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Do Things My Way
By Calliope Njo
“Liftoff in five, four, three, two—”
I rushed into the office when I overheard. “No, wait. It can’t take off. Not with the threat of exploding.” What did I say? This was not my time period.
“You’re getting your dates confused,” Commander Atterwack said.
That’s always been a probability, but after getting yanked into the room by John, we double checked everything. He went into hiding while I had to discover a means to make things right. Why did he even work here?
She smiled. “No one had been appointed for a time fix during this segment.”
“But Commander, it ended in failure. History was changed and this launch never took place because of an explosion. That blast made trips to outer space an impossibility.” Strange what one remembers during a dispute over coffee.
She raised an eyebrow. She strolled to the viewscreen and remained there for a minute before turning around again. “If what you say is correct, then someone must set matters right. I need a report within the hour.”
“Within the hour? Ma’am, you’re talking about three days worth of analysis and this is not something that could be accomplished wham-bam fashion.” John should feel lucky I’m here and not him. It would take me three days to persuade him to work on it. “Time must be taken to carefully—”
“All right. One day and no further argument. My decision is final. Dismissed.” She waved me out.
I stepped out into the corridor and leaned against the wall. Strange how a white shiny wall turns colors when stared at. Eyes closed, I stayed there a moment before opening my eyes and continuing back to my office. Work had to be done.
Proper history recorded Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Something happened, and the rocket launched a day early with only Buzz Aldrin.
I did French Neoclassical Period not the Cultural Decade. She needed me to come up with a report. Orders were orders though and needed to be followed without question.
I opened with a short enough video of each occurrence, long enough to demonstrate the events. Then an analysis of proper history, though with this crowd, that wouldn’t be necessary but I did it anyway. I forwarded a copy to John out of courtesy.
A full day to accomplish and evaluate the report before submission. Not enough time, but I believed I hit all the crucial points. I hoped she would only tell me my imagination got the best of me and not tell me to write a report about it. Teach me to open my big fat mouth. I got to remember to bring skin glue the next time my mouth decided to work without brain function.
I sent it to her, via robomessenger, in the hopes she wouldn’t blast my door open and behead me. Maybe I panicked over nothing and she would laugh and be done with it.
Instead of pacing, I worked on that case that involved Marie Antoinette. History wanted to change to make her a peasant instead. Something about how the peasants stole her fortune. That needed more research before going out into the field.
About to ask for a meal, Commander Atterwack walked into my room. Straight lips and narrow eyes were never a good sign with her. It meant she was confused and no one wanted a confused commander. “I see your point. After review, I have no choice but to send a team to investigate. That action alone may mean that this agency could never exist. We can’t have that. What are you working on now?”
“The Marie Antoinette case.”
“That’s not relevant. What is more relevant is this.” She pointed at it as my report showed up. “Something happened. As in all matters, if this doesn’t get fixed then history will be altered. We can’t have that. Find as many holes as you can and plug in actual facts so the squad can better get the historical events as they were supposed to happen.”
“Yes, Commander.” I bowed my head.
I watched until my door closed before I vidcommed John.
“Yeah, Cat. What?”
He answered. I’m amused. The name’s Caitlin not Cat by the way. “John, since this is your time span you should be the one to present any updates to Commander Atterwack.”
“Yeah, but, I’m busy.”
I heard a video game. “Sure you are. I have better things to do than to cover your ass before it gets blown up to smithereens. You know that’s what she would do to you so my suggestion would be for you to get to work.”
“Yeah but, I’m almost at—”
“If you wish to lose your job, go ahead. Keep playing that game like a five-year-old and don’t pay any attention to me. After all, it’s not like I’m your mother. The commander.” Take the hint.
Something hit the wall. “All right. Fine. I’ll get to it. Anything else?”
“No. Not a thing.” I hung up.
How he got that position I’ll never know. I doubted if he would ever get to it.
We talked to each other through the rest of the day. I did my report, and he worked on his. Both of us reported to Commander Atterwack, and she laughed, surprised her son worked. She would have rather I did it, but after I explained to her that I didn’t want to make any unnecessary assumptions, she nodded and accepted the report.
“I’m going to bed,” John said.
He had plans to go to bed. If it were me, I would be scrambling to be sure all points were covered before tomorrow. He had ideas about sleep.
