Disclaimer: Back to the Future is owned by Universal Studios. All commercially published material with that title belong to Universal Studios of California. Recognizable characters were created by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis. Several story liberties were taken in 2010 and 2011 by Telltale Games Inc. The following alternate version of a well-known fictional scientist was one of these liberties. Certain quotes are also directly from Episode Four of said video game. This story was non-profit and in no way affiliated with Universal or Telltale Inc.
Second Disclaimer: The "canoncity" of the 2010 video game for Back to the Future is up for grabs. Its authenticity is very convincing but you can believe what you want to believe and I'll believe what I want to believe.
Hill Valley, California
May 15, 1986
"I don't know what came over him. One minute he's signing our annual prohibition bill into law and the next…"
One hand held tight on his shoulder, squeezing it with a mixture of control and showmanship, while the other went up to cover her face for a tearful emphasize. Fah! Since the guard (the one that wasn't pushing his gurney, leading the way, following behind, or surrounding him) did not share a home with Mrs. Citizen Brown, he did not know that she cried loud not soft.
If he could move any of his appendages, First Citizen Brown "Social Leader of Tomorrow" would give her something to really cry about. What nerve did she have to mock-cry in a hallway that soon would be filled with room after room after room containing the stifled tears of mothers, fathers, children, teenagers, artists, muscians, teachers, free spirits, thinkers… and Martin. The headache from the blow of a surprise nightstick exploded inside his head again. Martin McFly. Age eighteen. Time traveler. Boy from another world. Hooligan. Model citizen. Delinquent. Good influence. Bad seed.
"Don't worry ma'am." The guard said awkwardly and reached over and pat her on the back. His trader of an arm came inches by Citizen Brown's chin. Citizen Brown lunged his neck as far as the strap would allow.
"Emmett!" Mrs. Citizen Brown hissed. It worked. Momentary control loss. The one pet peeve that annoyed her the most. Under the concealment of the seemingly never-ending florescents, her lipstick boiled on her tight lips and her eyes widened until all of the wrinkles flattened. It lasted only a milisecond and was invisible to anyone who had not caused that face one or two times in the past.
"Oh, greetings, Miss Strickland. Care to be the guinea pig for my new chemical compounds?"
The large majority of July of 1931 was spent in the scientific branch known as Chemistry. Something he related to with Michael Faraday was the difficulty of raising funds for a functional chemistry set. Such a thing was only difficult to him and Faraday when fathers outright refused to lend money to a scientific contribution. It was equally difficult to convince mothers to allow such experiments inside the household. Setting up a temporary workspace in the hot California sun was the next best thing. Of course, he had to set up a makeshift tent so that the intense heat wouldn't disturb any specific chemicals. He was so proud of that chemistry set. He was so proud in fact that he didn't notice Miss High and Mighty walking up the driveway.
Now he noticed her and his greeting was the perfect one for her to pretend she didn't hear. He still remembered how she looked back then. Her black hair only slightly curly. Her eyes bright or like he first thought, judgmental. Her body completely entombed in layer after layer after layer of clothing. It was a wonder she didn't fester and boil from her own critical thoughts. That purple frock… God frobid someone see her elbows.
"Guinea pig?" She had repeated with a heavy frown. "Really, Mr. Brown, must a law man's son be so crude?"
His thick rubber gloves organized vials. "Guinea pig. Often categorized in the rodent family of Caviidae and otherwise known as Cavy, Cavia Porcellus, and common annoying schrew."
She stiffened, her back arching impossibly straighter. A retort was well underway on her possibly forked tongue. "Touche. Now, what in Heaven's name are you perpetrating here? Another piece for your little scientific enterprise to wreak on public property?"
"What in Heaven's name are you doing on my premisis?" He had asked, imitating his best lawyer demand.
Her chin was held high and strong as she glared down upon the organized mess of a temporary work station. "As a respectable member of society, I am here with the one and only intention of collecting Mrs. Brown's donation to the orphanage. I'm sure your warrant for my arrest can surely wait for the sake of a timely deed."
Timely. Time. The clock on his desk. The time traveler in his office. All wrong. Different timeline. Police state. Unfair demerits. What happened to you? Wasn't supposed to end up this way. Not law. Science.
From the very first day of learning to walk, he was told to not run here and to not climb that. "My Lord, child, can't you sit still for five minutes?" From the very first day of learning to talk, he was demanded to not say this and to be quiet now. "Hush! I don't ever want to hear that language from you or, so help me, I'll put you over my knee!" From the very first day of school, he had accepted a new barrage of criticism and scolding. "Pay attention, Emmett! You're here to learn, not to doodle incessantly. Give me that!"
Always was there someone telling him what to do and what not to do. The mistake of all mistakes was marrying a person that lived for that sort of thing. At that time, the connection was as clear as overly enriched oil. All that mattered was that everyone else would be proved wrong sooner or later. Sooner if he ever got his formula perfected. With law, failure was marked with vetoes in blood red ink and a migraine pill for the misses. But with science, failure produced spectacular fireworks of bizarre blasts, sparks of revelation, or maybe an accidental discovery different and twice as exciting. Such fireworks brought on the waterworks and made his heart pound harder than it ever did when that woman held his hand. Science had been the way to go. If it wasn't, then he just might not have even conceived the idea of committing a crime on his own front lawn.
"Calm down," she said into his ear. "I have everything under control, dearest."
He didn't hear her. The guards didn't hear her. What they did hear was an intense colorful array of profanity that would make a nun keel over. Even a prize fighter could not handle the dozen arms holding him down despite adrenaline-ridden kicks and punches. They got his left leg after blood started gushing out of one officer's nose. They got his right arm just before he almost succeeded in toppling over the medical cart. The cart held all the tools necessary for brainwashing.
"Is he secure?" She asked in her most professional manner.
"Yes, ma'am." A guard answered.
She nodded and turned to her husband.
"This is hurting me more than it's hurting you." She said and pet what was left of his hair. The helmet, another pride and joy, was shoved on his head while a pair of hands peeled open his eyelids. Father…
"Do you even know what you're doing?"
"Not at all." He had droned as he measured the contents of a beaker.
She crossed her arms. "What's the point of all this experimenting if you don't know what you're doing?"
Something that he found annoying, then cute, and then enraging once again was her ability to contradict herself in her obtuse mannerisms. That day of all days, it sent him reaching for the twelfth test tube.
"Failure teaches far more than success," he said, trying to not pinch the small test tube too hard. It was a modest acid and mild in nature, but those were the only rubber gloves that came with the set. She, on the other hand, probably had multiple frocks.
"I should hope so," she had said, "and your mother allows you to tamper around with potential explosives? Did she or did she not read my account of the rocket drill incident in the Herald?"
The test tube stayed in his hand throughout the rest of the debate. Ready, but with no initiative. Damn his past self.
The practice of something hardly felt the same as the action of the thing. The truth of it especially rang loud and clear when the one who toiled late at night ecstatically was the one strapped to a table with a tube down his gullet and toxins sprayed up his nose. Even hours after the whole ordeal was over, Citizen Brown couldn't imagine what he had been originally thinking. The mere goal of the project (saving humanity from its own vice and disorder) distracted him from the obvious inhumanity of the project. He had to wonder it all out loud.
"When did I lose control?"
"Oh, dearest, you never had control. That's why you needed me in the first place."
True, but at the same time, false.
"Guards!" He cried. "Arrest this woman!"
She pet his arm gently. "They won't listen to you, Emmett. Everyone here has been trained to ignore the cries of patients undergoing the Citizen Plus treatment. Even yours."
"Hey, Doc. Let's get ready to blow this joint."
"What was that?"
Martin McFly. Age eighteen. Time traveler. The boy that came from the future (past?) with an understanding of everything that he secretly had been thinking. Just that morning he had been signing bills and within the hour, he had gone six months in the past and then full throttle fifty-five years. Though there was that miscalibration to be concerned about… but such a thing fell to the back of a person's head when they were facing their ex-wife fifty-five years younger. She hadn't been hard to spot. Her black hair was only slightly curly. Her eyes bright or like he first thought, judgmental. Her body completely entombed in layer after layer after layer of clothing. It was a wonder she didn't fester and boil form her own critical thoughts. That yellow frock… I know what you're up to.
"What pray tell do you know about me, Mr. Sagan?"
He almost forgot how hard she could lean into questions. Her pause demanded an answer that he hadn't been sure to give. He knew every single damn thing. He wasted fifty years of his life knowing every single damn thing. Martin's Laws of Time Travel dictated that it was seriously unjust to tell someone about their future. That ruled out about half of the answers in his mind. He had to stick to information from the past. That was what got her attention in the first place.
"I know you were a reporter for the Hill Valley Telegraph, were you not?" He had decided it was best to give an answer that was also a question.
She looked genuinely surprised at him, which actually was not a surprise since she always expected the worst from people. "Yes, I was, but I had to discard my coleum because a better dedication made itself available."
Her answer was curt, but not rude. She looked every which way and avoided him. He knew this game. With the aid of whatever noise sounded or whatever person arrived, she was going to try and dismiss herself from the conversation. A polite escape. Genius. His trap couldn't be set without some verbal reinforcement.
"I ask," Citizen Brown began and managed to plaster a smile on his face, "because when I wasn't being accused of setting fires, I happened to be employed at a periodical too."
Adding the "too" to the sentence snagged her away from a possible conversation distraction.
"Well," Edna replied. That was all she said.
He had to wait for all her suspicion to sink into that thick skull of hers. In the meantime, he watched her like a hawk. She tried to look slightly amused at the pure coincidence. He tried to look like a kid with an I-Know-A-Secret face. This was the type of thing that made law school actually fun.
"What was your journalistic topic?" She asked, calm as ever.
Damn. She had evaded the suspicion by rationalization with her own question. This could have turned the conversation into a back-and-forth questionaire, which would have been too easy to escape. It was time to tighten the chains on his trap.
"Oh, this and that," he lured her into a false relief. The chains pulled tighter. "My editor - fine fellow, maybe you know him - has had me doing investigative work since 1902. For the most part, I travel around inconspiculously and follow my nose. I have yet to miss the front page."
"And what kind of affairs did you usually uncover?" She asked.
She had not even dared to switch tactics.
The jaws of the trap creaked with readiness.
His smile stretched a bit more seeing as it hadn't been used in a courtroom for so long. "Only the endlessly fascinating atrocities. Bank heists, populated speakeasies, money laundering, fraud and embezzlement, and quite ironically, the occasional arson."
No effect. She held her ground, but it was shaky.
"I imagine that can be… exhausting. Are you glad you retired?"
She was fighting it. The jaws of the trap groaned in concentration.
"Retired nothing. I live to expose the truth."
"I hope you do." His smile had dropped and so had hers.
No more preliminaries because the lady did not like being cornered, much less caught in a trap. One serious gaze met another serious gaze. She looked down her nose at him as if they were back in the pulling hair phase. Clearly, his plan to prevent her from interfering with whatever ultimate plan Martin came up with was landing him on her bad side. The very worst place to be in his timeline or otherwise.
He had known Miss Edna Stickland for fifty-five years. From the point of making her Mrs. Emmett Brown, he had gotten full wind of her personality. He knew her favorite record. He knew how she liked to organize her hat pins. He knew her pet peeves. He knew her inhibitions. Lately, he knew her worst character traits. After all, it was almost their foutieth anniversary and she planned to cut that cake with a freshly lobotomized life mate. What did she know about him? Plenty. What did she know about Carl Sagan? Nothing besides him being a suspected arsonist and an investigator that just might be onto something.
"Tell me everything."
"I don't know what you're talking about." She answered. Her back could not be any straighter and invisible ice shards came out with each word. She was challenging him, definitely. She knew he knew and wanted to see how much he knew. Definitely.
