How We Got Time Travel (But Ended Up Losing Sex)Kenneth Buckley
The music coming from inside the frat house was loud. The bass pulsated with such force that it shook the windows outside. Unfortunately, the skinny, bushy-haired, wild-eyed young man sitting behind the shrubs had left his only pair of ear plugs at home. And unfortunately, he couldn't just run home to get them. Because home was fifteen years away.
To say that this man's mission was important was an understatement, a big time understatement. Therefore, Kane Danforth knew he would eventually have to risk permanent hearing loss and go inside to the party. Once inside, he would seek out his accomplice. She didn't have to be beautiful. Kane knew that a homely girl would be able to carry out his plan just fine.
Kane knew he shouldn't waste time trying for the pretty girl that he couldn't get. A time travel mishap in the future could occur at any moment, rupturing the space-time-continuum. And this event would do nothing less than destroy the entire universe.
Kane Danforth didn't want that to happen. He knew that for the sake of billions of Earth citizens, past, present, and future, he should simply execute what he called a "surgical strike": quickly locate the homeliest girl he could fine--even a tubby girl with buckteeth and neck hair--and pick her up. With that accomplished, Kane would convince the troll to accompany him to the future. Then he could execute his brilliantly simple plan to liberate the world from the madness of time travel.
The surgical strike would have been the responsible thing to do and Kane had always been a responsible guy. But for some reason, he found himself sitting outside a Nu Pi Alpha party. Kane knew there wouldn't be any homely girls here. Because a Nu Pi bash was "nuttin' but fine bitches." At least that's what all the guys at school used to say.
Kane knew all this because Nu Pi Alpha was a frat house at his old college, Holy Ghost Tech. Kane remembered his college days well, but not fondly. His most pleasant memories involved working problem sets in the library and reading issues of Fangoria in his dorm room. Those were the comfortable times.
Of course, Kane did find enough time between quantum physics equations and Pinhead fold-outs to attend a few parties. But whenever he tried to meet girls there, he was always rejected and humiliated.
Kane experienced his worst party misadventure the first semester of his sophomore year. The incident occurred at the annual Alpha Delta Iota margarita party held in between the end of classes and the start of final exams. Kane went to the sorority house for a short study break, but found it impossible to take his mind off of finals. Even as he waited in line for his drink, quantum physics equations raced through his head. Kane was too tense to talk to anyone, but way too restless to do nothing. So he channeled all his nervous energy into chugging margaritas. An infrequent drinker, Kane consumed two margaritas in just under five minutes. He had just finished the second when he noticed two enticing girls in miniskirts standing in the corner. Quantum physics instantly evaporated from his mind.
One of the girls was a cute blonde with long, tan legs. The second girl was also tan, with reddish-brown hair and a face that sprinkled just enough freckles to make her exotic. Kane recognized the duo as freshman tennis players--the top ranked doubles team in the conference.
The margaritas and a lack of sleep combined to stir Kane's imagination. He remembered learning in his intro psychology class that stressful situations often produced deviant behavior. Kane theorized that since the girls were freshman experiencing the turbulence of college finals for the very first time, they were even more susceptible to the pressure, to do things they wouldn't normally do. It was a rare opportunity.
Kane went up to the girls, and introduced himself. The freckle faced girl was named Holly and the blonde was Melissa. Kane asked them his standard opener about what classes they were taking. He was fully prepared to next offer his "finals survival tips," but upon learning that Holly was taking French instead of the typical Spanish, he decided to steer the conversation in an entirely different direction.
For once, the courseload question had worked! Finally, it had given him an opening. Not much of one, but then again all Kane Danforth ever wanted was a shot. "You know, some guys say that French is a 'wuss' language," Kane commented, "but I totally disagree. I don't really know any French, but I've always thought it sounded really beautiful. Especially this one word I keep hearing a lot."
"Oh yeah, what's that?" Holly asked. .
"Menage a trois," he stated flatly, subtly raising his eyebrows.
Holly hissed in disgust while Melissa rolled her eyes and shook her head.
"What? Is that a bad word or something?" Kane asked innocently.
The tennis partners looked at each other for a moment, then Holly threw her margarita on him. As Kane stood there, his eyes burning and his vision blurred by the salt, Melissa drew back and slapped him so hard that she left a hand-print on his face.
It was very demoralizing.
Still, Kane took some consolation in the fact that his instincts had been correct. The girls' display of coordinated synergy was quite impressive. Male intuition told him that this was exactly the sort of thing to look for when recruiting for three-way.
Another degrading experience was the time Kane attempted to go to a Nu Pi party, just to see what it was like. He didn't even get in. A short, stocky Nu Pi answered the door and looked Kane over, and said, "You don't look like no fine bitch to me." Then he slammed the door in Kane's face.
And now, the "ugly duckling" had returned to the scene of the crime. Time travel had become an instrument of oppression back in his "Home Time," and Kane cursed it every day. But now it provided him this opportunity for sexual redemption.
Time travel had also presented him with the opportunity to save the entire universe, a chance to be the biggest hero ever. He didn't have to mow down hundreds of men with an AK or disarm a nuclear weapon. He just had to seduce a beautiful co-ed.
Kane began preparing for the party several weeks in advance. He started by rehearsing some stale pick-up lines, but he questioned their effectiveness almost immediately. He was badly out of practice, and even before sex was banned in his Home Time, pick-up lines never worked for him anyway. Reluctantly, Kane decided that his best hope was simply to tell the truth. The problem was, the truth would sound like the biggest pile of bullshit ever. In order to be successful, Kane felt he had to become a master story teller. The only way he knew to master anything was through disciplined, methodical preparation.
Kane started by making an outline. The outline evolved into a stack of index cards four inches thick. Every day after work, Kane spent several hours learning the cards. By memorizing every phrase he planned to use, Kane eliminated any need for improvisation.
Next, Kane practiced his presentation. After polishing his delivery to near-perfection, he finally felt ready to tell his incredible story.
In addition to mastering his story, Kane also felt it was absolutely essential for him to make his tail compelling. That's why his party preparation also included "stuffing" the back of his boxers with toilet paper.
Sure stuffing was humiliating, but Kane had once read a Vogue article that said that girls were really into guys asses. And he really needed this score. Not just for his sake, but for the entire universe.
