stopped. Everything shut or locked down, or turned off altogether. All at once. Dials, counters, timers, lights, levers, buttons, switches, handles, all stopped functioning. Something went wrong.
Yet it was light out as Cassidy observed through the diamond-hard window on the left. She unbuckled her seat belt, emphatically, blew an errant strand of hair away from her face and stepped over to the door. It was cold to the touch and she recoiled. When she looked at her hand however, it had been scalded.
Cassidy removed the gloves from her pocket, and wore those as she leaned against the door again, anxious to glean presumably into the past. But like everything else that happened to the capsule, the window was also difficult. She didn’t know which side was covered with ice, and which with condensation. Either way, the window behaved like a prism. Impossible to see through. All she could distinguish was blue in the background. A clear blue sky? wondered Cassidy, the San Francisco Bay maybe? Clearly, the fluorescent lab light she was so used to was not flooding the capsule. Something was different. But for the moment her excitement was stalled, since it didn’t work like it was supposed to.
“When am I?” Cassidy thought aloud. “Hell, where am I? Did it even work properly? Did I move?”
Then she hollered, “HELLO? Can anybody hear me?”
For a few minutes, Cassidy waited patiently in silence for a voice to reply through the window. Geordie’s voice through the speaker inside the capsule. “Even a knock on the door, or some sign…” said Cassidy, good or bad would have been nice.
Finally, Cassidy looked around the pod again. For that piece of information that didn’t get fried in what she assumed was an EMP blast. Unfortunately, there was nothing. Nothing to tell her when and where she was, or anything about the landscape surrounding the time machine.
She turned the machine inside out. Looking at wires, pressing buttons, flipping switches, pulling levers. Then she did it all again in reverse order, looking for the ‘right pattern’ hoping the ugly tub would turn back on, but nothing did. No part of the procedure worked. Cassidy was at it for hours.
Before long, the sky outside had turned orange. She looked out the window again, but the result was the same. And it may have been cloudy or hazy so she in fact saw even less than before.
She pondered for at least another hour, staring at all of the machine’s monitors and components in futility. She ate. She… did her business. And then pondered some more. Still… to no avail.
I could hotwire this baby, considered Cassidy. But she dismissed the notion, telling herself, No. Bad idea. If I did, I might make things worse for myself. I might not be able to get back.
So, she decided to find out for herself. She made sure her suit was airtight, and that no skin was exposed, and put on the helmet and breathing apparatus which was kept in the storage space under the main control panels.
Nervously now, Cassidy returned to the hatch, precariously placing her hand on the wheel. She calmed her breathing, and slowed her heart rate. Be cool, Cass. thought Cassidy. “You’ve got this.”
Cassidy slowly turned the wheel, a little relieved to learn that one thing on the damned machine was working. That she wasn’t condemned to die in this confounded contraption.
The door clicked open. She pushed the postern outward. Suddenly a wave of hot air slammed against her, and she rushed back, ready to close the door. But the wave passed, and though the air remained a little warm, it seemed almost normal compared to the air inside the capsule.
Moving forward again, the time traveller stepped a toe onto what she assumed was Earth, then the rest of her foot. She found it to be rocky when she took a few more paces into the world, but otherwise normal.
Then she looked around for landmarks of any kind, to make certain she was in the same location, but a different day in age. Cassidy scanned the horizon… but nothing really stood out. Not to the west anyway. Not in this fading light, thought Cassidy. And with a lack of roads and buildings of any kind, it seemed unrecognisable to her.
Although the shoreline did look somewhat familiar. In the distance; in the bay, she thought I could perhaps be looking at… “Oh yeah, this is Berkeley.” said Cassidy nodding to herself. And relief, that at least she was still home, washed over her. Out to the bay in the southwest, she’d noted Treasure Island and The Rock. And beyond that, exactly where the Golden Gate would be built. Though likely many years later.
After a minute, her satisfaction ebbed, and Cassidy was left wondering, “Now… when am I?”