Citizen Brown edged closer to her, just to make her feel secure again. "You will once I explain my spin on the story…"
As he made up a sort of explanation utilizing terms he once heard her speak, the sight of her finally caught up to him again. She was so… pretty. She was pretty like those cartoon clock bombs wrapped in pink and blue gift paper. Still, the way her eyes brightened at this new aspect, made his blood run quicker.
"I see." She said. Her tone was back to whatever it was she deemed normal. "Well, you certainly do know a lot about me, Mr. Sagan."
She did not know the half of it and it was thrilling. "From one investigator reporter to another, Miss Strickland."
Still in his trap, she riffled through her purse. He could not for the life of himself remember if she carried any sort of pepper spray. "One might question your motives, but one can't help admire your method."
She smiled at him briefly. Apparently there was no pepper spray. She hadn't smiled as honest as that in over twenty years. The only time that woman ever smiled was when she was trying to coax him into changing his mind on somehing. She just had to have her way be the final say. "Oh, Emmett, why would you want to use our funding for that? All it does is encourage the younger generation to deliberately scar our public vacilities with whatever dirtiness is roaming through their heads." Even when it came to decisions that were private and mutual to a married couple, it all was up to her. "Children! Darling, look at all the work we have to do. Our plan takes patience, love, and time. Do you really think having a child would not redirect all of that?" Her way always. What made her so damn sure of herself?
"… Mother said my birth was the easiest in our family history. I was the first girl born a Stirckland in over one hundred years and came right at the time expected. I have not let her down since…"
Why did she have to have everything so… finalized and polished?
"... And that's when tragedy entered my young life, in the form of demon rum!" She nearly hissed that.
He had not remembered anything related to that from her history. It could not have been something Martin and the Other "Real" Him had done. He always presumed that her firey disposition towards alcohol was ignited by the accounts she so thoroughly researched. Her column consisted of 20% etiquette advice and about 80% lectures on the negatives of wetting your whistle. His presumption was proved incorrect upon her summary of her childhood.
"Was that before or after the snakebite?" He couldn't help but ask.
The drudging up of old history released her annoyance. "Immediately after!"
"And your father took that especially hard?" He remembered her referencing a snakebite when they went to the lake once. The snake that time around turned out to be a loose hose from a neighbor's cabin. The rock she had lept onto turned out to be the real danger of the day. She spent the rest of the weekend hobbling on a makeshift crutch. At home, her mother had not even blinked an eye.
"In his opinion," she began with a sniff, "boys were reserved for roughhousing and tomfoolery. That behavior, while always corected, was inevitable. I was his only girl. He left me unguarded in the woods for just a minute. I may have almost died but that was absolutely no excuse for him to submit to the bottle. During my recovery alone, he must have drank his way through seven bars."
"Oh dear," he said and meant it. This was the first time he ever heard of that. She had only told him three things about her father. He worked on their family farm from dawn to the dinner bell. He did not get a radio for the house until she was twenty years old. His very presence demanded obedience and good manners. He had wondered how much of that she had made up on the spot. "Tell me more about your father. My readers may be curious as to your upbringing."
"I shall warn you that this is not a particularly pleasant beat," she began and her voice went up to its note of pessimistic self-indulgence… or that assured output so few people could achieve. "And it tends to get me rather less inclined to separate fact from opinion."
She told the story anyway.
"Father had a way making us feel underachieved and comforted when he was well. He demanded the best from us and we were sure to deliver it. He once made me re-paint the chicken fence fourteen times so it would be up to his standards, which were at the time quite admirable."
"Fourteen times…" He muttered to himself. He looked back at her. "You were just a little girl. How could he possibly expect you to get things right on the first go?"
"I often wondered that too, but a lot was expected of me as a daughter and later, a lady." She waved her hand in the air as if banning the memory out of her head.
"You don't always have to do what is expected of you." He said, meaning it to be serious but smiling at her anyway.
She put a hand on her chest and laughed. He hadn't heard that sound in a long, long time. "Well! I certainly find that funny coming from a man such as yourself."
Himself. Who the hell was that anymore? The first decade or so of life was supposed to define who you are. Then, a time traveler comes for a visit. Everything in the universe flies out the proverbial window. A girl lures you and teaches you all you could be and you fall in love with her, except she never lured you in the first place. She was all "wrong." She was "evil." He was "supposed" to be with someone else with the name of Clara Clayton. He was "supposed" to have two boys. He was "supposed" to invent a time machine and wreak havoc on the universe just for the hell of it. Everything was "supposed" to be Martin's way and any other details were wrong and uncool.
"…Frankly, Mother could barely concentrate on anything. Her main focus of motherhood shifted to making sure Father got to bed instead of myself and my brothers. She cleaned up his sick and barely paid attention to anyone that was not drinking themselves to… well, you know the word."
"If your mother was busy taking care of your father, then how did you and your siblings get your needs met?" He had asked, even though he had a feeling what the answer was.
Her frown deepened. "My brother was just a small child and he couldn't take over as head of the household…"
"You became the caregiver?"
She jumped a little at the gasp that came out of him.
"Sorry my dear," he had said quickly. "It's just hard for an old world fool like me to …believe a young girl could take over a household. And you had to tend the farm all by yourself?"
She shrugged a little, but otherwise stood her ground. "What else could I do? Father was certainly in no condition to work."
"I never knew…"
"Of course not." She replied. "How could you?"
He shook his head slowly. "I think that's enough for a backstory."
"Oh?" She seemed a bit disappointed. With a flick of an invisible switch, her guard went back up and her tone demanded he stay put. "If you are sure you got all of that down, then I would like to ask you a few questions."
"All right," he said. She certainly was entitled to that and it would keep the conversation going. She stepped aside. No!
"Do you dabble in science?" She asked as if science could be dabbled in. Oh, whatever. The way she gestured to the DeLorean was both matter-of-factly and graceful. "It seems like a man of your journalistic caliber would be too busy to whip up a car as… different as this."
"Hey, Carl! I need to talk to you."
Martin. Please don't reveal the plan. Tend to the DeLorean. Hill Valley Expo needs to be a failure. Hill Valley Expo was "supposed" to be a failure. Trixie is in on it. The light is green. Titanium is the fix. The suit. The Metal Alignment Meter. The future would be back on track. Where did Edna go?
"Mr. Crockett told me you had a lead on the speakeasy arsonist."
He could not help himself. Reaching forward, he took her hand in his. Her glove felt warm and tough. He rubbed her fingers with his thumb and said, "My dear, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to this matter. Go about the rest of your time and forget everything I have said. Forget absolutely everything. Do you understand?"
He never really knew if she did. She looked at him for awhile as she regained her composure and walked steadily into the high school.
"When did I lose her?"
Logically, it could have been anywhere from 1931 to 1985. Emotionally, it happened when she stopped looking at him in that way. Even as he somewhat participated in the conversation, he could not even fathom finding the exact date. This clear ambition that burned with a blaze in this younger her seemed like a shadow. Somehow her old self just left the path that they both embarked on. He said "I do" to the side of her he fell in love with, which was the side of her that had just stood in front of him. It was a complexity. He wanted her but not that woman. He wanted her now, not then. The here and now her… she… Great Scott…
She was too pretty to be an old maid. Her spirit and virtue were too strong to waste. How could she go from being a self-assured activist who also managed to found a charity and be the first female reporter in the city to a dried up prune of a woman just stewing in her own misery. Was all this… this… hooliganism in the past really beneficial to restoring that kind of future? A future with her like that? A future with him not even there? Without Martin's Grand Plan, she was so happy… They were so happy.
"No! I'm sorry, Doc. I can't go along with what you're saying. You don't belong with Edna!"
The equation was simple.
Time Travel = Happy Endings for All
It's a fact. You could look it up.
He got all those thoughts out of his head when he spotted her from only two miles away. "Need a lift?"