At first, Kane wasn't quite sure how to go about stuffing his boxers. He knew he needed something to hold the padding in place, but he didn't want removing the stuffing to feel like ripping a giant Band-Aid off his ass. He thought there were certain types of medical tape that were "stick resistant," but he didn't knew much about them. Fortunately, Kane's local pharmacist, Mr. Willoughby, gave him some very good advice on this critical purchase decision.
On the night he was to attend the party, Kane took out the medical tape, some quilted Charmin, and his favorite purple boxers. To provide firmness to his stuffing, Kane wrapped a wad of toilet paper in several layers of tape and sculpted it into a small mound. He then constructed a second mound and attached one in each side of his boxers.
Kane carefully slipped on the modified boxers and hurried into the bathroom. After several moments of looking at himself in the mirror, Kane decided to apply some additional tape to his upper legs to insure that the stuffing stayed in place.
Kane nodded at his reflection with satisfaction. The stuffing not only added size, but he felt it also made his buttocks more prominent by improving their trajectory; in other words, it made his tail a little taller. The symmetry wasn't bad either, though Kane eventually decided to add a little more padding to the left side to achieve absolute equality.
Kane ran his hands over the outside of his boxers then squeezed the stuffing several times. It felt firm but flexible, and Kane doubted that anything less than a thorough examination would expose his disturbing secret.
Kane dubbed his invention "Miracle Ass."
Once Kane was fully satisfied with his stuff job, he remained in front of the mirror so that he could practice his story one last time. He read at a brisk yet comfortable pace and timed his dress rehearsal at forty-nine minutes.
Despite the length of his pick-up story, Kane felt that its completion was critical. He believed that building up to the heroic conclusion maximized his potential to achieve his goal. In Kane's mind, completion of the story practically guaranteed a successful mission.
Kane felt ready. He believed in the story's power. All he needed now was the ear of a beautiful girl.
After several minutes of meditation outside the frat house, Kane finally felt sufficiently psyched. He uncurled out of his hiding place behind the bushes and sprung to his feet.
Kane brushed the leaves off his clothes and moved toward the house. There were dozens of people approaching the front door. As he joined the crowd, Kane said a quick silent prayer about his stuffing not drooping, then another about not suffering permanent hearing loss.
Kane followed the crowd toward the door. When he got there he was surprised to see there wasn't a single thuggish Nu Pi to prevent him from going in. It was incredible. Apparently, Kane had traveled all the way back to the time when Nu Pi parties were open to everyone!
Kane wondered what else was different. He quickly recognized that it was not the quality of the women. As Kane squirmed through the house's jam-packed front parlor, he finally was able to confirm the Nu Pi party legend. In other words, he saw nothing but fine chics.
Kane noticed several women with the right stuff for his mission, but he wasn't able to approach any of them. Since the crowd coming in behind him kept pushing him forward, he could only smile at these lovely ladies as he passed them by.
As Kane was forced deeper and deeper inside the stuffy frat house, he felt perspiration begin to leak from his forehead and arm-pits. The people around him were sweating too, and the mixture of strong smells--perfume and cologne and and sweat and beer--almost made him sick. Still, Kane plodded forward. It was almost like he was caught in a wave and the only thing he could do was wait for it to wash him ashore.
Finally, Kane was swept to the right side of the parlor and a card-table stacked with rows of plastic cups from fast-food restaurants. He disengaged himself from the swarm, and perused the selection. He settled on a gigantic Aquaman cup that depicted the superhero with a five o'clock shadow beard, a flowing blonde mane, and a massive upper body. He was wrestling a giant squid.
Kane preferred the more traditional, cerebral Aquaman, who relied not on brute strength, but on aquatic telepathy, but this cup was the actually coolest one left. All the rest were either little kid cartoons like the The Lion King or Holy Ghost football cups.
Aquaman cup in hand, Kane started maneuvering his way toward the back of the house. He had a hunch that was where he'd find the keg.
"Bull's-eye," Kane announced under his breath walked into a huge kitchen and saw the keg line. He attempted to join the line, but soon realized that it wasn't a line at all, but a shapeless mob. Although Kane wasn't very comfortable in this disorganized environment, but he knew that his only realistic chance to complete his mission was to get completely drunk.
Kane moved in towards the keg. The kegmeister was a bleach- blonde, buzz-cut Nu Pi with hoop ear-rings in both ears. Apparently his nickname was "Gizmo" since that's what everyone in line screamed at the top of their lungs whenever he finished filling a cup.
Kane quickly recognized that Gizmo's beer distribution pattern was both arbitrary and subjective. Time spent in line had no bearing on when people received their brew. While hot chics and Nu Pis bullied their way through the line and were immediately served, the other party guests were expected to patiently await their turn.
Kane's mission didn't afford him that luxury. Fortunately, he did notice that while Gizmo clearly served good-looking women and his Nu Pi buddies first, the next most likely candidates were those who pushed through the line and moved their cups closest to the spot where Gizmo held the tap.
Kane didn't like the implications of his observation. He resisted the idea of perpetuating such barbarianism, but he quickly reminded himself that the whole universe was counting on him. As a man of science, Kane was quite familiar with the Darwinist mantra "survival of the fittest." For the first time in his life, he prepared to embrace the primitive mindset that this slogan demanded.
Kane extended his pointy elbows and jostled for position. As he strained to reach his left arm towards the kegmeister, a big-breasted blonde clumsily crashed against him, sending him hurtling from the keg. Determined, Kane shook off the blow and got back in line. He nudged the blonde back to try to regain his place, but without ever looking at him, she elbowed him solidly in the ribs.
Kane gasped for air and clutched his side, but the room was so crowded and the music so loud that no one noticed. He felt dizzy and was sure that he would pass out, and that when he did the partyers would simply assume he was passed out drunk and step around him. He needed air. He needed water. Desperate and disoriented, Kane lowered his shoulder and pushed his way out of the line and over towards the kitchen sink. He filled his Aquaman cup, took a big drink, and coughed in relief. He guzzled the rest of the water, then refilled his cup and moved away from the sink.
The water helped, but what Kane really wanted was some fresh air. On his way over to the sink he'd passed by a door that looked like it might lead to the outside. Kane forced his way over to the door and opened it. To his great disappointment, he found himself standing at the edge of a crowded back yard.
Kane sighed deeply. He was very frustrated with his mission's progress. He had been at this party for almost fifteen minutes and had yet to obtain a single drop of beer or make contact with a single girl, not even a homely one. Now he simply wanted a few minutes away from the crowd but he couldn't even get that.
Kane considered going back through the house and out the front door for some quiet time, but that seemed like a waste of energy. Instead he leaned up against the house, smoothly sipping his water as he surveyed his new surroundings.
The yard was roughly the size of a full length basketball court and was surrounded by a picket fence. There were several trees in the in the yard: a pair of elms near the house, a sweet gum tree in the middle of the yard, a maple in the rear left corner, and a stately oak opposite the maple. Kane appreciated the fact that the trees' leaves had turned bright shades of orange and yellow. Fall had always been his favorite time of year.
The party-people in the yard were casually dressed for the most part; jeans and T-shirts were common, but there were some guys in slacks and a few girls wearing party dresses. The green jerseys of the Nu Pis were scattered about the crowd, and for the first time Kane noticed an eerie similarity in the Nu Pis' appearance. It seemed that the Nu Pis were almost all short, stocky, barrel-chested little guys. They looked like a tribe of steroid-shooting horse jockeys.
While these barrel-chested little frat boys formed the most prominent group at the party, barrel-chested little honeys were a close second. For all the sultry ladies inside the house, there were clearly more hotties per capita out in the yard.
The yard was the most fertile ground for beautiful co-eds that Kane could ever hope for. He simply had to get one to listen to him.
Kane wasn't sure if he could do that, but at least getting a girl to hear him was now possible. The high decibel music inside the house was now in the background, partially drowned out by the buzz of drunken voices.
The yard was still loud, and crowded, but after the hard lessons of the keg line, Kane considered it a sanctuary. As a warm breeze rustled the branches of the trees and sent leaves swirling to the ground, he felt a wave of tranquillity sweep over him. Despite the tremendous pressure of his mission, for that one moment Kane allowed himself to completely relax. That moment ended quickly.
Kane was scanning the yard for potential targets when his eyes locked on a girl standing beside the maple tree in the back left corner of the yard. He tried his best not to stare, but couldn't resist. His search was over. Kane knew this was the girl he had to seduce, and this realization sent butterflies swirling through his stomach.
She was about 5'6" with wavy brown hair that went down just past her shoulders. The clothes she wore were ordinary--stone washed blue jeans and a bright turquoise T-shirt--but they looked like they had been custom made for the contours of her body. Kane found himself especially drawn to the way that this girl's tight T-shirt accentuated her ample bosom.
Unfortunately, this beauty was talking to a Nu Pi who resembled a midget rugby player.
Normally that obstacle would have commanded Kane to surrender and move on. But he couldn't take his eyes off her. Her curvy build was thick yet lean, and very nearly met Kane's standard for physical perfection. It was her smile though, that told Kane that she was special. She radiated a kind of purity. Not a virginal purity really, but a purity of the soul. Kane could tell that this was a beautiful girl, and not some "fine bitch." And he knew she would hear him out, if only he could get her away from the midget rugby player.
Kane was way too tense to figure out how to do that. He needed a plan and he already knew where the plan must begin. He didn't like it one bit, but there was no other way. He had to go back inside the frat house.
Kane knew he had to go get back in the keg-line and hold his position until he got himself a full thirty-two ounces of second-rate beer. Once he downed about half of it, he was certain he'd be able to think up a diversion to remove the midget rugby player from his objective's side. It would be a challenge, but Kane just knew he'd come up with something once the beer kicked in.
Kane started back to the door, when suddenly, he noticed the midget rugby player walk away from his objective. Shit, Kane thought, this is it. There was no telling how long the midget rugby player might be detained, so there was no time for the keg line. Kane had to move now. He had to carry out his mission completely sober.
This realization sent his heart racing and actually made him shiver slightly in spite of the unseasonably warm night air. Kane took a big swill of water, then he made his approach.
He didn't walk directly toward her. This was intentional. He knew that if she saw him coming, it would give her time to walk away. So Kane took a winding path, ducking around and crouching behind some of the taller and broader Nu Pis in the yard. Finally, when he got to within about fifteen feet of the girl, he stood up straight and allowed himself to make eye contact. To his surprise, the girl smiled at him. Kane awkwardly smiled back.
"Hi. Uh, what's your name?" Kane asked.
"I'm Tyler," she responded, shaking his hand. She had a friendly voice tinged with a southern accent. "Tyler Lynn Causewell," she announced playfully. "What's yours?"
"Uh, Kane. Kane Danforth."
"You don't look like a Kane," she observed, saying exactly what she thought. Kane seemed to her like a debonair sounding name, but she thought this Kane was a lanky, long-necked, freaky-looking guy who just a minute ago was sneaking around the yard like a little kid playing secret-agent. She immediately noticed that his big, bushy, brown hair grew into a point in the middle and looked way too big for his skinny face. She decided, however, that he was fairly well-dressed in a blue and white pullover and a pair of jeans that seemed to fit nicely. Tyler also conceded to herself that his big, brown, puppy-dog eyes that were at least slightly cute.
"That's what people tell me." Kane finally responded, "that I don't look like a Kane." He swayed nervously for a moment before he realized what he was doing and steadied himself. "Uh, Tyler, you probably hear this a lot. But the difference is, I really mean it," he said, raising his eye brows and looking very serious. "And if you tune me out right now, you'll be committing a catastrophic error in judgment."
Kane paused again, this time for dramatic effect, then made his announcement. "I am a visitor from the future. That's not just a line, it's the God's honest truth."
"You're a visitor from the future, huh? Well, it's been at least a couple of months since I heard that one." Tyler paused to sip her beer. "Well, go on. I want to at least see where you're going with this."
"Yes, well, as I was saying, I am a visitor from the future. And I have come here today because trillions of lives are at stake."
"Yes. Trillions." Kane took a big gulp of water from his cup. "And this is my story.
"You may not believe me, but you owe it to humanity to hear me out. After I have completed my presentation, you can decide whether or not my words ring true. I'll try to keep this as brief as possible. After all, a hole could be blown in the space-time-continuum at any second," Kane warned, thrusting his fists out from his chest to emphasize this point.
Despite the fact that Kane nearly clocked her in the face and actually did spill some water on her shirt, Tyler didn't walk away. She just smiled. She was amused by his theatrics, especially the way his eyebrows danced up and down. "That sounds like that could be a bad thing," Tyler observed. She decided she'd sit back and enjoy Kane's performance until Ronnie, the Nu Pi she'd been seeing, returned from his beer run.