I nodded, smiled, and walked in the direction of the food room. I needed something to eat, but what, I had no idea. None of the pictures looked appetizing. I opted for a cup of stew and hoped for the best.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I switched side to side until I got up and started thinking. I must’ve missed something. You don’t defy orders. He had the responsibility to find out what took place. How could you accomplish that sleeping?
I walked to the central computer. “Alpha Omega 3-5-3. Show me—” No. That wouldn’t be right. I turned it off and walked away. If he wanted me to know what happened, he would tell me.
The next morning, about four pots of a caffeine boost went into my body. Shocked that dents didn’t appear in the walls, the thought of walking around came to mind. With my luck, I’d get lost.
I turned on my computer in the hopes of getting something done. Not being on the central system allowed me room to make a lot of mistakes and theories without being looked at. I opened the To Be Refined file when John walked in.
“I don’t know. I just don’t. You. Her. The both of you got something up your stinkin’ ass that I don’t know anything about. I’m done. You realize, I studied to become a designer of virtual worlds. All of this was her idea. Not mine.” He walked out.
Before anything could be suggested he left. Commander Atterwack should have been notified, but I didn’t. What was she going to do? Thoughts about what he yelled ran through my mind.
It could’ve been exhaustion, but it only took a couple minutes before nothing made sense. That was my cue to get some slumber.
Something kept bothering me so sleep didn’t come. Didn’t Ol’ Mr. Sandman want to return from vacation? Of course not. Stupid question.
John yelled that he studied to create virtual worlds. That took a lot of study under a collection of different categories. Maybe he worked on the report the wrong way. Quick fix to this problem, work on it from his perspective.
Not sure how long it would be before I collapsed on the floor sleeping, I vidcommed him. He answered on the fifth ring. “What?”
“Hello to you too,” I said, as I tried to listen to what that background noise was. “I’m going to make this short. Maybe—”
My door opened and he walked in. “What?”
I didn’t ask. “Maybe you’re going about this from the wrong perspective.”
“What other perspective? There is no other perspective. If she didn’t—”
“Hold on before you talk about a murder plot out loud. Sit and listen.”
What did he do? He sat on the floor with his legs crossed and looked up at me. Wouldn’t a reasonable adult find a chair? He could have the chair to the right him instead of sitting on the floor.
“Anyway, you mentioned you wanted to produce virtual worlds. With that education, you can identify holes and come up with a feasible plan to help solve that issue. All the information you require is inside the central computer. That will give you all the info you need to build a world that this history is all about and create a world that possible solution could help fix. With a lot of work and creativity, you can do this. You’re twenty-five years old. Be an adult and do your work dammit.”
He stood up and left the room. No bye, no thanks, he up and left. Before my mind packed a bag and left my brain, I went back to bed. Sleep or no sleep.
The next thing I knew, someone patted my shoulder. “Hey, wake up. Will you wake up? Cat!”
I sat up. “John? Why are you waking me up in the middle of the night?”
“It’s thirteen-thirty. Anyway, I did it. I turned them in and she loved them. She told me she was proud. We did it.”
Huh? Wait… “Oh. Congratulations. See, you could do it. Why don’t you go and get what’s his name and celebrate?”
“I’m going now.” He waved me towards the door.
“I’ve got a few things to do.” One of which will cause me to do something I hadn’t done since I was five.
“Oh. I’ll wait.” He sat on the floor.
He and that floor. I swear, there had to be a story about that. I didn’t have time to figure that out and walked as fast as possible to the wet room.
Sure enough, he still sat there when I emerged. “I didn’t know you would be here.”
“Hey, why don’t we go to the Third Tower? They’re supposed to have that new place. Can’t wait to try it. And she said, I could create my own team. Oh man, I can’t believe this really happened. I’m so excited right now.”
He had the biggest smile on his face, not that he didn’t earn it. It had to be good if he got that kind of praise from her. Well, maybe a little while wouldn’t hurt anything. Everybody needed a chance to have fun. I’ll work later.
Work later? Did I think that? Oh no. maybe if I bribed the health center director he would give me a stay-awake shot or something similar to help me get that report done.
He walked ministeps in place. “Well, Cat?”
“Are we going?”
“I guess. And the name’s Caitlin.”
“Right.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me behind him as we went out to celebrate. I’ll make an entry later about the experience.
Please visit Calliope’s blog at https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog