I threw myself into my work upon receiving my PHD and, after loosing a number of medical breakthroughs verging on miraculous upon the world, managed to conquer death itself.
A feat for which I was, in my opinion rightly, celebrated.
However, having ensured that none need ever die again, I realized I’d put myself out of work. After all, in a world where no-one dies what use is there for further medical research?
So I went back to school, studied physics, astronomy and engineering and prepared myself to follow my other dream. It was time to get us off this planet.
I developed the engines, designed the stasis chamber, and built the whole of the ship in my garage, telling nobody what it was I was constructing. If I’d let word spread, no doubt the government would wish to aid me. I didn’t need their funding, I had plenty of money, and I knew that with assistance would come demands that more qualified, trained astronauts take my ship out on it’s maiden voyage.
My ship, my design, I get to take the maiden voyage. This was non-negotiable. It was an adventure I‘d dreamed of since long before I went to med school. Since I was a child. It was that last great leap into the great unknown, and I intended to take it first. Selfish? Perhaps. But I felt I’d earned the right.
So I kept my project to myself.
The ship had only room for one due to the massive amount of energy required to travel that close to the speed of light, but I’d be asleep the entirety of the voyage so it wasn’t as though I’d need the company. I’d nip out to Rigel, have a look around, prove the viability of my prototype, and return to, again in my opinion, well-deserved accolades.
I had faith in my prototype, I’d checked and double checked the design work, every pre-launch test had been passed within acceptable margins of error. What could possibly go wrong?
Rigel, it must be said, was beautiful beyond imagining, and the sense of awe one gets being that far away from the world that birthed you, the sense of scale and scope of a universe utterly unexplored, is indescribable. I’m not ashamed to admit I wept on more than one occasion. But I couldn’t stay longer than a few days, my fuel had been strictly rationed for my maiden voyage. I took charts and notes, filmed constellations from a different point of view and then, sad to leave but satisfied at my accomplishment, returned to my stasis chamber for the voyage home.
To answer my earlier question, what could possibly go wrong is a combination of time dilation and human nature.
I never did figure out how much time had passed by the time I returned, or what had caused the war, and I spent years searching for any clue. But by the time I got home humanity had managed to purge itself from the globe, nature had reclaimed most of the cities and the radiation had returned to acceptable levels.
Animals, when I saw them, looked more or less the same as I remembered. And buildings were mostly still standing. The ones that hadn’t been bombed, at any rate. So it can’t have been THAT much time.
Eventually, after using my spacecraft to travel the world in a failed search for the details of humanity’s self-imposed extinction, I settled myself down in Phoenix Arizona. The dry climate kept the city in better shape than most larger metropolis’ and it’s university had reasonably well-equipped research facilities. I had work to do.
Having conquered both death and space, the moment has come to turn my attention to time.
I’ve been here working ever since. I’m not sure time travel’s even possible, but I do know it’s my only hope, so I’ll continue devoting myself single-mindedly to the task at hand. There’s a garden near the lab, so food’s not a problem, and I’ve always been the sort of person who can work tirelessly when properly motivated.
And I’m feeling very, very motivated these days. I have to go back, though I admit as of now I have no idea what I’ll do when I get there. Warn them, I suppose. Or share my star-drive so a colony of humanity can escape the planet before the end comes. Or, failing to do both of those things, simply die with them, in the arms of the family I ignored so many years while working on the advancement of a humanity that did not live to see the fruits of my labour.
I’ll tell my wife how much I love her, and how much I appreciate her putting up with how distant I became while working on my projects. I’ll tell my son I’m proud of him, the way I damn well should have found the time to do more often than I did, I’ll buy him tickets to World Cup and pretend to understand how World Cup works while watching it with him. I’m sure he’ll explain the parts that elude me.
I’ll tell them both how much they meant to me first, I’ve learned that lesson from this experience if nothing else, and then the three of us can try to prevent the destruction of humankind together. And, if we fail, we can use the time machine in the moments before the final war begins to go back, armed with greater knowledge of the specifics of humankind’s fall, and try again. We can try as many times as are needed.
I miss them more and more each day, each decade I spend alone in this lab. And while the lab becomes increasingly difficult to maintain as the decades pass into centuries, and I’ve long since lost track of how long I’ve spent working at untangling the principals of time travel, and while there are days where I forget the sound of my wife’s voice, or what my son looked like, or even my own name, I’m confident that eventually I’ll conquer time, the same way I triumphed over every other challenge I’ve ever set myself. If it takes another hundred years or another ten thousand, it hardly matters to me.
Because I’m immortal.
And it’s a time machine.
And I’m a man of considerable intelligence and boundless patience. I’ll take as long as I need….