"Yes, the worst thing," Kane replied. "The worst possible thing. And it's all so unnecessary. You see, we didn't ask for time travel. We just got it. They say this is 'progress.' In a sense they're right. We couldn't travel through time before, and now we can, so in that sense, I guess time travel is progress," he sneered. "I just wish progress didn't come at such a high price, with such painful side effects. You see, my Home Time is a very repressive place.
Tyler yawned and stretched, arching her back in a manner that practically catapulted her plump breasts into Kane's face. "Sorry, it's been a long day," she apologized. "Go on," she encouraged.
Awed by Tyler's display, it took Kane a moment to regain his composure. He took a deep breath, wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead, and gulped another drink of water. Only then did he resume his story. "It all happened so fast," he went on. "For a long time, every reasonable person believed that time travel was theoretically impossible. There was no scientific evidence to suggest otherwise. So when they learned about the secrets of time travel, no one was prepared for it. They never gave us a chance. They integrated time travel into society before we knew what hit us."
"Okay," Tyler asked. "Who are they?"
"The Time Travel Fat Cats," Kane replied matter-of-factly. "They didn't have anything to do with figuring time travel out. They were just the rich investors that bought up all the stock in time travel once they realized that they could make money off it. I'll get to them in a second."
"So how does time travel work?" Tyler asked with a smile. She thought he was a strange looking man with a strange approach but she found herself strangely intrigued by his "Mr. Intensity Act."
"The technical explanation would only bore you," Kane replied. "Let me just say that time travel has something to do with particle acceleration and the production of self-contained pools of anti-matter. But who cares how it works? I mean, I admire your curiosity, but the point is time travel has arrived, at least in my time anyway. And so much has changed. For the worst.
"Up until recently, the center of the scientific community declared that time travel was impossible. All the mainstream physicists took every opportunity to ridicule anyone who disagreed. In these 'Mainstreamer's' minds, the pursuit of time travel was pure folly. But there were many brilliant thinkers who believed otherwise."
Kane conveniently left out the fact that he was one of these brilliant thinkers. He had decided that he would reveal that later.
"This fringe group didn't appear so brilliant to the average observer," Kane continued. He was starting to speak quickly now. Despite the fact that he was beginning to feel more comfortable around Tyler, he was so excited to finally have the chance to tell his story that his enthusiasm caused him to string his words together in a rhythmic, staccato flow. "The Fringe members were typically crazy-eyed and wild haired, and most lacked basic social skills. But they were focused. And they were motivated by an intense desire to prove their doubters wrong. They saw themselves as the truly enlightened. In their minds, the masses were trapped in a belief that was akin to people in the 15th century insisting that the World was flat. And they wanted, no they needed, to prove the masses wrong.
"But the Fringe merely wanted to prove that time travel was possible," Kane continued. "They weren't convinced that there was any good reason to actually attempt it."
"Uh-huh," Tyler nodded dubiously.
"It was the Fringe who made the first critical leaps in time-travel theory. They lacked the burdens of respect credibility, so they had nothing to lose. So they tried things, crazy things, like creative variations on standard particle acceleration and anti-matter experiments. They often attempted ludicrous experiments that obtained ludicrous results. They usually were rewarded with even more ridicule (anti-matter experimentation has a way of making one look rather silly.) But the scorn of the Mainstreamers only encouraged them to work harder and focus more intensely. So they did.
"The Fringe was fortunate enough to have their very own particle super-collider. So they spent a lot of time on particle acceleration. These driven men accelerated gobs of particles. And they accelerated these particles faster and harder than they had ever been accelerated before."
Tyler saw an opportunity to stir things up. "Mmmm," she said in her best phone-sex voice. "that sounds like a hot, sweaty job."
"Yes. Yes, it was. Particle acceleration can be very hard work. And very hot. And sweaty too." Flustered, Kane swallowed and ran his left hand nervously through his hair. "Where was I? Oh yes. Because, of these particle acceleration experiments, the Fringe learned a lot of interesting things about anti-matter. They eventually achieved the unthinkable, developing a technique to create anti-matter clusters, at a macroscopic level no less," Kane gushed. "With this quantum leap, no pun intended, it became clear that time travel was at least theoretically possible.
"The Fringe proudly announced the results of their work at a Star Trek convention. I thought it seemed a little inappropriate, given the magnitude of their achievement, but a lot of the guys were really big fans of the show. Anyway, the mainstream media picked up the story immediately, and the Fringe guys were hailed as 'science gods.' The consensus was that unless somebody discovered a cure for cancer or something, then The Fringe were shoe-ins for the Nobel that year. After all those years of getting dissed, the Fringe finally tasted the sweet nectar of redemption."
"I'll bet those 'Streamliner' guys felt pretty stupid," Tyler observed, playing along half-heartedly. At first she thought the story was a pretty cool idea, but she was growing tired of Kane's dead-serious approach. She glanced at her watch and wondered what was taking Ronnie so long.
"Oh yeah. The mainstream scientific community was stunned. At first the Mainstreamer's were in denial and attempted to refute the Fringe's results, but they just ended up looking foolish. Eventually they accepted the truth: the most hoaky of all science fiction inventions was apparently attainable after all.
"Embarrassed by the fact that they had been over-shadowed by a rag-tag collection of misfits--"
Kane stopped as he felt a thump on the back of his neck. "Hey asshole, what do you think you're doin'?" a harsh voice behind him demanded.
Oh shit, Kane thought. Even before he turned around, he knew it was the midget rugby player.
"Ronnie leave him alone," Tyler warned. "We're just talking for God's sake."
"Well, I'm back, so 'Twigasaurus' can take a hike."
Kane turned and looked down at the midget rugby player. Ronnie was about 5'7", with pale blue eyes, and short black hair that he parted in the middle. He was powerfully built, so taking him out wouldn't be easy, especially with dozens of his Nu Pi buddies nearby. No, Kane told himself. He knew his considerable diplomatic skills provided the best means to extricate himself from this tense situation.
"With all due respect sir, we weren't finished with our conversation just yet," Kane announced in a pleasant voice.
"Yeah you are," Ronnie countered, moving Kane aside.
Kane started to tell Ronnie how reckless his actions were vis-à-vis the space-time-continuum, but then realized the inebriated midget rugby player just wouldn't get it.
"I'm sorry," Kane said, stepping back in front of Ronnie, "but this is kinda important here, Ron."
"Dude, step off or I'm just gonna knock you out."
"Ronnie leave him alone," Tyler demanded. "He's right. We're not finished." She didn't appreciate Ronnie bullying Kane, but she was infuriated by this indication that Ronnie thought he could control who she talked to.
"What? Aw, come on Tyler. You can't be serious." Ronnie shook his head and smiled at her, but Tyler answered with a cold stare. "Alright, fine," Ronnie said, overselling his acquiescence with an exaggerated nod. "You want me to let you finish? I can do that. I'll just go inside and catch up with some people and I'll come back in about five minutes."
"No," Tyler said flatly. "He gets to finish his story whether it takes five minutes or not."
"Actually, it's gonna be more like an hour," Kane interjected.
With that Ronnie stepped forward and poked Kane in the chest. "That's it smart-ass, your time's up now." Ronnie gave Kane a hard shove that knocked him up against the maple tree. While Kane was thankful that his big-hair padded the blow, the midget rugby player was really starting to piss him off.
"Goddamnit Ronnie!" Tyler screamed.
Suddenly, two burly Nu Pis rushed up to...the rescue? They pulled Ronnie away from Kane. "Take it easy brah," the taller one cautioned. This frat boy was about 5'11'', practically a giant by Nu Pi standards. "It's not worth it," the tall Nu Pi counseled.
"This goofy fucker's trying to cock-block me," Ronnie protested. "He's tryin' to take my lady."
"Your lady?" Tyler asked incredulously. "I'm not your fucking property. Hell, we aren't even going steady, you dick! We're just 'dating,' or 'seeing each other.' Not any fucking more though."
"You're full of shit Tyler. We were so going steady!" Ronnie screamed. He lunged at Kane again, but the other Nu Pi's pulled him away.
"Come on, Ronnie let's go before you do any more damage here," the shorter Nu Pi advised as he led Ronnie away.
"He's just drunk Tyler," the tall Nu Pi offered.
"No he's just an asshole!" Tyler yelled as the Nu Pis led Ronnie away.
"You alright?" Tyler asked Kane.
He nodded. "Yeah, I'm cool," Kane replied nonchalantly.
"God, I've never seen him act like that. What a fucking animal." She sighed "Your story, it isn't really going to take another hour is it? You were just being a smart-ass, right?"
"Yeah, just being a smart-ass," he lied.
Even if Kane had told the truth, it probably wouldn't have mattered. Tyler felt so ashamed by Ronnie's outburst that she was now determined to let Kane finish, despite what anyone else at the party might think. "So where'd you leave off?" she asked. "Weren't you saying something about the Mainstreamers?"
"Yes," Kane replied as he ran his fingers through his head to check for bruises. Unable to find any, he took another drink and resumed his tale. "Embarrassed by the fact that they had been over-shadowed by a rag-tag collection of misfits, the Mainstreamers became determined that they be the ones to make the next advances in time travel science. Unaware that the Fringe had no intention of actually attempting to time travel, the Mainstreamers put a lot of pressure on themselves. They became obsessed with beating The Fringe. The Mainstreamers felt they had to move fast or else be completely shut out of the greatest discovery ever. So they did.
"Of course they had lots of help. There were men who watched this whole process unfold. They didn't know much about science, but they knew a lot about making money."
"The Time Travel Fat Cats?" Tyler asked enthusiastically.
"Yes, The Time Travel Fat Cats," Kane responded, pleasantly surprised to see her following along. "These cold-blooded opportunists enthusiastically backed the Mainstreamers' efforts to make time travel a reality," he continued. "These 'Fat Cat' entrepreneurs recognized time travel as an economic progression. In their eyes, economic progress was the only kind of progress that mattered.
"Where it had taken The Fringe years to prove that time travel was theoretically possible, the Mainstreamers reached the threshold of actually being able to do it within a few months. Of course, this process was simplified by the state-of-the-art labs and lab equipment that were graciously donated by the Fat Cats.
"The hard work had been done. Now it was mostly a matter of repetition and tinkering. Reducing time travel to a mathematical equation was just a matter of time.
"The Fringe had learned how to create anti-matter clusters. The next great leap in time travel technology was "doing" what this discovery had implied was possible: creating black holes. Eventually, the Mainstreamers believed that black holes would act as portals to other times."
"I see." Tyler playfully mimicked Kane's intense facial expression but he was too focused on his presentation to notice.
"Of course there was one major problem with the manufacture of these artificial black holes: 'containment.' Containment was critical. Without it, the black holes would just suck up people and expensive lab equipment. This possibility terrified everyone, even the Fat Cats, who recognized that any time machine model that sucked up stuff would not be profitable."
"Duh. That's the most back rule in marketing," Tyler proclaimed. "Anything that sucks just loses money. See, I'm a business major." Tyler smiled but Kane shot her an agonized look. It surprised her that he was still taking himself so seriously, but she enjoyed a good gag, so she decided to play along. "Oh, I'm sorry," she apologized. "Go on. Please."
While infatuated with this girl, Kane was somewhat concerned by her cavalier attitude. Nevertheless, he continued in his attempt to simultaneously win her heart and save the universe.
"At this point," Kane went on, "the experiments conducted dealt with explosive energy. And the risks that had to be taken weren't merely theoretical. The Fat Cats needed time travel test pilots to conduct real-life time travel experiments.
"The first time travel test pilots the Mainstreamers used were monkeys. These brave little pioneers were usually imploded or else lost in time, never to be heard from again. Let me tell you, the animal rights activists were pissed. But eventually, the Mainstreamer's got the hang of it. They got to where they could send a monkey to a precise time and place and bring him back, all in on piece.
"People were next. Sending a human through time wasn't the same as sending a monkey. You see, humans have more body weight, and a slightly different chemical composition. So the Mainstreamer's really had no idea what might happen to human time travelers.
"The Time Travel Fat Cats recruited volunteers. These volunteers were told of the incredible danger involved. So of course, they were very well compensated.
"For the first couple of months, the same problems that plagued the first monkey tests plagued the humans. There were lots of implosions and tons of 'misplacements.' Many men were lost."
"Just men?" Tyler half-demanded.
