Engineer (Part 1)

The essential thing to understand about time travel is its dependent relationship with perception. That’s the trick. Once you understand how that works, the actual travel* is a doddle.

* This, by the way, is a placeholder word, and always has been. What actually happens** is to travel what a Picasso piece is to a Raphael – that is, both use paint.

** Another placeholder word.

The way time travel works for an individual is precisely the way she/he/it expects it to. If you believe in the immutability of history, history remains static. If this doesn’t matter to you all that much, and you mess around a bit***, history reflows around the mud island you created, and basically goes back to normal, incorporating whatever event you caused. Other time travellers may or may not remember what you did, depending on your opinion on this particular conundrum.

*** Not too much. History has ways of fixing that, which might or might not be intentional on its part. They are generally quite cruel ways, however, and you’d be well-advised to keep out of dark alleys for a while.

So no one quite knew what would happen when a young male alien, barely post-puberty (or what passes for it in his species), created an unexpected device, quite by accident. We know it was a time machine. He did not. His culture didn’t have a concept of time.

From what we understand, this culture literally lived in the moment. What one could hear, see, feel now was the only true thing. One carried around pheromones that communicated to the next person your perception of yourself. That was the extent of familiarity. No one remembered anyone else. They took you at your word.

This lack of a memory led to them not being a particularly advanced culture. They had language, of a sort, and they built things. But the word ‘technology’ can’t quite be used for any of these things. To even call them a culture is pushing it, but etiquette demands we do. It would likely be more helpful if you thought of them as sentient goldfish.

The nameless teenager (for lack of a better word) had found a crashed timeship on his farm, with a dead pilot at its helm. This teenager was an anomaly. Psychosomatically, he was not that different from his brethren. But the crash changed him very slightly.

The timeship was designed to send out a lament when it crashed. This lament was designed to be translated into the language of whoever was listening. In this case, the ship sent out an odourless smell of ideas, data coded into an imperceptible perfume.**** This data, coming from within him, as far as Nameless was concerned, told him about new things, things like engineering and soldering and buttons. However, time, the machine presumably felt, was too well-known a concept to need to explain.

**** If we remember right, Steve Jobs, noted inventor of the 21st century, famed for creating the bubblegum machine, once experimented with perfume sprays to be used as computer storage devices. Problems arose when the hermetic seal of one of the prototypes broke, letting in outside air, and at the next boot-up, the computer demanded to be given a programmer who knew how to code caffeine in a way a computer understood it.

The Nameless (As Yet), soon to become the most celebrated and also the most reviled member of his species, built a laboratory around the timeship.

He called the laboratory Millicent.