Saturday, November 5, 1955

6:13 PM, Pacific Standard Time

Hill Valley, California

Dr. Emmett Brown really should have been working on his brain wave-reading device at the moment (America's taxpayers were ultimately footing his salary, after all, and J. Edgar Hoover and those headcases in the CIA were not exactly people you wanted to make impatient), but his real magnum opus had been dogging him like mad for the past week. Oh, who was he kidding—his Big Idea had been at the forefront of his mind long before receiving his Ph.D (Physics, MIT, Class of '42), long before MIT or even Stanford, but ever since he was a wide-eyed little boy, devouring Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Even though the Great White Father in Washington was sending him quite generous paychecks every month (admittedly for some…questionable assignments), and he'd gotten a very nice mansion as well as a plush Packard touring car out of the arrangement, Dr. Brown's Big Idea had been his real project all these years; the focus of endless nights bent over physics books, scratching out, erasing, and starting over on countless formulas and equations on the blackboard in his lab.

And now, now, after all these years…it seemed he was right on the brink of it.

But there was just one last piece to the puzzle that seemed to be eluding him.

Occasionally the thoughts (and speculation) of the sources of all his gains (including his funds for the research into his Big Idea), gave him some pause. Such as why he had never received a visit from the nice men of the House of Un-American Activities Commission, while several of his less "connected" former colleagues at MIT and Stanford had been grilled like hamburgers. Or all the scientists he occasionally met with in Washington with Germanic names. Ordinarily this would be no problem at all (his own parents had originally come to this country under the name Von Braun); the fact that they had arrived only a few years after the war, and always brusquely refused to discuss their previous lives back in Deutschland, gave him some pause. Occasionally Dr. Brown wondered what his longtime hero, the dearly departed Albert Einstein, might think of his current work.

But the work was his bread and butter now, and as mentioned, Hoover and the "spooks" were not people you wanted dissatisfied with you.

When thoughts like those entered his head, Dr. Brown did what he also did when trying to find one of the missing puzzle pieces to his Big Idea; busying himself with some housework.

He was now standing on his toilet, reaching for a clock on the bathroom wall (a clock—ah, how portentous) which had been stopped for some time.

Dr. Broooowwwwn…a high, thin voice suddenly piped into his head, somewhat louder than his thoughts.

At the sudden auditory intrusion, Dr. Brown gasped and slipped on the lowered toilet lid.

He did indeed see stars before his eyes as his head came in contact with the commode, or at least bright white flashes of light which exploded across his field of vision, then faded to yellow, then purple, then black. But before they faded away entirely and the world returned (plus a throbbing headache), something else appeared before his eyes.

A glass-fronted triangle, with three clear tubes inside converging into a Y shape. Small particles of light darted through the three tubes.

Could this be what you're looking for, Dr. Brown?

Of course. This was it! It had been a not-quite-tangible mystery just a few minutes ago, but now it seemed so obvious!

Only this triangular design would permit the proper dispersal of the flux particles and make time travel possible.

Of course, now he needed a proper housing for the design, but now that he actually had the image in mind for the flux capacitor, he was about a third of the way along to realizing his Big Idea. Not wanting to lose the image, he jumped up to jot to sketch it on the first piece of scratch paper he came across.

Newton had had his apple, Aristotle had had his bath, and now Dr. Emmett Brown had had his toilet. (Well, he probably wouldn't tell the folks at Popular Mechanics or Scientific American that; you couldn't even show a man and woman in the same bed at the same time in the movies in this country.)

Then again, it might be best to not tell them anything. He had just made perhaps the greatest scientific breakthrough imaginable. Who knew what could happen if…actual time travel fell into the wrong hands?

He shivered. Frankly, he wasn't even sure if he wanted his bosses to know about it.

-O-O-O-

Kyubey knew of no such thing as "happiness" or "satisfaction", but it did still have a sense that it had succeeded in a great breakthrough. The Incubators could not form contracts with human males (it didn't know why, but that didn't seem important); however, it could still form telepathic links with them.

And if even a male were trying to grasp for a certain ideal, a certain wish, they could still give him a little…"boost".

Just before leaving Dr. Brown's mansion, Kyubey had "heard" him having second thoughts about informing others, and the ramifications of time travel falling into the wrong hands. It was a good question indeed. Just a decade had passed since humanity had nearly destroyed itself in a worldwide war, only ended by the use of atom-driven weapons which could literally destroy all life on this planet several times over. And at this point, this very nation and another nation, which had been its ally in that previous war, were now engaged in a near-war situation, with those atomic weapons ready for use at a moment's notice.

Yes, given what it knew about human nature, the power of time travel falling into the wrong hands could create quite a bit of despair.

And more often than not, despair led anxious young girls to make contracts. Look how many contracts had been made during that last war, and the one before that, and the one before that…and so on.

Even among the Incubators, however, some concern had been raised about this plan. Agent No. THX-1138 had voiced its belief that the inevitable creation of Witches already placed enough strain on the boundary between the mortal and spiritual realms, as their wretched existence was spent in a sort of living death. Would not time travel strain and warp the fabric of space-time in tandem, and if so, was there not a possibility that both strains might tear apart the very fabric of the universe? And here they were trying to save it from heat death…

But that was just an unproven theory. If it were true, then why wouldn't the universe have torn itself to shreds after the Incubators' first billion years at this job? THX-1138 was placed under observation for possible mental illness.

Also, if it were true, just as there were other inhabited planets, there were other universes.

Right?

-O-O-O-

"1638…1640…What the…?" Marty McFly stood agape at the sprawling manse at 1640 Riverside Drive. This had been the Doc's house? His old friend had told him about the great fire, and how the Feds had refused to pay for a new house (unfortunately, his fire insurance wasn't able to cover everything), but…wow.

Either way, all he knew at this moment was that he wanted to get back to the year 1985, and the man who might or might not be inside this palace was his only ticket.

As Marty made his way up the front walk, he didn't see the white, catlike alien pass by him in the opposite direction. But he did shiver slightly, as though a goose had just walked over his grave.

It was probably just the clammy, chilly night air. It was November now, after all.

And with all the chess pieces thus in place, neither Marty McFly, nor Dr. Emmett Brown, nor the parents of Douglas Needles, Tomokazu Kamijou, Ito Fujitsu, and Mariko Tomoe, nor even Kyubey, could know that at that point planet Earth (and possibly the rest of the universe) had exactly 55 years, five months and 25 days left.

But, as Marty McFly was about to learn (as was a certain girl named Akemi Homura, at a much later date), history could be changed.

Right?