"Well, I guess there would have been some women," Kane began, before pausing to ritualistically cracking his knuckles, "if the Time Travel Fat Cats hadn't been such chauvinist pigs."
"Right," Tyler nodded, holding back a smile.
"Now, these time travel test pilots were mostly adrenalin junkie daredevils with big debts. But many good family men were lost too. At the time, their deaths seemed inconsequential. Most people believed that once the techniques of time travel were perfected, someone would travel back in time, correct the fatal experiments, and effectively resurrect the dead test pilots."
"You know, we were just discussing that issue in philosophy the other day," Tyler chimed in. "Whether or not it was ethical to resurrect people through the means of time travel. I've always been against that stuff myself," she continued. "I can still remember going to see the first Superman movie when I was a little kid and getting really mad and having to stand up and boo at the end. I remember my mom tried to smack me, but that didn't work. I was a little too committed for that."
"I'm sorry, I'm not sure I know what you're talking about," Kane complained.
"You know, the part when Superman flies around the Earth real fast so he can go back in time and save Lois? What a bunch of bullshit!" she argued. "Who would go to all that trouble to save Margo freakin' Kidder? Talk about fugly. Terri Hatcher, of course I could see that, but Margo Kidder? My God, like gag me with an ice cream scoop why don't you?
"But now I know better," Tyler continued. "I don't go see comic book movies, and I won't date guys that do. Because now I understand that comic book movies always have, always do, and always will suck. And you don't need to hop in some fucking time machine and travel to the end of time to figure that one out." Tyler caught herself. "Anyway, please continue with your story."
"Yes. Alright." Kane struggle for a moment to find his place. "You are right you know."
"About comic book movies?"
"No. Well, actually, yes, that too," Kane admitted, forgetting for a moment how much he loved Blade and the Conan movies. "But I was referring to the ethical issues involved with time travel resurrections," he continued. "Time travel resurrections did raise serious ethical questions. But the resurrections never happened. An organized ethical debate never even happened. Because of all the excitement generated by the prospect of time travel, the dead test pilots were soon forgotten by everyone, even their widows, who were living lavishly thanks to the blood-money settlements the Fat Cats paid them. Of course the Fat Cats forgot about the test pilots almost instantly, even though these courageous men helped make them trillions of dollars."
"Man, that's cold," Tyler observed.
"Yes. Very cold. Frigid in fact. Anyway, as the Mainstreamers rapidly approached fully fulfilled time travel, the Fringe cried foul. After all, they were the ones who took all of the theoretical risks and made the previously inconceivable leap that black holes could be contained. Now, it appeared that they would receive almost no financial gain or credit for their efforts. That their place in history for the greatest achievement ever would be as a mere footnote.
"So the mad scientists pooled their resources and did what any good underdog would do in their situation. They called up some lawyers and made an impassioned plea for government intervention. They argued 'Hasn't the Mainstream coalition stolen our ideas and violated our patent?' and 'Doesn't the Time Travel Fat Cats' imminent domination of the time travel industry constitute a monopoly?'
"It was a pathetic attempt at avoiding a humiliating defeat the hands of the Mainstreamers. But it worked. The Supreme Court said the Fringe guys were right."
"On what grounds?"
"You mean legally? I'm not really sure," Kane answered, picking at the lip of his cup. "But the court's decision was probably because the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was once a schoolyard bully who picked on those who were different and he felt this case was a chance for personal atonement. He argued so passionately on the Fringe's behalf that he got the rest of his benchmates to vote with him. That's how Inside Edition explained the verdict anyway. But who knows? The point is the court ruled in favor of the Fringe. They stepped in and broke the monopoly before it had even been created.
"And now, with the monopoly broken--"
"Hey, you ever play 'Strip Monopoly'?" Tyler smiled at him. She was now blatantly flirting with the bushy-haired, wild-eyed man. She figured what the hell? She could go home with a midget rugby player any time.
"Uh, no." Kane thought perhaps she was flirting with him but he wasn't sure. He was still feeling woozy from 'time lag,' from his trip, and its effects were a lot more severe than jet lag. It still should have been obvious, but sex had been banned in his Home Time. So Kane didn't have much practice at recognizing a woman's subtle indications. Or even the not-so-subtle ones.
Kane decided if Tyler was flirting with him, it was a good sign, but he had a lot of story to left tell before he wanted to make a move. He clung to his conviction that telling the whole story maximized his chances of a successful mission.
"Now as I was saying," Kane continued with a thrust of his hands, "with the monopoly broken, the federal judiciary had other decisions to make: Should they regulate the industry of time travel itself? Were federal safety standards necessary? And did the ethical issues of time travel need to be more fully debated?" Kane paused for a drink of water.
"So, did they debate the ethics of it?" Tyler asked.
"Oh, there was debate alright. But in the end, the government decided against any meaningful regulation. In fact, they pretty much decided not to do anything at all.
"It wasn't that time travel wasn't a big political issue." Kane said, rolling his neck and making a popping sound that caused Tyler to cringe. "It was a huge issue. Bitterly fought over by Congress. But since there was no clear-cut consensus on what the people wanted, the government just decided not to intervene."
"You see, the political debate was intense. Most of the liberals were against the legalization of time travel but also against government regulation if it was legalized."
"That doesn't make sense," Tyler complained. "How could you be anti-time travel on one hand, but also be anti-regulation?"
"Well, the liberals saw time travel as insanely dangerous," Kane explained matter-of-factly. "They figured either some time travel mishap would end up rupturing the space-time-continuum and destroy the universe, or that the federal government would somehow manipulate time travel to eliminate personal freedom. But the liberals saw government regulation as an inroad for the government to gain control of the technology, paving the way for this manipulation. So while they preferred time travel to remain illegal, they didn't want it to be government regulated if it were legalized.
"There was also a small liberal faction: the Nature People. They were these environmental zealots who were pro-time travel, anti-regulation."
"Why? What does time travel have to do with the environment?"
"Actually, the black hole production that time travel is predicated on is bad for the environment. Really bad. I mean, the emissions fuck the ozone all to hell. But the Nature People were willing to overlook this drawback. You see, the Nature People saw time travel as an opportunity for 'new life experiences.' They envisioned taking nature walks in American forests 20,000 years before Christ, crap like that. It seemed like a safe idea to them, since there wouldn't be any people to interact with, and they already knew all about nature preservation. They figured they'd go on their pre-historic nature walks, straighten up everything they disturbed, and return home feeling refreshed by the purity of it all. They didn't think this was dangerous in the least," he scoffed.
"So what did the Republicans think about time travel?" Tyler asked.
"Conservatives saw time travel as the single most insanely dangerous idea of all time. They figured that 'smart businessmen' might be able to run a time travel industry effectively, without endangering the fate of the universe, but they knew that government control would only screw things up. Actually, they conceded that the government would probably be just barely competent enough to use time travel technology to oppress the masses.
"Like the liberals, most conservatives didn't want to see any time travel at all. But they damned sure didn't want to see time travel regulated by the government, because they couldn't stand Big Government.
"But there was also a conservative faction, the SuperConservatives, who actually wanted time travel to be legalized. Not because they liked the idea of time travel, they thought it was reckless as hell, but because they hated Big Government with all their hearts."
"Wait, I don't get it," Tyler groaned. She found politics incredibly boring and was having enough trouble following the story even without the political stuff. She would have preferred to have been playing 'Strip Monopoly' by this point. Yet, she found herself stimulated by the challenge of forcing Kane to admit his story was bullshit.
"See, the SuperConservatives were sick and tired of Big Government intruding on their lives," Kane went on. "Even more sick than the average conservative. Physically sick. Nauseated. They knew that maybe this wasn't the best issue to fight this battle on, but by God, they had principles. And principles had to mean something. The SuperConservatives weren't about to sacrifice their ideals just because time travel was something that could destroy the universe. The way the SuperConservatives figured, it just wasn't the government's place to tell a man what he could and couldn't do with his time machine."
"Did everybody really know that time travel was something that could destroy the entire Universe?" Tyler asked.
"Oh yeah," Kane assured her. "It was obvious from the beginning. I mean, sure, the media was controlled by the Fat Cats' conglomerate, TTI--Time Travel Incorporated--so they manipulated the facts. The Fat Cats forced the media to downplay the danger and babble on about 'economic growth.' Said the time travel industry would create billions of new jobs. People loved hearing that stuff. But deep inside, everybody knew they were lying. I mean, I'm sure there were a few working drones who didn't recognize the danger, but anyone with any critical thinking skills whatsoever knew what the fuck was up.
"Anyway, the Nature People and the SuperConservative factions might have been small in number, but they sure knew how to raise ruckus. So they did. The way it worked out, the sane conservatives ended up arguing with the Nature People, while the sane liberals argued with the principled (but short-sighted) SuperConservatives. And these battles turned so intense, and got so personal that the whole ugly thing turned into partisan politics as usual.
"Character assassinations were rampant. We're talking political drive-bys here. All the Democrats and all the Republicans decided they better take up for their own. Their war got so intense that no one even noticed that all the reasonable people, whether conservative or liberal, agreed that allowing time travel to take place was the most stupendously idiotic idea ever.
"This chaotic environment proved to be very good for those who wanted time travel the most: the people who stood to profit from it." As Tyler watched Kane's mouth tighten, and his eye brows furrow, she started to become a little concerned that he actually believed what he was saying. "Even while these savagely intense debates were still taking place," Kane went on, "the Fat Cats were already contemplating all the ways to sell time travel.
"Like what?" Tyler asked cheerfully, attempting to lighten the mood.
Kane's intense expression didn't change. "They envisioned selling dream vacations to the future and class field trips to the past. They also figured the boys at the Pentagon would probably want the technology for something. But for the immediate future, the Time Travel Fat Cats saw time travel as something with a much more mundane application: Speeding up commute time."
"Yeah," Kane nodded. "The Fat Cats envisioned black hole expressways. Since the blackholes were gateways to other times, other dimensions really, they didn't take up much space. They could be installed right on top of existing roads. They would have automated toll booths that accepted time travel debit cards. Everyone would pay to use them. Because with time travel expressways, people could get to work the second they hit the on-ramp.
"The Fat Cats even figured that some of the more wealthy people might pay to have their own personal black hole portals installed in their front yards. Because who wouldn't want to get to work the second they stepped out the front door? There were just so many possibilities. Of course, the federal government recognized the opportunities as well.
"Hey, can you hold this?" Kane handed Tyler his cup. "I really need to use the bathroom." He was afraid to leave Tyler alone but he had held it as long as he could. After drinking all that water, he was feeling the pain.
"Sure," Tyler replied, taking his cup.
"You are going to be here when I get back aren't you?" Kane asked hopefully.
"That depends," Tyler replied cooly, "is your never-ending story just about done?"
"Yeah, just about," Kane lied as he headed off to the bathroom.
Kane's wait for the bathroom was reasonably short. The huge frat house was full of bathrooms and Kane found one upstairs with only four guys waiting in line. He took care of his business as quickly as possible and hurried back out to the yard.
Kane wasn't all that surprised to see Tyler in the same spot in the corner of the yard, but he was relieved to find that she was still alone. No guys were trying to hit on her. That was lucky.
Kane walked back up to Tyler and she handed him his cup. "Thanks," he said politely.
"So where were we?"
"In the story? Boy, you don't mess around. I was actually thinking maybe we could talk about something else for a while," he said with a big smile.
"Okay, what do you want to talk about?" Tyler offered.
He hadn't planned on that response. "Ah, well, maybe we should just get back to the story, it being so close to the end and all. I should probably just go ahead and finish it up. Where was I?"
"The federal government."
"Right, the federal government. The federal government had all kinds of devious plans for time travel technology," Kane continued. "Most of them involved the military. The Fat Cats had no way of knowing this, but all of the four stars down at the Pentagon were slobbering on themselves over the possibilities.
"Time travel created the possibility of the greatest military weapon of all time: do-overs. Lost battles could be fought over and over again until the four stars got them right. It would make war games kind of obsolete, so the guys who ran those things would lose their jobs, but who cared? The US military would never lose a war again.
"Certain members of the federal government wanted to implement a plan to take over the time travel industry, but not too quickly. They knew that their domination of the World would be far more complete if they were subtle and took their time and waited a little while to assume full control of time travel technology.
"But it never worked out that way. The Time Travel Fat Cats became so powerful so quickly, they almost became superior to the government. Before we knew it, the Fat Cats were above the law.
"Of course, the politicians in Washington couldn't have predicted this. But they probably wouldn't have cared too much anyway. Because as much as they coveted power, they were obsessed with the one obvious way that time travel would benefit them."
"Which was?" Tyler asked.
"Campaign finance. The government had no problem approving the legalization of time travel because the politicians knew that the super-rich entrepreneurs who controlled the technology would contribute heavily to their campaigns. So who cared if time travel blew a few holes in the universe? They figured that as long as they supported the time travel industry, the biggest industry ever, they'd remain in office. In their eyes, that job security was even better than power.
"So the fat cat politicians greased the wheels for the fat cat businessmen. They snuck the time travel bill through by making it an amendment to a crucial landfill zoning act. Time travel was officially legalized. And the sane responsible people were too busy arguing with mindless zealots to notice.
"With time travel legalized, the Fat Cats moved fast to get everything operational. Time travel instantly became a financial empire. Like I said before, these guys were above the law. The Time Travel Fat Cats might not have been the official government, but they called the shots. And they gradually became more and more ruthless."
"What about the monopoly busting?" Tyler asked. "What about the Supreme Court's decision?"
"The monopoly busting didn't really end up mattering too much. It really just meant that the Fat Cats had to hire the Fringe guys to work in their plants. With those mad scientists' innovative minds working for the Fat Cats' money and resources, the improvement of time travel technology was accelerated that much further. Soon, time travel wasn't just used for eliminating commute time. The vacations to the future and the nature walks in the past were getting approved too.
"Suddenly, there was a lot of time traffic. Too much. The sane, responsible people got scared, thought something bad might happen to their old friend the space-time-continuum." Kane snorted.
"A lot of the sane people stayed home from work and picketed time portals, but most of them enjoyed being liberated from long commutes too much to care. It didn't matter. The government wasn't about to intervene. The money was flowing like a flooded river. The Time Travel Fat Cats were now America's biggest campaign contributors."
"Even bigger than the Chinese?" Tyler asked incredulously.
"Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but yeah, even bigger than the Chinese," Kane nodded. "So the government wasn't about to step in. Holes in the universe or not.
"At first, everything went smoothly. People got to work the instant they left the house and there were no holes in the space-time-continuum. Life was good.
"But the Time Travel Fat Cats had to re-invest from the profits they made. It was a law of economics. And everyone knows," Kane added sarcastically, "that the laws of economics are far more absolute then the laws of physics."
"You mean they're not?" Tyler asked sarcastically.
Kane gave her a weak "courtesy laugh" and proceeded. "So the Fat Cats expanded their research, producing more efficient time travel techniques and reducing prices. Soon time-travel vacations were almost affordable for the middle class, and so these trips became a status symbol. Then everyone started time traveling, just for the hell of it.
"But there was a powerful senator from North Carolina who said he was concerned about things. While he loved the fact that supporting the time travel industry meant that he never had to worry about campaign finance again, he was a man who embraced certain principles. He saw an opportunity to advance an old agenda of his.
"The senator initiated hearings on time travel safety. 'Better late than never,' he advised. At the hearings, he advanced a controversial yet familiar theory: gay sex could destroy the Universe."
"Oh come on," Tyler scolded. "That shit is so tired. Look, I have a couple gay friends. So why don't you come off it with that bigoted stuff, okay?"
"Wait, you think I supported that demagogue? No way. I like good-looking bisexual women as much as the next guy. But the senator did make a strong presentation. He pointed out that it was very common in the gay community, for older gay men to engage in sex with younger gay men."
"So what? It's common for older straight men to engage in sex with younger straight women. What's your damn point?"
"Well, have you ever seen that Jean Claude Van Damme movie, Time Cop?"
"Yeah. An old boyfriend dragged me. You want my review?" Tyler asked, without giving Kane a chance to respond. "Thoroughly wretched. A dumb movie about a dumb, albeit totally hot, action hero. Movie highlight? When Jean Claude dodges a bullet by jumping up on his kitchen counter and doing the splits. Movie lowlight? Every time he talks. There's some people with accents that sound really smart, but he ain't one of them. But I must admit," Tyler smiled, "when you've got a guy who's that buff and that limber, it does get a girl thinking a little.
"But overall, every scene beside the splits one was a waste of my freaking time. So I'd have give Time Cop two thumbs down, all the way down to hell. But then, what do you expect? The damn thing was a comic book movie."
"Yeah," Tyler nodded, "the whole thing was based on a comic book. You didn't know that? Anyway, what does that piece of crap movie have to do with your story?"
"Well, do you remember how the bad guy dies at the end of Time Cop?"
"He touches himself. I mean, he comes into contact with himself. Jean Claude pushes that guy's present self into his past self, and for some reason that's not allowed."
"The same matter can't occupy the same space at the same time or it explodes."
"Right. But how does that relate to...oh God, I bet I know where this is going."
"As the senator said, it was completely possible that a gay man traveling through time might be attracted to a younger or older version of himself, and then, not realizing who it was, he'd...well you know."
"He'd fuck himself," Tyler answered, shaking her head.
"Right. Our physicists in the future agree with the basic principle that the same matter can't occupy the same space. But they think the magnitude of such an event would be much more severe than it was portrayed in the movie."
"Damned unrealistic comic book movies!" Tyler exclaimed.
"Our physicists said that if two selves touched," Kane explained, "the explosion that would occur might seriously damage the space-time-continuum. High impact contact with one's self was considered especially dangerous to the universe. And gay sex definitely has to be considered high impact. So theoretically, gay sex could blow a fatal hole in the space-time-continuum and destroy the universe."
"And you agree with that crap?" Tyler asked.
Kane pondered the question for a moment before answering. "The possibility seems remote, but I must admit, it is entirely plausible, theoretically at least. Anyway, the senator's first recommendation was that gay sex be prohibited except in one's Home Time.
"But how to enforce such a ban?" Kane asked rhetorically. "It seemed practically impossible. They debated in Congress about making gay time travelers wear electronic monitors that would notify the Fat Cats of any sexual urges they might be having. That way, the Fat Cats would be able to dispatch their security officers to the scene and prevent the gay sex from happening. But that electronic monitor technology wasn't ready yet. So the senator argued that since they couldn't prevent gays from having sex when they time traveled, they would have to ban gays from time travel altogether. And there would be no 'don't ask, don't tell' policy to let people fall through the cracks."
Kane was distracted by the sound of off-key singing. He looked over at the singers, a group of eight young men and women standing in a circle in the middle of the yard who were apparently playing some kind of drinking game. They